Chertsey Tales Part Fourteen.

                                   Chertsey Tales Part Fourteen.

  I moved to Manchester just over a year ago. I find my new neighbours very friendly, but my Surrey accent causes a lot of amusement, they tease me all the time.

They find it funny that I say things like ’barth’ and ‘glarss’ instead of bath or glass. They also think there is little or no poverty in leafy Surrey. So, I must be posh. 

It’s not true of course. We were as poor as poor can be, as the following story will show. 

My father died in 1934, leaving my mum with six young children, I was the youngest just aged two. This story is of a day in 1940. I now have a stepfather, Fred, and a new brother and sister. A test has shown that he has TB. I remember the day the doctor called very well.

I am sitting on our front door step and watch him coming up the path. He is a short man in striped trousers, he wears a black jacket and a tie that’s looks like a butterfly (His hair looks as if it is glued on) I follow him indoors. 

Mum is the local midwife; as such they know each other well.

 ‘Good morning, Ethel. I have some more results from the hospital. Sit down my dear I need to tell you something’.

Mum, looking worried sits on the edge of the big armchair. 

 ‘Is it Fred’, doctor?  

 ‘No, it’s not Fred, he is being well looked after.’

He asks my brother Donald to fetch Mrs Salmon. She is our neighbour. He told me to put the kettle on… He’s a bit bossy, just because he’s got shiny shoes!

I have never seen such a posh man and I’m watching his every move as we wait for Mrs Salmon. He keeps sniffing, as if trying to work out what was cooking.  Our house always smelled like something was cooking—even if it wasn’t. 

 He rests his hand on the kitchen table…it’s a Morrison shelter really. His fingers are pink with shiny nails; His fingertips feel the sticky surface and he snatches them back as if it is hot. The table is covered with ‘lino’. The stuff my friends have on their floors. We have it as a tablecloth. It can get a bit tacky after a while.

He glances up to the hissing gas mantle. The noise means they it needs to be changed. We have electric ‘globes’ but they are dim compared with the gas mantle. Another thing, the gas meter takes pennies, and the electric meter needs shillings, so gas it has to be.  

 The fly paper is next to catch his eye. The sticky bits are already completely covered. Flies from Mr Stanford’s farm next door, can invade our home in troops quite safely.

Mrs Salmon is a big lady. She heaves through the scullery door. I watch her take aim at the armchair. She always falls into it rather than sitting on it. The chair puffs out a little cloud of dust. She takes a deep breath.

‘Now then doctor what’s all the fuss about, is it Fred?’

The doctor puts his spectacles on—they have no rims to hold the glass in!  He pulls himself up and looks as if he is going to make a speech.

‘No, it’s young David. He is under weight, and we need to build him up. He must go to a home for a while where he will have special treatment.’

Rosy (Mrs Salmon) sits up and almost shouts.                                                                       

‘Thank God for that, I thought it was something serious. There you are Effie, there’s nothing to worry about, he will be home before you know it.’

 The doctor went to the kitchen sink to wash his hands, then suddenly seemed to change his mind… I don’t blame him it’s full of washing up bits and pieces. He doesn’t drink his tea either—he seems in a terrible hurry to leave our house.

 Mrs. Salmon picks up mum’s teacup and reads the tea leaves.

 ‘Look at that Effie, everything is going to be alright.’

 Alright, it was not! My little brother had TB as well as Fred.

Looking forward several years, my stepfather was in and out of hospital. He was treated at home because the hospitals were now full of war wounded.

 In 1944, I and my sister Sylvia were sent to an Open-air School for fragile children. We were kept there until Fred died six months later, to protect us I suppose. 

I was 12 years old when I came home, and what with the poor education during the war and being in hospital from time to time, I could hardly read or write. David was kept in hospital for several more years and only learned to read when he was a man. 

A posh family we were not, even if we did say ‘barth’ or ‘glarss’!

Author: madeinchertsey

Born in 1932, this is a collection of stories of my childhood growing up in Chertsey, and some stories of my later life.

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