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.

“CUT!”

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.

 

 

 
 


 

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Andrew during his very brief modelling career.  I was appalled when a waiter gave him a ginger biscuit.  Andrew though he was in Heaven

Saturday, November 09, 2019


An Imperfect Life

Chapter 38

Ice cold Milk and Deep Green Apples

 Pregnant and so happy I wanted to shout it from the house tops.
“No!”  Mum was adamant.

“Nine months is a long time and folk get bored.”

So a secret.  Ha!  Fat chance – overnight my metabolism had changed and from being a nervy, edgy, highly strung girl I became a placid, happy cow.  With serenity came avoir dupois and William had the wife he’d always wanted.  Had we lived on a boat his cup would have runneth over.

“You know William - Spotlight has really earned its keep.  Ben Lyons and Bebe Daniels want me for ‘Life with the Lyons’ as Richard’s girl friend.  And H.M Tennant have offered me a job.”

“Paula will be pleased,” William observed.

“She’s thrilled.  I’ve got to tell her about the baby.  I just don’t know how she’ll react.”

“Why don’t we ask her – AND her husband down at the week-end?  We can wine and dine them – away from the phones she’ll be more relaxed.”

Great!  Now we had a plan I could function.  It was the first time Paula had visited – I had never met her solicitor husband and everything had to be perfect.  My excellent housekeeper Doreen made the house glisten with fragrant lavender polish, the brass and copper gleamed and the table looked a picture with starched napkins, most of Dodie’s silver and fresh flowers.  William looked reasonably respectable in a laid back ’I’m in the garden rather than the office’ way but when I came to get dressed I couldn’t do up my skirt.  All I could do was safety pin my skirt and cover it up with one of William’s white shirts loosely belted over the bump.  It wasn’t supposed to show for ages yet but no-one seemed to have told ‘it’.

When the car rolled up I got a shock – Paula’s husband was not what I expected.  He was a good ten years younger with a tooth brush moustache and dressed as if he had stepped out of ‘Country Life’ – discreetly checked shirt, cravat and camel waistcoat, thorn proof jacket, beige cord trousers and suede brothel creeper shoes – all brand spanking new.  Paula was her usual chaotic self but she had made an effort with a hat, fur coat, heels and a voluminous silk dress.  We greeted each other warmly, made the introductions and got them drinks before the inevitable gap in the conversation.  I had seen Paula’s piercing look and as soon as she had tasted her G and T I blurted out-

“We’ve got some news to tell you.  We’re going to have a baby in November,”

Paula roared with laughter, gave me a big hug and there were congratulations all round.

  Lunch was a success with wine flowing, the men happy talking about cars – how to get to A from B and bottlenecks.  After lunch it was sunny so we had coffee in the garden.  I told Paula I planned to work as long as possible and after ‘it’ was born nurse for 6 months and then go back to work.  We agreed that my contract should lapse during this period and then start again.  Paula said she would vet any jobs in the coming months to ensure I wasn’t overdoing things and the day ended happily. I think at the time we both believed this would all come about.  I just had a faint worry that I was showing so soon.  Twins?  Or a baby elephant?

  My rich SIL Fleur came up trumps- her layette had been in the family for years and she said I was now to use them and then hand them back again.  There was a lovely cot covered in pink and white organdie, ancient cot blankets which I renovated with fresh ribbon, a lovely piece of swaddling cashmere and a play pen.  It was the time of very smart prams a la Princess Grace of Monaco and I just didn’t have the nerve to wheel the offered pram round Epsom.  It looked as if it dated from the year dot with its cavernous body and tiny wheels. I bought Viyella baby gowns which opened down the back, stencilled designs on the bodice and embroidered them - sewing lace round the neck and wrists.  Mum couldn’t believe it.

  William and I were blissfully happy – for the very first time.  My only problem was indigestion which possibly was due to my propensity for ice cold milk and deep green apples at bedtime.  I did as much work as possible the first month and then it became difficult to hide my blooming- ness.  Also I didn’t enjoy racing round town with luggage so I told Paula I would book myself out until baby was 6 months old.

It was a time for reflection and for seeing family.  Gran was getting older and not so eager to visit her daughter and family in the States, so to give Mum and Dad a break I had her to stay for a couple of weeks.  She was convinced that her natural life span was three score years and ten and sure enough soon after the birth she died - aged seventy.

