Anton's Ideas

Anton Wills-Eve on world news & random ideas

EXCUSE ME, MISS GOLDILOCKS I PRESUME.


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/daily-prompt-4/”>Hello, Goldilocks!</a>

EXCUSE ME, MISS GOLDILOCKS I PRESUME.

That time in the life of any young boy, if he has happy expectations of his future and finds joy in the romantic ignorance of his mid-teen years, which stays with him for the rest of his days, is the period during which he tries to choose his first girlfriend. Is this mental Venus a purely physical delight or has the dayspring of heartfelt love begun to burgeon in his breast? It differs, oh how it differs, for all of us. She is so unattainable that invariably a mental list of all her putative attractive qualities turns into a list that might even rival the catalogue aria in Don Giovanni. Mine never actually reached ‘une mille tre’ Spanish syrens, but then I doubt that anybody’s thoughts ever spread as far afield as that. No I was lucky, well for wordpress I was lucky, because at the first sixth form dance I went to when I was sixteen I had to select someone to take and it would be my first formal date.

Four weeks before the dance just three fifteen to sixteen year old girls still remained in my mind. That is three who knew my reputation for probably having a vocation to the priesthood and saw me as a challenge  for this very reason. Firstly, as for all of us, there was the ‘unattainable’. Madaleine Dubonnetemps, daughter of a ranking French dipilomat, was known to many of us as she went to the nearby convent, as did my sister. I thought this was a good way to get an early introduction. But sadly the ravishing Mademoiselle, and she really was ravishing, could not fit me in higher than sixteenth. Well I was always a determined suitor and at least got my sister to get me an introduction and I actually persuaded the French beauty to accompany me to a concert at the Royal Albert Hall. I adored the music, and dad’s contribution of two press seats in the best cricle also helped make the evening, but Madeleine seemed bored to tears. She explained, as her father’s chauffeur dropped us at the embassy afterwards, that she hated the music but appreciated the evening. The best she could say of it was, “You know how to select seats where everyone can admire you at least.”

I was begining to think that my last two choices would have to be more carefully considered before I actually approached them. Red head Sally Carmichael was known among many of my year to be a ‘goer’ whatever that meant in 1958. Certainly not what it means for that age group today. In fact I had often had a coffee with her and a few other friends after school, and we had much the same sense of humour which I knew was a must if I was to enjoy myself. However, I had never kissed a girl properly and suddenly, whenever I saw her,  I realised I did not  know how to rectify this. She LOOKED approachable, but what did you do then? In the films the heroine always hid her mouth from the camera at the last minute in those years of hypocritical censorship so I could never quite see what was going on. One evening on the way to the bus I actually summoned up the courage to hold her hand and give it a meaningfulful squeeze. She seemed quite pleased and snuggled up to me on the back seat for much of the journey. But sadly as as we reached her house she just waved at me and said, “You should have kissed me. I gave you enough time and chances!” This was in a very cross voice and naturally she was scrubbed from the list. That left Jane.

What do you say to a monosyllabic straight laced brunette who nevertheless had a pair of incredicbly seductive eyes and seemed to enjoy using them. She could put an incredible amount of expression into her facial gestures in general and would often seem pleased to be the centre of attention to any group of boys without having to speak to them. This proved the stumbling block in our friendship. On two consecutive evenings when we went out for a spaghetti or a film she assumed that I knew what she would have said if she could have been bothered to say it. Then, worst of all, she never laughed at my jokes. This I really could not take and with six days  (and no weekends) left to the ball it seemed as though I was going to play Cinders or at best some wilting wallflower who couldn’t have danced even if he had a partner.

My sister looked at me hopelessly. She had captured our school head boy and was very pleased with herself. But she did feel sorry for me. “We’re going to have to find you someone aren’t we”, she said  “look, you wouldn’t do me a favour and commit an enormous act of Christianity would you?” I asked her what she meant. Well it’s Nick Johnson’s sister, do you know her?”

