Sunday, 5 October 2008


Dad was in hospital for weeks and weeks and, so that Mum could spend the days with him, Doug and I went to Miss Silver's Private School at the other end of New Park Avenue. How Mum got us in there I'll never know, for she certainly couldn't have paid any fees. I don't know why we weren't attending the local council school at this time, as we certainly did at a later date. Perhaps Dad's story became local knowledge and made us 'famous', who knows? I loved attending Miss Silver's school because it was so very different from any school I'd known (and I'd known a few!).

All the pupils sat around a Morrison indoor shelter which served as a large communal desk where we studied our lessons. The Morrison shelter (named after Herbert Morrison, the Home Secretary during the war) was issued to people who couldn't use an Anderson shelter in their garden for one reason or another. It comprised of a tough, metal cage, the top and base being heavy, sheet metal, with strong, steel, chain-link fencing around all four sides. The whole thing was about the size of a large dining table. In the event of an air raid, you were supposed to make yourselves secure and comfortable in the cage and, should the house collapse, it was strong enough to prevent you being crushed until, hopefully, you were dug out of the debris still alive.

Miss Silver taught us how to make rose hip jelly and marrow jam, and how to clean down the Morrison table top with methylated spirits after school. The smell of meths still transports me back to Miss Silver's little room in Palmer's Green. She also told us stories and taught us about wildlife. I suppose we learned the three R's, but I don't recall them.

The school-house backed on to the park and, as the school was just an ordinary, domestic dwelling-place, it hadn't a playground. Accordingly, we spent every playtime in the park, which was wonderful.

Daddy eventually came home from hospital. This must have been a terrible time for him and Mummy, but it never seemed to overshadow our happy childhood. They were remarkable parents.
Daddy was encased in a plaster jacket from his neck to his groin for six months, and I don't know how he stood it. The hairs on his body grew into and through the plaster, and he kept a long knitting needle which he used to plunge down inside the plaster in an effort to scratch his many itches. Of course, he couldn't bend over or sit in an ordinary chair, so he ate all his meals propped up on the edge of Billie's high-chair. How he managed other necessities of everyday living I never knew. I was too young and innocent to even wonder!
With Dad back home again, things were reasonably normal, and Douglas and I were transferred to the local council school. Naturally, the task of taking my brother back and forth to school fell to me. Mum had Daddy and Billy to care for, and I was going to school anyway.
I never minded taking him to school: he was quite a sweet little boy. But bringing him home was a nightmare! Every single day he would come through the school gates saying he urgently needed to go to the toilet, and most days he wouldn't make it to the house in time. It would have been bad enough if he'd wet his trousers but, oh no, it was much worse than that!
There I'd be, chatting merrily to my band of friends, talking about home-work, Children's Hour, and who we were going to the park with after tea, and then I'd turn round to look at my brother. He'd be hobbling along, legs spread wide apart, with an obvious heavy mass swinging about in his trousers! If I was very lucky it would stay there until we got home, but it didn't always.
Some fifty years later I happened to ask Doug why this had happened so often; I learned that poor Dougie was frightened to use the school loo, because the big boys would fling open the toilet door and taunt him. What a shame he never told me. Life can be so cruel when you are timid and only five years old.
Dad finally had the plaster removed and he told me that it was excruciatingly painful, as his whole body was defoliated in one fell swoop! Unfortunately, carrying the great weight of the plaster body cast around for all those months, left him with the legacy of ulcerated legs. They never ever went away for more that a few weeks every five or six years, and although he was only thirty two when the accident happened, he still had his ulcers when he died aged seventy nine. He worked so hard, and such long hours to keep us all fed and clothed and happy, which we always were, and yet all those years he was in continuous pain. I am only so sad that I never really told him how proud I was of him.


Babs (Beetle) said...

That's so true. He never really knew that us younger kids even thought about his accident, and the pain he was in constantly. It wasn't something dad spoke about. He certainly was a man in a million, when I think about it how he soldiered on, whatever!

Croom said...

He was the bravest man I have ever met, fancy having all those little ones running around him, swinging toys and boots or shoes so near and often right bang on his legs. He would scream out and hug his leg but never shouted or smacked out at us.

When ever he managed to heal an ulcer some ones foot, elbow, toy or shopping bag always managed to re open it. Poor, poor Dad.

I think he must have known how proud you were of him Leeta, as we all were of both Mum and Dad. It must have shown on our faces many, many times. You couldn’t look at someone with such love as we had for them and them not know.

Anne said...

I can't imagine how horrible it would be to have a plaster on for so long.....and then always to be reminded about the accident by having ulcers for the rest of his life. So unfair. Brave lovely man. x

weechuff said...

I was only thinking yesterday how sad I was not to have told him how proud we all were of him, not just for the way he was as a dad, but also of the fantastic restoration work he did for so many years. (Another story Leeta?)

granny grimble said...

Reading your comment Sandie reminded me of something I had quite forgotten. Do you remember when Mummy died and was lying in the front room, and we were all sitting with her? One of you asked me to read a fairy story to you all, like in the old days. From somewhere came a children's book (maybe Sindie's) and we all sat cross legged on the floor and I read the story of 'The Little Match Girl' to you all (and Mummy)
Does anyone else remember that?

Babs (Beetle) said...

No I don't remember it, I'm afraid. Maybe I wasn't there at the time.

weechuff said...

I have no recollection of that Leeta:0(

Croom said...

Yes you did Leeta, do you remember daddy said to Mummy, 'look at them Nan, all acting like children again' or something like that.

I have told all my children about that story you read and what Daddy said to Mum, it was the first time he actually laughed with us and to Mum. Didn’t you also either tell or read a story about a train dropping in the gutter and down a drain, or was it a soldier? I can remember you or someone saying Puff puff went the engine and dad laughing again at us again.

granny grimble said...

Thank goodness one of you remembered. It was a special sort of moment I thought, and I was surprised that no one recalled it!
Maybe Gill would have remembered it too.

GoldAnne said...