Father’s

Father’s,

Homework for Haringey Literary Live.

 

As I had three fathers, you would think that I would have plenty to write about.

In truth, this is hard to do.

Charles Luz Weguelin is my biological father, he died in nineteen thirty-four when I was two year’s old, and of course I have no memories’ of him.

What I do have is other people’s memories’, but these are sometimes hard to believe.

For instance, I have been told he was privately educated and came from a reasonably wealthy family.

I have only two photos’ of him, one at the age of fourteen as a builder’s labourer on the Wentworth Estate in Sunningdale, and another a year later as a sheet metal worker at the Airscrew Propeller factory in Weybridge, a job he kept until he died at the age of thirty-four.

These are not the sorts of job for a little rich boy.

I can’t even describe him as an adult, as I have no other photos of him.

I am told he was a clock maker/repairer in his spare time, a carpenter making most of his own furniture and generally clever with his hand’s.

There are several examples of this work still about, so this is true.

 

Fred Barker, joined mum and our family of 6 kid’s, in nineteen thirty-seven.

I always regarded him as my father; yet never called him Dad, it was always just Fred.

It was Fred, who did all the things dad’s do, I wish I had given him credit for this, in the short time we had him with us—just seven years.

He taught me how to play the ‘clappers’, the ‘spoons’ and the mouth organ; he could play a tune on a carpenter’s wood saw by bending and tapping it.

He spent a lot of time with my brother Don and me, teaching us how to cook—mostly chips and pancakes.

None of these skills remain with me now, although Don always was a fine cook, especially with the barbecue.

 

In nineteen forty-seven, mum married Albert Stacy.

Our family had now shrunk to four children and mum; Albert’s family was also four plus Albert.

Within a year, with marriages coming one after another, the family now totaled six; It was a larger house so we seemed to have more room.

Albert, or ‘Pop’ as he was called, was a very quiet man, I never quite got to know him, but he seemed to keep us all fed and clothed, and was an excellent gardener.

Albert died in nineteen sixtynine.

 

My mother was always the strong one; from the early days she had to be both mother and father.

My brother Don, just fourteen month’s older than I, was the nearest to a father, he seemed to know what to do in every situation from a very early age.

He carried this role for the rest of his life, being the main man in our family.

Mother and teenage me.

This is a rewrite to include my mother, for our homework.

 

January 30th 1945.

I placed the bowl of washing on the kitchen table, I had just put it all through the old wooden mangle, that stood outside the back door, my hands were frozen and I’m glad to be back in the warmth of the scullery.

Saturday was washday in our house, as mum worked every other day of the week— probably doing some one else’s washing.

I dipped my hands into the hot washing water to warm them up.

 

“ Don’t do that love, you will get ‘cold aches”.

 

I already knew this, but my hands were so cold, anything to warm them must be better than the cold.

Every winter our house was so chilly, that we would try to keep ourselves warm by any means, usually followed by ‘chilblains or cold aches’, so I knew what to expect.

It was about nine o’clock in the morning, but mum already looked tired out, there was a lot of washing in our house and it all had to be done by hand, always by mum’s hand.

 

“Mum do you know what day it is today?

“Whhaat?” she said.

 

She would often answer me with this long drawn out ‘whhaat’ word, whenever she has had enough of my silly questions, but this was not silly.

 

“ I am thirteen today, it’s my birthday”.

 

She stopped scrubbing; she leaned forward and looked out of the steamy windows, then she turned around to me, drying her very white wrinkly hands.

 

“ You can’t be”.

“ Yes I am, I am thirteen today, all-day long”—this was the sort of comment that usually seemed to irritate her, but I just can’t help myself.

 

She turned back to the washing tub and started scrubbing again, this time a bit more vigorously, as if she didn’t want to know my good news.

She stopped washing and dried her hands again, and turning around to me she said.

