Thursday, December 31, 2020

Exciting Times chapter43



Now I was mobile the world seemed an exciting place with endless possibilities.

  At last I could think about getting a job but until both boys were at school it had to fit in with the couple of hours I had free each day.  Where to start?  Much as I loved having children I was beginning to lose my identity.  I felt little more than an adjunct: a mother to the boys, a wife to William (not a very good one at that) and a chatelaine to the house.  At this time in my life I found domesticity deadly dull.

    Answering an ad in the local rag for Beauty Counselors  (the idea was to sell make-up to women in their own home - similar to Avon Ladies) I was interviewed by a large charismatic  lady named Pamela who also gave me a free make up.  Pamela was a 'District' which meant she could recruit counsellors and also appoint 'Zones' who would be able to recruit and train their own counsellors.  I enjoyed the make-up and appreciated the fact that the ingredients were pure.  There was an icy cold pink cream.

 "The Duke of Windsor simply loves having this applied to his feet," trilled Pamela.  I had to pay for the smart grey make up box and after a few more sessions with Pamela I was ready for business.  It was right up my street - I loved helping people to make the best of themselves and could get quite messianic about skin care.  Predictably William was less enthusiastic.

"What do they pay you?"

"You get a percentage of all you sell"

"It'll be a while before you recoup the cost of the beauty box then."

After a while Pamela made me a Zone so I could start recruiting my own counsellors and earn a percentage of their sales.  I was good at recruiting - recognising the bored housewife syndrome and together we became inspired and enthused.  Above Pamela was Zed - a regular power-house married to an ex Spitfire pilot.  She organised frequent get-togethers with lunch and wine and targets and rewards.  Suddenly all we lonely housewives had a scintillating social life and even earned a few pence.

One of the women I recruited - Mary - became a close friend.  She was a decade older with just one daughter at senior school.  We enjoyed each other's company and would often do demonstrations together.  By this time both boys were at school so I had the day free.  One afternoon we were working in a Kent village hall where almost all the audience had wanted a free make-up.  By the end of the session we were exhausted  and had sold about half a dozen lipsticks.  Over a cup of tea we commiserated with each other.

Pat: "Wouldn't it be great if we had a shop where people came to you to buy?"

Mary "Funny you should say that.  I've got a friend down in Worthing I'd like you to meet."

We agreed to make it soon.

At dinner William surprised me when he said -

"Pat remember Alan the army officer I'm working with?"

"Ooh yes - he's the good looking one recently married-

" That's right!"

"I remember Amanda - she's an Australian actress 'resting' till their new baby is old enough to leave.  What about them?"

"I thought it might be nice to have them round for a meal."
"Good idea.  I'll give her a ring tomorrow."
The evening was a success- they seemed very happy and the evening ended with me volunteering to look after the baby whilst they had a romantic week-end in Paris.
  The next time I saw them they popped in for a cuppa, on their way to shop in Tunbridge Wells.  Mum was staying with us and Amanda kept her spellbound telling her about the wonderful time they had had in Paris.
"Did you take the baby with you" asked Mum?
"Oh no.  She was far too young.  No a very dear friend looked after her for me.  Now who was it?"
  I looked at her and was gobsmacked to see she wasn't kidding.  Shades of Marta and "people like you."
  I know I expect too much of people and I shall be eternally grateful to Amanda for encouraging me to join the local theatre club which over the years enhanced my life. 

Meanwhile Mary had made a date for us to visit her friend Ellie in
Worthing.  What was that all about I wondered.  They had known one another for years and Ellie, whose husband was a master at a renowned public school, had made a nice little earner for herself over the last few years.  She had started a shop with a partner, based on the old thrift shops out in Germany, where the partner had been an army wife.  The idea was you had a shop and accepted children's outgrown clothes and sold them for the client who then received payment - with a percentage going to Ellie and partner.  Basically it was school uniform but as time went on they included all children's clothes especially ski and riding clothes.  Ellie took us to see the shop which was bustling with mothers and children and obviously providing a deep felt need.  Like us they had prep schools, grammar schools and public schools in the area - all of which demanded expensive uniform.  No way was it an 'old clothes' shop- the key was quality and the clothes had to be dry cleaned and in perfect order.  At half the original price customers realised what a good deal it was and, as I had already discovered, many of them were struggling to  pay the fees to educate their children.

Over coffee I told Ellie that as both of us had large houses we could
have the shop at one of our homes and cut out the expense of premises.  Ellie was horrified.
"Are you serious about running a business or are you just playing at it?  You HAVE to have premises and run it as business.  Are you sure you can run it together?  You are working happily together now but you Mary are working for Pat.  Are you planning on being equal partners?"
We assured her we were.
"Well get yourselves a partnership agreement then.  It's when you start being successful the trouble really starts."

It seemed that Ellie and her partner were now having difficulties which were beginning to seem insurmountable.  So sad and one could see the strain was taking its toll on Ellie
It was time to leave as we both had to collect children from school.
Ellie gave us one last piece of advice.
"You need a third partner who has no children.  Your business needs to be open normal shop hours and she can do the hours when you have to pick up your children."

