I Have Lived many Lives – 5

Monday 11th December

A very few weeks into my new life I met Carol.  At Stoke Newington Swimming Pool.  It was a pretty run-down pre-war building.  There was always something about her, from the first moment I saw her.  She was a little bit chubby, with blonde hair and light blue eyes.  And it was the eyes I fell for.  She was hesitant and tried to fob me off.  If only I had been fobbable – my whole life may have turned out differently.  But in the games we play there is always an undercurrent.  And maybe the undercurrent was that we both fancied each other.  And we started ‘going out’ .

I had had a couple of girlfriends before, but either I was too scared or they were, but we never progressed that far at all.  But now, with my new-found freedom, and far more importantly, my own bedsit we became lovers.

And I say the word lovers deliberately.  We were young, very young and in love.  Now, many songs have been written about love, and books and poems – but nobody can quite explain how it works with some people and not with others.  We were actually head over heels and blindly crazily besotted with each other.  So much so that we ignored everyone else and common sense into the bargain.

Within months Carol was pregnant.  And she was scared, crying, begging me to help her.  She was terrified of her father, a heavy drinker and violent man.  She couldn’t face telling her mother.  And it seemed there was only one solution.  We would run away to Scotland and get married there and have the baby and start our lives anew.  Within days we were on our way.  A complicated series of bus journeys criss-crossing the country, partly to put people off the scent and partly to go back to Stowmarket to draw out my savings of a just over a hundred pounds.  Then a long coach journey to Edinburgh.  I don’t think I slept at all on the overnight trip, Carol snuggled into my thin coat, my arm around her as I stared out of the bleak wet  window.  I was really scared – not even eighteen myself and now I was really in trouble.

We pulled into Edinburgh bus station to a cold November morning.  We just needed a place to stay, then I would get a job.  That was the sketchy plan.  A few streets away we saw a sign “Rooms to let”.   I dragged our one battered suitcase up to the top floor of a tenement; I particularly remember that the wide granite steps were hollowed out in the middles by all the footsteps over the years.  I left Carol and went out looking for a job.  Almost straightaway I found a bar that would let me start straightaway, cash in hand.

I almost leapt up the stairs to tell Carol the good news.

“Please don’t be angry Adrian” she said, “I’ve just phoned my mother, she says I can come home.  I want to go home.  Please take me home.”