And so we arrived in New Park Avenue, Palmers Green. The house was beautiful, and the garden a showpiece. We weren’t allowed to pick any flowers, or walk or sit on the lawn unless Uncle George gave permission. Even then, we couldn’t wear shoes, only slippers, and we had to sit on a blanket provided for the purpose. My Aunty and Uncle were very kind and quite fond of Doug and I, in their own way. They just didn’t understand children or their ways and found it difficult to communicate. Billy was called ‘the brat’, in a jokey way (as were all the other little Leaches as they appeared in the world!)
At first we were made very welcome. Then small, insignificant events started to get on the grown up’s nerves. Like me having a cough that wouldn’t stop tickling my throat. Uncle George was convinced that I was coughing deliberately to annoy him. Of course I wasn’t, but that, together with Dougie doing head-over-heals in the lounge and Billy having baby bodily functions, meant that things were magnified out of all proportion, and it was soon time to move on again before relationships got too strained.
A house on the opposite side of the road to Sissie and George’s was unoccupied. The owners were away because of the war, and wanted to let it out. I have no idea how Mum and Dad managed to secure the property, but they did. It was like being let out of prison! We ran up and down the stairs and in and out of the garden; the freedom was wonderful. We were happy, Mum and Dad were happy and, most of all, Sissie and George were happy to have their own little nest back again.
Because Dad was out of work and we’d lost all out furniture, the new house was a bit Spartan looking to begin with. Aunty Sissie gave us a table and we sat on boxes. Mum and Dad gradually got furniture together. I don’t remember how, but I do remember we were never without the basic essentials for long. Somehow, Mum and Dad always made it OK again. It wasn’t long before, being the miracle workers they were, my parents had managed to build us yet another home. Dad got himself a new job with a building and decorating contractor, and life settled peacefully down once more.
My mother wanted to put curtains up at the front windows. Of course, we had the obligatory blackout curtains, but these didn’t look very cosy, and weren’t intended to take the place of proper curtaining. Being the wonderful homemaker that she was, Mum somehow managed to acquire some biscuit coloured lining material. This material, after being given Mummy’s own individual touch, became our new curtains. Together, we collected different sized cups, glasses and jam jar. Mum placed these upside down on the curtains and drew circles around them that overlapped in various sizes and patterns. She then spent the next few days embroidering these circles in different coloured embroidery thread, letting me help her. This must have occurred about sixty five years ago, but I can see those pretty curtains now, and would love to be able to hold them and run my fingers over the chain-stitch embroidery.
It wasn’t too long before the real owners of ‘our house’ decided that they wanted to take up residency once more. Mum and Dad received a letter from a very old friend of theirs called Audrey. She was, and still is, referred to as Aunty Audrey to all of us. Audrey’s husband Herman was in the RAF and stationed in Wales and Aunty Audrey had moved there to be near him. Now she wanted to return to war-torn London. It was then that we moved from New Park Avenue to Madora Road, Brixton, and Aunty Audrey joined us.
To be continued...