Across a crowded room

Anne moved to Dublin after school to work in the Civil Service, first in the CSO and then in the Tax Office. There she befriended Mary, a friend of mine from Drogheda. In May 1973 Mary brought Anne home to Drogheda for the weekend. At this time I used to organise folk sessions in the White Horse Hotel on Saturday nights, where friends would play their guitars and sing songs from popular artists of time, such as Leonard Cohen, Neil Young or Joni Mitchell. Mary brought Anne along to the folk session and afterwards some of us went back to another friend’s house on the Marsh Road to stretch out the evening with tea and conversation. It was here that I took notice of Anne, this visitor from Dublin, as she was sitting directly across from me in the living room. I thought she looked exotic and mysterious with her long bushy hair; I really wanted to get to know her better.

I met her again a couple of times at various events over the next few weeks , so that by the time of her 21st birthday in July that year, I decided to ring her up at work to wish her a happy birthday. However, I lost my nerve when I got through to the office and I asked to speak with Mary instead. With a few deep breaths I managed to ask Mary to put me onto Anne, and this was a major, if embarrassingly awkward, step towards getting to know her.

Anne and I finally “clicked” a week later at a barbecue camp-out in Mornington attended by the whole gang from the folk sessions. Staying out all night at a mixed camp was a bit taboo and some of the girls had to concoct cover stories in order to make it. My sister Carmel was there too, as she played music with some of the others, particularly at the folk masses in the Augustinian church. She was just sixteen at the time, but she was allowed to attend as I would be there to chaperone her for the evening. I’m ashamed to say I quickly abandoned Carmel to be with Anne. The things we do for love! Anne and I spent most of the evening just wandering the dunes together, chatting about everything, and ending up with a bit of snogging when we shared a sleeping bag. Eventually, reader, I married her.

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