Saturday, 27 June 2009


The three children were soon happily settled into the local primary school. New friends were made and the house and garden was often playground to several small boys and a dog. Lynne rarely asked her friends to play in the garden. She mostly preferred to go up to her own room where all her dolls, books and games were.
When we were all settled down to a routine, it was decided that I should return to work to enable us to have a better standard of living.
Feeling somewhat uneasy, I enrolled at the local employment agency for ‘temp’ work. Operating a PBX switchboard was no longer an option for me. Switchboards had significantly changed since my old ‘operator’ days. Also, apart from working for my brother for a few months, I hadn’t typed since my first job at the age of fifteen. To say that I was nervous was somewhat of an understatement. So I settled for general office work, which meant being a dogsbody who also typed envelopes and did everything that nobody else wanted to do. Of course this job carried he lowest paid rate for office workers, but at least it was a start.
There was no way that the children would suffer from my return to work. I made it quite clear to the agency that I would only be available to work from nine-thirty to three-fifteen. Each morning I prepared myself for work, then got the children up and gave them their breakfast. It wasn’t until I had kissed them all goodbye and waved them off that I left for work. Each afternoon, I would rush home to be there when they all returned. I didn’t want my children to become so-called latchkey kids.
I don’t pretend that the ironing didn’t pile up or dust didn’t collect in places, but I was always there ready to listen to how the children’s day had been, and provide them with hot meals and home made cakes, just as my mother had for me.
My typing capabilities soon returned and I upgraded myself to copy-typist – for more money! The children grew older, their school hours increased, so did my working hours. I seemed to be appreciated by those that employed me. I was hardly ever moved on, and stayed with each company for weeks and sometimes months at a time.
I worked for quite a long period at Wadham Stringer (Unipart), and shared a job in the stock control dept with a lovely lady who turned out to be Cliff Richard’s aunty. At that time, he and his family lived at Waltham Abbey, which was next door to Enfield where we lived. She told me many tales about Cliff and how he handed down his clothes to her son. I also got to see the wedding photos of Cliff’s sister.
School holidays and teacher’s strike days were a nightmare, as far as our income was concerned. Whenever the children were home from school, I also had to be home. That meant no wages for me, and no housekeeping. Arthur’s wages came under a great strain and something had to give: usually, an electricity or gas bill. If we really couldn’t manage, then Mum and Dad Chapman could always be relied on for a loan. It was at times like this that I wished my parents hadn’t moved to Kent. Although they rarely had money to spare, there was always an abundance of love, support, and an overflowing ‘goody-bag’ whenever they were around.
At eighteen, our dog Rusty was getting old. He was very arthritic and his eyesight was going a little, but he was still full of fun and ready for the odd game or two. He would spend most of his days mooching around or dozing. In the evenings he would snuffle around the back garden for a while, then usually lay beneath our bed in peace and quiet for the best part of the evening. The gap beneath our bed was so small that he had to get down on his tummy and shuffle along on his haunches to get into the gap. We would often hear a noise, like someone shifting furniture, coming though the lounge ceiling, and would know that Rusty was going for forty winks!
One evening at about ten-thirty the phone rang and Arthur answered it.

To be contd…

Thursday, 18 June 2009


The couple that sold us the house took everything they could remove without damage. We even had to go and buy light bulbs for all the rooms. The kitchen had a strip light that they‘d wanted to remove, but our solicitor had said no, it must remain. Nevertheless, all the curtains, nets and floor coverings had been stripped from the house, so we were glad of the two hundred and fifty pounds that we’d received from our ex-agents.
We were very proud of our new house. Lynne had her own bedroom. It only measured six feet by seven feet, but it was all hers. She could, theoretically at least, keep the boys out of her belongings. The room was so small that there was only room for a single bed and bedside cabinet, which had to stand at the foot of the bed! I said that Lynne’s clothes could go in my wardrobe, a decision that I never was happy about. As she slowly grew into a teenager, she always had more clothes than me.
Philip and John were allocated the middle bedroom, which was a good size for two small boys who loved sleeping in their new bunk beds. Once Arthur had got going with cupboards, shelving and toy chests, all the children were comfortable and delighted to have their own space. We painted a road plan on to a large square of hardboard and set this into the centre of the boy’s bedroom floor. It was complete with roundabouts, zebra crossing and petrol station. Philip and John had dozens of Corgi and Matchbox cars, and would sit for ages vroom-vrooming them up and down the painted roads. Those cars experienced more than their fair share of crashes and fatal accidents, involving soldiers and North American Indians, who just happened to be standing in the middle of the roads!
We hadn’t been living in Enfield very long when the firm that I worked for fell upon hard times. Belts were tightened and workers (including me) had to be laid off. As I had a whole house to play with now, Arthur and I decided that I should stay home for a while unless our finances dictated otherwise.
Then we received the letter from the hospital, saying that John could now have his second operation. This time, Mr Lloyd-Roberts wouldn’t be carrying out the operation; it was to be done by one of his colleagues. The operation itself was a success, but the scarring was quite bad and we weren’t very happy about it. We were, however, still very grateful for the skill and dedication of all concerned at the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children.

