My eighteenth birthday. I really don’t feel any different. To my delight I had been chosen to play for England against France at netball. Was I chuffed.
However the future decided otherwise.
The Speedway was quite an exciting event and I was thrilled Ted was there and not George. When the meeting was over he asked me if he could take me home. Without a moment’s hesitation I said “Yes”.
We walked out to his motorbike and with my heart in a whirl I climbed on and away we went. Coming to the viaduct across the road the engine slowly died. There were green grassy banks by the concrete supports of the viaduct and as Ted said the engine was overheated, which of course I didn’t believe, we would have to sit on the grass until it cooled.
The engine might have cooled but we didn’t. Not that we went too far but he was the first man I had allowed so close to me.
It all seemed so right and when he asked me to marry him I just said “Yes” without hesitation. I think we were both surprised at the speed our relationship had reached.
After kissing and declaring forever we drove home and he left me promising to see me the next evening.
It was so wonderful to feel him close to me that I would have done anything he wanted or gone anywhere he said. I was lost to the world.
The next evening he came and met my mother and my sister and Harry. Harry was still devoted to Win.
Ted had an Aerial Square Four motor bike but Harry had a 250 cc bike. As Harry was six foot two and big with it and my sister was eighteen stone and five foot ten the poor little machine almost disappeared under them and was a source of hilarity whenever they went out.
On Saturday afternoon we decided to see the place Win and Harry frequented. This was Pevensey on the coast. After we arrived it was so crowded we soon left. Being so close to London it was popular. It was also where William first landed and fought in the 1400s. He went on to fight King Harold at Hastings and saw him killed by an arrow in the eye. History everywhere.
On the way home we saw a woodland that was green and inviting. It was a very hot day and that greenery couldn’t be resisted. Ted pulled up onto the grassy border of the road and we walked on a narrow path between crowded trees and thick undergrowth. Suddenly we could hear water running and there was a small river running quite quickly and making the air so cool. We sat on the river bank and while I looked for a fish Ted just laughed at me. The kisses and cuddles were great but so was the relief from the heat.
Suddenly Ted said “Come on. Look at the light. It’s nearly gone and will be dark under the trees.”
We walked into the darkness to realise that we could not see any path or where we were. After wandering around and after I had fallen over a tree stump and Ted had fallen down a gully Ted said “Stop. We could break a leg or fall in the river or something.” We just had to sit down where we were and wait for dawn.
We sat down but I took some convincing that spiders were not crawling over me. Gathering me into his lap he promised to keep guard against them if only I would try to sleep. What a hope. After a short while I suddenly said “Ted there are ghosts. They are coming this way.”
Ted sat up and I pointed out the white lights dancing along and up and down. They were really scary.
In disgust Ted explained about marsh lights and the banks of the river being closer than we knew. I was only half convinced and didn’t close my eyes.
I didn’t think I closed my eyes but Ted woke me with a shake to say daylight was filtering through. True enough I could see all around us. Imagine our disgust to find ourselves sitting on the path we had lost in the dark.
Staggering to our feet and stretching out the kinks we made for the road. Our motorbike was still there but the swimsuits and towels were gone.
Climbing on the bike we drove off but not far along the road Ted spotted a road workman’s hut and pulled over to it. There was a glowing hot fire outside the hut and we both eased up to the glowing drum while Ted explained to the man how we had been lost.
To our surprise after a few minutes he handed us, with apologies, two jam tins with milkless tea in them. That tea tasted like nectar. Nice and sweet and hot.
Ted gave him a large tip and our thanks and off we sped. We debated where to go but settled for my place first.
At my house all was quiet and I slipped in to bed without anyone being wiser. Ted arrived home to meet his mother furious because he had not let her know he was sleeping at my house. Needless to say he did not tell her what had really happened.
Ted came back in time for lunch and my mother very kindly made a salad and cold meat meal. Ted and I and my sister and Harry sat down and everyone was happy.
Ted used the tomato sauce and Harry said “After you” so Ted put the bottle down without screwing the top on. Harry picked it up as he turned to speak to my sister and shook it. Tomato sauce hit Win smack in the face and spread to curtains, walls, window behind her and even on the ceiling.
Consternation and screaming. My sister was not amused. Win never did have a sense of humour. I didn’t help by laughing my head off. I don’t think she ever forgave me. The two boys, with buckets of water, cleaned up and pacified my mother. I must say she did see the funny side and told my sister to be quiet and see it for an accident.
Ted and I drove to Hyde Park and enjoyed the rest of the day in the sun.
