“Please will you give me a lift at lunchtime?” I asked my unsuspecting colleague, the only person I half knew well enough who had a car and might be amenable. Bill the geography teacher and I had been doing the crossword together every lunchtime for the last month or so, and occasionally we would go to the pub – by car – those were the days – and so I was confident enough to ask him.
“Where do you want to go?” he asked.
“Ealing,” I said.
“I don’t know if I’ve got enough petrol.”
“I’ll pay,” I said rashly, “but I need to get home urgently.”
“Why?” he asked curiously.
“Actually, I am getting married at three this afternoon and I really need to get home and change.”
“Oh,” he said, quite doubtfully, “I’ll try.”
The problem was he had to get back at two for afternoon school. I had two free periods so I knew I was free. At least that’s what I believed. I had just started teaching at Esher College five weeks before and I had no idea that I was supposed to stay on site if I didn’t have any timetabled lessons. Bill didn’t point this out to me either. Anyway, I bound him to secrecy and off we went.
I got home by half past one – luckily, I knew the way – and Jacek was already there – he had driven back from High Wycombe. He had officially asked for the afternoon off, and so we got changed. Maja and Stephen arrived and the four of us piled into Jacek’s Maluch (Fiat 126) and went off to Acton Town Hall, where we were me by a delightful registrar. It was all very exciting. getting married. No guests. no rings. Just a formality, so I could change my name!!! Not the first consideration really, but a welcome extra.
We had needed to have this wedding, so that Jacek could go back to Poland, knowing that he could come back with a wedding certificate. We knew we were going to have a church wedding the next spring, and so we really treated this as a formality. Jacek needed to sort stuff out in Poland and it was a lot easier this way.
Were people upset? I am afraid they were. My in-laws because they felt done out of a celebration, (and anyway they didn’t know me, they were losing a son etc etc) my father because when he saw in the photos that I’d been married in a red dress, he was shocked. Only my mother and her husband intimated that I should just get on with it. My mother was quite cynical, but that’s another story.
But – we had known each other for such a long time. Beginning of August – Jacek had arrived in England for the second time; the year before I had spent one evening with him and his family – and remembered him as quite good looking and pleasant.
Now he had arrived to stay with his uncle and to work in High Wycombe and all he could talk about was his car journey. Yes – it was interesting the first time, but every morning over breakfast (I was also living at his Uncle and aunts at the time) he would furnish me with further details. I wasn’t interested in the minutiae of the journey. I was more interested in him. But nothing doing.
Then August fifteenth: Maja’s names day. He came. He’d been stung by a bee. That was all he could think about (he was allergic, so he must have been in pain. But I really didn’t want to know.) Then it was my birthday. On September 9th, I was going to have my first party. (Auntie wouldn’t let me have more than 25 people at a time). I asked if he had to come. Yes, of course he did. Oh well. He had a car, so I sent him out shopping with my friend Kasia who was staying with me at the time. He embarrassed me greatly by coming back with the shopping and with a beautiful tea set.
Anyway, the party happened. Great fun was had by all and I invited him back the next day, my actual birthday. This second party was even nicer, and then I discovered that it was his names day on the 11th. The Monday. So, I invited him back for that. Auntie wasn’t too pleased as he was only supposed to spend the weekends with her in London. During the week he was renting a room in Loudwater. Anyway, he came.
Then he came back and forth quite frequently. By September 22nd I knew I would marry him. Quite independently he had come to the same conclusion.
So why wait? we thought.
My father paid for the special licence (before he saw my dress!) Our witnesses officially took the day off from work and I played truant!
All of 39 years ago today!
The registrar took our photos and then we went off to Gloriette in Knightsbridge for cake.
We came back to general consternation. The next day I went to work and told them I was no longer Miss Wysoki but Mrs Korzeniowska. I have to admit I thoroughly enjoyed the looks on everyone’s faces but it was years before it dawned on me that everyone thought I had had to get married.
No. I didn’t have to. We just wanted to.
Was it wise? Probably not. Was it the right thing? Yes, absolutely. But don’t follow my example!