Monday, January 05, 2009

A Special Day: January 5th 1979
End of story

The shop was always in the doldrums in January so I was pleased one dreary day when the phone rang; it didn’t happen often because we were ex-directory – we didn’t want customers phoning all the time to see if we had sold little Johnny’s football shorts. It was Jamie. I recognised his voice and I could tell from the sound of it that he was smiling and I had a big grin on my face. He told me he would be in London on the 5th of January and could I possibly meet him for lunch.

‘Oh my goodness that’s next week.’
‘Is that alright Pat? We can make it later in the month if you like.’
‘No that’s perfect. It’s just I can’t believe I’m going to see you after all this time.’

We hadn’t seen each other since 1949 when we parted at Moseley St bus Station.

We basked in mutual wonder and delight. That’s all I can remember. After the phone call from Jamie I was shaken out of the dreamy state I had been in since his letter. There was no problem about the date – it was one of the days when I didn’t need to go into the shop and I had often spent the day in London – not so often recently, as I became less enamoured of city life. But the thought of Jamie seeing me as a middle aged woman unnerved me a little. Thirty years ago I had been young, gauche, quite pretty and innocent. Now I was middle aged. Two years earlier I had visited a health farm and started to take my own health seriously. I stopped smoking, ate healthily, cut down on alcohol and took up Yoga. I let my hair go back to its natural colour – deep honey- and now looked more healthy than glamorous. I don’t care if it was vain: I wanted him to see me looking my absolute best. What to wear? As an actress I knew how one could so easily change the impression one gave. I had a very pretty, pale orangey- coral, fine wool dress I had bought for # I son’s first girl friend’s wedding. It was feminine and showed off my figure. It was a very cold January so I just stuck my mink on top. This was the seventies, before the anti- fur brigade, and I had earned it by years of hard work in the shop. I had mixed emotions travelling on the train and tried to curb the sudden thrills of wild excitement. Just remember, I told myself, the years of unhappiness and guilt you have felt because of this man. You are in charge, you are your own person and you have managed to live a perfectly good life without him.

We met at the Charing Cross Hotel - right next to my station. He was leaning against a pillar – apparently absorbed in a newspaper just like he had been when Maddie and I met him outside his college in Oxford– decades earlier. He looked nice in a blue -ish suit with a blue and white checked shirt. His hair was still dark and curly but when I looked closely my heart went out to him and I could see the lines of stress and grief etched on his face.

(When I first met his doctor he told me Jamie was a saint the way he had cared for his sick wife and family, and he was Saint Jamie for some time after that.)

We repaired to Eleanor’s Bar in the hotel, where he was staying. He had a gin and I had a scotch or two. He said he liked scotch too much. We talked – he said I would find he didn’t talk much and from then on I could hardly get a word in edgeways. He had a quaint habit of using a note book to illustrate what he was saying and I could tell from the tremor in his hand that he was even more nervous than I was. We had lunch in the large formal dining room and we both had fish but it might as well have been cotton wool. We were in a sort of bubble - cocooned from the rest of the world. Still talking, we walked down to the river and when Jamie was greeted by an acquaintance, I could see by the man’s face that he was aware of the bubble even though we weren’t holding hands. There were no silences and we flitted from the present to the past, carefully skirting round potentially difficult subjects. I do remember saying that I believed it hadn’t been the right time for us, or one of us would have tried harder to keep us afloat. Later on, when I had a moment of cold feet he remembered this and gave me the courage to go through with leaving my marriage.

After tea we went to his room to freshen up: he told me he had to shave twice a day and we continued chatting through the bathroom door whilst he shaved and I powdered my nose. All we did was talk; there was so much to catch up with. Neither of us was hungry so we continued walking and talking until it was time for my last train. At our meeting we had given each other an ‘old friend type kiss on the cheek’ and at the end of the evening we again exchanged an O.F.T.K.O.T.C. but he hugged me and held me close and sighed ‘Ah Pat... ’ and as I rested my head against his chest I felt a momentary panic. Supposing it all went wrong again. He was so vulnerable. Was I about to leap from the frying pan into the fire? I knew this was not an ending but the start of something that would change my life for ever.

