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Wednesday, 4 February 2015

In-law incidentals

Vic, Edna and Grannie at the Constitutional club, 
an organisation that ruined many constitutions

In Autumn 1959 I wrote to Vic, VR's Dad, asking if he minded my marrying his daughter. I mentioned I was earning £725 a year (=$1101, CAD1370) which wasn't much. I wish I could have told him I would retire in 1995 on £31,000 (= $47,089, CAD58,567) but he’d have thought I was fibbing.

He wrote me a jolly reply saying he didn't mind. Which was sporting given that, then and thereafter, he was never entirely sure about my means of support. Didn't think journalism was "a real job". Since Vic was a chef and wore a toque in the kitchen, his employment was never in doubt.

Obviously I was not the sort of son-in-law Vic and his wife Ed expected, especially since an earlier contender was entitled to wear a sword on certain occasions. But I was tolerated and, as the years rolled by, my in-laws’ generosity was unstinting.

VR's Grannie, however, genuinely approved of me because of my regional accent. Born in the Midlands, she had one too.

Just recently I heard a new Grannie anecdote. She came to London to meet VR, then a State Registered Nurse, and asked to walk round London's naughty bit, Soho, to see if the Ladies of the Night existed. Pure curiosity. Not only was it true but several LotNs addressed VR as "Nurse" since her work at Charing Cross Hospital, near Soho, involved patching up said ladies.

In the late fifties, the UK was famed for hypocrisy, with Profumo only a year or two away. I liked Grannie, knew something of her hard life, and feel sure her interest was neither prurient nor hypocritical. But I wish VR had told me earlier so I could have teased Grannie. She was up for being teased and teasing back.


  1. I will look up CAD,toque,stint, and Profumo, then possibly get back to you. Was your rival a Knight of Columbus?

  2. Ah...I'm going with Canadian dollars.

  3. Gone the way of the cigarette and ashtray is the appeal to prospective father in law. I should think any man who asked for a woman's hand via her dad these days would get clocked. (Although I know a respectful 40-something who did it.)

  4. MikeM: You live a sheltered life. There's a whole new bilingual world a mere step away from where you live. And your dollars aren't the only ones. I spent Straits Dollars in Singapore back in 1957, NZ dollars in Dunedin more recently.

    To be excruciatingly boring: An Anglicised form of "thaler", (pronounced taler, with a long "a"), the name given to coins first minted in 1519 from locally mined silver in Joachimsthal in Bohemia. Sorry - if I choose to turn you off I usually do it with my own stuff.

    Stella: Looking back I can see an unfortunate transactional quality in such a letter - as if I were taking over a portion of Vic's land. But you must remember I had just survived the threat of The Black Death and would shortly be facing the perils of the Reformation. I was shaped in all sorts of old fashioned ways, notably to do with Please and Thank you. That was why it was such a shock to hear someone in a low Pittsburgh bar say: "Gimme a Bud."

    I almost spoke out and corrected him before I reminded myself this was real life and the bar furniture wasn't made of balsa wood.

  5. I too had a grandmother who had hidden depths. She was quite pleased when, as she turned up to my wedding in a leopard print fur coat that she had made herself; my Aunty told her that she looked like a prostitute.

    Nanny, we miss you!

    PS Stella - I hope Mr B2 gets asked about our daughter Not-At-All-Blonde. He will be most disgruntled if he isn't!

  6. MikeM: Sword man. An officer with a swank infantry regiment

    Blonde Two: Good for grandmother. Possible rejoinder:"How else could I have kept you in M&S clothes?"

    Mr B2's gruntlement. Does that make him old-fashioned or just normal?

  7. Ah, the Constitutional Club - scene of my mis-spent 20's and much snooker.