Trying to find some time to visit Joe has proved more difficult than you might imagine. I tried visiting him at his normal 'taking a break' time on Monday, but there was no answer. While I was standing there, wondering whether to leave him a note or not, his gardener sauntered up the path, carrying a tray of baby geraniums. "If you're after Mister Author, he's at some conference or something. And Missus is in the States still."
"Oh. Thank you." I wasn't quite sure what else to say to this unwarranted generosity of information.
"He'll be back Thursday, she'll be back when it suits her. Geranium?" And he offered me a small bunch of weary-looking leaves clutching some roots.
I thanked him again, took the geranium and went home. After planting and some watering, it looked a little happier if lonely, so on Wednesday, I headed down to the garden centre, to acquire some companions for it. The terracotta pots were on sale, one thing led to another, and after a couple more trips I have created my own little Tuscan backdrop, some of it in flower already. Once it's more colourful, I might manage a photo for you.
I was quite proud of my handiwork, especially once I'd mown the lawn (usually the OH's job) and thought, given the weather forecast, that I should invite some people round so it could be viewed before the weeds took over again. However, my first call was to Verity, so that my plans were instantly thrown.
"Oh, what a good idea. In fact, even better, we'll hold it here - there'll be far less work for you to do by yourself then, and it will give people a chance to see that Max and I are back together."
Telling her that people would then not be able to admire my lovely garden was an unsuccessful play. "But our garden's so much bigger, it'll be much better here. Right, don't you worry about a thing now, I'd better make some phone calls and tell Max to make sure the barbecue stuff is all working." And she hung up before I could protest again. Just occasionally, dealing with Verity is a little like being steam-rollered.
Anyway, circumstances (mostly known as Deirdre and the vacuum cleaner consuming its own cable) conspired to prevent me trying to see Joe on Thursday or Friday, so I had slightly mixed feelings when I turned up early at Verity's yesterday afternoon and saw Joe standing at the barbecue talking to Max. No-one else had arrived at that point, so it wasn't until some time later that we had a chance to sit down together.
"It's been an age since we really had a chance to talk," I said, rather feebly since we'd already discussed the warm weather, the potential winners and losers of the Eurovision contest and whether Max had cooked the chicken thoroughly enough. But he knew what I meant.
"I didn't want to cause any trouble.." he said, but the conversation trailed off as one of Verity's charity-circle friends came round with a jug of Pimms, topping up glasses whether they needed it or not.
"Yes, well, Celeste's room is still available if you wanted to work there, though I don't suppose you need to if Alison's away again..." I had the distinct feeling that both of us were not quite saying what we really wanted to say, though for my own part, I'm not sure what I really wanted to say anyway.
"That would great, I'll bring my stuff round on Monday, then, shall I?" Joe was almost too quick in his answer, so perhaps he'd just been waiting for me to make the offer. "8.30's not too early for you, is it?"
I never got the chance to say whether it was too early or not, as at that point, Verity appeared abruptly from behind the pergola, said, "Oh, for goodness' sake, you two!" and promptly tripped over a plate of half-eaten crusts and chicken bones on the ground next to me, resulting in her throwing an entire bowl of potato salad into Joe's lap, mayonnaise side down. Joe stood up in shock, spreading the contents of his lap everywhere, including onto my skirt.
"Damn!" he said, much the same time as Verity said words to the same effect if less ladylike. "Sorry about that, I'd better go and get a cloth."
"Oh, don't worry about that, I'll get one, you stay here," Verity said, winking at me.
"You've done quite enough for one day," Joe said and headed off rapidly in the direction of the house.
"Well, he didn't need to be like that about it. It was an accident, after all!" Verity said, watching him go.
"Yes, well, never mind. I'd better go and put my own stuff in the washing machine," I told her, before she could turn the conversation in another, unwelcome, direction. "Thanks for the barbecue, it's been lovely."
I tried to say thank you to Max as well, but he'd clearly overheated standing next to the barbecue all afternoon and drunk too much Pimms, because when I told him I was going home, he put his arm around my waist and tried to persuade me to stay and join in a game of spin the bottle with him. I'm not optimistic for him and Verity.
And to top it off, after a rather restless night's sleep, I've discovered I've got a touch of sunburn. Still, at least the warm weather won't last for long - it's the UK, after all. And Joe will be round tomorrow.