Blind date

Grammar School boys spent a lot of time thinking about dates.  And I don't mean birthdays.

This is how one blind date went for me, courtesy of my mate, Strawberry, who without knowing it introduced me to my first love and gave me a long wait outside the Rex cinema at Frogmoor.



The Rex, High Wycombe, c1959
Photo, courtesy of SWOP, Saving Wycombe's Old Photographs


It was Strawberry on the phone. 

   'I've got one for you,' he shouted exultantly.  'Samantha.  She's just finished with Gerry, she's seen you lots of times and she thinks you're fantastic.  She's always wondered who you were.  She saw you on the bus once.  She loves your hair.' 

   'Yeah?'

   'She loves you already.  You're made.' 

   'When was she on the bus?  I never saw her.' 

   'She was behind you, you pringle.  That's when she saw your hair.  She was sitting behind you and she couldn't take her eyes off you.  She didn't know your name, that's all.' 

   'How does she know now?'

   There was a pause, then he said rather shiftily, 'I told her.' 

   'You've seen her?'

   'She came home with Mary.' 

   It was sounding a bit fishy. 

   I said, 'Why don't you go out with her if she's so fantastic?'

   'Stella, in it?  I can't let Stella down.' 

   'You've done it enough times.' 

   'That's what I mean.  I reformed.  I loves her now.' 

   Strawberry became decisive, 'Anyway, it's already fixed.  You're taking her to the pictures on Saturday and if you make a mess of it,' he warned, 'you can count me out, you'll be on your own.'  

   He pleaded with me, 'You can't go wrong, Johnny.  She's mad about you already.  Don't let me down.' 

   I could picture the rueful expression that came over his face sometimes when he was really serious about something. 

   'You've seen her anyway,' he went on, 'and I know you fancied her.' 

   'Where?'

   'Malc's party.' 

   'When was that?'

   'You remember!  A year ago.  She was going out with Malc.  You asked me who she was.' 

   'Was she with Malc?'

   'Course she was.'

   'How does Malc get these girls?'

   'Easy, Johnny – he tries.  He hunts them down.'

   'Why's that?'

   'Johnny, that's all he thinks about.'

   'What do you mean –'

   'Johnny, I'm telling you this out of kindness.  Malc is a wild animal.  He doesn't think about anything except them.  That's all he thinks about. He's not normal.  He's not like you and me.'

   I vaguely had a memory of Malc's party, lots of people and scents and loud music and Malc's parents being away for the weekend and us ruining the place while we had the chance.  They had had joint heart attacks when they came back, but I wasn't a particular friend of Malc's so none of the flak came on me. 

   'You liked her, you told me.  Don't worry,' he went on, 'she's grown up now.  But don't rush it,' he warned, 'she's a nice girl, you know what I mean?  You can kiss her at the end, that's all.  Keep it clean.  No grabbing her tits.  And make sure you walk her home, don't leave her at the bus stop.' 

   'Where?'

   'Rex.' 

   'What time?'

   'Six.  Don't be late.  She'll recognize you.  If she wants to pay, let her.  But take lots of money.  Take all the dough you got.' 

   I had a bath, put on my new jeans, watched the clock, took a measured walk to the bus stop.  I left plenty of time in case one of the buses didn't turn up.  At half-past five exactly I was down town standing outside the Rex. 

   When six o' clock came, then quarter past, I was still standing there. 

   I was still waiting at half-past six, at a quarter to seven. 

   I almost left five or six times, but what was there to leave for?  In some mysterious way that hadn't yet been proved, this was where it was happening, outside the Rex in High Wycombe on Saturday night.  And if you had to wait, you had to wait. 

   At five to seven someone spoke in my ear, 'Hello, this is my sister,' introducing me.  'She's Mary.  Do you want to go in?'


Samantha in The Old Time

 

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