From my late teens and also through my working life people have been telling me to write a book about my experiences.

I think a full novel is too ambitious, so I have decided to write it in my Blog instead.

I have now put it in to chronological order and it is continued under the heading "Autobiography Cont".





On the 30th March at the Woolwich General Hospital for Mothers and Babies, nurses were praying round the bed of a woman in labour who had severe pre-eclampsia.  The lady in question was my mother and their prayers were answered as I was delivered safely, albeit weighing only 5 lbs,  and placed immediately in to an incubator.  That was the lightest  I would ever be in my life!

On my  first outing after leaving hospital, my mother took me in my coach built pram to the shops, as shopping was done a daily basis then.  When she returned home, she unpacked her shopping and realised something was missing – me! She rushed straight back and there I was, still sleeping peacefully in my in my pram outside Woolworths, oblivious to the drama that had previously unfolded.   

Four months later in the summer, with the sun shining gloriously down on us, she took me to the doctor as I had developed a red rash and a temperature.  The doctor took one look at my right red face and asked her  “what is that up there in the sky?  “The sun” answered my mother.  “Yes”, he said, “and what season is it?”  “Summer” she replied, still not quite sure what this was leading to.  

“Then why on earth have your got your baby dressed in a thick woolly suit and  hat tightly wrapped in a blanket in her pram?!  

Looking very sheepish, my mother took my clothes off down to my nappy and although relieved that there was nothing serioud wrong with me, slunk, (very red faced herself by then),  out of the surgery  to cool me down at home.

 When I was able to crawl, my mother was hanging out some washing while I was in my cot supposedly asleep.  Something made her turn around.  She froze when she saw me crawling out on to the window ledge.  She did not dare call out as I would probably have tried to get to her and fallen.  With quick thinking, she ran around the back of the house and up the stairs and then grabbed me from behind before | could notice her.  It is safe to say that my cot was moved away from the window after that

 I seem to have had a few dramas even that early in my life,  it was probably an omen of things to come!





chapter 1


My earliest memory is of being 18 months old, in my cot, in a darkened room.  Apparently I had a severe case of the measles.  My parents had bought me a large porcelain doll, it was nearly as big as I was, to cheer me up.  All I remember about this kind act of sympathy for me was that I held the doll by its legs and smashed it against the outside of the cot until its head fell off.    To this day I have an aversion to porcelain dolls, clowns and Venetian masks and ventroliquist dummies.

At this time we were living in Croydon.  I do remember sitting on the kitchen table while having my shoes put on, dangling my legs and asking when “dying time” was.  Don’t ask me why I was obsessed with this notion, I just knew that you were born and then you died, but obviously I underestimated the actual time scale.

My brother first brother was born when I was nearly 2.  I remember nothing about this.  He was born in hospital in Croydon and my mother said that he had a squashed nose and the nurses called him Peanut. 

My other brother was born two days before my 3rd birthday.  I remember more about his birth, as a nurse used to come to the house and we watched as she put a trumpet shaped instrument against my mother’s big tummy and listened.  I had absolutely no idea why, but guessed that something was going on in there.   Then one day the doctor arrived with a big black bag, and  a little while later, a baby was in the house.  Of course I knew that the doctor had brought him in his large bag. The stork story was something to be laughed at as how could a stork tie a baby in a sling around its beak.  As I had a totally innocent childhood, my perception of childbirth  remained with me for a long time, especially when at the age of 9, a new boy at my school told me how babies were made.  I said “don’t be silly, the doctor brings them in his doctor’s bag”.  He didn’t argue, perhaps I had put some doubt in his mind.   Funny enough when I was about 5 I told my mum that I wasn’t going to sleep with my husband because you had babies.  I hadn’t a clue how it happened, but you just needed to be in the same bed (sort of right). 

My little brother inherited the coach built pram which had been used by me and my other brother beforehand.   As it was large and sturdy and the handle was very high up, I decided to hang on to the handle and swing my legs off the ground, encouraging my other brother to join me.  It worked very well but unfortunately baby brother was in it at the time and came flying out over our heads.   Luckily there was no damage done, but we were never allowed near the pram without supervision after that.   It did serve us well though, little brother sat on a board across it with his legs dangling down facing my mother and I walked along side holding on  to the handle. It also carried the shopping underneath and if I was really lucky, I could stand under the handle, with my feet on the base and get a ride as well.  I am surprised that we all didn’t tip up. My mother must have been quite strong to handle that lot, we probably looked like refugees fleeing  with all their worldly belongings!       

Every time we went to the shops, my mother had to get the 3 of us ready before we could start our journey.  One particular day, we were all washed and dressed and went out in to the garden while she got ready.  Looking up at the windowsill, I spotted a can.  I found a stick and I reached up to get it down so we could all see what was in it.  As I hooked it forward, it came tumbling down and the lid fell off. As it hit the ground, we were all covered in red tile paint, obviously someone had been painting the tiles on the window ledge.   So on the back door step, my mother found 3 little people who had once been as neat as  new pins, dripping with bright red paint. The shopping trip was postponed until later in the day. 

Once when I was about 4, I was given a ring with a little red ladybird on it.  My great aunty Elsie who I suspect had a lot of real jewellery, said, when I showed it to her,  that I should hold up  my right hand raised limply in front of me so that people could admire my pretty little ring. On one of our daily shopping trips,  I duly held on to the pram handle with my left hand and held my right hand up in front of me displaying the little ladybird.  No one seemed to notice it, probably due to the fact that I was only a small person and they couldn’t see my hand let alone my best jewellery.  I eventually actually gave up with that idea and in each shop thrust my hand up in front of the shop keeper’s face and said something like “do you like my pretty little ring”.  I think my mother hurried me off after the second time. 

On our journeys to the shops, I used to love hearing the “click click” of the ladies’ high heels.  They all seemed to wear them wherever they went, and I used to stand in my mother’s heels only able to shuffle along.  I assumed that to make the “click click” sound you had to be a grown up lady and walk along a pavement. 

The house in Croydon, I  remember  quite well.  My father kept an aviary of budgies and we rescued a pigeon we called Percy.  He lived under the space below the gas cooker where it was warm and came out when he was called.  Once he was fully fit we tried to release him back in to the wild, but he just came back, pecking at the back door to get in and went back to his hidey hole under the stove.

We also had a deformed budgie, it had no legs, just feet attached to its body.  My dad made him a sort of wooden walk way up to his perch   which he bounced up quite happily and wrapped his feet firmly around the wooden pole across the cage and managed to hang on by them.

A picture of the 3 of us and my mother, taken by my father, one Christmas is housed in a frame in my living room.  I remember this time.  We had our big Christmas present each, but I can’t remember what they all were.  My mother was telling the visitors what we had received and I heard her, so I made my brothers walk in a line with me, parading the presents. (I was showing off).  I remember one was a toy boat on wheels.  My parents proudly pointed  them out to our guests, assuming that we loved the toys so much we had to play with them.     

I went to the local school when I was 4 ½.  I wasn’t there very long.  I made a friend of girl who was Polish.  She lived in the top flat of a house which was the same as ours, but we lived in all of our house

Memories of  Alexandra Road in Croydon were happy, but we were told that we would be moving from our rented accommodation to a rented flat in Luton in Bedfordshire where my father, a wood turner, had secured a job in the factory  opposite to where we were going to live.

Changes all round.




We duly moved to Biscot Road in Luton, Bedfordshire  in to a large flat over the top of a launderette.  There were  large stone steps up to a concrete yard which had protective fencing aground it, probably a good idea with 3 young children running around.  It was quite spacious, with 2 bedrooms, kitchen, living room and something I had never come across before, a bathroom!  We had stood in sinks to be wash as far as I can remember.  Although the bathroom was a luxury,  my brothers and I were all put in together and washed by our parents, the bathroom was always cold and I loved getting out to be dried by a towel as soon as possible.  Luckily bath night only  happened once a week, it was back to the sink for the rest.  This dates back to the era when the old tin bath was brought in and shared by every one in front of the kitchen stove fire not that I had ever experienced this.

My dad worked over the road in the wood factory as he was a skilled wood turner and made all sorts of things.  As we didn’t have a lot of money, hemade me a skipping rope for Christmas and for my baby brother, as he was a toddler, a wooden frame with the shapes cut out which you hammered the  shapes into.  We also had a second hand trike between the three of us but the pedals were shaped like sausages and my foot kept rolling off them.

My dad had a motor bike and side car.  My brothers and I sat in an “Oops Upside Your Head” position and my mum rode on the back. We sometimes had rabbits in cages with us in the side car as we showed them in competitions.  He used to wear a big round crash helmet with round goggles and large gauntlet gloves.  We were in the AA and they used to salute us as we went past, when they saw the AA Badge on the front of the side car.

My dad called out the AA when his motorbike wouldn’t start one day and the AA man gave my dad a handful of baked crab apples.  I remembered that we had been rolling them in to the exhaust pipe and that was why it didn’t start.

Just before Christmas there we 2 turkeys in a pen and we fed them and thought of them as pets. Then just before Christmas Day, there were 2 plucked turkeys in the kitchen.  I went outside to the turkey pen and put 2 and 2 together.  I was inconsolable and so distraught, that we didn’t have them for Christmas Dinner, but had a chicken instead.

