Wednesday, May 30, 2018

An Imperfect Life


Leaving the North


Chapter 30


  In the end I was thankful we were going over to the Jones’s for lunch.  It would take my mind off William’s departure.  It would be the first time in my life that I would be alone overnight.  The prospect of being alone in an apartment over a shop which was empty between the hours of 5.30pm and 9am, made it worse.  Gran was in the States and everybody else had their own lives.  I would just have to get used to it.

“William did I tell you when I spoke to Bridie on the phone she said her niece would be there.  The point being she lives in London and could be helpful to us when we move down.”

John and Bridie greeted us warmly, gave us drinks and whilst the two chaps discussed William’s appointment, Bridie showed me her collection of china figurines.  But where was the niece?

“Oh poor girl – she’s had such a time of it lately she’s worn out so I made her have a lie in.  She’ll be down before lunch.  Now did I tell you Pat she’s a model and has just been put under contract to J Arthur Rank – no less?  My sister’s beside herself!  Marta’s only eighteen – would you credit it now?

Bridies’sister – who was Irish of course had married an Italian and the result was Signorina Marti Rossi.  I couldn’t wait to meet her.

“Hi everybody!”

There in the doorway was Marta herself.  Pausing just long enough for us to take in her remarkable presence and retrieve our jaws from the floor, she advanced towards us.  Eighteen she may have been but she had the sophistication of a forty year old.

“Pat- this is my niece Marta Rossi and Marta this is William- Pat’s husband.”

Marta gave us each a dazzling smile and an elegant hand shake.  She had a pleasant musky smell.  I don’t know about William but I was captivated.  I had never seen anyone like her before in the flesh.  Thank God I’d washed my hair but I wished I’d put on more make-up.  She was taller then me, as slim and with similar colouring but her hair was very short- like Ingrid Bergman’s in ’ForWhomTheBell Tolls.’  She had highlights before anyone knew about them.  She looked very chic but told me later her clothes ‘cost nothing’ that it was how you put them together that mattered.

She wore a dark grey pencil skirt with a white open- necked shirt.  Her waist was clinched with a scarlet belt and a jaunty scarf round her neck tied the whole outfit together.

Over lunch she told us she had started out doing photographic modelling and was sent as a ‘special’ (a step up from an extra) to work on a film.  Here she was spotted by Dirk Bogarde who told Rank they would be mad if they didn’t put her under contract.  Maybe it occurred to him- with her slim build - she would make a suitable leading lady for him; he was quite slight.  So they did and all was set for her to have a brilliant career.

“Marta did I tell you that Pat and William are going down to London for William’s new job and Pat has to find a job for herself?”

Marta turned her blue/green eyes on me and studied me from head to toe.



“You would be photogenic.  You can’t always tell but with those cheekbones you are very lucky.  I still have puppy fat and have to suck my cheeks in like this.”  She demonstrated and for a moment had Dietrich-like cheekbones.

‘‘Look when you come down give me a ring.  Auntie Bridie will give you my number.  I’ll arrange for you to meet my agent and see what she thinks.’’

I nearly burst out laughing- it was so ridiculous.  Me – a model; who couldn’t walk in a straight line, who had a blushing problem, had been schooled never to raise my head above the parapet, lacked confidence and had a tendency to knock knees.

Looking back it occurs to me that Bridie might have planned the whole thing.  She was a wily old bird and had always been very kind and caring towards me.

  All too soon it was time to go- I could have listened to Marta’s husky accented voice all day.  I was pretty sure William would pour cold water on the whole idea.  Quite right too – but it was fun to day dream.

        ‘’What did you think of Marta?’’

“She seemed to know what she was talking about.”

“But what did you think of her idea of me trying to model?”

He gave me one of his grown up looks.

“You’ve always been very pretty dear.  And remember that photograph I took? That won in a national newspaper.  You’ve nothing to lose.  You might as well give it a go.  You’d have to stop nursing when we start a family.”

Why did it always make me furious when William said I was ‘very pretty’?

  The next day his mother Dodie came over to see him before he left for London.  She was soon to leave herself; Wallace and Fleur had found her an apartment in Southsea within reach of them but not too close.  Her house had been sold, and some of her excess furniture was being stored for us until we were settled in a house.

I had mixed feelings saying good bye to William at the station.  Part of me was dreading being alone at night but I also felt a frisson at being able to please myself what I did in my spare time; I could eat what I liked, go to bed when I liked – keep the light on - reading all night if I chose.  My job would keep me occupied during the day; I just wasn’t sure how many week-ends I could cope alone.

  The first week-end I phoned William at his brother’s house and he seemed quite cheerful.  He had been looking round a town called New Maldon for a flat, was settling in the job and said I should probably hand in my notice now.  When I told Sister she was very sweet and said how much I’d be missed and the ward and the children had never looked so well cared for before I came.  That was thanks to my training school RMCH – fondly known as ‘Pen’ short for Pendlebury.

  I did what all lonely people do - kept the radio on from dawn till dusk and had long chats with shop keepers and the ladies in the hat shop, who found it odd that William didn’t come home at the week-end.  The second week-end on my own I was really fed up.  Why did everybody have to be away at the same time and then I remembered Keith Barker.  He was a bachelor we had come to know – quite studious with a dry sense of humour and we both liked him – which was something of a rarity.  On an impulse I rang him and asked if he would like to go for a walk on Sunday morning.

