Thursday 15 May 2014
The old gentleman leaned across the table, pushing his dinner plate away. “May I tell you a story?", he asked. The conversation had gone from illnesses of old age via holidays past and present to the food in front of us and life in general. Nothing very interesting, just the usual lunch party chat between people who know each other without being close friends.
“Please do”, I said. Anything to keep the conversation going. Mr. Walker is twice a widower, his second wife, Wendy, having died six years ago. “I miss her terribly, she was wonderful company”, he said.
He has also suffered a stroke and his mobility is impaired; he doesn’t get about much and is very happy to have an audience.
“Let me tell you a romantic story,” he repeated.
"We hadn’t met for 54 years,” he began. "She had written an article for the Chronicle (a local paper), reminiscing about her school days in Valley’s End. It was an interesting letter, giving her address at the top. So, one morning I was sat there and I read this letter and remembered her, because we went to school together. From infant school to grammar school, and we also used to go to dances together, you know in the thirties and forties, and we went to choir together and did all sorts of things together when we were young. So I wrote to her and wondered whether I might get an answer or not. But I did. So we corresponded for quite some time.
At the time I was still getting the curtains and things for the new house (Mr. W. moved house after his first wife died) and I was going to Birmingham to collect a large parcel of home furnishings. She was living about six miles outside B’ham and I wrote and asked if I might come for coffee on the way. She said of course. So I arrived with the obligatory bunch of flowers and a box of chocolates and when she opened the door she thought that I was my father. She hadn’t seen me for 54 years!
So that started our association; we were getting on very well. She was a widow on her own and I used to fetch her over to meet her sister.
One day I said to her “ will you pack your bag ready for Tuesday morning? Put enough in your case for four days". She said “Why” and I said “I am taking you on a little holiday”. She wanted to know where but I said that was a surprise and she would find out soon enough. But do bring your passport." I drove to B’ham airport. She asked again where was I taking her but I kept quiet.
So, we were flying in and the Eiffel Tower went past and that’s when she found out. “Paris, you are taking me to Paris.” She was delighted. We stayed at a nice hotel round the Tuileries and had a lovely time. There was an excursion to Monet’s Garden and we decided to take the opportunity to see it.
Picture Monet’s Garden", Mr. W. continued, with the pond and the bridge across it. It was a very hot day and we’d bought some apple juice. So when we were standing on the bridge I thought now is my opportunity and I put my arm round her and gave her a nice kiss and I said “Wendy, will you marry me?” She said yes, so I gave her another kiss and she said “sticky chops” and I’ll always remember it.
Mr. W’s voice cracked a little but he smiled. “Yes, it was lovely,” he said,”we had such a good time.”
Their time together was short, but Mr. Walker took his Wendy on many more trips and they enjoyed every minute of the few years they were granted.