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Feather's Miscellany: Edna Pearson

John Waddington-Feather’s tale reveals that the wrong question can be life-changing.

It’s a well known fact that women are very much more conscious of their appearance than men. Compared with women, men care little about how they look; leastways, older men like myself. When we’re young and courting – well, that’s a different matter altogether. To catch our girl we smarten ourselves up; buy good clothes, pay careful attention to our hair and face; but once she’s hooked – or perhaps once we’ve been hooked – we tend not to pay as much attention to our appearance. You don’t throw bait into the pond once you’ve caught your fish. Instead we dress for comfort rather than looks.

We men grow old and become lined and craggy, but a woman tends to grow old more gracefully. She never ceases to dress well and fight the good fight against age as it battles with her body. Women spend just as much time with their dress and beautifying themselves at seventy as they do at seventeen. Only at seventy, it isn’t to catch her man, but for beauty’s sake itself. This isn’t vanity, it’s feminine commonsense; for beauty at any age is to be looked at and admired. It adds colour and wonder to life, and a man at any age who can’t flatter a woman for her beauty is lacking an essential of manliness. He simply lacks charm.

Edna Pearson had always been proud of her dress and appearance. In her youth, she’d been a real head-turner and had had the lads queuing up to court her, but she’d fallen for Frank Blakely and his money and was married to him till he died suddenly in his fifties. After a few lonely years of widowhood, she went on the prowl again quite understandably and began going on trips abroad with friends – mainly widows like herself.

One day a little thrill went through her when she heard from one of her friends that an old flame from her girlhood had returned to Keighworth as a widower and become a partner in an optician’s practice, the one she went to regularly. Girlhood memories of him flooded back the day she went for an eye-test.

Now Jack Purcell had been a tall, dark and very handsome teenager when she’d last seen him years before. They’d been in the same class at school and Edna hadn’t been the only one to fall for him. Every girl in the class had fallen under his spell. He’d done well in his exams and when he left school went to train as an optician and moved away from Keighworth to work.

Like Edna he’d lost his spouse of many years and Edna guessed he was coming back to his home town for comfort and company, for he still had siblings and their families who lived in Keighworth.

Well, the more she dredged up old memories, the more Edna’s imagination ran riot. She pulled out old school photographs and looked again into Jack’s limpid brown eyes, which she knew would soon be gazing into hers even thought the gazing would be done through optical lenses. She recalled his mane of curly brown hair and his gleaming white teeth, his winning smile and infectious laugh; and now, many years later, she was going to see him again.

However, she was shocked when she actually met him. He was gray and going bald. His face was puffy and blotched, for he clearly liked his drink. Nevertheless, Edna regained her composure and hoped for the best. Her opening in the consulting room was: “Hello, Jack . Don’t you remember me? You were in my class at school.”

Jack took a long hard look at the elderly lady in the chair before him, who’d just removed her spectacles. He frowned slightly, then floored her with: “What subject did you teach?”

That put the dampeners on Edna. She never felt the same about Jack Blakely again.

John Waddington-Feather ©


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