Monday, 27 April 2009


‘My foot still hurts, Mummy.’
We went through the motions once again, carefully examining first his sock, then his shoe, and lastly his little foot. There was simply nothing there that was out of the ordinary. I honestly thought that whatever it was, it would be gone by the morning. But it wasn’t. I kept an eye on him all day, and when Arthur came home from work I said that we ought to take him to the doctor. We both felt a little stupid, as it seemed such a minor thing to worry the doctor with. All that John would say was that his shoe hurt him and, of course, he was still limping. The doctor examined him very carefully, and asked us if we had a car. Puzzled, we said yes.
The doctor looked at us and uttered the words that chilled us to the marrow.
‘I think that this could well be Poliomyelitis. The quicker you get him to the Isolation Hospital the better.’
I don‘t remember where Lynne and Philip were. We must have left them with aunty Minnie or Ruby. I thanked god that we had just bought the car.
We put John in the car and sped off to Coppet’s Wood Isolation Hospital, Finchley, as fast as we could. The medial staff did all manner of tests on him including a lumbar puncture, which was very painful. We could hear him screaming and crying out for me. Our hearts were breaking.
The part of the hospital that John was in looked like a row of holiday chalets, with a wooden verandah running along it’s length. He was all alone in his little chalet. This wasn’t too bad if you were an adult but for a little three year old, who had never been parted from his family, it was very traumatic.
It was with great foreboding that we said goodnight to him and left the room. We walked away, turning to look back one more time before getting into the car. There, to out horror, was John, running down the verandah, looking for us and screaming ‘Mummy! ‘Mummy!’ We didn’t know what terrible contagious diseases the other patients had, and there was our little baby running up and down outside their rooms, nothing on his feet screaming and crying for us.
We ran back, scooping him up in our arms, just as a nurse appeared. She scolded him for getting out of bed and took him back with a ‘He’ll be aright now’. But we were very worried and afraid that he might get out of bed again, and come into contact with a contagious illness.
The next day we went back and were told that the doctor wanted to see us. We sat in her office while she gave us the results of the tests.
‘John hasn’t got Polio,’ she said. ‘That much I am sure of. There is, however, a rare disease that I have only come across once before. It’s called Perthes disease and I have a strong feeling that all the symptoms point to this. We are not equipped to deal with it here, as it isn’t a contagious illness, so I’m going to give you a letter for The Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children.’
We were so relieved to get John out of Coppett’s Wood and into Great Ormond Street. There, they confirmed the other doctor’s diagnosis. How fortunate we were that the very doctor on duty at Coppett’s Wood, had actually come across Perthes disease once before. We blessed her, and confidently handed John over to the staff at Great Ormond Street, where I knew he was in the very best of hands. This was to be the second occasion that I was to be eternally grateful to Great Ormond street Hospital, and feel that I owed them a debt that I could never repay.
The surgeon, Mr Lloyd-Roberts, who was the father of the TV news correspondent, Sue Lloyd-Roberts, explained that, as a result of the Perthes disease, the ball of the ball and socket joint of John’s hip had softened. He said that it would harden again, but in a flattened shape, which would prevent John from walking properly. At best, if untreated, it would mean leg irons, at worst, a wheelchair. However, Mr Lloyd-Roberts said he could cut through John’s thighbone, twist the ball joint, and then plate it back together again. This would take the pressure off the joint and enable the bone to grow again into the proper ball and socket joint. Unfortunately, the disease had attacked both his legs, so it was to be a double operation.
John was only three and a half years old and such a brave little fellow. The only thing that upset him was the ‘prickit man’. This is what he called the technician, who took blood samples. All the nurses on the ward loved John. He was so easy-going and never complained or screamed to be with us, as lots of the children did.
To be continued….

