Monday, December 14, 2009

Entreat me not to leave thee or to return from following after thee

After their marriage in July 1951, they moved into “rooms”, a common enough experience for a young married couple at the time. Maintaining modesty while edging past your neighbour on the landing was excruciating. There was little privacy for a shy and virginal couple to get to know each other. Despite this, by the Spring of 1952, she was pregnant. They were now desperate to have their own front door but they needed somewhere with premises for his business. Not just as simple as renting a two-up, two-down.

In the Summer, they found a farmhouse. Enough space for a growing family and the business. It was cold, even in August and had no electricity or indoor sanitation. They made a hard decision and went for it. It would need a couple of months of work to make it habitable but by the time the baby arrived, they would be in. A warm kitchen with a range, one bedroom that would serve and the sitting room with a cosy inglenook. The rest would come in time.

They couldn’t afford the rent on the house and the rooms so they each moved back with their parents while the work was done. Every day when work finished, he started all over again to plumb cold water into the house and to connect mains electricity. They reckoned that it would be alright by the end of October. The baby was due on October 19th and they would be ready to move in by the time she was out of hospital. A touch of impatience brought the baby in early October. In between rushing up and down to the hospital he struggled to have everything ready to move in but it wasn’t right. She came home and went back to her mother to wait. Gradually, through November, he made it habitable and moved his possessions in and camped praying the house would warm up to bring his family home. Every day, she would push the pram up the hill and check it out as the small pieces of furniture arrived.

Eventually, the range was reliable and would stay in all night. Masonry stopped falling down the inglenook and the sitting room was marginally warmer than the outside world. There was still frost on the inside of the bedroom window but hot water bottles in the bed and the 2-bar on for thirty minutes before bedtime made getting to bed a short but acceptable dash. It was a cold and dampish Autumn, like most years. Perhaps a bit colder.

They set a date to move back in together. Friday 28th November. He made arrangements to get help with the business so that he could finish early and, with the Morris 8 loaded to the brim, he took all her clothes, linen and the baby’s layette. It was very cold and overcast, a miserable day but, at least, not raining. His parents were there so that there was tea, ham sandwiches and cake when she arrived. She said she could push the pram up the hill and would be there within the hour. The baby was wrapped up well. Anyway, it didn’t seem as cold now.

As they said their last, fleeting goodbyes, the overcast sky whitened and the first snowflakes started to fall.
“I’ll come back”.
“No, I’ll walk”.
“I’ll come back, please don’t walk”.

She lifted the baby out of the pram and climbed back up the steps into her mother’s house and then went back for the pram. Tears rolling down her face, she hugged the baby, refusing to accept that they would have to stay another day. Her mother and sister silently made up the spare bed.
Outside, the snow swirled and impertinently peered in at the window and fell away mockingly to settle on the ground.
Tea was made and refused.

A squeaky car horn peeped. Outside was the little black car, its tyre tracks the only marks in the snow. With no time to argue or debate, the pram was folded up and bundled into the back of the car. And she was in, still holding the baby tightly. The tiny engine raced as they slipped and slid up the hill. Turning into the yard of the farmhouse, they skated to a halt, home at last.

The in-laws had left the tea on the table and set off for home leaving the young couple and their baby on their own for the first time.

Whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge.


  1. Your parents? This is a really sweet beginning, I assume they made it.

  2. And they make out like it's a modern phenomenon to 'do up' a house in your spare time. Well done your parents, it must have been hard but hopefully worth it.x

  3. Yes, this is my parents.
    We lived in that house for 15 years. It was ever cold and we always had frost on the inside of the windows in the winter. My father put in HOT water when I was about 10. Rayburns and Agas weren't fashionable and my mother couldn't wait to get her proper electric cooker when we moved. We never did get an indoor lavatory.
    When we moved it was to the home that they built. But, that's another story.
    They were married for just over 30 years. He died in 1982 and she lived until 2002.

  4. These days, people think they are experiencing hardship because they can't afford a new mobile phone. They have no idea how hard life was as a matter of course for ordinary people just after the war. We had an outside loo until I was about 12. Central heating was installed long after I left home at 18. I remember well the chilblains and frost on the inside of my bedroom window. But nobody thought they were suffering hardship. That's how life was then.


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