19 - Wes.

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Wes.

September 1947, and I was back at night school.The Trip was near to The People's College and I arrange to join my friend Barbara (W) there after the Thursday session. She was with a couple of fellas when I arrived and I was obviously meant to make a foursome. One look was enough for me. They were rough, uncouth louts. The one allotted to me was ginger and normally I admired ginger hair but this chappie had pale skin and eyes, a heavily freckled face and his "You'll do for me duck" earned him the most scathing look I could muster.

I ignored his "What'll you "ave?" and pushed my way to the bar which took some doing - the place was jam pack solid. Barbara (W) came after me and hissed in my ear that we were with them and I should let them pay. I shook my head but as I moved from the bar with my drink I found myself back with them. We stood in the passage for there was no way we could have got into the side room.

While I was wondering how to leave without drawing attention to myself my eyes met those of a fella at the far end of the bar. There was an immediate sense of recognition although I had never seen him before. He obviously understood and was amused by my situation or by the pint mug in my hand. In the words of the song. "It seemed as if we'd met before, and lived and loved before." And if that sounds corny I must admit that I didn't think I'd "fallen in love" it was just a sense of immediate rapport.

The toilet was in the back yard and that was also a way out so I finished my drink and left by way of the toilet. I didn't tell Barbara (W) I was leaving in case she and the fellas decided to come too.

I was surprised when I found the fella from the end of the bar waiting for me. He walked me home even though it meant he would have a five or six mile walk back to his own home and I warned him there would be "nothing doing" at the end of it. That was the first of many walks home.

His name was Wesley and he was everything I had been waiting for although I was a bit worried that he came from "Bread and Lard Island" as we called West Bridgford as the fellas from there had the reputation of being mean.

Barbara was furious; she thought I had arranged to meet Wes outside though how she thought I could have done that from the other end of the passage is beyond me.

Soon after I met Wes he arrived at a date minus his top teeth, which he had just had extracted. I can't understand why it didn't put me off but obviously it didn't as I continued to see him. Looks have never been important to me.

I can't remember much about our early days together. I think we mainly went for a drink or to the pictures. (Cinema)

Although I was dating Wes I still saw Barbara (W) and we arranged to go to Goose Fair in a foursome. It was a ride in the huge swinging baskets that put me off Barbara forever. I suppose youngsters today would think nothing of the ride but they swung to perpendicular and we clung on for dear life.

Neither Wes nor I cared very much for the ride but Barbara's fella went white before turning green. When the ride was finished she insisted on taking a ride on another horror. Wes and I went home and I didn't arrange to meet her again.

Before long I had taken Wes home to meet my parents.

Dad thought he was too old for me and didn't believe it when I said he was only one year older than me. I suppose his service in Germany had aged him for the first photograph of him in uniform shows a very young looking eighteen year old.

Wes didn't meet Granddad perhaps I was reluctant to introduce him after Fred's reaction although Granddad was back in the sitting room with Momma. He died shortly after Wes and I met.

Momma must have been still been in hospital on my birthday. However, Wes did meet Momma. We were going to a dance and I had a full-length evening dress. She called it a ball gown and said wistfully that she had never been to a ball. She also said, "Now I've seen the man you will marry."

I shook my head, "We've only just met," I said but I felt pleased.

Despite her pain, before she died she said of her life, "It's not been so bad." I wept to hear her say that. Her life had been so hard and she had been betrayed not only by her husband but also by her daughters. She had always been there for them but when her hour of need came they turned away.

Momma didn't survive long without Granddad. She died in agony the following March. (25/3/48) A pill had been left for her to ease her death but she refused it and I was told she cried out in pain all night long.

I had not been told how ill she was and to my father's disgust, I slept through it all. No doubt I had been drinking heavily.

Once again my memories of the funeral are hazy although I am sure I was responsible for the refreshments. I believe Harry attended the funeral and recall the family were scandalised because one of the aunts didn't and she was seen shopping on the "Green" when the hearse passed.

When Harry married (May 22nd 1948) Wes was his best man. I was a bridesmaid despite the bride not wanting me. It was not my choice either but Dad and Mum were up in arms when they realised I wasn't to be asked. Harry consulted me as to whether it was normal practice to ask the bridegrooms sister. I told him it was but he needn't bother, as I didn't want to be anyway. However he persuaded me that my attitude would spoil his wedding day and so I agreed.

During the summer Wes and I took my young brother John and his pals out at the weekends. We took them fishing at Fairham Brook, Clifton blackberrying and picnicking

Christmas '48 we got engaged. Wes didn't propose but I pointed out an engagement ring to him in Chantrills, a jewellery shop on Radford Road. I had deliberately chosen a cheap ring (ten pounds) for I knew anything expensive would set him running.