We soon settled in and I was enrolled in Denbigh Road Infants and Juniors School, which was down at the bottom of our road and across to the other side.   On the first morning, my mother and brothers walked me down to the school, we had downsized  to a push chair by now,  She dropped me off  at the school, collected me for dinner, then  returned me to school afterwards (I lived too near to warrant staying for lunch).   As I had now had done the return trip twice so far I felt that I knew the route backwards.  

“Don’t worry Mummy” I said, “you don’t have to collect me, I will walk home myself”, I said, aged 4 ½!

 At home time, I collected my coat from my peg and went out of the school gates to walk home, past the other children waiting for their parents and duly walked along the road, however, I had lost my bearings as when to cross over  to the road which I lived at the top of.   I kept on walking and was passing a butcher’s shop, looking around.  The butcher called me in and I told him I was lost.  He told me to wait in the shop and look out for my mother and brothers. Eventually, along came the pushchair with baby brother sitting in it and other brother riding on the platform for speed, I should imagine, as my mother was looking quite frantic.   I waved out to her  from under the sausages hanging up in the shop window and she came in to get me.  “Why didn’t you wait at the school gates for me, I was frantic when you weren’t there?” she said.  “I did tell you I would walk home as I knew the way”, I said.  “Well I wasn’t going to take any notice of that”, she said.   I must have had it away on my toes pretty quick smart when I went out of the school gates to have missed her.   I didn’t try that again in a hurry.

Denbigh Road infants was a lovely school.  I settled in very quickly.   I loved reading and was able to read before I was 5.  The only thing I couldn’t read was the hymn sheet on an easel at the front of the school hall. As the infants were at the back, I thought that you weren’t allowed to sing the words until you were in the Juniors who sat near the front.  It was a year or so later when I had my eyes tested and was found to be very short sighted that I realised that I couldn’t sing the hymns as I couldn’t read them.

We used to buy savings stamps with a picture Prince Charles on the front and a different value for Princess Anne.  We took them in each Monday to buy our savings stamps and have them stuck in. I noticed that boys always put their stamp books inside their blazers.  I decided to do the same and put inside my coat and forgot all about it until there was a knock at the door and someone returned my savings book to my mum.  It was then I realised that boys had an inside pocket.  I had shoved mine down my front and obviously it had just fallen through.

Just when everything was settling down nicely, I found out that we were on the move again. I could have never foreseen what an impact this would have on our lives.




There is a Tavern in the Town!

We  moved,  not far away, to Cromwell Road, where it turned out that my dad was taking over a grocery shop at the front of a terraced house which in which we would be living. Not only would us live there,  but his widowed mother, my nana  would be as well.  The room behind the shop was to be her living room and the front bedroom upstairs is where she would sleep.

Through the kitchen was a back room which was our living room.  There was no bathroom and the toilet was outside, so it was back to washing in the kitchen sink again.

My mum was a very highly qualified shorthand typist and you had to be able to spell,  set out letters and most of all touch type.   I went through the same rigorous training and the same applied then, but obviously with computers the letters practically type and spell themselves  For some reason, she gave up work when she got married, apparently that is what most women did, to enable the tea to be on the table when their husbands came home.   It also mean’t that we weren’t at all well off.

Although my mum  had said that she could run the shop, it was given to my nan to do.  I think there was friction then with the two of them.  To keep us going, my dad worked at the wood turners and some bar work.  He later became a milkman.

We still went to the same school, but caught a bus outside the shop back and forth to school each day, no one batted an eyelid at children to going to school on their own.

I was in the Juniors by now and met a friend who I recently found after all this time. 

There was a pretty blonde girl who always got the part as Mary in the Nativity Play.  My brothers and I never stood a chance as we wet the bed and the sheets weren’t really in the best condition to be shepherds.  I think a tea towel was just wrapped over my head as they weren’t a problem.  One day when I was at school, I had a really bad headache which was quite rare.  Miss Blondie suggested that I drink ink from the inkwell in the desk.  I told her that I didn’t think it was a good idea.  Once a year, in the summer, I got two new dresses and I was wearing one of them.  She tipped the inkwell up for me to drink.  It went all down the favourite of my two dresses.  My mum  tried to get it out with bleach and it made a large bleached mark all down the front of it.  I wasn’t due any new dresses until next summer so I had to make do with it.  

It turned out I had been sickening for chicken pox.  It was Christmas at the time and I couldn’t sleep, but I never saw Father Christmas bringing presents to my bedroom.

The school often put on shows.  I was once a lost boy in Peter Pan and had to say “My mother wouldn’t approve of me being a pirate”!  I had to wear my pyjamas for that.  I think a pirate costume would have been out of the question, either bought or made.


One year they did the Black and White Minstrels with the teachers taking part as well.  My friend and I decided to sing “There’s A Hole in my Bucket”.  She was Liza and I was Hen ry.  To make me look realistic I had found a plastic moustache in a Christmas cracker and clipped it on to my nostrils.


It kept falling to one side and made it hard to concentrate.  We had mastered the song and the length  of time before  “Liza” finished it with “But There’s a Hole in my Bucket Dear Henry”.


As we had mastered it sort of talking instead of singing, we were thrown out when the teacher decided to accompany us on the piano.  I know not why, as we had never practised it with her.  She raced on with the song with us trying to keep up with her, me fiddling with my moustache, trying to stop it falling out of my nose.   We thought we would catch up on the last verse and get our laugh, but no she raced in to that as well and spoiled the whole build up.  I can only assume that she saw us practising and thought we needed to get a move on.


There was another girl in the class, but she wasn’t my friend.   She was plump with red cheeks and a short white blonde bob.   She told me that if I ate rabbit I would die (my dad bred rabbits).  She also saw me in the playground one windy day and I was wearing a thin cagoule.  She told me that I should keep it done up and away from the wind, because if it got through the gaps I would die.  So I spent the rest of playtime with my cagoule firmly closed facing the wall.  Another  time she told me that as she was fat, if I went near with a open safety pin and pricked her she would burst.  I remember  making sure that I was not in reach of sharp objects when she was around.  I wouldn’t have liked to clear up the mess when she exploded!


As you can see, I was quite gullible.  There was a couple of sayings that were used at the time.  Someone would say to you,  “Say knife and fork”.  So you would say “Knife and fork” and they would reply “Oh teacher told you not to talk!”  This was a bit alarming the first time it was said to you, as was “I’m telling on you”, and you would say “why” and they would say “Z”. 


However, when my dad told us not to step in the battery acid spilt on the floor because it was corrosive, my brothers and I would dip out shoes  tentively in and out very quickly, just to see what would happen!  


When I was off school ill once, my friend told me that a new boy had started and he was really handsome.  She wasn’t wrong.  I walked with him one day instead of catching the bus home, until he got to his road and then I carried on home.  Previously, I mentioned that I had to wear glasses.  I was lucky enough not to have the free pink or blue round ones, but a slightly more stylish, though not much, stylish pair.  I didn’t think I should be rocking up in specs in the company of the best looking boy at the school as I was told that Cupid never ogles at girls in goggles, so I took them off and put them in my coat pocket.  I hadn’t been home long when he and his dad knocked at the door.  “You dropped your glasses, and I thought you would need them” he said.  I mumbled  thank you, and my face was as red as a beetroot.  My coat had a hole in the pocket by the way.


I knew that the standard of education was second to none at that school when I was in the 2nd year of Grammar school.  We heated water with potassium permanganate purple crystals and watched them circle to show how water boils.  I had carried out that experiment in the Junior school.  


One teacher at the Juniors was called Mrs Wagon and my mum and dad said “Mrs Wagon Train”.  I duly told her what they had said, she didn’t seem that pleased.  However they had nicknamed another teacher  Mrs O’Flaherty is an Old Tarty.  Well I can say that really went down with her when I informed her of her nickname.  I was so young and innocent then! 

We played so many games then in the break and lunch times.  We all used to link arms calling out what we were going to play and the ones who wanted to joined us until we had enough.   We played French skipping, two balls, skipping in the middle with rope turners at either end, ball and jacks and cats cradle, where we put a circle of string around our hands and took it off each other making a different pattern until it would go no further.  When we wanted to play a game that used a lot of people,  used to hook up with each and walk round the playground calling out "Who wants to play" ie, The Big Ship Sails Through the Ally Ally O, etc.   When we wanted to play The Farmer's In His Den, we used to have to get a boy to play.  We would make an arch and he would be in his den.  He would make an arch and he would be in his den.  He would then want a wife and would choose, usually the prettiest girl.  She wanted a child, so she chose someone and so on.  The lyrics are as follows: 


The farmer's in his den
The farmer's in his den
Eee eye addy-oh
The farmer's in his den

The farmer wants a wife
The farmer wants a wife
Eee eye addy-oh
The farmer wants a wife

The wife wants a child
The wife wants a child
Eee eye addy-oh
The wife wants a child

The child wants a dog
The child wants a dog
Eee eye addy-oh
The child wants a dog

The dog wants a bone
The dog wants a bone
Eee eye addy-oh
The dog wants a bone

We all pat the dog
We all pat the dog
Eee eye addy-oh
We all pat the dog

(All of the kids go crazy patting the poor 'dog'!)

The person who got to be the dog, used to dread it as we all patted them “very gently”.  Not!  


When we came home from school, we would all come through the shop instead of using the side gate. My nana didn’t like us doing that because when we came back and there was no-one in the shop, we would come through and the bell would ring and she would be getting up thinking it was a customer. 


