When I was a kid, I knew that I would want a wife in adulthood. Maybe that’s unusual for a male?
To the young Kevin, at the tender age of 8 or 9, it looked like the best deal. I would see old men walking around slowly, their faces lined, and think: ‘if it comes to that, which it probably will, I’ll be needing a romantic companion to cheer my journey’.
I met mine on 24 September 1980. At the Cricketers pub in Southend-on-Sea, Essex. It was my mate John Devane’s 24th birthday. Maureen turned up in a small crowd. We went for a curry, where I sat opposite my future wife. Never a fast mover, I drove home later thinking how I would enjoy meeting her again. In another 10 weeks or so we did. A few weeks after that, somebody took this photo.
Last week, exactly 40 years after our first mutual sighting, we went back to the pub. The return pilgrimage involved a fish and chip supper, which we had to eat in the car, due to driving rain that eliminated any chance of sitting by the sea that evening. Lauren, our eldest daughter, came along for the ride. She was deeply amused that our anniversary weather was so foul.
Then we found the pub. Glad to escape the relentless rain.
The gaff was almost unrecognisable from the meeting place of four decades ago, when it had a no-frills, homely charm. Something, a vibe, had disappeared, replaced by a more corporate ambience. The Covid regulations – triggering the safety signs and floor markings – hardly helped. But it didn’t matter. We had a drink. Toasted the fateful moment, 40 years on.
My hearing isn’t what it used to be, especially when there is background noise. Lauren and Maureen chatted, moving in and out of earshot.
I mused on why I love my wife, and what a lucky lad I’ve been. No hesitation in saying that the allure of a good-looking, sexy, kind and intelligent woman has been a huge driving force. Four decades on, age has shrunk and diluted the testosterone roar that accompanied our visit to Wales in 1981. But there is still a quiet rumble. And Llandudno memories will warm me to the grave.
There is so much more. Maureen looks after me. Better than I care for myself. That kindness was important in our early days; and is something I have come to rely upon and cherish. It extends, naturally, to everyone in her orbit. From friends, relatives and neighbours to strangers in the supermarket. She loves to help. She cared for her parents and her uncle in their last years, has helped at a Chelmsford day centre for the homeless and collected for the local hospice.
I’ve swum in that kindness. She tends to my aches, listens to my spectrum of grumbles and complaints, and does what she can. Laughs at my attempts at humour, dishes out common sense advice for my conundrums, responds if I ask for something specific. Supports me in my choices, and forgives me in my errors, some of which would have sent less tolerant women fleeing.
Imagine being her child. I’ve witnessed that magic at first-hand, watching her mother our three kids. Seeing comfort, nurture and guidance tumble out of her like water from a spring. She’s a qualified nursery nurse and working nanny, but her skills with young ones are innate, from the heart.
Yet she is modest – a strange and wonderful thing, given the span of her talents. She could easily have been a chef or interior designer. Instead we have been the beneficiaries, fed with deliciously healthy meals and housed in residences that boom with colour and craft. The girl could paint for Essex, or even England.
As the kids have grown up, she has become my co-adventurer again. Holidays across England, Belgium, France and the Netherlands. We have got drunk together too often to recall, taken magic mushrooms together, meditated together. I love walking in the countryside with her and have adored the fun of dancing with her. I should add that she has the kiss of an angel.
I’ll stop there, in case she finally decides to become big-headed.
She was very taken with a phrase that we came across recently. ‘Be calm, be beautiful, be love.’ It sums her up.
As for me, I think I did OK. Very grateful for that.