Wednesday, June 23, 2021

 An Imperfect Life                             

Chapter 47


  Both William and I derived much happiness from our children.  We had  great family holidays and at week-ends visited local sights and fairs and from an early age encouraged them to walk fair distances.  During sea-side holidays I would be the envy of all the other mothers as William plunged into the sea like a great seal and endlessly encouraged the boys to do the same regardless of the temperamental British summers.  They fished, sailed, climbed, skied on water and snow, swam, did archery, cross country and drove go-carts.  I took them to the theatre club and they joined in the children's entertainments beside playing the parts of aristocratic children in a public production at Tonbridge School.

  'Dreadfully boring!' the elder would say - in character, to be echoed by the younger in his piping little voice.  They were so funny; blonde-haired boys in beautiful costumes, angelic in appearance and a handful to control back stage.  The little hams started to time their applause.
  When there were just the two of us- and as the boys grew older this was more often the case- things were not so satisfactory.  William worked hard in a demanding job and when he was home and the boys weren't around he was happy to hole up in his study with his books and music.  I had plenty to keep me occupied with the theatre club and the shop.  We were not your average married couple and at times I felt a failure.  I think probably both of us longed for love and affection but we were unable to give it to each other.  William's brother Wallace suggested that William should take me out more- so we started meeting in town, having dinner and going to a concert at the Festival Hall.  After a number of sessions at the same uninspiring(to me)venue I began to long for a visit to some of the wonderful London theatres but this didn't appeal to William, so Wallace's idea had a limited success.  However one of my girl friends had gone to live up in town so I used to meet up with her and we saw some great plays together.

  When I first saw Tim it was at a public meeting and I became aware of this unusual looking young man giving me piercing stares.  He was actually short-sighted without his glasses.  He told me later he though I looked interesting and was trying to get a better look.  He was tall but slight, with his shoulders hunched in a porridge textured short overcoat.  His severe crew-cut hair was already flecked with grey and his baseball boots completed an unusual appearance.  He had a squinting scowl- partly due to his eye -sight and partly due to the ever present cigarette clamped in his mouth.  He had a gritty look such as a very young Tommy Lee Jones may have had, although Tim's ears didn't stick out.  He looked bookish and introspective.  Later when I spoke to him I realised that not only was he very shy but he had been damaged in some way and my compassion was aroused.  I was at the age when I really felt for people who were worse off than I was and wanted to do something about it - which is why I eventually became a Samaritan.  At the time I had a few lame ducks and was prepared to take Tim under my wing.  I was about ten year older and he regarded me for a while as a mentor which helped my somewhat battered self esteem a great deal.  When I look back it's as if we were two weak swimmers who had got into difficulties, and who managed to prop each other up until they reached shore.  As our friendship grew we confided in each other.  Tim was brought up by a very  strict. puritanical parents; he was sent away to school and did well academically.  He then went to medical  school and went completely off the rails, rebelling against his parents.  He chucked medical school, made a disastrous marriage which broke up almost immediately and had a rift with his parents.  He had also started to drink more than was healthy.  When I met him he was  in a dead end job which earned him enough money for bed and board and for fags and beer.  Underneath all this rough exterior was an artistic, poetic, damaged young man crying out for a bit of morale boosting and encouragement.  As our friendship continued and got more serious, he began to blossom and people took the trouble to get to know him and to like him.
We talked about his future and I was delighted when he decided to take an external degree which meant long working hours and travelling up to town after work.  He also renewed contact with his parents and would visit them from time to time.  With each achievement I felt proud - as if he were a son.  Our relationship continued for four years and our friendship blossomed into love.  During this time Tim completed his degree and was awarded first class honours.  He was given a prize and insisted on choosing three books he knew I would like and presented them to me.  He said I had earned the degree.  Very soon he was offered a good position which meant his leaving the area and of course  I encouraged him to take it. I also encouraged him to meet other people; we were both afraid of how the other would cope in the end.  Tim thought we could be friends for life but I felt that once he had left the area we should both get on with our lives.  He  continued to phone me and tell me what he was up to and eventually he met a girl he thought he could be serious about.  I was happy for him and said this was time  to say goodbye.  I knew he was going to be fine and I had plenty to keep me occupied.
  For a start the shop had outgrown its surroundings and we had to start looking for new premises.
  Life goes on.  I had always known there was no future for Tim and me and I knew the end would be painful, but after what I had been through with Jamie - years ago- this was bearable, and I was in the driving seat - calling the shots.  I had no regrets and believed I deserved to suffer.  It was time to come down to earth and accept that for  me romance had gone forever.  How little we know!  One day, driving through the town I saw an accident; a man was lying prostrate on a zebra crossing.  I was overwhelmed with the realisation that if Tim had an accident and was lying helpless I would never know.  I had to drive into a side street to have a blub.
  We had outgrown the shop and left our first floor eyrie on the High Street for a street - level emporium
with a huge basement.  It was in the road parallel to the High Street and facing the Common.The front of the shop was all plate glass with a small area near the door for a display window.  Our accountant told us we could afford it and we enlisted friends and family to help us decorate it.  Once more one of the big stores was refurbishing and we acquired three large glass-topped counters and various shelves and cupboards.  Downstairs in the basement there were four stalls in the large room, which we made into changing rooms with bright orange curtains.  Than there was a room where we kept all footwear - hockey, soccer and rugger boots and gum boots.  The riding boots - being more valuable, we kept upstairs - in view.  There was a small office, loo and kitchen.  the worst thing that happened was the time when we discovered someone had peed in a gum boot.

  On the ground floor our desk was by the window looking out on the Common.  We felt naked with all that glass so had a brass pole fitted and hung, what were then fashionable restaurant curtains, which came half way up the window so we could see all that was happening outside.  One day I noticed rats on the common and was told that they follow the same tracks for years.  No more picnics on the Common  for me then.  We had fun choosing the type of lettering for our  shop sign which ran the width of the shop and was most impressive.  That was the easy part; the actual move was a nightmare and I have managed to block it out of my memory.  We had to buy lots more hanging rails and vowed this was definitely our last move.

Years later  after I had been re-united with Jamie, Julia - my talented friend in the theatre club bumped into Tim on one of her frequent trips to town.  They only had a quick chat and Tim was never very forthcoming but it appears he was married. Julia told him I had married Jamie.  We had been each other's confidantes so of course he knew who Jamie was and was happy for me.