There was a stream at the bottom of the road and a big grassy space around it.  We used to look for sticklebacks in the stream, but never ever saw tadpoles.  There were a few West Indian people in the houses around it and we watched fascinated as they bent dustbin lids in to shapes which they then played as steel drums.  We found out that there had been a murder at one of the houses at the back of us and as soon as we could we went to see if we could see a body, but it was long gone.   


They were happy days indeed.







As well as going to school by bus ourselves, we also went to Sunday School which was further away and a longer bus journey.  I remember once when I was waiting for the bus, I had a little plastic umbrella that I had received from Father Christmas, although I couldn’t get my head round the fact that the few presents I had received had the person’s name of who they were from on them.  As I thought his elves made the presents, it didn’t quite ring true when my parents explained that the grannies and granddads, aunts and uncles etc, sent them to him to bring to us.   Anyway,  I digress,  I was standing happily under the bus shelter when the heavens opened up.  It was my chance to use my new umbrella, so I left the people sheltering and stood out in the rain under it.  No one had explained to me that it was in case I was caught in the rain and it would shelter me, not that I should actively stand out in the rain when I already had a perfectly good shelter.

One of the things that was instilled in to me by my parents was that you should never takes sweets from strangers.  They explained that the sweets would be poison and I would die.  That was enough for me.  One Sunday I was at the bus stop with my brothers and a dear old couple offered us a sweet from the bag of sweets they had probably bought from our shop.  I said NO and pulled my brothers away from them and we stood our distance until the bus came.  They  looked at us wondering what they had done.  I have to say that piece of information stood me in good stead, probably more than if I had been told that they would take me away.

The only time we got toys was at Christmas and our birthdays.  On our birthday, the other two would watch as the birthday person opened their presents.  There was none of this getting presents for us all in case we felt left out.  For Christmas one year I got a Kiddie Tunes battery operated record player with records.  One had “There is a Tavern in the Town” on one side and “Some Enchanted Evening” on the other.   I played it all day and learned the words off by heart.  As the song Some Enchanted contains the lines, “You will meet a stranger across a crowded room and then you will know”,  I quizzed my parents on why you should meet this  stranger.   Eventually it gave up the ghost when the batteries ran out on Christmas Day and would you believe it my parents said they had forgotten to buy some spares!! 

We had a long back garden and in the next but one garden across was a high fence.  I think some kind of business was run in the yard.  The boy who lived there didn’t go to my school, but he would often climb up and sit on the fence and talk to me.  He told me that he spoke a different language sometimes, but he didn’t really, he just made it up.  He told me that in his language, my name was Babarata Warrior.  He also said you don’t  say fungi, you say fungiiiiiiiiiii.   Unfortunately, when asked to speak a sentence in his language, it was always time for him to go in for his tea.

One day he called over  the fence and asked if I wanted to come over and see his crystal set, which was some kind of radio.  I went to his house and it was in his bedroom.  For some reason he decided he wanted to kiss me.  As I was getting away, I rolled off the bed and he caught the back of my dress, which ripped.   I tied it in to a big knot.  My mother asked me what I had done and I think I just said that he was showing me his crystal set.  I didn’t see him at the top of his fence much after that!

Every Saturday morning we  3 used  to walk in to Dunstable Road to the Saturday morning pictures.  I always used to get scared of the man that banged the big gong at the beginning of the Rank  Organisation films,  as someone had told me that he was waiting in the fire exit.  We used to watch something called Captain Video and my friend had a friend who had a friend who had seen him on a bus.  I really thought I had met someone important.  The fact that he came from America didn’t spoil the illusion. There was also a weekly film called “The Treasure of Woburn Abbey” which we lived near.  Whenever we went there for an outing,  we would spend ages looking for the treasure.

Opposite the cinema was a pet shop called Dockerills and we would go in to look at the baby animals.

I think I went once to the Victor Sylvester School of Dancing, but never got the hang of ballroom dancing.  I also joined the Brownies and we went on a nature ramble and while some had made amazing displays of their finds, my contribution was a couple of weedy plants and some rabbit droppings.  I never stayed long,  Brownies wasn’t for me.

One day when I was about 8/9, I pointed out to my mum that when I looked down,  the right side of my groin was larger than the left.  She took me to the doctor who  told her it was a hernia and referred me to hospital.

The  Westminster  Children’s Hospital was in London and I was taken in  by my parents and my mum said she would visit me soon.  I settled in to my bed and noticed that most of the children were boys who were older than me.  At night, when the lights were off, they would tell  ghostly stories and I would think there was someone at the windows.   I had my operation and was not allowed anything to eat or drink after it.  I was so thirsty that I thought I would drink the water when I cleaned my teeth.  No such luck, teeth cleaning for me was postponed that morning.

The boys took me under their wing and as we all were far from home, we made friends with everyone in the ward and never missed home.  When my mum came to visit, she brought me a little doll sitting on a little tricycle and  when you wound it up she cycled around the ward with her bell ringing. My mum was most upset that I didn’t want to play with it and I was upset because I wanted to be with my friends.

When I came out of hospital, we  were all having tea one evening and we had baked beans.  I told my mum and dad I knew a rhyme about beans and did they want to hear it.  They said they did so I said “Beans, beans, good for your heart, the more you eat, the more you fart, the more you fart the better you feel, so eat beans at every meal!”   They asked me where I had learned it and I told them that the big boys in the hospital taught me to say it whenever we had beans for a meal. I never knew what fart meant and my parents never told me.  I just thought it was called The Baked Bean Song.

We all used to go to Great Yarmouth to a B & B for our holidays.  There was a cowboy act called Cal McCord that we saw and the next day he was in the town.  My little brother sat on his horse with him and got his picture in the local paper.  I was so painfully shy for some reason that day that I wouldn’t come over to see him and his horse.

We eventually bought a little holiday caravan 22 ft, on a site in Hemsby.  It was the only thing of value that we owned.  My dad made a top bunk bed which could be lifted up and the legs screwed in to keep it up above the bed settee underneath.  There was a pull down double bed.  My dad used  to drop my mum off with us as he had to work.  There was a sand pit area there and I used to enter the sandcastle competitions.  I usually came 3rd, only because I had perfected the technique of making a moat under a drawbridge.  The winners usually had brilliant sand sculpted turrets etc on theirs.  

My mother was a brilliant pianist.  She could play classical as well as any song you hummed to her.  This was to figure a lot in our lives in later years.  At Christmas we would sing Christmas songs and carols.  I remember my little brother having a little tantrum because we wouldn’t sing the song he wanted.  Mum had learned the piano at the age of 4.  I think her emotions came out in her music.  Our living room had a back door which opened on to the garden.  When my mum was playing classical music, the neighbours would call us over to open the door  to the garden so they could hear her playing.

Sometimes I would stand in the shop with my Nana and one day one of the customers gave me a few pennies for myself.  This happened a couple of times  and so I had an idea.  I cleaned out a mint sauce jar and made a slit in the lid.  The next time the customer came in and gave me some money, I put it straight in to the jar with it clattering as it landed.  When she left the shop, my Nana immediately told me off for being so presumptuous for expecting money and the money jar was banned from the counter. 

Life carried on, but I didn’t know a big change was just around the corner.                                                   


chapter 5

There were no pop music radio stations at the time and we 3 used to go in to my Nana’s sitting room to listen to Pick of the Pops on her radio.  Telstar by The Tornadoes was popular and my youngest brother told me the other day, that’s what he remembered as well.  Cliff Richard was singing Summer Holiday, Elvis Presley, Return to Sender and The Beatles were on the scene.  I had some posters of them, which would probably be worth something today.

I spent a lot of time with Nana, she would make me hot Bovril with milk on her small cooker in her sitting room, and and I felt that not all was well between her and my mother, but  I didn’t understand why.  One day when we came home from school, we were told by my Nana that my mother had gone away for a while but she didn’t say why or where she had gone.

One day I opened the drawer in her sideboard and found opened letters in my mum’s hand writing to all of us.  I didn’t dare read them in case my Nana came in from the shop.  I did glean from them that she missed us.  I asked my Nana if my mum had written but she said no, so I wasn’t sure what was going on.  I didn’t actually find out the whole truth for another 3 years.

During this time,  I seemed to be singled out for special treatment by my Nana.  We had always gone to bed at 6 pm, but a couple of times, when I was in bed, she would get me up and take me to the pictures that evening.  I was also very close to my father.  My mum eventually did come home, but was very thin and ill and there was terrible tension in the house between her and her mother in law.

I looked in the top drawer of the sideboard again one day and saw a letter from my grandparents in there.  I had always been able to put 2 and 2 together, and when it said that the site was ready to put our touring caravan on and as my grandparents lived in a caravan on the same site, I realised that was where we were going to be living.   This time I did confront them with what I knew and although they initially denied it, they had to tell us earlier than they wanted to that we were moving away, but not with my dad who would be staying behind with his mother.

It was an extremely distressing time for me, because I liked it at school and I loved my father very much.  It was to have a profound effect on the rest of my life.

On the day we were due to go, I was prised,  screaming and crying from my father’s arms.

Years later, I learned that he had wanted to keep me, but not my brothers.

A big change was on the way but not for the better.   


Well there it was, after living a happy family life with my mum, dad and 2 brothers, family outings, routine, we were officially a one parent family from a broken home.  Not really heard of then.  They say the first few years of your life shape your future, and I have to say this has always been the case.  We arrived in Hoo in the Medway Towns in Kent at the caravan site and stayed with my granny and granddad while while we we waiting for our touring caravan to be finalised.  They had retired to this particular site which was the equivalent of the mobile home sites popular which you can live in all year round. Their caravan was not top of the range, but it was certainly bigger than ours.

