It’s entirely likely that I would have wriggled out of marrying Henry if I’d been given the chance. But Fate — or Destiny — would have it that he and I were both serial travellers for work with enough ready-booked destinations to ensure that we were hardly together again until the date we had booked for our wedding.
Even so, I suspect I would have managed it had Henry not cunningly arranged to visit my mother while I was in South America for a six weeks. I’d decided, while I was away with both my father and brother, chasing steam engines, that I couldn’t go through with marriage to this virtual stranger. But by the time I got home Henry had got his feet firmly under the table with the entire family, all of whom were shocked, thrilled and amazed that Maggy had managed to find someone nice who was actually willing to marry her (after such a long time – they’d given up hope, really they had...) and had all gone shopping for hats.
So, at the age of 32, I got married for the first time to a total stranger who had been born four miles from me, gone to the same school as my brother and whom I’d had to meet on the other side of the world so my defences would be down far enough to stop fighting.
On the day itself, it took a glass of champagne to get me to go out and actually exchange those vows but I was a pro; the lights were on; the stage was set and it was Showtime, no matter how much like running away I felt.
It took all of the first six months to learn how to love Henry and how to be a wife, which are two very separate things. I struggled but endured and bit my lip and tried again and again. And it worked. I fell in love with him and he, bless him, continued loving me throughout.
For his 43rd birthday, we went to Venice together and had a fabulous second honeymoon. The day after we got home Henry went down to London for the check-up and five months later I was a widow.