1970: love and marriage

This 37 year old husband and father of four, the newly recruited sales manager of a company with as yet no product to sell.is sitting by himself in the dark on the beach at Lee-on Solent, smoking a cigarette, watching the ships and the lights. Sounds like he was on a cushy number, doesn't it,  but to him it seems exactly the opposite. Never mind about all that, Bryan Islip, he thinks, what do you make of it so far?

Thoughts come a-tumbling one over the next. Mostly good ones for the world has not yet turned in any serious way against our family unit. Of course there have been difficulties but we've managed to deflect most of them and I am / we are not in a bad position now. Some would say in a very good one. My main worry now is about Joan, my wife, the mother of our four offspring. About how worried she has become, not just since my change of employment but for a year or two before that when I had been forced (and had enjoyed) increasingly working away from home. I know she's been feeling more detached from my life and/or life in general - and more questioning about the value of her own - just as my life has by necessity become more and more detached from that of our family. As Joan's favourite song has it; You flying high in the air and me on the ground. Yes indeed; another song; Things ain't what they used to be

Perhaps, as our family has grown and flourished Joan's life has turned inwards towards it whereas mine has turned outwards towards my career. I thought back to 1953, the City of York's De Grey Ballroom and that heart-stoppingly beautiful dancing-queen, the one in the green dress. I flicked the stub-end of my cigarette in a parabolic shower of sparks down the beach. It's not that there was any possibility or the faintest liklihood of a split. The recent arguments had always been quickly and easily terminated in a reaffirmation of love. We had been through a lot together. We loved each other. The more you go through and the more you share, the tighter the bond I think. I thought back even further to my eleventh year, after my mother and father had split in a welter of acrimony. I'm lying in that boarding school bed after lights out night after night, possessed by such sadness, such anger, such awful thoughts. Never, under any circumstances would that happen to our children - or to me.

Sitting on the shingle I'm wondering how and why the divorce rate in my country has escalated so wildly. For me, when you make a promise, especially the one about marriage, then you stick to it 'til death really doth part or whatever else might occur. That is what I had been taught during my adolescence at Abingdon School. I believed and still at 37 do believe that the whole of civilised life, the entire fabric of human society ancient and modern depended on keeping one's word! In the beginning was the Word - and the Word was with God - and the Word was God. I am in no way conventionally 'religious' but I believe fervently that what promises mankind has made, let mo man put asunder.

Once upon a time in my teens and on holiday from school, my father had excused himself and the breakdown of his own family by referring to the cruelty of his father, my grandfather, who, he told me, had been less than happily married to my grandmother. But, father, I said, They  lived and died together, didn't they? They always seemed happy to me. He agreed that yes they had, but it had been something of a sham. With evident satisfaction he went on to tell me that, at grandfather's funeral service had appeared the proverbial strange lady in black. Turned out the old bugger had been all his life maintaining two families. Ours and a secret one in London. I thought about this, about the grandfather with whom I had spent so many of my summer holidays in Hastings, the grandfather who had given me the key to his fishing tackle locker on the pier. I looked up at my father; Grandfather Islip was a good man, then, I said; He kept his word. My father was not best pleased.

I stood up, brushed myself down, crossed the road and went into the hotel's bar for a nightcap. The place was buzzing as such places always were before the drink driving laws. Sitting on a bar stool with my glass of beer I glanced left and right, catching the eye of a young woman, part of a group, in the process. She nodded and smiled.

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