Thursday, June 18, 2020

An Imperfect Life


Chapter 41


The times they are a changin’.


“William what do you like best about living here?”

“I enjoy having a pleasant drive to work instead of that dratted commute.  What about you?”

“I just love all the space – in the house and garden so different to where I was brought up.  I’m never going to live in a small house again!”

 I missed my friends and my wonderful daily help but found that with one small child and another on the way, people were very friendly.  One problem I had was of my own making.  After we lost our beloved corgi – Havoc, I thought it would be nice to buy another for William so that he could have the puppy – Sharon, to train whilst I had the baby.  Unfortunately Sharon was untrainable and with William out all day she was the bane of my life.  Any clothes hanging around were ruined but worst of all she would get out of the house at every opportunity and run into the main road causing chaos.  At the end of our road lived Mrs D – a dressmaker who bred valuable dogs and when Sharon got out and attacked her miniature pincer she said regretfully that if we didn’t get rid of Sharon she would have to sue us.  I was desperate but Mrs D knew lots of doggy people and said she knew just the chap who would be able to train Sharon.  She went off to what we were assured would be a good home and later we got a feed back that she was behaving and all was well.  A week later we were told there were problems and would we like to have her back.  Neither Mrs D nor I were prepared to risk it. So she stayed put and – with a certain amount of guilt I thanked God I didn’t have to cope with her.

Feeling the guilt I vowed never to be tempted to have another dog.

  All in all it was a fairly eventful pregnancy. One day I was carrying my son slowly upstairs for our post –prandial nap, reached his cot and heard a thunderous noise.  The top of the stairs was shrouded in white powdery clouds; the hall ceiling had collapsed. I was so relieved the ceiling hadn’t fallen on my son and me – my Guardian Angel was on duty that day.  After I settled him in his cot I crept downstairs to phone William.  He came home straight away and I assured him I was fine – I didn’t need to see the doctor but we had to do something about the ceiling.  In those days work-men actually came when they said they would and although the builder couldn’t promise to reproduce the elaborate moulding exactly- he made a good job of it and the house stayed sound from then on.  Just one more surprise – I went down to the cellar one day to fill the brass coal bucket and was amazed to find the cellar floor hidden by a small lake.  I hastily retreated and phoned the long suffering William.  By the time he got home the water had disappeared.  Although no-one had told us, there was a well in the cellar which would overflow after extremely heavy rains.  Nothing to worry about.

   It was the custom to have the first baby in hospital and the second – if all was well-at home.  There were two midwives, one who was shaped like a hedgehog; she was dry with a twinkle so we christened her Mrs Tiggy Winkle.  The other one was skinny with glasses and an expression as if she had just eaten bitter aloes.

“In do hope we get Mrs Tiggy William.  The other one was horrid about the new single bed we bought specially for the birth and said it was too low and must be put on blocks.”

  William’s solution was to get a load of breeze blocks from the garage and prop the bed on them.  They were dirty and cumbersome and when I saw a number of wood lice skittering around I lost my cool and they were replaced by the requested wooden blocks.

Now working for the MOD (Ministry of Defence) William had a reasonable amount of leave so he decided to take time off to look after me during the birth and help with #1 son and baby.  To my delight it was Mrs Tiggy who was on duty when I started.

“I can tell when you’re having a contraction – your face goes all pink!  I’ve no-one else due so I might as well stay.” 
 We all tucked into a nourishing stew I had made in the pressure cooker.  After examining me she warned me that I would probably have quite a small baby.  It was a long afternoon and I remember lurching through the hall to answer the phone and having a strong urge to delay the whole thing for a month or two.  Fat chance!

   We had a fire glowing in the play- room and the bed facing the window and Mrs Tiggy was concerned about the fierce draught when the door opened so we moved the bed and blocks against the back wall- much more satisfactory.  When it was bed-time for my son and William took him upstairs for his bath Mrs Tiggy said

“Let’s try and have the baby before your husband gets down again.”

