"Bloody brilliant party, Mr Floyd! And excellent nibbles, thank you. Shit! Here comes that woman with the frightening criminal haircut. Quick! Everyone inside and hide in the cellar. Bring the sausages with you."
Though far from cluttered, it was perfectly furnished with rustic, rescued treasures. Hand-thrown mugs for our coffee, which we sipped in the bright summer mornings, watching the river bustle noisily past the end of the garden and feeling exactly like sleepy animals from Wind in the Willows. The chairs were mismatched and perfectly comfortable in the way a chair can only become after it has borne witness to the theatre of life through a thousand bottoms. The kitchen featured ancient freestanding cupboards filled with a charming, chipped and chic assortment of china, enamel, pottery and copper. I fell completely in love with it and couldn't wait to entertain all our friends whom we hadn't seen in a year, and whom I had invited down from London for some fun.
None of them turned up. I rang them from the call-box on the corner of the lane and wondered why they sounded stilted and distant. Their excuses were insultingly crap and I felt a bit annoyed. I wandered back along a sun-dappled road past an Inn that I realised with star-struck greed was run by the garrulous and hilarious TV chef Keith Floyd. Well, at least we would eat well this holiday. I popped in to book a table and was met with absolute indifference. Added to my mates dumping me and a particularly disastrous haircut I was still coming to terms with, I was pretty narked off. Especially when Edward went off that afternoon in the car to buy logs. In bloody August.
I remember vividly sitting in the garden reading the fabulous Island in the Sun by Alec Waugh, a haunting, salutary tale on the dangers of taking events at face value and believing you know what others are thinking. When Edward got back, I had made Pimms and was lost on a 1950s Caribbean plantation with all its undercurrents of politics, danger and racial tension.
That night, he proposed to me, by firelight. Of course I said yes. The Ceylon sapphire he produced had been hidden in his sock drawer after a business trip to Sri Lanka, about which he had been uncharacteristically secretive, thus getting right on my wick for several weeks. He had called the London chums before we few home on leave and told them in no uncertain terms not to come to Devon as he had other plans which they'd all bugger up, and not to say a word to me about it. He'd already booked the table at Floyd's Inn, and been equally forthright with the staff, knowing I was bound to go in and spoil things by booking another table. We went to dinner there, the food exquisite, the grumpy patron less so. He appeared at our table, bizarrely, with a teddy bear, and told us that marriage was over-rated.
I was reminded of all this earlier this month when I listened to an old interview with the late, much-missed Keith Floyd, who said that during his time running that Inn, he'd been broke, overworked and deeply unhappy in, I think, his third marriage, his TV star on the wane as his producer had dumped him for Risk Stein and was battling bowel cancer. I just thought he was rude.
I am sorry that, as I have done so often, I leapt effortlessly to a quite erroneous conclusion. I suspect it won't be the last time though.