 

“Put the kettle on and lets have a nice cup of tea”

“ I can’t believe it” she said, wiping a tear from her eye’s,” Thirteen! Thirteen! You are now one of those new teenager’s that everyone’s talking about”.

 

We drank our tea, and then she looked me up and down. I could see she was thinking I looked a bit of a jumble.

I had my sister Chris’s Land Army Aertex shirt on, and the long socks that I had also gained

I thought I looked pretty good though, I’ll admit my grubby grey flannel trousers could do with a bit of a wash.

 

“Trevor”. She said —Now for some reason, which I have never quite understood, she sometimes called me Trevor.

“Trevor, I think this is a good time for you to begin to smarten yourself up.

For a start you must do something about your hair, I’m sure you can’t see properly”

 

She rummaged in her old handbag hanging on the door, and gave me a sixpence.

 

“ Go to Mr. Norris’s and get a short back and sides, and, I want the change back this time.”

 

Mr. Norris had a barbers shop in Guildford Street, and as I crossed the road I saw my reflection in Miss Stott’s ‘ladies outfitters’ shop window, which is nextdoor.

With my mum’s words still ringing in my ears, I saw this scruffy, lanky, knock kneed, youth walking with a sort of nodding motion, toward the shop door.

As I got closer, and trying to have a better view through the criss‑cross tape on the window—all windows had this to stop the glass from shattering in case of a bomb blast—I could see what my mum meant.

While I was taking all this in, I couldn’t help noticing some big curtains twitching inside the shop, it was young Miss Stott, (she was well over eighty).

Whoever thought of using a giant pair old ladies bloomers for the curtains of the changing room was a total genius.

Our eyes met, she had a really unpleasant look on her face —it was if she had just chewed a wasp— as my mother was fond of saying, I tried to lip read but it was impossible, It looked like bugger off.

Mr. Norris was very busy,, I watched him moving round the chair and chatting to all his customer’s. He was a tall man, and had a wooden leg; he must be doing this all day long.

This made me realize how lucky I was, I had my haircut and from that moment I decided to change my image.

As I walked home I started by standing up straight with my shoulders pulled back; I swung my arms military style and tried pushing my knees apart as I walked.

Trying to push my knees apart while walking was really difficult and made me sort of roll from side to side, but I kept at it.

Then, there was the trousers, I was never sure whether they were ,short, long trousers or

Long, short trousers, but that’s what you get when you buy clothes from a ‘Tally’ man

. Either way I decided to wash them when I got home, mum had gone shopping so I                 thought I would just pop them in the copper, as the water was still nice and hot.

You would have thought, wouldn’t you? That I should have known that boiling trousers that were partly made of wool was not a good idea.

However, one thing is now certain, they are now short trousers, very short trousers.

Next day, I showed my mum my new walk, she was quite overcome.

She said “Oh Trevor” and covered her face with both hands and just shook with emotion. She was obviously amazed, I was really pleased.

 

A few day’s later, I was going up Pyrcroft road, and I could see Mrs. Mant and her neighbour at her gate. Both had the same pinafores and matching turbans —probably bought from Miss Stott’s— I did wonder if they also had the same bloomers on as well, Miss Stott seemed to have cornered the market for all this sort of stuff.

They both had a fag in their mouths and I could see by the wagging of the cigarettes that they were having a good old gossip.

This, I thought, was a good time to see if my new walk would be noticed, I straightened up, swung my arms and marched toward them.

I hadn’t really perfected the knee thing yet, and still had a bit of a roll but I carried on anyway.

I noticed them both looking at me, and then, with the acute hearing that we have when we are young, I heard Mrs. Mant say.

 

 

“Look what’s coming down the road, you would think that poor Mrs. Waglin has got enough to put up with already, wouldn’t you”.

“ Yes” said her neighbor, “It’s a shame, they say there is one in every family”

 

As I strode past, they stood stock still, even their fags just hung loosely.

Then, without actually moving their heads, their eyes followed me slowly as if they were on a swivel.

