Coming from a working class background, our abode was very much make-do-and-mend, with Dad’s decorating prowess and Mummy’s homemaking skills well to the fore. We didn’t go in for quality furnishings. We couldn’t afford them. So Mr and Mrs. Quarry’s home seemed to me to be very posh. Looking back, it was just a normal middle class home.
Mummy, being Mummy would send little parcels to Dougie and I from time to time. They would contain small items of clothing, such as socks and underwear, and little treats like chocolate and biscuits. Se would write lovely funny little letters that would make us laugh. Rita didn’t often get any letters or parcels, and this didn’t go down very well with Mrs Quarry. I think, in a way, she resented me having a caring family and so favoured Rita more than me. Throughout all this Rita and I remained firm friends.
We tended to be sent to bed rather earlier that we had been used to at home in London. Sometimes we would read our books but, on one occasion, we invented a new pastime, which we were to regret. One of us, I can’t remember which, discovered that if we curled the corner of our handkerchief into a spiral and inserted it up our nostril, by gently tickling the inside of our nose, it would produce very loud and violent sneezing. How stupid can you get? After a time, Mrs Quarry, who had been listening to the prolific sneezing from downstairs, hurried up with doses of medicine for the pair of us, insisting that we were ‘going down with something’. We didn’t dare tell her the truth, so we took our medicine.
LIFE IN BRADFORD
Meanwhile, back in London, the raids were still very bad and the Government had now decided to offer evacuation to mothers with young children and babies. This, of course, included Mummy and Gwen.
My mother sent a letter to me at Grange-over-Sands telling me that she had moved with Tina, Sandie and Billy to a place called Bradford. She and Gwen, with the four small children, had been allocated a large house in Duckworth Lane. Sharing the house with them was another young mother who had been evacuated from a place called Wood Green in North London. I had never heard of Wood Green and I had no idea that it was to have such a big influence on my life in future years.
Once Mum had settled in, she quickly realised that Bradford wasn’t that far away from Grange, so she came to visit us, leaving the small children with Gwen.
We were beside ourselves with excitement at seeing Mummy again. Unfortunately, we weren’t going to see Dad for some time, as he had been left behind in London. He had to continue to work and earn money to keep our flat going until we could all return to Oakfield Road once more.
We walked Mummy round the town, showing her all the places we frequented. She in turn told us stories about Billy and Sandie and the things they were getting up to. I was also very interested in the progress of the new baby, little Tina.
When we returned to the Quarry homestead, Mrs. Quarry told Rita and I to go and play in the study while she and Mr Quarry talked to Mummy in the lounge. I felt very upset and cheated. I hadn’t seen my mother for such a long, long time, and now I was being shut out of the room while Mr and Mrs Quarry took up my precious time with her. What I didn’t know was that Mum was arranging to take Dougie and I to live with her in Bradford.
Mrs Quarry assumed that, because Gwen was Rita’s sister and also Peter’s Aunty, she would want to take them to Bradford as well. Nothing was further from the truth. Gwen was a young, newly married wife and mother of a newborn baby, whose husband was away fighting in the war, and Gwen and Rita were actually stepsisters. They shared the same mother but had different fathers, and although she of course loved her sister and nephew, Gwen really didn’t want the added responsibility of two more children to care for, and who could really blame her?
The Quarrys were aghast at this news, and poor, old Mum had to take the brunt of it because Gwen wasn’t there to say her piece. When Mummy left us to go back to Bradford, the atmosphere was less than cheery at Grange. It was therefore with great joy that Dougie and I left to join Mum and be a family once more.
72, Duckworth Lane was a three storey, Victorian house with a flight of stone steps leading up to a solid front door. Once inside the front door, we found ourselves in a large hallway with more stairs going up to our part of the house. The ground floor was occupied by a mother and daughter. They had fled the German occupation of Jersey in the Channel Islands, ending up, like us, in Bradford. They were both French, but could speak English. The little girl was about seven years old.
Leading off the hall was the cellar door. The cellar was a large, almost empty room with a flagstone floor. In one corner was a copper with a sturdy, wooden lid. This was where all the laundry for the entire household was boiled, rinsed, and mangled.
Our living area on the first floor compromised of two large rooms, one overlooking the back garden and the other the front main road. The room at the front was quite large and was a communal kitchen/living room,
There was a gas cooker just inside the door, and a large, old fashioned kitchen table stood in the centre of the room. Around and about, were a settee and various armchairs. I imagine all the furniture was supplied to us by the Bradford Council.
A further flight of stairs led to the top of the house, where there were two more large bedrooms. The front rood had dormer windows from which you could se the sky. Although this was my bedroom, I never liked being in it. There were tales of it being haunted and the room used to spook me.
Apart from this, I was very happy living in Bradford. I went to the local school, picked up a broad Yorkshire accent and became a teenager. This all happened in a short span of time. Quite a lot of other things happened during our stay there.
Daddy came to visit us and became bedridden there for a while with his ulcerated legs. These were a legacy from a traffic accident and were to stay with him, on and off, for the rest of his life. Of course we loved having him there with us, and we would all sit on the bed while he showed us how to draw and colour.
While we were in Bradford, we all caught mumps and then chicken pox, though not at the same time! We also acquired head lice! Sometimes I wonder how Mum coped with all our traumas, and us, but she did.
Tina was an especially tiny baby at birth (and I believe that to this day she is the shortest member of the family) and Mummy worried about her. One day Tina was taken ill and rushed off to the Bradford Infirmary, where they suspected meningitis. Mum was told that they would have to perform a lumbar puncture on Tina, and the doctor asked Mummy to phone the hospital at a given time for the results. We all sat watching the clock and, at last, it was time to telephone. Mummy was too frightened to make the call, so she asked me to do it. I didn’t really know what meningitis was, only that it was something that my mother greatly feared, and that Tina might have it. Thankfully, the results were negative, though I don’t know what I would have done had they been otherwise!
We lived near the school and Doug and I used to come home for lunch each day. As we came through the kitchen door, Mummy would be standing at the cooker preparing a hot lunch for us all. We’d all sit down round the big, wooden table and, while we ate our lunch, we would tell Mum what we’d been up to at school. Usually the radio would be playing in the background and we’d sing-along with Bing Crosby and ‘Swinging on a star’ which was top of the hit parade.
One day, the Head Teacher found out that I had never been given the chance to sit my eleven plus exam. I don’t know who thought of it, or how they managed it, but I was given a message for my parents, saying that on a certain day the school had made arrangements for me to sit this very important examination.
When the time arrived, Mummy made me feel so special. Off I went to school in a smart, white shirt and navy gymslip. I thought most of the papers were quite easy: nearly all Mensa-type puzzles and multiple choices. And, since I had always been adept at reading and writing essays, the English paper was a piece of cake.
I came home lunchtime; Mummy had made me a special lunch and laid the entire table nicely for me. She said it was important that I felt cosy and relaxed. Bless her for being the darling Mother she was. I felt like a princess! The sad part of the story was that we went back to London before the results came through. Because it was wartime and chaos reigned everywhere, I never did find out if I passed or failed the exam.