My cab stopped in the hotel’s driveway and a porter ran up to open the door. He grabbed my suitcase by the handle, pulled it and lifted his eyes at me.
‘Yes, I know. Sorry.’
He tried harder, managed to pull it out of the cab and then heave it up the steps to the front door. There I took over. On days like this you want to shake the hand of the bloke who invented the wheel. And also that of the genius who suggested to attach it to a suitcase.
The Nutter meets me inside. We kiss and he takes the handle of my suitcase as we make for the lifts. And stops.
‘Exactly how many thongs have you packed?’
‘Six. No, wait, I’m wearing one, so it’s only five inside.’
His eyebrow is still raised as he pulls my suitcase into his hotel room and positions it on the floor. I open it straightaway: I can tell he can’t wait to see my thongs. What he sees is rows and rows of carefully packed books*.
‘Well that explains some things but raises another question. I didn’t realise you’d been to the Army.’
‘I hadn’t. It was the Navy.’
He looks at me.
‘Oh alright! It was prison!’
Now he smiles.
‘I’ve a CDO,’ I confess.
‘Ah. That explains pretty much everything.’
We need to be in the National Theatre for 7.30 so I rush to the bathroom. Out of the shower, I put on some make up, arrange my hair, get dressed and we’re out. All in all, it took me about 40 minutes to get ready. As the cab drives off, the Nutter turns to me.
‘All this time I looked at you getting ready and thought “Why won’t she just get a move on!” Why do women go through all these needless things when they get ready?’
‘Exactly what would you rather I skipped? The shower? The make up? Getting dressed? Brushing my hair? Kissing you between all of these?’
‘Well, when you put it this way, I’m not sure.’
We get to the theatre just on time. It’s The Captain of Kopenick with Anthony Sher. I think both of us enjoy it, even if for different reasons. The Nutter holds my hand throughout the show and lifts it to his lips now and again.
It’s a dry frosty night as we leave the theatre. The cloudless sky is full of stars. We walk across Waterloo Bridge, stop for a late dinner at a small restaurant and get back to the hotel.
In the morning, the Nutter stays in bed and watches me rushing around the room packing. His present of the date is, ironically, a book. A large and heavy book. The first edition of The Making of Classical Edinburgh. He knows how to please me but not my suitcase. Eventually we agree that I’ll leave a few books with him and he’ll pass them to me the next time I see him. I quite enjoy loading him with a Mosby’s Dictionary and a couple of textbooks on anatomy and pathology of a similar size. Now there’s enough room for his present and I don’t even need to jump on my suitcase.
He looks very comfortable and relaxed in bed, even though his eyes keenly follow my erratic movements around the room. I’m packed and getting dressed when suddenly he asks if he can see me off to the station. Why ever not? As the bathroom door closes behind him, I shout ‘And get a move on, will you! My train’s in 40 minutes!’
This is the first time I see him out of the shower. What a transformation! His wet hair brushed back looks much darker than ordinarily and gives him a sudden sharp look; his features so clearly defined, he resembles young Clint Eastwood with the square jaw, prominent cheek bones and piercing blue eyes on a face that now appears much thinner. But his long white fluffy hair dries within minutes and soon Clint is gone, replaced by the soft face with a timid smile that I know so well.
The Nutter pulls my suitcase out of the front door and the porter runs up to him.
‘Let me help you, sir.’
‘No, thank you, I’ll cope.’
‘But this is what I’m here for, sir!’
The Nutter looks at him and smiles a little.
‘Oh no, young man, this is what I am here for. Why don’t you get us a cab.’
Unusually for Kings Cross, the gates for platforms are open and the Nutter takes me all the way to my carriage. He shoves my suitcase under the baggage rack and kisses me good-bye. My thoughts still revolve around saloons and cowboys when I arrive in Edinburgh.
* I don’t usually travel with a suitcase full of books. This case is too surreal to try to provide a believable explanation.