Somewhat chastened we contemplated running a business from 9.30am to 5.30pm six days a week - with a complete stranger.
I could see Mary was as excited as I was;  I knew we could do it and couldn't wat to get started.  Ellie had given us excellent advice and we needed to give the whole project  a lot of thought.  I picked the boys up from school and after I had given them tea and bathed them there was just time to have supper with William and give him a brief outline of what we planned.  He wasn't sure how I would be able to manage but it was a rehearsal night at the theatre club so we postponed the discussion.
  As Pete the director worked in television he was often late for rehearsal and I was deputed to be acting director.  Much more fun than doing props and I determined to learn as much as possible about putting on a play.  The leading actor Alan Burns was a solicitor and during a break I asked him if he had much dealing with partnership agreements.

"All the time - in fact if more people had them from the beginning half my work would be eliminated. "

I told him what we were contemplating and he agreed to act for us.
That was the solicitor sorted, now all we needed were premises, a third partner, a name, stock...oh and some capital.  No problemo!

The next day Mary and I were off down the High Street, Ellie's voice ringing in our ears; our aim - to find premises before the day was out.
The first house agent we visited was a charming elderly gentleman who looked as if he had stepped out of Dickens.  He was courtly, with a pink and white skin, snowy hair and a waxed moustache.  He was beautifully turned out with a bow tie, waistcoat and pale grey spats on his shoes - a rare sight even in the sixties.  We told him what we were looking for - both of us burbling excitedly whilst he regarded us benignly.  When we were done he told us to wait whilst he looked at his files, and slowly retired to a back room.  We looked at each other and sighed.  We knew we had to be patient but there was so much to do and we doubted that dear old Spats could ever do anything quickly.  Eventually he returned holding a file and looking pleased with himself.

"Now this may be just what you two young ladies are looking for.  Look out of the window down the High Street.  Can you see on that building over there?  See the name Berkeley Cartier?  That is a gentleman who was an excellent tailor until he retired and he owns the building.  As you can see there is still a tailor's shop on the ground floor, there are offices on the first floor but the second floor is vacant."
"Oh PLEASE- can we go and see it now?"
Spats twinkled at me over his pince-nez.
"Well now it's usual for us to make an appointment first but I can see  you are eager to get on.  If my assistant is available I shall find the keys and he will take you to see the premises."
I wanted to hug him but restrained myself and Mary and I beamed at each other.  Some time later we entered a door on the street - next to the gentlemen's outfitters.  At the top of the stairs was a cloakroom which we would share with the offices at the end of the corridor.  Up another flight of stairs was a small room with a window looking out onto a back yard and a large room at the front with two windows looking out onto the High Street.  
It needed a coat of paint but the space was great and we were at the smart end of town - on the High Street no less.  We hugged each other with excitement.
"We definitely want it.  Can you be sure to tell the old gentleman please."

The assistant promised to do so and Mary and I went for a coffee to plan our next move.
"OK now we've got premises we've need a third partner - not just for the reasons Ellie said but also to help with the rent.  If three of us put in £50 each that should tide us over until we start making money."
"Do you think people will be bothered to climb the stairs?"  Mary looked a bit anxious.
"Of course they will when they see what we have to offer.  The location is excellent- two flights of stairs won't bother them in the least.  They're young mothers!"

None of our friends would be suitable as the third partner as they all had children and not free to fit round our commitments.
"We'll advertise.  Let's work it out now, then we can drop it into the Courier and it will be out on Friday.:
By now Mary was used to my 'do it and it's done' maxim so between us we managed an ad that was clear ad direct.
"Why don't we put in a second ad, advertising our new shop?"
Mary was doubtful,"But we haven't signed the lease yet."
"We know we're going to and this will give us  good start."
So the second ad announced the advent of our new shop and asked for local school uniform in excellent condition. 
 This did cause a few repercussions and when we visited Spats to sign the lease he looked sternly at me over his pince - nez.
"I say, you jumped the gun rather , didn't you?"



Tuesday, July 28, 2020

An Imperfect Life


Chapter 42


“You’ve made your bed…”



With two small boys and a large house to look after I was kept pretty busy and the milk
dried up at six months.
Our first born was as active as ever so we decided to send him to a little nursery school for a few hours each morning to prevent him killing himself or his brother.

It was run by Cynthia – a vibrant mother of three boys who was determined her children would be privately educated.  This involved sending them to a nearby private school until they were old enough to go to prep school from whence she expected then to go to a famous public school.  This was going to cost an enormous amount of money and meant a degree of privation for the family.  She almost convinced me this was the way to go and I even bought a small red blazer as part of the prep school

“You do realise we would have to sacrifice family holidays if we go down that road?”

I stared at William and remembered our wonderful family holidays - Blackpool at Mrs Fell’s when we were tots, cycling holidays and youth hostelling during wartime and our unforgettable camping and climbing holidays in our beloved Lake District.  I couldn’t deprive my boys of experiences like that. We were both agreed on this so I started to investigate the local state schools.  I discovered a delightful primary school; it was a Church of England school next to the 10C Church, and was run by three splendid women.  As it was in the next village I had to visit the headmistress to see if she would accept my sons.  I told her I was going to learn to drive to deliver them and she was so impressed by this she accepted them.  Now all I had to do was learn to drive.  It was quite clear that William was not going to be my instructor.  He would lean out of the car apologising to all and sundry whilst I quietly fumed.