As ours was a touring caravan, the living space was very small. The bunk bed area comprised a top single bed and a double bed at the bottom.  The sitting area, where we watched the TV on a small sideboard opposite, was my bed at night, so I had to wait for everyone to get in to bed before I could go to sleep. The TV had a money box attached to it and we could only watch it if we had a shilling to put in the meter.  This was emptied by the rental company (Radio Rentals) for their rent and they gave you back the surplus, this didn't happen very often and we probably had to pay the shortfall.  There was a small table in the sitting area where we ate meals if there was room.  On the right hand wall which separated the kitchen, there was a pull down double bed.  This was never utilised because there was no room to keep pulling it down and up every night, over the sitting area. There were no cupboards to put anything, except the very small sideboard and clothes were all put in to the small airing cupboard over the hot water tank above the fire.

As people who know me will say, I am incredibly untidy, leaving things in piles or just where they are.  To be fair, I know exactly where everything is and am at a loss if someone else, other than me, tidies up.  When I do tidy up, nothing is allowed to be out of place or surplus to requirements on show.  I put this down to the fact that previously we had no need to be tidy as when you are little, parents do all the washing, ironing and putting away and as we were always in bed by 6 pm every night and at school all day, we were never involved in tidying up.

Behind the pull up double bed was a little space where it hadn't gone all the way back, so I used to drop everything behind there.  There was nowhere else to put anything.  So this is where I think I developed my chronic untidiness from.  In my first year of senior school, the girl I sat next to asked me if she could tidy my desk, which obviously had everything thrown in in a pile.  Of course you can, I told her, be my guest!  Later that day, my form teacher who didn't like me much, walked up to my desk and told the class that if she opened my desk, she would find a very messy, untidy desk.  With great gusto, she flung the lid open and looked in horror to see it neatly laid out with books, pens, pencils and a ruler.  She closed the lid and walked away, not knowing what to say.  She hated me even more after that!      

The kitchen  was tiny with a small gas cooker and little sink and a tall thin cupboard with a drop down work surface.  There was a door on the opposite side to the front door which led in to the kitchen.  There was no running water, but we had a communal tap outside.  We filled up the water carrier for drinking and boiling.  There was a small coal fire which had a square tank over the top of it and a sort of airing cupboard on top of that.  If the fire was lit, the hot water could be got from the tank, but obviously more water had to be fetched to replace it.  Originally, we had lighting from gas mantles which used calor gas as well as the cooker.  We, however,  were connected to an electric power supply.  This caused a big problem for my mother, who had brought with her an electric Flatly dryer.  It was a sort of a heated metal cabinet and clothes were hung over wooden sticks inside to dry them (it also doubled up as somewhere for someone to perch on if the seats were full).  She used it only once to dry clothes and the bill was horrendous.  She thought there was a fault with the electricity, but the Site Manager explained what the cause of it was.  I think my grandad helped her out.   

I now realised that deep sinks and an outside toilet were in the upper echelons of luxury!  We only had the tiny kitchen sink, in a very small kitchen (room for one person only, two if the back door was open and you stood in the doorway) to wash in with water boiled on the cooker.  You may have realised by now that there was no toilet.  The communal toilet block was up the road.  At night we used to have a pail and then carry it to the toilet block to be emptied the next day.

There was a bath block for the whole site.  It had about 4 little rooms with a bath in each and a big tub of Ajax and a cloth for you to clean the bath out when you had finished. You sat outside the doors and waited your turn. Now, as much as this seems to be better than nothing, there was one big catch - WORKERS ONLY AFTER 4 O'CLOCK and Saturday mornings.  It closed on Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday, to give the lady who looked after it, time off.

As school finished round about 3 pm and then you had to walk through the village and a country lane to get home, it was impossible to get there by 4 pm.  This was even more so, when I used to have to catch the bus to my senior school. So I had to get by on  a lick and a promise.  Clothes were washed in the tiny sink, sometimes, in the later years, we would take a big bag of washing on the bus to the launderette in the town to get the washing done.   

My father sent my mother £5 a month, which would arrive in a registered envelope, often late.  There was no help with benefits or housing.  So we went from being poor but happy, to practically destitute.


chapter 7


The 3 of us were enrolled in the village school and I realised then how academically brilliant my last junior school was.  The form teacher was also very handy with his plimsoll, or ruler on the back of the knuckles, which I had never come across before.  There was more to it though, but it is not for me to revisit.  I carried on with the playground games and we used to play "two balls" against the wall saying:

OVER THE GARDEN WALL  (throwing the ball over arm against the wall)

I LET THE BABY FALL        (dropping the bll and catchiing)


AND GAVE ME A CLOUT     (alternating the balls against the wall)





OVER THE GARDEN WALL  (over arm once more and then catch the balls and stop).  

Kiss Chase was another game that I had never come across before.  I stopped joining in with it when the boys ran in the opposite direction to me!

I was always hungry when I went to school and couldn't wait for the free school milk which seemed to stave the hunger pains off, especially if you drank the cream from the top of the milk first.  My favourite job was Milk Monitor.  I used to take the skewer and punch holes in the top of every milk bottle and put straws in them for the class.  The skewer was put away in the teacher's desk drawer for the next day.  No sterilisation there!!

My school dinners were always devoured and I have never come across Gypsy Tart like the cook made since.  Instead of being foamy, it was flat against the pastry and tasted lovely.  We had free school dinners.  We were always "starving" when we got home and due to the confined space in the kitchen, we started to have a lot of cheap and cheerful tinned items.  Not the home cooked from scratch meals we were used to.   

Due to the restricted space we were living in, it was very difficult to get to bed at a decent time.  All the strict routine of bedtime went out of the window, because if we went to bed early, my mum would have to go to, or sit in the dark.  So we were usually tired when we went to school in the morning and there was no time for breakfast, hence that is why I was hungry when I got there. 

I took my 11 plus and only myself and another girl whose mother was a widow, passed.  The education from my previous school had stood me in good stead.

The school uniform had to be bought from a specialised shop in Chatham and nowhere else.  It was very expensive.  It comprised,  a pleated skirt with a white vest top attached to it.  A light blue checked short sleeved shirt (for the 1st, 2nd & 3rd years), jumper, blazer, bowler hat, airtex sports shirt and navy blue knickers and raincoat.  The navy blue thick knickers doubled up for sportswear and right up until then end of the 5th form we would be out playing sport in them. 

One of the tennis courts backed on to the road leading to the college that had just been built and the boys going there must have thought they had hit the jackpot, see all these fully developed girls running about in their underwear.   Eventually, a wrap over sports skirt came in to being.  We obviously wore socks first of all but in the 4th and 5th year you changed to a pink checked short sleeved shirt and straight skirt, together with 50 denier stockings, held up by suspenders.  We used to run down the grassy hill from the school to catch the bus and one day I slipped, tried to stop and ended up grabbing my friends suspender and rolling down the hill with it in my hand. 

The cost of kitting me out was going to be £13.00.  My mum had nowhere near that amount of money and she was turned down for a uniform grant.  Eventually, my granddad paid for it, but it was at nearly at the end of the school holidays and all that was left of the pleated skirt "dresses", was one that was too short for me.  So instead of going to school and growing into a uniform, I had to attend in one that I was growing out of.  There was defintely no money to buy me two of anything, even if they had had anything left. 

Before the bowler hat came in to being the year that I started, a skull cap had been in use which was pinned by hair clips to the back of the head.   We had to wear our hats to and from school and always be on our best behaviour in our school uniform.  One morning in assembly, one of the older girls came in with blonde bits in her hair, not stripes or layers, but big blobs of blonde, which was just coming in to fashion.  She was hauled before the whole school and told what a state her hair was and then told not to come back until it was back to its normal colour which she did.  The difference with a grammar school, probably even now,  is that no parent would jeopardise their daughter/son's place by being obstructive. 

When I arrived at the Grammar School, I qualified for a free bus pass as I lived so far away and free school dinners.  I used to go and sit on the big girls' tables as they were all watching their weight and I got more food.  My commerce teacher always instilled in us that you should always be honest and hand things in.   He was handing out the dinner tickets one day and he gave me 5 extra by mistake.  Remembering his words, I handed them back to him and he didn't even look up to see who I was!

 Although I passed my 11 plus, I did not find it easy at school.  I could never do arithmetic.  At my junior school in Luton, we had an arithmetic test every week, adding, substracting, dividing, long division etc.  I was always the last to finish and would still get them wrong, although I romped away with reading, writing and comprehension.

I have never taken an exam in maths.  Yet later in life I was budgeting hundreds of thousands of pounds, etc, all with the aid of a calculator.  Whenever I try any of the tests nowadays, I still can't make head nor tail of them.  I add up with fingers and take away.  Don't get me started on Jane with a bag of sweets, giving some here and there, how many did she have?!!!       

I settled in with my more well off classmates.  The only girl to pass with me never actually arrived at the school because she and her mother moved away, so I had to meet new people and as most girls lived in the vicinity and I was well out of the way from it, I didn't spend time with them after school.  I managed to get by making people laugh, not intentionally, I may add and this took the attention away from my uniform and lack of material items the others had.

