My parents were poles apart and naturally had very different ways of remembering their courtship. It brings the much quoted line, “Men are from Mars. Women are from Venus” into sharp focus. Daddy's way would be teasing, humorous, sweet, loving. Mummy’s would be in extremely sharp contrast. She would recall all the old squabbles, grouses and peeves, then she’d pout, I imagine the same way she must have done a long time back. One of her major discontents emerged from an incident involving her book of poems that she gave Daddy, instead of the chocolates the other girls gave him.
In 1945, Daddy had got commissioned and was transferred from HMIS Llanstephen Castle to join Bombay as CCO. He was called Jimmy unofficially. This is where he met Peggy, a stenographer (WRINS)
When all Jimmy’s efforts to break the ice had failed, he gave up and left Peggy to her own world, which in the office was a small New Testament. Every minute of spare time would see the little book in her hands. She would devour every line and word. She was on the way to “being saved” as they say. However Peggy outside the office was another person! Anyway, Daddy was quite impressed by this and took note of her “good character” even though her “holy cow” act didn’t appeal to his macho image. In the mean time a particular Ms Cutting made her move and caught Daddy’s fancy. Although Peggy wouldn’t admit it, Ms Cutting had ignited a spark of jealousy and Peggy decided to show another side of herself to the boss.
One morning Daddy was surprised to find a diary in his desk drawer. It was Peggy’s offering to him. He was taken by surprise and as he read the beautiful verses she had written, he was impressed. Peggy had given him her heart and soul in that book of poems. If she thought that she had executed a coup she was mistaken. Ms Cutting had the boss’ total attention. Daddy thanked Peggy for allowing him to read it and returned it to her with a word of praise for her talent. Peggy was fuming. Country bumpkin, she thought to herself. Then decided to put it back on his desk, hoping the message would be clearer this time. The next day she was in early and the book was kept on his desk instead of in the drawer. She waited impatiently for Jimmy but he didn’t come in. She got up in a huff and walked across the room with the intention of taking back her precious book. Before she could reach the desk, Jimmy and Ms Cutting walked in.
“Good Morning Peggy,” said Jimmy and sat at his desk. “Did you want something?”
“Yes Sir...N..No Sir,” Peggy stuttered. Just as she was about to turn around and go back, Ms Cutting picked up the diary and flipped the pages.
“You write poetry too? How wonderful. I love poetry and I’m sure you’ve written this for me. Jimmy, this is for me right? This is the surprise you wanted to give me, isn’t it?”
Jimmy looked at Peggy. They stared at each other and the silence was ominous. Ms Cutting also glared at Peggy. Then the quiet was shattered as Jimmy said, “Yes of course, this is what I wanted to show you but it’s not...” Jimmy hesitated a moment then added, “it’s not yet typed out. I just wanted you to read it, that’s all.”
“It’s beautiful as it is in its original form. Thank you so much for the gift Jimmy. I’ll treasure it always.” Ms Cutting took the book with her as she walked out the door.
“Look I didn’t want to give it to her. I brought her here to show her your book. Why did you have to put it on my table right now? I just wanted her to read your verses. You write so well, Peggy.”
Peggy did not wait to hear his explanation. She was already back to her work.
The rest as they say is history. Jimmy took it upon himself to make up for his cowardice and “cheapness” in gaining brownie points from stolen verses. He even joined the Christian group Peggy had recently joined. He even got “saved.” Before long, Ms Cutting was out but not forgotten because Peggy was in and she never let Jimmy forget her or the stolen verses.
This incident became a joke with us kids, but for Mummy it wasn’t funny. She never accepted Daddy’s explanation for what transpired that day way back in 1945-46. Her argument being....
“You didn’t take the book back from her. You were more concerned about how she would feel. Why should I believe you?”
I would play devil’s advocate and side with her telling daddy that he was mean.
“I’m here so where’s the lie?” he would counter.
I’d nod my head wisely and ask mom what was her problem.
Yes, women are from Venus... They’re love personified with all the add-ons.....jealousy, possessiveness, martyrdom and phenomenal memories included. They never forget and don’t let you forget either.