Monday, 16 January 2012
Day 16 – A-ha - The Sun Always Shines on TV
A-ha were my constant companion when commuting to Harlow to see W. I had a Sony Walkman and the album Hunting High and Low was always one of the necessary soundtracks to the three hour journey from Manchester to London, across London (usually in the rush hour) and then up to Harlow. Best song on the album was The Sun Always Shines On TV.
Commuting was a complete ball-ache. I almost knew every single mile of that journey between Manchester Piccadilly and London Euston. And Friday evening was the worst time to arrive.
I have never seen so many people; huge crowds all squeezing themselves into a tight space to go down an escalator or onto a metal tube on wheels.
The London Underground has always been a bittersweet experience for me – bitter because of the crowds and the nutters, but sweet because the people who travel on the trains are fascinating to watch.
I could have sat on the Circle Line all day watching people and listening to their conversation. London is so crowded that you get the full range of humankind on those trains and being a multicultural place you see just about every nationality there.
It was good – but not on a Friday evening when there was standing room only and I had to endure being crushed up against complete strangers. There’s no room for shyness on the Tube.
This is one of the reasons that the relationship between W and I was struggling. The long distance between us was taking its toll and she wanted to stay in Harlow – she enjoyed her job.
She used to drive up to Manchester and she hated the journey. Rush hour traffic between Harlow and Manchester was as unbearable for W as the train journey to Harlow was for me.
We had another problem – I wanted to stay in Manchester – I loved my job too.
I would arrive in Harlow late on a Friday night, tired and fed up after yet another commute, and we would end up arguing about trivia.
I wasn’t happy – and I told her, one Sunday as I stepped on the train to return home to Manchester. As I travelled back I thought that the relationship would soon be over. She had friends down there and I had friends in Manchester; and neither of us wanted to leave..
I hated Harlow – it was one of those small southern towns that was basically made up of roundabouts. It was a faceless boring little place and its only attraction was that it was within travelling distance of London.
And then W surprised me.
She came up to Manchester and we had a conversation over a meal. It went something like this:
W: When do you think you will settle down?
Me: I am settled, I guess. I’m saving up and one day I will move out of this madman’s castle.
W: You’re not that settled though are you?
Me: Not really.
W: When you were younger, when did you think you would get married?
Me: Dunno – maybe when I was in my mid-20’s.
W: How old are you now, again?
W: Want to get married?
She had proposed to me and I was so shocked I blurted out “yes” without really thinking about it. She had caught me totally off guard.
My God – I was going to get married. I couldn’t believe that anybody had asked me. I never thought that a woman would be so interested in me that she was willing to commit the rest of her life to me.
I always thought that I would have to do the asking, something I hadn’t even considered doing with W. Our relationship was almost at breaking point and then she has amazed me by cementing it.
I was flabbergasted – I still am because she recently revealed to me that she had almost finished it herself. I will never know why she changed her mind and also, I will never know why I accepted so readily.
W even agreed to quit her job and move to Manchester with me, which probably surprised me even more than the marriage proposal.
Perhaps I should have thought about it, given the way it turned out.
I knew one thing at that early stage - I was bloody terrified.