And we actually managed it with my special breathing coming up trumps and soon there was that delightful bawl from a new born baby.  A beautiful boy and a glorious 8 pounds – a whole pound heavier than his big brother. The one certain thing about midwifery is that nothing is certain. William was thrilled – I was thrilled and the nurse said I had done brilliantly.  But- she was terribly sorry – she had tried to hold it together but the old wound had torn and I would have to have stitches.  She knew what was coming.  Old Dr Rigg’s house backed on to our garden so he was there in a trice and I had a repeat performance of the suturing with no local anaesthetic.  Why the hell didn’t I protest but one feels so weak and helpless and it was again a bitter irony that I managed the birth like a trooper and then had to try to gag my screams with the inadequate gas and air mask.  Poor William heard and later told my sister he couldn’t put me through that again and I had already made a decision that this was going to be my family – complete.  I had always envisaged a little girl (who later appeared as my grand- daughter) but I would never change my two sons – not for all the tea in China.

  When no-one was looking I sneaked to the phone in the hall to tell Mum the good news.

“Get back to bed out of that draughty hall!  What are you thinking?  She just remembered to say ‘well done!’ before hanging up.

  Sister Maddie and husband turned up with a bottle of champagne which I wouldn’t touch as I intended to start feeding my sturdy little son.  Eventually the guests left, William went up to bed and I was left alone in the firelight with him and felt a great thrill of happiness – all pain forgotten.  We decided to have a go at this feeding lark and – like his brother he clamped on with relish.  Normally with breast fed babies they have a sticky black stool – meconium- for the first 24 hours but this little boy was so determined he had a normal stool by morning.

  It was an icy February morning and I could see daffodils were out in the garden.  I wondered what the brothers would think of each other.  I heard William bringing #1son down stairs.  I’d soon find out,

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Two Photos for Exile.
 Our new home - my beloved 5 G

The little darling - with Mum.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

An Imperfect Life
Chapter 40

 Pastures new.


When I told my lovely girl friends of our impending departure there were tears – not just mine – the girls got quite emotional.  We knew it would never be the same again and being at home all day with a small child was quite a lonely occupation. I felt better when I found I was pregnant again.  We wanted at least two children and this would make the gap two years and three months between them.

“Maybe you’re right William.  Maybe it would be better to have a larger house and a better salary.”

Before I had time to get used to the idea William told me he had been offered the job and had accepted it so I put on a brave face and threw myself into scouring the D.T. looking for a nice house in our price range

  William’s new job meant a move from Surrey to Kent supposedly ‘the Garden of England’ where there were lots of Oast houses for the brewing of hops.  Traditionally East Enders would move lock stock and barrel to Kent for the hop-picking season.

“William I’ve found something and incredibly it’s in our price range.”

 “You get more for your bucks in Kent.  Where is it? “

“A place called Southborough.  It’s between Tunbridge Wells – spelt with a ‘u’ -and Tonbridge spelt with an ‘o’.”

“There’s a good boy’s school there – I’ll phone the agent and make an early appointment.  It’s quite a drive - what about the baby?”

“Anne wants to have him.”  Both my girl friends had boys a couple of months older than our son and they were fascinated by his constant crawling, pulling himself upright and general activity whilst he was half the size of the other two boys.  When left in his pram before long he would leap over the side and dangle - thankfully saved from a tumble by his restrainers.

   First impressions were good; Tunbridge Wells (Royal T.W. as it liked to be known} was a spa town with lots of history, the Pantiles and a large hilly common.  Southborough was about two miles north and we drove up a quiet cul de sac where the house was situated amongst other detached Victorian dwellings.

“I don’t like that laurel hedge in front.  It’s far too high but the holly trees are good.”

On the near side, on a cobbled path was a stable with an apple loft above.

“It all looks in good nick – I like the pale grey the house is painted and the turquoise trimmings.  Oh and look there is a path on the far side of the house so I can wheel the pram to the back of the house.  And there is a lockable door.”

 Daily walks with baby in pram were the norm in those days.

We walked down the path and let ourselves in to the very private walled garden.  It was neglected but there was a large old pear tree which gave dappled sunlight and old apple trees, Ribston Pippins, Worcester Pearmains and Bramleys.

“Gosh look at that enormous yew hedge – it seems to divide what they call the pleasure garden from the vegetable garden.”

William was looking at it critically and possibly planning its demise.  There were rose beds and flowerbeds all tangled and full of weeds and behind the yew hedge an old neglected vegetable garden.  It was all a bit daunting – but exciting.

  We were told the last person to live there was a very old lady and her housekeeper.  On her death a speculator had bought it, redecorated it and put it on the market.  I couldn’t wait to see inside.  We returned to the front entrance and went through heavy double doors to a large glass paned door.  The entrance hall had a central staircase; the drawing room on the left and the dining room – with hatch to the kitchen– on the right.  Both rooms were large with attractive fireplaces and bay windows.  Behind the drawing room was a smaller room – with fireplace.