That was 30 years ago today. Later the same year we were married and have been together ever since. We consider 5 to be our lucky number; my home was number five and so was MTL’s as was his cottage in Yorkshire. We had five children between us and on our fifth meeting we plighted out troth. Our wedding date was the 23rd of November to incorporate our lucky number – worked out by Maddie. I remember thinking if we could just have ten years, but one grows greedy with the years and thirty have passed in a flash.

An edited version of this appeared in Sarah J Peach's book 'You're not the only One.'


Kevin Musgrove said...

Now that is nice. Happy anniversary, tinged with envy, Pat.

kenju said...

I hate to see the story come to an end, Pat. You're very lucky to have found each other again, given all the history.

I pay attention to numbers also. Mine is 9, and most of the numbers of the homes we have lived in have added up to 9 or 11, my other favorite.

lom said...

That is just so sweet, just like a movie, here's to the next 30 years.

TravelinOma said...

THis is so ought to be a movie.

Daphne Wayne-Bough said...

YAYYY!!!! This is the episode we've all been waiting for. I know Charing Cross well - my godfather was the banqueting manager of the hotel at the time you met Jamie there. How's that for interconnectivity? Happy anniversary Pat and Jamie, and wishing you many more years of love and happiness.

Anonymous said...

Reading this makes me smile and warms my heart. All the best to both of you, Pat - and a toast to love!

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

Oh Pat, I so love this story....I remember reading of your first re-meeting with Jamie when you put it on your blog before...It is one of the mosr romantic things I've ever read.....That you not only got back together, but it has now been 30 years.....This Is Just BEAUTIFUL! Congratulations, my dear....Such a Wonderfully Happy Annniversary.

rashbre said...

Strange to see it titled 'End of Story' - however, its a fitting post on this 30th Anniversary!

Eryl Shields said...

I'm blubbing, and so full of questions: what were the first words you (both) spoke when he looked up from his paper, and what did you talk about for the rest of the day? What did he illustrate in his notebook, and what size, colour, shape was it, did he keep it on the table or have to keep pulling it out of his pocket? What was it about the man you met that told you he knew your rapture? How, and when, did you arrange to meet again? What were your parting words? When you got on that last train did you know you were going to end your marriage or did that come later?

I so can't wait for the book!

Happy anniversary Pat and Jamie, X

PI said...

Kevin: thank you! Everything comes to he who waits:)

Judy: good! That proves there's something in it.

LOM: have a heart - the spirit might be willing but the frame is creaking.

TravelinOma: it's nice of you to say so:)

Daphne: thank you! That is a coincidence. I don't think Eleanor's Bar exists anymore.

Miss D: thank you. It's so cold here today we are forsaking glad rags and gathering all our woollies to go out to dinner.

PI said...

Naomi: thank you! And bless you for faithfully reading it yet again:)

Rashbre: I used to title the episodes 'story continued' to distinguish them from my normal burbling. This episode is where I have decided to end the book.

Eryl: I sympathise - I have the same inquiring mind. So - I'll do another post, later in the week as a sort of post script. After Wednesday when I have to take my printer to Taunton.

Jade of the Jungle said...

Pat, what a lovely, lovely, lovely post (and not just a post, but the fact that this is your past makes it all the lovelier).

What is it about a love story that gets us all right in the gut?

J x

problemchildbride said...

Happy anniversary, Pat. What a wonderful story of true love you two are. may you have many more years of happiness together.


Eryl Shields said...

Hurrah! And how kind of you to say 'inquiring mind' rather than nosy.

Anonymous said...

Oh that's lovely, enjoy your Italian tonight!

