This time I’d better make it a really big bunch of roses
- Credit: Getty Images/Ron Chapple Studios RF
What could be better to win Neil Haverson some brownie points with Mrs H than to whisk her away for a romantic weekend? Nothing could possibly go wrong... could it?
Mrs H reckons she can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I've bought her flowers. Okay, I admit I'm not in the vanguard when it comes to horticultural gestures.
My argument is that to buy flowers too often dilutes the meaning.
Maybe, unwittingly, I gave her false hope before we were married. On her birthday, I bought an expensive bunch of flowers. At the time it dented my meagre salary but if it meant forgoing a few pints, damn it, I was going to make the sacrifice to woo my new girlfriend.
A colleague offered to run me to Miss H's flat so I could leave the flowers as a surprise when she got home from work. Well, when he saw what I'd bought for her I got some stick.
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'Oh red roses!' he teased. 'That's it then. It must be serious.'
But a couple of weeks ago I pulled off a coup – and flowers weren't involved.
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Late last year I spotted that our wedding anniversary would fall on a Saturday. Ah ha, I thought, we should celebrate this milestone of the formal attachment of the ball and chain – but how?
Okay, time for you to reach for the Kleenex.
For the first night of our honeymoon we had stayed at a 15th-century hotel in Suffolk. Perfect. I'd whisk my loyal and loving wife to this delightful old inn to relive the warm glow of our first night as a married couple. A four-poster bed, a romantic meal; time to relax and reflect on all the water that has flowed under the marital bridge.
Undoubtedly, the most significant part of our marriage was bringing Brats M and M into the world. Right, I'll invite them and their partners; make it a family affair.
With loads of experience under my belt of going away with Mrs H, I unveiled my sentimental plan three months in advance. Stacks of time for her to decide what small part of her wardrobe to leave behind.
Amongst our wedding memorabilia I found the receipt from that night all those years ago. It cost £7.50 for the accommodation and breakfast. Then we went on to tour southern England until Thursday - when the money ran out.
Our anniversary evening was everything I hoped it would be - but what about the romantic meal for just the two of us? Well, I'd even thought of that; I'd booked another night's stay.
Mrs H and I both have vivid memories of how we dined on our honeymoon. We had scampi and chips in the bar. Later that evening the new Mrs H announced she was hungry and ordered cheese and pickle sandwiches.
Surely I could do better than that this time.
Around seven we headed for the bar.
'Can we eat,' I asked the barman.
'Er…no. We stop serving at six on a Sunday. No one cooks around here on a Sunday.' Seeing our dismay he added: 'Let me have a word with the boss.'
Bless 'em, they did try.
'We've had a busy Sunday and we're out of stock,' he reported. 'We can do you a full English or some sandwiches.'
Not quite what I had in mind – and we'd blown out on a full English that morning.
A couple at the bar piped up helpfully: 'There's a really good Chinese takeaway in the town.'
So a Chinese it was. The hotel supplied cutlery and plates and we had our intimate meal in our room, huddled over a small table and surrounded by foil containers. All it lacked was the light of a flickering candle.
The next morning, the memory of our romantic evening flooded back, thanks to the lingering aroma of shrimp chow mein.
I must find a way of making it up to Mrs H. I know, I'll buy her some flowers.
Ink in my Blood: My 50 years in Newspapers, by Neil Haverson is available from local bookshops and online at Amazon and allthingsnorfolk.com, price £11.