“This would make a great study – looking out onto the garden,” said William.

“Or nursery – remember there are going to be four of us!”

At the end of the hall there was another entrance from the rear garden with both an inner and an outer door.

 “Gosh!  The old lady must have been security conscious.  Look at all those heavy bolts on top and bottom on all the doors.  And there is a loo here with the same iron bolts top and bottom and inside and outside the loo.  How odd! And where do these other three doors lead to?”

William opened them revealing a scullery, the kitchen and steps down to a cellar.  We’d been told that the people next door had converted their cellar into a basement flat.  Ours was given over to a lifetime’s store of coal and coke.  We discovered there were also fireplaces in the bedrooms and bathroom

“Oh look William – an ideal boiler.  Can you smell that chokey smell?  Multiply it by ten and that’s what the cellar smelt like at the Convalescent Home at St Anne’s.”

“I remember,” joked William “the one you allowed to go out when you were on night duty.  Very careless of you!”

Yet another door led down two steps into the garden room with butler’s sink and a small room just off it.  Another door led into the garden.

  Halfway up the stairs was a large bathroom and separate loo.  The bathroom had a pretty old fireplace and would have been the tweeenie’s bedroom.  There were five bed and dressing rooms-as they put it and outside the rooms were mahogany let-down side tables for the maid to put the breakfast tray before opening the door.

By the time we got back in the car we were exhausted.

“What did you think” I asked William?

“It’s a very good house,” he said positively.

I sighed regretfully,”It’s just too big.”

“I suppose so.”  William knew his limitations and he was never a DIY man.

By the time we reached home I had mentally moved in.  The house was crying out for a family.  Our family!  I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

“On the other hand William…”

  I was certain it was the right house for us.  William agreed but was more cautious.

“It’s a hell of a responsibility to take on.  We’d have to get it properly surveyed.”

I agreed.  My sister Maddie was now working in London for an architect and said she knew just the man.  Not wishing to waste time and possibly lose the house we met up with him in Southborough and after what we hoped was a thorough going over he said,

“The house is sound and if you are both in love with it you should go ahead.”

He also told us that he and his wife had just bought a farmhouse they fell in love with, in spite of a doubtful survey.  He mentioned that the two steps down from the kitchen to the scullery could be a nuisance but it never bothered us.

  Later when the children would stow toys in the washing machine causing it to flood I was thankful for the brick floor, where the water would just drain through to the garden.

First thing in the morning and last thing at night my head was full of plans for our new home.  Who knew you could be in love with a house and miraculously William was just as keen.

  We sold our bungalow making a small profit and and our offer on the Victorian house accepted.  Anne offered to have our son whilst we moved in and we gratefully accepted.  He didn’t fret at all and we were very proud of him.  Mind you I think he was spoilt rotten whist he was there.

  We were under close scrutiny by the neighbours when we moved in.  I was wearing tartan trousers from my modelling days so they were convinced we were Scottish.

  We had a lot of space to fill but Dodie, my mother –in- law, helped out with a carpet or two and sister- in-law Fleur had her late mother’s furniture stored in her house sized garage some of which found it way to us.  There was so much wall space and I started a life long collection of pictures and drawings- mostly repros but some originals.

Heating was a bit of a problem and to supplement the open fires and boiler we had paraffin stoves, gas and electricity fires.  This was the fifties remember.  All had to be carefully guarded with an active toddler in the house and I was thankful for the old wooden play-pen where I could safely leave my son.  We designated William’s dream study as the playroom but he quickly learned to push the play pen up against the door so I couldn’t get in and would have to go round to the window outside in the garden and persuade him to back off.

  As usual, when pregnant, I was getting larger by the day and one day I left him playing in the hall whilst I went to use the downstairs loo.  Suddenly I heard a noise, went to open the door and realised my little monkey had pushed the iron bolt across

Thanks to the security conscious previous owner.  I could see my sons navy blue eye staring at me through the key hole.

“Darling- just push the bolt back for Mummy please.  Good boy darling!”

But darling thought this was an exciting new game and just said

“Mummy! Mummy!”

This went on for quite some time and I became increasingly panicked.  Thank God we were on the ground floor and there was a window - with a complicated screw bolt.  I had to stand on the loo (it was encased in a mahogany base and could withstand my weight) then lurch sideways to open the window.  Somehow I managed to lever myself out (thank you God), walk round the back of the house and let myself into the kitchen and found little sunshine with his eye still glued to the key hole.  More lessons learned.


