Today the talk has all been of “spoilers” and those who have and those who haven’t seen the last episode of the Beeb’s latest drama “Bodyguard”. I have seen it and it was gripping, although I must be the only woman who hasn’t fallen for the charms of Richard Madden. Great actor but not Idris Elba – or Luca Zingaretti!
That’s enough gripping for today.
We are back in 1947 again and I will have arrived home to our flat above the shop, where my grandma is also part of the family. You may remember that this grandma was a teacher, with bossy tendencies, and I have been told by one or two relatives that she was extremely bossy with my her daughter-in-law, my mum. Perhaps it’s no surprise when an experienced the mother of four bumps into a first-time mum aged forty-one! I’m also told that it is testament to mum’s calm and unflappable nature that they never came to blows.
Grandma was a fixture throughout their married life. She must have lived there with grandpa and stayed on after his death. Poor mum was the latecomer. What made me sad in later years was that I inherited many of my parents’ wedding presents most of which had obviously never been used.
So, to the cycle shop – a four-storey building on a busy corner of Carlisle Road in Bradford. There was a three-room cellar where dad kept huge containers of acid which he used to recharge car batteries and did some of his work. On the ground floor was dad’s main workshop, where he repaired bicycles and engaged in activities, such as soldering, which impressed me greatly. He had a work bench with a number of vices and I recall once crushing a glass bottle in a vice until it smashed and being very surprised! At the front of this floor was the actual shop, with bicycles displayed in the front window and around the shop and a side window where sometimes a stick man rode on a penny-farthing (I also have a photo of dad riding down the street on this contraption). When the stick man was plugged in, he peddled and, of course, he never fell off. I’m not sure if thar was true of dad. Upstairs was a small living room with a tiny kitchen area and a piano in the other corner, one bedroom which I shared with my parents and a tiny bedroom where grandma slept. On the top floor was an attic which was totally underused as I rremember.You may have noticed that there was no bathroom. We had an outside toilet where, in the winter, a small paraffin lamp fought a losing battle against the ice. Bathtime involved a tin bath in front of the fire. (At least it did for me, I have no recollection of anyone else in the household ever taking a bath). One of my earliest memories is of mum, on Monday, doing the washing. She was obviously up very early and the process seemed to involve a primitive washing machine and water being carried backwards and forwards from the living room. Washing was dried in the backyard or in the winter it shared the living room with us. Ironing was done on Tuesday. Another, rather macabre early memory was of keeping clothes pegs in a basket made out of an armadillo shell. At least I think it was clothes pegs, or it might have been shoe polish; but I have a vivid picture in my head of the poor old armadillo with its tail in its mouth which acted as a handle.
This all sounds very primitive but, as I recall, we were quite well-to-do. We had a car and a telephone and we had roast beef for dinner every Sunday. We also had it cold on Monday and made into cottage pie on Tuesday. I had a tiny mincing machine and I loved nothing more than mincing up slices of bread for the birds as my mum was mincing the last bit of the beef.
These early memories are very confused. I can’t put them in any order but it’s strange how vivid they are now that I’m trying to remember them and just how many of them have come flooding back.
Just to complete the austerity theme, it is amazing to think that, although I was born almost 2 years after the war ended, I was seven before the end of rationing. Many items were rationed until 1948. Clothes rationing ended in 1949 and soap rationing in 1950. Sweet and sugar rationing ended in 1953 but I think it speaks volumes that, although rationing finally ended altogether in 1954, we still dismantled our sugar packets for many years afterwards to make sure that we extracted the very last grains. I certainly remember going to the grocer’s with my mum and handing over our ration books. Of course packaging was very different from what it is now. Many items such as tea and sugar were measured out in the shop and poured into plain packets. Butter was usually cut from a huge slab and then patted into shape before being wrapped in greaseproof paper.
But life wasn’t all austerity. We went out in the car, we went on holiday and, one day, we even got a TV!