Saturday, 13th March 2004.

That was the year, that was

Let's recap. An awful lot has happened in the last twelve months. I went from being an unhappy, almost vacuous individual, who was - thanks to the tremendous efforts of the best friends anyone could ask for - picking up the pieces of a shipwrecked heart, to the happiest man on the planet, within the space of a few short weeks. And all this happened with the help of a girl who didn't announce her arrival, but who just - well, turned up.

When I met Jon we spent some time sizing each other up - well, I did anyway - before we started to see each other socially, and IIRC his words at the Christmas Eve service at the end of 2000 were "I can't believe that a year ago we didn't know you". The same thing happened with Emily, more or less - she was someone who turned up and completely took over things. This is not a unique situation. It's the way that relationships tend to develop sometimes. But that doesn't make it any easier to fathom out when it happens.

And so to the dramatized version of the year's events. Some vignettes are true. I leave it to you to decide which are exaggerated and which are completely made up.

The players:

James - Me. Moved out, moved on. Engaged. Happy. Focussed.

Emily - My other half. The missing part of me, found a hundred miles away at the end of a telephone line. My provider, my future, my true love.

Jon - Programmer, spod, guru, close friend, the "in case of emergency" on my passport. Recently became a father (although not to me). My best man, in more ways than one.

Holly - Wife to Jon. Mother to Tom. Wonderful cook, quite hot on the emotional reassurance when you need it. Beach Boys fan.

Ewan - The man in Bristol.

Beth - Adopted sister, currently residing in Norwich.

Gareth - The inimitable obo. General good egg. Has a panda and a bat. Uncommonly tall.

Fade in...


[Easter Sunday. James sits with Claire, an old friend, as Ewan is baptised.]

ELDER: Ewan, do you repent of your sins and accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour?
EWAN: I do.
[They throw him into the bath.]
[There is a fracas near the front as the worship band begins to play a bland and uninspired praise chorus.]
CONGREGATION [singing]: Oh, Lord, we praise you and worship your name
Jesus, how wonderful you are, really,
We just live for you, and you alone
Well, and mornings like this
WOMEN [singing]: Like this
MEN [singing]: With tea in green cups
WOMEN [singing]: Green cups
CONGREGATION [singing]: And lots of raising your arms...


JAMES: Hello.
EMILY: Hello.
JAMES: Nice to meet you.
EMILY: Nice to meet you.
[There is a long pause.]
JAMES: I don't know what to say next.
EMILY: Can I have a hug?


[St. Barnabas' Church. A worship group is leading another less-than-inspiring praise chorus.]

CONGREGATION [singing]: Oh, Lord, we praise you, for you are mighty
Oh Lord, we praise you, for you are good
Oh Lord, we praise you, for you are loving
How loving you are
And we just want to dance forever
And wave our flags for you
And have what look like holy seizures
Because we know you want us to...


[James and his father stand over a freshly-dug grave.]
JAMES: How do you feel?
DAVID: I don't know. A sense of release. Strange that she's gone. Not quite used to it. But it worked out for the best.
JAMES: She ceased being my grandmother some time ago. She was a shell at the end. I can't think of her as being in the ground, not really.
DAVID: No. I know.
[David wanders off, and Emily appears, squeezing James' hand.]
EMILY: You all right?
JAMES: I think so.
EMILY: Come on.
[They walk down the hill, slowly, and somewhere in the distance we can hear the unmistakeable sound of "Singin' In The Rain".]


OTHER JAMES: Come on, Annie! Push! Come on! Push! Push! Oh, you're doing so well! Come on, we're nearly there!
ANNIE: All right, but afterwards, it's my turn to ride in the wheelchair. For smeg's sake, I've just had a baby!


[Thousands of people are crammed onto the track, while a mundane praise group at the front of the arena leads the crowd in yet another less-than-inspiring praise chorus.]
CROWD [singing]: We just really want to praise you Lord
That's all we really want to do,
We just live to praise you and only do that
Because we're so in love with you...
JAMES: As fun as this festival has been, I have to point out that I still think this sort of worship is pretty tepid.
MC: Ladies and Gentlemen....The Polyphonic Spreeeee!!!
JAMES: Thank God, something with a bit of depth to it.
TIM DELAUGHTER: Ha ha! We love chocolate! All my girly girls love chocolate. Lots of sugar on the microphone too. C'mon now, snap with me. Feel the infectious bunny groove moving your liver. SUUUUUUUNNNNNNN!


JAMES: I love you.
EMILY: I love you too.
JAMES: Marry me.
EMILY: Seriously?
EMILY: You're really sure? You're not just saying it?
JAMES: Next October?
EMILY: Yes. Yes, a hundred times yes.
[A firework explodes against the night sky.]


[Jon sits at a laptop, typing furiously.]
JON: Hol? Check this out. I've designed software that will not only monitor the baby's nappy-filling activities and predict when the next change will occur to an accuracy level of 0.45 minutes, but will also analyse the most appropriate shade of baby-gro to clothe Tom in whenever we go out, and just by doing a DNA examination of one hair from his head I've managed to predict his life expectancy, career choice and shoe size. Plus I've isolated the biorhythm from his brainwaves and hooked it up to the MP3 player on the DVD machine, and programmed it to always pick an appropriate selection of Stephen Sondheim according to his mood.
HOLLY: You did all this while I was in labour?
JON: Well, some. The rest I knocked up when you were taking a bath earlier.
HOLLY: You're good. And look! You're a father!
JON: I can't quite believe it myself. I've...we've wanted this for a long time. James is always saying 'ever since he met me'.
HOLLY: And before that as well.
JON: Yes, although he only has the start of our friendship to work from. So the essence of the story is true.


JON: Happy New Year!
HOLLY: Happy New Year!
EVERYONE ELSE: Happy New Year!
BETH [on phone]: Happy New Year!
EMILY: Happy New Year, darling.
JAMES: It's going to be our year, isn't it?
[Enter Gareth, dressed as Legolas.]
EMILY: Hi, Gareth. Listen, the fancy dress party isn't for three and a half weeks.
GARETH: A cold darkness is receding into the east. The red sun of the year resurfaces joyously.
[Tom begins to wail.]
GARETH: The baby is restless...


[A house in Sutton Courtenay, Oxfordshire.]
EMILY'S BROTHER: That's the last of the boxes. Now all we have to do is move the piano. But frankly, I'm a little tired to do it alone.
EMILY [jumping up]: We'll help you!
[singing a la Bagpuss]: We will move it, we will shove it
We will stick it in place, place, place
We'll restore it, through the garage door with it
We will move it with grace, grace, grace.
JAMES: Let's go, team!
[James, Emily and her brother and sister-in-law grab the piano from the furniture van, and with effort, turn it upright on the trolley.]


EMILY: Well, here we are again.
JAMES: And to think. A year ago we didn't know each other.
EMILY: Strange, isn't it? Like fate.
JAMES: And I don't even believe in fate.
EMILY: I love you.
JAMES: I love you too.
EMILY: I love you more.
JAMES: I love you more than that.
EMILY: No, I love you more.
JAMES: No, I love *you* more...

[The voices recede as we pan out from the house, up, up, across the world.]

Roll credits.

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