Now… where did I leave off? Not exactly on a ‘cliff hanger,’ but nevertheless a ‘big’ moment in my young life. I was accepted into the Jewish faith, and relieved that I was at least over that hurdle. I also had a mental picture of my future mother-in-law smiling broadly, for ‘arrangements’ had to be made! But that was in the future. My ‘significant other’ and I continued to save and plan, until we caught sight of the wedding date. What followed was testing to say the least. The topic of ‘the table seating plan…’ arose, as expected. (Any readers unfamiliar with Jewish wedding table planning will, sadly, not appreciate the ironic humour and angst which accompanies such a feat of endurance.)
“Don’t you dare seat Aunt Beccy next to Uncle Solly…There could be fireworks. Oy vey!” And the fraught subject of the mixing of The Cohens, The Catholics and the ‘Taffies’ was aired and discussed.
I had to ask Grandma H to tell Uncle William and Uncle Percy not to slink out to the pub half -way through the proceedings. (Common in ‘working class’ Christian weddings at that time!) Oh the shame…
Aware that we couldn’t ‘let the side down’ so to speak, regarding the wedding reception, Eric and I worked our butts off and saved hard: walking everywhere when possible and watched the pennies grow into pounds.
It didn’t take a lot to make us happy and we had great fun just being in each other’s company. The time flew, until, on a very special, freezing Sunday in February, 1953, with the snow glistening in the sunshine, we were spliced at the Bernard Baron synagogue in East London. As tradition decreed – and as Eric’s parents were separated, and mine were not of the Jewish faith – we had ‘stand-ins’ under the Chuppa. Let me explain: mature couples, usually friends of the bride and groom, step forward in such cases and deem it an honour to ‘stand under the Chuppah’ for the couple. But before that part of the proceedings took place, we were taken to the relevant houses of the couples and given a tasty ‘breakfast’ (not an egg or rasher of bacon – bite your tongue – in sight!) Back to the synagogue, under the silver-embroidered, velvet chuppah, resplendent with early Spring flowers, with vows made and the ceremony complete, a glass in a velvet bag was crushed underfoot by the bridegroom to the congregation’s cry ‘Mazel tov!’ (good fortune or luck). The obligatory photographs followed (taken by the – later famous – ‘Mirror’ newspaper photographer Monty Fresco.) Thereafter we ate enough to feed a multitude of people – all delicious it must be said – in time to the lively music of a four piece Jewish band. Da-da-da-da-da-da-da….da-da-de-da…etc., It was difficult not to raise soup spoon, knife, fork and pastry fork to our lips in time to the rhythm! Food digested, we danced – of course – then, phew – tiny pastries, hot cherries and ice cream, were served to keep hunger pangs at bay around 10 o’clock…all washed down with copious amounts of wine. Bouquet duly despatched, my hew husband and I were driven to a two night honeymoon in the Strand Palace hotel.
I recall showering confetti in the lift, and blushing as the ‘lift boy’ grinned in his knowledge that we were newly-weds. Breakfast in bed – in a hotel! – was a first and we later walked down the Strand and nearly froze as the temperature plummeted. We had enough money between us for a magazine and a box of chocolates to also entertain us after dinner… and left with sixpence between us once the fare home had been paid! Happy as larks – we had some money left over after the ‘affair’ had been paid for (which Mum was holding for safe-keeping) – we set up home in ‘two rooms and a landing (the kitchen),’ in ‘Mr. and Mrs. Golding’s’ house in Forest Gate, a London suburb. Water was two flights of stairs down and our kitchen consisted of a gas stove, eye level cupboard and a waist high cupboard. We managed fine and lived there for three and a half happy years, entertaining friends and even having a few parties!! How times and needs have changed!
What a lovely slice of life, wonderful vivid scenes and images of life “back then”.
Already waiting for the next episode…already!