“Ken, Marigold! Come through, we’re on the patio” I don’t think they heard me or if they had they chose to ignore my beckoning as I heard the side gate go before my old friends appeared at the patio from the side garden. Looking back I think it was perhaps Marigold who had been most shocked by my nakedness on that hot summer afternoon. Earlier that morning, spurred on by a most fortuitous weather forecast, I had spent at least half an hour rescuing a pair of sun loungers from the shed at the foot of our two-acre garden. They were stacked up behind my shovel, homemade noose and a rather tatty bag of birdlime, but by moving the bicycle to the side of the wooden- framed building and repositioning my Dionne Warwick vinyl collection I could just about create enough space to rescue the plastic, slatted garden chaise longues.
How pleased I was that my sweaty efforts were now being rewarded as the sun beat down on our, my wife Maureen and I’s, small patch of rural Biffordshire. Dear, loyal Maureen had been a little concerned that my nude sunbathing would perhaps cause some discombobulation with our neighbours for the past ten years, George and Umbinga. However, George and Umbinga had decided to spend the hottest afternoon of the year at the Biffordshire Steam Falcon show, so I felt emboldened enough to go as our Lord Jesus Christ intended. Umbinga, hailing from rural Ghana, had not witnessed steam driven falcons before, so I felt sure they would be away for most of the afternoon if not into the early evening, as she wondered at the steam-powered bird of prey technology on display. Maureen and I had visited the show last year, although poor Maureen vowed never to return having lost an eye in an unfortunate accident with a piston-powered Kestrel. Fortunately, we found her eyeball in amongst some discarded candy-floss and although the team at Biffordshire General were professional and courteous, poor Maureen has never really been the same since.
As I stripped to enjoy my naked sun worship, Maureen quite correctly pointed out the dangers of sunbathing in this way and was, she admitted, fearful that I would get ‘myself’ caught up in the slatted seats of the now wiped clean and fully restored sun-loungers. To protect the ‘colonel’ from such an unfortunate mishap, Maureen had spent most of her morning creating a little rest for the old chap, from an old egg-cup and a pre-used pin cushion. As I sipped a refreshing cocktail, Maureen donned a pair of medical gloves before delicately, and with no great skill, positioned the colonel up and across so that his skinny hood was posed neatly on top of the homemade construction. I couldn’t help but think that the good colonel rather looked like a fleshy pink bridge leading to some dark entangled forest, perhaps with a muddy and swollen Asian river churning and billowing below.
The pin-cushion and egg cup combination did a fine job of stopping the colonel from falling to the plastic surface of the sun-lounger and becoming mangled in the slats of the chair. Marigold, judging by the hot flush coming to her cheeks, was perhaps not as comfortable with the homemade willy bridge as Ken appeared to be, who was by now loudly slipping his gin and tonic and regaling me with the tale of when he took five wickets and made a fifty against Flange CC just last week. I think perhaps Marigold’s embarrassment was heightened when the sun was rather unexpectedly obscured by a bank of heavy cloud. Reacting to the sharp drop in temperature, the colonel had suddenly recoiled and had lazily lopped off his perfectly comfortable egg cup rest to fall almost silently to the slatted chair below. As Marigold rather nervously sipped her cup of tea, I vowed to ensure the colonel, now becoming quite red after nearly three hours of hot sun exposure, would be back on his perch as soon as the clouds passed. It wasn’t long before the sun peeked out from behind the wispy white cotton and with a small cough I managed to reposition the colonel back onto his podium, confident that he would not escape from the cushioned comfort of the egg cup again.
Marigold asked for another cup of tea and a few moments later, dear Maureen returned to the patio area with it. Unfortunately, a few cubes of sugar escaped from the bowl she had been carrying, clumsiness being a cross she had had to bear ever since the loss of her eye. The spillage forced Maureen to place the hot cup down onto the garden table before bending down to retrieve the sweetened cubes. Given Maureen had decided to join me in my nakedness, it was suddenly Ken’s turn to flush hot red and another loud slurp, this time sufficient to drain the last remnants of ice and gin from his glass, indicated to me that perhaps he had decided that their afternoon with us was at an end.
Normally I would have risen to bid farewell to my two old friends, but given the colonel was in such a fine and comfortable position I was reluctant to disturb him. Instead, I allowed Maureen to undertake the hostess duties, which she performed admirably by giving our departing friends a big, fleshy hug farewell. It had been an absolutely marvellous day, especially I suspect for the colonel, who later that evening I noticed had turned a most glorious, nutty mahogany brown as he rested contentedly on a big hairy bag of conkers.