(103) 'A Black and White Christmas'

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Ken
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(103) 'A Black and White Christmas'

Ken
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This post was updated on .
'Christmas 1969,' were the words written on the bottle of, 'Black and White,' whisky that had stood unopened for forty five years.  I looked at the distinctive label with the picture of the two Terrier dogs, one black and one white, and my mind went back to my Christmas of that year.  It had been perfect and it came at the end of a wonderful twelve months, during which I'd become engaged to Miss Jennifer Mary Walsh.  Within six months she'd cease to be a Walsh, the two of us would even cease to  be Shamley Green-ites.  For in the June of 1970, the newly married Mr. and Mrs. Ken Tuffs, moved into the upstairs half of the house situated at, No.31, Testard Road, Guildford.  That's where our married life began!

The above mentioned, 'Black and White,' bottle of whisky, is in front of me as I write this, but its empty now.  It had sat, unwanted, in the home of my son in-laws mother, and it was only discovered after she died. Obviously his parents were not whisky drinkers but, knowing his in-laws were, Dave kindly gave it to us.  As Jenny and I enjoyed a nightly tot in the days that followed, we reflected on how life had been for us during the forty five years that bottle had collected dust.  I recalled a day in 1969 when I was walking with my mother.  I'd stopped outside Miss Lockett's house and told her Jenny had agreed to marry me.  I remember mum looked at me quite intently before saying, "Congratulations." She added softly, without a hint of criticism, "She's very young Kenny."  Mum was right, for Jenny was only seventeen years old.  If I heard today, of a chap meeting a sixteen year old girl, getting engaged when she was just seventeen and marrying her at eighteen, I would say the signs didn't bode well.  I guess we were lucky!

1970 arrived and with it the problem of where Jenny and I would live.  We were not yet in a position to buy anything of our own, and it seemed that any rented property that was advertised, was snapped up immediately.  I knew friends who'd recently married, who were still living with their parents. That wouldn't suit us at all.  So I placed an add in the paper stating that a young professional couple, urgently required a flat in which to start their married life.  Once again I was lucky, for I had several replies and we chose the perfect place in Testard road, a quiet street just off the Farnham road.  It was conveniently situated fifteen minutes walk away from Jenny and my places of work.  The house was owned by a Miss Welt, who was an elderly Austrian Jew who'd escaped Hitler and come to Britain.  She lived on the ground floor and the whole of the upstairs was ours, for a cost us just six pounds and ten shillings a week.  It was almost fully furnished but, for some reason, the large bed sitting room didn't have a bed.  So we gratefully accepted a second hand one that was given to us by my mother, as our wedding present.  Our flat had its own bathroom and a large kitchen and we were in heaven.  Miss Welt was also the ideal landlady for she was there if we needed her but, apart from when we paid her our weekly rent, she was largely unseen.

My sister Phyl had moved to Hong Kong shortly before our wedding and had kindly loaned us her smart Radiogram music centre.  I had a lot of singles back then, but only two long playing records.  One was an album by Adam Faith and the other was called, 'Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs,' by Marty Robbins. Jenny and I played those LPs constantly and to this day we still love the songs.  At that time we were saving hard for the deposit to buy our own home but we ensured we left some money free for treats.  One was to buy, every Saturday, a new LP and soon, Ricky Nelson, Bobby Vee, Neil Sedaka and Elvis albums were neatly stacked in the Radiogram and our collection grew.  Another Saturday treat was to enjoy a bottle of wine, usually German, and we thought ourselves rather grand as we sipped our Black Tower or Blue Nun.  With wine drinking we'd discovered a whole new world and, as each week passed, new words like Riesling, Niersteiner and Leibfraumilch were added to our vocabulary.  Regrettably, as our knowledge of wine grew, so did my waistline, but I ignored the warning signs for by golly we were enjoying life.

Another joy (or curse) of living in Testard Road was its close proximity to, The Bamboo Garden.  I still rate this Chinese takeaway as the best I've ever known and, being just four minutes walk away from our home, it was hard to resist.  Of course all this over indulging of food and wine meant I required a new wardrobe and I recall my sister Dot taking my too small trousers for Shaun.  This was in 1971 and my fourteen year old nephew was already as tall as me.  However, despite him being big enough to wear my trousers, I still insisted on holding both his and Nicola's hands when we crossed some busy roads on the way to see the film, 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.'  In what seemed no time at all, Shaun was 6ft 4" tall and he needed to hold no ones hand unless it was a young ladies, certainly not mine.  Testard Road was, in a way, the place where Jenny and I played at being grown ups, and we revelled in being good hosts.  I remember in the summer of 1971, my mother visiting with her brother Earnie and his wife Emm.  Mum was so proud to show of her successful son and I was equally proud to introduce to my Uncle and Aunt, my wonderful wife!

