Thursday, November 09, 2017

An Imperfect Life

Hither and Yon

Chapter 25

Pat “William can we get the dining room suite on Saturday please?”
 W “What dining–room suite?”
P “You know- the one I showed you in Cole’s window; a Welsh dresser with a Tudor rose and a refectory table and the chairs were covered in a lovely Jacobean print.  Oh and one of them was a carver.  Remember?
W “Oh yes!  Well we certainly can’t get it now.”
 P “Why not?”
W”Because we’re going back to Manchester – we haven’t got anywhere to live and
 the chances are we’ll have to settle for another furnished flat- and then what will we
 do with all that furniture?  You have to think these things through.
 P But William I have thought it through.  For a start I am NOT going to settle for a
 furnished flat and the store have said that once we’ve bought it they’ll keep it for us
 until were ready for it.
 W “We can do all these things in good time.  You may find something you like better
 when we get to Manchester.  There’s no rush.
  P This is EXACTLY what I want.  You know you aren’t interested in décor but it’s
  important to me.  I don’t mind leaving the practical things to you – you’re so much
  better at it- but please let me get on with the home–making.  We’ve got the money.
  Honestly William – I don’t want to lose it.
 W “Well I can’t talk about it now.  I’ll be late for work.
 Oh the frustration!  Our time in Sheffield was coming to an end and I had to face up
to an uncertain future and uncertainty was the state I found most difficult to cope
I needed to count our blessings.  William was nearing the end of his apprenticeship,
 with a secure job and excellent prospects.  We both had good health and I should be
 able to get a job in the Manchester area but we had nowhere to live and some of the
 places round Manchester were really dismal and depressing.

That night William came bounding up the stairs with a big grin on his face.
“We can’t get that dining room suite this week-end …”
P “Well don’t think I‘m giving up on it because…”
W “Just listen for a minute!” 
 William had had a phone call at work from a Mr Cooper - a man he used to work for
at the Manchester Branch.  His mother in law had a hat shop in Altrincham and over
it was a two- bed-roomed flat.  This had been occupied by his daughter and her
husband but now they had bought a house and the flat was empty.
 The thing was that to get to the flat you had to go through the shop so it was
 vital that the old lady (she was 90) had someone she could trust.  Mr Cooper had
obviously put in a good word for William but he didn’t know me and his Mother- in
-law wanted to meet us both.

I knew Altrincham as a pleasant leafy town with good shops and the flat – on one of
the shopping streets was unfurnished.  We just had to make a good impression.
 We had to present ourselves at the hat-shop sometime on the Saturday morning and
as we walked up the main street from the station I thought what a pleasant town it was
and how convenient to live there with shops, transport and easy access to country
 side. I was told there was a splendid market which would delight Mum and Gran.

We found the shop near a convergence of roads; next door to a delicatessen – very
handy for a quick snack – if a trifle expensive.  There were trees in sight – which
softened the landscape.  I gave William a quick ‘fingers crossed’ before we entered
the shop and a neat looking lady with pearl ear-rings introduced herself as Clarice –
the assistant.  She took us through to a small back room with a blazing fire.
There were three women: a tiny old lady with tight white curls – the grand- mother, a
short plump lady – about 60 and what I call ‘posh Cheshire’ the mother and the 
 young married woman who was vacating the flat.
 I felt an instant connection with the grand-mother whose gimlet eyes looked right
through you.  In spite of her age you knew that she was the boss and I longed for her
approval.  The other two I was not so sure of.
William introducing us both started to stammer which seemed to embarrass the
 younger women so I said that this was William my husband, and I was
  Pat and we were very grateful to have this opportunity to look over the flat.  The
Mother said – of course they had to give it some thought – with the access being
through the shop, so they couldn’t promise anything, whereupon the Grandma told
 her grand- daughter to take us upstairs and show us the flat as we may not like it

 We followed her upstairs and turned left down a passage into a large living
 room.  There was a fireplace, a tall window which looked out on a yard behind the
 shop, and an alcove with shelves- just crying out for my precious bric a brac and there
 were art deco lights.

  Through the door a couple of steps took you down into a medium sized
 kitchen with another long window; then through a door into a super bathroom.  The
 young couple had had it done when they first got married and the grand-daughter was
obviously reluctant to leave it behind.  The room was large and the suite a pretty
green.  Coloured suites were a great luxury - this was before the days of the blessed
avocado and I was charmed. 
 Back to the top of the stairs a door ahead led us into a
double bed-room and an even larger sized bed-room.  Both bed-room windows looked
 out onto the main street.  You could see where the furniture had been, so it was a bit
  shabby; there were acres of bare floor and it would need yards and yards of
curtaining but I already pictured a blazing fire- our Welsh dresser and furniture
and lots of space to have the family and parties.

