Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Filling in the Gaps - 1956 to 1972

This "bio-blog" of mine has been rather rushed through. I guess it's all been work, work, work - and that makes Phil a dull boy. But there were plenty of good times. Some very good times and some not so good.

One reader, in a comment, asked me: "What happened to Joan?" She was my girl-friend in Hereford during my RAF days. Lovely girl, but I drifted away from her when I was demobbed. I don't recall exactly how we split up; it just seemed to happen. The main reason was that I met other girls in the Croydon area as I resumed my ballroom dancing.

One evening I went into the Lonsdale Ballroom, next to the Savoy cinema in Broad Green Croydon. I was alone and just hoped I'd get a dance or two. I got more than I dreamed of: Patricia Teare, my original dance teacher, was in charge of the Lonsdale. The last time we met was about four years prior. She hadn't changed one iota and was as beautiful as ever.

Dancing with her again was terrific. She asked if I'd taken any ballroom medal tests. I hadn't; she said I should. Had a few private lessons with her and in a few months she partnered me in the bronze medal test, at the Café Royal. I still have that medal. Patricia still teaches ballroom dancing!

One evening I went into the Semley Studios in Norbury. I noticed a shapely girl, about five feet eight tall, standing with a couple of other girls. I asked for a dance and we seemed to get on well on the dance-floor. The following week she was there again. She was also named Patricia. A year or so later we were married. All thoughts of ex-girlfriends just faded away.

A couple of years later my wife was pregnant. We were over the moon. Our joy was soon shattered. At about 26 weeks into her pregnancy she was in great pain and rushed to Mayday Hospital. Our son was prematurely born. The doctors said he could not survive and they took me to see this tiny baby. I felt shocked and quite queasy when I laid eyes on him: his head seemed huge in comparison to his body. He died an hour or so later.

Patricia was heartbroken. She so wanted to be a Mum. The doctor said there was no reason why she couldn't eventually have a child. First pregnancies sometimes just don't go right.

The doctor was perfectly correct. Eighteen months later we had our first child, a boy. A strong baby; a perfect child. Eventually we had two more children, both girls. Everything worked out exceedingly well.

Our three children in their turn have given us a grandson and three lovely granddaughters. Who could ask for more.

What became of Joan Turner, my girlfriend in Hereford? Well, about five or six years ago I started tracking down old friends. I started my search for Joan at Hereford United football club. Her father was the secretary or manager in their amateur days and I was delighted to see the name Graham Turner as manager now! What a bit of luck I thought.

What an idiot I was though. I wrote to him asking if he knew what had happened to Joan Turner. He wrote a short note back saying that he had no idea what I was on about! Oops ... what a fool I had been. Graham Turner was a professional football manager, nothing to do with the family I once knew.

Oh well, never one to give up the chase I contacted Hereford United's historian, via the internet. This chap certainly knew all about the early 1950s at the club. He said that Joan had married, in Hereford, around 1959, give or take a year. That was a start. I worked through microfiche records of marriages in the main library in Edinburgh and found her married name. Then, via census records on 192.com I found their current address.

I bought a "Happy Anniversary" card and enclosed a short letter. No idea if Joan had the slightest interest in replying, but she did. She telephoned me. The first thing she said really hit hard.

Her husband had a massive heart attack which killed him; just a year ago! Of course, I had no way of knowing this. The search of the census records gave both Joan's name and that of her husband. I'd just assumed they were both still living there.

She completely forgave me for my wrong assumption. She has a son who lives close by and one of her sisters sees her regularly. We keep in touch, by letter and a phone chat now and then. She and her husband became competition ballroom dancers and she sent me a few photographs of them in their ballroom outfits. We never touched on the when and why we lost touch. One day we may meet up for a meal or something. Not something I would rule out, especially if my wife and I have a holiday in Hereford.

I traced a couple who got married at RAF Bruggen in 1955. I was best man at Bert and Jean's wedding. I found some photographs of that day and sent one to the magazine called "Best of British", with a request for anyone to get in touch with me if they knew of their whereabouts. Strangely enough, it was Bert's mother-in-law who read my letter in the magazine and she rushed round to Bert's house to let him read it. Again, I keep in touch with Bert and his family - mainly via emails and the telephone.

I think a few gaps have been filled now so next time it will be back to the work scene. Again, like in Monty Python, it's a "now for something completely different"...


Anonymous said...

Whatever happened to Joan?

Nice sequal. (watch this space)

Thanks for that.


Anonymous said...


Above. Oops - Make that sequel.


Barry said...

Very interesting post. I've done quite a lot of research on our family history but never thought of using that expertise to track down old friends.

PhilipH said...

Ian: OK my friend. Happens to the best of us.

Barry: Thank you. Hope you are as bright and well as possible. I am full of hope that you will put on a bit of weight in the coming weeks and months.


Jo said...

Interesting! You know, often people's life stories would make a good book, or a movie. I get that feeling when I read your posts. So, if it were to be made into a movie, whom would you like to be cast as you? Rufus Sewell? Colin Firth? Maybe Jason O'Mara?

PhilipH said...

Oh my goodness Jo! Michael Caine or Pluto; Sir Michael for the voice, Pluto for the dumbness! Sir Michael Caine has that "London twang" which afflicts me. Pluto probably fits me in other ways.

Sweet question. How do you think them up?

Fondest regards, Phil