But let us backtrack a little to find out exactly what had bought a Northern Boy from the sticks and a world traipsing Aussie 'chick' (I only dare write that as I can't be physically slapped around the head) to the 'Little Bangladesh' which was Whitechapel in 1984. Once the haunt of Jack the Ripper, then a Jewish refugee stronghold (the bagel shop around the corner from school was frequented by us both daily), the area was now home to a quickly growing community of Bengali families. I'd finished my Psychology degree the year before and lacking the funds to continue with a suggested path to a PhD I had spent the year doing a PGCE in Multicultural Education at Bradford Uni. With a tremendous effort to overcome my natural inability to learn any language I could speak fairly good Urdu at the time. It is an indictment of the Greater London Council therefore that they managed to send me to a school where the kids did not speak any Urdu... But maybe the force had other things in mind. Juni (or Julie, or Juuli depending on how you knew her) on the other hand had fallen into a teaching job at the school on her standard Aussie 'work your way around the world' trip where she had just arrived from a stint teaching for the Royal Family in Nepal. So back to the story...
I was wandering around the school having a look at my new, and first real, place of employment. Like it was only just yesterday I remember pulling open the heavy blue door (which on a side note was found shortly found to have asbestos lining and kept us out of school for the first nine weeks of my career) and hearing that ever so familiar laughter ringing out over the hall and a curly haired (80's meant perms remember) vision sitting on the edge of a table thronged by adoring Year One kiddies. Seriously; and I didn't imagine this as Juni was to relay the tale in exactly the same fashion many times in the years to come; our eyes met and locked over the organised chaos. I didn't get any further on my look round.
We chatted, I helped out in the classroom, we chatted and eventually break came when we adjourned to the staff-room where apparently, according to peoples' reports later, we sat, chatted and laughed basically oblivious to the world. I think this went on for the next few days as I supposedly got paid for getting a feel of the school and in reality just spent the time in Year One! It was the end of Summer term and in those days that meant there was not really a lot going on, apart from practicing for the staff panto and getting supplies in for the school staff party.
Now according to popular legend, or at least what Juni's friends said afterwards, there was already a lot of talk about the 'chemistry' going on between us. Like normal I was about a year behind in all this feelings malarkey and was just going with the flow; the flow being I had found someone I really liked. Never really considered that we were not destined to be together – naivety, arrogance or hippiness you are free to take your pick. I had not been to a staff party before but suspected that it was not going to be what you would imagine the parents wished for in the people who were responsible for looking after their wards. This suspicion was mainly formulated with the experience of my only other outing with teachers. Previously I had been invited on a staff only evening out at the school I did my final teaching practice at. We were asked to leave a restaurant and then a pub! Quite an eye opener for a goody two shoes from the sticks! So I was prepared, sort of. Apparently half way through the evening I put my hand on Juni's knee for longer than just being 'friendly' dictates. Again this was all news to me, I was just going with the flow. This is not the time or place to go on about what happened at the party (mainly after we had left I might add) but lets just say one of the local lunch time supervisors opened fire with their hosepipe onto a 'rocking' and steamy mini parked outside their house belonging to one of the more liberal teachers and a male Australian relief teacher.
I wasn't drunk, Juni was (as would be the scenario all of our time together, as Juni says she only saw me drunk once – I don't like it) but by the time we had walked around Whitechapel talking; in those days it was safe to do such a thing late at night; we had missed the tubes and ended up going back to one of the other teacher's shared house. School the next day was a funny old affair as only about ¾ of the staff made it in at all and ½ of those were very the worse for wear. By then I suppose Juni and I were an 'item' or at least an item of gossip anyway. I spent another day at the house I was staying at before taking around a bagful of shopping to make Juni a curry. Wine in the afternoon meant the curry idea was dispensed with and instead I cooked the, what was to become the infamous, Haunted House Spaghetti Shapes on toast! From that evening I didn't actually ever move out! We were both doing the school 'Holiday Reading Scheme' for two weeks and I suppose this was the start of us becoming inseparable...It was to be about 7 years later until we actually spent a night apart which didn't involve a maternity ward.
After the reading scheme Juni was going Euro-railing and meeting up with Helen, an Australian friend (who lived in Newcastle with Susan her partner; we stayed with them on our arrival in Oz but lost track of them as it was pre social media times) and as I was still getting free rail travel courtesy of my Dad working on the railway all his life I decided to go with her for a week, until they were due to meet up. We carried on having a ball together mainly in France if I remember rightly, I'd turned Juni veggie by this time and it was a challenge in those days, French onion tarts figured highly. But I remember as the week went on we were both feeling sad as the day to meet Helen in Germany (and therefore for me to go home) grew ever closer. The appointed meeting day came and went – no Helen. Again, and this is hard for you younger readers to realise, with no mobile networks and the internet still being science fiction, there was no way of contacting Helen to find out what had happened. We hung around for a couple of days, both being secretly happy I suspect and then Juni said she didn't want to travel by herself! Trouble is we had enough money to last one person three weeks not two as I was planning on going back and this was before cash cards could be used overseas. Budding love over-ruled common sense however and we decided to carry on until we ran out of cash.
So three weeks of evening wine, tins of lentils (and their associated after effects), Roman ruins and fairy tale castles ensued. We stayed in a castle (not as idyllic as it sounds), got bitten by bed bugs in what was then Yugoslavia, thrown off a train at gun point (long story which involved a copper banging hard on the loo door where Juni had asked me to stand guard while she washed as there were lots of leery dodgy blokes – apparently disarming an armed Yugoslavian copper is not the done thing, even if by accident), laughed at the concrete 'beaches' in Spit, farted a lot in Meersburg and had Juni laughing raucously out load every time we heard, said or saw the name Tittisee. It was in Germany where we had to catch the next train back to France to make sure that Juni got back to England before the pass ran out. Running onto the platform we dived on the train laughing, only to find out it was the wrong train. It was during the three hour wait at some random train station where Juni said if we survived this holiday we could survive anything – I took that as a sign and proposed, on one knee on a concrete station in the middle of Germany. She laughed, but didn't say no.
The rest, as they say is history – or at least chapter two, if anyone is interested.