Friday, 17 April 2009


We were out for a walk with the children who were now aged three and six years old, and happened to pass by a friend’s house en route. There we found our friend Mike, as usual, underneath a car parked outside his home. It was a beautiful, pale blue and cream, Vauxhall Victor Super Estate with pale blue, leather upholstery. Arthur stood admiring and coveting it, his eyes gleaming like Mr. Toad’s.
We desperately needed a car, but it was completely out of the question. As always, we were living on a shoestring budget and couldn’t afford hundreds of pounds for a good second hand car. Since Arthur knew absolutely nothing about cars, except that they ran on petrol, we couldn’t risk buying an old banger.
‘If you’re interested, I could probably get you a good deal on it; I know the guy that’s selling it,’ said Mike.
In a mad moment, we succumbed to Mike’s encouragement to sit in it.
‘We could never afford a car like this. By the time it’s repaired and cleaned up, it will be right outside our means. It’s a beautiful looking car though,’ sighed Mr. Toad!
‘Leave t to me,’ said Mike. ‘I’ll see what I can come up with,’
A couple of days later Mike came back with some exciting news. The car was a hire purchase ‘snatch-back’ and the dealer was prepared to sell it ‘as is’ for £120. Mike said he would go over it with a fine toothcomb and make certain that it was running like a dream. He wouldn’t charge for his time and labour, and he thought that, for another £80, he could replace and repair anything that was necessary.
Now we had to see if the bank would lend us the £200. The bank said yes. Never was there a happier couple than the two of us. Mike got to work immediately. Every day, we would walk round the corner to see our new baby and give it a loving pat.
At last it was ready, and Mike took Arthur for a run, to get the necessary MOT certificate. Arthur had already passed his driving test before buying a car. Better to have passed the test first, than buy a car that he wasn’t allowed to drive.
We spent a whole day washing and polishing the paintwork, leather, and chrome of the new car until it sparkled and gleamed. At last, we were car owners!
We decided it would be a good idea for me to learn to drive. Since it wasn’t practical for Arthur to use the car to travel back and forth to work, the car sat outside our house all day while I pushed prams, and lugged shopping about.
I started driving lessons and loved it. Although I wasn’t ready for it, my instructor applied for a driving test for me. He said I was almost ready, might pass if I was lucky, and it would be good practice.
In those days it took about nine or ten weeks for a test application to come through. The driving instructor would sometimes, if you looked promising, book one at the beginning of the course, hoping you’d be good enough to take it when the big day arrived. We managed to afford one lesson a week for me, but I couldn’t practice in our car as it had column gears. I knew I wasn’t ready for a test, but took it anyway, and failed. I wasn’t upset because it was as I had expected. I now resumed lessons once more.
By now, Lynne was coming up to six and a half and the boys were three years younger. We had a beautiful family, a faithful dog, a lovely home and A CAR! Our cup runneth over – but not for long.
It was Sunday morning and the children were getting ready for Sunday school.
‘Mummy, my foot hurts,’ John’s voice piped up.
‘Let me look,’ I said, taking off his shoe and sock and examining his foot. I couldn’t see anything untoward.
‘It’ll soon be better,’ said Lynne, always the little mother where the boys were concerned. Lynne helped put John’s shoe back on and I tied the lace.
‘I’m sure it will be alright by the time you get to Sunday school,’ I said, thinking that a little psychology would probably do the trick. Arthur bundled them into the car and off they went, while I busied myself preparing Sunday lunch. When they returned from Sunday school, John was still limping.
To be contd…

