Reasons why Fran will never take her husband to the Caribbean

My husband had his first ever cocktail today when we were in a Caribbean restaurant in Birmingham called Turtle Bay. He's left that rite of passage late, being 61 next birthday. But he's always said cocktails were too sweet and more of a woman's drink.

'Go on,' I said today. 'Try it. They're 2 for 1.'

If it's 2 for 1, he'll fall for it. He's Bargain Man. He'll buy fourteen pounds of broccoli from a market stall just because he can and for the next week it's broccoli in everything. Take it from me, one can have too much broccoli jam and I've little good to say about the homemade icecream.

But, cocktails a woman's drink, huh?

So, how come, after one concoction of rum, lime juice and ginger beer called a Jamaican Mule, did he grab the waiter by his apron strings and demand an immediate refill within thirty seconds or he'd want to see the manager?

I was a tad worried. He gets chatty after even one beer and, being a gardener, will then launch into a protracted story about a visit to the garden centre to buy fence posts or tell me about all the seeds he's just ordered from the Marshalls catalogue.

After cocktail number 9, Fran's husband had started on 'Tomato plants I have known and loved.' 

As rites of passages go, it was a success, though.

I often get my pupils at school to write about 'firsts'. My first time at the cinema. My first time as a bridesmaid. Rites of passage are a rich source of memories and impressions that aid powerful writing. The first time we do something, meet someone new, or make a discovery, can be of psychological importance, often because of associated strong emotions such as fear, triumph, or rejection, for example, or even rum-soaked joy.

Here are some 'firsts'. Do they bring back memories for you?

first time riding a bicycle independently
first kiss
first time getting drunk
first night away from parents
first pocket money
first part-time job
first wage packet
first time on a stage
first time in hospital
first broken heart
first realisation that parents don't know everything
first humiliation by a teacher
first pet who died
first time seeing a dead body
first publication of a story
first grandchild
first thirst

I got silly there at the end. I fancied some rhyme.

Out of the list above, which I typed as they came to me, the only one I haven't done is seen a dead body, although if my husband had ordered a third cocktail, that could have been my chance. His blood would have been ninety per cent rum and ginger, which can't be good for anyone's life chances.

With my first wage, I bought a guitar. I was eighteen and in my first post as a medical secretary at the London Hospital in Whitechapel, the East End of London. In my lodgings was another teenager - a nurse who played guitar in the evenings and offered to teach me. My guitar cost £17 and, armed with three chords and an ego to die for, I embarked on a world-changing songwriting career, writing songs which I warbled proudly into a cassette player, strumming away on my new acquisition, sure that within the month it would be a 'yes' from Sony.

Worse than this, I sent these cassette tapes to my foster parents, who had wisely opted to stay in Leamington when I moved to London, probably because they knew I would sing to them live otherwise.

'Here are some more of my songs,' I would announce at the beginning of the tape, then launch into my latest three-chord reedy-voiced impression of someone very ill and in need of a priest.

I've never asked them, but perhaps it was a first for them: the first time they'd ever wanted to crunch a cassette tape underneath their heels until it was dust.


  1. I've never been drunk, so there's a first that hasn't happened yet and may not ever.
    My first dead body was my dad, when I went to the funeral home to say goodbye before his cremation. I left a bunch of carnations in with him, his favourite flower, which he had always tried to grow, without success. Four years later I said goodbye to my mum in the same funeral home, but without the flowers.
    I've forgotten most of the other firsts.

    1. That's very poignant, River. Sorry you've lost both your parents. My mum died when I was a teen. My dad, as far as I know, is still alive, but we're not in touch, so ... maybe not. I kind of hope someone would let me know if not.

  2. Now I can't stop singing, " The first time ever I saw your face "
    I rather like the sound of your husband burbling on about gardening. My husband burbles on about boats. If we went out for a few drinks together you and I would learn about a whole new topic...or we could just natter. I like nattering.

    The first broken heart was truly awful but had it not happened I wouldn't have met my husband to be and spend the last 27 years listening to his favourite subject !

    1. That's one of my favourite songs, the kind that make me cry (and not much does that - I'm a tough old boot.) When I teach about language and gender, we study the fact that men seem to prefer information topics and women 'relational' topics. Report vs rapport, one theory calls it.

  3. You made me laugh, Fran, even though it's 89 degrees and we're going to die from global warming. My ex-husband was a constant source of embarrassment, and he didn't even need a cocktail to get there.


    1. 89 degrees? Are you in your oven?

    2. It's springtime in Florida, my dear. This afternoon we got up to 92 degrees.

    3. I would be a big puddle on the floor in that heat. I hope you are staying very still.

  4. Anonymous30/4/17 11:56

    I could tell you about the first time I realized the world DOES revolve around me, but you can Google it!!

    1. I tried, I tried, but what do I google? Help me!

  5. Thanks for your list of 'firsts', they've brought back a few memories...! Love your blog posts, and what you can get out of a cocktail is nobody's business! x

    1. Glad they resonated, Mandy! And thanks x

  6. I could mention the first meal I ever cooked for my wife - but if I tell you that it was also the last meal she ever let me cook for her, then you've got the whole story.

    1. Ha ha! I'm wondering what it was. Or more likely what it was MEANT to be!

  7. So many firsts and no matter how old you get there are still more to come.

    1. Hm ... first grey hair, first time you say 'Ouch' getting out of a chair, first time upstairs wondering why you were there ... but hopefully some good ones too!

  8. First time I went to a parent-teacher's meeting as a parent ...

    1. It's odd, isn't it? Such a mix of perspectives!

  9. .. hi Fran .... I love your post .... great list of firsts.
    I cry when I get drunk so it's been many, many years since this has happened ...
    I still can't ride a bicycle..

    I have done a few Firsts off your list ...

    My hubby doesn't drink alcohol.. but he can and will dominate any conversation and turn it to his favourite subjects .... computers, wood turning and tools ...
    ... Have a great day..... Barb xxx


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