Friday, 27 February 2009

BACK TO MY CHILDHOOD HOME



When we had settled in and were starting to think about building our first kitchen, I suddenly had a much better idea. On one hand, there was Mum, Dad, six children and a dog, boxed up in the small, first floor flat in Oakfield Road. They had no garden for the children to play in or for Mummy to hang out the washing, and they had Aunty Minnie forever thumping on the ceiling and shouting at them all.
On the other hand, Arthur and I now had the offer of half a large house, complete with a very large garden. There were only two of us and we were out at work all day. The sensible solution seemed to be for Mum and Dad, and Arthur and I, to swap accommodation! The agents on both sides were happy for us to do this, and Mummy and Daddy were overjoyed at getting out of Oakfield road at long last.
And so the switch was made. Dad spent his every spare moment working like mad to get St Paul’s road how he and mum wanted it. The ground floor rooms became bedrooms, and the basement was turned into a beautiful fitted kitchen, living room and lounge.
Sandie, Babs, Tina and Gill loved it. They played in the garden and Mum hung out her washing in the sunshine. Mum and dad planted flowers and sat out in deckchairs.
With Arthur at my side, I arrived back at Oakfield Road, the house that I had first moved into as a little girl, all those years ago. This was also the home that all our children were to be born in, but that was about seven years away.
Mummy was worried about us having to deal with aunty Minnie’s moods and her moaning. We felt quite confident that it would be OK and Arthur wasn’t the least bit scared of her. We knew that legally, as tenants, we all had equal rights in the house.
When Mum and Dad first came to Oakfield Road, during the early war years, to share the house with Aunty Minnie, she had been renting it in her own name. She was, in fact, the legal and sole occupier. Then individual flats were gradually taken over by Gwen, then Mum and Dad, and also a couple who applied for and rented the three-roomed attic flat. Aunty Minnie became our unofficial landlady to whom they all paid rent. She in turn paid her rent to the real landlords. Eventually the tenancy was taken away from her and they were all given their own rent books. 71 Oakfield Road had become a tenement block. Now all the tenants had equal rights to the hallway, garden and cellar. This was great news, except for Aunty Minnie. She still said: ‘This is my house,’ and made life so unpleasant for everyone that no one really stood up to her. That is, until Arthur and I moved in!
The first hurdle was hanging out the washing. Although I didn’t relish carrying wet laundry down two flights of stairs, through a dark, dirty cellar and up another flight of stone steps outside, there was a principle at stake. Doug and Arthur waited for a fine Saturday afternoon then proceeded to erect a magnificent, wooden clothes-post that Arthur had made for me.
Aunty Minnie sat at her kitchen window, watching us like the Wicked Witch of the West until she could stand it no longer. She jumped up and ran into the garden. This happened to coincide with the moment that Dougie broke in half the handle of the garden fork he was using.
‘How dare you use my garden fork without my permission,’ she shrieked at us. ‘This is my garden and you have no right to dig holes in the ground and break my garden fork.’
This was a beautiful moment… our moment of triumph. Doug looked at her as she leaped up and down with what I swear was smoke pouring out of her nostrils.
‘This,’ he said truthfully, ‘is my fork, I brought it from home specifically to do this job.’
Arthur then informed her in no uncertain terms, that she no longer had exclusive rights to the garden, and we continued to erect the clothes post. Poor Aunty Minnie had met her Waterloo and she was thoroughly deflated. Turning on her heel, and throwing the rather inappropriate remark: ‘Get off your high horse!’ over her shoulder, she strode indoors, slamming the back door in her wake. We had started as me meant to continue, and had won the first battle.
There were many such upheavals about who had the rights to what, and of course we always won.
I am now much older and more tolerant of elderly people’s behaviour… Auntie Minnie is no longer alive, and I must admit that I do feel a little guilty about the way we treated her. She was in the wrong, but she was in her seventies and no doubt felt justified in her behaviour. We should have been a bit more understanding. We never found out why she was so bitter and resentful. Perhaps she resented other’s pleasures or good fortune because life had been very hard for her. There were many such battles with her during the first year or so, but she eventually came round, apparently accepting that it was quite handy to have a man around the house occasionally.

5 comments:

Beetle said...

Poor Auntie Minnie :O) She was a bit of a battle axe at times though. As you say, we don't know what made her so bitter.

She did allow us kids out in the garden at times though. I always remember we had to be really quiet as we went down the stairs and through to the garden, and it never felt homely or welcoming.

granny grimble said...

BEETLE

We bought bikes after we moved in, and the only place to keep them was in the hall (which as you remember was huge). Aunty minnie would caryy them up the stairs unaided, and plonk them outside our kitchen door. We used to carry them down again, and so it would go on until she tired of the game!

weechuff said...

How well I remember the coal cellar with it's many little rooms,and us creeping through it in the dark to get into the garden. I often used to wonder what the different rooms had been used for in the house's hey day. They were probably used by servants to do all different types of chores I expect.

granny grimble said...

WEECHUFF

I think they were sort of kitchens. There was a larder with a marble floor and a mesh covered opening on to fresh air. There was a huge knife cleaning wheel and a row of those coiled bells on the wall that would have been linked to various rooms in the house. The very top most flat in the house was of course servants bedrooms. Little rooms with sloping ceilings that almost came down to the floor on one side of the room. Fascinating, but unappreciated by us children in those days!

Swubird said...

Granny:

I think we all have an aunt Minnie in our families. "Smoke pouring out of her nostrils." I love it. She sounds like a real fire breather. And as we age we tend to become more understanding and tolerant of those who went before us? So true. It kind of makes you wonder how people talk about us doesn't it?

Another revealing chapter from the life of Granny Grimble.

Happy trails.