Tuesday, 14 April 2009


Lynne had already been given her own bedroom, long before she knew about the new baby. We were determined that she would not feel pushed to one side, particularly now there were going to be two babies. She was a very sensible little girl of three years old. I explained that some people were very silly when new babies came on to the scene. I warned her that neighbours would probably all want to peep into the pram and say daft things to her, like: ‘Do you love your little babies?’ She understood.
With only one day to go before I was to be hauled into hospital, my waters broke. This time, Arthur left me at the labour ward and went home to bed. He didn’t want to be present at the birth, and couldn’t anyway, in case of complications. He was ready to rush to Hanley Road Hospital the minute he had news, and would be as relieved as me to get it all over with. He later told me that during my pregnancy he was quite concerned, as I was so huge and not at all well.
We had chosen two girls’ names (which I can’t now recall) and two boys’ names, covering all contingencies. When the first baby was born, the doctor said it was a boy.
‘His name is Philip Lea,’ I managed to say, before the next wave of pain. Seven minutes later, they held up the second baby.
‘That’s John Lea,’ I shouted. Then: ‘Are they identical?’
‘No’, said the midwife, ‘but they’re bonny babies. The first one weighs 7 lb 2oz and the second 7 lb 4 oz.’
Not only were they perfect babies, but also they each weighed much more than Lynne had when she was born. No breach births, no incubators, just a cot each side of my bed, each containing a perfectly beautiful, baby boy. Bliss!
The hospital authorities kept me and my boys in hospital for just four days. They needed my bed and I had to go home, but my doctors made me promise to stay in bed for a further week.
From then on there wasn’t much rest for Arthur or me. We were inundated with visitors wanting to see the wonder babies. Mum helped out for a couple of days, then Daddy became stroppy and said it was too much for her. Soon everybody had gone, and Arthur and I were left to our own devises. Of course, Arthur had to go back to work, (no maternity leave in those days) so it left just me and a three year old with the two newly born babies, to cope as best we could.

I was three years wiser now and so didn’t think the babies were ill every time they cried or that, if they slept too long, they were dying. I took it all in my stride and had no problems cooking, shopping and looking after three little ones.
The twins were super babies and never cried at night. However they had to be fed every four hours, which meant that one or the other of the boys woke up every two hours all through the night. I would feed, burp, change and put down Philip, which would take about half an hour. He would go back to sleep, no problem, but one and a half hours later, John would want feeding, and so it would go on and on. I never had more than 90 minutes sleep in one go, all night! This was the period of my life when I acquired my first grey hairs, and I was only thirty-two.

Note: For my female readers who can cope with this information. Since each of my twins were full sized babies and not identical, I carried two lots of water and two afterbirths and nearly fifteen pounds of baby. No wonder I looked like the Titanic!

Friday, 10 April 2009


One of the perks of Lynne’s birth was that we received an unexpected income-tax rebate, which was quite large and came in very useful at the time. Because she had been born in the last month of the tax year, Arthur was entitled to nearly a whole years rebate, now that he had a child.
By the time that Lynne had turned two, we decided that we would like another child. Having a three-year gap between them seemed just right. Then we remembered the tax rebate and decided that, if we were gong to have a second baby, we might as well have it at roughly the same time of the years as the first, and reap some more tax benefits. After working out the relevant dates we became aware that, if I didn’t become pregnant very soon, we wouldn’t manage to ’complete’ by the end of the tax year.
Out came the thermometer and we drew up cycle charts. Since, in any one month, there is less than a week in which it is possible to conceive, it was again all systems go as often as we could muster!
The day came when I knew that, once more, we were going to have an addition to the family. Soon I’d have not only Lynne and Arthur to look after, but also another brother or sister for Lynne. Although I didn’t say anything to Arthur, I said many a prayer on the lines of ‘Please God, don’t let it cry all night, like Lynne did’. I honestly didn’t think I’d be able to stand that all over again.
Throughout the pregnancy I felt certain that I had more than one baby growing inside me. I asked for, and was given, examinations by several doctors and midwives. They all assured me that, not only was there only one baby with one heart beat, but that it was a large baby. That really cheered me up! The thought of giving birth to a nine or ten pounder wasn’t something to get too enthusiastic about.
Nothing daunted, my strong feeling was that I was going to have twins continued, and I set about getting two of everything together. Two sets of clothes, two shawls, two sets of bedding etc. The whole family thought I’d flipped my lid, and Arthur was worried that I would be so upset and disappointed, when only one baby arrived.
The midwives were being very kind and gentle, but quite firm in their belief that it was to be a singe birth.
Two weeks before the birth, I developed a kidney infection, which confined me to bed and gave me a raging thirst that had me drinking four pints of water during the night, every night. Because of the imminent birth, the midwife thought that I ought to see a hospital doctor with a view to having the baby in hospital, instead of at home as planned. Off I wobbled, looking like a tramp steamer on legs, to be examined by the hospital doctor.
He did the ‘laying on of hands’ bit and said: ‘ Has any one ever mentioned that this is possibly two babies?’ I was elated, and told him my tale of the unbelievers who had consistently hammered my maternal feelings into the ground.
‘The first thing to do is to get you X-rayed and make sure’, said my knight in shining armour. (No scans in those days).
I balanced precariously on my oversized, over-filled belly, feeling that any moment it would split asunder and we’d all know what was in it, while the radiographer took the necessary X-rays. Within minutes I knew for certain that the three of us were very soon to become the five of us. Now I would have to go into hospital for the births, like it or not.
‘If you don’t go into labour in the next week, come in under your own steam and we’ll start things off for you,’ said the doctor, adding, ‘One will probably be breech birth, that’s quite often the case with twins and, because they’ll only weigh about five pounds each, they’ll go into incubators for a while. Don’t worry about it Mother, it’s the normal procedure for twins and there won’t be any cause for concern. You’ll be able to see them, but you won’t be able to have them in an open cot, like the other mothers, until they’re a little bigger.’
I rushed to telephone Arthur at is office and give him the fantastic news. Every member of the family was so excited. There was no history of twins on either side of our families. Arthur and I were making history.

