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Archiver > ESSEX-UK > 2002-04 > 1019635219

From: "Colleen" <>
Subject: Re: Marriage Impediments(2)
Date: Wed, 24 Apr 2002 09:12:43 +0100
References: <004001c1ea80$06401120$95dc3c3f@noel>


You're right in one sense, I over generalised - and I shouldn't have joked
about such a
serious subject, so I'll qualify my comment if I may.

For a large part of the community in Walthamstow that my family belonged to
during the 40's and 50's, the reality that marriage was an impediment was
an unquestionable fact of daily life. Whether this was, or is, a
socio-economic, religious or political issue or not is irrelevant - it's an
important part of the history of that community, worthy of being recorded.
It certainly
should not be censored to protect the sensibilties of those who might prefer
it to be otherwise.

The whole street - and some beyond - heard my dear old granddad shouting
after he'd taken his 'medicine' every night, the object of his anger often
being the frequent stand up fights of the couple across the road. We all
heard my little friend screaming 'No, dad, please!' as her dad belted the
living daylights out of her. Other neighbours of ours lived in a house akin
Steptoe's Yard, they had to dig the washing and rubbish out of the bath
before they could use it. My cousins' dad gambled away his pay, so my
cousins had stop in bed on Sundays to enable their mum to wash their one set
of clothes. Another of my friends was sent home from school because neither
she, nor her clothes had been washed for some time - she washed her clothes
at lunchtime, put them on again and returned to school to steam by the
radiators all afternoon.

I believe that we were a typical working class community of that period for
many of whom, marriage was very far from a sacrament. Though for some it was
undoubtedly heaven, for many it was often hell. I don't believe that it was
very different for the many of the middle class marriages of that era
either, who
simply engaged in less obvious forms of abuse - death by a thousand
subliminal cuts?

I grew up with the image of marriage as war, which indeed it was in the vast
majority of the marriages I knew of as a child - seemingly a whole community
of married couples, forever arguing or fighting. Yet they were strangely
unified too, spouses seemed intent on disliking each other unto death and
ensuring that no
other so and so was going to get a look in.

Yet paradoxically, I had the most wonderful childhood with my Walthamstow
family - and grew up with a strong sense of community. Though many working
class spouses could barely tolerate each other, they usually jointly loved
their children and, if they didn't, there were usually loving grandparents
not far away - not that even they loved each other, you understand. My
friend and I
seemed to spend much of our childhood in fits of laughter - the lunatic
goings on
in our street were better that television, as long as it wasn't you being

Be careful, Noel, of uncritical reliance on stereotypes of institutions
like marriage, these can be as unreliable, as the statistics you are keen on
citing - and they can blind us to the historical reality of the Essex
communities we are researching that former community members like me
only too well.

I haven't yet received a tide of protest from those you say will be offended
by my comment -
could it be that other listers remember communities like the one I grew up

Were things so very different in Australia?

As May West famously said, 'Marriage is a wonderful institution - but who
wants to live in an institution.'

Certainly not the hundreds of abused Essex women and children who are part
of the living history of this age old problem, and who are acutely aware
that there's a huge gulf between the ideal and the real.

Best wishes,


> Careful Colleen.
> That's touching on a socio-econo-political issue and expressing, even in
> jest, a view that might offend many people.
> Regards,
> Noel
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Colleen [mailto:]
> Sent: Tuesday, 23 April 2002 04:44
> To:
> Subject: Re: Marriage Impediments(2)
> Are we splitting hairs here and pussyfooting around the real issue - is
> marriage the real impediment? Okay, okay, sorry - I'll go away.
> Colleen

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