...a true story
It was one of those chance encounters; the Common Room, mid-morning on a brisk April day. She bounced in with a radiant smile and absent-mindedly scanned the newspapers. I was reading a magazine. At loose ends, we were both looking for something to do, so I suggested an afternoon on the river together. She said 'Sure!' and we gathered the ingredients for a picnic and set off for St Aldates.
The day was simply beautiful... There was a breeze cool enough to pimple her skin, so I offered her my sweater. The Cherwell looked inviting, its surface dancing with ripples, brightly dappled with sunshine. I took her hand and settled her in the punt, grasping the pole to guide us into midstream. There were many others enjoying the early afternoon, some ladies with parasols and long, flowing print dresses, but we took no heed. We wore jeans and sweaters and were enjoying one another's company. We reached a shallow bridge and I ducked, angling the pole so we would clear the span. As we drifted under I grabbed the pole to bring it clear of the water, and horrified, I found it was stuck in the river bed! The punt sailed quietly on without its helmsman, as I was left clinging, and sliding slowly into the river. We broke into uncontrollable laughter; she because of my childishness and lack of restraint, and I because of my embarrassing plight! Finally she secured the punt with the paddle and I retrieved the pole, drying myself as best I could on the bank. We drank wine and ate bread, cheese and grapes, giggling and teasing each other like two children at play.
I saw her to her dorm room, and asked if I might have the pleasure of her company later for dinner. She coyly accepted my invitation... One hour later I picked her up. She looked enchanting... We drove out to Woodstock, home to Blenheim Palace, the ancestral seat of the Churchill family. There we enjoyed a casual meal, laughing again over the misadventures of the afternoon. As the sun was beginning to set I led her outside the restaurant and down the lane to the corner. I told her to keep her eyes closed. When she opened them she saw a vista she would never forget; the palace, high on a hill, a fairy-tale vision, with pastureland sloping down to a lake in the foreground dotted with swans, all bathed in the glow of the setting sun. She stood there, speechless. I squeezed her hand as we gazed into each other's eyes. Not a word was spoken. We were both grateful for the day we had spent together. It was just the two of us. And for a while, only that moment mattered.