Once I was past they started laughing, really laughing, and very loudly.

 

But I am proud to say I had the last laugh, I am now square shouldered, upright and with a manly walk.

 

There is always a downside to this sort of thing though; I think I overdid the knee

thing, as I am now quite bandy.

 

 

 

Mothers

Class work for Haringey Literary Live, 28/04/2018

 

Subject: Mothers.

 

Most mornings you would find my mum scanning the Daily Herald and the Mirror.

Not for her the headlines on the front pages or the stories of banking scandals, or the obituaries of famous people.

No, mum was focusing all her attention on the back pages, where the likes of Bouverie or Newsboy were holding forth on which horse would win the two thirty at Ascot or Alexandra Palace.

Such was her immersion in the written word of these racing guru’s that no one would dare to interrupt her.

It was like she actually believed that the horses these tipsters were putting forward as likely winners were going to give her a good return on her sixpence each way five horse accumulator, (total outlay one shilling).

I’m not sure how this bet works but I think it is something like this, a sixpence is placed on the first horse to finish in the first three, if it is successful, the winnings are placed on the second horse and so on to the next horse, if one of the horses fails to finish in the first three, the bet is lost.

This is how bookmakers or turf accountants as my brother in law called himself, make all their money.

Mum never gambled with the house keeping or anything like that, she was a bookies runner for Gordon— the turf accountant—, she would earn commission for the bets she collected from our neighbours.

The amazing thing is, she once won with this sort of bet, probably about five pounds.

It was not about the winning but the taking part, she might have said.

She was never upset if she lost, but she liked to tell us all if only that horse at Ascot had finished, she would be in the money.

Unlike some of our family, I never had the betting bug.

I would take and collect the bets my mum had collected and realised it was nearly always a one-way trip.

 

Bedroom Exercise 2.

 

This memory is of a night in the early part of the war.

My poor mum, everything is going wrong, Fred is in hospital with TB, and my new little brother David, is away in a home, he also has TB.

I also have a new sister, Sylvia, she is just a baby.

My sister Iris is the only one earning a proper wage, she works at Vickers, making fuel tanks for ‘Spitfires’.

My brother Bernard is in a training camp for the army, my sister Chris is also away training as a Land Army Girl.

My sister Deidre is now married and living Scotland.

That leaves Don my brother, he works as an errand boy, this helps to pay for something.

I am too young to work, apart from some farm work at school; we have to do it for the war effort, but have no money from this.

The war has turned everything upside down; things were really looking good just a few years ago.

Now my mum is working nearly all day at several jobs, just like she did before Fred joined us.

As if things could not get any worse we have been bombed out.

 

*   *   *

 

My ‘bedroom’ is now in the living room, the main bed is a ‘Morrison shelter’.

These shelters were simply a large table made of steel, they were big enough for five or six persons to sleep under.

I am being woken by my mother, she is crying and shaking me.

“ Alan, wake up, wake up, are you alright, we have been bombed”

For some reason I had decided to sleep under the dresser that night, my mum was leaning over me, she pulled the bedclothes away from me, broken glass fell to the floor, then and she pulled me out into the room.

I could hardly see across the room, the dust was so thick and choking, the light was on but only just visible

Amazingly I had slept through the noise of a bomb exploding just across the road, now I was awake and seeing the mess our room was in, the blackout curtains had been torn to shreds by the broken glass of the windows, the floor was covered with this glass still with bits of tape that was supposed to stop it from shattering.

Mum was now calling for my sister Iris, who preferred to sleep upstairs.

I follow her to the bottom of the stairs and see that the front door had been blown off it’s frame and was half way up the stairs, Iris is trying to climb over it and seems unhurt but very shocked.

I go outside to see what has happened, our neighbours were running back and forth to see if anyone needed help.

Outside the house opposite was just a heap of bricks and window frames.

People were trying to move the doors and the piles of bricks to see if they could help anyone inside.

