Looking back it was like our last hurrah. A record of my “Heyday,” as I like to call it: marking our charge toward hoped for fame and glory with a photograph or two: me, Sarah, Sir Nigel as he became, and the rest; sitting like victors round some table in Windsor with a bottle of wine or six, careless of the world around us.
I was there by default; the inexplicable choice of Nigel’s sister as her boyfriend, smiling out of the photograph as if I were a chosen member of the company: I was not. Nigel and the rest, friends from school, had gathered round for a picture and I just happened to be there, but I don’t emphasise that bit.
His sister, Sarah, dropped me soon afterwards, but I still treasure the photograph as if I were a central member of the company: I show it to whoever might be interested and some that clearly are not. “There’s me with Sir Nigel Horrocks, I was dating his sister at the time,” I say, and then I pause as if I might be asked a question but seldom am. To be honest everyone has heard the story many times, and the sight of that photograph acts like a fire alarm, emptying the space around me of any company.
I am a van driver now, with well controlled aspirations but still pointing out my brush with fame. Balding I may be, and my family are tired beyond weariness of the whole anecdote, but I still like to share my “Moment with the famous.”
Apart from Sir Nigel and his glamorous entourage, I only have one other interest, excluding the wife and my two adult daughters of course, and that is model railways. Like other nutters, similarly engrossed, I have a train line set up in my attic, complete with two stations, fields, and some model sheep, and any other object I can cram into the space. I read about steam engines a lot and write articles for “Model Railway Layout Quarterly,” who’s editor I know quite well: a vicar by trade but he keeps that to himself when not working.
It’s been my hobby for years, learnt off my favourite uncle, long since dead who, in his time, bored all around him except me. I seem to have inherited his social profile but such is life. In truth that’s why Sarah, Nigel’s sister, ended our romance, I like to call it that, but not when the wife’s around. Sarah was into jazz and painting and model railways didn’t light her fire.
“I sort of love you Wayne” she said to me, “But you’re so boring: I’ve had enough” which is the last thing she said to me. No one in her group seemed sad at the parting and I never heard another word from any of them.
The reason I’m telling you this is last Saturday, as I was in the hallway with the wife, the post dropped through the door, and one of the envelopes was blue in colour, handwritten and addressed to me. I could see my wife was curious, as was I, so I opened it and we both read the following lines,
I traced you through that railway magazine and the editor kindly gave me your address. Of all the men I’ve known, you are the nicest and most special, and I realise how stupid I was to let you go. You are kind and I didn’t know how rare that was back then. Nigel is having his fiftieth at the Grosvenor Hotel and I want you to come to it. It would be lovely to spend some time with you again.
Love Sarah xxx
I looked up at my wife to see what she made of it and I can’t say she was looking pleased. “You’re too busy for that” was all she said, and that’s the nearest to jealous I’ve ever seen her. “Best let sleeping dogs lie, especially the wife” some wise man said, and I’m sure he’s right, but perhaps a quick word back to say hello won’t do us any harm. What do you think?