A right royal romantic repost today. I love telling this story: how Phil made his intentions known.
Oh, Mr Darcy.
He’s not quite my type, this hero of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, but somehow one doesn’t have to long for him, to empathise with his dark, brooding, taciturn admiration of the brightest of the Bennet sisters.
Darcy had one rather abortive attempt at asking Elizabeth Bennet to marry him, during which she gave him short shrift.
He knew he loved her, but he did not help himself into her good books. The moment he stepped into her social circle he was rubbing people up the wrong way and stepping on all the wrong toes.
I love Austen’s description of Darcy at the final happy-ending moment of realisation as ‘violently in love’. There is nothing tempered about his regard for Elizabeth Bennett. If you and I knew them personally I suspect we would be cheering without decorum.
There is a prince who seemed, a little sadly, to doubt the violence of his love.
I have to ask whether Britain’s Prince Charles had that intensity of emotion which dogged Mr Darcy to declare himself a second time.
It was during Diana’s biography, written by Andrew Morton, that she tells how he took her to the nursery at Windsor Castle to propose.
When he asked her, she says she thought he was joking, and agreed in the same playful spirit.
But he was serious. And when she agreed to marry him, she told him she loved him, her biography relates.
He answered with that phrase, one which rang false even on the day they first faced the cameras together: “Whatever love means….”
Poor man. Poor girl. Wrapped up in ceremony and pomp and circumstance and unable to see, any more, what it means to be violently in love.
When I was a reporter I used to float around in my own world. My head was constantly in the clouds and I never picked up social nuances and politics.
My office was like a living soap opera. There was the young highly intelligent loudmouth whose one ambition was to get to The Sun, our lowbrow but well written British comic-for-the-masses. He has been there these 20 years and risen to great heights.
There was the long-suffering editor who never made a deadline any more terrifying than it really had to be.
Two grounded deputies, each in their own way: and a motley crew of journos, just starting in the profession, learning how to get a story and make it behave.
I sat on the same desk as Phil, whom I ignored for some considerable time, not because he was not an attractive proposition, but because I could never imagine how someone like me could end up with someone as odd, and glamorous and clever as he was.
It was a typical Darcy regard/ Elizabeth oblivious scenario. We simply never dared investigate.
Our offices were in a humble, provincial town centre just down the road from Sainsbury’s.
Every morning, someone would send a list round to find out who was peckish and what they would like from the supermarket.
And generally, because I marched then, and always will march, on my stomach, the list compiler was me. I’d send a dog-eared piece of copy paper round, and I can still remember some of the orders.
My editor loved potato and frankfurter salad. Even when I make that today, I think of him.
My deputy would generally order a diet drink. Fast-reporter always liked crisps. And so on and so on.
One day I sent round the list, and just to be sure I read it out loud so people could check their orders.
A pot of pot and frank sal.
A packet of crisps.
Half a pound of love and a packet of desire.
It wasn’t until I had read it out loud with my usual thoughtless flourish that the analytical part of my brain kicked in, and I thought, Pardon?
Phil, knowing I would be the sole reader of the list, had made his intentions clear. And then I had loud-hailed them to our small but seething community.
I paid for that piece of tactlessness. A predatory female journo made her move with alacrity, and it took months to extricate the man I wanted to investigate from her (engaged to somebody else) talons.
I dashed up north to two close friends, both girl journalists, and presented them with the list. I asked, seriously and with earnest puzzlement, did it mean I had a chance with Phil?
Half an hour later, they had begun to stop laughing, just enough to tell me to investigate further.
Which I did: and here I sit, listening to him hob-nobbing with the children upstairs.
Auspicious, colourful beginnings: they don’t guarantee happy endings.
But it does help if you know whatever love is.