The next day Sunday Ted told me his cousin Grace was coming to stay and his mother insisted he take her out for the evening. After having angry words he had agreed but also had a friend pulled in to make a foursome. They both had motor bikes and Grace was introduced to us as partner for George his friend.
I was quite surprised at the lavishly made up girl who was the cousin. Somehow I had expected a shy retiring person. Boy was I wrong. Heavy lipstick, mascara and eye shadow, I was in awe. Me with my washed clean look.
We went on a mild pub crawl. At the first pub the boys had beer, I had a shandy but miss, made up, insisted on a port. The next pub all was repeated and the next. Grace was giggling a lot but not too bad. However at the next place I decided as it was the last we would visit, to have a “Barley Wine”. This was a very strong drink and only for someone used to it. I always ended with this drink and could take it but dear Grace decided to have one too.
We tried to dissuade her but she started making a scene so Ted bought one for her. Not much different until we stepped outside. Grace’s legs went from under her and the boys propped her against the wall trying to decide how to get her home.
Finely she was tied to Ted by the sleeves of his jacket and a scarf George was wearing. This left her feet dangling so they tied them to the footrest with a headscarf she was wearing and two large handkerchiefs. What a scary journey that was. These days the police would be down like a ton of bricks.
George drove me home and Ted went home with Grace. It was the next day that I saw Ted and heard how he managed. He managed to get Grace into the house and up to her room without waking his mother. Then he didn’t know what to do with her because she was completely helpless. He slowly undressed her and threw her nightdress on her, then tucked her into bed. Just in time as his mother called out “Is that you Teddy?” hoping she wouldn’t speak to Grace so he said, “Yes. Go to sleep.” and she did.
The next morning mother said “Poor Grace. She has a bad head. I think she must have a cold starting."
Ted arrived at my place about eleven o’clock and my mother invited him to lunch. It was a cold lunch as usual and afterwards we went to the park.
Sitting on a seat there Ted explained that his mother would have a fit if he said he was thinking of marriage so he wanted to go and see his grandmother. She doted on him and would shut his mother up. So we arranged to go to Nottingham the next weekend and announce our engagement.
I was quite excited and looked forward to the trip to the family outside Nottingham, Gotham in fact.
We saw each other every evening until the weekend and then the trip to his grandmother arrived. The idea was to leave early on Saturday morning arriving at grandmother’s just after lunch.
Grandmother’s house was a very old sturdy brick building and Ted walked up the wellworn path with confidence. I followed behind him like a lamb.
Grandma gave a gasp of delight at the sight of Ted but then he introduced me as the girl he wanted to marry and that let a storm loose.
She called me a made-up little tart, a fornicator, a wicked temptress and other things I can’t remember and then ordered me out of her house.
Ted was white with shock and with his arm tight around me walked out to the bike. Nearly in tears from shock we just stood for a few minutes and then Ted said “Hop on. We’ll go to Ciss’s.”
We drove to the other end of the village to another brick house. When we walked in Ciss gave Ted a big kiss and welcomed me. Ted explained what had happened at grandma's and Ciss laughed. “Don’t you know the family met and decided you should marry your cousin Grace?”
Grace, make up plastered on and drunk as a skunk. Grandma called me names. She obviously didn't know Grace. I was even soberly dressed for once.
Ted said “No way. I’m marrying Dora.”
Then Ciss made some tea and was really nice. Ted followed her out to the kitchen and when they came back Ciss said “Of course you can stay the night but there is only one bed. You’ll have to sleep together.”
Ted just looked at me with a pleading look. How could I say no. At last I fell.
Next day we met Uncle Jack and Ivy, his wife, with a little boy in a high chair. They were so nice and said not to take any notice of Grandma. Grandma’s tongue had lashed them as well. She didn’t agree with their marriage even though Ivy was pregnant. She was a sour sharp-tongued woman, bitter because another woman had taken her position of flower arranger in the church. She even stopped going to church. I was stunned at such pettiness.
We called in for Ted to say goodbye to Grandma. She handed him a bucket of scraps and slops to take down to the pigs at the bottom of the garden. Of course like a towny he went into the pen instead of throwing it over the wall into the trough. The three pigs rushed him and being huge they knocked him down in the smelly pig mud and walked on him. He stank.
Back at the house Grandma washed off his leathers, fortunately he wore leather jacket and trousers, and without a word to me said goodbye to him.
We set off for London with a haversack full of pears from Grandma’s tree and after all the name calling we were quite happy.
Then came disaster.