Night. Easter holiday weekend 1937.
I was too young to know anything about my father; he died three years ago when I was just two, leaving my mum to look after six children.
Now after all those hard years my mum had found Fred—they are
to be married as soon as his wife agrees to a divorce.
He took over our family, and, with another wage earner in the home things were looking good.
They could even go for a drink on a Saturday night.
This is a clear memory of that night, pinpointed because of my first day at school the following week.
I hear the footsteps and ‘happy goodnights’ from the road outside from mum’s friends, they are loud and clear.
The front door close’s and Fred is still laughing about something.
Then mum says “Listen a minute, those kids are still awake.”
I hear mum coming up the stairs, her footsteps on the floorboards sound like someone in a hurry.
“Deidre.” Mum says, as she comes through the bedroom door.
“Do you know what time it is? You should all be asleep,Monday is Alan’s first day at school, I want to make sure that everything is ready for him on Sunday.”
(There are no lights upstairs other than candles.)
Mum then goes over to the mantle piece to blow out the candle, and sees a pool of melted candle grease in the saucer, she pokes it to see if it was still liquid.
The melted grease spurts on to her new blouse.
“Look what you’ve made me do now, I’ve only had this on clean today.”
“What are you all giggling about, It’s not very funny.”
But it was funny, very funny, we were all laughing, including mum.
I sleep with my three sisters, Iris, Chris and Deidre, who at fifteen is the eldest. Chris is the youngest and my favourite, It is a big bed with big brass knobs on the posts, at least three of them do, the other one was lost long ago.
The sheets smell nice, as Saturday is bed-changing day.
Iris, who is thirteen, always reads from the special old story book that belonged my Dad when he was a child, it is quite tatty now and has lost it’s cover but the stories are lovely, and this is what Iris was doing so late that night.
Fred came into the room to see what all the laughter was about and then joined in.
He is a very nice man—and a good cook, at least I think so, his chips are very nice, he call’s them scallops, they are flat slices of potato dipped in batter and then fried.
I found out later that this ‘special old book’ was by Hans Christian Anderson. It was very special to us as the illustrations in the book were by my dad’s uncle, J.R. Weguelin, the R.A. artist.
I can never remember any of these pictures, so they can’t have been very special to me.