Friday, January 20, 2006

CRACKING UP

Story Contd

We kids were not fazed by the outbreak of war. Not at first. It was a new adventure
And there was always the chance of being evacuated to the States with its Andy Hardy picket fences, ice cream sodas and Mr Gable. By now Maddie had got a scholarship to our excellent grammar school. The three of us were quite bright but Maddie was the clever one. Just recently she sent me a cartoon of two ancient crones and one is saying to the other ‘Was I the clever one and you the pretty one, or was it the other way round?

Since she had gone to live with the aunts it was my responsibility to look after Evan. Mum and Dad worked from 8am to 5.30pm so I had to make sure he had his breakfast, was clean and tidy and get him to school on time. After school I would light the fire and try to keep Evan in one piece. He was accident prone and was rarely without a plaster on his knee and sometimes stitches in his head. I was always highly strung but I started to become quite fearful. If Mum and Dad had a row after we had gone to bed I would sit in the stairs steps listening, dreading that they would split up. I used to browse in Gran’s medical books and when I read the symptoms of pregnancy was convinced that my sprouting breasts meant I was pregnant. I was completely ignorant of how one got pregnant and the worst thing was I couldn’t talk to anyone about it

I didn’t go balmy but would sit staring into the fire with tears rolling down my cheeks. Mum marched me off to the doctor’s and he asked me lots of questions about what I read and did I go to the cinema. Mum said ‘I nearly had a fit when he asked you what you read.’ She had just caught me reading ‘Vinegar and Brown Paper’ which I had found in a cupboard. She needn’t have worried – I told him I read Angela Brazil stories and Just William which was true. I would read anything available – even the blurb on HP sauce bottles. As for the cinema – we were the cinema generation and would go twice a week.

When the doctor said on no account should I sit for a scholarship I couldn’t wait to get outside the surgery and tackle Mum. Thanks to our trips on the motor bike I had seen the world outside the valley (sometimes called the Valley of Death) and I couldn’t wait to spread my wings. Most people worked in the mills and the elite worked in the offices. I wanted neither but realised my passport to the outside world was an education. Mum’s response was her usual ‘We’ll see.’ Which drove me mad. Everyone agreed that I should go up to Gran’s for a rest.

Gran had had a late child Aunty Janet who was now in her late teens. I would share her room and bed. She was very glamorous – not like Mum who was pretty and cuddly. She worked in a big store in the city and had fantastic clothes which I looked forward to dressing up in whilst she was at work. When I arrived Janet offered me half a crown if I could find the peroxide. She wanted to go blonde and Gran had hidden the bottle. It didn’t take me long to spot it tucked between the blanket box and the wardrobe. Gran went bananas that night when Janet took off her turban and we saw her bright yellow locks.

Whilst Gran and Janet were out at work I would help Grandad in the shop. I loved sticking labels on things and weighing out sweets. He tried to fatten me up and would cook me tripe and trotters. The tripe - cold with salt and vinegar - was quite refreshing and the trotters tasty. I changed my mind when I learnt what part of the animal I was eating but Grandad's home-made rum butter was yummy. On Mondays Gran took me to the cinema or pictures as we called it. Her favourites were thrillers like 'Suspicion' with Cary Grant. I don't think the doctor would have approved but i was enjoying life.

On Sundays Grandad would go for a walk, Janet would be off with friends and Gran and I would go to the Roman Catholic Church. She gave me a beautiful prayer book - white and shiny -and I enjoyed the theatricality of the service after the rather dull Unitarian one. The costumes, the scattering of the incense, the devoutness and the knowledge that I really shouldn't be there, were exciting. One fateful Sunday we were walking back after church when we spotted Dad waiting for us, astride the motorbike. Gran panicked, 'Quick! Give me the prayer book!' and she hid it in her handbag but Dad knew exactly what we had been up to and I felt my new found holiness dissipating.
'Right!'Dad said, 'Get in the sidecar. You're coming home!'
The 'cracking up' was over.

15 comments:

Universal Soldier said...

Isn't it a shame when religion gets in the way. Me and Growing Up were lucky. Her parents weren't worried taht I'd been raised a Catholic.

fjl said...

Are you a catholic girl and boy like me.
Yes I agree, nothing should get in the way. I love Rome though, it's a gentle spiritual home. Incredible and unpretentious at the same time. I had a great summer there. Beach on saturday and on Sunday his excellency in the helicopters.
:-) Very nice and detailed post Patti x

PI said...

US I'm so glad. It could have been tragic. It's difficult enough when you are separated early in the relationship. The gods must have been smiling.

fjl I don't know what I am. I pray each day and I have a room full of icons and madonnas and Gran's crucifix and there is a rosary on the bedhead.

Ivan the Terrible said...

I can sympathise from recent experience. I always had the issue of Irish-Blood-English-Heart, and my wife, who grew up in Hungary fighting both communism and a mad Catholic grandmother, has a decidedly skittish view of organised religion. Now we're in the States we've settled on a pleasant little Episcopalian church, which has so far proved to be an acceptable compromise for all of us. Keep your fingers crossed :)

PI said...

Welcome Ivan. I felt you were English. The little Episcopalian church, as you say, sounds to be a good compromise after that fiery past. Fingers crossed.

PI said...

Oops 'Irish blood English heart. sorry if I got it wrong. It's past my bedtime.

Zinnia Cyclamen said...

Sounds like your grandparents were ace. And isn't it part of the grandparent's role to do fun and interesting stuff with kids that parents wouldn't always approve of? I know mine did! ;-)

PI said...

Zinnia. I agree but sometimes it's a difficult path to tread.

OldHorsetailSnake said...

This is all very interesting. Thanks for posting it.

PI said...

Hoss. You've made an old lady very happy.

Granny said...

Hi, I just answered your email and when I have more time, I'll start reading backward through your post.

Sounds like we're contemporaries. I was 3 years old at Pearl Harbor and I remember bits and pieces about the war. You, of course, would remember much more. It hit you much closer to home.

Thanks for visiting and I'd love to see you back.

Kath said...

mmmm Clark Gable and Cary Grant :o)

PI said...

Granny. Welcome! I calculate you are eight years younger than I am. See you anon.

Kath. I so agree - with maybe one more 'm' for Clark. I'm thinking Rhett.

Guyana-Gyal said...

I keep reading and thinking, look at all this wonderful material, if only movie people knew! I wish I could see this in a book, so I can just curl up and read.

P.S. Have you read Mike's mum's blog too?

Guyana-Gyal said...

Oh, and those William Brown stories! I still read them. I don't know why I love 'long ago England' stories.