In the Picture Palace there was so much news, that the newsreel was longer than the little picture. It showed a mile of German prisoners of war looking very tired and ragged, 80,000 of them. So different from when we saw them goose-stepping through the towns. There was some laughter when the newsreel man called it the battle of the bulge, but it soon died down when he said how many allied soldiers had been killed winning the battle.
In Stepgates I have been moved up to the middle stream with all my mates again, there are some new girls as well, but they are not for me. There is no getting away from it though, girls can be nice to look at even if they are very annoying. They are always interfering with our games, like that June Moore who lives down Cowley Avenue. We are playing cricket in the road outside her house and she keeps swinging on her gate and asking silly questions.
“Have you got a girl-friend Alan”?
She keeps this up for ages, it’s one thing after another. June is in my class and all the boys like her, but I think she talks too much. How can anyone concentrate on wicket keeping when someone keeps going on and on. If I don’t stop the ball, it would go all the way down to the end of the road to Tucker Wells house, and the other boys would start shouting at me. At the age of 13, I have better things to do than to talk to girls. It’s not that I don’t like girls, for instance there is a very pretty girl who lives in Barker Road. Her name is Wendy Hills, she looks like an American child film star, very pretty, but a bit shy. That’s how I like them, nice to look at but not at all talkative.
Years ago, when I was in the juniors, and Wendy was in the infants, I saw her sitting on the back of Miss Payne’s bike, she looked very upset and crying. She was covered in little red spots and was being taken home as she had German measles. She thought a German bomber had given her the spots. Little did I know at the time how important this spotty girl would be to me in years to come.
In 1950, I saw her standing at her garden gate and told her I was joining the RAF and would she write to me as a pen pal. She didn’t exactly say no, in fact she didn’t say anything, just giving me a look that some people might have thought was a no. But I still wrote to her when I was in Egypt, I never had a reply, so it probably was a no after all.
In 2012 I was invited to an art exhibition in Chichester by my school friend Maureen Toobi. She said we could drop in to see her friend who lived there, and who had lost her husband a few years earlier. As soon as I walked into the room, I thought Maureen’s friend looked a bit familiar, and after a few words I realised it was Wendy. Of course, she couldn’t remember me, but she did remember my handsome brother Don. Every- one knows my brother Donald; I am beginning to think I am invisible.
A few weeks of driving down to Chichester, and 70 years after I thought she was like Shirley Temple when I was a ten-year-old. Wendy finally became my girlfriend. I proposed to her 6 months later—at our age, 78 and 80 you can’t hang around and we married in December. I told everyone we had to get married, and it was a shotgun wedding. This didn’t seem to please her very much though.
We had an 18-month honeymoon and never stopped laughing.