Peterborough

Hugh Alistair Burnham 54/365

It’s fitting that Hugh should be the next person for me to call since he is one of two reasons why I have had a blog holiday. The other is his new wife, Karen.

Eighteen months ago, the ultra organised Karen rang to tell me that they were going to get married and would I be her bridesmaid? I was flattered. I am 47 years old I have two daughters with doe eyes and smiles that knock you out, but it was to be me in the lilac dress.

brideys

Hugh facebooked me (arrgghh I’m using facebook as a verb) to tell me that he would call me. I thought that was very generous but he went on to mention that he has a deal where calls to Australia are completely free. Whilst waiting for the phone to ring I thought back to the calls of my childhood. In 1971 we had to ring our grandparents in London via an operator. It felt like we were calling Russia.

The phone rang, it really is a lovely sound when you are expecting the call and know that no one is going to try to sell you anything. Hugh’s deep Australian voice reverberated down the line. He tells me he has plenty of time to call me because he has just had knee reconstructive surgery so sitting in a chair calling friends for free in Oz and watching sport are his main two pastimes.

Last time we spoke was face to face in Leicestershire two months ago when he had given me a massive hug the day after his wedding, and I was setting off back to his land, leaving him in mine.

It’s a long story but I’ll be quick. Four years ago, Hugh lived in a hot New South Welsh town called Hay and his neighbour invited her friend Karen, who is also my friend, out to stay with her. A whirlwind romance ensued between Karen and Hugh and then came the engagement and then the lavish wedding.

H and Bridey

Take one English woman who has been raising her children constantly and relentlessly for sixteen years, send her back to her homeland twelve thousand miles away, drop her into wedding party, throw in a hen’s day in Paris and see what happens. I actually didn’t know that my capacity for laughter, tears and flirting with French firemen was really that great.

Cedric, Christopher and Romain. French firemen moonlighting as tour guides!

Cedric, Christopher and Romain. French firemen moonlighting as tour guides!

I thank Hugh for the brilliant time that I had because he got married. He tells me that the celebrations all calmed down and got a lot more civilised after I left. But the one thing on his mind now, the new celebration, is that Australia knocked England (the host nation) out of the Rugby World Cup. He played rugby to a high level, he still plays rugby. I played women’s rugby at Loughborough University. Rugby and I loved and hated each other. I’m glad I did it because it made me really brave. He said he wasn’t brave but was beligerent during THE match. As the only Australian in the rugby club rooms in Peterborough he made sure he more than made up for a lack of Aussie chanting. But no one was ever going to pick on him, he is six feet of prime Australian country boy strength, patriotic and proud of it. Here he is, number 22.

hugh

He tells me that he does use the phone more than most. I used it a lot at their house to hear my children’s voices on the opposite side of the planet, the feeling of detatchment from them almost made me dizzy as I sat on the stairs playing with the curly wire of the plugged in landline.

I ask him who on earth he possibly calls these days as hardly anyone answers a home phone anymore. He reels off a list of friends all picking up the receiver at work in Australia, and his Dad and his Mum. His voice falters a bit with the last callees. It isn’t easy being so far from home.

Hugh and his mum, Helen.

Hugh and his mum, Helen.