When I first started, the school went to see the Passion Play in Oberamagau every ten years.  I would fall into the catchment period and could start paying in to it in instalments!  We didn't have enough money to buy a passion flower, let alone go to Austria for a Passion Play and all the extras that would entail.  Many years later when my daughter was at school, I was talking to one of her classmate's mums.  She asked me if my daughter was looking forward to going with hers,  to China.  I was gobsmacked, I knew nothing about a trip to China.  When she came home from school, I asked her about it because I always said she was to take every opportunity that came to her.  "Oh, yes", she said, "the class is going next week, they started paying instalments when we started at the school".   Why didn't you tell me about it, I would  have loved for you to have gone".  "Oh no", she said, "I didn't want to go and when they asked me, I said you would never be able to afford to send me!"

Up until the age of 14, I struggled with subjects at school, except English and History.  I was top of the class in English, but the English teacher had such high standards, an A- is about the best you could ever achieve.  She was an exceptional teacher.  When she retired, when I was nearing the end of the 5th form, a new English teacher arrived, with a bit of a modern outlook, it seemed. 

She actively allowed the older girls to call her by her first name if they wanted to.  However, when I gave her some of my work to mark in pencil because I had forgotten my pen, she wouldn't mark it.  We used to be taught in some of the classrooms in the Crimea Wing which was used as a hospital during the Crimea War.  The floor was stone and if you stood up to acknowledge the teacher when she came in to the room, the scraping noise was so bad, it made your teeth go on edge and your ears hurt.  It was the only room where we were told that we should remain sitting.  As the new English teacher walked in, we sat still, she erupted in fury because we had not stood for her.  She calmed down when it was explained why.  My point is, she wanted this pally pally outlook, but she was actually worse than some of the older teachers, when it came to etiquette. 

Eventually, we had to choose our options.  I knew I would never get many qualifications in Science, Maths, and Geography.  I wanted to do shorthand and typing which is what the school offered as well.  I would have never qualified for university because I would have to get 5 'O' levels and 2 'A' levels in the core subjects to qualify.  Entry was certainly much stricter and I think, for the better then.  Even if I had qualified, there would have been no money to send me and my mother was of the opinion that it was more important for boys to get qualifications, which seems all the more strange because she was a qualified shorthand typist before she got married.

I studied French as one of the subjects for the first few years at school.  I could understand simple words, table, chair, window, door etc, but could not make any sense when trying to learn sentences.  I never did any of the experiments in Science, because the cleverer girls got chosen for that.  However, one day our teacher told us that we were going to learn chemical symbols and how they were were added together, ie, H2O = Water (2 atoms of hydrogen and 1 atom of oxygen.  She taught us the symbols first and that showed how they were added together.  After this she gave us some questions to answer.  Well strangely enough, I just got it from the beginning.  An example was calcuim carbonate CaCO3 (1 atom calcium, 1 atom carbon and 3 atoms of oxygen).  I put my hand up with the explanation.  Since it was a very rate occasion for me to ever try to answer questions in science lessons, she asked me.  I explained it to her, her face looking quite amazed. 

Then she asked us how we would add to various symbols together to make a formula, ie, sulphuric acid.  It comprises SO3 plus H2O (water). So to get the answer H2S04, you add 1 atom of sodium and 3 atoms of oxygen to 2 atoms of hydrogen and 1 of oxygen, which makes the total of 4 atoms of oxygen at the end.  My hand went up again and I gave her the right answer.  In fact, I don't think anyone else got a chance to answer as she was obviously witnessing a major miracle with me romping along with the answers.  It never did make any sense to me as to why I couldn't add up or answer other questions, but I felt a like a genius after my first ever physics lesson!    




I had to fight very hard to get my place in  the shorthand typing  class, which I would study for the next 3 years.  They had wanted to put me in for CSE’s, which many of you who did ‘O’ levels would know, they were not worth the paper they were written on.  I protested when one of my classmates was accepted and her spelling was atrocious, and I got my place.

Unfortunately at my school there were O Levels, A Levels and RSA. The RSA's were looked down on by the school. The CSEs were reluctantly used as a last resort and I wasn't good enough to take one of them in maths. It was drummed in to us that unless we got an Grade A or Grade 1 in a CSE, which was the equivalent to a Grade 3 or Grade C O Level, we would never get anywhere in life!

A lot of the girls who didn't go to university after their O and A Levels came back again to do a crash shorthand typing course with RSA’s and
they ended up going in to secretarial work like me. At the end of the school year, the names of the girls who had been accepted to prestigious universities were read out. The girls who secured jobs as bilingual secretaries were read out, they were usually the O Level or A Level girls who had studied a language.
 So was the name of the girl who won a Gold Medal in shorthand.  My securing a job in a local engineering company in the Export Department wasn't worth a mention.

It was also why they were willing to use our secretarial class a guinea pigs when they changed an O level from the Oxford Board to the AE Board as an experiment, the result of which you will read later in this Chapter.

If anyone was snobbish, it was the school!

It was one of the best decisions I ever made to do secretarial training.  The minute I started in my shorthand class, I just got it, like I did with the physics.  It just came naturally to me, and I romped away at it.  However, the shorthand teacher did not like me and so when she asked if we got it all down and could read it back, she asked her favourite pupil and the one who was struggling to make head of tail of it.  In the end, the class used to tell her in unison that I had got it all down and she would reluctantly ask me.   I started my first exam at 100 wpm, instead of 50 and it was RSA as well as Pitman’s.  Pitman was the name of the shorthand and their exam was easier, so you could get higher speeds.  RSA was the name of the exam for shorthand and was harder.

The ironic thing about my time with the shorthand teacher was that when I started my first job, her son was my first boss and told me his mother told him all about me.  I never found out what she had said to him!

I also learned touch typing.  The manual typewriter had no letters on the keys, so you had to learn by touch, which is so easy if you persevere with it and saves such a lot of time.  I never liked it as much as shorthand, but now I would struggle to remember all the shorthand symbols as it is not really used now.  Typing just gets faster with use.    I had to learn how to set a letter out, proper paragraphing, knowing what forms of address to you, ie, Dear Mr – Yours Sincerely, Dear Sir – Yours Faithfully.  We even used Esquire then, omitting the Mr if it was used.   I had to centre headings, by starting in the middle of the page and back space once for each two letters.  Menus are a good example of this.  Tabulation which would give you equal columns took a lot of counting of letters and making spaces using a pen or pencil which was put in the little hole in the plastic over the body of the letter and then turning the platten, (typewriter carriage)  up and down or across accordingly.

We were taught to type to music and the fastest record that we graduated to was The William Tell Overture.  When we were all typing in time to the music it was quite an impressive sound!  

Most important of all we used  to have to be able to spell, or know when to look in a dictionary when we weren’t sure.  This stood us in good stead as a lot of bosses couldn’t spell and never mentioned it if we had corrected some of their spellings when copy typing.

Last year I was talking to a young woman who was a secretary for a solicitor.  I asked her how they were taught to touch type now.  “I don’t know”, she said, “I just look at the keys and use my fingers, the computer  sets it out and corrects the spelling!”   

I studied ‘O’ Level English and British Constitution which I loved.  It was the history of Parliament throughout the ages.  I used to come top of the class in it.  Everything else was RSA, Civics, English, Geography, Commerce and Bookkeeping.  Unfortunately, as with the Maths, I couldn’t get bookkeeping and so opted out of taking that exam.

Because I was in the Shorthand/Typing Class, we could not study English Literature, ‘O’ Level or RSA, but had American Literature classes, which did not have an exam at the end of it.  This was a great pity to me because I loved every minute of it and came 1st in a class exam.

Disaster struck with the ‘O’ Level British Constitution.  We were tested on old exam papers every week and I did very well.  The week before the exam, our class was told that we wouldn’t be doing Oxford O Level BC which we were used to but AEB O Level  BC which we had never heard of or studied for.  When the paper was put in front of me I could have cried and I think I probably did.  There was no parliamentary history in it, ie, Prime Ministers, 3 Line Whips, Bill of Rights etc, it was all local government, which I was studying in Civics but bore no relation to anything I had studied.  When I spoke to the Oxford ‘O’ level classes and they told me the questions they had been given, and I knew every answer.

The AEB ‘O’ Level  was an experiment by the school  and unfortunately,  I had to pay the price.

I carried on with advanced shorthand in to the Lower 6th and Upper 6th.  We practiced at 200 wpm per minute, which made lower speeds seem a doddle.  I got RSA qualifications in Audio Typing/Shorthand Typing/Typing/Geography/Civics and English and an ‘O’ Level in English.  Believe me, the RSA English was just as hard, or even more, as the ‘O’  Level .

The RSA exams were held in the evening, so we had to come back for them.  There was no study leave or day off in lieu.

I was never good at sport and I hated hockey which was always played in the cold weather and if you got hit by a hockey stick it was very painful.  We played tennis and I could serve but that was about all.  The wealthier girls would have their own posh rackets.  I had to rake through the school’s racket box and invariable ended up with one with broken strings.

As we had no transport my mum never really came to see anything I was in so one day I brought the little girl I used to babysit to come and see me and her dad dropped us off.  Afterwards, she ran ahead of me down the hill and one of the problems with my eyesight is that I can’t see in pitch black conditions if I look head on.  I couldn’t see her anywhere and was desperately searching for her.  Eventually, I found out that she was at the police station and her dad was coming to collect her.  That was the last time I did that.  She didn’t tell them that she had run off and I got the blame for losing her.

When I entered the Upper 6th, I was voted in as Form Captain.  I organised the goods from the Harvest Festival by giving everyone a list and they picked from it what they would bring.  This worked really well and I have often used this method in every day life.

