Wednesday, 19 November 2008


Cutting the cake

We’d left our honeymoon address with both of our mothers, and received a letter from each. It was the one from my mum that carried the awful news of our wedding cake.
On the Sunday after our wedding, as promised, Mummy started to slice up our cake for distribution to family and friends. We had chosen a three tier, horseshoe-shaped cake, thinking that it would be easy to portion. Mum made the first cut and lifted the slice away from the bulk of the cake. As she bent down to savour the aroma of marzipan and spices, she stopped in horror. There was an aroma, but it came from the green mould growing around the layers of marzipan and cake. All she could think of was the shock and embarrassment we would have suffered, had we cut the cake at the reception, as normal. Mummy hurried back to Hemmings Bakery Shop, one of a large chain of bakers trading in the nineteen-fifties, thanking God that we had forgotten the ritual of the ‘cutting of the wedding cake’ on the big day.
The mangeress of the shop apologised profusely, saying they would bake me a fresh cake, ready for our return from honeymoon. It was thought that we had been given a cake used for display purposes, but who knows?
Nowadays, one would have sued a company that made such an awful blunder, but such thoughts didn’t enter our heads. In fact, we didn’t even get a free wedding cake out of it!
The other bit of Mum’s news from home was that was the state of affairs in our new flat. Dad and Dougie (who was only fifteen years old) were spending every spare minute of their time clearing out, decorating and moving furniture into our magnificent, one-roomed flat. Mummy said they were working very hard and it would all be ready when we returned. What a smashing family I had!
The day before we were due to leave Eastbourne, we were very, very broke. After breakfast, we walked around the shops and along the promenade. As lunchtime approached, our stomachs began to rumble with hunger and we counted out our coppers, which was all the money we had. There wasn’t nearly enough for fish and chips, so we decided to buy the cheapest, but most filling thing we could afford – a loaf of freshly baked bread. We have had many fancy meals since then, but none of them was as notable as that last, honeymoon lunch. I will always hold in great affection, the memory of us sitting on the sea wall, side by side, giggling, as we saw the funny side of the two of us tearing apart and eating a loaf of dry, unbuttered bread. Ours must truly been one of the lowest budget, shoestring honeymoons ever.
That night, after dinner, we packed our clothes, souvenirs and future dreams into our grey, paperboard suitcase, and prepared ourselves for the journey home to Upper Holloway and, we hoped, a long and happy life together.
We returned home to North London and excitedly made our way to our new address in Archway, Upper Holloway. We knocked on the door and were ushered in by Mrs. Bottacelli who directed us through the door under the stairs, telling us to come up to her flat and collect our rent book, when we were ready. When we entered our room: it was magic. There were our lovely dining room suite and two rust coloured, caterpillar, fire side chairs, the interior sprung mattress, our bedding and our pots and pans. Daddy and Doug had made a lovely job of decorating the room. It was now light and bright and clean. Dad had even laid our linoleum for us. We found the shiny, aluminium, whistling kettle, and carried it through to the scullery, where the air was thick with the smell of coiled fish heads! We didn’t care; we were married at last, in our own home, and it was all real.
Our first teapot was made of white china and was encapsulated in an insulated, chrome ball, with holes for the spout and handle to poke out. This was very modern and was supposed to keep the tea hot for ages. Up to now such household items had been very sparse and basic, and still bore the Government utility mark. But the ‘contemporary’ era was upon us, and we were starting to get a bit of ‘style’ in our lives.
The kettle whistled and we made our first pot of tea. Out came our new, white tea set and we played Mums and Dads.
Soon the job of arranging our new home was well under way. Because we wanted to show off our new dining room furniture and comfy chairs to the best advantage, we decided not to clutter our bed-sitter with the inclusion of an actual bed. Bearing this in mind, we decided to leave the bedroom suite at Arthur’s mum and dad’s house, and only use the mattress.
Our room had a door, a window, a fireplace and a handy floor- to- ceiling cupboard which was not very deep, but high. In this cupboard we planned to keep our mattress and bedding.
Each morning, before we went to work, we would stand the mattress on end, fold it in half, then quickly stuff it into the cupboard and slam the door shut before it could leap out again! I don’t know if you have ever tried to fold a new interior sprung mattress in half. It really needed the joint strength of three all-in-wrestlers to achieve this feat, but there was only the two of us! Once the mattress and bedding were hidden, we had a nice, cosy lounge that looked quite normal and, and we thought, rather smart.
Come bedtime, Arthur would open the cupboard door and let the mattress out. We would then drag it over to the rug in front of the hearth and make up the bed, using all our lovely, new bedding. This was the only space in the room that would accommodate the mattress. It was a bit of a nuisance, but well worth the effort if we wanted to have a respectable lounge that we could entertain in. It did, however, have just one little downside.
One morning when we were late for work, it was very easy to convince each other that it was a good idea to leave the bed down till we returned at teatime. We came home about 6 o/c that evening and, when we opened our door, we couldn’t believe what our eyes were telling us. Our mattress and the bedding were completely buried under a thick layer of black soot, as indeed was all the furniture.
We just stood transfixed, with a mixture of horror and disbelief. The rest of the evening was spent, cleaning, and sweeping and shaking things. We didn’t have a Hoover, just brooms and brushes. Looking back on it, I can hardly believe it happened, or that we managed to clean it up. But it did, and we did. We never left the bed down again though.
Previous to our occupation, the room hadn’t been used for years, and so the chimney hadn’t been swept since sweeps stopped using little boys to do the job!


Babs (Beetle) said...

Oh my! What a mess!

It wasn't too much later that it became quite the thing to have a mattress on the floor in a one room flat. Visitors would lounge around on them :O)

granny grimble said...

Babs (Beetle)

Really. I didn't know that. They probably all lazed around smoking pot!

weechuff said...

Oh what a shame about the soot! How did you ever get it out of the blankets and mattress? It made me smile imagining the btwo of you sitting on that wall tucking into your dry bread. I had forgotten how hard up we all were in those days after we had used all our hard saved money on the wedding. At least you got a honeymoon. We never did:0(

granny grimble said...

We were all hard up, but it didn't seem to be that much of a problem in those days. We were lucky to have a honeymoon albeit a very sparse one , and one that would never have happened if Aunty Dumpy hadn't given us that cheque for £5!

Anne said...

Oh no - I can just picture the scene. You should have patented your idea about putting the mattress in the cupboard - you can buy folding beds that fold up into a hole in the wall or cupboard now - I didn't realise I had such an entrepreneurial sister-in-law.

granny grimble said...


Putting the bed away was like a Laurel and Hardy movie! It took both of us to do it and felt like wrestling with an octopus (or maybe two)

GoldAnne said...

what a shame about the cake , you really should have had a new one for that
im sorry if im in wrong order
love anne xxx