Ice cold milk and green apples.
I was nervous about the visit of Paula and her husband. Quite apart from telling her I was pregnant and would have to break my contract; it was the first time she had visited and I had never met her husband. I wanted everything to be perfect. I had an excellent cleaner, so the house glistened with lavender polish, the brass and copper gleamed and the table looked a picture with starched napkins and most of Dodie’s silver. William was looking reasonably respectable in a laid back ‘I’m in the garden rather than the office’ way but when I came to get dressed I couldn’t do up my skirt. Panic!
The only thing I could think of was to safety pin the skirt and cover it up with one of William’s white shirts loosely belted over the bump. It wasn’t supposed to show for ages yet but no-one seemed to have told it. In my mind I was sure ‘it’ was a girl. She would be small, blonde and feisty and I called her Emma. Such a poppet!
When the car rolled up I got a shock; Paula’s husband was not at all what I expected. He was a good ten years younger physically, but looked like a man who worked in the City - with a tooth brush moustache, and had left his bowler hat and furled umbrella at home for a day in the country.. As it was the week-end he was immaculately dressed with discreetly checked shirt, cravat and camel waistcoat, thorn proof jacket, beige cord trousers and suede (brothel creeper) shoes. What was odd was the fact that they all looked brand, spanking new. I remembered that he was her second husband and she had had three or four children with her first husband.
Paula was her usual chaotic self, but she had made an effort with a hat, heels, fur coat and a voluminous silk dress. An odd couple. We greeted each other warmly, made the introductions and got them drinks before the inevitable gap in the conversation. I had seen Paula’s piercing look and as soon as she had tasted her G & T I blurted out:
‘We’ve got some news to tell you. We are going to have a baby in November.’
Paula roared with laughter and gave me a big hug and there were congratulations all round. Lunch was a success with wine flowing and the men talking about cars and how to get to A from B and MPG and bottle necks. After lunch it was sunny so we sat in the garden and I told Paula I planned to work as long as possible and after the baby was born nurse it for six months and then go back to work. We agreed that my contract would lapse during this time and then start again; Paula said she would vet carefully, any jobs in the coming months to ensure I wasn’t overdoing things and the day ended very happily.
I think, at the time, we both believed this would all come about but I had a faint worry about the fact I was showing so soon. Was I having twins or a baby elephant? I started to prepare a layette and bought tiny Vyella nighties (that opened down the back – of course), stencilled designs on the bodices and embroidered them, sewing lace round the neck and wrists. Suddenly I could knit and sew. Fleur came up trumps. With all her wealth she had stuff that had been in the family for years and I was now to use them and then hand them back again. There was a lovely cot covered in pink and white organdie, ancient cot blankets which I renovated with new ribbon, a lovely piece of swaddling cashmere and a playpen. It was the time of very smart prams a la ‘Princess ‘Grace of Monaco’ so I couldn’t face using the pram she offered which looked as if it dated from the year dot with a cavernous body and tiny wheels. Not in Epsom – I just couldn’t! Dear Fleur; I know for a fact her grand children are still using the ancient layette
William and I were blissfully happy – for the very first time. My only problem was indigestion which may have had something to do with my propensity for drinking ice cold milk and eating green apples at bed-time.