“Only by reputation and the very occasional silent meeting,why?” I felt doomed because Linda Johnson had mid length straight hair. Linda Johnson also had an odd shaped snub nose. Linda Johnson wore glasses which did absolutely nothing for what looks she had, and most important of all it was known Linda Johnson had a stammer which greatly embarrassed her and also made conversation difficult and devoid of any hope of spotineity. I also had another awful thought when my kind hearted sister asked her favour. I said, “Sis. How do you think it is going to look if I make some feeble excuse for not asking her earlier, you know as though I actually wanted to take her, and wouldn’t it just make her feel like the object of an act of charity?”

The answer, to my surprise, was ‘no’. But the reason was terrible.  “She happens to be one of a lot of girls who think they have heard that you want to become a priest and so they would be only too happy to be your partner. If I told her that you were very worried because you felt you had to go but didn’t have a girlfriend, and I also thought you’d both like each other, I could make her think she was doing you a favour! That will please her and teach you not to appear so holy! But it will also explain why you can’t dance.” So two days later I rang Linda and asked her if she’d like to be my date, though not in those words. She stammered out a really gratfeul acceptance and a lot of my own friends wondered how I had been reduced to making such an invitation .

But where does Goldilocks come in? Well on collecting her at her house on the night of the school do I suddenly thought of the children’s story and smiled to myself. Who in their right mind would have taken one of the three bears? So I introduced myself very gently and with a big smile on my face. As she opened the door I said to her, “Excuse me, Miss Goldilocks, I presume?” She was lost, but not so much for words as the ability to say them. A lovely appreciative grin filled her much prettier face than I had remembered as she replied,  “Heavens! Y-y-yyo’re n-n-ot D-d-dadd-d-dy  B-b-b-ear are you? ” It was the best evening of my life and we could hardly last more than a couple of days at a time without seeing each other for our last two years at school.

The only reference she ever made to the stories of my presumed vocation were when we took the dance floor for the first time and she stammered, y-y-y-you c-c-ertain-n–ly d-d-dance l-l-ike a p-p-riest!” The kiss on her doorstep, then a cuddle on her sofa as her mother cleverly kept out of the way while we had a goodnight coffee, beat anything on the films. I mean I didn’t even know you could DO that, but Linda did. She still does.

Anton Wills-Eve 

THE NIGHT MY MOTHER MET A SAINT IN HER PYJAMAS.


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/daily-prompt-4/”>Hello, Goldilocks!</a>

when I first posted this  blog wordpress were having a lot of ping problems and I have found that several of my followers never read itso, as it means a lot to me, I decided to post it again. I shall attend to Goldilocks after that.

 

THE NIGHT MY MOTHER MET A SAINT IN HER PYJAMAS.

 

in reply to  “which post would I most like to be remembered by.”

The date is forever engraved in my memory. It was the 18th of October 1961 and our family was enjoying probably the best holiday we ever had together. My father had spent the summer covering the Franco-Algerian peace talks in Evian on the banks of Lake Geneva, or Lac Leman as the French call it, and he and mum deserved their three week break. My sister managed to bunk off university in London for a few weeks and I did the same from the Sorbonne in Paris. Mum was terminally ill and we all knew it could well be the last time the four of us would get a proper vacation together. We planned a drive down to Rome, via Switzerland, Milan and Florence and were returning, first south to Positano for a week’s stay and returning via Pompeii and up the Mediterranean coast to take in Pisa, Genoa, Monaco,  Nice and the Rhone valley. Five days were to be spent in the Italian capital. The third of these was the most memorable day in my life.

Although an Australian, dad was the chief correspondent in Paris of a major American news agency and my mother was a retired entertainer of considerable fame in Britain whose health had cut short her career when she was thirty five, just after the start of the second world  war. Indeed my birth in 1942 was the last normal act on her part in her life. Being born and brought up a staunch Catholic in Glasgow in Scotland she made sure that my sister and I were educated at the best Catholic schools we could be. My agnostic father always kept his promise to bring us up as Catholics, making sure we never missed Mass on Sundays, but then as often as possible none of us missed a couple of hours at our local pub on a Sunday lunch time either. Mum was often bed ridden and had to spend her drinking hours with friends at home in our thirty seven room mansion near Richmond Park. You can see we were a rather unusual quartet. But the greatest thing about my formative years was that all the family had terrific senses of humour and, I can honestly say, really loved each other.