I suggested to the teacher that we go on a field trip to Margate and she surprisingly, agreed.   All the class got on the train and when we got there, we picked up some shells, seaweed etc and took photos of rock pools.  As soon as we had done this, we headed for Dreamland.  When it was time to get to the station to catch the train back, I had a heck of a job rounding everyone up, although we were only a very small class, as they were all off chatting to boys!

My schooldays eventually had to come to an end.  I had never wanted to leave and used to stand in the final assembly every year singing Jerusalem and then Lord Dismiss Us With Thy Blessing, Those Who Here Will Meet No More, watching the leavers bawling their eyes out and glad it wasn’t me. On our last day, some of the class went down the town in the lunch hour and into a pub.  One girl came back so drunk, she attracted the teacher’s attention.  Our whole class was banned from the main school assembly and we had to have it in the gym in absolute disgrace.  It didn’t have the same feel to it and I didn’t cry.

It was such a shame that it had to end like this.    








Well life certainly changed when we arrived at the caravan site.  It may be fun staying in a touring caravan when you are on holiday, but it is no joke when you have to live in it permanently.  The other caravans were much bigger and built as static caravans.  There was one called a Travelmaster which was very long and housed a large family.  It was the creme de la creme of caravans.

Most of the people there were two parent families and I think this was probably a precursor to getting a house as gradually many of them got council houses that were being built on an estate in village.  There was even talk that one family set their caravan on fire on purpose as a means to be re-housed which is what happened when another family's van caught on fire accidently.  We were never eligible for a council house for some reason, if we were, we were certainly at the bottom of the list and ours was not even a proper one suitable for living in.

We lived next door to another lady who was on her own with 3 children.  At least she had a bigger static caravan.  Her and my mum where quite friendly and then they fell out. It culminated in a massive ding dong when they were both at the water tap getting water.  I never did know what it was all about!

Opposite us were a family with 2 children and I used to take their little boy out for a walk.  As soon as their curtains were opened, I was knocking at their door.   It was better in other people's vans as they all had a separate sitting area and bedroom, not like us all in one place.  I told his mother about this once and from then on, for some strange reason, the curtains never opened until at least midday!

She had a brother who arrived to visit her one day in an old hearse he had bought to run around in.  My mum nearly had a fit, she considered this blasphemy.  She was very strict about swearing even more so if the Lord's name was taken in vain.  However, should you have a bad case of wind resulting in a very loud noise, she thought this was hilarious, even holding her nose, bending a leg and pulling an imaginary chain to accompany it. Apparently, this was a favourite trick of her dad and mum.  However, should you burp loudly, she would hit the roof, as she considered this very rude.  I could never work out why!  Years later, my brothers would put their arms around her waist from behind and squeeze her to make her fart and play a tune.  She thought this was hilarious, although she was telling them to stop it.  

Our strict bedtime routine was impossible to adhere to and on a Friday night, we would go to the club house on the site to play bingo to try and win some money.  This was virtually impossible because my mum could only afford one single ticket, not the strip of 6 people buy nowadays and our drink would last us all night.  Going out at night and to somewhere that sold alcohol was totally alien to us.  The only time we ever did this as at the holiday site where my mum would have a Babycham in a proper glass with a cherry and my dad would have half a bitter.  To get an idea of how much alcohol they consumed, my mum would give us a turn each at having the cocktail cherry with its stick.  This mean't that one of us had to wait until the next time we went there for their turn to have the cherry!  They never even had a drink in the house at Christmas.

Not having a proper bed time mean't I was permanently tired at school, as well as being scruffy and unwashed.  Considering it was a Grammar school, not once did any of the teachers think to ask what was causing these problems, or try to find out for themselves.  However, I certainly wasn't ill treated at home or covered in bruises.    

The teenagers on the site would congregate outside the club house and then make their way to the woods where there was a swing made out of  thick rope with a stick tied to it, hanging from a very large tree.  You could swing across the dry ditch.  We called the area The Swing and we would ask if anyone was going to the swing tonight.  Even if you didn't ask, there was always someone at the swing and that was where everyone ended up. 

At the bottom of the road was the beach and when the tide went out you could walk across to a piece of land.  It was called Admiralty Island.  We used to do this, but made sure we walked back before the tide came in as we would be stuck there until the next turn of the tide.  There were masses of cockles on the beach, but we never dared to eat them.  My younger brother caught a flat fish "flattie" and as as I had learned to gut one of these in the cookery class at school, I told him I would do this hoping to impress.  However, the one at school had been bought from a fishmonger.  When I started to cut his, foul smelling river water oozed out, making me retch so so that brought an abrupt end to my demonstration! 

Every now and then we would walk through the footpath in the woods and along the beach to Upnor.  Some of the older ones used to go to the spot where they went for a "snog".    I got to know one lady who had a little baby and while her husband was looking after her, would walk to Upnor with us and this man she knew.  I used to babysit when her husband was at work in the evening so she could "walk" with him!  That's how naive I was and when I went home and asked my mum what a miscarriage was as this lady had had one, my mum went mad saying I couldn't go to see her anymore.  I still didn't know what this terrible thing was that my mum had got furious about so I told her I thought it mean't you had missed your train.  She didn't correct me. Eventually her husband found out about the true nature of his wife's walks and threw her out and moved another woman in to look after the baby. 

One day, I was walking down the lane on the way home from school and my younger brother came cycling up the road and told me to jump on the back.  I asked him why and he told me there was a policeman at the caravan asked to see me and my mum was going mad.  I jumped on quickly, wondering what I had done that was so bad that it warranted a visit from the police and what fate would await me when I arrived!    

 When we arrived at our caravan, sure enough there was a policeman waiting for me with my very  irate

When we arrived at our caravan, sure enough there was a policeman waiting for me with my very  irate mother.   He asked me to confirm who I was and then said he had a summons for me to appear in court as a witness.   It turned out that the husband of the lady I used to babysit for when she went for “walks” with her man friend, was taking her to court to get full custody of the baby which she wasn’t allowed to see since he threw her out.  My mum kept insisting that they couldn’t do this and I was too young, but the policeman was having none of and said I had to appear in court.   A lot of it was to do with the fact that I was also too young to be babysitting and the husband was playing on this.


I eventually went to court and stood in the witness box.  I had broken my glasses so couldn’t see anything which was a blessing really because the baby’s mother was in the court room crying.  They asked me if I had babysat when she went out of an evening and I said I had, and that was it, all over in a second.  She didn’t get custody of the baby and for all I know, she never saw it again. It was a pity because when I had been round to their caravan when the husband had moved the new woman in, the baby was sitting on a potty, there were a lot of flies and  it was sucking on an old dog bone.


 Whatever the mother’s faults, she deeply cared about her child.


I had to grow up very quickly, if my parents were still together, I don’t think I would have known anything about the “birds and the bees”.   My mum still tried to keep me in the dark and I knew I couldn’t speak to her about anything like that. 


In fact when I reached puberty at 13 and had to tell her she would have to get me the necessary items for it, she reluctantly gave them to me and told me not to bring any trouble home.  The only thing was, I didn’t know the trouble was!   Later, when I knew, it explained why the girl in the crème de le crème caravan had gone to visit her Aunty in another county for 8 months!


One day I met a much older girl than me and she gave me a little bag with a long strap.  She then asked me if I wanted to go to Chatham Station with her.  I asked my mum if I could go and she asked what we would be doing there.  The older girl told me that we would just stand outside swinging our bags.  Obviously, I wasn’t allowed to go, but again was never told why!


My mum started playing the piano in the pub in the village to bring in some extra income.  She also landed a job as a typist in one of the businesses at the beginning of the site.  This meant  there was no one around to look after us in the school holidays, so we did our own thing.  My mum had a bit more money, but not that much, so we were still quite poor.


One day, she told me  that the man who started a youth club in the village had something to tell me on her behalf.  I went to see him, wondering what on earth that I was going to hear.   






I duly went to see the man my mother had asked to speak to me. He told me he was going to tell me something about my father.  I only knew that my father stayed behind with his mother in the shop and we came to live in the caravan and had not heard from him again .  He then dropped a bombshell.  My father who worked during the day as a milkman, (he had left the wood turning factory before we left)  and converted a van in to a mobile grocery shop to sell provisions, also worked evenings in a bar to make ends meet.  During that time he started having an affair with a lady he worked with.  My mother had found out about this when she found boxes of chocolates in his car, which cost nearly as much as the house keeping he paid her as she didn’t work then.  The shock of this had caused my mother to break down and that is when she went to live with my granny and granddad for while and sent the letters we never received and my nana kept from us.  He wanted to be with this woman and as there was no hope of them staying together, the decision was made to split up.

I obviously was quite shocked by this, but I had always idolised my father and blamed my mum for taking us away.  It also transpired that he wanted to keep me and not my brothers which my mother would not stand for.

It was a lot to take in, but when you are young, you don’t realise what betrayal between a man and a woman is.  In one way, I actually felt better knowing that he didn’t want to part with me and I couldn’t feel bad about him.  To be fair my mum never said anything bad about him before or after that, but not having a father who loved me around, had a very profound effect on the rest of my life. I thought getting married meant you should expect it to be unhappy and that fathers never wanted the children, only the mothers.  There were many other feelings I experienced as I grew older, missing two parents together.  Luckily, my brothers never really remembered their dad, so perhaps it wasn’t so hard for them.  I don’t really believe that though.   My mother though, was very bitter about the break up and she never got over it .Life carried on at the caravan site.  Having had a disciplined family life up for quite a time,  it certainly made me want a better life for myself and working respectably for it.  I started the shorthand /typing course and had visions of working in personnel management, which actually materialised years later.

