Inspired by the following Decamot items: Witch, Jane, book, Phoenix, teacher, herring gull, a well, tower bridge, boots, pumpkin
Patrick Bristow - “Paddy” to all his Woodford Green mates - made his way from Kings Cross station on foot, resplendent in a new pair of cowboy boots poking out from fashionable jet black jeans, a neat black leather jacket with fringes on the sleeves over a garish floral shirt, open at the neck to reveal a white t-shirt with rounded collar. Nestling in his inside pocket was a brand-new blues harp plus a slightly crumpled picture of a girl he had never met.
She reminded him of the model used in a popular TV hair commercial of the time whose catch phrase was “Which twin has the Toni?” For Paddy, “Toni” seemed a more modern name than Daphne, the Greek mythological nymph, rescued from the unwanted attentions of the god Apollo by being turned into a laurel bush. Mind you, Paddy had much in common with Apollo who was generally accepted as the Greek god of music, but Paddy’s real dilemma was the fact that he was awaiting his National Service call up papers so he had little time or money available to impress his surprise correspondent from a leafy stockbroker belt of Surrey.
He had wrestled with the idea of turning up on his motorbike but thought better of it at the last minute. He wondered whether Daphne would turn up at all. He was nervous. Had he left the message on London Bridge or Tower Bridge? She had said she worked at Phoenix in the city, loved country music and couldn’t wait to carve a pumpkin at Halloween. This implied she was fascinated by America, but you didn’t have to be a witch to appreciate All Saints’ Day eve. Who knows what lies ahead when fate intervenes?
It was out of character for Daphne Ware to respond to a piece of graffiti scrawled on the wall at London Bridge, but she had a sixth sense about the writer. He sounded like someone who might expand her circle of friends. She didn’t know anybody from Essex. Her friend Jane had told her to be careful but was secretly envious. Jane was destined to be a teacher like her mother and her grandmother before her, so something as romantic as Daphne’s escapade sounded daringly unconventional. To Jane, it was a bit like tossing a coin into a mythical wishing well and hoping for Prince Charming to leap out.
As Daphne boarded the London Bridge train at Coulsdon South, a herring gull flew over and narrowly missed leaving its mark of ornithological approval on her new hand bag. Unperturbed, Daphne thought it was a good omen as she checked her makeup for the umpteenth time, adding a little more rouge to her lips. With her ash blonde wavy hair and wearing a blue and white polka dot swing dress, made for her by her younger sister Iris, she might easily have been on her way to a country hoe down and not to a Shakespearean style assignation on London Bridge which would change the course of her life for ever.
The Wares and the Bristows were hardly Capulets and Montagues although some resistance to the speed of their offspring’s unconventional courtship was inevitable. In their book you should take time getting to know each other before getting engaged, let alone getting married. Daphne was only 18 and Paddy just 21.
Due to shyness and a lack of self-confidence, both had promoted images of themselves to each other which borrowed heavily from their siblings. Paddy had used the experiences of his younger brother John and his sister Peggy, two very flamboyant characters compared to him; whilst Daphne’s CV borrowed heavily from her sister Iris’ taste in fashionable clothes but especially from their uncle’s aunts and cousins who had emigrated to the USA some years earlier and were sending letters back extolling the virtues of the American way of life.
When Paddy returned home that evening he wrote a letter to Daphne’s parents formally proposing the marriage which lasted blissfully for nearly 60 years.
He also wrote 10 other letters to girls who had responded to his artful graffiti – four from Tower Bridge, five from Southwark Bridge and one other from London Bridge. In these he explained that he was sorry but he would not be taking up their kind offers to meet as he had just met the girl of his dreams who he intended to marry before joining the RAF.