Lifestyle

I remember Banbury fondly, for that's where I met Marie

I remember Banbury fondly, for that's where I met Marie
  • So next time I rang Marie I asked her to resign from her job in Banbury and join me in Dewsbury.
  • Marie lost her parents during the war and her guardian was her only older sister Bee, and her husband Arthur, both teachers.

Banbury will remain a happy landmark in my life, because that is where I met Marie. As mentioned before, having the Primary fellowship under my belt was helpful in clinching the post in Banbury, but local testimonials from Maidenhead and Blacknotley were also a boost.

The main attractions for seeking the post were its seniority and its association with Oxford, which provided an academic window to me, since as a foreigner in those days I could not aspire to a job in a teaching hospital.

The only difficulty I encountered in securing the appointment was that the local surgeon, who was interviewing me, had difficulty in pronouncing my surname and asked me if I would mind being called Dr Yusuf.

HESITATION

I could understand the hesitation of the interviewing panel; it was anathema to address a doctor by his first name!

In reply, I quoted Shakespeare. “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name, would smell as sweet!” That quote from Romeo and Juliet, unexpected as it was, floored the panel, they almost fell out of their chairs and clinched my appointment.

Reverting back to Marie, we met in the operation theatre, where she was one of the newly qualified staff nurses.

The mask was an advantage to me because I was neither endowed with a handsome face nor a macho image and it proved that Marie did not fall for my looks.

For her, it was a distinct drawback, for it masked her pretty face. It was not love at first sight, because neither of us contemplated marriage beyond our own “circle”.

REBELLIOUS

In fact, we were very different, not only in our appearance and background, but also in our temperament, make-up and personality.

I was fiercely ambitious, quietly rebellious, generally reserved, frightfully cautious, boringly organised, a slave to the clock, a creature of habit and forcefully focused — almost to a fault.

Marie, on the other hand was warm and friendly, always cheerful and resilient and charmingly unpredictable.

She had an insatiable zest for life and to her, a game was as important as winning it. But we thrived on our diversity and like a pair left and right hand, we could grasp tight and made a lot of mutual adjustments.

We courted as young couples did in those days; we went to the movies, sat in the back-row, holding hands, munching popcorns or licking ice-cream.

On one of our half-day off, we went to Oxford to see the colleges and watch a ballet, Swanlake and finished the evening with a Chinese meal. One weekend when our off-duty coincided, we went to Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of Shakespeare to watch his play, Romeo and Juliet.

ROMANCE

These were new experiences for me and Marie was obviously showing me the sights of her own country and easing me into the British way of life. I enjoyed Christmas with Marie in the hospital environment, where a lot of parties were held and, with mistletoe hanging in every ward, our romance blossomed.

Come April, 1957, and it was time for me to get a surgical registrar’s job, with more responsibility than house-officer, which I obtained in Dewsbury, connected to the teaching hospital in Leeds and that is when the crunch came.

One other attraction of this post was the scope for independent operative work it offered, for which I was ready. But it was in Dewsbury that I felt a void in my life and I missed Marie terribly and I could not concentrate on my job.

We talked on the phone almost every day but when I put the phone down, a strange feeling came over me and soon I realised that we were in love.

CHATTING

So next time I rang Marie I asked her to resign from her job in Banbury and join me in Dewsbury. She said she was missing me too and that she would not have any difficulty in finding a suitable post in a hospital near me. The die was cast and it was time to bring our families on board.

Marie lost her parents during the war and her guardian was her only older sister Bee, and her husband Arthur, both teachers.

One weekend when we both were off, Marie took me to Mansfield, near Nottingham, where they worked and lived. They welcomed me warmly and we sat there chatting as if we had known each other all our life. It was like love at first sight.

Arthur had worked in RAF during the war and had a fund of stories about his experiences in the Middle East where he was posted.

Next morning, Arthur took us on a drive of “Robin Hood” country, as Nottinghamshire was known.

Back home and it was traditional Sunday lunch consisting of roast lamb, mint sauce, potatoes, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. There was trifle as dessert. After lunch, we sat in the lounge chatting.

With the TV on, curtains drawn, crackling fire and easy conversation, I dozed off. In my hypnotic state, I heard Marie apologising for my indiscretion and Bee defending me by saying: “It shows that he is feeling at home and considers himself as part of the family.” That was enough endorsement for me!

WEDDING

It was now time to consult my four brothers and only sister in Karachi. For obvious reasons, this proved more difficult and involved a lot of correspondence.

To do justice to the marathon, I intend to devote the next column to it but for chronological ease, I might add here that once we obtained their approval, I proposed to Marie formally and took her to Bradford to choose her engagement ring from Fattironi.

I made only one stipulation; since I had come to Britain to obtain my Fellowship, our wedding would have to wait until I crossed that milestone.

Accordingly, I passed my final FRCS on May 15 and got married on May 24, 1958. We went to Majorca for our honeymoon, and for our 60th Diamond wedding anniversary in May last year.