I have been married twice.
The first time I was twenty three and she was twenty two.
The second time I was forty five and she was seventeen, or so she said.
On both occasions I fell desperately in love and got married for fear of heartbreak if I lost them..
My first wife was English, aloof, elegant, languorous, and impossible to impress.
My second wife was none of these - but more about her later.
I met Eve Ekin, daughter of Major William and Mrs Doris Ekin at her 21st birthday party in December 1952. This private affair, held at the family’s Bayswater house, proved to be a rather pretentious gathering with more elderly people than young. The music was provided by an ancient 78 rpm gramophone which could hardly be heard above the chatter of the guests, the buffet was laid out in a narrow hallway and the bar was set up in the kitchen. This would have been fine if the women had not been in long evening dresses and the men in black tie which demanded far grander surroundings.
I noticed Eve sitting alone in a corner of the drawing room watching whatever was going on. There was something exceptional about her. She was tall, very slim with dark short cut hair, slightly oriental hazel eyes and an air of acceptable superiority. She gave me the impression of being bored rather than shy, so I asked her for a dance. The number, as it turned out, was aptly Noel Coward singing ‘Some Day I’ll Find You.’
Eve was so thin that when I held her, my arm curled right round her waist. I liked that as my preference was never for the more voluptuous. I asked her if she was enjoying herself.
'Not much,' she said, 'My father organized all this. Most of these people are his friends. I don’t know half of them. I don’t even know who you are.'
The outcome of this first encounter was the discovery, over coffees and lunches during the next few days, that we both wanted to get away from parental authority but were trapped because neither of us had sufficient income to escape to wherever we thought we might be happier.
To this end Eve had got herself a job as receptionist in a fashion house starting in the New Year. I, on the other hand, found my happy-go-lucky way of life curtailed by Eddy who, with the aid of two walking sticks, returned to the food factory and reclaimed his office and secretary.
Since his absence, profits had gone up, everyone had managed without him and when he discovered that I had simplified all communications and paperwork, I became more of a thorn in his side than ever. So he sent me to Strasbourg for a month to study the art of stuffing unfortunate geese with overdoses of maize to fatten them for Foie Gras.
My sudden, imposed separation from Eve was cruel indeed and, when she saw me off on the continental train at Victoria Station, our forlorn, tearful adieus were potent enough to make any passer-by weep with sympathy.
I was lodged by our luxury paté suppliers in a picturesque house in the centre of Strasbourg. It was January, it snowed, my surroundings reminded me of Brueghel paintings and the garret I was allocated boasted a magnificent roll-top desk which demanded to be written on. So I wrote, and wrote, countless poems and romantic letters to Eve and received countless poems and romantic letters from her by return.
In one letter she excitedly informed me that, after her first week at the London fashion house, one of the couturiers had insisted she should model his creations as she had the perfect figure and elegance to do so. She was sent to a top hairdresser, taught how to make up, given lessons on how to walk up and down the rostrum, and now I would not be coming home to a mere receptionist but a mannequin working for Digby Morton, one of the five leading British fashion designers.
I returned to London in March and was met by Eve at Victoria Station on the very same platform where I had kissed her goodbye a month or so before, she had then been wearing a beige raincoat, sensible brown shoes, her hair not that tidy, her face pale with little make up.
As I stepped off the train I caught sight of a quite radiant vision. A tall auburn haired girl in a black tailored coat, peacock blue silk scarf round her neck, matching gloves, matching stiletto heeled shoes, matching furled umbrella, wide eyes highlighted by a touch of mascara, a hint of lipstick, standing, by chance I think, in a shaft of bright sunlight which was piercing the railway dust from way up above her. If I had not already fallen in love with her I would have found it hard to pretend that she did not affect all my sensibilities. I stood rooted for a moment, dropped my suitcase, moved forwards to hug her, hesitated in case she was a mirage, and straight away asked her to marry me.
'Why not ?' she said, 'but you’ll have to ask Daddy for my hand first in time honoured manner to keep him happy as Mummy, I’m afraid, will insist of a white wedding, and he’ll have to foot the bill.'
Eve Ekin 1952