“I can’t believe I’ve not seen you since January,” Speckled Lad said when he called one recent Sunday afternoon, the noise of boots being bulled unmistakeable in the background. “I feel a bit like I’ve lost my right arm.”
He's right. We've not gone three months without seeing each other since he was living in Argentina.
“Ah, well,” I said. “Not long now.”
And it’s not. Speckled Lad is coming rapidly to the end of his third term at Renowned Military Academy and the bit we’ve – well, the bit I’ve – been most looking forward to is in sight: the commissioning ball. Cue a ballroom filled with several hundred strapping, young, newly commissioned officers, all in the shiny, newly acquired mess dress of their recently joined regiments. Complete with swords. Oh, and plenty of champagne. Hurrah, and indeed, huzzah.
“So, what time do I need to be with you on the day?”
“Um, ten I think would be best,” Speckled Lad said, catching me off-guard.
“Really? That’s an awfully late start, isn’t it?”
“Um, no, not really – I mean, the parade doesn’t start till ten-thirty, and you don’t want to be waiting around outside for much longer than that.”
“Sorry, Speckled, I was talking about the ball.”
“Oh, that’s not till the evening, but the parade starts at half ten.”
“Oh. Am I coming to that, then?” For all his military precision, the Lad still seems to be terribly bad at organisation. And telling people about events he assumes they’ll turn up to.
“Of course you are. I mean, I couldn’t have got through this year without you. I want you to be there to see me pass out.”
“Oh. Right. Sure, of course. I’d love to.”
“Great! I know mum’s dying to see you.”
“So, er, who’s going to be there?” I said, a vague notion that this might be about to get slightly uncomfortable.
“Mum, dad, the grandparents, my brothers and you. The key players.”
A couple of hours in the company of Speckled’s immediate family, the only non-relation, watching him commission into the British Army, after what sounds like one of the hardest years of anyone’s life. So that shouldn’t be at all weird.
I’m sure it absolutely won’t be a morning of hugely friendly, almost familial, chat with his parents, or awkward questions from his grandparents about how we know each other, or trying to ignore the sly glances and giggles from the two youngest Speckleds, who find my dalliances with both their older brothers the stuff of (excuse the pun) unadulterated hilarity. No. Not at all.
Just as well I’ll have the sight of hundreds of gorgeous chaps marching around in their uniforms to distract me. Because I’m going to need it.