Friday, January 04, 2019

January 5th 1979
The day that changed my life for ever.
I know this is jumping the gun sequence wise so please forgive me but I can’t ignore the 40th anniversary of the day that changed my life forever.

We met at the Charing Cross Hotel - right next to the 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-grey 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.  We repaired to Eleanor’s Bar in the hotel, where he was staying. He had a gin and I had a scotch.  He said he liked whiskey too much. We talked - he said I‘d 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.  He was explaining the hierarchy in his work place. His job was as important and responsible as William’s but more business orientated. Our politics had come closer over the years based on the thesis ‘if you don’t vote labour under 30 you haven’t got a heart and if you do over 30 you haven’t got a head.

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.   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 were hungry so we continued walking and talking until it was time for my last train at 11pm - we had been together for almost twelve hours. During the day we covered 30 years happenings at random: we talked about our five children and how lucky we were to each have close loving relations with them. He told me about being in the RAF and I told him about nursing. He had seen some of my modelling photos and we talked about my sister and his brother who were old friends and lived in the same NY state. We discovered that I had gone to live in the south as he gone to live in the north and he kept a cottage in Yorkshire - just over the border from my parent’s home.  I visited New York just after he had been. Once we had stayed at a children’s hotel in Bournemouth - the Broughty Ferry - the same year. We had both taken our children on holidays to the Lake District and to Wales. I told him that since the boys left home William and I were considering separate establishments. He asked me if there was anyone else and I told him no, which was the truth.

Eventually I told him of every relationship I had had with a man and he realised the only one of any importance was Tim.
 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. I think we left it that he would get in touch when he was coming to London again,
As for our parting words - like the beginning it was sight, touch and smell that I remember and we were both a bit overwhelmed by our goodbye hug.
When I got on the last train I slowly came down to earth. It had been a long, intensive, emotional day and I started to panic. After 28 years of marriage I was looking forward to being free - not jumping straight into a relationship with anyone, let alone someone so vulnerable. I couldn’t bear the thought of possibly hurting him.

 I must have written to Jamie and tried to slow things down, because he wrote that he fully accepted and agreed that further meetings should be understood to be on the basis of unqualified, relaxed (and perhaps hopefully increasing) friendship.
With each meeting I got a little more confident and we became closer and then at our fifth meeting in April, I arranged to visit my parents stopping off at Jamie’s house on the way there and on the way back. I felt it wasn’t fair to involve my parents at this stage so told them I was seeing a friend in Manchester who would give me a lift home.  Jamie dropped me at the end of the lane out of sight of Mum’s house so I was absolutely flabbergasted when she greeted me with:
‘Oh isn’t Jamie coming in?’ I think Maddie must have been at work but it was a blessed relief and they did meet him when he picked me up on the Sunday.  It still makes me smile when I remember it.  Trust Mum.

  My great sadness when I was younger was that we had never been lovers - that’s just how it was then. After this week-end our fate was sealed - there was rapture and total commitment. Our plan was to be together forever - and to Jamie this meant getting married as soon as possible. Both of us wanted to bring this about causing as little hurt and upset to other people as possible.   The next few weeks were spent preparing to leave my marriage, my home, my friends and my business.  I wanted to leave everything in order and told the theatre club I was unable to do a production in the Spring.  I told Mary and we arranged that I would come down to the shop once a month and do the books and employ one of our assistants to do my hours.  I longed to tell the boys but felt I should tell William first.

Finally the day came - the house was immaculate the larder stocked with groceries and I had defrosted the fridge and freezer.  I told William I needed to talk to him and we sat down together in his study.  I had planned to keep it on a sensible unemotional plane but as soon as I started my throat seized up and I could barely control my voice for the sobs which were erupting.  In contrast William stayed calm and impassive as if he knew already.  Perhaps he did.  I told him I had met someone and was leaving home.  I had written to the boys so they would know today.  I didn’t want my share of the house and there was no need for him to leave.

William asked me if it was anyone he knew and I said no.  He asked where would I be living because he wouldn’t like it if we lived locally and I said there was no chance of that - I would be going to live in Cheshire and I promised we would never come back to live in the same area.  In the event William insisted on selling the house and giving me half the value.  He then bought a house in a nearby village which he had occasionally spoken of doing.  We agreed that he would divorce me.  Our solicitor had said the main problems of divorce were concerning children and money and as the children had left home and I didn’t want any money it should be straight forward and it was.

We split our possessions sensibly and without rancour.  There was a bust I had bought many years ago and William said he had grown fond of it and suggested I should toss a coin and tell him the result.  It was a measure of our relationship and mutual respect that he trusted me.  I tossed the coin, lost and William kept the bust.

 William had said he wouldn’t be happy about us living in the same area so when Jamie took early retirement we travelled to the places we loved in England, deciding where to settle and eschewed Kent and Sussex - in spite of my friends and my business being in the area.  I never saw him again.

Five was our lucky number.  We had five children between us;  Jamie’s house and cottage were both number five as was my own house in Kent and on our fifth meeting we plighted out troth.  I think the fifth of January became more important to us than even our wedding anniversary.