I imagine that night for you 30 years ago ... your heart must have been racing like mad knowing what you were going to do - not an easy thing then!

At this time 30 years ago, I was about to head off to Gib to support the RN in some exercise. While there I met the previous LOML but I shouldn't really call him that because I discovered he was a cold, ruthless, calculating person. The present LOML is warm, caring and kind. No comparison!



PI said...

Jade: I think there is always the little girl in us, waiting for a knight on a white charger,and we don't always recognise them when they appear:)

PI said...

Sam: thank you! I think neither of us want to stay after the party is over.

Eryl: I'm the nosy one - it's in my genes but it is a sign you care about people.

PI said...

Belleek: it certainly was probably the hardest thing I've ever done and - in the end - came down to where I felt I was needed most.
I'm so glad life turned out well for you.
One should never despair. Who knows what is round the corner?

Nea said...

Happy 30th anniversary.

It's our 21st wedding anniversary today. You're right about time flying by, it doesn't seem like 21 years when I think back to that day, but when I think of all the things that we have done during those 21 years then it feels like a long time and I'm looking forward to the next 21.

sablonneuse said...

Oh that's so romantic! I can visualise the film of the book . . . but perhaps they don't make movies with happy endings like that any more.

The Preacherman said...

My first BIG smile of the New Year. Ta babe and Happy New Year xxx

PI said...

Nea: congratulations on your anniversary and your two lovely girls.

Sandy: I'll be more than content to get it published:)

Preacher Man:glad to bring a smile to your funny face and I hope you can keep it there.xoxox

Kim Ayres said...


Shane said...

The word beautiful springs to mind.

apprentice said...

Oh this piece has been so long awaited Pat. I'm so glad you found each other again and that you've had a good and happy life together. He sounds a lovely man.

I'm glad your shoulder is improving too.

PI said...


Shane; that's a lovely word to have spring anywhere:) Oh Spring! Can it really be coming?

Anna: he is a very good egg and I think we both feel blessed in so many ways.
Re shoulder : Ben gave me an additional exercise. He's just stopping short of press-ups but I'm considering the 2012 Olympics. There must be one for oldies surely and I'm going to have the muscles.

Deb said...

I've just discovered your blog through Miss Diarist, and I'm so glad! Through these times of negativity and dread, it's so nice to hear a tale where love really does conquer all. Truly an inspiration!


I have read some of your posts and would like to revisit.

If you like reading short stories from an Indian writer, then a visit to my blogs would be an interesting one for you.

Naval Langa

Another Interesting Blog

PI said...

Deb: welcome and thank you for your kind words:)

Naval: welcome! I hope you do visit again and thank you for the links - I shall be round soon.

Zinnia Cyclamen said...

Awww, how lovely! And an epilogue to come. What a great start to the year.

PI said...

Zinnia: I hadn't forgotten but it will be next week with all the hoo ha!

granny p said...

Came late to this, Pat, but it's such a lovely story, all the more so for being true...don't doubt - know - end result wasn't achieved easily but that it was right is obvious from everything you write about you and MTL...

PI said...

Granny P; I think you too haven't had an easy ride, and have reached a good place.

R. Sherman said...

I must quibble with your sub-title. Obviously, it wasn't "the end" of the story. We're much the better for it.


Rog said...

Lovely story Pat. You are both lucky, but MTL is particularly lucky!
I'm looking forward to middle age now! ;-)

Pat said...

Rog: thank you-it's sweet of you to say so:)

angryparsnip said...

Lovely, just Lovely.
Big happy tears.
I so agree with Eryl I am so interested to find out what happened.
Happy Happy Happy Anniversary.

I like the month of January (my birthday is the 4th) and the numbers 2 and 4 but I don't know if they are lucky for me.

cheers, parsnip

Pat said...

Parsnip: a belated but heart felt happy birthday.
If you like you can read what I said to Eryl here.
I can't get the link to go blue but it is newer post Jan 11th 2009