I should have been happy but suddenly I became very depressed.I realised the reality of death. I could think of nothing else. Sitting on the bus going to work I wanted to scream at my fellow passengers, "Why are you laughing and chattering? Don't you know you are all going to die?'

I couldn't sleep, I couldn't eat and I couldn't tell anyone how I felt. I can't remember how long I was in this condition but I can remember the first thing I ate. It was a pyclet, toasted in front of the kitchen fire at my future Mother-in-law's.

Our courtship didn't run smoothly for in the first place his Mother didn't like me and his father thought I was a "gold digger." One of my worst enemies was my own tongue and I didn't help matters when Wes told me his father asked if I was a gold digger, I retorted, "If I was a gold digger I dig in a gold mine not a muck heap."

To make matters worst soon after we became engaged we went to his father's work's dance and who should be there but Fred my school day sweetheart and several of the old drinking crowd.

Neither Wes nor his father danced and I loved dancing so I was soon whirling away with Fred and his pals. Wes said some very unpleasant things, before leaving, including that I had embarrassed his father. Fred took me home.

Whether it was the influence of drink or whether he had deteriorated since last we met, suffice it to say he made sexual advances such as he had never done before. I can only suppose he thought I'd fall into his arms like a rotten apple since his approach was direct and without any assurance of love or apology for the past. I told him I wasn't that kind of girl and if he was looking for sex he should go to Long Row (a notorious haunt of prostitutes)

The following day I wrote a letter of apology to Wesley's father explaining that the fellows I had danced with were school day friends. It was a deliberate ploy to get back with Wes for although I couldn't see what they had found so appalling about my behaviour, I knew Wes was the man I wanted to marry.

I can't remember how we got back together but we did.

We had one holiday together before we married. Dad tried to forbid it but I told him I was going to Skegness with Wesley and nothing he could say would prevent me, at the same time I assured him of the propriety of our arrangement. We lodged separately, he with his Aunt and I in a boarding house, it was fabulous. The sun shone everyday and it was more of a honeymoon than the one after we married in June 1949.

Clothing coupons were still needed but I was fortunate for I obtained some white parachute silk to make a long under slip and my manager was able to get some sample material for me for the dresses. I didn't, of course, have any choice of cloth or colour, but he got a length of white crepe and enough turquoise crepe to make two bridesmaids dresses. One for Wesley's sister and one for my cousin Jean. The turquoise was rather dark so I bought some beige net (coupon free) for the yokes and puff sleeves.

The youngest bridesmaid, Aunt Helene's child was dressed in lemon net. My mother's cleaning lady asked to be allowed to make the dresses and she made them beautifully. My dress had a sweetheart neckline and a full "A" line skirt. I borrowed a veil that I wore over my face. It stayed there throughout the ceremony as my bridesmaids forgot to lift it.

My mother-in-law to be, offered to make the cake. I had planned to make it myself and it was with some trepidation that I agreed. I was shocked by the extravagance of the ingredients she asked for. I would have managed with far less but the resulting cake was excellent.

It was a two-tier cake and I saved the top tier, in the prescribed manner, for the Christening of my first child although as I didn't intend this event to take place for at least five years, I privately thought it would come in as a Christmas or birthday cake.

Dad agreed to pay for the reception but we had to buy the bouquets. I remember being terribly shocked by the price and I decided to carry cut flowers. Uncle John gave me beautiful Irises for the bridesmaids and sweet peas for the little one. I had gladioli. I took the advice of Mam's cleaning lady and kept them overnight in the cellar so they were tightly closed and I suppose ruined the effect but they looked OK on the photograph.

The honeymoon was a fiasco. We had been unable to have the Saturday of our choosing as Wes worked for The Westminster bank and could only have the Saturday morning off if the clerk already on holiday would agree to come in and our second choice was vetoed by Dad as it would have been the weekend of sweet points and that was his busiest day of the month. I determined on a morning wedding, as I wanted to avoid an evening party with all the dirty jokes I had heard at other family weddings.

My menstrual period started on my wedding night. I had warned my husband to be that it would probably happen sometime during the week but it was a bit off putting. We went to Yarmouth and it was cold and wet. The one redeeming feature was the landlady. She was a lovely woman who served yorkshire puddings with every dinner. By coincidence her name was the same as my maiden name.

We planned to rent rooms at the top of a three storey house on Gregory Boulevard for which we were to pay £1 a week. There was a cooker on the landing and the shared bathroom was on the floor below. However Dad asked if we would be prepared to live behind the shop next door.

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Joan Mary Fulford
Fulord Consulting Ltd
West Bridgford
Nottingham NG2 5GF

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