Wednesday, February 3, 2016
Making of a Child Psychiatrist: (39) Settling Down Sort of… (2)
Jan and I had a fight, or perhaps better described as ‘a silence’. We were at a rather loud party, and I suspect Jan had not been well: perhaps one of the migraines which have plagued her on and off lifelong. She did not want to dance, and I had gone off in a huff and danced with several others (who are now vague unremembered shadows). I could see that Jan was upset, but I continued to pressure her. I suspect it got to the point of my saying something really hurtful like: “ Well, perhaps we should not be together.” That may have jolted me as I began to consider a future without this person I had been close to for the previous 5 years. I half remember saying something like: “I am not sure I can live with you, but I am even more sure I can’t live without you.” Or perhaps Jan said something like that. No, she is the more stoic in this partnership; I am the more hysterical (believe it or not).
Well, that led to a serious discussion of whether we should get married, and how soon we could do that, and whom we would have to tell. In the February, my parents and sister were about to return from their 3-year posting to Australia. We discussed how to broach the topic. In the end it was all rather easy, and the date was set for Saturday 10th April 1965. That was three weeks after Jan’s 21st birthday, and two days after mine, so we would both technically be adults, and no-one could really argue much against the proposition. If we had had opposition, we were quite prepared to go to a Registry Office - like Jan’s parents had done to begin their highly successful marriage. Both sets of parents were opposed to that, and ultimately we approached the church in Westgate on Sea to which I had been attached as a choirboy for all those years.
Of course my Cosbycote housemates were not amused; after all we had only been living there for about 6 months, and now they would have to find a replacement. They were gracious, and someone evil suggested a bucks’ party. I had asked Dick Lenz to be my best man, much to the annoyance of Barry King with whom I had become very close. But Dick and I had shared bedrooms for over a year, and he knew about my emotional ups and downs, and was a stable sensible bloke who would make sure I got through the preparations and the event. The party was held at The George Canning pub on Grove Lane, and we packed the place with about 15 or so med students. It was a hearty affair, with pint after pint appearing in front of me. I got half way down my fourth, and had to go to the toilet, where I felt unusually dizzy. I returned to our table, and I guess we all got a bit noisy. Mine host, a worthy woman in her 40s was well acquainted with medical students, and decided eventually we needed to be moved on. I am not sure how it happened, but I found myself on top of one of the tables singing, and when she challenged me, I stared into her dark brown eyes, saying very seriously: “Your eyes are like pools; cess pools…”. For some reason we were chucked out, and as I was still feeling the worse for wear, as they tucked me into the back of Jim Flower’s Mini, a carrier bag was tucked neatly over my ample ears, in case I decided to be sick. I wasn’t, and we arrived home without mishap. Later I was to find out that some fool had put double vodkas into each of the pints. No wonder I felt ‘somewhat dizzy’. Surprising I survived.The white wedding was on, with Jan’s older sister Wendy, as chief bridesmaid, and her younger sister Sheila, and my sister Andrea, as bridesmaids. As plans developed, the list of friends and relatives invited to attend seemed to get out of hand, and ultimately there were about 120 guests at the reception at the Chez Laurie a conspicuous Art Deco building on the Thanet Way (some years later tragically burned to the ground). I was caught up in the moment to moment excitement, and it is only in retrospect that I have thought about how much such an enormous ‘do’ must have cost Reg and Bobbie. I am certain I was duly thankful, but not so sure that I really appreciated the generosity enough at the time to acknowledge it. I am sure both of us were overwhelmed by the occasion, but really appreciated having so many of both sides of the family there to witness the event.
It was chaos in little ways all day. I guess everyone was anxious, and that meant that Jan would have been fighting off a migraine, and I would have been picky and irritable. Jan spent the morning finishing making her wedding dress (something unheard of in these days of entitlement). Apparently I had left the price on the bottom of my new black shoes for all to see as we knelt at the altar. We have a video of our exit down the aisle showing a married us, but with Jan with her veil still down (well, who would have bothered to look into those sorts of protocols – not me). The black and white photos on the steps were delightful and full of laughter, but from 50 years on fill us with sadness at all those lovely people we have now lost. As we left the church for the reception, my group of medical student mates showered us with rice, which unbelievably ended up still in my hair and underclothes 24 hours later. The reception was a blur, but the existing pictures suggest we all had a good time. Jan’s bridesmaids had forgotten Jan’s going away suit, so we had to get into Reg’s treasured Jaguar and drive at speed 10 miles back to Westgate to get Jan changed and comfortable. We missed the planned train from Westgate on Sea, which meant we missed our connection from Euston.
We were so naïve at the time. In the now, with all of that chaos, we would have just booked into an expensive hotel and had a special relaxed evening. But we never even considered that, in part I suspect because we were poor and on a tight budget (even though the lovely Reg had stuffed £40 into my top pocket at the station and with tears in his eyes had said:
“Make sure she has a good time”). At Euston we rebooked the train to Crewe and onward to North Wales. Then we decided to go to the local cinema, and sat watching cartoons holding hands and cuddling in the dark for an hour.
When we got to the train, I realised we had lost our reserved seats in the changes. In addition, it was the night of the annual England Scotland soccer match, and Scotland had won. So the train was full of noisy drunk Scots. When I say full, I mean full. None of the occupants of our carriage were agreeable enough to change their appointed seats. So, instead of cuddling up next to each other we sat opposite with Jan squashed between two sleepy drunks, one of whom seemed intent on resting his head on her shoulder. I became more and more angry, thinking of all the things I would like to do to him, but Jan just ‘shushed’ me, and all I could was fret and glare.
The connection at Crewe was late, so eventually we ended up at Llandudno Junction at 5.48am, exhausted. There were no trains or buses down the Conway Valley till hours later, and no sign of a taxi. There was, however, a man loading a van with newspapers newly arrived form London. Sheepishly, I asked him whether he was going anywhere near Betws-y-Coed, near Llangollen, explained our situation, and asked if I could help him load his papers. He was highly amused, but agreed to take us down the valley. We sat squashed up front, with our cases on the papers in the back. Apart from the occasional moments of unconscious, we chatted amiably all the way. I would love to have been a fly on the wall when he was regaling his missus or his mates later that day.
We found the small dark stone family hotel, and were let in by one of the elderly sisters who owned the place, and whom I had phoned the previous evening to alert them to our predicament. She, like so many we met on our honeymoon, was bemused by us; two kids on a life adventure.
There were two single beds in the room. But then we also had two tubes of toothpaste in our luggage. We washed up. I combed my hair, rescuing residual bits of rice (much to my chagrin). We resolved to get a couple of hours sleep, cuddling up fully clothed on one of the single beds, laughing somewhat hysterically. We were certain everyone knew our story when we eventually got to belated breakfast a couple of hours later. Everyone seemed to be smiling benignly.
When I think back to these events, so clear in my visual mind, it does raise the question how such an odd, crazy, naïve start to married life could have possibly led to fifty years of harmony. I guess we just thought everything was funny. When we tell these old stories now, we still laugh. But then so does everyone else. Perhaps that is the secret.