Jamie’s brother Liam and family were over from the States and visiting Maddie.  Apparently Jamie now had a daughter and was living in Essex.  He had dropped out of my consciousness although I still had the odd dream about him.  Maddie asked if she could bring Liam and family over for the day along with their child who was getting over German measles.  She said I should be out of the danger period for harming the baby.

I couldn’t believe she would even ask.  As if I was going to take the slightest risk with my baby.

  We had very little in the way of monitoring in those days but I did go to relaxation classes and became a dab hand at deep breathing.

  I was beginning to get to know the neighbours.  At first they treated me ‘the model’ as something from outer space but soon realised I was just an ordinary young woman.  We were both wildly excited about the baby and found the last long months dragging interminably.  My increased weight gave me back–ache and when Mum saw me waddling with one hand behind me, clutching my back she said I needed a corset for support.  So I got a horrid pink thing with laces and it really helped.  I did have a chat with a midwife and told her I was worried about my waters breaking.  She roared with laughter.

“They’re not going to suddenly break and flood Epsom Market love!”

I continued to gain weight.  One was meant to put on a maximum of 21lbs: 7for the baby, 7 for the mother and I can’t remember what the last 7 lbs are for.  At last the date arrived but no baby.  By now I was thoroughly fed up and wished I could change my mind and have it some other time.  After a further 9 days I got the bus to the hospital and they decided to weigh me – for the first time.  They were horrified.  I had gone from7stone 4 ounces to 11 and a half stones.  Clearly it was too late to do anything about it, but they told me to lay off salt and sent me home.  I decided to walk into Epsom to get the bus home.  This was a strain- not only was I suddenly very tired, my stomach felt hard and tight as if it was going to burst and I was involuntarily grunting with the effort of walking.  I got home about the same time as William.

“Go and lie down Pat and I’ll bring you some supper.”

  We had an early night and I must have fallen asleep.  Suddenly I was awake with this tight pressure feeling and to my horror the bed was awash.

“William! Wake up! That mid-wife was wrong.  I could easily have flooded Epsom Market!”

We blessed great aunt Rose who had given her favourite nephew her Austin 7 which she used to drive on the crown of the road yelling “Road Hog!” to every car that overtook her.

“William we must go very carefully because the baby no longer has that great cushion of water to protect it.”

At the hospital William was sent home and told he could phone in the morning.  I realise things are rather different these days what with birthing partners and all but all I wanted was a nurse who knew what she was about; I had a job to do and I didn’t want any distractions.  I was put in quite a pleasant room and told to get into bed.  Then I was left alone and was aware that, from time to time, people looked trough the glass panel on the door.  Every time I got a contraction I could feel my face flushing with discomfort.  This went on for some time with me stolidly deep breathing, and trying to relax in between.  Eventually a nurse came in and was surprised to find me fully dilated.  She had seen me lying peacefully – as she thought- and assumed I was a long way off giving birth.  I was rushed down to the labour ward where the doctor had just delivered a baby and was ready to go home.  Tough!

  Throughout the birth he and the nurse were chatting, in a playful way to each other, except when they gave me instructions.  Finally when my baby was born I was so exhausted that I sank back when I had meant to look at the baby emerging.  My relief was short-lived.

“I’m afraid she’s torn.  I’ll have to put some sutures in.”

 There was just time to get a fleeting glimpse of my son and then he was whisked away.

“We won’t bother with a local –she’ll be numb down there.”

I had been so proud of myself and now this arrogant clot of a doctor put me through what I can only describe as medieval torture and I screamed and sobbed.  I have been wary of male doctors ever since.  The anger is still there although I no longer imagine attacking his nether regions with a large cutting needle to see if he was ‘numb down there’.

  At last I was back in the room with my son in a cot beside me.  I took him in my arms and gazed at him.  It was instant, deep, everlasting, unconditional love.  He was long and skinny, pink and white with a silken down on his head the colour of golden treacle toffee.  We stared at each other.  Such a serious little face with navy blue eyes.  He clamped on to the breast to the manner born- no problems there.  When daylight came I looked out of the window and there below on the forecourt was William.  His face lit up when he saw me and he waved violently so I could tell he knew the good news.  The nurse told me – in a disapproving manner that he had phoned the hospital three or four times during the night.  And why not?  Now he had to wait for visiting hours in the evening to see our son.  I returned to my favourite occupation- staring at the newcomer.

This little creature had changed my life and I was supposed after six months to leave him in the care of somebody else?  Not bloody likely!