Christmas eve 1976. The end of a year with a very long hot summer. The year I had left home after seeing all my brothers leave and then return. I had always resolved that when I left home that was it, no going back. I had joined the TA and enjoyed the weekends enormously. The year I had passed my driving test and got a battered old ex-taxi - a Cortina 1600E with a sports carb. A car I got to know intimately and spent many happy hours underneath tickling her bits to keep her going. A truly magnificent year.
I had locked the car in the company car park as I had determined I was not going to use it until after Christmas. Work closed early and on leaving the building I asked one of the girls if she was going to the pub for a Christmas drink with everyone. Although I had spoken with this girl a few times, we didn't work together and the only real conversations had been to criticise my appalling French. She had shopping to do for her Grandmother so couldn't. I persuaded her one quick drink. We went for that drink. We danced - to what I have no idea - and then she had to leave to get her shopping done. I left the pub with her amid questioning looks from some of the girls I worked with. We did that shopping and I decided that I was not letting things end there, and they would have, so I took the car from the car park - I had had about 6 vodkas at this point - and I took her home. We agreed I would pick her up for a drink later and we went down Nottingham. At the end of the evening we made another date between Christmas and New Year and sometime around the 7th January we informally got engaged. In February we broke the news to her parents and left it until March 1978 to get married.
She was and is my first serious girl friend and after 33 years and 2 lovely daughters I still believe Christmas eve to be a more special day for me on the calendar than our anniversary - 4th March. Thank you Mary and I still love you lots.