Shortly after Arthur proposed to me, Dad had a decorating job to do at a big restaurant in Wood Green. He needed another pair of hands and asked Arthur if he would like to work with him. The money would be more, he said, than he was earning in the office at The Solicitor’s Law Stationery Society. Arthur wasn’t very happy in his present job and welcomed the change of employment and a possible new career. Also, since we were secretly saving up for an engagement ring, we thought this a good idea.
Arthur said he would have to give notice, but Dad wouldn’t have this. He had to start work the following Monday, and Arthur would have to join him then. It was now or never. Arthur left his job at the end of the week, though they didn’t take very kindly to having to waive his notice.
There was a dead line on the job and, as Arthur had never done any building and decorating work before, Dad had to teach him as he went along. Daddy was used to long hours of hard work, but Arthur had always had a nine-to-five job that entailed having clean fingernails, and wearing a suit and white shirt. Now he came home tired and dirty, his hands cut and bleeding.
We decided that it would please Dad if Arthur officially asked him, as they say, for my hand in marriage. This he did while they were both working late one night. Daddy was delighted, and so was Mummy. We gave Arthur’s parents the news, and I made a concentrated effort to call them Mum and Dad. Arthur had always called my parents Sid and Nan, which he continued to do. Incidentally, although my mother was christened Jeanette, she was known to everyone as Nanette or Nan.
Meanwhile, Dad and Arthur were working harder and harder. In the end, Arthur worked day and night. Dad said that, if they could do a couple of thirty-six hour shifts, they could finish the job in time, and Dad would give Arthur a share of the profits. Arthur said OK, and worked right round the clock for a full thirty-six hour shift. He went home, had a normal night’s sleep, and then worked another thirty-six hours, non-stop. Suddenly he developed a bad leg and became very ill. The doctor diagnosed cellulitis and lymphangitis. Poor Arthur was bedridden and his leg swelled up to an enormous size. Mum Chapman wasn’t very pleased at what had happened to her son, and I was very worried. The bitter pill to swallow was that Dad didn’t get paid for the job and so neither did Arthur! Neither of us can remember, almost sixty years later, why this was, but it wasn’t that unusual in Dad’s working life just after the war. All that hard work and a bad leg, to say nothing of losing his job at the Law Society. When Arthur eventually recovered, he decided that a builder’s life was not for him, and went job-hunting.
By the end of October we had enough money saved for my engagement ring and went shopping. Bravington’s of King’s Cross was the place to buy wedding and engagement rings, so that’s where we went. I chose a five stone, diamond ring. It cost £15! It was nestling on a bed of black velvet and sitting in a brown leather box. We decided to become officially engaged on St. Valentine’s Day, since that was the anniversary of our first date. However, Arthur kept saying ‘Why don’t you wear your ring now?’ and when my birthday came round I couldn’t resist the temptation any longer. We did have an official Valentine’s Day engagement party with lots of guests, presents, and booze, where a good time was had by all. Then we settled down to the serious business of saving and planning for our forthcoming marriage.
to be contd...