With the hindsight of thirty years, his transformation from casual date to live-in lover in less than a month was little short of miraculous.
Another world – they did things differently then.
Or did they?
They had left The Bear, hailed a taxi to her house and he had stayed.
Lynne took the coach to London.
His luggage was a rucksack, with a wife and two and a half kids – not present at the moment. What woman, even intermittently compos mentis – would go there?
It was hot – although not quite ’76 temperatures.
When they weren’t in bed, they passed their time sitting in the sunken garden, drinking wine and smoking. She was waiting to hear if she had been offered a place at York to edit an Early English Text Edition of Hoccleve’s Regiment of Princes for an M Lit: PHD conversion.
It would mean spending quite a lot of time in France and Germany and certainly learning to read and translate Medieval French.
She had needed a lot of Latin translated for her MA Extended Essay: Chaucer’s Monk as a Tragedian – and here those interminable dinners with Percy, the law lecturer had come in handy. He had called in a favour from a colleague and had presented her with pristine translations of two key documents.
But Percy would not be on tap in France.
She was not a natural linguist; not bad and probably Oxbridge Entrance standard (although she had a nagging feeling that her failure to secure a place at Girton
was down to a less than stellar showing in the Literature in Translation exercise from Pere Goriot).
The extra French classes in preparation for the exam had been care of French Assistant, Gerard - but they had invariably taken place in the Sixth Form Coffee Bar and had been largely distinguished by their impassioned analyses of Neil Young’s Harvest and After the Goldrush.
She had also been unfairly distracted by the fact that he seemed to have sewed himself into his trousers – and it must have been difficult for him – not to say a positive health hazard – to walk.
So the true extent of her linguistic abilities had never been put to the test – although she had scratched his copy of Harvest and had been compelled to supply a substitute complete with forged inscription. She suspected he was not deceived.
Her other housemates were, like herself, in limbo – waiting for results of exams and interviews.
Sandra Milford had already flown the coop – to a post as a scientific tester at United Biscuits and Laura, of the waist-length pre Raphaelite locks, was kicking her heels before embarking upon yet another postgraduate course – this time in Library Studies at Cardiff.
Laura shared her room with Daryl, a postman who had dropped out of his History course at the end of the first year, and they crept around like mice – suddenly appearing from nowhere in the corners of rooms or eating each other in public whilst watching the television.
This was especially inconsiderate because it had prevented everybody else from enjoying the Wimbledon Singles Final between Virginia Wade and Betty Stove – so they would not be missed.
Neither would Chris and Maggie who lived in the basement flat. They got loudly drunk every Friday and were invariably late with the rent – so it was poetic justice when a blocked toilet cistern relieved itself all over the feet of Maggie’s parents who had made an impromptu Sunday afternoon visit.
But the stink was excruciating, so it was just as well that she and Paul had decamped to the garden.
Not that he was especially sociable.
He seemed to delight in playing a type of literary one-upmanship with all her friends – consisting of quizzing them about their reading habits and then sneering at them when they were out of earshot – or almost out of earshot.
It was entirely possible that Laura’s monosyllabic grunts at breakfast were occasioned by overhearing his unsparing verdict on her as typical Brummie working class. She’s read Shakespeare care of Brodie’s Notes and has NEVER EVEN HEARD OF BASIL BUNTING!!!!!
Of course, Laura could be incredibly irritating, so he might have had a point.
And most of his conversation was devoted to her own peerless looks, winning personality and superiority in every respect to his wife, presumably still mouldering in Brittany with 2.5 kids and his best friend.
And she did look pretty amazing that summer.
She could see herself now, sitting in that garden, surrounded by convolvulus and wearing a yellow liberty print dress that she’d bought from the new boutique that had opened next door to Bunters. She had worn that dress till it fell to bits, rendered off limits because of one cigarette burn too many - and thirty years on, it was still a tragedy that she had not been able to afford the green boots that had nestled so cunningly next to it in the window display. If it had been three weeks later, she would have bought them with the money from her annual sale of text books. But it wasn’t, and somebody else would have the pleasure of their soft, dark leather, with front crossed lacing to the knee - and their curious blend of storm-trooper discipline and hippy cool.
Over the years, she had worn green boots and laced boots and flat boots – but never anything to compare with THE BOOTS.
She drank her coffee, idly toying with the Order of Service.
There had been the obligatory references to heaven at the funeral – all singularly inappropriate, faintly embarrassing and almost prurient – particularly at the graveside when her stepdaughter had to be forcibly restrained from throwing herself in alongside the single-stemmed roses.
But if there IS a heaven, she mused, as the For Sale sign waved in the breeze, outside her home in Fengrove;
I SHALL BE WEARING THOSE BOOTS………