Tuesday night is quiz night, as many of you are aware. I am usually in Ye Olde George pub in Beckenham with my team, the Taverners and we’d usually do predictably badly.
Today was the 77th (?) birthday of my esteemed team member, A, but our respective spouses are belurgied and the other team members are in Devon so it was just us. Though there were four teams, there were only 12 people participating and the quizmaster for the night decided that it was not worth his while to run the quiz, so some of us sat around a table and initially fired up an internet quiz but we soon became bored with that.
So we sat around talking and the birthday boy was persuaded to share his story, which I had known vaguely for a while.
A was 18 months old in 1940 when, sheltering from the Blitz in East London during an air raid, his father and two siblings, at one end of their air raid shelter were killed by a bomb. He and his mother, at the other end of the shelter, were spared. I have heard that he spent some time in a children’s home, but I’m not quite sure about this.
A met a girl at a dance when he was very young and immediately realised that there was something strange about her. An orphan too, as many of their generation were, it turned out that she was addicted to barbiturates but, when he tried to finish with her on account of her temper, she threw a fit in a public place and he felt that he couldn’t leave her. Shortly after this, the employer disposed with her services – she was a domestic servant – and she had nowhere to go so wanted to move in with him, but not until they married. So he married her, all along knowing this was a mistake.
Things became worse and eventually, he ended up divorced with custody of his six year old son whose mother could visit him only once a month. Sadly A’s wife died when she was 35.
He then got together with a woman much younger than him but she wanted a baby of her own and, having experienced life as a single parent, he didn’t want any more children so she left him. He had been close friends with my friend J and her second husband for a while when J decided to leave her second husband and, with her two teenage children, move in with A and his teenage son, who has since, apparently become very successful in Canada.
A talked about how, after a long career as an engineer with BT, he took early retirement and then had a second career managing the maintenance of a London archive.
All of those around the table felt privileged to have heard A’s story and in the end it was a good evening.