Tuesday, 14 May 2013


On the day of my forty third birthday, in December 1973,  I sat wrapped in scarf and overcoat in front of a one bar electric fire watching watery snowflakes melt into grimy droplets as they hit the window panes of our Earls Court bed sitter.    
 Only a year before I had been the proud owner of a four bedroom house with swimming pool,  a car, money in the bank and thought I was well on the way to undoubted success, but now I had absolutely nothing having virtually given all my worldly goods to Eve so that she could take care of the boys comfortably.
To add insult to injury I received a phone call from her, not wishing me happy returns as I half expected, but asking for more funds and, on learning that I could not oblige, suggested that if I was as broke as I said, I should get a job as a pump attendant at a petrol station.
 I had sent my finished novel  `The Innocence Has Gone, Daddy ́  to the publisher the previous week, having spent the advance in advance and had completed the translation from the french of a tedious cookbook, having also spent the advance on that advance, so came to the conclusion that I must be mismanaging my life 
  I did not contemplate suicide but was aware of a very empty feeling in my stomach which could have been due to hunger or the fear of a woeful future when Maribel ( now my only source of income )  came home unexpectedly early from working in a private nursing home, to announce that she had been dismissed. The management had been informed that she had no work permit and that the Home Office were only allowing her to stay in England till the end of the year. 
 'If I get a divorce,'  I heard myself say, 'we can get married and you’ll automatically become a British subject.'
 She thought about this for a minute or two, then simply said, 'O.K', rang her mother to tell her of my proposal and asked her to send some money so that we could go down to Nerja for Christmas.
 Having gratefully received the news that I was going to make an honest woman of her daughter, my future mother-in-law suggested that we stay with her, but we would have to sleep in separate bedrooms for the sake of decorum.
 When we eventually got down to Nerja, by train because we could not afford the air fare, my-wife-to-be slept with her mother and I slept alone with the dog.  
 It was a difficult Christmas. The tension between Eve and I negated any festive spirit and I felt I had failed miserably as a loving father when I gave unexciting presents from London to Nicolas and Matthew, having lost touch with their interests and not knowing what they might want.  
 Far worse for them, but unknown to me, was the fact that Major Bill had insisted they should attend a private international school in Malaga, refusing to believe that the local lycée was providing them with a perfectly good education. He had played the finance card against which I could not compete, arranged for Eve to have an allowance which would cover more than the school fees, and the poor boys found themselves having to get up at six in the morning to catch a special bus that took them to the college two hours away, only getting back in the evening, exhausted.
 The revelation that father and daughter had arranged all this behind my back gave me a reason to take the bull by the horns and talk to Eve about all our futures. Thankfully she agreed that our marriage was over and that I should enquire about the two year separation legally necessary to obtain a divorce. She didn’t really care what the outcome would be providing she could keep the house and I continued to pay for her well being.  
 A few days later I said goodbye to Nicolas and Matthew not knowing  when I would see them again, sensing they were unhappy and feeling that I had let them down. The tears all round did not help and, during the return journey to London, I was overwhelmed by a wretchedness which proved embarrassing when I sobbed uncontrollably and loudly as I lay  in the bunk of our sleeping compartment shared with two seriously severe Spanish army officers. who were quite unsympathetic.   
  Once back in our dismal Earl’s Court flat, I forced myself to face the fact that it was my obstinate determination to remain freelance that was at the root of this misery and concluded that I should give up creative writing and get a job in advertising again where I could earn a regular income.
 I sat down with the telephone on my lap and rang all my old contacts.
 The three people I asked to speak to at the first agency had all left years ago. The only person I knew still working at the second didn’t recall my name. However, a young girl in public relations whom I had once taken out to dinner but who had dampened my wanton intentions did remember me and had even read my novel 'The girl with the peppermint taste' . She excitedly told me she was now married to the Managing Director of the London branch of an important American agency, why didn’t I come round to supper one day with whoever I was sharing my life ?
 A long week passed before the invitation was confirmed. Maribel and I then gratefully joined a little buffet supper party in the Knightsbridge flat where Peter and Patsy lived in wealthy comfort.  
 While Maribel chatted away to the other guests, I sold my soul to Peter who, believing that having a published author on his team would impress clients,  offered me a position as a copywriter.  
 So back I went into that terrible business of attending endless creative meetings during which I, and others, put forward  nonsensical ideas which might attract the attention of disinterested shoppers to products they wouldn’t want. 

Mother in law
The loving couple


1 comment:

  1. Please, come back soon to tell us more stories. I wish you the best and quickest recovery.