Love in a bis­cuit tin

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Eas­ing the lid off the Mcvi­tie’s bis­cuit tin, I reached in and ri­fled around.

‘Hey, get your mitts out of there!’ yelled my mum Me­gan from the kitchen.

It wasn’t the first time I’d been caught red-handed.but it wasn’t a cheeky cus­tard cream or choco­late bour­bon I was af­ter. It was love let­ters. Ev­ery­one in our fam­ily knew the story be­hind the dozens of notes stashed in­side the old tin.

That didn’t stop my big brother Brian, 7, and me, then 4, beg­ging for our favourite one at bed­time.

We’d snug­gle down un­der the du­vet as Mum would hold a let­ter in her hands, telling us the story off by heart...

It all started in April 1948, when my mum, 22, met my dad De­nis, 23, in Lon­don.

Mum’d been vis­it­ing her sis­ter Betty for Easter week­end.

Betty’s hus­band and my dad were old Army pals.

While Dad was liv­ing in Southamp­ton, Betty and her hus­band were lodg­ing with my dad’s par­ents in Lon­don.

The four of them ended up stay­ing to­gether that week­end.

It was love at first sight for Mum and Dad.

Af­ter the week­end was over, they be­gan writ­ing to each other.

Dad sent the first let­ter, a whop­ping 10 pages long!

And in the sec­ond para­graph, he’d asked, Will you marry me?

‘I knew I’d say yes,’ Mum chuck­led. ‘But I had to make him wait.’

It wasn’t un­til the next month, when they met again in Lon­don, that Dad gave her a gold ring.

And, all the while, their let­ters con­tin­ued.

On 31 July 1948, they mar­ried at a small ser­vice in Union Chapel, in north Lon­don.

The let­ters got bun­dled to­gether and pack­aged up when they moved in with Dad’s par­ents.

At some point, Mum even ar­ranged them in date order.

But then they were for­got­ten, as my brother Brian ar­rived in Novem­ber 1949, fol­lowed by me in May 1952.

Then, in 1954, Dad got tu­ber­cu­lo­sis, a se­ri­ous bac­te­rial lung infection, and was sent to a hos­pi­tal in St Al­bans.

Alone with two young chil­dren to look af­ter, Mum started tak­ing the let­ters out to read in the night.

I could tell she missed Dad even more than we did. And Brian and I were happy to hear Mum and Dad’s sto­ries. Read­ing them made her feel bet­ter, too, I guess. By the time Dad came home in 1956, Brian and I could re­cite most of them by heart. Then, in Oc­to­ber 1961, our lit­tle sis­ter Lynn was born, and we passed the tales down to her. In 1968, we moved house to Es­sex, and the love notes of course came with us. Fifty years on, the ‘court­ing let­ters’ as we call them, are a fam­ily trea­sure. We’ve never ac­tu­ally read them, though – they’re too per­sonal – but Mum says she wouldn’t mind if we ever did. ‘It’s just about our lives at the time,’ she says. ‘What we were do­ing that day, where we went danc­ing that night.’ Now Mum and Dad are in their 90s, it must be nice to be able to look back on that time. Some day, I hope I’ll in­herit the let­ters – a tes­ta­ment to my par­ents’ won­der­ful re­la­tion­ship. We’re lucky that those amaz­ing let­ters have lasted so long.

Some fam­i­lies have heir­looms, but our trea­sure’s pa­per thin Denise French, 66, Es­sex

Some day, I hope that I will in­herit the let­ters

With my par­ents to­day

Me and Brian when we were lit­tle

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