Many of my friends loathe writing which uses the historic present. I don’t know why. I don’t mind it as long as it’s not misused or over-extended without good reason. Anyway, that’s just to warn you that if you’re of the same opinion as them, look away now because I’m about to slip into it to recount the last 20 minutes or so of my Saturday afternoon.
I’m at my desk, having just sent off a query about car insurance and about to dive back into Aberdeen in 1841, when in comes my wife with a big box.
‘This came for you,’ she says.
I’m expecting some copies of my Alternative Dimension so I assume that’s what’s in the box. She goes off into town and I turn back to the screen. Before I start writing, though, it strikes me that the box is a bit big for the number of books I’ve ordered so my curiosity kicks in and I decide to open it.
As I cut through the first layer of tape, there’s a knock on the door. At the door, I find a man with a smaller box. He hands it to me, I thank him, take it inside and realise that this is more like the book parcel (which is what it turns out to be). So what then, is this other thing? It’s addressed to me so it’s not a mistake.
I cut through all the tapes, fold back the cardboard top and see the usual pillows of protective plastic and, in one corner, the foil of a champagne cork.
I remove some of the plastic and uncover the tops of some roses. Roses? In a box? This is obviously a gift. But who the hell would send me champagne, roses and, when I’ve taken out all the protective stuff, not one but two boxes of chocolates? I don’t have any admirers, and if I did have, they certainly wouldn’t send me such things. There’s no note, no indication of the sender. Have I inadvertently won some sort of lottery? Has one of my books so overwhelmed a reader that s/he has cashed in some savings to thank me for changing her/his life? Maybe this is just the beginning and as s/he reads more and more of them and her/his life gets better and better, I’ll find invitations to the Dorchester for lunch or a beribboned Jaguar parked outside my door with the number plate BK1.
Eventually, however, I solve the mystery. On the back of the address label is a beautiful message and the name of the culprits. They’re my three sisters, Gill, Ginge and Les, and my niece, Ruth. Tomorrow is our 30th wedding anniversary – no, not ‘our’ as in ‘me, my sisters and Ruth’; that really would merit the historic present, along with a considerable spell behind bars – but me and my wife.
It was a lovely, lovely surprise and just reminded me (not that I needed it) how lucky I am to have such siblings and to be part of a family where there’s so much love.*
*Footnote. So far, I’ve heard nothing from my two brothers, just as they never hear anything from me – but then, we’re excused because we’re men, and men don’t do that sort of thing.