What ensued was a fortnight of drinks punctuated by the joys of illicit sex in her bedroom at the student house.
‘Illicit’ because he decamped to return to the wife at 2am and ‘joys’ because of ‘illicit’. The proceedings were supervised by posters of Marilyn and Michelangelo’s David - and the windows dripped with indoor condensation.
They visited her usual haunts and were clocked by some of her friends, which was fine, as he was tall, dark; so forth to match. They shared a birthday (five years apart) and DH Lawrence – although in his case, Sea and Sardinia not Women in Love.
They did not discuss his wife.
And then he went to Brittany with wife, kids, best friend. .
The postcard was a Turner seascape. ‘And then went down to the ship.
Set keel to breakers, forth on the godly sea’, ( Ezra Pound, Canto 1) in black ink, followed by his initial.
Classicist Lynne explained the references.
‘Odysseus and Tiresias’, she mused, paying for last orders at The Bear. ‘But why has he sent you a poem about a quest to see somebody who has had a sex change?’
It had been a less than vintage week.
The PHD interview! Did she want to spend three years with the minor works of Thomas Hoccleve? Lynne had flunked the MOD fast-tracking scheme. Her Head of Section, who would have donned a trilby in St Tropez, thought women should wash their briefs rather than composing them for Ministers. She’d lodged a complaint under the new Sex Discrimination Act.
So they had ‘done the rounds’ in desultory style; drinks and dinner with Percy, the 50- year-old Law lecturer, followed by a chorus of ‘Ra Ra Rasputin’ and dancing round a lamp-post; girls' night out with Sylvie and Fat Fran and an exhibition of safely pornographic Mexican woodcuts at the Art Gallery with Marc and Malcolm. Malcolm had wined and dined them, together and separately, on numerous occasions over the past three years. An elegant, slightly wasted potter, he had never made a move, so was either asexual or tucked up most nights with the cherubic Marc from the BBC.
The Bear was not top choice for Lynne’s last night.
They had visited The Falcon to find it colonise by the women's rugby squad and The Bat and Belfry had been overrun by cider-swilling freshers. She had proposed quiche and salad at the Trade Wind Wine Bar, but a glimpse of Lynne’s ex with latest squeeze put paid to that.
So it had been the trek to The Bear, and three hours of buttock-clenching boredom, inhaling patchouli oil, plus drenched skirt hems, trailing in a mix of muck and beer.
And the prospect of the walk back.
Then he was there.
At the bar. In a khaki jacket; Jesus sandals, rucksack and pipe.
He had abandoned the wife, kids and friend in Brittany. He had returned to her. He had nowhere to stay for the night.
Lynne hauled her to the loo.
‘I can’t stand him. He is gross. Bad news. We can leave by the back door. Go to Fran’s. Now’.
Thirty years later, she reminds Lynne of this as they settle the bill at the London bistro. ‘No’, says Lynne. ‘I can’t have. You have imagined it. You want to think I said that but I didn’t’(Sipping her mineral water before leaving for choral practice).
But she did.