He immediately said yes and we arranged to meet at 10.30am.

The minute I hung up I regretted it.  What had I done?  A married woman asking a man out.  I was overcome with guilt and didn’t know what to do about it without making an utter fool of myself.  I couldn’t phone him again and say I’d made a mistake – I decided to go for a walk to calm myself down.  After a while I realised I was near Carol’s antique shop and had a brainwave.  She was a level headed person and a good friend, maybe she would help me out.  When I told Carol what I’d done she roared with laughter, said I was an idiot to get my knickers in such a twist and of course she would join us.  It turned out to be quite enjoyable after the first flicker of surprise when Keith saw Carol, we had a lovely walk and then they both came back and had a simple lunch with me.

That night I phoned William who had been enjoying one of Fleur’s dinner parties.  I put my foot down very firmly and said he had better be home the next week-end.  Something in my voice must have rung a bell and he got the message.  By Saturday I was in high spirits – everywhere was spick and span, there were fresh flowers, I’d made a trifle, bought a bottle of wine and there was a chicken (still a treat in the fifties) roasting in the oven.  Even the ladies in the shop were excited and beamed at us as we returned from the station.  We both had missed each other and for a while basked in a happy glow.  The bell rang from down stairs to warn us that someone was coming up; the door opened and in walked Dodie her arms outstretched to embrace her son.  Just when William and I were about to have a romantic meal together after a three week separation.  I dashed into the bathroom to try to conceal my frustration and tears.  After rinsing my face with cold water and some deep breathing I went back into the living room.  William had made her a cup of tea and I’m fairly sure he must have had a word because Dodie said,

“I know you’ve cooked a delicious meal and don’t worry I’m not stopping.  I just wanted to make sure William was alright.  I’ll just finish my tea and leave you in peace.

  Now I felt guilty.  However she did go and we had the evening I had planned

“The flat in New Malden is fine so I’m going to move in and you work out your notice Pat, arrange for the furniture to go into store and then you can join me.”

“I’m longing to see what it’s like William.  Tell me all about it,”

“Actually the owners – the Sweeneys- are very anxious to meet you so it’s probably a good idea for you to come down next week-end.”

All my frustration and angst disappeared and I was excited at all the lovely adventures ahead of us.  The Southerners couldn’t be all bad could they?





kenju said...

Please post the next chapter soon!!

Pat said...

Judy: I'll do my best Judy. I think I have been a bit faster this time.

savannah said...

YIKES! This is a real cliffhanger, darling! The Southerners couldn’t be all bad could they? xoxo

Ms Scarlet said...

I somehow missed out on being sophisticated at 40! Perhaps if I work on it I'll be a sophisticated 60.
I always wondered how you got into modelling, and I can't wait for the next chapter!

Pat said...

Savannah: turned out to be some of my favourite people.xoxox

Scarlet: Yes actually that sentence gave me pause for thought. Forty equals sophistication is a bit of a cliché. So nice when one hears someone is actually interested in something.

angryparsnip said...

I was so happy to see you blog pop up on my reader.
I too have always wondered how you got into modeling.
So happy his Mum did not stay.
This is so exciting.
Gosh I hope the Southerners are nice.

cheers, parsnip

Exile on Pain Street said...

It's astonishing (to me) that you'd never been alone overnight until then. I'd think you'd look forward tothe peace and quiet.

I'll bet I could've listened to Marta’s husky accented voice all day, too. Meow. And thus began your modeling career. As a lark.

It made you furious to be told you were pretty because it either a) made you sound trite or b) you didn't know how to take a compliment.

The last sentence is foreboding. Cracking post, as always, Pat. Keep up the good work.

Pat said...

Parsnip: well there are differences - dialect, customs etc but I think slowly but surely I lost most of my prejudices. However for quite a time if anyone was really nice to me I'd be convinced they or their forbears must have been from the North.

Exile: not a compliment but more a mocking appraisal. A very telling trait that got under my skin. Silly old me.

rashbre said...

I suppose the other question is where the North/South starts?

I'm reminded of that sign I passed on the A1 the other day which said 'Newcastle and the South'. A bit like the one at the other end that says Hatfield and the North.

Pat said...

Rashbre: it took me some time to realise that people are the same the world over and whether they are 'good' or 'bad' has nothing to do with where they were born or their race or religion. For a while after we moved south I thought that anyone who was nice to me must come from the north - meaning Lancashire I suppose. The irony was that when I met Lancastrians in later life they had difficulty believing I was a Lancashire lass.

Pat said...

Rashbre: your other comment hasn't posted. You are right a glass slipper might be more acceptable - more hygienic but still hurtful. Scrumpy from a gumboot just makes me giggle.
The chapters are quite long but it is a legitimate criticism that I could slow down a bit. I'll try.

Kim Ayres said...

"Very pretty" is so patronising! It's something you say about a young girl, not a grown woman. Beautiful, stunning, breathtaking - these are the words he should have been using, not "pretty." No wonder it upset you!

Pat said...

Kim: It was almost said in inverted commas and he knew full well the effect it had. Silly me!