The only radio programme that we could get then with pop music was Luxembourg which was very hard to get a signal for.  Otherwise it was still Pick of the Pops on a Sunday afternoon, which as I said in a previous chapter, was what we used to listen to in my Nana’s living room.  Suddenly, along  came a wonderful experience.  Pop music all day long courtesy of the pirate ship, Radio Caroline.  Anyone who has seen the start of The Boat That Rocked, that is exactly how it was.  We loved it. Johnny Walker asking people on the coast at Frinton to flash their car lights.  He would then pick one and ask them to flash once for yes and twice for no and have a conversation.  I loved Johnny Walker, but I also liked Robbie Dale, The Admiral of the Beat Fleet.  I joined his Beat Fleet and got a badge and certificate saying I was a member.

It may seem alien to people now what with downloading etc, but you had to queue up to buy a record when it first went on sale in the record shop.  You couldn’t listen to it before and it was only heard on any radio programme once it was released, so the records were treasured.  Later when  the public tried recording records from the radio (holding a microphone to it to get the sound), the DJ’s would always talk over a record for copyright purposes.  Their knowledge of the groups, singers etc, was just as good to hear and you learned so much about them.

During this time Flower Power came in.  Everyone had a small cowbell which they wore round their necks.  My friend had a boyfriend, who told us to wear our cowbells and dress up as hippies as he was going to take us all to London on the train to spread the love.  We all plodded up the lane to the village and only got as far as the churchyard, where we all sat on the wall.  He then told us that the trains had all finished going to London for the day, it was the afternoon!  So off we all traipsed back to the swing at the caravan site, cowbells jingling and flowers in our hair wilting.  We were young and impressionable, he was older and more worldywise.  So worldywise, in fact that he would con and burgle.  He cut the 2/- slot meter off our television and I only found out when I got a shock from the live cable that was left behind.  Another debt my mum had to pay off.  Eventually he went to prison, he had committed so many burglaries and cons.  My friend was a very decent person and well rid of him.

My mum got a job with the Army as a typist and things started looking up.  I met a boy at the caravan site who was older than me and had long hair and a moustache like the pop groups.  We just drifted along.  Unfortunately, he lived by his wits and never read newspapers or watched current affairs programmes.        If I made people laugh when I was telling them something, he would tell me not to show myself up, so retreated in to a shell.  He also told me that I was too fat and plain looking for anyone else to fancy me, so I fell quite lucky having him!

During my time at the caravan site, although quite young, , I experienced something only a privileged older generation has.  It has younger men (and some women) green with envy when I tell them about it and they say how lucky I was.  Some people may never experience again in their lifetime.  I will tell you next time was this special thing was, but if you want to hazard a guess, please leave your answer on my Guest Book page!

Eventually the the Baths Block changed into the Shower Block that people  and children could use any time of the day, early evening and Saturdays mornings.  It was bliss.  You had your own little room and pulled a chain, the same as can  find on an old toilet cistern and wash all the soap off yourself and it didn’t need cleaning with Vim! It  revolutionised my life, but we still had to go to the Toilet Block though..

Things started to get a bit easier, but we still never had money for new school uniforms or fashionable clothes.  My mum was doing well working for the Army.  One day she said she had something to tell us.  I have to say, although I should have been, I was not best pleased when I found out.




 My mother broke the news to us that as she worked for the Army she was able to rent a house from them and we were going to move in to it.  The only thing was that it not near the caravan site.  It was in Upper Upnor, a little village nearer the town.  I didn’t want to go.  The only transport in and out of it was a bus in the morning and another in the early evening and that only dropped you off at the bottom of the hill, you still had to walk up a long, dark wooded road .  To  get to a bus stop for more regular buses, you had to walk across a field to another village where the regular bus stop was.  My mum didn’t drive, so I would be  technically trapped in the village and we had no phone, so I couldn’t even stay unexpectedly  at someone’s house as  I couldn’t let my mum know.


 It turned out that it wasn’t actually a house, but  a kind of bungalow, which was attached to two houses and another  bungalow attached to the other side of them.  It did have a bathroom though, but I had to light a coke  stove in the bathroom to heat the water up if I wanted a bath.  However,  if you wanted to keep it alight while you were in the bath, you had to keep a window open, which rather defeated the object, as the fumes  would  make me unable to breathe.  We had our own toilet, however, it was in the garden in a row of sheds.  It was alright during the day, but I used to dash in and out at night because there was no light in it.   There was a large building in the  garden which was an old washhouse, complete with dolly and tub.   We had a long front garden as did the other 3 properties.  As it wasn’t sectioned off it was like a large field but we knew where the boundaries were.

I had to walk across the field to get the bus to school and walk back across  after school.  There was no way that I could go out with the other girls at school when they went to  discos in the town as I couldn’t get back at night.  The last bus would drop me off in the other village and  I would have to walk across the pitch black field and up a long and winding dark road  to get home.   

I still trundled along with my boyfriend as he could drive and get me out and about. 

My mum loved it there because it was near the water, and she loved boats.  One day she came home with a little two seater rowing boat.  I came home from school one evening and there was nobody in which was rather strange.  Something made me walk down to the water’s edge and there stuck in the mud, as the tide had gone out,  was my mum and friend in the rowing boat.  She yelled out to me “put the potatoes on, I’ve got to wait for the tide to come in”.  As there was nothing I could do, I duly went and put them on.  A little while later she came in earlier than I expected,  It turned out that the Army rescue boats from the base in the village had come along and pulled them off the mud.

At one stage, we had two baby mini goats, Marge and Butter, whose mother had died, so we took them on and kept them in the washhouse.  Someone reported us however,  so they were sent back to their original owner who hadn’t wanted them and they died soon after that.

During my time in the bungalow, I left school and started work in the Export Department at Blaw Knox, along the Esplanade, this time having to walk across the field for a bus, get off and walk to the end of the Esplanade to get to work, until I eventually got a lift with someone who passed through the other village.

Once again, my mum came home from work with some more news.

By the way, the  “once in a lifetime event”, if you didn’t guess it, was watching England win the World Cup, albeit perched on a side board in someone’s caravan.  I remember the celebrations as every one came outside after the win.  I didn’t realise the significance of what had happened and there certainly wasn’t the commercial side to it then.  I did know they were going to play Germany as I had a German penfriend and she was going to cheer for her side and Franz Beckenbaur, so his name always sticks in my mind as the German Captain.  










When it was finally time to leave school, you were always guaranteed to get a job.  There were vacancies in insurance, banks, the dockyard and I applied for and got the job at Blaw Knox, makers of road finishing equipment.  I was based in the export department and the men who worked there were all bilingual university graduates.  It opened up a new world for me.  They could explain things when you asked them questions, especially what was going on  in the world and I learned a lot.

The lady in the postroom knew someone who had worked at Buckingham Palace and told her gossip about the Queen Mother.  One of the draughtsman was in the Navy with Prince Phillip and he had a tale to tell. This was obviously before social media was available to everyone and there was an unwritten rule not to publish scandal about the Royal Family.  However, many years later when Kitty Kelley wrote a book about them, not allowed to be published in UK, I read a copy someone had bought in the USA, and wasn't at all surprised about the revelations contained in it as they were exactly as I had been told when I first started work.

When people talk about experience in the work place, I knew exactly what that meant.  It doesn't mean you have the experience of going to work, but you learn by trial and error with the mistakes that you make.  When we had typed a letter at school, we then typed the address on a little square bit of paper, to save wastage of envelopes.    When I was at work, I had to learn the size of the envelope required, as you couldn't send a lot of enclosures in a small envelope.  There was a lot to learn about the real world of work.

Although I was employed as a shorthand typist, I learned to operate the switchboard and this got me overtime on Saturday morning and in the lunch hours.  Others told me I shouldn't learn something which wasn't my job, but motto was to learn everything for my own benefit. 








This also brought back a lot of memories.  Operating the telex was part of my job.  It was like a giant electric typewriter.  To send a message, you typed it out and it punched little holes in a tape.  When you were ready to send the telex, you slotted the tape into the machine and dialled the number, when it went through at the other end, you fed the tape through which sent the message.  The tiny little dots that were punched out of the tape were collected in a little container in the telex.  People were tempted to use it as confetti, but were not allowed to, due to health and safety, as these little dots could stick your eyes and were very dangerous.


The telex machine sent messages all over the world, as I was in the export department.


When an incoming message was coming through and the bell rang on the machine, it mean't that the sender wanted you to read the message as it was coming through and give them an answer right away.  Many a time I had to type a reply with a manager dictating it to me.


Telex machines were in use up until the early nineties and although the one in the tunnels was a lot older, the actual design of them didn't change that much.  




chapter 11


During my last years at school and the beginning of me starting work, I was still with my original boyfriend, however I felt that we were just drifting along.  We were engaged, but being young, it seemed something to do, but I never really had any intention of getting married.  After working with the other workers in my office, plus meeting the son of the new owners of the pub which became the meeting point in the village, who asked me out, I decided to break the engagement and relationship off.

Well it became a nightmare.  He wouldn’t take no for an answer.  I reminded him that he said I was fat and ugly and I was lucky to have him, so he was obviously doing me a favour.  He told me he only said that because I might go off with someone else when I went to work. 

