Valerie and Me – leading up to marriage

Now, one thing that there wasn’t a lot of was money. It didn’t help that Valerie lived in Romford – 21 miles away from me down in Streatham. It did help that we worked in the same building – 75 Cornhill, slap bang in the middle of The City. This meant that, most of the time, we spent our evenings together up in the West End rather than going home. We did regularly visit each other’s houses but it was expensive and time-consuming. We both had season tickets for the journey from home to The City so that cut some of the cost.

Still, spending our evenings in the West End around Oxford Street/Regent Street etc. wasn’t a bad way to spend our time. Eventually, it fell into a pattern. Leave work and get a tube train to Tottenham Court Road. Go to the “Joe Lyons” just down Oxford Street and have Sausage Rolls and Chips (I can’t remember having anything different!). From there, we would wander up Oxford Street and go to either the Cartoon Cinema at Oxford Circus or at Marble Arch. This was, in the winter, a cheap way of being together and keeping warm. This was my first exposure to the Road Runner, by the way. Following the hour spent there, Valerie would always want to walk around Soho. We had a special route which ended up somewhere down Wardour Street. She always wanted to walk down the side street there past the windows with “the girls” sitting there looking for custom. Yes, she was pretty prurient in those days – don’t tell her I have told on her!

We got to know all of the little byways and back roads in the area. Funnily enough, we really didn’t care where we went or what we did, so long as we were together – aaahhhh!

At weekends she would come and stay at mine or I would go to hers. Hers was a better option because her house had a bathroom. Having a bath in our flat in Streatham involved getting the tin bath in from the garden, filling it up with hot water either from the washing boiler or, later, from a Ascot water heater that we had installed by the sink. This meant that all three of us would share the same water. My brother used to go down to Tooting Broadway where there was baths just for this purpose. Funny that these thing don’t exist any more.

The draw back from having to go over to Valerie’s for the weekend was that I seemed to have acquired a regular job during the summer. Although their garden looked only about 40 feet long, in reality, there was another 100 or so feet behind the hedge. Guess whose job it was to cut all that grass! Yes, you guessed it – ME! I used to look forward to the winter.

Eventually, I left the bank in Cornhill and ended up working at the bank’s Wimbledon Bridge branch – yup – 100 yards down the road from where I worked from 1995 through to 2001. As this meant a messy journey on three buses from home, I tried to buy a motor bike. My brother had always had a motor bike so I thought that getting Dad to be a guarantor for the loan would be easy. By the way, the bike I was looking at was a small Suzuki which cost a stupendous £75. You almost can’t fill a tank of petrol for that money nowadays. To say that Dad was against this idea is an understatement. I had obviously not realised just how many sleepless nights my brother had caused  by his ‘episodes’ on his Matchless. I also have a sneaking suspicion that Dad’s activities on a motor bike had a lot to do with it as well. In any case, he refused so the only option was to get Moped. Now a Moped is the worst of all worlds. It was drivable on a car driving licence, had a 50cc engine with a limited top speed of 30mph and a set of pedals – hence the “ped” in the title. The pedals were used to get the thing going from a standstill and, very occasionally, helping up a steep hill.The Raleigh RM4 automatic Moped (£60 0s 0p) that I bought was extremely economical but had a big flaw. There was no fuel gauge.

I used it to go to and from work and then used to park it up at Tooting Broadway underground station when I went to visit Valerie. Eventually, I did do the whole 21 mile journey on it over to Romford and back. I remember some very cold journeys home from there, leaving at 10pm in the winter. It seemed to take for ever. On a couple of memorable occasions, I ran out of petrol and had to push it to a garage. It was supposed to be able to unlock the pedal drive and ride it like a normal bike but it was so heavy that this was nigh on impossible. The worst occasion that I remember was when crossing a junction at MileEnd – some miles from Tower Bridge. As I rode across the crossroads, the spring link on the chain came off. I managed to cruise across to a safe place. I was now well and truly stuck. All that was left to do was to try and find the spring link. As the crossroads was managed by a set of traffic lights, I had to keep waiting for them to go red – run out for a quick search – dash back – repeat as required! Amazingly, I did find it and managed to get going again. I think that this period was probably the most uncomfortable of my whole life!

For holidays, we used to visit Valerie’s grandparents who lived in Chippenham. It was a cheap way of getting away and it was in a very different part of the country. We used to visit Bath and Weston-Super_mare, to name just two of the places. I did have a nice photo of Valerie sitting on the cliff top somewhere in the region but unfortunately, I can’t find it now. On one memorable occasion though, I went on holiday with Valerie and her parents. We had a week down in Dorset – at Lyme Regis. We stayed at a guest house called The Roost, run  by Mr. and Mrs. Brown. I had a room near the attic, I seem to remember. One advantage of going on holiday with Valerie’s parents was that her Dad had a company car. In the early days it was a Morris Minor Estate. Mostly they were green, like this one, but he did have one light blue one.

However, on this occasion, I seem to remember that he had a light green Ford Anglia Estate. We had a great time in a part of the country that none of us had been before. It did have one longer lasting result. When we were married and with Sam and Simon in tow (plus our new puppy – Cindy) we revisited Mrs. Brown and were regular visitors to Lyme Regis for many years after.

We determined to get married around early 1965 and started saving for the big day. In the meantime, I had to get her an engagement ring. This entailed a visit to Winegartens in Bishopsgate. This was a large jeweller which gave bank staff a discount so we saved money there as well. By now, I was back in The City after my sojourn in Wimbledon. I was working in the Foreign Department having just replaced John Major (yes – That John Major – UK Prime Minister many years later). This relieved the pressure on travelling as I no longer had to get from Tooting to The City and, once again, I had a season ticket for the Underground. This meant that we could get to each other’s houses a bit easier so the dreadful Moped was disposed of. As we were, supposedly, saving we did cut down our expenses but one thing that Valerie and I have never managed to do really successfully is save money!

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