Friday, January 05, 2018


An Imperfect Life   

Chapter 26


 And Dodie came too!


Dodie planned to get a job as a companion where they would accept one dog - Havoc.  An old friend had agreed to have the two dachshunds.

“William I just don’t understand.  Your mother is a pensioner, totally deaf without her hearing aid – which is never switched on – a dicky heart and arthritis, why would she leave her lovely home and garden?”

William was silent.  I continued.

“She has a good social life –bridge in the winter, croquet in the summer – to say nothing of her tennis parties.  She can’t be short of money and if she is you told me she often lets half the house to Service families.”

“Maybe she just wants to be nearer family”

“Then it would make more sense to move to Hampshire where Wallace and Fleur are settled.  With her grand children.”

“When Mummy makes her mind up…”

I groaned inwardly.  When I said yes to William I didn’t think I was marrying his mother too.  Perhaps William felt the same about my family but Mum and Dad were very happy to get on with their lives now we had all left home.  Evan was married to Helen who was also a nurse.  Maddie was teaching at a boarding school in Scotland where her son Matthew was boarding , and Gran spent half the time with her other daughter, Janet and family in the States.  The truth was William was the apple of her eye.  No point in worrying about it.  I was fully occupied moving into our new flat; buying curtain material- a Jacobean print for the living room and a pretty blue silk fleur- de- lys pattern for the bedrooms.  I’ve never liked a lot of patterns but the dear old lady had come up trumps and had all the walls painted a harmless magnolia so we could afford some more intricate designs but that was the last time I chose a patterned carpet.

Out social life improved.  William had friends from his earlier stint at Metro Vickers and we would all meet up in one of the coffee shops on a Saturday morning and plan the rest of the week-end.  After years of being on duty at the week-ends I thoroughly enjoyed being part of a Café Society.

There was plenty to keep me occupied but after buying two Parker Knoll armchairs-


(60 year later still surviving in one of the son’s sitting room) money was getting scarce and it was time to start earning again.  William had opened a Post Office Account for me which pleased me very much until he explained that it was so we could both withdraw money on the same day in an emergency.  Certainly not so I could buy a pretty hat from out resident hat shop.  Think again Patricia!

I would have liked a change from nursing; working part-time was not the same and I missed the continuity and the camaraderie of our set.  Walking through the hat shop I thought what fun it would be to work there.  I love fashion and helping someone to choose the perfect hat seemed an admirable occupation but alas they were fully staffed.

  I didn’t have any luck in Altrincham but there was a Hospital with a Children’s Ward in Stockport – a neighbouring town.  I applied and was invited for an interview.

It meant walking down through the town to the Bus Station and then a cross country bus ride.  I would have to change at the hospital so if I did 9am to 3pm it would be like a full day’s work.   As long as they had a vacancy I should be fine.  As usual as soon as RMCH was named as my training school it was smiles all round and I was welcomed with open arms.

  Meanwhile there was a letter from Dodie saying she had an interview with a Mrs Fell – an elderly widow who lived in one of the wealthy villages nearby.  Originally the rich in the surrounding area used to get their staff from Altrincham.

“Mummy’s going to stay with us when she comes for the interview and she has asked us to arrange a refresher driving lesson as she feels that would be an asset.”

I spluttered over the tea I was drinking which got up my nose and it was some time before I could speak.

A week later William and I were sitting in the rear of a Motoring School car (the Instructor wasn’t keen but Dodie insisted) whilst she had a ‘Refresher’.

The Instructor asked her to reverse out of the parking space and William and I breathed a sigh of relief that the park was almost empty.  This wasn’t easy for Dodie and believe me when I say that now – in my dotage - Dodie has my total sympathy.  It was difficult for her to turn her head around with her arthritis and she kept getting her hearing aid wire caught on her glasses.  She adjusted her hearing aid and then couldn’t hear what he said.  We were slowly getting hysterical in the back.  It didn’t look as if we were going anywhere very fast so the Instructor decided to test her eyesight and asked her to read various number plates.  Then we had all the palaver of her cleaning her specs and getting the wind screen wipers going but it didn’t really help.  Her eyesight was not good.

   By now the instructor’s patience was a little threadbare and he called a halt.  I was a mess of hiccups – always happens when I suppress laughter - and tears were rolling down my cheeks.

“It isn’t possible for me to refresh your driving skills I’m afraid and it would be unsafe for you to drive a car with sight and hearing impairment and limited movement.”  William and I were in total agreement and Dodie cheered up when he said he wouldn’t charge her.

We took her for coffee and cakes to prepare her for the interview with Mrs Fell later on.

“D’ye know I’m not at all worried about the driving.  The world is full of road hogs these days.  Mrs Fell’s gardener has driven her up to now and as far as I am concerned he can continue to do so.”

“I’d like to see what kind of a household you could be living in Mummy so Pat and I will come with you to Mrs Fell’s”

Dodie was delighted and so we all turned up on Mrs Fell’s doorstep.  It was an imposing house with a lovely garden in one of the posh villages near Altrincham.  Mrs Fell’s cleaning lady answered the door and invited us in.  We were shown into a dark, frowsty drawing room where Mrs Fell was sitting in a high-backed wing chair with – surprisingly - a tightly rolled up newspaper in her hand.  She wore tinted glasses and the way she leant forward and peered at us indicated she was also visually impaired.  An ancient terrier type dog - Major - was sitting listlessly at her feet.  Major was clearly no habitué of the grooming kennels and had a strong doggie –to put it politely- smell.

