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A Shout From The Attic: The Gerry Years - 4

...Matthew was then fourteen months old and I found him strapped into his high coach built pram in the passageway, soiled, wet, and distraught. He had a pint bottle of ‘Model’ milk in his pram, fitted with a teat, from which he was to feed himself...

Ronnie Bray tells of a failing marriage.

My sister René cared for Matthew while I went to work until I rented the house at 15 Church Street Longwood. Matthew and I lived there alone until I went down to Southampton to see if Gerry would like to try again. I explained the terms, that were that she care for the children properly and take care of the house. She said she would do that, and so she and Gaynor came home to Huddersfield with me.

Gerry’s ‘try’ didn’t last very long. I was not surprised, but I felt that she deserved another chance to make a successful marriage, but her heart was neither in motherhood nor housewifery. We went around and around the same old stories, until fate intervened. I had taken a job driving the wagon for James Wilson’s Ironfounders Ltd on St Andrew’s Road. In March of 1966 I was struck by a car in a snowstorm at Nont Sarah’s and my left femur was smashed.

The timing was unfortunate because Gerry and I had about reached the point of no return. I was hospitalised for sixteen weeks in traction, and when I was allowed home I was told I would be released on one particular Wednesday, but they sent me home by ambulance the day before.

On arrival at my home in Church Street, I found that Gerry and Gaynor were not at home. Matthew was then fourteen months old and I found him strapped into his high coach built pram in the passageway, soiled, wet, and distraught. He had a pint bottle of ‘Model’ milk in his pram, fitted with a teat, from which he was to feed himself.

The pram was filthy, old spilled milk had mould on it, his pram sheets were filthy, and Matthew was dirty and had about him an air of neglect. It was a sight to rend the stoniest of hearts. I unstrapped him and lifted him from his perambulator and took him into the room to sit and hold him close. He cried and cried until he was finally comforted.

From that time on, we were inseparable. He did not like me to be out of the room he was in, lest I disappear for a long time as his mother was in the habit of doing. After a couple of hours, Steven Knowles came to get Gerry’s bags. She was moving out. I was told that she was going to stay at mother’s. She came later to take Matthew. We arranged to meet in Greenhead Park so I could see the children, and a couple of times this worked well, but then she failed to arrive.

She had promised to bring the children to Church Street for tea one day, but she didn’t come. I was extremely disappointed and not a little angry. From that time on it seemed as if she had disappeared. No one knew, or were willing to say, where she had gone. Through a lot of detective work I eventually discovered that she was living with someone up New North Road, so I went to see her.

An elderly lady let me into the house, she having identified Mr and Mrs Smith and their two children. I knocked on the door, and Gerry let me in. If she was surprised to see me she did not show it. The whole flat was a tip, with stuff and rubbish all over the floor and a general sense of permanent squalor although they had not lived there above a few weeks. I told her that I was taking Matthew with me, and did so after arranging to meet her each week in Greenhead Park so she could see him and I could see Gaynor.

The first week we met in the park near the open-air theatre, she said that Gaynor wanted to come and live with me. I called at the flat and collected Gaynor’s clothes, and we went home in a taxi. I arranged to meet Gerry in the park so she could see the children once a week. The second week after that, she asked me if she could come back. I agreed on conditions that she looked after the children and cared for the home. Unfortunately, she did not keep her word but fell immediately back into her old ways.


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