One amusing anecdote comes from this otherwise worrying period of time. After John’s initial operation he had proudly told friends, relatives, teachers and even strangers in the street, that he had plates in both his legs and, on learning that he was to have his plates removed, he asked if he could keep them afterwards. The surgeon who was to perform the operation told us that they were made of precious metal, which was very costly and always re-cycled. However, seeing the devastated look on John’s face, the surgeon took pity on him, saying that he’d ‘do his best’. John came back semi-conscious from the operating theatre and the surgeon came to his bedside to see how things were progressing. After chatting to us, he put his hand into his pocket, smiled, and pulled out a little brown envelope.
‘There you are John, I said I’d do my best,’ the doctor laughed. ‘You’ll probably get me fired, but you’ve been such a brave boy, you deserve these.’ He placed the package on the top of John’s bedside cabinet. ‘Here’s your plates, look after them.’
John smiled a sleepy contented smile and dozed off again. It wasn’t until later when he was fully awake that he asked once more if he could have his plates. We handed him the envelope. His face fell.
‘These aren’t plates, they’re just pieces of tin,’ he said.
The penny suddenly dropped. All this time, we had been glibly talking about John’s plates and had stupidly though he knew what we meant. In his childish mind, a plate was a dish that he ate from, and he had expected to be handed a couple of tea-plates! We felt so sorry for him. He’d longed for the time when he could look at his plates and, all the time, they weren’t what he thought they would be. Nevertheless, he saved the plates, screws and stitches and took them with him when he finally left home as a grown man.

Friday, 5 June 2009


Philip and John were almost six years of age, and Lynne was nearly nine, and we were now beginning to run out of breathing space in our flat. The little box room was too small to hold all three children and their toys. Something had to be done.
When the children became toddlers Arthur changed jobs and went to work for the bank. The salary was far better and he got two bonuses a year. By far the best perk the bank had to offer however, was the prospect of us owning our own house one day. Once Arthur had worked for the bank for six months he could apply for a mortgage. Not only did they give employees a 100% mortgage for a house, they also gave them a loan to cover the solicitor and surveyor’s fees, together with moving expenses. All this at 2½% interest!
Because rented accommodation was still at a premium, we contacted our house agent and offered to vacate our flat if they would pay us five hundred pounds towards our expenses. After a bit of haggling, he agreed to give us two hundred and fifty pounds. This money was to help with the cost of things like curtaining and floor covering in our new house.
Arthur applied to the bank for the mortgage and was told to go ahead and find a house. It wasn’t easy to view property with three small children, when it all had to be done in the evening or at weekends. We worked out that we viewed about sixty houses in all (we even accidentally viewed one house twice). I think we were starting to get punch drunk in the end. We finally chose a house in Enfield, paid the deposit and started the ball rolling.
We decided to move on a weekday while the children were safely at school. We took them to the school gates in the morning, and told them we would pick them up at home time and take then all to the new house. They were so excited; I don’t know how they managed to do any schoolwork that day.
Everything went as planned. Arthur, Rusty and I moved into our new house and the sun was shining. The first thing I did was to open the back door and gaze in wonder at our very own private garden. How the children were going to love running in and out of the garden and having friends in to play. Perhaps we might be able to buy them a swing or a see-saw to play on. No more Aunty Minnie watching us from behind her nets. I was so happy. We’d been married for about sixteen years and, until very recently, had had no chance of ever owning a real home of our own. Now, here we were. Just the two of us (and rusty), sitting on boxes in our first dining room eating fish and chips from our just discovered, local fish and chip shop. Oh, bliss! The three children were duly collected from the old school, beds hastily made up, and curtains draped across bare windows in new bedrooms. It had been a thrilling but tiring day. We ate a simple meal in a picnic-like manner, after which we all went happily and excitedly to bed; ready to start a new life in the morning.

Thursday, 4 June 2009


Lynne was keeping all the teachers and children at St Aiden’s School well informed about John and his various brushes with the medical world. He was to start school in about six months.
The first year teacher, Miss Loney, who had been Lynne’s first teacher, was a little worried about him falling in the playground or in PE lessons. When the day came for the boys to start school, she wanted to know just what he was and wasn’t allowed to do in the way of physical effort. I told her that, to all intents and purposes, John was a perfectly normal little boy and she was to treat him as such. I said that I didn’t want him to grow up frightened to jump or run or play rough. If, in the course of his school life he broke a bone, then so be it.
The only accident John ever had at school was when a bigger boy tried to lay a punch on another of his classmates in the corridor. It seemed that, as John walked by minding his own business, the boy had ducked, and John caught the full force of the blow. The headmaster phoned me to say that John was in the Cottage Hospital, having a couple of stitches put into his forehead.
The three children were all very happy and did well at St. Aiden’s School. Lynne was in a class ahead of her age during her time there. John’s operations had apparently no adverse effect on his work or during his playtime at school. In fact, he once told his classmates that the scars on his legs and body were caused by him being attacked by sharks! This made him somewhat of a hero. Philip, who was so laid back he took everything in his stride and made no ripples, just continued to be studious and deep thinking and let John get on with his accident prone life.

John’s legs were still very thin, but his muscles were slowly getting back to normal. This, of course, was more noticeable at bath time. I would wrap a large towel around him and carry him in to the warm kitchen to be dried but, as I towel dried his legs, I could feel the heads of the screws sticking up just beneath his skin. He would wince and, when I asked if it hurt, say: ‘It’s OK Mum’.
On his next hospital check up, I asked the doctor if all was still well, and pointed out the prominent screw heads that I could feel. After an X-ray, it was revealed that the screws were in fact, becoming undone and both plates and screws would have to be removed after all. They would send for John when there was a bed available. Though they would operate on both legs, the operations would have to be done one at a time, on separate occasions. The first operation was performed by Mr Lloyd-Roberts and went well, leaving a second, but quite neat scar on his thigh. We then began the wait for the second operation.