Yesterday, the blues and rock garage band of which Rumpole and Renaissance Man are members did a gig at the local Legion hall as a favour for newly married friends for their post-wedding reception. Rumpole plays a mean bass guitar, and has kept up weekly lessons since 1992 when I gave him a months worth of lessons for his birthday gift with a guitar teacher who had played with Ike and Tina Turner’s back-up band and really knew his stuff.
Having missed a chance to be a chick-magnet during his earlier years as a “rock musician” because he was thoroughly engrossed in things scientific and academic, he was thrilled to get a second chance ( by now, to attract late-middle aged women, I assume) to try for rock and roll fame, of sorts.
He had gone off earlier in the day to help set up, which took a number of hours. He returned home late in the afternoon, sore and tired from hefting heavy amps, and immediately retired to the bathroom for a long soak in an epsom salt bath. After the bath he requested a thorough massage with A535, a somewhat malodorous substance, not exacly an attractive scent, and one which I am convinced that those aging Rolling Stone band members would not allow anywhere on their persons – I mean, they would reek of decrepit old athlete! I obliged, by massaging his ageing and acheing neck and shoulders, after which he sauntered off to put on his cool band duds. On the way out the door, he grabbed his peaked black hat with the added false grey pony-tail (he unfailingly wears this to gigs because as he puts it, “it keeps my bald head from competeing with the shine of disco balls.”)
After he left, I did the required drops into my eye, taped on my raffish aluminum patch and repaired to bed to read. That did not last long, and I lay there musing about Rumpole and the amazing colour and verve he had brought to my life. What a fortuitous stroke of luck to have shared years of living with him!
How did we end up together?
“Ardent Feminazi” and I formed a fast friendship during our University Design course, where we commiserated about the unfair evaluations given both of us by “Mrs. Redbrick” our demanding, menopausal design professor. We were the only two young women in that class who also were raising a young child while studying for a degree. “Ardent Feminazi” was married to “Man of Science” who was at the time working on his Marine Biology master’s degree. Their young son “Junior Entomologist” was 3 years old, while “Renaissance Man” was two; they played together quite happily while “AF” and I spent long hours working on our course papers and projects. I considered “AF” and “MoS” the prefect modern couple. They considered me a completely inept young woman, and “AF”, keen on projects took me on as one. She embarked on a three year plan to bring me up to snuff as a “good catch” in the marriage market.
The makeover sessions addressed my appearance, which so obviously lacked in any come-hither appeal to young men. “Man of Science” victimized a number of his academic compatriots as test subjects to assess my painfully slowly growing aptitude and attributes as an attractive female specimen. (After numerous attempts to mold me as a presentable, marriageable young woman, Mother and Father had long ago washed their hands of the whole business. Thank God!) “Feminazi”, after energetic efforts, also gave up, somewhat to my relief, and “Man of Science” quite bored with this mania of his beloved mate, finally threw in the towel also.
We all were granted our degrees and dispersed to our geographically distant new careers and lives. For years we spent long holidays with each other, and our children happily grew in friendship. The matchmaking pressure had eased, until one fateful summer, during which “Renaissance Man” and I had a two month stay at a seashore cabin in Metchosin, near “AF” and “MoS” country home.
“Man of Science” was working as a Pollution Control biologist for the Provincial Government. He and “Rumpole” were professional sidekicks; part of their job, as a team, was to travel around the Island’s communities and test for sewer outfall pollution of coastal waters. “Ardent Feminazi” decided that, as a last ditch effort, she had to contrive to get “Rumpole” and me to meet, and then to let fate and the gods ( and her makeover skills) do their matchmaking magic.
She embarked on teaching me how to do my long hair with curlers and sprays so it would fall in enticing curls. I preferred the “au naturel” look, as in let the hair fall how it wants to, just keep it out of my eyes! She insisted that my clothes have a closer fit, in order to show off my feminine assets in a tasteful fashion. Makeover boot-camp was a total drag, and she harped on an on as mercilessly as a drill sargeant. After she felt assured that I could keep up appearances to her satisfaction, she and “MoS” decided on the occasion on which I would be presented to “Rumpole” for his consideration.
They plotted to have “AF” me, “JE” and “RM” embark on a long camping trip to Long Beach, where “Man of Science” and “Rumpole” were stationed for an extended study of two communities’ tidal basins. “Ardent Feminazi” and I outfitted and provisioned our small group and we loaded gear and young boys into the family LandRover for the long and hot drive to Long Beach. We arrived all bedraggled and bitchy and met up with the young scientists, after a grueling trip. “The catch”extricated herself from the vehicle, dusty, carefully set curls disarrayed and ratty and makeup melting to meet her match, her hyper 5 year old unleashed onto the campground and racing about suddenly freed from being cooped up for a long journey.
So much for a well-orchestrated and auspicious first introduction! Poor “Ardent Feminazi” had the best of intentions and brought all her knowledge and experience to this situation, but forgot that unlike God, a matchmaker cannot possibly predict unexpected influences nor completely have control of a given situation. What happened next surely had a little something to do with her subsequent bra-burning spree while muttering Wiccan curses, and her baptism by fire into her “au naturel” make-up (and brassiere) free feminist persona.
The weather conspired against ideal matchmaking conditions. We emerged daily from within soggy tents and sleeping bags, cold, disheveled and disreputable-looking to labour over a weak campfire to cook up victuals for whining young boys, and camp-fire coffee, weak and full of grounds, for us adults. The scientists squished away to their vehicle and their work-chores (and probably a full breakfast at a nearby greasy spoon) while “Ardent Feminazi”and I organized the days’ entertainments for the two boys. At days’ end the scientists returned to the sorry-looking, wet group huddled around a wispy campfire, trying to cook up a culinary treat for supper – mostly weiners roasted on sticks, by the juvenile sous-chefs, and delectable canned pork and beans carefully heated up by “the Catch”. We spent until bed-time each night huddled around the fire, miserable and unable to maintain interest in any kind of sustained conversation. We all smelled of wood-smoke, a pleasant scent sometimes, on infrequent occasions, but a smell not often associated with the matchmaking arts. Sleeping arrangements were scientists in one tent, women and children in another. This was a good thing, because Rumpole complained in the mornings of the horrific snoring sounds from our tent, for which “Ardent Feminazi”, still in marginal matchmaker mode, admitted responsibility, claiming poor sinuses. We resembled Neanderthals on a camp-out in an old-growth rainforest.
The evening before the day we were to break camp and drive home to civilization, the skies cleared to reveal a gorgeous moonlit and starry night. After the children were tucked into their sleepingbags, the four of us adults gathered around a more vigorous camp-fire and shared some wine and pleasant conversation. At one point, during a lull, “Rumpole” asked me, “Have you ever seen phosphorescence?” Being a suburban woman, I had never heard the term and replied “No. What is it?” “Come along, I’ll show you.” he said, grabbing a flashlight. “Ardent Feminazi” and “Man of Science” shot each other meaningful glances and looked very smug.
“Rumpole” and I picked our way through the undergrowth in the dark, and found our way down to the sandy beach. He found a washed-up log for us to support our backs as we hunkered down on the sand. “Wait for your eyes to acclimatize to the dark, and then look at the breakers as they approach the shore – soon you’ll see the phosphorescence” he suggested.
The phosphorescent sea was magical and I was entranced. Rumpole dispelled the romantic mood by launching into a precise scientific explanation of the phenomenon. I found this charming and endearing as well as quite humorous, and told him so! He made a sarcastic comment about his lack of good romantic moves, chuckled and held my hand.
“The rest”, as the saying goes, ” is history!”