I grew up a Catholic who was wonderfully close to their  Faith and served Mass as often as I could. I quite shocked the monks at the Abbey which ran our school when I turned up at the sixth form ball in 1959, I would have been seventeen I suppose, with Teresa, the most stunningly beautiful girl, on my arm. She is still one of my closest friends although we were never sweethearts, but she did enough to dispel the certainty amongst many of the school staff that I was going to become a priest. Indeed she singled out the headmaster, she knew him because her brother was at the school, and said to him in a little louder voice than was necessary, “Yes, Father, Anton really loves God more than any boy I have met. But boy, Father, does he also love me. I think God’s got a battle on his hands with us!”

My mother was told of this story a few days later and phoned Teresa to thank her.  It was with this type of family background, both religious and public, that the four of us set out for Italy in the autumn of 1961. When we drove off from the family home on the Ile Saint Louis in Paris we were all determined to have a really good time. I was nineteen and a half and my sister not quite twenty one. The drive down was wonderful as we went both over and under various Alps, attended a concert at La Scala in Milan and swooned at just about everything we saw in Florence. But my sister and I could see the journey was starting to take its toll on mum. She had seriously advanced emphysema and used an inhaler most of the day. As the weather became hotter and the air less pleasant she began to find walking any distance at all very difficult. Indeed she had to miss the meal we had out on the first night in Rome with dad’s counter part there an American journalist who had known him for several years in London. He was a Catholic and told us that he had been keeping a really super surprise up his sleeve for us all. He turned to dad during the meal and said,

“Paul, you’ll all love this. Did you know that in two days it is the fiftieth anniversary of the overseas press club in the Vatican and a very select number of correspondents have been invited to meet Pope John and have an informal audience with him that evening? They desperately wanted a Catholic family to be part of this and I told the Bishop organising the audience that you, as an Australian journalist of note, your two English Catholic children and your well known Scottish Catholic wife were all in town and thanks to your job could represent the international media family. What do you think?”

In all honesty I thought he was joking. He knew how I would react and was quite right. We all said yes but asked if we could not tell anyone about mum because there was no way she would want to miss what would be one of the greatest days of her life. We were right. She said she would go if it killed her and the three of us genuinely feared that it could.  As the time to leave the hotel got nearer mum was getting worse, She donned a black evening coat and black lace veil saying she could hide her inhaler up her sleeve and not be seen as she used it. My sister also wore a black head scarf but refused to cover her face, not that anyone asked her to. Dad just wore a grey suit. Then came the real penance of the night.

Our taxi dropped us by the papal gate entrance to the Vatican palace just by the colonnade, but we were told we had to walk up to the ante room where the Holy Father was receiving the foreign press. Mum had got ready in extremely quick time and we were only concerned in helping her manage the stairs to the small hall and room where we were invited to wait for Pope John to arrive. How mum made it I will never know, but she did. Then came the high point of the evening, indeed for me, of my life.

A jovial, smiling octogenarian literally beamed his way into the room and the fifty or so papal guests were astounded at the informality and good fun that pervaded the whole forty five minutes we were with Pope John. But just as he was scheduled to leave the Holy Father cast all four of us into a state of almost disbelieving happiness. He did the most wonderful thing. Speaking in fluent French he asked if he could meet Paul, Sarah, Michele and Anton the Catholic family from all round the world who had come to see him. He approached us and in a few brief words told us all how glad he was to meet us. HE was glad to meet US! If he only knew. As he blessed us and let us kiss his ring I cast a glance at mum, the tears streaming down her face, and realised she would have climbed Mount Everest to go through that moment in her life.

Then came a lovely scene of real humour. The apostolic delegate to the media asked if any of us needed the lifts as the stairs often proved too much for elderly or sick people. Mum turned to dad and my sister and me and said, “It may have half killed me but I’m glad I walked up those stairs. It was worth it just to be able to say that I had met a Saint in my pyjamas. I was so ill I didn’t have time to dress tonight, that’s all I’m wearing under this coat.”

Dad and Michele laughed and she said, “Mum you mean the Pope, not a saint.” All mum replied was,

“I know what I said.” And the proof that she did is that on the 27th of April last year, on the 108th anniversary of mum’s birth, Pope Francis Canonized Pope John XXIII, officially raising him to the highest dignity possible for a human being to attain. I will never know how mum knew!

Anton Wills-Eve