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Friendship first

Nick and I were married for 50 years. Till death do us part and all that. In fact I’d known Nick for seven years before we were married and I thought it might be fun to share that background as part of the backdrop to The Alzheimer’s Diaries: a love story.

 In 1962 the church youth club was central to my life. As a pupil in an old fashioned all-girls’ grammar school, the youth club was the only place I met boys of my own age. So it was an excuse to “doll up” although I don’t think anyone uses that expression any more.

I was 14 when I first saw Nick across a room in someone’s house at a sort of subsidiary gathering pertaining to the youth club. A weedy, thin 16 year old in a check sports jacket,  he’d come along with a school friend. Like most of the boys at the youth club they attended the nearest equivalent grammar school to ours.

Actually Nick was very keen on another girl and for several months he and she seemed to spend every spare minute wrapped round each other – he, mostly in the brown mock leather bomber jacket he wore to ride his trusty moped. Eventually that relationship ended and because I had also, meanwhile. had a little adolescent fling which had ended in tears we had something in common. Nick started dropping in at our house and gradually we became friends – but that’s all it was for several years, although we were bonded by classical music from the very start and often went to concerts or listened to records together.

“Did you say that boy’s name is Elkin?” asked my father, one evening after Nick had left.  “I bet he’s the son of George or Roy Elkin. My brother and I were very pally with them before the war. We all went to Scouts together.”

Sure enough, it turned out that Nick was George’s son. South London is just a village really. Years later, once Nick and I were a proper item we got them all in one room and then crept away and left them to their reminiscing. And of course, thereafter they became friends all over again.

It wasn’t until 1967 that things changed between Nick and me. I blame the grey Morris Minor he bought that spring. He needed somewhere to drive his pride and joy to and what better than to visit his old friend, Susan, who was by then at college in Chichester? He came almost every weekend and by the time the summer was out Nick and Susan were on rather a different footing …

We married in March 1969 after I’d completed my training, come home to South London and got a teaching job. It lasted for 50 years and five months. We celebrated (sort of) our Golden Wedding anniversary five months before Nick’s death in August 2019, over 57 years after I first clapped eyes on him.

And he remembered all this almost to the last too even when he was almost incoherently oblivious and often didn’t know who I was. A couple of weeks before he died one of the nurses at the hospital asked where we’d met. “In a church youth club” I said, turning to Nick in an attempt to include him. “Do you remember the church youth club, Nick?”

“Of course I do” he snapped back crossly as if I’d asked the silliest of questions.

 

Image is Nick (back row, far right) in an Alleyns School athletics team at about the time I met him.

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Susan Elkin
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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