In my head, if I never marry, I have thought that I will choose an unconventional life with several faraway lovers, and a small cottage by the sea that I can write in. There is honeysuckle twining around the door and I grow vegetables. I choose to let the weeds over-run one flower bed and I have a cheerful green front gate. Whenever I can't sleep, I get up in the early hours to walk along the cliff tops, rich with purple heather and blackberry brambles, in my sturdy boots and a long, fuzzy grey cardigan over a wispy white nightdress. I've taken up painting. I still have a landline, because when the rain sets in, doing a tap dance on the corrugated iron roof of my outhouse, the wifi goes out and there are a few people whose company I can't bear to live without.
Some days I pack up a suitcase and just go somewhere else on a whim; to a friend's house, to France, to a land I have read about in a current book. I may even spend a whole afternoon riding rollercoasters and eating ice cream. I will know the names of everyone in my village. I will make eyes at the postman. Sometimes, I will turn up at your house and take you somewhere. At least one of you will pretend to be engaged to me one day, so we can go and eat all those free little samples of cake before we both try on the most fancy and the most ridiculous of wedding dresses. Bonus points if you are male and take to the task with gusto. I go to decadent places in impeccable evening gowns on occasion too. I use my opera glasses to see if there is food in the Royal box during La Boheme. Also, to ascertain whether or not Prince Harry is dashing close up.
The list of diversions is long and it is lovely.
People I love drop in to visit me, as well, so my house is either blissfully quiet or gladly rosy with laughter. Providing they call first and give me time to tidy away the book I'm haphazardly scribbling, and wash enough cups to serve them tea, they will get scones with proper whipped cream and jam. For some reason, I have doilies.
It's a good future and it is one I visit often. What it doesn't contain is a lot of cats and this might be a mistake. I may even be a potential cat lady. We must face the facts.
I have realised this tonight, because I have a cat based rating system for my walks. The amount of purring it contains directly affects how successful I consider the outing to have been. This distresses my mother who seems to have a firm rule for the walks she accompanies me on which comes down essentially to: do not entice neighbourhood cats to come and have a cuddle with you. Except she is serious enough about it that, somewhere, I'm sure she has it written down in Latin.
Today, I met two. One was a black and white moggy with impressive whiskers who followed me doggedly, after I crossed the road to make his acquaintance. (In case you hadn't guessed, I consistently break the no cat rule, without apology). The second was a sleek tortoiseshell who probably doesn't date alley cats, and scorns anything less than fresh salmon for her supper. She was dainty and delicate and waited patiently where I left her, for my return from the postbox, with the aloof air of one who may deign to notice you, but only if you're lucky.
I wanted to scoop her up and bring her home but people object to the theft of their cats. Apparently.
It was a wonderful walk though. I met a couple of humans too. None of them asked for cuddles or tummy rubs. Which is the trouble with humans. As I neared the postbox my mum reminded me to post the letters instead of the house keys. A good piece of advice. One my father neglected to take at least once. After we had heard the thump of the keys hitting the bottom of the box, he posted the letters anyway because, as he said, they still needed to go. After that, there was a short lived attempt at getting the keys out with a stick, but we should gloss over that. The stick did not survive the encounter. So, we loitered for an hour and a half until the next collection time, when we tried to convince the post chap to give us the keys back, which he did with much pursing of lips and dark mutterings about how illicit it was for him to do so.
That is my second favourite key based father memory. The first was the time he somehow locked his car keys in his own car. Which is a Houdini like feat. My Nan called the RAC out, they opened the back window just wide enough for a little girl to clamber through, and like mission impossible meets primary school Bond I had to get in there and save the day.