The girls and I went off at the crack of dawn this morning to meet up with our cronies at Bicester village for a good cackle, a good feed, and a damn good poke of some pots.
It’s a good job I love those cronies like the sisters I never had.
It was dark. The wind was blowing a gale and the rain was coming down in stair rods.
We sploshed down the motorway, narrowly avoiding death by craply driven Rover, and sailed into the car park only to find that Pret A Manger, our usual rendezvous point, had not opened.
This was a minor disaster, given how horrible the weather was, and how busting for the loo I was.
We met the others splashing down towards the local Tesco where they had one of the world’s smallest branches of Costa Coffee, some heating, and access to the loo.
We improvised (what would Ray Mears do? is a question I frequently ask myself in situations like these), and soon, after making ourselves a temporary camp in Costa by stealing all the chairs and making a fire with napkins, tongues were wagging nineteen to the dozen. It is amazing how much talking we can get done in such a short space of time is what I always think as I leave one of these meet ups. It is then that I realise what all the extra talking I do through the year is for. It is to get me in practice for the cacklathons to come.
My friend Claire had brought her daughter with her, and she and the girls bonded in about a nanosecond by promptly donning some fake moustaches they discovered and wandering off into the wilds of Bicester to entertain the troops.
They got lots of positive comments, mostly of the Movember kind. The staff in Bella Freud’s pop up shop were particularly supportive of the Mos when I went in there with the girls, mainly Tilly’s, as she was still sporting hers, whereas Tallulah had hers in her pocket for emergencies.
Tilly did look rather like David Baddiel as a mad professor in History Today. Tallulah looked like some kind of small, Victorian detective, and Erin did a fantastic mo stroke manoeuvre which, as our friend said, made her look like she was just about to evict some hapless Victorian children from an orphanage.
Normally, when we meet at Bicester, whatever the weather is like elsewhere, we seem to get beautiful weather, but today nothing could save us from the wrath of the weather gods, and unless you are prepared to shop until you drop (I am, but my bank account isn’t), or eat your own bodyweight in food (we tried), there is not a lot to do in inclement weather.
We pottered around in Emma Bridgewater’s outlet store, where they were celebrating their first birthday. The children loved it, as there were baskets and baskets of sweets and biscuits on offer, and they were all sugared up to the eyebrows by ten o’clock in the morning.
We had a quick visit to Alice Temperley’s store, which Tilly loves almost as much as me. Tilly chose a teal green silk dress, and I chose a deep slate grey silk dress, and a cream silk tunic with huge embroidered sleeves. We calculated that we didn’t actually have the eighteen hundred pounds we needed to buy them, and even if we did, we were likely to throw jam down them, so we left, with a longing backwards glance.
We mooched around Cath Kidston marvelling at how many household items you could put pictures of cabbage roses on.
We had light elevenses in Carluccios, and as usual caused total chaos as we needed to divide the bill ninety different ways from Sunday. I always think that the staff at Carluccio’s in Bicester look very harassed. And then I think about us, filling an entire banqueting table and spilling off the ends, and it all becomes clear.
My only sadness was that when there are a whole gang of you, it is very hard to speak to everyone, and people you desperately wanted to spend time talking to often slip through your grasp by the end of the day, because you desperately want to speak to everyone.
But then that always leaves us a good excuse for going back next time, so it’s important not to get too despondent.
Usually we spend the best part of the day at Bicester, but by lunch time we were mostly soaked to the skin, frozen to the bone, and slightly apprehensive about our journeys home, so we parted ways and headed off to all corners of the country.
After having made arrangements to see each other again in the New Year.
Because it wouldn’t do to leave it too long between meet ups.
We get lonely.