A night out at a local pub for a group of women ended abruptly for one ... when she went into labour in the middle of their meal.
The women - none of whom knew each other - had got together for a bizarre ‘date’ made via Facebook.
The drama began when mum-to-be Grace Brown, from Rudgwick, posted a message on Facebook asking if anyone knew of a good pub in the Horsham district.
A string of people replied, including Clare Francis, 36, from Billingshurst, who recommended The Wisborough at Wisborough Green - and copied in pub landlord Paul Gidley to the Facebook message trail.
Generous Paul then offered to provide a meal free of charge if Clare got a group of 10 women together who had all responded to Grace’s original message.
He said: “It was just based on the idea ‘can a pub make 10 strangers happy ... and who wants a meal on the landlord’?”
The women - all previously unknown to each other - agreed to meet at The Wisborough on Friday night.
“Eight of us turned up,” said Clare Francis, “as two were ill. None of us knew each other.
“But half way through the meal Grace went to the toilet. When she came back, she said ‘I’m sorry, I have to go’.”
Grace’s labour had started - and her baby son Ben was born just a few hours later, at 1 am, weighing a healthy 7lbs 13ozs.
Grace said on Monday following Ben’s abrupt arrival: “Luckily, I wasn’t in pain but my waters broke and I thought ‘I’ve just got to go’.”
She said she originally decided to go on the night out, despite being heavily pregnant, because she didn’t live far from the pub and landlord Paul Gidley had made such a generous offer.
And despite having to leave her meal, she revealed that Paul had since offered her whole family a meal on him and had also earmarked a bottle of Champagne for her.
“It is very generous of him and is much appreciated,” said Grace.
Meanwhile, Clare Francis also praised Paul’s generosity. “The food was amazing and he gave it all to us for free,” she said.
“He’s a lovely man and very generous. I’m going to take my mum there for her birthday.”
Landlord Paul added: “I had just put the dinner in front of Grace, who was tremendous, and then, of course, her waters broke.
“I like to think of it as the first ‘Wisborough Baby’. It’s a wonderful thing.”
He said the whole idea for the evening was ‘just one of those interesting ideas’ but it had been “a wild success and everyone had a ball.”
In fact, it was such a success that he is now planning to extend his offer - to a group of 10 guys who don’t know each other and who would like a meal on the landlord.
“It was good to do and say thank you, with a social twist, to all those kind people who were saying nice things about the pub on Facebook.”
He said baby Ben’s early birth had been a thrilling bonus on the night. “Grace even wrote a wonderful thank-you soon afterwards.”
And, he joked: “We were hoping that she would call the baby Wisborough.”