Wednesday, September 27, 2006


By the end of the evening we both knew quite a bit more about each other. William was twenty five – my senior by five years. As Mum said when she first met him,
‘He’s a man Pat, isn’t he?’
He had been in the navy as a rating and was indignant at the amount of space allotted to a rating compared with that of an officer. His brother was a serving officer in the Royal Navy – and was married with two children. William had just left Leeds University (first class Hons) and started an apprenticeship with Metro Vickers.

I found him perfectly natural and easy to talk to and it didn’t occur to either of us to leave each other after that first dance. We arranged to meet in ten days time. William said he had to go back to Leeds to pick up a bookcase and clear things up and I got the impression that he was ending something.

When we met again I was surprised how easily we slipped into a natural relationship with none of the awkwardness one sometimes experienced with a new acquaintance. This felt more like a comfortable old glove. William said there was something he must tell me. He said he had a stammer. Considering we had been talking pretty non-stop since we met, this came as a surprise. His beautiful speaking voice had been the first thing that attracted me to him. However, when he bought some chocolates for the cinema, I saw how bad it could be.

It seemed to vary according to whom he was speaking. It never embarrassed him or stopped him speaking whenever he felt like it. One of his friends told me William had been a member of the Debating Society and when his allotted speaking time was up he said he should have longer because of his stammer. This friend also said he had never seen such a change come over someone, since we had met. His parents – both teachers who had met whilst teaching at a school named Sexeys – had sent him to be treated by Lionel Logue – the man who treated King George VI. However William decided that no ‘trick cyclist’ was going to tell him how to speak so it was a waste of money.

By the end of the evening, on our first date, ten days after we met, William had asked me to marry him which rather took my breath away. I told him about Jamie and said I didn’t think I could ever love anyone else. This didn’t seem to daunt him. He said I probably needed time and he could wait so we decided to wait six months when I would be twenty one in March. Meanwhile we would continue getting to know each other.

Vanessa had started going out with Abe who was at Manchester University and at Christmas the four of us were going to a Fancy Dress Ball. The men had made the minimum of effort – Abe in a Noel Coward dressing gown with a long cigarette holder and William, for no particular reason, in dungarees. Fancy Dress was right up Vanessa’s street and she took charge. I was to be Nell Gwynn complete with oranges, and a purple dress trimmed with white muslin. Vanessa thought it was too prudish and attacked it with a pair of scissors round the neck-line, which left little to the imagination and forced me to stay upright all evening.

Vanessa was magnificent as Cleopatra – draped in a white sheet on which she had painted hieroglyphics with gold paint. Her sandals got the gold paint treatment along with a rubber catheter round her brow which looked exactly like a golden asp.
We had a great time and I felt – amongst all those rowdy students - completely safe with William. At one stage William had gone to get us all a drink and a student grabbed me, lifted me high into the air, spinning me round whilst I desperately tried to keep in my dress. William appeared, gave an almighty roar and the student dropped me and fled.

We were very late back at the hospital and for the first time took advantage of our fire-escape. Abe and William came up too and we gave them a snifter of peach brandy we had bought for a Christmas treat. As we said a lingering good night William shocked me by saying I should make up my mind. If I hadn’t by now that was an answer in itself. In spite of the night cap I didn’t sleep much that night.


Guyana-Gyal said...

Just William, he wasn't as bad as William Brown, was he? :-D

I've only been to a fancy dress party once in my life, how I wish I can go to more.

PI said...

GG: lets put it thia way: he was more Williaam Brown than Little Lord Fauntleroy.
My fancy dress days are over I'm happy to say!