I started work earlier than Jenny and I enjoyed the brisk walk to my Jeffries Passage shop.  The walk up North Street on a Friday and Saturday was always rewarding for facing the pavement were dozens of fruit and veg traders, who were busy setting up for the day.  The entire length of this long street was covered by these colourful stalls and, even at 8am, there was an exciting buzz to the place.  I have always had a vivid imagination and it would enter my head, that this was trading as it has been throughout the century's.  Facing these market stalls were the permanent shops and many of these were also food stores. I recall a shop specialising in bacon and, during my walk to work, I'd pass at least three butchers.  The smell of the bakers freshly baked bread would mix with the that of the fishmonger and the combination of odours I found evocative.  The whole atmosphere put me in a good mood for the day ahead.  On reaching my shop I'd put out the various sales tubs to grab the impulse buyers, tubs full of plastic footballs, tennis balls and various forms of footwear.  On the negative side, I had to endure the awful aroma that came from, The Coffee Importers.  This specialist shop and its dreadful smell was the only blot on my perfect landscape, proving that even I couldn't have everything. Starbucks get stuffed, for I still hate the smell of coffee!

However, on one of those Saturdays mornings my cup truly did runneth over, and not with coffee.  I'd just arrived at work when I received a phone call that congratulated me on winning the competition. "What competition," was my immediate thought, for I never ever entered such things.  As the excited woman gave me all the details, my mind went back to a rep who had called on behalf of a firm called, 'Stylo Matchmakers.'  I recalled he was selling a range of football boots endorsed by the footballer, George Best. I'd told the rep that the boots were truly dreadful, but I'd place a small order so I could show the customers just how bad they were.  When he dejectedly left, he'd handed me a questionnaire that offered me the chance to win a competition.  The form went straight in the bin.  I vaguely remembered that a woman from the company had phoned asking why I hadn't returned the form.  I'd told her my reasons and she'd suggested that she ask me the questions and fill in my answers for me.  This happened and the result was that early morning phone call.  So, once again, I asked the lady, "What exactly is it I've won?"  

"Two weeks holiday in Tenerife," was her answer.  She went on to say that it was for two people in a five star hotel, in the resort of, 'Puerto De La Cruz.'  I admit to being chuffed to bits.  To think I'd won a holiday, in a competition I'd never entered, just typified the good fortune I'd come to expect.  That night I took Jenny to the, Cannon Pub, to tell her the good news and, needless to say, she too was delighted.  We decided on the weeks we would go and worked out how much money we could spare.  We both knew that we couldn't let this holiday jeopardise our plans to buy our own home, and so the island of eternal spring didn't see a couple arrive dressed in Harrods clothing.  In my case, I was wearing a beige safari suit from, 'Man At C and A,' and I felt very smart in it.  That delusion was dashed when another guest at the hotel informed me I shouldn't be wearing black shoes with a beige suit. His name was George Betchley and, despite that bad start, he and his wife, Lillian, became our best holiday pals.  They were much older than us and I found out he worked for, The Times, newspaper in the pre Murdoch era.  He was generous and rather flamboyant and I noticed he would leave rather large tips wherever he went.  I also noticed that his wife would linger and then pick up the money he'd left.  She would then leave what she called a more appropriate gratuity and she told me she'd been doing it for years.  This never failed to amuse me.

Shortly after we returned from Tenerife we decided to purchase a plot on a new fifteen house development in Lower Edgeborough Road.  The address of our home to be would be 8 Sheldon Court, and this small, two bedroom, terraced house cost us six thousand nine hundred and fifty pounds.  It is a ludicrous truth that the same property is now being sold for over four hundred thousand pounds.  However, our new home would not be completed for several months and so we continued to live happily in Testard Road. Throughout that time, we'd collected memories for the future, but sadly, the bottle of black and white whisky mentioned earlier, had collected nothing but dust.  Perhaps the best memory I have of the fifteen months period we lived in Testard road, didn't take place there.  It took place on the Christmas morning of 1970 and it occurred in Shamley Green.  It was our first as a married couple and we were spending it at my mothers house.  We had slept the night on the bed settee in what we called the front room.  I was telling Jenny that Violet and Steve, Glad and Jack, and other family members had all used that rather uncomfortable bed.  Mum was already up and, when she heard us talking, she brought us both a cup of tea.  "Look out the window," she told us excitedly and, when we did, we saw a blanket of deep snow. When we'd walked home from the pub, the night before, there been no sign of it and snow hadn't been forecast.  

                                                                                                                                       
It is strange to think that the forty five years since Jenny and i got engaged, runs almost parallel with the time a bottle of booze stood, unopened, in a dark cupboard.  Just think, if we'd been given that whisky in 1970, not only could we tell of  enjoying a White Christmas, but  also, 'A Black and White Christmas.' Testard road gave a wonderful start to our life together, including the dream holiday we won.  But nothing can compare to the delight on my mothers face when she excitedly showed us that fairyland of snow!

 
Ken
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Re: (103) 'A Black and White Christmas'

Ken
Administrator
This post was updated on .
This story covers the fifteen months we lived in Testard Road and the forty five years a bottle of booze lay unopened in a dark cupboard.  It tells how I rescued the bottle from obscurity and freed it from a life of loneliness.