For the last few days I have been watching out for the post woman in eager anticipation. Every day she has disappointed me.
be fair, it’s not her fault. She only delivers what she finds in her bag or trolley or whatever each day. She cannot be held responsible for the failure of the sender (whoever he or she or it may be) to post the long-awaited envelope so that she
can deliver it on time.
Our post woman is a lovely, smiley person who manages to sound and look cheerful whatever the weather. Unlike Postman Pat she doesn’t
have a little red van to ride around in, nor is she accompanied by a black and white cat, either called Jess or something similar. She may, of course, have a cat at home which may, or may not, be black and white and may, or may not, be called Jess.
We do not tend to have this kind of in-depth discussion with our post woman, our conversations being generally (and boringly) weather related. I say “boring” because the poor woman probably has identical conversations with everybody she meets on
her daily round. This makes her cheerful responses even more remarkable and admirable. It hasn’t, however, stopped me complaining when, once again, the post which has plopped onto our doormat does not include the very thing I am waiting for.
Today it arrived. Hallelujah! I didn’t see the post woman to thank her as both Mr B and I were out at the monthly Bowls Committee Meeting, Mr B in his role as Competition
Secretary and me in my rather humbler role as Assistant Secretary. I say “humbler” but then I am the one who writes up the Minutes of the meeting and as I’m pretty sure nobody round the table will remember, in any kind of detail, what went
on over the two hours from 9.30 to 11.30 this morning, I could probably make it all up and nobody would argue. It used to be called “the power of the pen” now it’s the power of the laptop. I only say I could make it up, I didn’t
say I would...
Anyway, when we arrived home after the meeting and after a bit of essential shopping, there was my long-awaited envelope on the door mat, along
with the renewal of my Emergency Cover for my car, a letter re-arranging Mr B’s next hospital appointment for the third time, and a flier for Dominos Pizzas. I knew it was the letter I was waiting for because there on the back of the envelope were
the sender’s details: “General Register Office.” Inside, a copy of the Marriage Certificate of Albert Thomas Richardson and Dorothy Ellen Green at Streat Parish Church on October 9 1926.
Anyone who, like me, wallows in Family History research will know the anticipation of opening the envelope containing the latest copy certificate ordered – be it Birth, Marriage or Death. This is followed by the excitement
when it is clear it is the “right” certificate or the disappointment if it is obviously “wrong.” I can tell I have the right certificate because I have at least three proofs – Albert’s father’s name is correctly
recorded as George; the marriage takes place in the little village of Streat where Albert and his family lived; and Albert’s occupation is given as “gardener.”
Yes, folks, this is the marriage certificate of Albert the Gardener, whose case study I have been researching and writing up for West Sussex County Archives’ Great War Project. I have almost finished it – the marriage certificate is
the last piece of evidence I need and I reckon it’s £9 well spent.
I have grown immensely fond of Albert the Gardener while researching his story.
I will always remember opening the “Active Service” envelope contained in his personal papers lodged in the Archives Office and finding a collection of pressed flowers and leaves. The leaves and ferns still retain their distinctive
shapes; you can still see the blue of the flowers Albert picked to send home to his “Dearest Mother” almost a hundred years ago. Once a gardener, always a gardener – even one who has been plucked from his peaceful Sussex home and sent
into the horrors of war in France and Italy.
I needed to know what happened to him after the war. Now I know for sure that he married 24 year old Dorothy,
a domestic servant, in 1926. I have already seen and photographed their gravestone in the churchyard of the Parish Church where Albert was christened, married and buried – so I know they were together till Albert’s death in 1970 parted them.
None of my research will tell me what I really want to know - whether he was a happy man, whether he and Dorothy had a contented marriage, whether the experiences of his
war years and the loss of a dear younger brother haunted him for the rest of his life. Or did Albert the Gardener’s ability to find beauty wherever he looked stay with him for the rest of his life?
Oh, I do hope so.