The following February, our dancing teacher announced that the school would be holding a Valentine’s Day Dance in the upstairs banqueting hall of the Nightingale Pub that adjoined the school.
Arthur asked me if I would like to go, I said yes, and the tickets were bought. I met him inside the dance hall: this was our first proper date. We spent the entire evening dancing with each other. From then on we were known as a pair and always partnered each other at dancing lessons.
We started going out together every night and I took him home to meet the family. Mummy liked Arthur straight away and they very quickly became friends. She would have endless discussions with him on all sorts of subjects, and he found her a joy to be with.
We courted all through the long, hot, summer, spending many happy hours lounging on the grass at Hampstead Heath, walking around Virginia Waters and Epping Forest, and sitting in the grounds of Alexandra Palace. Life was wonderful and I couldn’t imagine it being any better. Then the fickle finger of Dad’s mad ideas struck again!
We had been ‘going out’ for several weeks, and Arthur was now almost a member of the family. Although he had previously had no dealings with little children, he took to our tribe like a duck to water. Even Gillian, the seventh and last of Mum and Dad’s children, at that time a small baby sitting in a cot, used to get the occasional poke in the tummy to make her laugh.
During all these weeks Arthur had never taken me home to meet his family. I knew they existed: father, mother, brother, sister-in-law and niece: but I had never met them. Every time I asked, he would reply that his family wasn’t like ours, and he never told his family much about his private life. This was good enough for me, I loved and trusted Arthur and knew he would ‘take me home’ when he was good and ready. Dad had other ideas, and being Dad, boy, were they bizarre! Because Arthur said he lived near Stoke Newington, a largely Jewish area and, because of the shape of his nose, Dad had it all worked out. He was convinced that Arthur was Jewish, married with several children, and I was his bit on the side! ‘You mark my words! He’s of the Jewish faith, and married with a family ’ said Dad. ‘He’s not going to make a fool out of me. I know what he’s up to. I’m a man and I was young once.’ When Mum and I laughed at him and told him he was being silly, he got even angrier. I told Arthur what Daddy was saying, and he couldn’t believe it. Of course, once he knew Dad a lot better, he could believe it!
Arthur now had the choice of not seeing me again, creating a bad atmosphere with Mum and Dad, or letting me meet his family. Of course, he chose to take me home to tea.
Mrs Chapman has prepared a traditional British Sunday tea, consisting of ham salad, fruit and cream, and homemade cake. When I arrived in the new dress bought especially for the occasion, there was Mr. and Mrs, Chapman, Arthur’s elder brother Bill, Bill’s wife Jean, and their little girl Wendy, all waiting to see what I looked like. We spent a few hours in strained chitchat, and then Arthur said we had to go. They seemed like nice people and I couldn’t for the life of me see why he had kept them and me a secret for so long. At last I could reassure Daddy that his eldest daughter’s new boyfriend wasn’t a bigamist, mass murderer or bank robber, but just a fine boy who he would learn to become very fond of.
Everything was chugging along very nicely for Arthur and I, when Dad had his next crazy idea. He and Mum had been idly chatting about life’s prospects, when they started to wonder what it would be like living in another country. Not having any ready money made this conversation a little like a ‘what we would do if we won the pools’ discussion, until the subject of Australia reared it’s head.
To be continued…