I looked at the item and then I glanced over to Mrs F. She said nothing, I said nothing, there was nothing to say! I didn't know if she was joking, I didnt know if I should act surprised, I did know that I was confused. The look on her face told me that this was no joke and she was indeed deadly serious. I looked at the woman I love, to whom I've been married for 12 years, who, to this point at least I thought, knew me so well and with a deep breath I said.....'at what point did you think I would be delighted to own a pair of pink swimming shorts? Not only are they pink, I went on, but they are flowery pink!' At this point, I still hoped that her face would crack into a smile and she would utter those words of relief 'just kidding!' Alas no. She was disappointed to say the least and told me how she had spent a lot of time searching out shorts that 'were just right for your personality' and 'how could I be so ungrateful.' At that point she left the bedroom leaving me to mull over the fact that I was actually in the dog house for gently declining to wear an item of clothing that quite frankly would not have looked out of place on a Laura Ashley bedspread!
Taking them back to the shop was also an interesting experience. I approached the counter knowing that there was only one way to handle this. 'I'm returning these' I said .......'because they dont fit!' - I didnt give any eye contact as I said it - that was a mistake. The nice lady behind the till looked at me, then looked at the shorts and said ....'they are also a bit garish dont you think?!' ........'You've rumbled me' I said 'but I'd be very grateful if you could repeat what you've just said to my wife who will be walking into the shop anytime now!'
Of course we've all had situations like these where something is presented to us that is not quite as we'd hoped. Usually it is around Birthday's or Christmas where there is an old dear who means well but somehow misses the mark quite badly. I remember as a 12 and 10 year old, my brother and I being presented with knitted jumpers from a friend of the family. Mine was sky blue and his was sunshine yellow! The first thought (having said thank you through gritted teeth and a fake smile) was to try and work out how on earth we were going to lose these unwanted garments without anyone noticing. My memory of that occasion is vague but I think we avoided that Mark Darcey moment by deciding to play football in the said jumpers and managing to get them in such a state that they were not fit for purpose in public!
But the phrase 'it's not exactly what I hoped for' doesn't just apply to clothes or unwanted gifts. During half term, we took the Bongo to Scotland for the week. We had a brilliant time. We had good weather at Blair Atholl before driving through the rain to be greeted by sunshine on Skye for 4 days before driving through rain again to once more find the sunshine waiting for us at Luss on the edge of Loch Lomond. All in all it was a great holiday.......apart from one incident.
Skye, for those of you who've been there, is a simply stunning island to visit but it is also quite exposed. Mrs F was quite excited as we turned down toward the campsite situated right on the edge of Loch Greshorn. The sun was glinting on the water and it looked incredibly picturesque. However, as we stepped out of the van, we noticed something else - it was somewhat windy! Not galeforce but enough to raise concerns about putting up a fairly essential peice of our kit, namely the awning. Not to worry we thought, we'll just ask for a sheltered pitch. 'Well I can offer you three possibilities said the site manager and proceeded to show us. By the time we saw the third, I was recalling the famous phrase by Henry Ford ' you can have any colour car you like as long as its black!' For the truth was that there were no sheltered pitches.
By this stage, the joy on Mrs F's face had turned to one of concern. 'We'll have that one I said' (My choice had nothing to do with the weather so much as the lack of caravans around us; meaning that the boy's ball was less likely to knock over the glass of Blue Nun supped by pensioners on holiday the world over!) So I pushed on with erecting the awning and getting the pegs in as quickly as possible. Once up, it was obvious that our flexible awning was being well flexed but I remained optomistic that it would stand the test. Mrs F was less convinced and took herself off to the bongo to eat a chocolate biscuit and think! Meanwhile, inside the awning, the children and I looked out onto the loch and watched the wind buffeting the solitary boat on the water. With nothing else to do, it seemed like a good time to remind them of the story in the Bible about the disciples being in a storm on the water with Jesus asleep below deck. Eventually the disciples woke him up and requested fairly desperately that He do something to calm the storm. With a word he did just that and the sea became like a millpond. So, having told that story, there was an air of expectancy from my offspring so I thought it would be good at this point to pray for the wind to stop. I prayed for the wind to stop.... said Amen....and......the wind did not stop! Undeterred I went outside to have a check on the awning that was doing all sorts of contortions not seen in the manual! Across the way, a friendly pensioner waved from his caravan, put down his glass of Blue Nun and made his way over. 'I've got a storm strap' he said 'would you like to borrow it?' I would indeed like to borrow it and the friendly pensioner and I set about driving a huge stake into the ground on one side attaching a piece of nylon tape to it and then throwing it over the top of the awning to the other side where it was duly attached to similar stake - problem solved. Mrs F ventured outside and approved of the course of action with a nod and a smile.
There have been many times in my own life when I wished an uncomfortable situation would just disappear or that people I care about and those close to me would feel better instantly or a miracle would just occur. After all, I thought, 'I'm a christian and surely God should be rescuing me from such depressing situations' ........not so! For while it is true that having a faith in a Father God who cares about me deeply and wants me to communicate with Him through the good times and the bad, nevertheless, He is far more likely to provide a storm strap for the ups and downs of life than bring instant deliverance through a booming voice or flash of light. What point is there in faith if we expect problems to just evaporate by dialing a quick call to God and then having a one way conversation? As someone once said to me 'God is not so much a bridge over troubled waters as a pathway through them' - don't know what Paul Simon thinks but its great quote and very true.
Talking of waters, time to find a pair of slightly less garish swimming shorts!