Sunday, March 14, 2021

 An Imperfect Life 

Owha tanas siam!

Chapter 45

  I felt sad driving home.  It reminded me of school at the end of the year when I always used to cry at "Lord dismiss us with thy blessings."  Would I ever see my new friends again.?  Gary probably just wanted another scalp to add to his collection and I had been right to be firm.  When I reached home William and the boys were out so  I collapsed into bed and slept for hours.  No time to mope; there was lots of laundry to do and all the household tasks that had been left for a week.  It was lovely to see the boys and hug them.  A week apart made us so much more appreciative of each other and they were quite angelic for about 24 hours.

  Mary rang - very excited,

  "We've been very busy now the holidays have started.  We're going to have to get more part-time staff so there is always two of us on duty.  I've been so busy selling I haven't had time to enter the sales on the clients cards."

"Don't worry I'll go in and do it once the boys are in bed."

We were both excited and pleased by with the way the shop's fame was spreading.  there was a letter for me the next day but I was rushing to drive the boys to school and then to open the shop before half past nine, so I put it in my hand bag for later.

As soon as we opened there was a stream of customers.  When we first started Mary's father had rigged a buzzer on one of the stairs to warn us when anyone was coming.  Now there was a constant buzz buzz buzz and what with the old fashioned till bell it was like an inspiration for Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells.  Mary came in briefly and  I was glad of the help but soon she had to go to the bank and I was alone again.  Just before lunch time a Persian man - he told me he was from Persia - arrived with his two daughters who were going to be boarders at one of our local prep schools.  He handed me a long list of uniform which he required for both girls.  We always closed for lunch but I decided to lock the shop as usual and devote my lunch hour to finding everything they needed.  It was not easy.  He was very demanding and the girls were very shy - hiding behind the changing room curtain we had fixed in the corner - even to try on hockey boots.  By the time I had found everything they needed - including lacrosse sticks I was panting with exhaustion.  I sank into the office chair to remove all the price tickets and add up the amounts   When I told him the total price he MADE ME AN OFFER!  I could not believe it.  I felt smoke must be coming out of my ears.  I had worked my butt off, given up my lunch hour persuading the girls to try everything on, grovelling amongst the hockey boots and he had the effrontery to MAKE ME AN OFFER!

I drew myself up to my full five feet four and a half inches and said,

  "I'm sorry sir but we do NOT barter.  That is the price you must pay if you want to take the goods."

He and the girls looked rather startled at my obvious outrage but he slowly brought out  a roll of notes  He handed over the large amount of cash whilst I tried to control my shaking hands. The thought of trying to match the garments with the tickets if he had decided to leave gave me palpitations.  Selling was only part of the job; everything sold had to be entered on the customer's file so she could collect her money the next time she was in the shop.  All the articles could have come from twenty different customers so you can see the problem.  That taught all of us never to remove the tickets until the very end of the transaction and one was sure the customer was serious

Whilst waiting at the school for the boys I remembered the letter.  It was from Gary- a poem and a note with a telephone number  and the message " Please phone."  When I read the poem I was moved and felt my resolve weakening.  Surely it wouldn't hurt to phone - it was only polite.  His voice sounded just like him - relaxed and friendly.
"Gary it's Pat.  Thank you for the poem - it's lovely.  How long did it take to write it"
  There was a long pause and I thought we had been cut off.

"Well it more or less wrote itself.  It's great to hear your voice Pat."

He said he  had found one of the books he had told me about - a play he thought I should do as my first production; he had even designed a set for me.  When I met him he was different he seemed to have lost the golden glow he had in the college and I felt awkward and uncomfortable.  A woman I knew- she was Northern like me and was used to saying what she thought and told me I seemed to have a glass cage around me.  Somehow I knew what she meant and she thought that one day I would break out of it but I knew this was not the time.  I had been swept off my feet once before and it was not going to happen again.  When I told Gary it couldn't go any further he said everyone would assume it had anyway.  This riled me and I said the important thing was I knew it hadn't.
It must have been about a year later when I was browsing through one of my quotation books looking for something apt for a friend's birthday and a familiar line caught my eye.  It was the poem which I believed Gary had written for me but my book said it was written by William Blake.

The Garden of Love

I went to the Garden of Love,
 And saw what I had never seen:
A Chapel was built in the midst,
Where I used to play on the green,  
And the gates of this Chapel were shut
And"Thou shalt not!"writ over the door
So I turned to the Garden of Love,
That so many sweet flowers bore.
And I saw it was filled with graves,
And tombstones where flowers should be;
And priests in black gowns were walking their rounds,
And binding with briars my joys and desires.

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry - so I did both.

. . .

"William guess who phoned today.  Out of the blue!"
"You'll have to give me a clue."
" She's married with two boys."
"I need more."
"We've been on holiday with them."
"What's 'er name - Betty er Brenda?"
"Beryl! Remember her husband Gordon?
"Yes! He knew a lot about cars."
"That's right and apparently it has made them very wealthy.
Gordon left the engineering firm he had worked for and set up in business with a partner. They've had enormous success and have 'gone public.'
Beryl said they've got this smashing house near Brighton, they've met lots of exciting new people, they're going to have  a big party and they want us to go. "
I remembered Beryl once admitted to me - after a drink or two- that she fancied William - because of his brain, she said.  I knew parties weren't William's scene but it was the Swinging Sixties - I wanted to see Beryl and was curious to see how her life had changed.
The house was fantastic with beautiful views of the Downs.  There were lots of impressive oils on the walls - individually lit and the whole place reeked of opulence.  The women were very glamorous with big hair and legs and bosoms on show.  The men seemed to be in a uniform of black silk shirts with gold medallions round their necks.  Although I was enjoying the party atmosphere I was very conscious of William being bored out of his mind
and decided we would leave after supper which looked as if it was going to be delicious.  Beryl told me they had an indoor swimming pool in the grounds over which was an apartment where they had two male lodgers who were air-line stewards.  I told William I was going for a swim and then we would have supper and leave.

It was a fantastic pool with beautiful plants and a hot steamy atmosphere.  At first I thought I was alone  but  I could just make out what looked like two males at the far end and assumed they were the stewards.  I have never been a strong swimmer but it was so warm and inviting I decided to stick near the side for safety and do a length   When I was about half way there the men got out and I realised to my horror they were completely naked.  I lost concentration, gasped, got my mouth full of water and panicked and floundered and yelled as I started to sink.  In a flash the men were there and rescued me.  They were sweet and said I only had to say I was in trouble.  Just as they were lifting my shaking body out of the pool William walked in to see his wife in the arms of two naked men.  I wasn't exactly dragged out by the hair but that's what it felt like.  We didn't stay for supper, we didn't say good bye and on the journey home I told William how ridiculous he had been.  I had been genuinely in trouble,  the young men were concerned for my safety and - by the way - they were gay.  Later William was dismayed to find he had come away with some of Beryl's precious silver cutlery in his breast pocket ready for the supper we never had.  Then I laughed.  Of course he returned it by registered post.
  William went off to have a week's sailing on the Solent with his brother.  He came back refreshed and rejuvenated and told me he had been given a pep talk by Wallace.  Intrigued I asked him what it was about.
  "He thinks we should do more things together - go out for a meal and go to the theatre etc,"
"And what do you think about that? 
"We can give it a try."