  We introduced ourselves and asked if we could look round the garden whilst she and Dodie got to know each other.  After a suitable interval we went back inside where the two old ladies seemed to be getting on well.  They shared an interest in dogs and gardens and Mrs Fell was anxious to demonstrate Major’s tricks.  She rose unsteadily from her chair and peering down at the dog, now also on his feet, she told him to,

“Die for your country Major!”

Major might have been a little hard of hearing- he also was quite elderly- and he just wagged his tail.  Mrs Fell’s voice got louder and firmer.

“Die for your country Major!”  To further encourage him she started belting the poor creature with the rolled up newspaper until at last he got the message and sank to the ground.  Sighs of relief all round and old Major got a doggie choc.

  Back at the flat Dodie told us she had accepted the job and – to our surprise was very enthusiastic.  There was a Cook/Housekeeper, a Cleaner and a Gardener; Dodie’s brief was to act as companion to Mrs Fell and as they had much in common- including late husbands who had served in WW1- she didn’t visualise any problem.

She would have plenty of time off to come and visit us- it couldn’t be better.

I had to admire her courage but I sent a silent prayer up above that her days off wouldn’t be every week-end.  William seemed quite happy and the plan was to join Dodie in Norfolk next week-end to help her prepare the house for letting.

“Mummy will let us have any furniture or linen we need for the flat,” William said cheerfully.  Goody goody gumdrops!

  It was very late on Friday when we arrived so we had barely two days to do it in.  In the broad – unforgiving - daylight it was clear that a thorough spring – cleaning was needed, followed by a few coats of paint but Dodie was more concerned that we should ‘spud the drive’ i.e. pull out all the weeds embalmed in the gravel.

“Oh and by the way,” she told us,”some people are coming to look over the house sometime in the early evening.”  Great!  I left the drive to William and concentrated on the kitchen and bathroom.  After all I was part of the family now – honour was at stake.  I would always be a Northern lass at heart and we all know cleanliness is next to godliness.

  When I examined the old wooden plate rack on the wall in the kitchen where we put the dishes to drain I faltered – just for a moment- and then started furiously scrubbing.  By 5pm we were exhausted.  Dodie had put fresh flowers everywhere and flicked a duster so as far as she was concerned it was Show Time!  All fur coat and no knickers as Gran would have said.

  They arrived promptly at 6pm – a flight lieutenant and his wife.  We passed a pleasant hour on the veranda, sipping amontillado and chatting.

They were dog lovers so were pleased to hear their dog would be welcome.  Eventually they were given a brief trip round the house and a longer one round the garden- which was in a much better state.  I did wonder if Dodie had deliberately chosen to show them round in the gloaming but it worked.  They rented the house, Dodie moved up to Mrs Fell’s and we inherited extra furniture and linen.

I was becoming accustomed to married life.  William was kind and honest but not one for the romantic gesture.  Birthdays were remembered, but why would one need a card a well as a present?  And as f or an eternity ring- we’d only been married for a year.  Sadly I realised I would just have to lump it – he wasn’t going to change.  He did have remarkable reflexes.  One night we came back to the flat and there was a mouse a few feet away.  With an enormous leap William pounced on it and killed it whilst I had hysterics.  His brother Wallace was the same and once slapped a wasp away from a car driver’s face.  The car driver was none too pleased but I suppose a slap is marginally better than a sting?

No time to fret; on Monday I would start my new job staffing on the Children’s Ward.


rashbre said...

Happy New Year!

Very enjoyable continued story telling although a dog named Havoc might arouse a few suspicions. And poor Major being cajoled with a rolled up newspaper!

Still, good to see that spudding the drive and internal cleaning plus an evening time viewing washed down with sherry had the desired effect,


Exile on Pain Street said...

Same here. Happy New Year. Glad to see you again. Loved the part about the drive. Hope this story never ends. More. And faster.

savannah said...

Happy New Year! I love these installments and like the others looking forward to the next one! xoxo

kenju said...

Enjoying the story and looking forward to the next, as usual. Happy Bew Year, Pat!

AndrewM said...

I drove through Altrincham once on the way to Old Trafford - big mistake! M56/M60 looks longer on the map but saves a lot of time. Keep up the good work!

Kim Ayres said...

Happy New Year, Pat!
Might your life have turned out differently if there'd been an opening at the hat shop, I wonder? :)

Ms Scarlet said...

So sorry to be late, Pat, and Happy New Year!!
And did your mother in law visit at the weekends?
Yep... I understand the lack of presents thing.... BUT, I do have a half-eternity ring, and a couple of pairs of elegant earrings.

Pat said...

Rashbre: the sherry evening did have the desired effect but later - in the full light of day there were repercussions - to my dismay.

Exile: I am a great disappointment I know but I will try harder. My new eyes should help.

Savannah: time just seems to run away these days and every other day its time to put the rubbish out again. Must be getting older or something,

Judy: lovely to have you popping in. Long may it continue.

AndrewM; sadly I think Altrincham may have been taken over by wealthy footballers.

Kim: there would have been an immediate change but in those days one's destiny was more or less controlled by one's husband and his job so I doubt it would have turned out very differently. We shall never know.

Scarlet: not every week-end but it did seem at times she was - like the poor - always with us. I have no right to grumble. Incredibly after 30 years everything changed - beyond my wildest dreams. What is half an eternity ring?