 “Have you seen enough?”
 “Oh could I please just go quickly round again?”  She nodded and I raced round
 trying to absorb every detail whilst William asked her about transport to Trafford Park
Downstairs we thanked them for letting us see the flat and I said I thought it was
lovely and we would love to rent it if they thought we were suitable.
 The mother said they would have to give it some thought but the dear old lady said
her son-in law would be in touch next week.

  We went to one of the delectable cafés to recover.
“Oh William- it will be so marvellous living there.  Everything is perfect.  Do you
think they’ll let us have it?  The mother and daughter didn’t seem mad keen.’
“We’ll just have to be patient.  There’ll be other places I’m sure.”
“But we’ll never find anywhere as good as that and we’ve had enough of living in
  one room and our furniture will look so good and I know just…”
“We haven’t got any furniture.”
“Oh William!  Sometimes you’re such a wet blanket!”
But he was right of course – we’d just have to wait and see.  Back in our tiny eyrie I
 couldn’t stop thinking of that splendid flat in Altrincham.  Men seem to be able to
 just switch off and see what happens, but on Monday night when William got home
 from work, there was no mistaking the delight on his face.  Mr Cooper had phoned
 him and said his mother – in –law would be happy for us to have the flat.  The rent
 she wanted was within our capability and was quite reasonable.  God bless her.
The next day after work I rushed round to Cole’s store and my heart sank- my dining
 room suite was gone.  Praise be!  They had only taken it from display and I managed
to secure it – to be collected at a future date.  Happiness!  And to crown it all we were
 going with Mum and Dad at the week –end to Barry in North Wales sharing a
  caravan.  They were going on their motor bike and side-car and we were going on
 William’s motor bike.  It just felt a bit unstable on the pillion after having ridden in a
 sidecar for years- but beggars can’t be choosers.  We met up with them and arranged a
 rendezvous to stop for coffee. 
 We seemed to be going rather fast for my liking and
zooming in and out of the traffic when suddenly there was a bang and everything
went black.

When I came to I was lying on the side of the road, surrounded by people and a
 strange man was undoing my blouse.  I sat up quickly and asked him what he thought
 he was doing.
“I’m just making sure tight clothing isn’t restricting your breathing,” he said,” I’ve
 done a course in First Aid.”

 “I’m perfectly alright thank you.  Thank you very much –I’m fine.”  I looked around
for William.  Ah there he was – bending anxiously over that blasted bike.  He didn’t
look as if; he had been injured – just his pride dented maybe.
We had been lucky.  We didn’t wear protective clothing or safety helmets – no-one
did. My left foot was sore (the bike had fallen on it) and I felt shocked, but by the
time Mum and Dad caught up with us we were able to reassure them.  One thing was
certain – no way was I ever going on that bike again.  William and motor bikes just
didn’t mix.

 It was decided that William would take the bike to the nearby garage and then
 continue to Barry- either on the bike or public transport and I would travel with my
parents.  I rather hoped Mum would insist I rode in the side-car but she didn’t and I
spent a nervous hour or so cringing away from the overtaking traffic.
“Dad can’t you drive nearer the kerb – the traffic’s ever so close.”
 “No I can’t!  I’ve got yer Mum in there remember!”
 My fault for making light of my condition.  Much later in the day we all converged on
 the caravan.  By now the weather had broken and we looked out on a turbulent sea
 through windows blurred with torrential rain - which lasted all week-end

 I don’t remember seeing any more of Barry and spent most of the time curled up with
 a book whilst the other three played Monotony – endlessly.  The week-end had been a
washout and we were all relieved to get back to our respective homes.  Just a tiny scar
on my foot - a memento of Barry.
The next few weeks I spent happy hours sketching the flat from memory and deciding
 what would go where.  I wished I had the window measurements and I could have got
on with the curtains but as William pointed out as the flat was on the first floor we
could manage without for a while.

   Dodie was going to give us an old chest of drawers.  It was bow- fronted and I had
 seen a mahogany stand up mirror which would transform it into  an attractive
dressing table.  We bought a carpet from Coles.  It also had a Jacobean design and
would cover a fair bit of the living room and I would polish the surrounding floor

 At last it was time to leave our tiny flat in Sheffield and start a new life in
Cheshire then in the weekly letter from Dodie she dropped a bombshell.  Now that we
were going to be settled she planned to let the house and come north to be near us.
For once I was speechless.