Thursday, 2 April 2009


I was admitted to the Hanley Road Maternity hospital at 10pm on March 9th. Lynne was born at 11.20 the following morning, March 10th 1960, weighing in at 6lb 11oz.
As I hadn’t expected her to be born until March 20th, I could be excused for deciding to have a home perm on that fateful Wednesday evening. At twenty-eight, with my first pregnancy, I wanted to look glamorous during my ten day stay in hospital.
Ruby had kindly offered to give me a perm, and we were at the stage where the curlers were all firmly in place, ready to dry naturally on my head overnight. It was at this point in the proceedings that I decided to go to the toilet, for the umpteenth time (one of the side effects of having a baby sitting on your bladder for nine month). My waters broke, a sure sign from the baby that it was eager to make its appearance into the world, and there was I with wet hair rolled up in tight, little packages of tissue paper and perm curlers. Dozens of the damned things!
Ruby quickly loosened and removed them and we towel dried my hair (we didn’t own a hair drier), until I looked fairly presentable. The ambulance could then be called; using the telephone we had installed for this very purpose.
I won’t dwell on the boring and yucky bits, only to say that Arthur stayed with me throughout the birth. He has often remarked since that, in his opinion, it was an experience not to be repeated. Since he wasn’t allowed to be at the next birthing, he thankfully didn’t have to make the choice.
We called our daughter Lynne Lea: Lynne for no other reason than we liked the name, and Lea because we decided to start our own ’family name’ from the first two letters of my name and the first of Arthur’s.
Ten days later I was back at home. I kept gazing in wonderment at Lynne, realizing that her very life and safety depended on me and the way that I cared for her. It was an alarming thought to have this new life resting in my hands, and to know that all my maternal feelings and knowledge of what was good or bad for this tiny creature would have to be put into practice with only instinct to guide me.
As Lynne grew into a chubby little toddler, each day became a joy to us. Arthur adored her and spent all his spare time with her. He loved getting her ready for bed and tucking her up. Being read to was one of Lynne’s favourite things and something that we both enjoyed as much as she did. Her eyes would sparkle, and she would jog up and down with excitement as we pointed out the pictures in her favourite ‘Cat in The Hat’ book.
The two things that members of the family mostly remember about Lynne’s early days were her infectious belly laugh that had everyone joining in, and the way that she would wave her arm in the air and pontificate, in a non stop babble of nonsensical words. She could keep this up for ten minutes, stop, thump the tray of her highchair and start all over again. We felt certain that she’d turn out to be a politician. Her chuckling, robust laughter once had a great section of the Victoria Palace Theatre audience laughing at her, instead of the cast of the Black and White Minstrel Show, and she was only three years old!