Tuesday, 5 July 2011

A Pink Dress, Sweet Peas - and Brown Boots

My parents were married today in 1947. Sadly, Dad died just before Christmas in 2006, so they never celebrated their Diamond Anniversary, although they had planned a trip to Paris. As befitted good socialists, the wedding was at a register office rather than a church, which was probably unusual in those days. Dad was 25, and Mum was 19-coming-up-20. She wore a dusky pink dress and jacket, with a hat and veil, and carried sweet peas. He wore his best suit and brown shoes - even in the black and white photo you tell they are brown (no wonder he always enjoyed the Stanley Holloway monologue about Brown Boots!)

It was just two years after the war ended, when Britain was still picking up the pieces and, like many other young couples, they had no proper home of their own and lived in a rented room - but they had an allotment where they grew fruit and vegetables. Their landlady (a friend of my mother's mother) turned out to be a bit of a dragon, and they were so scared of making a noise and upsetting her they crept around their room on tiptoe, and sat with their ears against a whispering radio, because they didn't dare turn it any louder!

When they bought their first house some years later they had to live upstairs, because there were sitting tenants downstairs. Although I don't remember it, that's where I was born, and they had to heave me (I was a very fat, very heavy baby) up and down the stairs, as well as the pram, bags of shopping, buckets of coal and armfuls of wet washing destined for the washing line.

Their next home, where my brother and I were brought up, was covered in brown paint and varnish, and desperately in need of repair and rennovation, but it was all their's, with a proper kitchen, a garden, wonderful neighbours - and it was near an allotment! They stayed there until they retired, moved to Ledbury, and said life was like a permanent holiday.

Although they knew each other slightly when they first met - they had friends in common - it was a real whirlwind romance, and when Dad finally plucked up the courage to ask Mum out (he always maintained she ran him over on her bicycle, but she insists he stepped out in front of her waving his arms about).they 'courted' for just six months. Like most people they had their ups and downs, but remained blissfully happy throughout their time together. After they retired they walked down the town every day hand-in-hand, just as they did when they were first married. They really were soulmates, whose characters and skills complimented each other, and although they had a similar outlook on life and enjoyed similar activities, they never lived in each other's pockets: each had their own friends and interests, in addition to their shared friends and activities.

It was that sense of independence which probably helped Mum in the months immediately after Dad died, but she still misses him, and we always try to mark their anniversary and take time out to remember him.


  1. That was such a sweet story, and the bicycle incident is so funny. It sounds like your parents had a real partnership(so unlike mine) & I bet the strength of their marriage was a blessing to you kids, even if you didn't know it at the time.

  2. A beautifully crafted tale Chris. One day I will tell my grandchildren all about the day I met my wife. She is my soulmate and I can imagine us holding hands and walking togetehr when we retire.

  3. What a beautiful love story, and how eloquently told. My best to you and your mother.


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