In My Father’s Words
03/07/1938 – 18/10/2018
It’s My Turn Now
They were, I think, just about the most extraordinary eyes I had ever seen.
The day was almost idyllic; a sun washed Sunday in early July 2001. I had not specially wanted to come to the damned barbecue, but, now that I was here, it was not all bad. There was a mere whisper of a breeze, dappling the shadows of the trees on the grass lawns, and a short distance away, the laughter of the children mingled with their shrieks. Tim, wearing an incongruous apron, sweated over the sausages, chops and steaks, and the pale blue spiral of smoke drifted its haze of promises, making my mouth water.
“More wine, Ben?”
I nodded as the pale golden Chardonnay glugged into my glass, cooling my hand.
“Now” said Ilsa, “On your feet. There’s someone I’d like you to meet.” I changed my glass from right to left hand as she hauled me reluctantly from my chair.
“Margaret, this is Ben. He has just come back from working in South Africa.” She turned to me. “Margaret is from Johannesburg.”
The eyes, light grey, almost translucent, were the most remarkable feature in a pretty, but generally unremarkable face. We chatted, pleasantly, if inconsequentially, and mostly about South Africa, for half an hour.
On the following Tuesday, there was a hand written note, from Margaret, pushed through the door, inviting me to tea and scones on Friday. It was, I reflected a very old fashioned thing to do, but I went. Margaret was in her early forties, and carried, as they say, a lot of baggage. She had four children aged from six to seventeen, and had been divorced from her husband for four years. We began a friendship. I was not seeking romance, as the love of my life, who had come, stayed five years, and left, was still in my heart, and blood and sinews, if not in my bed. Margaret said she was not looking either, still in trauma after the divorce. We went to the cinema, to the theatre and restaurants together and visited interesting places in the south of England in the Jaguar. I saw a lot of her kids and liked them and helped to entertain other family members. We passed a comfortable year together.
In July 2002 I was in France working on my newly acquired house when my mobile rang. It was Margaret, in floods of tears.
“Steady on. Just tell me what is wrong”
Her ex husband had left his girlfriend, who was his boss’s daughter and consequently, surprise, surprise, lost his job, a well paid job that allowed Margaret to live in a £600,000 house, drive a Mercedes C230, and send all four children to private schools. I listened, and made appropriate noises, and offered advice when asked to do so. I had arranged to come home early, in time for her birthday and suggested we talk again then. “OK,” she agreed. I have never spoken to her since.
At home, I phoned both her home and mobile numbers and left messages. I sent emails, after checking with a mutual friend that she was apparently all right. There were no replies. I cancelled the restaurant and left her birthday present in a cupboard outside my front door, after e mailing. The present was not collected. After a while I requested the return of books and CD’s I had loaned. No reply. I had, with her agreement, bought tickets for the Lords Test Match for her twelve-year-old son and myself. I sent his by mail to her, saying if she got him to Epsom Station, I would take him, and put him in a cab to get home. No reply, and the seat remained empty. I had no sense of loss, just anger and frustration. The matter of the Test Match angered me most of all. She should not have deprived him of his visit to Lords.
I saw Margaret briefly in Epsom High Street, just after Christmas 2003. If she saw me, she ignored me. I shrugged, but mentioned it to a woman friend.
At New Year, I received a card from her, which was backed up by an email. The message was that she didn’t understand what had happened to our friendship and perhaps we should have lunch and start again. I think that by this time I had understood that she had tried to get back together with her husband. A reasonable thing to do, and she could have told me that eighteen months earlier. We had not been lovers. She had failed, as that gentleman had, I believed, difficulty keeping it in his trousers. Now it was my turn. I could either ignore her completely, as she had me, or send a scathing email. She deserved that. I choose the computer.
“Margaret. I hope you and the children are well and you are working through your difficulties. I don’t think there is any point in meeting for lunch, but thanks for the thought. Keep well. Ben.” The lady had enough problems in her life. I had no entitlement to add to them.
Written by BM