MY AUTOBIOGRAPHY ©

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".

 

 

INTRODUCTION

 

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

CHILDHOOD INNOCENCE

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.

 

 

CHAPTER 2

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.

 

 

CHAPTER 4

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.

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER 3

 

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.   

CHAPTER 6

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

WE ARE OUTSIDE GRANNY AND GRANDAD'S CRAVAN, THEIRS WAS A STATIC CARAVAN AND WAS BIGGER THAN HOURS

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)

MY MOTHER CAME OUT

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

I ASKED WHO SHE WAS

BOSSING ABOUT.

SHE GAVE ME ANOTHER

TO MATCH THE OTHER1

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!    

   

CHAPTER 8

THESE ARE SOME OF THE CERTIFICATES THAT I GAINED. I TOOK MY FIRST PITMAN SHORTHAND EXAM AT 90 WPM INSTEAD OF THE USUAL 50 WPM. I ALSO TOOK THE RSA SHORTHAND EXAM EXAM AT 60 WPM AS IT WAS CONSIDERED HARDER THAN PITMAN. MY LAST EXAM WAS 120 WPM.

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.    

   

 

 

 

CHAPTER 8

 

MY TEENAGE YEARS AT THE CARAVAN SITE

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 idol