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A Shout From The Attic: The Gerry Years - 3

Ronnie Bray tells of a failing marriage.

I met Gerry at Southampton ice rink, where she and Rosemary Burd from Salisbury Branch had gone to join with the Southampton Saints in an evening’s skating. She was an attractive girl with a dark complexion, glossy black hair, a ready smile, and an easy conversational manner. We enjoyed mutual attraction and became friends.

Our friendship developed into courtship and we were married in August 1964 at Southampton Civic Centre, in the registry office as there was no building owned or used by the Church in that area licensed for marriages.

St Mary’s Street was one of the many streets in the old part of the city that Hitler had spared. Others were not so lucky. On one gable end, someone had written, “IF THE LUFTWAFFE DOESN'T GET YOU THE COUNCIL WILL.” Many unregenerated bomb sites dotted the area, as Southampton was heavily hit during the War.

When we married I was working as a taxi driver for Glotax in the centre of Southampton. It was a busy office and I made frequent runs into the docks to meet liners, and other boats, mostly for crew members going ashore or having a night out. Contrary to expectations, English matelots tipped better than their American cousins.

After I had consummated my interest in taxi driving, I took a job working as shop manager for Westwood Taxi and Hire, owned by Euan “Wilbur” Wright, who was a manager for Hillingdon Tyre and Battery Company, and liked the good profits he saw, so opened a shop and installed me as manager. John Day was the taxi manager.

Eventually, one of Wilbur’s employees at the Hillingdon depot told management that Wilbur had opened a shop and was now in competition with them, so they sacked him. Wilbur then spent more time at the shop, and made a general nuisance of himself. He wrote several novels in the nom de plume of David Wright, the name of his son and only child. He was an interesting man who had been a Flying Officer in the RAF.

We left St Mary’s St and borrowed a house, rent free, from one of the drivers at Westwood until we could find something. Gerry was not a good housekeeper, and the house was always untidy unless I set about and did the work. She took care of her own needs. This was a constant source of friction between us, and was ultimately the cause of our separation and divorce.

Before our first separation, we managed to obtain the lease of a good two-bedroomed flat, number 2 Dorval House, Silverdale Road, close to the football ground on Archers Road. It was a nice place, with genuine parquet floors throughout, but Gerry would not clean. At times she would not even wash up. She always had an excuse.

She could not iron because we did not have an iron. We bought an iron. Then she could not do it because we didn’t have an ironing board. We got an ironing board, but still she didn’t iron. That kind of life can be very wearing, especially when her lackadaisical attitude infused every aspect of her life.

When Wilbur’s interference with the shop became intolerable I took a job driving a ten-ton tipper wagon. Whenever possible I went home around lunchtime so that I could change Matthew and feed him and Gaynor. Gerry was too busy curled up in a chair with her legs under her, reading a magazine, sucking on a cigarette, and drinking coffee. Had I not done so, they would not have been watered, fed, or changed.

We talked things through and I told Gerry that unless she changed her habits and started looking after the children and the home, our ways would lie apart. She didn’t and they did, and I took Matthew, then aged nine months, up to Huddersfield on the bus to begin a life without her.

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