Sunday, March 15, 2020

Came across this recently: Pat and number 1 son sailing on the Broads.  Click to enlarge

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

 A Mixed Bag of photos!

Pat - Just preggers.
A recently discovered photo of MTL - about the time of the reunion.
Probably Pat's last cruise - 2or 3 years ago

Saturday, January 18, 2020

I can't post the one I wanted - it's on FB- so have to make do with these.

Monday, January 13, 2020

An Imperfect Life


Chapter 39


Déjà vu


My new son soon got bored with staring at his adoring Mum and just wanted to nod off so I put him back in his cot.  What now?  I was too excited to sleep so I wrote to everyone I knew to tell them the news.  As the morning wore on I was taken with baby to join eight other mothers and babies in the maternity ward.  I quickly bonded with a tall lanky girl whose amazing feat had been to increase her weight by no more than the weight of her baby and could have concealed her pregnancy right up to the birth – had she wished.

 We seemed to have alternate days when we would be on top of the world one day and down in the depths the next.  If one of the babies needed to be examined, the staff would remove all the babies from the ward so that instead of one mother being upset and worried, we all were.

“More flowers for you,” announced Sister.  I had been inundated with bouquets and the nurses had piled them round my bed like a flowery bower which was embarrassing so I asked Sister to spread them round the ward.  It was lovely getting flowers but now I had dozens of thank you letters to write.

“Oh no,” I gasped in horror when I saw the latest arrival, “Red and white flowers!  Please Sister don’t bring them on the ward!”

“Don’t get upset now –‘red and white flowers means death’ -that is an old superstition.  I’m NOT superstitious and will be happy to have them in my room.”  Phew!

After a few days when baby was putting on weight I was told I could go home.

“William bring my black and white tweed suit please.  The jacket is loose and it’s warm.”  Alas no way could I get into it.

“It’ll be 18 months before you get your shape back, “one of the nurses told me – but she was wrong.  Breast feeding is the best way to get back in shape.  Best for Baba too.  You can actually feel the pull on your uterus as the baby sucks (especially when you have cat-gut stitches like I had).  The other slimming factor was that the benign, happy Pat of pregnancy had become a stressed nervous wreck who fretted when baby cried and prodded him when he was asleep to make sure he was OK.  And me an R.S.C.N!

What one didn’t realise is that normal babies can have alarming symptoms one minute and back to normal the next.  I had a bad case of P.N.D. which wasn’t recognised in those days.  I thought I was going mad.

  The Health Visitor realised something was wrong.

“Put all your ornaments away in a cupboard and don’t fret about house work.”

 That wasn’t the problem - I had an excellent daily help who was now living in – with her son - as her house had been repossessed.  Probably if I had more to do I would have had less time to fret.

   The Health Visitor's kindness reduced me to tears; it was a relief to have someone who seemed to understand how I was feeling.  And then she did a magical thing which really saved my bacon.  She introduced me to two mothers with baby boys – roughly the same age - who lived close by.

  Every night after the 6pm feed (when breast milk was at its weakest) my son would yell his head off- sometimes till midnight, and it was driving me demented.  When he was 4 months old the girls - my new friends - finally persuaded me to have a night off:  I left William in charge and we went to the pictures to see ‘High Society’ with Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Satchmo and Bing Crosby.  For the first time since the birth I laughed and had fun.  Back home William said our son had slept soundly all night and from then on things improved; baby thrived and I got back in shape - physically and mentally.

  It was a great sadness that Gran died before ever seeing my new son but she always believed her natural span was three score years and ten and died at 70.  Always believing that breast was best I managed to quell the pangs of grief to keep the milk flowing for the first 12 months.  As he thrived and got bigger I started to shrink and at 11 months got a period

“That’s a sign to stop nursing,” said Mum – so I did – content that he must have got most of my immunities.  It seemed to work; the childhood diseases both boys succumbed to were ones I never had.

One of the best things I ever did was to teach William how to bathe the newborn baby and from then on he was a devoted hands–on father.  What was missing in our relationship was compensated by our relationship with our children – total, unconditional love.  Life was pleasant enough; I have always thrived on routine and so did baby.  We had our new friends and their babies to go for walks on the downs and have tea parties whilst our boys sat, crawled or rolled about according to their different abilities.

