The Spring of 1973 was a glorious time.
As far as I was concerned the sun shone every day; I was raking in the stories for the Standard Recorder; my circle of socialist-minded friends was widening; my social circle was a round of fun, parties and theatre; and I was getting to spend more and more time with my Muse.
On the work front I was not just covering courts and the emergency services, I was also forging strong links with members of the Basildon Town Council, both sides of the political divide, and with the right people working for the corporation.
On top of this Tony Blandford, the editor, had given me a fairly free rein to find off-diary features as well as letting me have experience of sub-editing.
This last was to set me on the path which would take me to the top of the game in provincial journalism, not just in the UK but in Australia and the Middle East as well.
My early subbing was for a page called People in close-up and would have four or five different stories which had some form of common theme. One week, for instance, it was Armed Forces. Two local RAF lads who had been given their commissions, both as pilot officer but one was now an actual pilot while the other was a plotter.
A gunner with the Royal Artillery, stationed in Singapore, had just been on a training exercise in the Malaysian jungle where the Brits and Aussies had faced their Kiwi “foes”; a driver in the Royal Corps of Transport had just spent two weeks on exercise in the Rockies in Canada, which included driving a two and a half ton Army truck on a narrow twisty mountain trail at 7,000 feet; and a leading seaman on a frigate had just rejoined the Fleet after the frigate he was on had been refitted at Chatham and then had sea trials off Portland.
Although I had not allied myself to any political party I had befriended local councillors, most of whom were Labour members. After council meetings there was often an adjournment to the nearby Arts Centre bar where “any other business” was conducted over a pint or so.
There were also NUK chapel and branch meetings where talk was building up about the annual pay talks the union would be holding with Newspaper Society bosses later in the year.
There was also a mix of work and social with press tickets to see Joe Brown and his new band Home Brew, as well as Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen offering some foot-stomping trad jazz.
The core of that time for me, however, was The Thalians.
Rehearsals were going well for the Wilde which meant at least one evening a week in the company of my Muse; at least once month, sometimes more, there would be a party at someone’s house or flat. We even had a group trip out to Epping Forest for an open air production of Brecht’s Caucasian Chalk Circle which, as there was limited parking, the 10 of us travelled in just two cars. Hubby did not join the trip (he really wasn’t theatre-minded) and there and back I sat in the back of a car between my Muse and one of the other women from the group.
To be so close and yet not being close enough.
Other than that there were Friday or Saturday mornings meeting at the bookstall in the market, choosing our treasures of the week and then going for a coffee in a nearby cafe to discuss our choices.
In the last few weeks of June, as spring prepared to give way to summer, I noticed a change in my Muse. I was aware, as we all were, that hubby was working away a lot but there seemed to be more than that, not just at rehearsals but also when we met for coffee.
As the month drew to a close, and my feelings grew stronger and stronger, we met as usual one Saturday morning and while browsing the books she said she was looking for historical novels with a Scottish base but there was nothing to be had.
That was when I remembered a couple of books I had picked up while still in North Wales, They were part of a series by Dorothy Dunnett called The Lymond Chronicles and fitted the bill perfectly.
I mentioned them and suggested we could go back to the flat for coffee (I had no ulterior motive as I didn’t intend ruining it all with a rash action) and she could see the books and if interested borrow them.
It was not long before noon and when we got up toi the flat I made the coffee first and then, while it was cooling, we went into the hall and knelt down by the bookcase, just three shelves but a lot of books.
I found the first of the Lymond books, Game of Kings, and handed it to her. As she opened it and bent her head to study the information on the back cover her hair fell forward, curtaining her face, and I could not resist saying: “I love you.”
She looked up in surprise and I leaned forward and kissed her.
Rather than pull back she seemed to lean into the kiss.
When she did pull away it was to say: “At last. I love you too.”
We kissed again, still kneeling, and then – the doorbell rang.
We both pulled back and she shot into the lounge before I had even had the time to open the door.
It was the postman.
Then again I can’t think why I should have expected anyone else.
He handed me a thick package which wouldn’t have gone through the letterbox, along with a couple of letters, one of which was possibly a bill.
Before he left my beloved’s voice came from behind me, saying: “I should be leaving now, thank you for the book> I look forward to reading it.”
With that she was gone, following the postman down the corridor to the lift, and I was left wondering if it had all been just a dream.
I couldn’t risk going to her house, it was a Saturday and hubby might be home. The same applied to Sunday and on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I had courts and councils with only evenings free and |I did not dare call at that time without a solid excuse in case anyone was there.
By Thursday I was cursing her lack of a telephone.
We were busy all morning tying up the final pieces for that week’s edition. The afternoon would be quieter, unless a major story cropped up, but it was 2pm before I could get away.
I could see from the end of the road that hubby’s distinctive old Humber was not parked in its usual place so, provided she was at home the only other person there would be her mother or a neighbour and I could always fudge up a good reason to be there, possibly to do with play.
I parked a few doors down and then walked to her front door and knocked.
She opened the door, saw me there and immediately reached out, grabbed my hand and pulled me inside, quickly shutting the door.
She still held my hand as we went into the living room and only let it go as she turned to face me, flung her arms around my neck and sent an electric pulse through my body as she kissed me.
My arms went around her, pulling her close, and we kissed again and again and . . . .
I got back to the office at 4pm.