My first job was at Loftus, a small town not far from industrial Teesside but nonetheless within the North Riding. At 16 I became a police cadet whose duties involved making tea, stoking the fire and sharpening pencils. Then one winter's day it snowed heavily and the police station was rapidly surrounded by deep virgin snow.
The Inspector-in-charge, who lived in the adjoining house, emerged through the connecting door and ordered me: "Find a brush and shovel. Clean all the paths around the station and don't forget the yard." A large red-faced bully of a man he had a foul temper, a short fuse and thick grizzled hair. I obeyed without question.
I felt I'd done a good job but he re-emerged with his face blood red and his fists clenched. He bellowed: "I told you to clean all the paths!"
"I did, sir," I quivered like a mouse awaiting the wishes of a hungry lion. "No you didn't, you ignored the one to my front door." "But that's private, it's your house…"
"Shut up, lad, it's part of the police station, so get it done. Now." And so I did.
The story now moves swiftly forward seven years. The inspector had retired and I was no longer the cadet at Loftus. Indeed, I had done two years' National Service in the RAF and was resuming my career as a constable at Whitby. Meanwhile, I had met the girl who was to become my wife and we married at Egton Bridge's historic church 52 years ago this very weekend.
The night before our 1959 wedding it snowed and snowed and snowed still more. Roads were blocked, houses and farms cut off and I, with my parents and others, had to get to church which was two hilly miles away. My bride, however, lived only a hundred yards from St Hedda's.
Needless to say, the wedding was late. The taxi did not arrive for my bride, the registrar got stuck in a snowdrift between Whitby and Egton Bridge, and so did the photographer. Many guests never arrived and others were late. Everything was chaotic and cold but, thanks to railway trains that were still running, I got to the church while my lovely bride had to walk there in her wedding dress and fur boots. Eventually the Registrar arrived; he'd been rescued by our photographer.
In those days, the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages had to attend Catholic weddings, a throwback to the Reformation, but in this case he was my former inspector from Loftus. Memories of his front path flooded into my mind and I daren't repeat his comments about me dragging him out on such a foul day, but he did comment favourably on the surrounds of the church. "Someone's dug away the snow," he risked a smile. "They've done a good job."
I nodded. "It was done by my new father-in-law and his sons."
"I see they've also dug out the path to the priest's house."
"Would you like some wedding cake, sir?" I quickly changed the subject and had added "sir", momentarily forgetting he was no longer my boss. He risked a fleeting smile but there was no further talk of digging out footpaths.
Post Wisdom: We never meant to be spliced in the humdrum way of other people. (Charlotte Bront).
YP MAG 8/1/11