Wednesday, 25 March 2009


I accidently erased this blog and have had to re-install it. Unfortunately, I have also erased the comments that were kindly left for me. I apologise for this and if possible would appreciate the comments being re-instated. Thank you.


The Highlight of 1951 was the Festival of Britain, built one hundred years after ‘The Great Victorian Exhibition of 1851’. There were many facets to the festival. The Pleasure Gardens, a huge fun fair, a tree walk, The Dome of Discovery and, of course, the world famous ‘Skylon’, a futuristic structure which appeared to have no visible means of support. This magnificent and prize winning structure was sold for scrap in 1952 (the following year).

All this was an enormous feat of design and technology, and intended to show the world how well we had picked up the pieces and recovered from World War ll. The Royal Family, heads of state, and millions of tourists visited the Battersea Pleasure Gardens.
Hoping to get the public into a festive mood, the organisers announced that there was to be a huge fancy dress night at the Pleasure Gardens. The entrance fee would be waived for any person arriving at the turnstile in fancy dress costume; the Leach’s and Chapman’s needed no second bidding, and immediately organised a large group.
Aunty Minnie, Ruby and her son, Mummy and Daddy, Arthur’s brother and Arthur and I, and several friends made up a large party, and let ourselves loose on the London Underground, bound for Battersea. Dad this time became ‘Old Mother Riley’, and stole the show.
Much to Arthur’s embarrassment, and everyone else’s joy, his brother dressed as a Romany gypsy, strapped his piano accordion on and serenaded us all during the underground tube journey and at the Festival.
When we arrived, we discovered that hardly another soul had made the effort to dress up. We didn’t care, it was still a lot of fun, and the Press was pleased that we’d entered into the spirit of the occasion. They interviewed us and took our names, and a group photograph duly appeared in the next day’s newspaper.

The only part of the Festival of Britain still surviving is, of course, The Festival hall on the South Bank.
Although we threw lots of parties and enjoyed dressing up, I must admit that we did change our party tastes after a couple of years of married life. This was solely down to the couple that had the flat above ours at Oakfield road. He was about fifteen years younger than his partner and they lived together many years, later marrying.
They had a circle of about a dozen or so close friends who they often brought home after an evening out, or sometimes instead of going out. Rather than have the inconvenience of guests tip-toeing past our bedroom door on the way to the loo, they would ask if we would like to join the party. We really came to love their get-togethers, and our taste in parties changed from then on. Our hosts would have little dishes of nuts and crisps and sausage rolls lying around, the drinks were plentiful and generous, the lights were turned low and the music was classy. It was all very intimate and we all got quietly, slowly and sedately drunk as, arms entwined around each other’s necks, we danced into the small hours. Pure magic!

Sunday, 22 March 2009



Because we were such a large family, we didn’t need many extra people to make ‘a party’. With the coming of Arthur, our family increased by another five people: his parents, his brother Bill and wife Jean, and their daughter Wendy. Doug’s teenage friends accounted for another half a dozen or so more, so party we quite often did! Fancy dress parties were a favourite and everyone joined in with gusto.

One Christmas, Arthur’s brother Bill organised a party for the two families and their friends. Mum went dressed as a Harem girl and Dad as Charlie Chaplin, a role he played almost as well as Chaplin himself! I put all my dressmaking efforts into Arthur’s devil’s costume. I made him a close fitting helmet with a ‘widows peak’. Arthur fashioned a splendid pair of horns, which we painted bright red and attached to the helmet. He had a voluminous black cloak lined with red satin, and sported a wicked beard and moustache. All this, together with a full-size ‘devil’s fork’, also painted bright red, made him look really fiendish.

At another of our parties, Mum and I made Can-Can girl costumes, and burst into the room, high-kicking and showing our frillies, to the strains of ‘Orpheus in the Underworld’.
A regular at our parties was Doug’s friend Fred. He lived with his gran (to whom he was devoted) and he was also a devotee of fashion: the Teddy-boy fashion. In Fred’s case this meant shoes with thick crepe soles (known as brothel creepers), topped by narrow, drain-pipe trousers and a three quarter length, black jacket trimmed with black velvet. Beneath his jacket lay a snowy white shirt trimmed from neck to waist with layer upon layer of narrow, white lace ruffles. Fred embellished this with a black shoestring tie, and an immaculate, Teddy boy hair-do, gleaming with hair cream, in a style that resembled a sculpture.
He was a tall lad; in fact over six feet tall, and he cut a very dashing figure dressed as he was. He didn’t have a great deal of money and so wasn’t able to spend as much money on his appearance as he would have liked. Nothing daunted, what he couldn’t afford he made! Fred would spend hours in our kitchen at Oakfield Road, sitting at Mum’s treadle sewing machine, laboriously stitching yards of lace on to his shirt front, and adding bits and bobs to his clothes. He was always very fussy about looking just right. That is, until one of our family parties when Fred got ever-so-slightly drunk and, feeling very hot, decided to cool off in the kitchen. I shall never forget the sight that greeted me as I followed him into the room a few seconds later. There, with his lace trimmed shirt awry was Fred. His head was scarlet from the effect of heat and booze, and fully submerged in the goldfish tank with fish swimming around his face as he cooled off! The only sound in the room, except for the noise of bubbles, was Dad’s tired, somewhat disgusted but very patient plea: ‘Don’t do that Fred!’
Last photo: Arthur as a
devil,with his brother Bill
as a witch!

