Something romantic for Valentine’s Day (although they eschewed such commercialism): the dress in which my Mum married my Dad, in August 1952. I had no idea she had it, stored at the back of her bedroom wardrobe, until we were helping her do some sorting and clearing after Dad died. I had never seen this stylish dusky pink damask dress before and asked her about it. She seemed thrilled to see it again, and I was astonished to learn that it was her wedding dress. Although I had grown up in the presence of my parents’ wedding photos (below), these were monochrome and I had always assumed her dress to be the traditional bridal white. But this was 1952, material was still in short supply, and it would have been foolishly extravagant to spend a lot of money on a gown to be worn just once. Instead it would have been usual to buy or make something smart which could be worn again, perhaps with some adjustment. And my parents were not spring chickens when they married; she was 29, he 39, and both had been in serious relationships before. At 20, Mum had been very much in love with a boyfriend who left her without explanation after 3 years’ courtship. Dad had originally moved to London to join his first fiance, but ended their relationship when she insisted he give up Communism.
My mother had long considered herself “on the shelf” when she met my Dad at a Communist party meeting in 1951. Having been rejected before, she believed that she could never be a good wife or mother to anyone because she came from a “broken home”. My Dad thought otherwise, and would not give up his suit despite her protestations. She eventually gave in, accepting his proposal a few months after they met. I’m very glad that she did.
They got married at Barnes Methodist Church (she was religious, he wasn’t) and held the reception at the nearby house they had bought with another couple, Dad’s best friend Peter and his wife. It was converted into two flats in which our two families lived; when Peter and family moved on, my parents bought them out and lived there the rest of their lives. This photo was taken in the garden. I remember these walls covered in foliage, especially from the spreading fig tree behind them. This tree had taken over most of that corner of the garden by the time I came along 9 years later, and I now have some of its offshoots in pots in my own home.