We had not been long in our new home when mum was taken ill. My memory of those weeks is that she could barely eat without being sick and that she had to have complete bedrest, except for a short while when she was allowed to sit up in a chair for just a few minutes each day. I don’t know how long this went on for but, knowing how strong she was, I think this illness can only have happened because she was so overwhelmed, both by her loss and the responsibility that she had to bear in disposing of the business, the building and our houses.
But eventually she was well again and life seemed to slip into a very easy pattern. Of course, with two women in the house, house work was not a huge problem and both mum and auntie Dodo used to change after lunch from their ‘cleaning and shopping’ clothes, into outfits more appropriate for knitting, sewing or reading. Theirs was a fairly routine existence with certain days set aside for cleaning each room or doing the washing and ironing. Tuesday afternoon was the day when mum walked into Bingley to collect her widows’ pension at the Post Office and Thursday morning was the day when auntie Dodo collected hers.
I’ve been looking at the rates for benefits for widowed mothers and have discovered that, in 1956, mum will have received 13 weeks at 55 shillings. (£2.75) + 16 shillings and 6d (82p) for me. After 13 weeks this was reduced to £2+82p for me. Widows aged over 50 were not expected to seek work as it was assumed that they would not have worked throughout their married life and would probably find it difficult to get any job. However, I do remember my mother over the years worrying that we wouldn’t be able to manage on her pension and that she would have to find some sort of employment.
By 1964 the pension had risen to £4.15s (£4.75) + £1.17s.6d (£1.87) for me – which will have ceased when I started to work and began to contribute to the household expenses. By the time she died in 1967, aged 62, her state retirement pension would appear to still be under £5 a week.
I always enjoyed going into Bingley because it included a walk through the park. We always took Pat the dog who, at that time, was allowed to accompany us into all the shops (I think). On pleasant days we would often take a longer route through the park on the way home. This was known as the ‘Bottom Meadow’ which, as its name implies, was a large open meadow quite different from the rest of the park which had flowerbeds and trimmed grass. The River Aire flowed past the Bottom Meadow and you could cross the river into another large meadow via a bridge which had been built in 1951 to commemorate the Festival of Britain.