On one occasion my Aunty bought me a pale lemon, silky, party dress, which she embroidered with little, lavender French-knots (she was heavily into embroidering French- knots at the time). I remember that I was given my new dress to wear at Dougie’s 4th birthday party. We had a jelly and cake birthday celebration, and my friend from the garage was invited. I can’t remember much about her, except that she had some sort of skin complaint and had to wear a funny pixie-hood with her party dress. I was very polite and pretended not to notice it, while all the time I was dying to see what was hidden beneath the hood. Also at the tea party was our Daddy. He had come to Blackpool to see us, and I assume, to bring birthday presents for Douglas.
By the time summer came around again, Lennie had returned to Bolton, and Mummy and Daddy had presented us with a new baby brother named Billy (in honour of Uncle). My mother told me that Billy came into the world in the middle of one of the worst nights of the London Blitz. When she went into labour the spitfires were battling overhead. She, together with my dad, Aunty Lily and Uncle Len (relations of Daddy) had to stay in the house. They were unable to get as far as the local air-raid shelter in the park.
Dad and Uncle Len went to the bottom of the garden, to watch the planes dog-fighting in the sky and left Mummy and Aunty Lilly to their own battle in the bedroom. Mum said that the bombs were falling all around and, because we lived next to the park where the ack-ack guns and searchlights were stationed, it made it a very dangerous place to be. Aunty Lily was sure that they were all going to be blasted to kingdom come before Billy was born! However, all went well and the next time we saw Mum and Dad there was a new baby to cuddle.
It was thought that it would be safer for all our family to stay together for a while in Blackpool. The air-raids in London were still raging, and the air-raid shelter in the park had recently been bombed, killing a lot of our neighbours and some of the local shop-keepers. Mum, Dad and Billy were somehow fitted in at Aunty and Uncles Blackpool house, and things jogged along. Daddy found work and Mummy helped Aunty and Uncle look after the air force boys.
I don’t remember how long my parents actually stayed in Blackpool, but it all ended in tears, like so many family get-togethers do. One day, all our things were packed up and we went home.
Well, not quite home. When Mum and Dad had come to be with us in Blackpool, our house in Norwood had stood empty. They had left our house keys with neighbours, in case of an emergency. Now that we were moving back, Daddy travelled down to London ahead of us, to get things ready for our return. To his horror, the neighbours said that they were surprised to see him: they thought we’d moved away from Norwood Road.
Apparently a group of removal men had collected the keys, let themselves into he house and removed all the contents. When Daddy finally got into the house through a window, he found everything was gone, even the cutlery. There was nothing left. The House had been ‘cleaned out’ and closed down and we could no longer live there. Even my dearest, old teddy with half an arm, which had been with me most of my life, had gone, never to be seen again. This should have been a traumatic experience for me, but to be honest, we moved house so often that it somehow seemed perfectly normal that we should be ‘on the move’ again.
I was a mere child when all this happened, and so I don’t really know the finer details of the story. I feel certain that Mum and Dad must have had their suspicions about the identity of the person who took the keys but, if they had, they didn’t seem to do anything about it.
I had no notion of the drama going on between the grown-ups, and don’t remember much about the lead-up to my next adventure. All I know is that my Aunty Sissie (Mum’s sister) and her husband Uncle George had said they would put us up until we could find somewhere else to live. This must have been very hard for both sides. Aunty Sis and Uncle George had no children (because they didn’t want them) and Mummy and Daddy probably felt very embarrassed but had no other option. They said how grateful they were, which of course they were, but it didn’t sit easily on their shoulders.
The photo is me in my party dress with Dougie
To be continued…