A Date to Remember.
Summer 1944, aged twelve and a half, I have been in St Dominic’s Open-Air School for the last seven months recovering from some sort of illness. As soon as I was home my mother wasted no time in finding me a little job. It will give you some pocket money she said. The Bargain Centre, next to Bon Marche, in Guildford Street was managed by Mr Perring. My wage was eight shillings and sixpence—about 45p, for a couple of hours after school on Thursday and Friday and about six hours on Saturday. My job was delivering groceries, sometimes as far as Addlestone. On this day I was late getting back to the shop and Mr Perring was waiting to lock up. I thought I would be told off but instead he said I had worked very hard and he gave a pack of dates. These dates were really meant for cooking and were off the ration, the ladies who worked for Mr Perring would eat them like sweets—so did I when no one was looking. He said I could take the bike home as he had already locked the shop up.
It’s been one of the hottest days of the year and still very warm, so I thought instead of going straight home I would use the delivery bike and ride up to Chertsey Bridge and have a swim to cool down. There were lots of people at the Bathing Pavilion, and because I had no cozzy I went in up near the Pylon where no-one was about.
Afterwards as I was riding back along the towpath, and I saw Sheila, a girl from my class, I offered her a lift home in the bike’s basket, she just laughed at the very thought of it, so I just walked along with her. We stopped and sat on the bank to watch a tugboat go by and were chatting quite nicely, but I’m not very good at talking to girls and I was soon wishing we would get up and go home, but then without any warning she grabbed my arm and said.
“I bet I can beat you at arm wrestling, I always win with my brother”.
I have to say this gave me quite a start, and before I could say anything, she was bending my arm back and winning every time. It was really too hot for all this and after a while we just lay back in the long grass.
“Phew, I’m so hot, I’m going in for another swim”.
Now what can I do, I had no swimming costume, so I just sat still.
“Come on then”, she said.
And started to undress in front of me, I tried to look the other way and although I turned my head, my eyes stayed straight ahead. She stood up and luckily she still had her swimming costume on under her dress
I quickly ran in to the river, holding my bits so as not to embarrass her, she didn’t worry about me though, she just jumped in.
She was a better swimmer than I and could stay under water for ages, and I never knew where she would come up, she nearly lifted me clear out of the water. Finally, we climbed out and lay down again in the long grass, she let me use her towel to dry myself, but once again I didn’t know what to say
Luckily, I remembered Mr. Perring giving me the dates.
“Would you like a date, Sheila?” I said.
She smiled and said.
“That would nice Alan, when do you think”?
“Well” I said “Now, I’ve got some here, and I started to unwrap the packet of dates.
Then, with what I can only say was a rather harsh look she said.
“Alan Waglin, you are bloody unbelievable, no, I wouldn’t want any of your bloody dates”. And she started to get dressed in a very animated way. Her mood, which a few moments ago was gay and abandoned had now turned quite grumpy. After all these years I still don’t know what went wrong that afternoon, I thought everybody liked dates.