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Mary and Ralph

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Mary and Ralph

These days, new communications technology allows us all to conduct our social affairs at the touch of a button or the click of a mouse. Text messages, email and chatrooms allow us instantaneous access to friends, acquaintances and perfect strangers across the world without ever having to speak face to face, new disabled dating and social networking sites spring up every day, relationships and marriages are made (and broken) via these channels on an even more frequent and burgeoning basis. But all these technological and social changes are largely confined to the past fifteen or maybe twenty years. To try and gain a sense of how romance was conducted i the days before every house had even a television set, let alone a wireless internet connection, we talked to Mary Walton, 84, who married her late husband Ralph on the 14th of July 1942. They remained married until Ralph’s death from a stroke in 2000. Mary recalls vividly her first meeting with Ralph:

“He was this handsome young soldier, home on leave from fighting in the war. I’d known him vaguely before the war as he lived only a couple of streets away and our fathers knew one another from around the way. Anyway, it was the middle of June and I was working in Coates, the corner shop at the time. I was outside one morning, stood on the stepladder washing down the windows. As Ralph was coming past from the station, one of the old men from around the way called to him because he was a soldier in uniform, which used to mean you got an awful lot of respect from everybody at that time. So, as Ralph turned to give this chap a reply his kitbag got all tangled up in my stepladder so that when he walked on he pulled me right over! It wasn’t that far to fall as it happened, but the bucket of water went flying all over me. Oh, I was livid! Ralph picked me up and started apologising but I wasn’t having any of it, I laid right into him, calling him all sorts of names – I was quite the little madam in those days you see and here was this filthy soldier still mucky in his uniform, tipping water all over me and then manhandling me with his dirty great paws! Anyway, there I was scolding him like a fishwife in the street, getting all hot and bothered and he just started to laugh! Well, I couldn’t believe it! I thought I’d have a heart attack right there I was so cross, but that’s when I first looked at him and saw the man I fell in love with, just standing there laughing at me being cross with his little blue eyes all twinkling and his handsome smile! I just ran out of steam and stood looking up at him, and he told me that he was going home to his bath and that he’d come and meet me for closing and take me out dancing, and I couldn’t refuse, couldn’t say anything at all. We were married a month after, three days before Ralph went back to the war. You didn’t hang about in those days what with all that could get in the way, you saw a chance and you grabbed it! Fifty-eight years of marriage we had together, and I’ve never regretted a moment of it.”



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