Up to Scratch? (1:10)

Pat was a walkover. In fact, he had been well primed by Paul to be on his best behaviour, and they met one Tuesday evening in October, in the Irish Rover. Pat was the same age, roughly, as Paul, and a divorcee, like Paul. A fair bit bulkier than Paul. He was a manager at an IT Services company. She learned that the company entertained sufficiently-important clients and prospective clients with a box at the Emirates Stadium – a sure-fire way to close the deal! So that’s how Paul got those tickets, she’d registered. During the evening, Anna learned that Pat, too, had Irish ancestry – his grandparents had come over from County Cork, which might have explained his liking for pints of stout.

Anna thought that Asha might be a different prospect, however. Anna would never say this, but Asha was quite…demanding. Though diminutive, at under five feet, and weighing as much as a sparrow, her glare could cut people down like a knife, if she were not impressed.

Anna need not have worried. She and Asha instructed Paul to meet them at their favourite wine bar one chilly Saturday night, and when they all met, it helped that Asha and Paul could both chat forever about the state of the world, and Anna hardly got a word in edgeways. It helped that Asha’s grandfather had come to the UK from Jamaica in the early Sixties, that she herself had been stopped innumerable times by the police, for no reason other than that she was black, so Asha knew all about human rights already! Paul did not mind one bit, spending the evening talking shop, because it was refreshing to find someone of that age who cared. Or, maybe he just didn’t meet enough 25-year olds? His every impression was that they lived their lives through Saturday night wannabe tv nonsense, day-dreaming their way to being rich and famous, but Asha was more tuned-in.

As October rolled into November, they started thinking about their first Christmas together, and both managed to get the same week vacation, just after the schools had gone back, so Paul could also spend some time with Jake. For now, best to keep those two threads separate. An ideal time for skiing, and they managed to get a last-minute package, staying just outside Geneva. They were fortunate that, with her new job, she was earning almost as much as him, although Paul thought that the student loan that she still had to pay back was jaw-dropping – how are people supposed to succeed in life when you kneecap them from the off?

By now, Anna’s family knew all about her mystery man, although they had never met him. This was to change, however, when not long into the new year, Zara announced that she and Dan were finally getting married. Second son was now a few months old, and Zara was starting to feel fashionable once again. Dan was…. well, let’s just say that Anna thought he was okay, but not at all who she’d have gone for. Drive was important to her, and Dan seemed to have precious little. Paul could not really back out of this one.


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