The next few years were one surprise after another. The first surprise was that after more or less settling down in Norfolk -- not exactly happily for me -- The Man was posted to Liverpool! Being a true Londoner, this did not make him happy and he tried hard to get out of it. But the verdict was they liked his smile and knew he'd be great in the job! And in fact he loved it! He was the Area Commander for the Royal Air Force in the Liverpool area.
I was finding Norfolk difficult. The natives were not exactly welcoming -- the friends I did make were from outside the area -- a Canadian Couple and an American, who married a 'native' became friends -- but otherwise I was pretty much left to myself. I don't think it was so much that I was an American as much as that I was an 'outsider'. Also my eldest son was having a difficult time adjusting to his school and to some of the bullying that went on because he was a 'Yank'.
So quite happily we were off to the Northwest of England and a very different area of England. The Man had already made some friends. They ran a small hotel in Southport and had taken him under their wing -- Derek had done his National Service in the RAF and he and his wife had taken an instant interest in their new guest! It was a few months before I was able to join him, but Around January 1982 we were all together again and living in Southport. For several months we lived in rented accommodation and had a quite enjoyable time meeting new people and at times a very interesting social life. One event, in particular stand out in my memory!
One of The Man's responsibilities in his job was to represent the Royal Air Force at special functions. We had been invited to attend an annual dinner for the Royal Air Force Association. This organization serves to support former and retired members of the RAF is various ways. We accepted the invitation and I got busy making an evening gown that would be appropriate for the occasion. As this was my first event of this kind I was quite nervous about it and looking forward at the same time! On our way to the famous Blackpool Winter Gardens, the Man told me that a well-known television presenter and his wife were to be the guests of honour and that there was even to be a beauty contest to select the Northwest's candidate for Miss RAFA of the United Kingdom, after that there would be a dance in the famous Empress Ballroom.
We arrived to be enthusiastically greeted by the President of the organization and were subsequently introduced to Pebble Mill at One presenter Bob Langley and his wife, Pat, who were to be the guests of honour. What The Man had not realized until then was that we were the other two 'guests of honour'! We were to sit at the head table and we were also to be judges in the Miss RAFA Nortwest competition! In shock, but with no time to panic we were led away to prepare our entrance ...
Fortunately, I did not have time to be anxious -- I was 'on'. The Man looked over at me nervously. I told him to remember I might need guidance knife, fork and spoon-wise! My only concern was to not trip over my feet. The Langley's were introduced first and took their seats. Our names were called and we walked from behind the scenes onto what turned out to be a stage-like platform -- there was fanfare and applause -- from those before and beneath us -- all 400 of them!!! The man did his job well; I was able to decipher his signals as to the appropriate cutlery and I did not spill the wine. As I remember the food was good and all were merry. The Langleys were absolutely charming and friendly. He was quite dishy and very tall... That was the first time I heard the traditional Lancashire toast to the Queen, "The Queen, the Duke of Lancaster"!
After dinner we were taken to a rather small room with a table and a few other officials. This was where the interviews of the 10 or so girls in the competition were to be. The four of us would ask questions of Miss Blackpool, Miss Preston, Miss St. Anne's and the rest and then confer and make an initial selection before the candidates were each presented to the crowd on the Ballroom floor for our final decision. We were pretty sure which girl would win by the end of the the private interviews. When we got to the ballroom, it was in darkness except for a spotlight shining on the judges table with our four chairs. Once again we were introduced! Once again I did not trip over my shoes! And surprise surprise the girl we thought the winner was out-shone by another and we were all surprised. Miss RAFA duly found and crowned, the dancing could begin and we were no longer 'on show'. And dance we did -- all around the room!!
Unfortunately, we had to turn down the Langley's invitation to their hotel room when the dancing was over, we had to get back to our babysitter and it was 4 a.m. by the time we did that! But it was a wonderful initiation into a Lancashire evening's entertainment and one I shall always remember.