Why I spit in the eye of wedding anniversaries. A true story (with the best bit at the end).

It started off as it meant to go on, our marriage. Not quite ordinary.

Don’t get me wrong, we’re not mutants from some distant planet masquerading as earthlings. It’s just, we have trouble doing what’s expected of us. Or perhaps I should say, I have trouble …

I blame my name, Mary and that nursery rhyme – the ‘how does your garden grow’ one. Everyone smiles indulgent smiles when you’re ‘contrary,’ so you grow up thinking it’s the best way to be. It’s not. It lands you in all sorts of puddles, trust me.

But back to the marriage.

Market day in south east London. In a church. Two of us, a priest and witnesses. One extra friend who’s snuck in – and my parents, because I relented, two days ago.

Outside, stalls are selling slippers and knickers. Strawberries, cauliflowers, cheap bags and nighties. Your average Saturday market.

Promises made, it’s back to our flat for a lunch of cold salmon.

We wave farewell to the parents and friends. Head for the park where I bruise myself, badly. Seems I can’t swing from my hands any more, like when I was ten.

Anyway. Fast forward a month. To the reception.

We party on a boat. Sail by the Tower of London on a beautiful, sun-washed day. Eating mango chicken, then raspberry Pavlova. Sipping crisp fizzy wine.

New husband kidnaps some classical buskers, on their very first busk. They play all the way for a nice fat donation. Generous, my new, American pa-in-law.

The upshot of this tale of one wedding and two events? We now have two anniversaries. Two dates to remember.

I’m not good at dates. As my nephews know all too well, I have a rather random approach to birthdays. So I’m not sure whether I really feel kind of – meh – about anniversaries or whether it’s just a cover story for incompetence.

But there’s more.

I married an archaeologist. He digs up old stones in Africa – it was Swaziland then, these days it’s Zambia [though he’s heading west next year, I’m anxious to say. Ebola’s not yet in Ghana. We’ll be donating to Medecins Sans Frontieres.].

Anyway. In summer, he’s usually to be found in some inaccessible, uncomfortable but utterly intriguing place.

For many years those places were also incommunicado. A letter that looked like it had been danced on by an elephant would arrive now and then – but that was it. No email. No phone. No texts.

I learnt. If I wanted to see him – and not be deeply envious – I had to go. So I did.

But we never seemed to be together on our anniversary – neither of them – inconveniently a month apart and me with an absolute max of three weeks holiday to take.

At last, though, the day arrived. Not only were we together, but we remembered.

And here’s what happens …

Sierra Exif JPEGI’m sitting, holding a glass. Wearing dirty green army-surplus trousers, a long sleeved shirt, big heavy boots.

I’ve no idea what he’s wearing – probably much the same sort of thing.

We’ve been watching the sun set, but it’s dark now.

The night sounds are warming up.

The distant, hoarse cough of a lion.

The rustle of elephants pulling down branches.

The clatter of dishes in the tin-roofed kitchen where a fine-voiced cook is singing a hymn.

Our chairs, like old-fashioned deck chairs, are low-slung and old. Easy to slump into – hard to climb out of in a hurry.

Between us, on a solid, local wood table sits a bottle of the nearest thing to champagne the camp bar can muster. It’s white, cool-ish, has bubbles in it – and it’s sweet. But never mind.

Suddenly, spouse of 20 years yells and leaps from his chair.

I struggle, but it’s too late, the snake is rippling across the toe of my boot. Thankfully, heading away from me.

I finally make it out of the chair and realise anniversary spouse may have left me behind, but he’s saved the wine.

‘What took you so long,’ he hisses (husband, not the snake), waving the bottle.

I’m now hyperventilating. Staring, wild-eyed at the snake. Which turns out to be quite the wrong thing to do, with this one.

Our friend from behind the bar runs out, broom in hand.

The snake seems bewildered – I almost feel sorry for it.

But not really.

It’s a spitting cobra. 031_28I was lucky it didn’t spit. Blind me. Sink its teeth into me.

Maybe it mistook me for a sack of mealie meal.

Maybe my dirty smelly boots put it off.

Anniversaries. I spit in your eye. Pah.


[Written in response to WordPress Weekly writing challenge, Memoir Madness: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_writing_challenge/memoir-madness/ ]

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24 Responses to Why I spit in the eye of wedding anniversaries. A true story (with the best bit at the end).

  1. aishasoasis says:

    Hahaha greetings from egypt and happy anniversary, what a great story! ;^)


    • Thank you – I’m glad you enjoyed it. I see it was your anniversary recently too – belated happy one! I visited your site and love the colours of that beach glass – making jewellery with them is inspired. I hope you fulfil your dream – but I don’t think postal services anywhere are improving. Live in hope, though! Mary


    • And I love papaya – deeply envious!


      • aishasoasis says:

        I find they are an acquired taste – now that I have learned to mix a little mango juice with them I’m really happy about papayas. It’s been interesting learning to live with them. My freezer is full of concentrate hecause the trees were so productive, but then this past spring most of the trees died, only 2 male trees are left standing. But on the other hand right outside my kitchen window where I threw the seeds and peels for the ducks, I now have a nice little stand of about 7 trees! I worked so hard to germinate the first generation of trees from seeds, but these ones just popped up by themselves, and thankfully in a really convenient location! Hopefully there will be a female or two between them, now that I’ve learned to love papaya. Maybe you can plant a few seeds too!

        Thanks again for visiting, I look forward to reading more from you! ;^)


  2. Thel says:

    Your piece reminded me of great memories of your wedding reception aboard the Swanage Queen. Happy anniversary! How many years has it been?