I had no intention of doing any more modelling but then a favourite photographer – Neil Nimmo asked if he could come to photograph the baby.   I said yes because he was a charming man and it would be lovely to have some first-rate photographs which would have cost us a bomb.  Then we heard that Heinz wanted to use us as the 'Heinz mother and baby'.  I refused – politely, telling them I was nursing him and I didn’t want to interfere with his routine.  They assured me that everything would be done around him and nothing would be allowed to interfere with his routine; they would send a chauffeur driven car, I would have the privacy to feed him – de dah de dah!

After much discussion William and I decided to give it a go with the proviso that if it was upsetting him we stopped.

  We were to appear on TV using me as myself – a well known model.  I was given a script and I proceeded to learn it – as I thought.  It was easy – just introducing myself, telling them about my baby and how he enjoyed Heinz baby food, which happened to be true. (And his Mum adored the chocolate mousse.)

  The car was a Silver Shadow- very posh and quite a few neighbours happened to be around when we were picked up.  I was tempted to give the Royal wave but fearing it might affect future relations restrained myself.

  At the studio they were as good as their word and baby’s well being came first.  I settled him in his carry cot whilst I did my piece to camera.  The director – a friendly young chap asked if I would like it broken up into short bits but I said no - I would do it all in one piece – easy peasy!

They took some time adjusting the lights using light meters with me brilliantly lit and blinded so I couldn’t see all the people talking around me and I became a little unnerved.

“Right- we’re going for a take!”   A hush descended.

“Okay Pat! Action!”

I smiled at the camera.

“Hello!  My name is Pat------“

And then to my acute embarrassment I dried.  So we broke it up into little bits and I finally got it right.  Lesson learned.

  The second part of the shoot was to be me feeding baby the wonderful Heinz sieved carrots, which he quite liked.  The camera and the director were up really close with the opened tin of carrots in full view, so I went into nurse mode and wrapped him in his swaddling piece of cashmere - as was my wont when he was having anything to eat other than breast- so his attention would be totally focused.

“Oh Pat!  Don’t do that!”

I looked at the director enquiringly.

“Just let his arms be free – it looks more natural!”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, yes.  OK fine!  Action! “

“Oh bloody ‘ell!  Jesus!” 

One swipe from baby and the director’ pristine white shirt was generously splattered with the wonderful Heinz sieved carrot.  Baby goo-gooed and smiled his gummy grin.  Back to swaddling!   This time all seemed to be going smoothly when I felt a silent PING and a TINGLE and I knew the milk was coming in.


The director was actually blushing.

“Er Pat er…your buttons have come undone.”

I looked down and was relieved to see the milk hadn’t come through but my shirt was wide open revealing a nursing bra –not unlike a straight jacket.  By this time I was beyond embarrassment and handed my son to an assistant whilst I adjusted my dress and then pinioned him to my bosom.  We carried on – this time without interruption and everybody was pleased when we watched it later on TV although I thought I sounded a bit posh.  All those years of watching Phyllis Calvert and Margaret Lockwood no doubt.

  As we drove back through Chelsea I couldn’t resist asking the driver to stop by the  hospital where Vanessa was theatre Sister.  Amazingly she was free and we had a cup of tea together and arranged that she and her doctor husband would come and visit.

I settled down to being a housewife and mummy and life was very pleasant.

Our garden backed onto the garden of a large house owned by a National Hunt jockey.  We had got into conversation, when I met him on the train, before my son was born and discovered we lived in close proximity.  He was great fun – a real charmer and when our families got together I was delighted that William also liked him.  Before long the two men had made a gate in the fence to save us all a long twenty minute walk to reach each other’s houses.  Through him we were introduced to the racing fraternity and our social life stepped up a notch.  And then there were my two new friends Anne and Eileen and their babies.  We had become a strong trio and saw each other almost every day.

Then William dropped a bomb shell.  He told me he had applied for another job and if he was accepted we would have to move.  I couldn’t believe it.  Déjà vu all over again. 
 In Altrincham just when I had become embroiled in the local theatre group and we had a lovely circle of friends it was up sticks and off we went down south.  I know I was probably being selfish and not seeing the bigger picture.  I just don’t like change- especially when we seemed to be reasonably happy.

But this was when the wife was a kept woman, the husband the bread winner so his job took precedence.  I just wasn’t convinced it was vital for his job to be changed and for us to move to another county.