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I did it again! Monday last week was the 17th August and I forgot that fifty-two years ago on that day I got married. Yes folks, I forgot my wedding anniversary! I’m sorry to say it wasn’t the first time: I forget more times than I remember. Barbara has come to expect it. In fact, it’s become a family tradition. I even forgot our golden wedding anniversary two years ago. Even though we spent a week with friends in Bromley to celebrate, even though I prepared a card and took it with me, come the morning of the actual day, I forgot. I am, in fact, an amnemonic subject for a psychologist.

Barbara and I married halfway through my college course, after two years of a four-year degree. At least I remember those years well. They were some of the best times of our lives.

I remember vividly my excitement arriving at Madeley College of Education for my first term. Mum and Dad drove me there, complete with a cabin trunk precariously strapped to the Morris Minor roof rack. What a great feeling of freedom when they finally left me, waving goodbye until they disappeared. My first time away from home, independent, on my own. I was nineteen, ready to conquer the world. I had no worries and not a flicker of homesickness. Mum refused to believe it. When she married and moved from Glasgow to Middlesbrough she was acutely homesick and thought everyone should feel the same. She thought I was just hiding it . . . I wasn’t. I had a huge feeling of release at leaving home and the heady, intoxicating feeling of freedom. My hall of residence was a converted prisoner of war camp, spartan and scruffy. But to me it was a palace.

But life moved to a more exalted level on 17th August 1968. No hall of residence, but our own little flat. Less mod-cons than the prisoner of war camp — we didn’t even possess a bed or mattress. We slept on folding camp beds and one doubled as a sofa during the day. We had four bar stools salvaged from a skip, an old gate-legged table we painted white, and an orange box for a coffee table. That was it; that was all we had. But we were gloriously, deliriously happy and deeply in love. Five children and fifty-two years later, we still are.

Someday I might write about some of the hard knocks (lessons) I had at college and we’ve had as a family since. It wasn’t all a bed of roses. But one thing we knew then and we’ve grown to know since, is the importance of families in our eternal existence and the importance of the presence of Heavenly Father in our home. As the Psalmist says: “Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it”. We still pray together each morning and evening, just as we started to do fifty-two years ago.


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