Sea Change

IN going through photos and negatives from 50 years ago I notice something I didn’t at the time, a sea change in Penny’s attitude. It’s perfectly obvious now; the point at which Penny came under emotional pressure. First, here’s how she looked in the Lake District on our honeymoon.

Honeymoon 1965

The next picture must be after we got back to London. She’s wearing a different suit than the one she got married in. This is clearly a relaxed, happy woman.

The new bride, 1965

I mentioned our flat in Hampstead. Here’s Penny on the back balcony enjoying the English sunshine. My very own pin-up girl.

Penny at 93 Fitzjohn’s Ave., Hampstead, London, 1965

It’s September of 1966 and we’re taking a short holiday at Lowestoft on the east coast of England. It’s still the same smile and it’s aimed at me.

Penny 1966, on the front at Lowestoft

The next year we’re in Canada, both working, living on Bayview Ave. in a one-bedroom apartment, driving a brand new Volkswagen. We take a vacation at my step-mother’s cottage at Big Chute. Something’s happened. Here’s Penny now.

The smile is gone; there’s now a wariness.

It’s the same down at the water after a swim. Penny looks anxious, even frightened. She is not a happy camper.

She almost looks like a different woman

OK, let’s say she’s just having a bad day. But here she is later, in 1968, at our apartment on the same couch as  the one mentioned in the “Loblaws” page. She’s on my Swedish Ericofon. But again, the wariness.

On the phone, on the couch, 1968

It’s not often you get a picture of the place your marriage ended within weeks of it doing so. She’s looking, what, calculating? And who is she talking to?

one of the last pictures

This is one smart-looking woman, just as sharp as she was three years earlier, or even six years earlier. The distinctive swoosh of hair is still over her right eye, but our eight-year relationship is just about over. Her thoughts are now hidden behind sunglasses.

It’s worth going back and comparing the first four pictures with the last four. The first group covers almost two years while the last group covers about nine months. The difference is striking. From a happy, self-confident woman, she’s become wary, withdrawn, secretative.

All this is hardlly surprising because she’s resumed her role as Hugh Lawson’s mistress. She’s also started taking Preludin which, I think, shows. Still, it’s a big change, and I didn’t even notice.

The tears, the separation, the divorce, the marriage, the alcoholism, the drug addiction, the next divorce—all this was in the future, the letters you’ve just read, were all in the past.

This was the moment the world changed.