Now there were flames shooting from the house lighting up the street. I could see our neighbours in their nightclothes running away from the flames, shouting for all of us kids to keep away.

The fire engine has arrived and the firemen are moving everyone away from the now fiercely burning house.

Ambulances were nearby and a man is treating someone on the ground, it looks like a lady but she is very still, her hair looks wet and her face is covered in blood.

Mum pulls me away and we go to Mrs. Salmons house a few doors away and we watch the flames and the firemen hosing it all down.

Our family are now together and not knowing what to do.

 

My poor mum, it was all to much for her, she just cried and cried.

 

With all she has had to deal with, in her forty odd years, this was the first time I had seen her so upset.

 

Bedroom Exercise.

Homework for Haringey Literary Live 26/04/2018

Saturday 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? Monday is Alan’s first day at school; I want to make sure that everything is ready for him on Sunday”.

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.

“ Oh my goodness”. She cries.

The melted grease spurts on to her new blouse.

“ I have 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, and then mum was laughing too.

—There are no lights upstairs other than candles, or gas mantles in the ceilings, but these are never used..

This is one of my very first memories of our bedroom.

 

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 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.

 

The Opposite Sex

Our family, although living in the part of our council estate reserved for the largest families and therefore the most deprived, my mother insisted on us behaving ourselves, no swearing or fighting and certainly no nudity, so I never saw any of my sisters undressed.

My brother Don, just over a year older than I, did tell me some cock and bull story of how babies were made; he was around eight or nine.

I remember thinking it was the funniest thing I had ever heard, It turned out he was he was nearly right though.

Perhaps it was my total lack of interest in the opposite sex—especially after my brothers explanation of baby production—that I was a late developer in boy/girl relations.

Of course there were some girls that I liked, but it was probably their skills in climbing trees that attracted my attention.

I was thirteen when the war ended in 1945, there was a feeling that every thing was going to change for the better, I was still at school and I started to notice some of these better changes related to the girls in our class.

Particularly a girl we called   ‘Jersey Bounce Hutchinson’, she was a very pretty girl, but most of all she had very odd way of walking, it was if she was dancing, this made it look as if she had a pet rabbit up her jumper—I think this is why she was called Jersey Bounce and not after the traditional jazz song that I had thought at first.

Our group of five or six boys would meet most Sundays in the recreation ground (the rec) and were joined by a group of girls from our school, and so started our first real connection with the opposite sex.

This consisted mainly of reading the ‘ News of the world’ more commonly known as ‘The screws of the world’ because of the lurid stories of the rich and famous getting up to no good.

One of us would scan the paper for a likely story and read it out to the rest of us, and when they got to the vital sentence it would be almost shouted out   “INTIMACY TOOK PLACE”—I think we would all cheer at this.

Now at first I had no idea what this meant, until the delightful Diana Symonds explained it to me, I fell in love with her on the spot.

 

Another source of our sex education was a couple of magazines for men, one was called ‘The Lilliput’ and the other was ‘Men Only’,

These were for grown ups and Dave Mawford’s brothers always had them, so of course they were some of our Sunday afternoon reading and were looked at for any naughtiness, and there was plenty.

The list of contents were looked at first, the main interest was any page with the title ‘ Juxtaposition’, at first sight this would seem an innocent enough title, but Dave knew different, it was a code word for pictures of a naked lady.

These black and white pictures left me completely cold, I could not see what all the fuss was about, for one thing they were retouched to remove any lady bits, so they just looked like rather fat boys in funny positions.

It was a different story when I saw the first untouched picture of a naked woman, I was quite shocked.

Now, I know it sounds strange today, but I was eighteen and in Egypt with the Royal Air Force, when I first saw pictures of completely naked women, they were plastered all over the walls of the tents we lived in.

 

I had to wait nearly three years before I returned home from Egypt to find out if all the stories my mates told me were true.

My New Walk.

I suppose I was around eight or nine years old when I first saw myself in a full size mirror.