Thursday, 19 March 2009


I explained to the doctor all about Patsy and Doug, and that we wanted to tell Mum together, and that they wouldn’t wait two months to break their news. Being the lovely old man that he was, he immediately said: ‘OK there’s a special test that I can give you that usually is only carried out in emergencies.’
Home pregnancy testing had not yet been developed, and wouldn’t be for many, many years to come. The test that the doctor was going to do had something to do with sending a sample of my urine to the hospital laboratories, injecting it into a frog, and waiting to see if the frog laid eggs!
‘Ring me at the surgery in three days time, and I’ll be able to tell you the results of the test,’ he said, and if you really are going to have a baby.’
They were the longest three days of my life, and on the third day I rushed to the telephone box.
‘Have you got the results yet doctor?’ I asked.
‘Yes,’ said the doctor, ‘the results were positive. You were right: congratulations!’ I couldn’t believe it.
‘Am I really going to have a baby?’ I asked.
‘You certainly are. Come to the surgery and I’ll give you a letter for the antenatal clinic.’
The four of us went to visit Mum and Dad, so eager and happy that we could hardly contain ourselves. Needless to say, Mum, Dad, and all the siblings were ecstatic about the news.
It was a wonderful nine months. Pat and I did everything together, and Arthur and I were so happy. When you consider that David was born to Pat and Doug on February 27th, and Lynne was born less than a fortnight later, you must admit that we did remarkably well, at very short notice!
Daddy was working away in Wrexham for a lot of the time I was carrying Lynne, and he wrote me many letters about his hopes and love for his forthcoming grandchild. I still have them in my treasure chest.
When I look at my children I still can’t believe that Arthur and I made them and that we alone are responsible for these lovely people that are now part of our legacy to the world. If we never achieve anything else of any worth in our lives, we have at least done this.
I remember dreaming a particular dream several times during my first pregnancy, always a variation on a theme. I would carefully put my baby away somewhere safe. Perhaps in a bed, cot, room or even a drawer. Then I would forget it for several days, and the thought would suddenly strike me that I had omitted to feed it. I would wake up in a cold sweat! Perhaps this is a common dream for expectant mothers.
Even now, as I touch the fingers of a small baby and feel the little wrinkles of its skin I am immediately transported back forty-something years to the births of my children. All those years ago, the sensation of holding a baby in my arms, made a perfect job of imprinting itself upon my brain. I close my eyes and my babies are back. The warm head, so soft and downy against my lips. The smell of baby powder and clean, sterile linen. I lay my finger in the palm of a tiny hand and it closes its fingers around mine, in a reflex action: so tightly, so tightly. The baby blue eyes are closed and the perfectly formed mouth makes little movements. I lay my baby against my shoulder and a tiny face nuzzles into my neck. This must be one of the most wonderful of all wonders of the world!

