It has been rather a long time since I wrote anything about Helen, so we have some catching up to do. We left the story with Helen and I moving into our first flat together and buying a useless car. That was all at the start of December.
That first December together was a crazy month. We had little money and were both working like dogs, Helen at Sainsbury’s me for a national chain of wine merchants who I will write much more about in due course.
Bear in mind that supermarkets didn’t open for the sort of hours that they do now, and that Sunday trading was still illegal. Even so, as a trainee bakery manager Helen would leave home in the dark, come home in the dark and pretty much only see the flat in daylight at weekend. I, meanwhile, was apparently having deep dreams about my work and waking Helen up by shouting ‘Sorry, out of stock’ in my sleep.
The thing is, though, it was great fun. The flat was cold, it was damp, we had to boil kettles to top up the bath because the water tank wasn’t big enough to run a full one and on most evenings we were so tired we were in bed by 9.30 (aside from anything, Helen often had to be up around 4am, which was tough for someone who was an Olympic standard sleeper). We lived off takeaways and every Sunday resulted in some kind of an argument.
Which might make you wonder why I am looking back on it now with such fondness, but the truth is that it was an ideal scenario for me. I was working hard – contrary to popular belief, I quite like working if I am doing something that interests me – and yet still having time to be with those dearest to me. Of all of the Decembers I had experienced until then – and probably a few others in the 1990s and early 2000s – it was arguably the best.