Leaning over the cream coloured wall, Jasmine watched on as the brown murky water, cold and uninviting ran angrily on its way underneath her relentlessly. Even though many years had passed now, Jasmine recalled a day trip out with her parents. They had all been held up to see over the wall. Jasmine had begged her father to be allowed to play pooh sticks. To this day she remembered her marathon sulk as her request had been denied.
Of course that was the same day that Gerald her brother had first seen a black taxi. At three years younger than Jasmine, he had been awestruck by the amount of black taxis that had crammed the busy roads. So awestruck was he that they had lost Gerald no less than three times, and that was just at Trafalgar Square! But then again my mother had always wondered if he had been trying to warn all those pigeons about the large black lions that fiercely guarded their Square. Jasmine had been more worried about that tall statue of Napoleon, that it might fall down atop her head at any given moment.
After leaving Trafalgar Square, they had all made their way to Buckingham Palace. However much Jasmine had tried, she couldn’t see the queen anywhere and she would have so loved to have seen her. It wasn’t long before her parents were taking pictures of them with the guards dressed in red uniform jackets and black trousers with the shiniest black boots ever seen and great big black hats. The guards stood in little wooden huts.
Their father had already told his children of how, no matter what happens the guards had to stand perfectly still. They weren’t even allowed to scratch their noses if they got an itch. That was when Gerald had decided to concoct a plan with Jasmine. Whenever they yawned in front of their father, he always had to yawn as well. So both children stood in front of a guard trying to make him yawn. But their plan hadn’t worked, the guard had stood as still as a statue.
"Let’s go on a river trip!" Their mother had declared. "We could go to Kew Gardens or to the maze at Hampton Court?" she begged sparkly eyed to them all.
Gerald at this point got very upset. "But I want to watch the bridge fall down!" he sulked and then began to cry. Rubbing his eyes with little balled up fists.
His mother softened then and scooped him up into her arms. "But Gerald, the bridge isn’t really falling down. That is just a nursery rhyme."
Hands on hips Jasmine snorted as she raised her head in astonishment. "Mother, don’t you know anything? It is true you know. It has to be, because my teacher said so!" and the hands moved to cross her chest in the same fashion as her mother had done many times before her. She said that King Olaf of Norway had been trying to invade London. That he tied his ships to the bridge and then rowed away and that had made it fall down!"
"I don’t care, I want to see the bridge, please mummy?" Gerald begged. "Jasmine do you think the King might be there still?"
"Oh no Gerald it was a very long time ago, King Olaf was a Viking. That all happened even before ring a ring a roses." Jasmine explained kindly to her brother.
"Wow!" was all he had said for a good half an hour after. In that time he didn’t pick on his sister once!
And that was how Jasmine got to be standing on London Bridge for the very first time in her life. She had been disappointed. For some reason she had imagined a very grand bridge, maybe even paved with gold.
A police siren brought Jasmine back out of her daydreams. No longer ten years old, but forty years old. As the police car screamed behind her in hot pursuit of someone or something, she thought to herself; just like life. Jasmine reflected on how everyone was always trying to get somewhere in a hurry.
Looking across the Thames to the embankment, Jasmine remembered how her uncle had always taken his metal detector on Sunday mornings to the embankment in his search for treasure. Just thinking of him in his woolly hat brought a smile to her face. Even though jogging trousers had been the height of casual fashion at the time, they had always seemed to argue with Uncle’s socks and shoes. But then, it wasn’t very often that you did see someone with sky blue jogging trousers, striped brown socks and best black leather shoes.
"This isn’t the first bridge that they ever built you know?" Hearing a male voice, Jasmine turned her head to see broad shoulders blocking what little sunlight that there was. "I’ve been doing a lot of research lately for my students and it is amazing all the different things that have happened over the years."
"Err yes" Jasmine stammered. Still captivated by the tall stranger with the kindest hazel eyes she had ever seen.
"For instance, John Hewitt was one of the Lord Mayor’s of London. His daughter fell out of a window into the Thames and Edward Osborne one of his apprentices jumped in to rescue her. After that, her father would her allow to marry no other man. He was reported to have said ‘No, Osborne saved her and Osborne shall marry her’."
Jasmine had no choice but to smile as a devious smile crossed his face for a few moments. "That’s a very interesting tale." Jasmine smiled at the stranger, genuinely impressed with his researching skills.
Softness entered his hazel eyes that hadn’t been there before. "They did marry you know, and later he became Lord Mayor of London himself." And then the stranger smiled.
"So you see," he said taking Jasmine’s hand in his own. "If you should decide to jump off this bridge today. I would have no choice but to follow in Edward Osborne’s footsteps and follow you into the depths of the Thames. Which alas would then mean you’d have no choice but to marry me!"
Even though he was jesting, Jasmine felt that there were more to his words than she realised. "And would you? Marry me that is?" she asked without even realising that the words were leaving her lips.
Before she knew what was happening, he went down on one knee. "Yes madam, I would be duty bound. And if you denied me, I’d cut off my own head and hang it in shame, just as Oliver Cromwell’s head hung before me on this very bridge."
Jasmine was captivated beyond reason as she fell deeper into the spell that had been woven around her heart. "I suppose that I could save us all a lot of bother and let you marry me anyway. After all, I’d hate to see such a lovely head hung in shame."
A warm silence of promise hung between them and then Jasmine realised that she didn’t even know the strangers name.
"I suppose this would be a really good time to introduce myself. Edward... Edward Osborne at your bidding my fair lady."
© Janette Oakman 29.04.2002