I began to feel that I was being stalked because he knew a lot of my movements and I had to be very careful not to give any sign that might encourage him to think there was a chance.  Luckily he didn’t live in the village but I still felt unsure.

I did go to the Licensed Victuallers Ball with the boy from the pub, but never went out with him.  However, he had shown me that other people could be interested in me.

Whilst I was at work, our tower crane partners from Scotland came to work in  part of our office for a while.  One of the men asked me to type a letter for him and I took my pad in for dictation.  Due to the size of a tower crane there was a lot of erecting involved, so I tried not to bat an eyelid when he talked about a 50ft erection!   Suffice to say that I am now very rusty with my shorthand, but will never forget the shorthand outline for this particular word!

As he was living in lodgings for the short time he was going to be working there, he asked me to show him around.  He was very witty, funny and spoke fluent French.  We went out for a meal and then to a pub.  A young man there was celebrating his 18th birthday.  Unfortunately, due to the amount of alcohol that he had imbibed, he didn’t really know where he was and kept lolling back on to our seat.  His friends then thought they would be really clever and lined up lots of different coloured small glasses of drinks.  They knew they were drinks of squash and not alcohol, but his face was a picture when he thought he was going to have to drink those as well.

While this was going on we had been people watching, especially him.  When we sat in the car afterwards we both remarked on what we had seen and we were helpless with laughter.  Suddenly I stopped laughing and told him that I was sorry if I was showing myself up.  He was astounded and said he had never laughed so much for a long time and there was nothing to be sorry about and I certainly wasn’t showing myself up.  He said I was a breath of fresh air.

Now my transformation was complete.  I knew I wasn’t fat and ugly and I didn’t make a fool of myself by saying funny things .  It had all been due to emotional bullying and I wasn’t going to make that mistake again.

Eventually he had to return to Scotland, but I always grateful for the experience of spending time with him and being my true self.




Although we had had no contact with my father, he still lived at the same address in Luton.  While I was as at work, I told a couple of the older secretaries about him and I also said I thought might like to get in contact with him again. They encouraged me to do so, however, I couldn’t have areply sent to my house, because of my mum, so I wrote him a letter with the return address at Blaw Knox.  In it I said I would like to see him and if we met I wouldn’t tell him anything about my mum and I wouldn’t tell my mum anything about him.

His reply duly came  and he said he would like to see me.  I arranged to visit my friend in Luton and then stay with my dad and his wife.  I felt awkward about telling my mum I was visiting my friend in Luton as it was obvious I would also see my dad.

I duly went to stay with him and his wife.  She was older than him, but they were very happy.  They had a couple of poodles and he was interested in photography and they seemed to lead a content, but boring life.  They never had any children.  I have to say there were more well suited together than my mother and he were.

His new wife ran the shop.  His mother, my nan, went to live in a flat in Penge where she came from, when new his wife moved in.  That was something my mum had wanted her to do when we were a family.

My father and I spent quite a bit of time together and he told me that he had been married to my mum for 3 years when he said he didn’t think it was working and they should end the marriage.  There were no children at the time.  This caused such emotional upset and turmoil, that they stayed together.  I knew my father had 3 jobs when we were together as a family and he said that on any bank holiday or day of rest, my mum would want to go out and do something and “make the most of it”, while he wanted to rest.

I knew what he meant as my mum was very much like that and was far more outgoing than he was

I spent a little time with his wife.  She was nice enough, but did make the remark that it was a struggle have to send money for “you 3”.  I did bite my tongue, as everything was now in the past.

He owned a caravan at the holiday site where we went when we were little and I went to stay  with them for one night there.  There was no TV and I was bored silly, but this was their way of life.

When I got back home, my mum asked me about my holiday. I knew what she was getting at and did tell here where I had been, but no more.  I kept to my promise no to divulge information to either my mother or my father.

On my 21st Birthday he sent me a telegram and it is the only link I have to him.  Obvioulsy it had to go to my work place, and I didn't have the courage to take any photos of him during my visit. 


His caravan did feature quite prominently a while later.  “Oh what a tangled web we weave, when  first we practise to deceive!"





At this stage, you may notice the absence of any relatives bar my granny and grandad who still saw us.  My gran died a couple of years after we moved there, from cancer.  My grandad emigrated a year later to Australia to live with my Aunt, his daughter.  He later died of cancer over there.

Before my parents split, we used to visit my dad's sister, my aunty and her husband. I can't remember much about them, but their son had had polio and walked with a caliper. We never heard from them again, afterwards.

My mum's only sister, my Aunty and her husband, emigrated to Australia on the £10 assisted passage scheme, with their first child, my cousin who was born in England, the other 3 were born in Australia.  My mum eventually lost contact with them.

She had an aunt, her mum's only sister and I remember going to visit them when I was little.  She did keep in touch with my mum, and came to take me away for a week to her home when I lived at the caravan site. By now she was in a flat and they ran a shop selling hosiery etc as my uncle had been a shoe shop manager, but had amassed big gambling debts, so they had to work all hours to pay them off.  My aunty told me more about my family on my mother's side than I had ever heard before.  Her married name was Peart and they had been approached many years ago to see if they wanted to follow up the history of the family crest as it was qute interesting, but they never followed it through.

Her grandparents ran a laundry collection business called the Marlborough Hand Laundry and they had a horse and wagon which collected and delivered the laundry to the landed gentry and Buckingham Palace.  Her aunt had been a lady in waiting at the palace for Queen Mary who, she told me,  never got over the death of her husband George V.  

My mum's cousin, her son, married a descendant of the Webley family, the inventor of the Webley rifle.

She also told me that her mother, my great great aunt, was a midwife and became known as the "Midwife of Peckham.  She was still delivering babies in her 80's and managed to have 8 of her own during that time!  The local newspaper carried an article on her when she died.

Unfortunately, I have no photos of any of the above ancestors, they were all left behind when we moved to the caravan site.  I don't even have one of my dad.    






As it is nearly Christmas, I thought I would go over some of the Christmases I have had. 

When we were little, as I mention in my autobiography, one year my dad brought home two live turkeys just before Christmas and we kept them in the yard in their pen.  I religiously fed them every day and then one day they weren’t there any more, but there were what looked liked giant chickens plucked and ready for roasting in the kitchen.  As I have said before, I click on very quickly to what is going on and I just knew that they had been my pet turkeys.  I cried and cried and was so distressed that we didn’t have them for Christmas dinner.  The thing was then if you were lucky you had if chicken for Christmas Dinner and turkey was an unaffordable luxury then.  I shouldn’t think they went to waste though as my dad kept chickens and rabbits which he sold for meat.  At least Trevor the Turkey in the video clip had a happy ending!


A couple of years later I had chicken pox at Christmas.  I can remember how itchy it was.  The only saving grace was that it was Christmas Eve and I couldn’t sleep with it.  I knew then that I would see Father Christmas when he came to put the presents in the pillowcase at the end of our beds.  No such luck,  he managed to get in when I had eventually  dropped off to sleep exhausted and he outwitted me!

When we were in Germany with the Army, (I haven’t  covered this yet), my husband was on guard duty one Christmas.  On Christmas Day the couple downstairs invited me in for a drink and then I went back to the flat to cook a little Christmas dinner for the two of us for when finished in the late afternoon. 

In Germany at that time, we only had BFBS radio for the forces and this was on all the time.  Unfortunately, there was no English TV piped through as there is now, and there was nothing at all watchable on the German channels.  The best films or series were American ones, which were dubbed into German.  I liked these because they were so much easier to understand and get the gist of.  This particular Christmas Day Charlie Chaplin had died and later that day they put A Countess from Hong Kong on in tribute to him, dubbed in to German.   My husband came in and we had a little chicken roast dinner and Christmas pudding and watched A Countess.  It made my day, It was such a treat.  I have always remembered that Christmas Day. 


A few years later when we were living in England, I invited the family for Christmas dinner.  I had an alsation dog at the time.  I left everything out ready in the kitchen for the morning, allowing the turkey to thoroughly defrost.  That night I could hear some frantic running about downstair and went to look.  There was my dog running about with an undressed doll, or so I thought as  I did not have my glasses on at the time.  On closer inspection, he had his head stuck inside the turkey, trying to shake it off.  He had obviously tried to take it to eat.  I pulled it off him.  It didn’t look too worse for wear, so I washed it thoroughly and cooked it the next day as there was no other option, all the shops closed on Christmas Day then.  I worked on the assumption that cooking would kill any germs.  However, looking at the reports nowadays about raw turkeys, my dog must have bashed salmonella germs all over the living room and kitchen. On Christmas day they all sat down to dinner, none the wiser, and probably only know about this now!  
We had a rather natty dining table which we bought back with us from Germany.  It had a handle which when turned, would lower it down to a coffee table.  While we were eating our dinner, my husband started turning it and the table got lower.  We all cottoned on, but my mum, bless her, kept lowering down with the table, to knee level, still eating at it went lower and lower.  We were wetting ourselves with laughter and even more so when she peered up to see what we were laughing about!


I expressed the wish for a small hand held whisk blender as an idea for a present.  On Christmas Day, my husband presented me with a large box.  Inside was a state of the art food mixer, complete with every possible attachment.  My face said it all as it was something I would never ever be able use properly and it was a waste of money.  A massive row erupted and I hadn't even got the Christmas dinner on yet as my mum was coming.  We agreed on a solution that it would be returned and a hi fi set would be bought.  That decision saved the day and the dinner was cooked in time.