Getting engaged

Wendy Selkirk, née Wendy Frost

Wendy, my wife, in Sicily, shortly before we became engaged

In which I set out to launch a magazine and end up getting engaged

And then,  sometime in 1965, we got engaged. This came about by accident or rather, it came about as an afterthought to what was for me and even more important event, that is the whole concept of producing an archaeological magazine.

I was by this time two years through serving my articles for accountancy . However in addition to learning the practicalities of accountancy, mainly by auditing other firm’s accounts, it also meant taking exams,  and for the exams we will always given four or six weeks‘ study leave beforehand, and I was on my study leave for what must have been part one of the finals. I began in the morning by reading the Financial Times, to which at the time I subscribed. I thought it was part of my training,  but really of course it was a way of putting off getting down to my Foulks Lynch, which was the name of the  correspondence course that we all took. And there in the middle of the Financial Times was an article on a new type of printing machine called Offset Litho,  which was a small machine that could fit into a back room and produce results that were every bit as good as the normal letterpress machine. I suddenly thought,  why not do a magazine of my own?

By this time I had finished my stint as editor of Contra, the magazine of the London Chartered Accountants Students Society, and I was beginning to think that I might become rather a good editor – at least I felt I would be a better editor that I would be a chartered accountant. I had been thinking vaguely of doing financial journalism, but then the brilliant idea came to me: why not set up an archaeological magazine?

Suddenly, everything seemed to fall together. Having been president of the Oxford University Archaeological Society I knew the archaeology world – I may not have had a degree in archaeology but I had a degree in Greats, and as always, it is not so much what should know but who you know that matters, and I felt I knew my way around the archaeological world. And having been editor of Contra, I was confident in my editing ability. Finally the only archaeological magazine, the Archaeological Newsletter, which had begun as a monthly magazine, had gradually slowed up until for its last three years, and had only appeared once a year,  and for the last two years it had not appeared at all.  So although the editor, Miss Dorothy Heighes Woodford was still alive, I felt one could consider the ANL to be dead. In other words, there was a gap in the market: why not fill it?

It was a brilliant idea – a stroke of genius,  indeed it was the idea that has in fact filled the rest of my life very successfully  and very happily. And of course there was in the background a young lady would be my accomplice in all this – though I don’t think that during that first wonderful day I ever thought about this. Anyway I spent the day on a cloud of excitement – I don’t think I got any studying for my accountancy done.  I just had this wonderful dream and I enjoyed dreaming that dream. I was in fact fairly soon argued out of the idea of buying an offset litho machine and doing my own printing, but the idea of producing and editing an archaeological magazine seemed a wonderful idea.

That evening, Wendy was due to come along to see me. When she arrived, I immediately began to tell her about my wonderful new idea, bubbling over with enthusiasm about setting up this new magazine and becoming an archaeologist again. She listened, but somehow she failed to respond to my enthusiasm quite as enthusiastically as I had hoped. Eventually she burst into tears: but what about me? she said. I had not expected this at all – this was not part of the scenario.  But I hastened to reassure her. Thinking quickly, I assured her that she was very much part of the whole scheme.  I can’t possibly do this all by myself, I said.  You will be an essential part of the whole enterprise – my co-editor. I must confess this was all said ex tempore – I hadn’t thought it out at all, but it seemed rather sensible and perhaps it might dry up her tears.

But alas, it didn’t. The crisis still continued and she was still desperately worried  about the whole scenario.  How am I going to be your co-editor, she said? Does this mean we’re going to get married? Now this was not at all on my agenda. Yes, she was a superb girlfriend. Yes, she was quite a different class to my other girlfriends, not only was she very sexy but she was also a good fit intellectually and socially and – well, we shared the same humour, the same values,  the same attitude to life.

But I had never really thought about getting married. My mother always assumed that I would never get married – no girl will ever be fool enough to take me on, she said, realising that I was a little bit of an acquired taste. But as a result, I had never really thought about marriage. Girlfriends, yes, but I had never really thought about marriage. But why not? If ever I was to get married, Wendy would be the ideal girl. She would always be also be a super companion, someone I could introduce to my friends, to my parents. My brother Stuart who lived nearby, had met her and approved. My friend David had met her and approved. Yes, if I wanted to get married, it was highly unlikely that I would ever meet anyone better than Wendy, who ticked all the boxes. In addition she would be the ideal co-conspirator in setting up an archaeological magazine – she had the efficiency that I lacked and would be the ideal partner in this. She would be the last final vital cog in setting up the magazine.

All this flashed through my mind when she asked me that all-important question:  does this mean we’re going to get married? I could not but reply, rather weakly, Yes, I suppose so. Does this mean we are engaged, then, she said. Oh God I just hadn’t thought about this, or anything like this. Surely one was meant to go down on one knee and propose to the girl when one gets engaged. Well I never really thought about this, but yes, logically she had me in a corner.  If I wanted to do the magazine, I would need to have a partner, here was the ideal partner, here was someone who would make an absolutely super wife, so yes, why not get married? And if we were to get married, I suppose we had to get engaged first. Yes, I said, I suppose we should get engaged.
You better get me a ring then, she said.  One of the girls in her flat had recently got engaged and knew a jeweller in Hatton Garden who specialised in providing antique engagement rings. Could we go along that weekend and visit him? Yes, I replied weakly, let’s go along on Saturday and see what we can do. Oh good, she said.  So we are engaged!

Andrew and Wendy Selkirk wedding

Our Wedding

Next Saturday we went along to Hatton Gardens. It was an ideal place sort of place,  dark and mysterious with a wonderful elderly salesman who found a wonderful ring for her, which seemed just right and at a price I could just about afford. It was a little bit too big and was rather loose on her finger, so we couldn’t take it straightaway. In fact it was not until a fortnight later that we were able to come back, but we went along and he gave it to me in a box. We went out for a meal to celebrate and then, under the table, we held hands and I slipped the ring onto her finger. And that is how we got engaged.



On to Current Archaeology