Friday, 2 February 2018

Boy Meets Girl

I did a rather creepy thing the other day - I read my daughter's blog ('Days Of Grace') account of her first date with her husband, Martin. 

I am not a particularly interventionist parent, though I did slip up once, rather spectacularly, and I could recount the tale of  the kick-boxing instructor and the garden hedge, but I am resolved not to, because it doesn't  make me look good. My watchful maternal eye occasionally looked the other way, and there was a certain curiosity at points in my daughters' lives that went unsatisfied... . On the whole, I was respectful, though I did make it clear that if they were on the 'phone in my hearing, I WOULD be listening. (To be fair, who,wouldn't be?) By such a means did I learn that by the age of thirteen my children were making a pretty good job of running their own lives, and meting out some pretty good advice to their contemporaries in the process. 

So, I read my eldest daughter's blog. In the interests of transparency and reciprocation, I left a comment, "I'll blog the story of the first time your father and I met." So, for my children and descendants, here's "The Tale Of The Fish Slice and The Pair of Socks"

Five young women shared the upper room in Wingfield House, a dormitory facility for Bingley College of Education, where we were starting out on our journey into Teaching. 

My bed was far left, away from the door and close to the huge window.  Tina's bed, under the window, was to the left of me, Claire's to the right, Carolyn's on the far side of the room, and Viv's  next to the door. 

Wingfield  was a huge pile, a kind of second-division mansion, built in the ne 19th  century for a local mill-owner. It had featured in the 1960's movie, 'Room at the Top", staring Laurence Harvey, which I may have watched long ago, I forget,  and will certainly Google when I'm finished here. 

On with the tale. To ensure your continued reading, the rest of the story incorporates the only student party I ever went to, a blind date, a flight of stairs, a fish-slice (spatula) and a pair of socks. 

I was late returning to College that January, and did not know that following evening, everyone else was off to a party in Bradford. My arrival was greeted with delight, and an invitation issued to join the merry throng. 

I absolutely hate parties, there's no point in trying to hide the fact, but I am also curious, and in the interests of student experimentation, after all, I was here to grow up and learn things, I consented to go. 

At some point, I hear  that Viv's fiancĂ© Brian is over for the gig, and he is bringing a date for Tina-in-the-next-bed, named, Raymond Francis. 

Every good story needs some jeopardy, and here it is. See girls? Without fate performing some sleight of hand, you're not going to be here! Quick resolution, or we'll be here all day: Tina sidles over to me at some point and says, "I have a boyfriend in London, you may have Raymond" To spare your father's blushes, this was BEFORE she'd met him. 

Diffident, good-looking (long-hair, big brown eyes, tall ... ) Raymond Francis makes a good impression. My whirlwind romance with a Canadian called Jim, had ended before Christmas on his return to Canada, so, you know, I was open to possibilities... .

The party leaves no impression, but Ray and I hit it off. He had tales to tell of his excursions on the Greyhound buses through practically every state in the USA which I listened to with some fascination. Back in 1969, a trip to America was very exotic, it could only be undertaken (affordably) by the hoi-polloi through membership of a club which chartered a plane. You also had to stop at least twice to refuel, probably Dublin and Gan. To think! If I hadn't met Ray, I would not know this! 

I also learned that he lived in the largest social housing project in the country, 'Harold Hill' (named after our last English King) in the London Borough of Havering. He was, and remains an Essex man. 

To be frank, he really didn't seem all that bothered about taking our relationship to the next level ... This rather piqued my curiosity, and made him seem even more interesting. To gain his attention and win his affection became a bit  of a game ... 

Just to be clear, and to ensure I don't freak out any of my offspring, there is nothing remotely intimate in the remainder of the story, just the: flight of stairs, the fish slice and the pair of socks. 

The boys bedded down elsewhere with other boys, but we meet up the following morning for breakfast and the parting. I am getting desperate to make some headway with my 'new boyfriend' project, so having discovered that Ray has only two pairs of socks, I offer to wash his spare. At this juncture, they are drying over the radiator. 

He says something amusing and slightly derogatory, I laughingly pick up the spatula, he runs out of the room heads for the stairs, I follow him, it's a three flighter of a staircase he's heading down the third flight I am on the second, his head bobs beneath my right arm and, "Wham!". There is no excuse, it was pure instinct, a kind of autonomous reaction, I was barely aware I was doing it, it was too good a chance to miss ... I knocked him out. He stumbles to the bottom of the stairs, I follow horrified. This, you might think, is the end of all hope! 

Everybody, even Ray, sees the funny side, and the story passes into College Legend, but isn't over yet. 

The socks. 

We are parting, amicably enough, there is a modicum of attraction, but Ray, who to this day is apt to miss the social nuances in any relationship, makes no attempt to suggest another meeting, he doesn't say, "This has been fun!" Or, "Let's do this again!" Nothing. You have to remember that though the 1960's are awash with Women's Lib, asking a man for a date is still at least two decades away! What's to be done? 

I surreptitiously knock the socks to the floor, and kick them under my bed. I now have a first-class, top-notch excuse to write to my intended. Oh! And how I write! You can tell. I'm irresistible aren't I?

We married in 1971 and here we still are. 


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