Sunday, April 02, 2017

An Imperfect Life

Chapter 20.


  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 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 book-case and’ clear things up’.

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 experiences with a new acquaintance.  This felt more like a comfortable old glove.  

  “By the way Pat there’s something I must tell you.  I’ve got 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 later 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 Sexey’s - had sent him to be treated by Lionel Logue – the man who famously treated King George VI.  However William decided that no ‘trick cyclist’ was going to teach him how to speak, so it was a total waste of money.

  On our first date, ten days after we met, William 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 Probably was not a sensible thing to do but it didn’t seem to daunt him. He said I probably needed time and he could wait, so we agreed 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 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 Gwyn, complete with oranges, and a purple satin dress trimmed with white muslin. Vanessa thought it was too prudish and attacked the neckline with a pair of scissors, 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 which she wound round her brow and 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 he 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 the peach brandy Vanessa had bought for a Christmas treat.

As we said a lingering good night William shocked me by saying:

“You know Pat I think you should have made up your mind.  If you haven’t by now that is an answer in itself.”

In spite of the night cap I didn’t sleep much that night.  I was feeling pressured.  It was just January – my birthday wasn’t till March.  As a Pisces I find decisions difficult except on the rare occasions that I’m swept along by a tide of conviction.  The last year had dented my self confidence and I was no longer sure I wanted to do further training – assuming I got my RSCN.  I had been honest with William and told him I could never love anyone as I loved Jamie and he accepted that.  Or so I thought.  Of one thing I was certain – I wanted children of my own and instinct told me that William would be a great father.  I would probably never meet anyone like him again.  He was kind, he had the common touch; equally at home talking to the lord of the manor or a dustman and people took to him.  He had a first class brain, was honest, trustworthy and honourable.  He appeared to be deeply in love and I knew he would take care of me – like that lovely song ‘Someone to watch over me.’ Would it be enough for both of us?  Could I trust his judgement?  

I first met Jamie when I was fifteen, but I was nineteen before I realised I loved him.  Might not the same thing happen with William?

 On the other hand he had very strong convictions and didn’t hesitate to air them, regardless of other people, which sometimes caused upset.  I suspected he was stubborn.  In the first flush of love I could usually sweet-talk him round but what about after we were married?  How I wished Maddie were around.  In the past I had resented her interference but now I really needed her ‘take’ on the situation.

Then there was his stammer; I was proud that he hardly stammered at all with me.  He was full of ideas and with his mind racing ahead, I found it very moving when he struggled to get the words out.  But I didn’t want to marry him out of compassion.  I prayed for guidance and the next time we met I took one look at his face and said ‘Yes.’ and was swept along by his joy and enthusiasm.
William said we should phone his mother and he wanted me to speak to her.  I  

think the whole idea took her by surprise.  She had had William late in life and in those days a late child was often looked on as companion for old age.  William had been educated at home until he was eleven and his mother adored him. 

‘I hope you know what you are taking on.’ she said but I took this to be her sense of humour.  Conversation was difficult as she was very deaf and usually kept her hearing aid switched off.  Sadly William’s father who had been an officer in WW1 was now virtually bed-ridden with heart problems so would be unable to attend the wedding. We planned to have it in late July – it was now January.
  “William I think you should come home with me on my next day off – then you can ask Dad for my hand.”  William agreed it would be a good idea.

 One night William came to meet me on his motor bike and he was wearing an old rubber mackintosh.  He had lost the belt and tied some rope around the waist.  I determined no way was he going to show up at home looking like that, so we had a serious talk about his sartorial appearance. I was going to take as much trouble with his appearance on the big day as with my own.  On my day off we met in Manchester and instead of going to the bus station went to a stop on the edge of town.  It was not a very salubrious part of Manchester and my heart sank when the bus came and the conductor said it was full.

“‘Oh please let us on.  I’m a nurse – it’s my day off and I’m going home.”  His face softened and he extended his arm to help me up.

 “And I hope your rabbits die!” came William’s voice from behind.
“Right!  Off!’ The conductor’s face hardened and he almost shoved me off the platform.  I turned to look at William – totally unaware of what he had done.
During our enforced wait in the sleazy area, I explained to William that if he had resisted the urge to condemn the bus conductor’s rabbits to an early death, we would now be on the bus and halfway home.  William, in his wrath had not noticed the conductor’s face soften, nor yet his proffered arm to help me up.  He listened, a little abashed and apologised.  I thought it ironic that his stammer didn’t prevent the snappy crack that would be better left unsaid.
  There was a warm welcome and one of Mum’s special high teas waiting for us and William relished both.  After tea I went into the kitchen with Mum to wash up and let the men get on with the business of ‘permission to marry.’  Before we’d even started the cutlery, Dad appeared with a big grin on his face.
“What happened Dad?”
“Well t’lad couldn’t get it out an’ I knew what he wanted to say so I said it were alright and you could get wed!”

“Thanks Dad.”  You’d think they were glad to get rid of me,

“When were you thinking of?”
“July – as soon as I have finished my Finals.”

“Eeh Pat- couldn’t ye wait a year?  We’ve just bought t’three-piece suite”’
Mum caught sight of my face and said.

“Never mind we can manage it” Good old Mum!  Well, she held the purse strings so she should know.

   Over the week-end we discussed the arrangements and William suggested we got married at sea where, as long as you were three miles out, the captain could marry you.  I said I wanted to be married by our minister.  He and his wife had been kind, helpful and supportive during my teen-age years and when William saw the simple church (alas no more) he agreed. 

 It was a shame that Gran would be in the States, Maddie and family in Africa and William’s brother a serving officer and his family in Malta.
  William sent off for an engagement ring that he had seen in a catalogue.
 “Goodness," said Vanessa when she saw it, “I’ve never seen such a tiny diamond.  You can get really good sized zircons for the same money.”

I forgave her and asked her to be bridesmaid.  I also asked Annie, my old friend from the Convalescent Home.  We all met in Manchester and as often happens when you introduce your special friends to each other it didn’t go well.  Vanessa had a vision of them wearing striped creations in yellow and black.

 ‘We’ll look like bloody big wasps!’ moaned Annie.

  There was so much to think about and Finals were looming which was giving me nightmares.  William’s poor father had a heart attack and when he was convalescing his mother wrote how she was pushing his bed out onto the veranda every day so he could enjoy the spring sunshine.  This worried William and his brother as she was no spring chicken and had angina.  And then a bombshell!
  William met me one evening looking desperately worried.  He had been called up.
‘Not another bloody war!’ I screeched.  Apparently when he left the Navy he was given the option of signing on as a Reservist.  This meant he would get an income of 1s 1d a day (about 14p but it went much further then) and as he was going to University he jumped at the chance.  Now however the Korean War had broken out; conflict between the Communist North and the American occupied Republic of South Korea.  I couldn’t understand why the British Navy had to be involved.  Maybe now history is repeating itself.  I wondered if someone was trying to tell me something.  William was insistent that we should bring the wedding forward – even if it meant we had to get married in a registry office, he just wanted to be married.  He was going off to war - anything could happen - I had to agree.  I went to see Matron and explained what had happened.  She was very sympathetic and said I could have leave to get married and would then return to take my Finals and make up the time after the exams.  There were a few tears shed.  Most of my close friends had left so the people who didn’t know me very well, assumed I was pregnant and had to get married.  I was so sick of wars.

  I was on the brink of a nervous break-down, what with last minute swotting and trying to arrange a ‘shot gun wedding’.