We had looking glasses, as they were called, but these were tiny, like a shaving mirror, only a little part of your reflection could be seen.
It came as a bit of a shock when, as I passed Miss Stotts Ladies outfitters, at Bell corner, I saw this rather odd figure reflected in the large glass door.
As if the image wasn’t bad enough, it was further distorted by the gummed paper that was stuck on in a criss cross pattern—every glass window had this paper stuck on to stop the glass shattering in the event of a bomb blast.
I stood in front of the door, I of course recognised my face, but the rest of it was completely alien.
I moved up and down and from side to side so that I could see the parts of the body that were otherwise hidden by the gummed paper.
I was fascinated at what was revealed, I had no idea that this is what other folk saw, as I walked around Chertsey, I had a totally different image.
In my minds eye. I was this young Tarzan figure with just a loin cloth, loping through the undergrowth of Pyrcroft road, swinging from hanging vine to hanging vine, at one with nature and all the animals, even sometimes giving a Tarzan call—I was an odd sort of boy.
Now, instead, I was looking at this lanky, knock -kneed kid with grubby, short grey flannel trousers that did nothing to enhance the total lack of any muscle on my legs.
While I taking all this in, with ever increasing dismay, I noticed out of the corner my eye, a pair of super sized ladies bloomers twitching in the main shop—whoever thought of using giant ladies bloomers as curtains for the changing room was a total genius..
Without moving my head I managed to swivel my eyes to see what was causing these giant bloomers to take on a life of their own.
The reason for all this subterfuge was that my mum had told never to look in Miss Stotts window as there were things on display that were not for a young boys eyes.
Actually, Dave Mawford and I had spent many a wet Sunday afternoon—it always rained on Sunday— trying to fathom out what on earth all the stuff that filled Miss Stott’s window could possibly be used for.
I think the Stott’s shop was owned by two sisters, the only one I ever saw was young Miss Stott— she well over eighty.
Suddenly the bloomers parted and in what seemed a completely unwarranted facial expression—as if she had just chewed a wasp—as my mum would say. I think the gist of what she was saying, was for me to vacate her blooming door way.
These few moments were to change my life, no more young Tarzan, instead I set my mind on self improvement, first of all my round shoulders and the nodding walk that some tall people develop in order to fit the average would have go, plus those knock knees.
This was surprising easy to to do, I practiced my new walk at night so that I would not look stupid and after a while it became second nature, this became my natural gait, shoulders square, arms swinging, head held high and the most difficult bit, pushing my knees apart to stop them touching..
I would now proudly stride down the town with a feeling that I had changed my image.

Or so I thought.

I was returning from such a walk and was passing Pippernells Izzi’s ice cream parlour in Pyrcroft road, when I spotted Mrs. Mant at her gate talking to a neighbour, they were both wearing identical pinafores and turbans, probably bought from Miss Stotts, I vaguely wondered about their bloomers as well.
They were both standing with their arms folded, a fag hanging from their lips, I could see by the the jerky movements of the cigarettes that they were busy putting the world to rights.
I thought here was an opportunity to show off my new walk, I straightened up with arms swinging and attempted to push my knees apart as I strode towards them.
The trouble was that I had not yet perfected the knee thing, and this possibly caused me to walk in a rather odd way.
Grown-ups are not always aware that kids have very acute hearing, and as I neared the two ladies, I heard one say.
“Look, whats coming down the road, that poor Mrs. Waglin, as if she doesn’t have enough to put up with.”

Mrs. Mant replied “ Yes it’s a dreadful shame, they say that there is one in every family.”
They kept stock still as I passed, fags now just hanging motionless, only their eyes followed me as I passed.
Then there was a burst of laughter as they watched me stride manfully up the road.

But I had the last laugh, my new walk made me keep my shoulders back and the stoop has gone.

The only thing is that I am now quite bandy…

(Unfortunately, this story, unlike many that I have posted, is completely true.)