Today, I picked up some butter at my favorite cheese shop. Because I was carrying some books, my phone, and seduced by the chestnut honey from Catalonia, a big bottle of Catalonian chestnut honey, I decided to put the two slabs of butter in the deep side-pockets of my Bermuda-shorts. Mindful that I was likely to forget the butter, I decided to rush home so I could put them securely in the fridge.
As I crossed the High street, darting between moms and their strollers, I was suddenly stopped by a middle aged women who touched me on the arm. My first instinct was a slight panic that I must have forgotten my phone at the shop, followed by relief. My second thought was that it was most un-British to touch me (leave aside during a pandemic).
I belatedly realized that she was offering me an envelope and a bouquet of flowers to be dropped of at Gayton Road. (In the interest of privacy I won't mention the number, which was prime.) Once the request had registered, she asked me where I was going. I was so relieved that this had nothing to do with my phone, that I answered truthfully--all my instincts for self-preservation forgotten.
I looked at the bouquet. By Dutch standards it was unremarkable, even fairly small. But I knew that locally this would be expensive. The handwriting on the envelope was neat in a childish kind of way.
As we walked together, I finally asked the question I should have asked, 'why do you need me to deliver these flowers'; the lady -- who never introduced herself -- told me about a tree in her garden that had to be cut. I thought this sufficient explanation why she did not have time to walk up the road.
But as she kept walking alongside me, I said to her, 'so this is a peace offering?'
Her response was affirmative. Her accent would be described as non-descript (so what I would call middle class).
As I walked up the stairs to ring the door, I decided it would be a good idea to put on a face mask. As I turned around I saw the lady hiding just out of sight. For some reason I had to think of Humbert Humbert hiding behind the bushes, and I almost burst out laughing. Grateful for my mask that my grimace was hidden.
I asked the hiding lady whether I should direct the occupant's attention to her after the door was opened.
''Please, no' was the horrified response. I got a glimpse at the scars of the battle of wills over that much beloved garden tree. I quietly suspected that the bouquet might not meet the demands of atonement.
I rang the doorbell several times. But nobody opened.
I turned around, and much to my surprise the lady had left her hiding and was taking a picture of the scene. I asked if I should leave the envelope and flowers on the doorstep. (They would be safe.) But she asked them back.
After graciously thanking me she left. And I went home to put the slabs of butter in the fridge.