    • Thanks, Thel. The anniversary of the wedding was last month (I had to ask the spouse – always do – just never can remember it) on 17th, the reception was, I think either 13th or 14th August. Yes, it was a good party, shame I cried myself to sleep the night before!!!! (Not very Lou behaviour, huh?) Also thank goodness Marsha took pics as they are the only ones we have (featuring a young Neil)…


  3. Very cool ending indeed! May I just say, you could rewrite the story and lead with the snake. What an opening that could be! (and now I’m butting out….)


    • Thanks Belle – yes, the snake would certainly grab you as an intro – but then I’d worry that the rest would be so dull it would lose everyone! This way, I thought, especially given I trail it so blatantly in the title, I might keep people on board. Am about to pop by your bully post now, see you soon! M


  4. John Kemp says:

    A rocky wadi in the mountains of northwestern Arabia, late afternoon, low sun, walking back to the Land Cruiser. Coming over a boulder bulging up in the bank I meet a cobra coming the other way, black cobra, Naja arabica. We both stop. I pick up a fist-sized rock and throw it, break the cobra’s back. Maneouvre it into a canvas sample bag, take it to camp and put it in the freezer (runs on paraffin) – snakes are cold-blooded, they just go to sleep. Back in Jeddah give it to the snake expert, John Gasperetti, who’s pleased to have a specimen from that area. Did I help it onto the IUCN Red List? Cobras aren’t as common there as in Africa.


    • Ooh – a much more rugged story, that one. I would never attempt to disable anything by throwing something – my aim is appalling. I omitted a little in the interests of brevity (what with attention spans being so short)- the chap who was with us, Ammon, first grabbed a catapult usually used for ridding breakfast of monkeys, but the pebbles that were around were not working and it being an area much in use by people the brush was wielded until snake was no more – I know we shouldn’t idly kill smaller things but I was glad it wouldn’t be there next night or at early breakfast I must admit. One encounter was enough. And I hate that picture. One day I’ll tell the black mamba story… but not yet.


  5. John Kemp says:

    All those posts through two years (is it more now?) and we never knew whether or not you were married. You never can tell these days. We knew the beginning, but not that. I wouldn’t want not to be, and it gave me a little thrill of pleasure, for you, to learn that you are.


  6. He looks a funny shape — had he perhaps just eaten?


    • Oooh, not sure about that but now you’ve said it, he does look a bit lumpy. Eeurgh. I try hard not to look too closely at that picture as I’m really scared of the things. Thanks for popping in for a look anyway! Mary

      Liked by 1 person

  7. EllaDee says:

    I found in the past birthdays, anniversaries, celebrations of any kind were more successfully executed, with anyone other than the princpals and sometimes even with them, after the actual date. Or in your case, dates. That of course doesn’t cover the uninvited… reptiles. In the past I tended to be desirous of special occasion to be more agreeable than can apparently be reasonably expected. Many times I wasn’t disappointed in my low expectations.
    I’m happy to say the hoodoo has ended since life with the G.O. I happily, belatedly, wish you all the best for your anniversary/s.


    • Thanks EllaDee. I’m glad you’re happy with the GO – I enjoy reading about your life, your aspirations and the choices you make. Celebrations are, in my humbly submitted opinion, mostly overrated, especially when you’re on the organising end. If I could count the number of times I’ve ended up with sore feet, exhausted, sitting on the stairs with a big glass of wine and a leftover devilled egg (our idea of retro) wondering why on earth I did it – and how so many people stayed so long without me getting around to talk to them!


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  10. Steph says:

    Hey there! Now I know why I don’t know the date of your anniversary! You must tell me sometime. Not because I do the big celebration dance, but because I am OCD about writing such dates down in my diary. There is a reason. If I am feeling like a big heap of manure one morning (and this is happening a little at the moment due to all sorts of family things I won’t bother you with just now) I can always open my precious little book and know that someone I am close to, somewhere, is enjoying the day. Or marking it in some lunatic way such as hosting a snake. We have two anniversaries. One is the wedding of just over 28 years ago, the other is the drunken party of 37 years ago when we actually hooked up (this is not counting 9 months’ separation when I had a fling with someone else!). The wedding one being in the school holidays, we usually go away somewhere interesting for a few days to mark it. The wedding itself was a big frilly veil affair but with personal touches. Bridesmaids’ dresses lovingly stitched by friends and relatives; auntie Caterer’s superb cake; the Best Beloved making his own arrangement of the prelude to ‘die Meistersinger’ for the march back down the aisle (that was very much for one of the bridesmaids, a Wagner fanatic); a few slightly unusual photographs.The second anniversary is more personal, less exposed to our friends’ eyes. We mark it quietly. In the past, for instance, I have created treasure hunts where the Beloved has to follow a trail of cryptic rhyming clues to find a succession of single words or phrases from which he then has to reconstruct a little poem I have written to him. It’s been a long time since I’ve done that – work took over and I have had little opportunity for poetry writing in the last few years. I still do think it’s worth recognising though. Not as meh as all that. 🙂


    • Dear Steph what a lovely thing to do – your date notebook – and what a good idea. So sorry to hear about the family woes.
      What an even more lovely thing to do for your private anniversary – it makes me feel quite unimaginative! I’m very backward when it comes to poetry and also lack the confidence to even begin to think about writing it. It’s only since your responses here that I realised you were into poetry, of course, being a linguist, I should have known. Cause for a ‘doh’ instead of a ‘meh’! My recent brush with RS Thomas has inspired me to venture further. We must talk sometime – soon. I’ll be in touch, mx


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