Thursday, January 22, 2009

Thursday 20th January 1944

That fantastic night ended when we were in a bus, again crossing Essex and the roads, hedges and buildings were all growing dimly visible. We parted in Romford. I came up to Town with a carriage full of city workers.

April had given me some of her clothing coupons with which to purchase shoes. So when I reached Belzise Park and emerged from the Underground into the road, I asked the first passer-by, “Where can I get a pair of shoes, please?” “There's a shop up the road” was the reply.

I walked in the direction indicated and located the shoe shop alright. However, on the way I passed a street violinist, a large old church and a Police Station. These things together gave me an idea and it seemed a funny coincidence that the church was St. Stephen's and the vergers name Dawson! At the Police Station they gave me the Vicars address and - still unshaven and carrying a pair of shoes – I went there and he was out, but was eventually located and I spoke to him on the telephone in the hall at his house.

After I'd explained the circumstances he said he thought it could be arranged. “Go to the Vicar-General's Office, Westminster,” he said, “And they'll grant you a Special or I'll eat my hat. Bring that along here and I'll marry you as soon as you like. Saturday? Yes, that's alright!”

I rushed into No. 51 about lunchtime – they hadn't seen me since midday the day before – and shouted “we're going to be married! Here in Hampstead! I'm going to Westminster for a licence!” I then stood in the kitchen and shaved and prattled excitedly, had a quick lunch and hurried up to Town “in case the office closes early.”

(The time is 1:10a.m., so it is the twenty second of January 1944 now and my wedding day. Incidentally I am in Pepita's improvised bedroom (the kitchen, as we are short of space here) and my feet are on her bed. A fine thing, to be in a young lady's bedroom in the early hours of my wedding day!)

Well, praise the Lord, the office was not closed when I dashed in there at 2p.m. Two legal individuals saw me, and treated the whole matter with utter indifference except where the Law was concerned, and certainly behaved with complete lack of emotion. Extraordinary! They quibbled and I feared they would not grant the licence, because of some vague legal point. Eventually, however I filled in a form and swore some mighty oaths with the Bible and a typewriter clattered and one of the legal persons gave me an impressive document with a huge seal attached. “That will be £2,” he said and gestured to a slotted collection box on the desk, “If you care to contribute to the Widows and Orphans,” he added. (Or did he say “Waifs and Strays? Anyhow it was a Worthy Cause and I hastily dropped in a sixpence in case any more legal difficulties were raised!)

As soon as I found a call box I rang Brentwood 803 and said, “April! I'VE GOT IT! It's here in my hand!...”


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