Tuesday, 17 March 2009



By now, we’d been married seven years and had collected a good home around us. In our lounge we had a new 21-inch screen television set, a three-piece suite and a carpet square! In those days only the relatively wealthy could afford fitted carpet. Then, Cyril Lord, a carpet entrepreneur, introduced plain coloured carpets that could be purchased by the yard in several widths and at affordable prices. We managed a large square, but were still not in the fitted carpet league. We also had one of the first Hi-Fi systems, fresh from the Ideal Homes exhibition. Not only did it have FM radio and a built in reel-to-reel tape-recorder, but it also had an echo chamber and the facility to make double track recordings, all with plenty of echo-echo-echo! It was very modern and stood on long, spindly, black legs ending in shiny, brass ferrules. How proud we were of our gleaming, black and gold Hi-Fi.
We had also bought a kitchen table and chairs made from bright yellow Formica and vinyl. The chairs stood proudly on black, tubular steel legs, looking like great, yellow beetles striding across our red and white chequered linoleum covered floor. At the same time, we indulged in a matching yellow fibre glass sink unit, and a pale green kitchen cabinet with, as the brochure said: ‘ a fitted clock and bread bin together with pull-out work surface’. It was all very modern and much sought after! We even had Rusty the dog to complete our happy picture.
Remember we were just entering the ‘swinging sixties’ and this was reflected in our home. Purple, mustard, terracotta and burnt orange were the colour we chose to paint the doors in our flat. It started when we bought ‘contemporary’ linoleum to cover the floor on the landings. It had a black background and lots of colourful designs all over it, squares and triangle with rounded corners. We decided it would be fun to pick out all the bright colours in the floor covering and echo them on the doors that led off from the landing. Very fiftyish, which, of course it was.
Arthur and I were still very happy with our life together, and had no desire to start a family – we thought. I’d started looking at little girls wearing frilly frocks, cute smiles and ribbons in their hair but, at the time, didn’t recognise it for what it was: broodiness.
One day in June 1959, Doug contacted us and suggested that we all go down to the Railway Tavern for a drink, as there was something that he and Pat wanted to tell us. We were agog with curiosity. Surely they couldn’t be moving. Maybe Doug had landed a good job at last. When we’d settled down with our drinks, Doug told us that Pat was pregnant and they wanted us to be the first to know. We were so surprised because they hadn’t been married very long. Suddenly, I knew that I wanted to be pregnant too!
‘Can you imagine Mum’s face if we were to tell her that we were both expecting babies?’ I said. Doug and Pat agreed that it would be fun, but there was one little drawback. Pat was already pregnant and Arthur and I hadn’t even started yet!
‘Please wait just a couple of weeks’ I pleaded, ‘before you tell Mum and dad. It would be wonderful if we could present Mum and Dad with their first two grandchildren at the same time. Especially since they’d waited so long’.
‘OK,’ Doug agreed. I think he secretly thought we were both off our trolleys. After all, we’d been childless for seven years.
That night we set about fulfilling our part of the plan. After only one try, I was absolutely certain that it had worked and that I too was pregnant. We suddenly wanted to be parents more than anything else in the world, and there didn’t seem to be any reason to waste time now. I don’t think that it occurred to me that we might have to wait months, or even years, to make a baby.
It was just a short time later, and my period was overdue by three days. I just knew this was it! I went to the doctor and told him that I thought I was pregnant, He asked me how late I was and, when I told him three days, he roared with laughter and said: ‘Come back in a couple of months.’
To be contd…

Tuesday, 3 March 2009


After we left St Paul’s Road (see ‘Back to my childhood home’) Mrs ‘S’ the mother of Joyce, who rented the top floor flat with her husband Wally (see ‘A Move – But Not too Far’), moved into our original rooms, with her younger daughter Pat. St. Paul’s Road now housed Mum, Dad, brothers Doug and Bill, and the four girls on the ground and basement floors. Mrs S and Pat had our old flat, and Joyce and Wally still lived on the top floor.
Doug and Pat started dating and they finally became engaged and subsequently married.
From the outset of their relationship we became a regular foursome. Doug and I had always been very close to each other and, as Pat was roughly the same age as me, we all became very good friends, spending most of our spare time together.
In 1957 we formed a skiffle group and jazz group and, night after night, well into the wee small hours, we would make our own music recording it on to a Grundig reel-to-reel tape-recorder. Doug played a guitar and banjo and home made drums. Arthur played guitar and piano, and I played guitar, and Pat and I sang.
At one point, Dougie took up amateur photography, so we had a spate of taking black-and-white photographs of anything and everything, doing our own developing and printing in a makeshift dark room under the stairs.
This is one of the posh ones he took of me! Next we became very keen on table tennis. As we never had any money, it was decided that we make our own table. Arthur and Dougie also made the bats. They were a trifle heavy, but manageable! Why we never bought proper ones I don’t know, but it was fun, and we held tournaments in mum’s front room.
That year, Doug and Pat joined us on holiday in Dorset. They weren’t yet married. We had such a crazy, happy holiday. Our chalet stood on the bank of a river and Arthur and Doug did silly things like staging water pistol fights, and building a raft with a sail that sank immediately!
We walked across the fields at midnight, and came home to our chalet with our shoes and legs covered in snails, slugs and bugs!
One afternoon Pat’s deckchair collapsed while she was lounging in it. The whole thing folded up with her body on top, and her fingers trapped in the mechanism. We all thought for one horrible moment that she’s severed them and were frightened to look! However, they were still attached, so we rushed her to the doctor’s and spent a worrying hour at the surgery, Pat spent a few painful days with her hand in a sling.
After that, all went well until Rusty (our dog) was savaged by the swans that used to swim along the edge of the river in our front garden begging for pieces of bread. He was so scared; he leapt into the air, pulling his head completely out of his collar. Apart from the loss of dignity, he was otherwise unharmed! Doug and Pat duly became a married couple and rented a flat at Finsbury Park. This was good news because they now lived a lot closer to us and we could spend more time together. Their landlord lived in the flat below them and always banged on the ceiling if we made a noise, which we frequently did! More of that later.