What is love? June and Peter
Updated: Mar 7
"Love is beyond comprehension. The reason you are attracted to someone you just don't know, but it's there. If it is genuine, it will last."
Peter is eighty-seven. He was married to June for fifty-six years before she passed away a few years ago. They met whilst working in a clothing factory in London in 1953. June was sixteen at the time and Peter was twenty. They built a life together in Hawkwell, England, raising three sons. In the photo above, Peter stands poised next to the portrait he painted of his late wife.
June was born and raised in Nottinghamshire, she moved to London to follow her father after he moved there to be the manager of a cinema shortly before he then passed away. Peter was born and raised in the Stoke Newington area of London.
I couldn't wait to speak to Peter about what makes a successful relationship and see what love means to him.
Peter was seven years old when World War II started. His family would sleep each night into the air raid shelter in their back garden, aside from his older sister Jean who refused to leave the house. Peter said, "She would say 'If I am going to go, I am going to go.' And she would sleep up in her bed." His house was eventually bombed. He recalled, "I was at home when my house was bombed. Only the windows blew out and no one was hurt." After that, he and his family moved to 21 St Jude's Street in Dalston.
Peter recalled, "One morning during the war, I remember waking up and hearing them shout, 'it's the school.' A quarter of a mile away, Newington Green Primary School took the hit of a V2 bomb. Peter continued, "I remember walking past and seeing bodies covered up in sacks, there were nine of them, those men had been working in there that night."
The block of flats that fits behind St Jude's Street is now called Kerridge Court. It was re-named after Mr. Kerridge, the man that was sent in there to detonate the bomb inside. Peter commented "that poor fellow lost his life trying to save others. That, to me, is courage, the man who knows that he is either going to succeed in detonating or die. That it is cold courage. A man at the front line in a war that is charging up with his rifle, maybe that is adrenalin, but to me what Kerridge had, that was courage."
Peter explained, "The V1s were a flying bomb, you would have some time to react if you heard one of them. The rumbling noise would tell you that it was approaching, that's what made them scary. The V2s were a rocket. They were awful. When they hit, it was either too late, or you just heard it."
Later during the war, Peter was evacuated to Leicestershire. He recalls, "all I remember is that we were all lined up with labels on at the school. Then we were all marched over to the bus stop where we had to go to get to the train station. I think our mothers saw us off at the school. It was scary to leave, but it was considered dangerous to stay in London at the time." He stayed in a house on Silbry Road, the head of the house was called George Marvel, they were a kind family. Peter felt fortunate to be with such a nice family. Eventually, his parents took temporary accommodation close by to where he was staying and he moved there with them. His mother didn't want to be away from him.
Peter recalls, "The war was a horrible time, but it threw people together. If a person got bombed, there was always someone around to help." Peter thought that King George VI, the Queen and the two princesses staying in London during the war helped boost morale. Peter continued, "apparently there were a million Americans in Britain at the time fighting with us. Most people thought of them as light-hearted, bringing the jitterbug and their gum, but they were there in the war with us, the poor buggers. Many of them probably didn't know what this country was like or what to expect. They didn't know anything about The Solent and yet they were just dropped into it from the air on D-Day. A lot of soldiers died before they even got out of the water."
After the war, the NHS started and Peter recalls how happy people were to have free healthcare. "People who just couldn't afford to go and see a doctor simply wouldn't go and now they could." After the war, rationing continued. Peter commented, "something as simple as a bunch of bananas now, you just didn't know what they were. You would never, ever of seen anything like a banana. It was a horrible time, really."
June and Peter met in 1953 just as the rationing was coming to an end. They met and work and began courting. Four years later they married in 1957. They began married life in London, before moving out to Cheltenham for four years. Peter worked in telegeography for the civil service. A job that is now made redundant by technology. He would send international messages on behalf of the government using the Morse Code. Peter eventually transferred back into the London office and they looked for a new house outside of London. Peter said "We had a friend who had a house near Hawkwell in Essex and we thought that it would be nice to get a house near there. We looked at a few and decided on a new build. After we moved to Essex, June stopped working." Peter commuted into London each day by train.
Their first son was born in 1959; their second came along two years later. Both sons went into the police force when they were grown. In 1983, when their sons were in their twenties and when June was forty-six, she fell pregnant with their third son. "It was quite a surprise," said Peter.
Emmaleen: Can you tell us a loving story from your relationship?
Peter: "I wasn't able to drive due to my eyesight. But June could drive and she was very good at it. She was very calm. We had a love of the open air and used to drive all over the country together."
What is the key to a happy relationship?
Peter: "Try not to argue. If you are arguing or if you are with someone that has a short temper, then you aren't going to be happy. Having your own likes and dislikes and trying not to interfere with the other's. I used to cycle all the time, everywhere. June never once complained about that. She cycled with me sometimes, but she never once worried about me going off cycling. Also, I would spend hours and hours tucked away in my art workroom, losing myself in my painting. She never complained."
What is Love?
Peter: "A basic sexual attraction of one to another. Love is beyond comprehension. The reason you are attracted to someone you just don't know, but it's there. If it is genuine, it will last. Many marriages will last, but some don't. When I met my June she came into the place where I worked, if that wouldn't have happened, I would probably never have met her. So luck comes into it. Luck or fate, or are they the same thing? But fate is pre-ordained. It could be that."
So what is his advice to anyone looking for love?
Peter: "To get to know the personality. June was perfect, we never argued, only minor things, bickering at most. Get to know the person first. You've got to live with someone first really, as it gives you a chance to get to know them. June and I lived together for four years before getting married. It was very easy to live with June. Unfortunately nowadays living together is considered the prime object."
So, do you believe in marriage?
Peter: "Yes I believe in marriage. Marriage is a bond that binds you. It is different to simply living together. It's not that people living together need not be happy. It's just to me, it was important. When you are married you have to remember that there are rules. The obvious is not to commit adultery. Don't go looking for it."
What's the proudest achievement of your life?
Peter: "I had a real phobia of swimming. I would sit at the edge of the swimming baths as a child watching everyone swimming and being too scared to go in. It wasn't until I was twenty-six that I learned to swim. Everyone has something in life that they are afraid of, but when you overcome it, it is tremendous. After that, I swam the Solent three times and every lake in the Lake District. I swam Lake Windermere, which is ten and a half miles long in eight hours and thirty-six minutes. It was a real championship. I competed in the breaststroke. I started off on my back when I learned to swim, as I was scared to put my head in. If you don't like water, you must start by plunging your head in, and then you know nothing can get worse than that. After that, there is nothing to fear."
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