Branscombe Hall: Part two

This is the second part of a fiction serial, in 762 words.
My thanks to Sue Judd for use of her photo as a prompt.

Once Gregg had some leave, I went to visit his family in Essex. I had heard of Basildon, but never been there before. He met me at the railway station, driving his dad’s Ford Cortina. I remember it was a metallic gold colour. I was going to stay in his older sister’s former room. She had got married some years earlier, but she was coming to the house with her husband and young son to meet me. His maternal granny was going to be there too, and one of his aunts. It sounded serious, and I was nervous.

When we arrived at the small terraced house, they were already there. It felt a lot like walking into a job interview, with Gregg’s family as the panel. Everyone firing questions at me while I still had my jacket on, then being force-fed large mugs of tea and chunks of home made cake. They were nice enough, don’t get me wrong. Decendants of hardcore Cockney East Londoners who had made the move to Basildon after the war to get away from the virtual slums they grew up in. They had bettered themselves, and were proud of that.

His sister was called Frances, and she was eyeing me warily. “Come upstairs, and I’ll show you where you are sleeping tonight. It’s my old room, and comfortable enough”. I followed her up the stairs as she took them slowly, burdened by her weight. The room was probably much as she had left it, a single bed, desk and chair, one slim bookcase on the opposite wall. “Mum changed the sheets, obviously. The bathroom’s across the landing. It’s the only one, so best to tell someone you are going to use it so they don’t walk in on you”.

She closed the door.

“Gregg says you’ve been to university, live in a fancy big house, and your dad owns his own business. Auctions and antiques, he said”. I told her that was more or less right, except I was a partner in the auction house. Her legs didn’t want to hold her weight any longer, and she plopped down heavily on the bed.

“Well, fing is, we all left school when we could, got any job we could get, and none of us went to university. This house is owned by the local Council, and mum and dad rent it. Between you and me, I don’t reckon either of them have read a book since they had to read one at school. As for me brother, he was always in trouble at school, and joined the army to get away. If he hadn’t done, reckon he would have ended up in prison”.

I replied that Gregg had told me most of that, and that it didn’t matter to me. She shook her head. “Maybe so, but if you are gonna marry me brother, it’s gonna matter then. Can you imagine your fancy family clapping eyes on us lot at the wedding? Can you see yourself living in Army married quarters with all the pregnant wives and nuffink to do?”

The more she talked, the more apparent her accent became. I told her that we hadn’t spoken about marriage, had only had a few dates, and for good measure I added that we hadn’t even had sex. She reached into the pocket of her jeans, took out a packet of cigarettes, and lit one. As an afterthought, she offered me the packet, and I declined.

“Trouble is, Alicia love, he is set on marrying you. Been talking about it since he came back from meeting your dad. Now I don’t want to sound funny or nuffink, but I don’t think that’s a good idea. And I reckon if you think about it, you will know it’s a bloody silly idea. You two are just too different. It could never last. Now we are going to go back downstairs. Me dad wants to treat us all to an Indian meal to celebrate you and Gregg. So play nice, and don’t mention this conversation. Then when you get back to your country estate tomorrow, let Gregg down gently. You know I’m talking sense”.

Eating the too hot curry that I hadn’t even ordered, I couldn’t help being amazed. Reverse snobbery. Frances didn’t want her brother to have a girlfriend from a different background, and neither did my dad. For different reasons, but the same outcome.

That just made me all the more determined to make it work.

43 thoughts on “Branscombe Hall: Part two

  1. (1) Everyone was firing questions at Alicia. Fortunately, she still had her full metal jacket on, so she suffered no injury.
    (2) There is only one France. It’s right across the Channel.
    (3) Gregg’s fat sister never read “War and Peace” because she knew it would be too thick to put on her slim bookcase.
    (4) Since her mother and father have never read a book, someone should read them the riot act.
    (5) I’ve never heard of a fancy family clapping eyes. Will they also insist on clapping bells at the wedding?
    (6) Cigarettes are usually lit after sex. But here, Frances lights a cigarette at the mere mention of sex.
    (7) Tomorrow, Alicia may be in a hurry to marry. For now, she’s just wary of the curry.
    (8) Sorry, but I have nuffink more to add.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is painfully familiar! My brother passed his 11+ and when my parents took me off to Asia, he was sent to boarding school where many/most of the boys were cockney. Two years later, when we came home my parents were shocked at my brother’s accent. But things went along, brother followed his own path which took him to apprentice in banking where he met my sister-in-law, as cockney as they come. Oh the outrage. My brother (unnecessarily in my view) asked my parents permission to marry because he was being posted to Africa and wanted his girlfriend to go with him. My Dad said NO! So they waited till he turned 21 and got married anyway. So much bad feeling. She made my brother happy and her folks became the family my brother had been deprived of at such an early age. My parents grudgingly accepted it but their relationship with my brother was ruined. Amazingly my brother made the effort to stay in touch and was kind to my parents. He and I never got to be siblings properly.

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    1. I have to say ‘Well done’ to your brother, Carolyn. I was in a similar situation in my first marriage. My wife was university educated, and from a middle class family in Wimbledon. I was very much the opposite. But my family were all for the marriage, and her dad thought I was great, and became a real friend to me. (Her mum was suffering from Huntington’s Chorea, so was very much unaware of the proceedings) We divorced after 8 years for other reasons, but her dad kept in touch with me until the year that he died.
      Best wishes, Pete.


      1. Indeed. I wanted to be supportive but being on different continents and basically being strangers, there wasn’t much I could offer. He has been happy, as he deserved but my sister-in-law died at age 52. And now his partner of 18 years has Alzheimer’s. It makes me wonder if it isn’t better to have not had a partner to lose.

        Liked by 1 person

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