“Six professional lessons should do it if you really concentrate,” was Williams’s conclusion.  Our car was now an old Wolsley – with a running board and I was to have lessons on a Mini.

“You mustn’t attempt to drive your own car whilst you are having lessons”, the pleasant young instructor told me,” the controls are different!”  I was expected to pass with just six lessons and no practice.  In fact I found the lessons the most exciting thing that I had done in ages and would lie in bed at night going through all the motions.  By now we all had our own bedrooms: it lessened the squabbles between the boys and as William was a lark to my owl it made sense.  Once when my old nursing friend Annie was staying she was shocked when William threw my nightie down the stairs so I wouldn’t disturb him when I went to bed.  I suppose we were a bit odd.

  After my first lesson the instructor said with a hint of surprise.

“You’re not bad. When you got in the car I thought you were going to find it difficult”

That taught me such a lot about body language so I practised giving off the right vibes and by the time I took the test the examiner had to believe I was totally confident, assured and safe.  It worked and I passed first time.  That’s six lessons and no practice.  Oh had I said that already?  Sorry!

  One of the boys had a hospital appointment that afternoon so I decided to drive us in the Wolsley.  Not a brilliant idea – I still had to get used to the different controls.  On the way to the hospital, I saw my instructor and noticed his look of alarm.  Then it dawned on me I couldn’t get out of the car until I had parked it.  I should have realised that once I had passed my test was when I really had to learn to drive.

  By the time my elder son was due at the village school I was fairly proficient.  We didn’t have safety belts in those days and the boys used to fight to have the front seat, so it was done in strict rotation.  Mothers would drive with their left arm at the ready to shoot out and protect the child from falling forward.

  We had a nasty right turn out of our cul de sac into the oncoming traffic and the only way to do it safely was to inch out.  Every morning this woman with her hair scraped back in a steel grey bun, would cycle towards me and just as she passed would hiss -

“You’re well out!”

It drove me nuts because she always managed to say it when it was too late for her to hear my (I believed) valid explanation.  One day I was so cross I yelled.

“Silly old cow!”

Naturally then for years the boys would say -

“Oh look Mummy! It’s the silly old cow.”  Shameful I know.

Cynthia, the nursery school owner was quite a social creature and we were invited to one of her Sunday morning sherry parties.  The house was even bigger than ours and twice as draughty and to compensate I drank rather more sherry than was good for me. It seemed to me that the people we met were on a different plane with different aspirations.  They knew of my brief moment of fame so I was welcomed but I didn’t feel comfortable and I resolved I wasn’t going to become what I can only describe as a snob.  I thought sadly of the jolly racing fraternity we had left in Epsom.  Happily as time went on we met people we liked and many who became life long friends.

In spite of the drink we got home safely but I hated the feeling of the ground coming up to meet me and decided fortified wines were not for me.

  The money I had earned modelling had disappeared- mainly on buying things for the house and I was now financially dependent on William.  I didn’t enjoy this at all and matters came to a head when I asked for money to buy a new bathing suit for our holiday and –after quite a lengthy campaign – he said no.

I remember going out to the vegetable patch, staring up at the sky- choked with sobs and vowing I would never go hungry again.  No of course that was Scarlett O Hara

- I was hardly hungry but I made myself a pledge that somehow I would become independent again- Goddammit!

  Married women had a duty to look after their husbands, children, house and garden.  That was women’s work; so we cooked and cleaned, bottled and preserved, laundered and ironed, knitted and darned and made do and mended.  Hubby would be greeted in the evening with a fresh, pretty little wifey and after a restorative snifter he would kiss the children good night and sit down to a delicious home coked meal prepared by the lady of the house.  It didn’t always work out quite like that.

There was a feeling of unrest in the air.  We were about to have Women’s Lib, Germaine Greer and all that jazz, making waves and changing our lives for ever.

  One of the good things about living in Kent- we were closer to my sister Maddie and her husband.  They would come over most weekends - first shopping in Tunbridge Wells and then dropping in to play with the children and share our supper.  They usually brought little gifts for the boys and a bottle of wine and I looked forward to their visits.

  One night Maddie and I were washing up after eating my nourishing goulash.

“What’s up Pat?”  I started to weep.  She put down the drying up cloth and stared at me.

“For goodness sake Pat. Buck up!  You’ve got a good husband, two lovely boys and a great house!”  I suddenly remembered that walk on the avenues when Maddie

was unhappy with her first husband and Mum’s reaction.

“You’ve made your bed you must lie on it!”  Thankfully Maddie eschewed that remark but gave me a pep talk.

“Get a part-time job!  Join a theatre club!  Take a lover!”  I was so shocked I stopped weeping and gaped at her.

Within a month I had done as she suggested.  Well two out of three that is.



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.