This blog IS about memory, all sorts of memory and I hope it will mean something to our family.
Fifty years ago today Mrs Llew and I met. I was at a loose end and dozing on the bed in my room in South Kensington. A fellow resident knocked and told me of a jazz club in Chelsea where the clarinetist Wally Fawkes and his band were playing that evening. ‘Let’s go’, he said.
‘All right’, I said.
It’s about a mile from the Old Brompton Road to the Kings Road and we walked down to the Six Bells, at the junction with Oakley Street. In the cavernous Watneys pub the band was playing in the room above. I climbed the narrow stairs and signed in. We still have the membership card. My friend soon disappeared among the dancers and I looked around the gathering. I didn’t see him again that night.
In the corner, in the half light, I saw Mrs Llew. She was 23 years old and was wearing a dark sweater. As our eyes met it seemed to me that something seemed to chime between us. I later discovered she had thought I was someone else – a happy mistake for me…. I approached her and asked her to join me in the rather formalised traditional jiving.
I have to admit she found me rather inexpert.
I offered her a beer and I thank God that she accepted. We talked. When we left I invited her back to my room for coffee. And so we walked back through the night to Kensington where I brewed Nescafe. She produced a very smart packet of 20 Red and White cigarettes and we smoked.
She drained her coffee cup till it was dry. She still does. I walked her back to South Kensington station where she took the tube to Earls Court. We exchanged addresses and phone numbers and she told me she shared her flat with two girls she had known at Cambridge. She had read there for her teaching qualification after leaving Oxford University. I discovered that I had known one of her flatmates who had attended the same provincial university as I had.
Oh dear, I thought. That’s the end of it for me, for my university career had been disastrous and my studies anything but diligent. However, we did meet again the following Friday, to the everlasting credit of our mutual friend and her discretion.
Red and White cigarettes. Coffee. An image in my mind that night of chestnut hair, a navy blue sweater and long, graceful legs.
Last week, February 2011, I e-mailed Amazon and asked them to send her a gift-wrapped CD of Wally Fawkes’s music. Maybe it will find its place with the jazz club ticket of 50 years ago.