"Would you like me to have the kids on Friday so you and Ray can go out?", said my Mum.
I threw myself down on the floor and showered her feet with kisses. I hugged her calves tight in my arms and wept tears of gratitude which I wiped from my face with the end of her pyjama bottoms.
"So, that's a yes then?".
This glorious opportunity was gifted to my husband and I last Friday night. We were going to have a whole afternoon and evening of freedom to wander the streets of Cardiff to do whatever we wished.
No kids. No Mc Beige Happy Meals. No Lego Store meltdowns!!
But what to do with this rare gift of freedom? Initially, we had big ideas; perhaps we should go sky diving, or climb a volcano, get matching tattoos, swim with sharks or something else wild and carefree from our bucket lists?
I mean, we may never get this chance ever again!!!
But after much discussion, we decided to do a spot of shopping, have a cheeky pint and a cheap meal (in a real restaurant that doesn't give away free balloons) and then go home to pass out and dribble on each other's shoulders whilst watching Netflix; a low key evening when we could reconnect.
HITTING THE SHOPS
First up, we hit the shops. My husband, not being the most enthusiastic of shoppers, didn't cope with this part of the day so well.
Given that he looked like he'd been tumble dried for 14 years straight and then fished out of a dumpster, I insisted that it was time to put his hand in his pocket and shell out for an entire new wardrobe.
He said that he would 'rather take a bullet' than do such a thing, but I said he could tick that one off his bucket list on another day.
Ray didn't like shopping one bit, especially when I dragged him into the changing room and forced him to try on six budget shirts and four pairs of combat shorts. He grumbled, exhaled many a loud puff of air and reached for his phone so many times that I had to snatch it out of his mitts and confiscate it.
We left the shop with four massive bags filled to the brim with jumpers, shorts, a hat, gloves, T-shirts and some nice new socks; plus new jammies and hoodies for the kids as standard.
Ray was in bad shape.
With the colour drained from his face and the balance drained from his bank account, he insisted that the only way to restore his depleted levels of joy was to hit the pub.
And so off we went for a pint.
THE FIRST PINT
As I was slowly sipping my first pint of Peroni, enjoying the crisp taste of the fizzy golden liquid sliding down my gullet, I happened to notice that we were surrounded by dozens of huge bearded men dressed in kilts. After further investigation, it turned out that the Scots had hit Cardiff in their multitudes as the Six Nations match was going to be on the next day.
The air was filled with laughter, joy and the soft, musical lilt of the sultry Scottish accents. A feeling of intense warmth glided down my spinal chord as I listened to them talking; like the feeling you get when you hug a new born or when you sink your teeth into a hot, gravy-drenched Yorkshire Pudding. Grrrrrrr.....
Almost instantly, I found my mind wandering. Was it true what they said about a kilt-wearing man?
With the temperature holding at -1 degrees, I thought surely not. It couldn't be!! No man could function with their jewels exposed to the cruel icy elements of the Welsh Capital city.
THE SECOND PINT
Just as we were preparing to leave to have lunch, a crowd of bearded Scots came over to the table to join us.
"Another pint?", they said and despite Ray being bald, we decided to let our hair down. Why not??
One more wouldn't hurt and we might never get this chance again.
The Scots were so big that my pint-sized husband and I barely reached their nipples. Gazing up at these gorgeous, Godly warrior men who towered over us in their skirts, we felt like we'd been plonked down on the set of Braveheart. Their hair was thick and wiry, their calves chunky and strong like oak trees and their breast plates were seemingly made of metal (which I discovered when I failed to stop myself from running my hands across them)
And these warrior men could drink; oh yes they could.
For every sip we took, they gulped down a whole pint and had the next one waiting on the bar. So Ray and I had no choice but to keep up. What Ray and I lacked in stature, we made up for in endurance thanks to our expert training as professional musicians.
THE FOURTH PINT
By pint four, going for lunch was no longer on the table. I'd given the Scots marital advice, heard all about their medical ailments, seen pictures of their wives, kids and grandkids and I'd even offered to put them all up for the weekend in our spare room on our Ikea fold-out bed.
We had officially crossed over the boundary from strangers to friends. We were close. So, I felt it was appropriate to ask about what lurked underneath their kilts.
"Tell me, is nothing worn under there?", I said pointing at the kilt.
And Jerry, my new Scottish friend replied ", No my dear. Believe me, nothing is worn under here. It's all in perfect working order!!".
"Another pint?", he said.
"Why not?", I replied.
I mean, I might never get this chance again right?
THE FIFTH PINT
By pint five, the French had joined us.
I don't know what magical powers lie in a pint of Peroni, but I'd suddenly developed the skill to converse in fluent French for a whole hour with a Grandad who had survived colon cancer ( 'Le colon', he called it).
He was like a French Tony Soprano and he was special. We laughed together, we cried, we hugged. We celebrated his new lease of life, rejoiced in the miracle that he had kicked cancer in the ass and wielded our pints in the air with as we made big plans for his cancer-free future.
His two handsome sons came over to join us and we laughed, cried and hugged too. We planned their futures too and set a date for them to visit and stay on our Ikea fold-up bed.
Over another pint of Peroni, Tony and I put the world to rights even though neither of us could understand a fecking word of what the other was saying.
" Vivre la vie au maximum, Tony, MAXIMUM!!"
THE SIXTH PINT
Whilst enjoying a large group hug with my new French family, I became concerned that I hadn't seen Ray in a while. But, when I broke free from the hug, I looked up and realised that he was in good hands being swung around in the air like a raggy doll by his new strapping friend.
Along came the Scots with the shots; a tray full of joy to be tasted by all. And taste them we both did.
However, as is standard when a tray of Sambuca is presented at the end of an evening, things took a dramatic turn.
Having been a skilled navigator of a giant pair of size 8 feet my whole adult life, it seemed that the day had finally come when I'd lost the ability to control them. After a sip of Sambuca hit my taste buds, one giant foot caught the end of my other giant one and like Jack and Jill, I came tumbling down.
The huge bags stuffed with Primark merchandise broke my fall.
I believed in that moment that it was a divine miracle that I'd forced Ray to buy so many things in Primark. I could have been killed if it wasn't for those bags of shopping and I made a mental note to remind him of this the next time he resisted being dragged into a shop.
As I lay on the floor, I looked up.
And there it was.
The answer to the question that had consumed my thoughts all evening. But, I will not reveal my findings. I will never tell.
I don't fall and tell.