Peter released the harness he had been wearing for the past half hour and stretched his long legs out in front of him. The flight had been relaxing, uneventful and, although he had enjoyed the business trip to New York immensely, he was glad to be home. He was, however, in no hurry to depart, letting most of those sitting behind him on the aircraft move past before venturing into the aisle and removing his hand luggage from the rack above his head.
It was 1959 and I was 19 years old. I had left London and had accepted a position as a junior clerk in a large company in the north of England. I found a small, cheap bed-and-breakfast hotel run by Mrs. Johnson, a friendly motherly type, who made me feel instantly at home. I decided to stay there for a couple of weeks until I found a flat to rent. It was Friday and my first night in the city.
This is a retelling of an experience a very good friend of mine (I'll call her Judith) had 2 years ago before she met the fella that she recently married. I have her permission to retell the story so long as I did not use her name or the names of anyone else connected to this. Her experience was so good that I don't need to embellish it in any way. So here goes ....
In April last year, I was booked into the Old Bridge Hotel, Huntingdon. It was a business trip. Two days; three nights, visiting four companies in the north of Cambridgeshire. It was a nice country hotel, just off the A14 and the main street of the town, near the Godmanchester Bridge, with a U-shaped arrangement of rooms.
I suppose it started with my thirty-ninth Birthday. But firstly I had better give some background information.
My husband and I separated some seven years ago, and as he now works overseas I have rarely even been in contact with him since.
Owen, my son, and his twin sister, Chloe, have recently turned eighteen and will both be going to Teacher Training College in September, so they are still at school at present, as is Owen's girl-friend, although there seems nothing serious there as yet
Meena is a school teacher. She teaches English literature. In a girls' school. She is well thought of by her pupils and the school principal. After 12 years in the school, she'd become part of the structure of the place. She'd been there longer than the principal herself and is a source of advice and insider-information whenever it's needed.
This an absolutely true story, although the names have been altered, and obviously I cannot vouch for the actual words used in the conversations – but the gist of them is more or less true, and certainly the events are as I remember them to this day. Apart, that is, from the scene in the restaurant with Zena where I exaggerated her mode of dress, but not too much. She really did buy a new mini-dress for the occasion.
Most women have a secret indulgence: chocolate, maybe, or shoes; jewellery for some, soap operas or magazines for others. Penny's indulgence was lingerie, and where lingerie was concerned she had firm principles, which didn't include thrift. Her underwear wardrobe was extensive, varied and expensive.