I wrote a little while back about my first night out with my first wife, Helen (https://thememoryblog.wordpress.com/2010/08/27/helen-part-one/ in case you missed it).
If our first date was almost a proper one, our second date certainly wasn’t. We were, in fact, both selected for interviews for the graduate training scheme at Marks and Spencer and, by chance, those interviews were on the same day.
We got the train from Coventry down to London. Helen got on first and selected a window seat, so I did what I thought was the right thing and picked the aisle seat diagonally across from her. Only later did I find out that this had utterly confused her. For my part, I was just paranoid about appearing too forward or pushy by sitting next to her. Nonetheless, it was the first of many times that I unwittingly did the wrong thing during our relationship.
Helen’s interview was just before lunch, and mine was just after. On arrival in London we went straight to M&S’ head office on Baker Street and, at some point between leaving Coventry and arriving there we agreed that we would buy each other a gift whilst the interviews were under way.
Which is why, having deposited Helen at Baker Street and wished her luck, I headed for Selfridges and bought Helen a fountain pen, because she had mentioned that she didn’t have one. Apparently this, too, was the Wrong Thing To Do.
After Helen returned, we had lunch in a pizza restaurant opposite Selfridges, which was called Pizzaland and which we chose because there was a branch of the same chain in Leamington. I am pretty sure that it was where the Waterstones store is now, should you be familiar with the area.
I then left for my interview, and that is when the relationship changing moment happened. We went to Bond Street tube station – which was nowhere near as bright and shiny as it is now – and as I was about to go through the barrier, Helen kissed me goodbye. Just a peck of a kiss, but enough to surprise me and make me think that, actually, there might be something to this after all.
I don’t remember much of what happened after that, but I do know that we sat together on the train home.
And neither of us got the job, which suggests that maybe neither of us was really concentrating on what we were doing.
Helen, incidentally, bought me a cuddly pig, who I named Narcissus Aloysius. I still have him, although it is fair to say that he has been commandeered by my son now. For years, though, Narcissus (or just Pig, as he was usually called) was a feature of our house, to the extent that my friend Rob Lynch insisted that I bring Pig to his wedding. The pen, on the other hand, was not such a success. Helen never really used it and a few months ago I found it in an old briefcase. I mailed it back to Helen, but never got a reply – nor did I really expect one.