It’s summer 1966 in London. Pat Wolfe, a recently married twenty six year old, is launched on his career in a City of London engineering firm. His conventional life changes when he meets Elsa, a Finnish exchange student. Pat breaks with the conformity of the world he lives in, one he has been led to believe is the quintessence of life, a trap, that he now realises leads to a mind numbing, in the rut, existence. He discovers a different world, one he had only previously glimpsed from afar.
Life was monotonous. Upminster to Monument on the District Line and then the Central Line to Chancery Lane. If you don’t know where Upminster is, it’s out in the sticks, about as far out in the boonies as you can get. An hour to the office from my place in the morning, an hour back in the evening. The estate agent called it a maisonette, but that didn’t change sod all, it was still a small ******* ground floor flat without heating.
That was me. A drudge. Patrick Wolfe. Pat to my mates.
Twenty six and deep in it.
Where had it all gone wrong?
That’s not a difficult question to answer.
The summer had started with a bang and had been great while it lasted.
That’s all over now. It ended painful and in more ways than one.
First, Elsa, my Finnish girlfriend, that is my ex-Finnish girl friend, who I’d been ******* for three weeks, had gone. Home to Helsinki.
Second, but not least, it had set me back a packet. I’d paid for her plane tickets and just about everything ******* else.
I met Elsa at Tiffany’s, that’s a club on Shaftesbury Avenue in the West End. It was around the middle of June. I’d been there with a few mates after a Chinese meal at a place on Gerrard Street. One of the lad’s was leaving the firm where I worked, a rat leaving a sinking ship we told him, so we’d decided to celebrate, starting at Chandos, that’s a pub on St Martins Lane.
By the time we got to Tiffany’s we were ready to twist. I liked the place, there was always a lot of foreign birds, not the usual loud mouthed up-in-towners from Barking or some dump like that.
Tiffany’s had a strict dress code, no tie no admittance. The doorman saw off the scruffbags. It cost a couple of quid to get in. We didn’t complain, it kept the Rockers and wankers out. Drinks were more expensive than in a pub, which had an advantage, the birds had less money than the blokes and never said no to a drink, that is if you asked them nicely.
Tuesday evening was good. At the weekend you had to queue to get into the place, especially Saturdays. There was a stage with a DJ spinning the music and gyrating spots flashing blue lights that made everything look better, a bit like one of those strip clubs in Soho. Above the middle of the dance floor was a spinning mirror ball sparkling like millions of diamonds. To one side was a long bar where you could get drinks, crisps and that kind of thing.
Around the dance floor the blokes stood drinking, smoking and sussing out the birds who were dancing together or sitting at tables.
The best thing about weekdays was the dance floor, which was not so crowded. That evening there was space to move around, you could impress the birds with some fancy footwork without some creeps who hadn’t a clue crashing into you. There was always a few twats who thought it was a ******* barn dance, clod hopping around, oblivious to serious blokes like me.
So, getting to the point, I got talking to her at the bar.
They’d been playing ‘Baby Love’ and ‘Pretty Woman’, then, when they changed to ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’’ the floor practically emptied and everybody headed for the bar to grab a drink. It was still too early for snogging on the dance floor.
I was feeling good after the pub and the Chinese.
The other lads were scouting around for talent.
I was dressed for the occasion, always ready, one of my Austin Reed suits, wearing my Church’s shoes, smoking a Dunhill and flashing my Zippo lighter. The suit was cut was in a cool Sean Connery 007 style, impeccably, a reference for any young guy like me who could afford it. The only thing missing was the Aston, mine was a Cortina GT, which wasn’t bad considering.
Another drink was what was needed, then I’d look for a bird to chat-up.
It was difficult to get the attention of one the overworked barmen. It was a real jostle and just as I positioned myself to catch one’s eye I got an elbow in the ribs. I looked around scowling, there was this blond, not very tall, she smiled at me innocently, a playfully questioning look on her face, she was a looker, startling green eyes, as she turned her head to attract the barman, which she did with no trouble, her long blonde hair bounced off her shoulders.
She ordered, then looking at me said, ‘Sorry,’ flashing a dazzling smile, excusing her lack of consideration.
‘No problem,’ I replied trying to look indifferent, ‘go ahead.’
As she waited for her Coke, she looked at me again, a good sign, and asked with her Colgate smile, ‘What time is it?’
Not really very original. I gave her an uninterested look and pointed to the face of my watch. Unexpectedly she grabbed my wrist and turned it firmly to look.
‘Eleven,’ I replied, noting her accent.
‘Oh, the accent is American,’ I said caught off balance, trying to remember what Finnish was.
‘Yes, I lived in Boston for a year.’
I was impressed. She was younger than me, about twenty, but had evidently seen more of the world than I expected to see at any time soon.