We do like to be beside the seaside!

The seaside photo thing in the 50s and 60s was being “snapped” while you walked along the sea front.  Later in the day you had to hang around a kiosk waiting for your photos to appear.  What are all those “snappers” doing now?

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The summer after my father died, Mum and I were invited to join her two sisters and their husbands on holiday in Bridlington.  Here we are strolling along the promenade, looking about as summery as it gets in Bridlington.  We are, left to right, Auntie Violet and her husband, (Uncle Eddie), then Uncle Willie Waite and his wife, Mum’s other sister (Bessie), then me and Mum.  We stayed in a B&B, when it was strictly that!  You left after breakfast and did not come home until time for the evening meal – tea as it was (and still is) called in the north and bed!

Our holidays always got off to a slow start, as we arrived on Saturday but, for some reason, we didn’t go onto the beach on Sundays, so it was always Monday before the real holiday started.  And, of course, that was usually the day that it rained, although it must have turned sunny at some point!

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The good thing about this particular holiday is that Mum was wrapped up in her kindness of her family.  Someone must also have had a box Brownie with them because I have this lovely photo of Mum and her two sisters.

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More family outings

Here is the family Falkingham enjoying more days out.

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The two photos above were taken in September 1949 at Sir James Hill’s gardens in Apperley Bridge. Sir James Hill was a local businessman, who was also Lord Mayor of Bradford and, latterly, MP for Bradford Central. He was made a baronet in 1917 and a freeman of the City of Bradford in 1921. A busy man! He must have lived in Apperley Bridge (a small suburb of Bradford) at some point.

The photo below was taken in August 1952. Here I am, aged 5½, with Dad, his older half-sister Doris and, in the centre, their mother Ethel. We were visiting Warter Priory, which was situated in the Yorkshire Wolds. The house was built in the late 17th or early 18th century. Major extensions occurred during the Victorian-era and further alterations in the early 20th century, resulted in a house with nearly 100 rooms! Sadly, the house and gardens were demolished at the beginning of the 1970s. On a sartorial note, Grandma always looked smart but I don’t remember seeing Auntie Dodo (Doris) in a hat very often (although she did wear one to my wedding). I’m pleased to see that the Plus4s remained in the wardrobe but the tie should really have been tucked inside the jumper Dad!

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Brearton is a village near Harrogate in North Yorkshire. From time to time we visited stables there and Dad and I would ride out on two horses. Mine was called “Candy” and was a small, steady pony, except on the occasion when she ran away with me down a field! I loved it and it was my dream to do it more often. Unfortunately, I had to be content with riding imaginary horses through the Bingley woods while pretending to be a cowboy! These photos are dated 1953.

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Family outings in Yorkshire, 1948

Mum and Dad and the rest of the family were often photographed visiting gardens, stately homes or the local countryside.  It’s not surprising as Dad worked long days in the shop and stayed open five and a half days a week.  And they obviously didn’t stop after I came along.

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I’ve found Grandma’s spidery writing on some of the photos but not these two. I feel sure that we will have been visiting a country house somewhere in Yorkshire and I’m guessing that it could have been spring 1948.  People have always told me that I’m like my Mum but perhaps that was when I got older, as I think I’m definitely a Falkingham here.

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These two were taken at Gilling Castle, Ryedale, North Yorkshire in August 1948.  Gilling Castle is a Grade 1 listed building, with origins in the late 14th Century. I have very few photos with both my parents and it warms my heart to see how happy they look here. They waited a long time for me, having first met when Dad was 17 and Mum 19.  They didn’t marry until they were 32 and 34 respectively and here they would have both been in their early 40s.  I’m relieved to see that Dad isn’t wearing his Plus 4s! What appears to be a spot in the middle of his chest could well be his watch chain.  He almost always wore a waistcoat and carried a pocket watch with a hunter case and a chain.

 

“To Mr & Mrs C Falkingham (Manningham) a daughter ….

…. Both well”. You can’t accuse my parents of overdoing the announcement of my arrival on this day in 1947 (in the Telegraph and Argus). I was brought home, after my mother had taken the statutory two weeks of bed rest, to our shop in Manningham.

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Thankfully there are no tiny baby photographs. In those days, there was a dreadful practise of photographing new babies, lying naked on a blanket! The first photograph I can find was taken at 8 months, when I am already showing my independence and supporting myself (unless that is an arm partly hidden behing my back).

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72 years later, I’m celebrating with my family. Sarah, Louise and your own families. We were talking via video WhatsApp to Jonny in London. I wonder what my parents would think of that?

I’m also celebrating the fact that I have just been pronounced cancer free one year after spending my previous birthday in hospital having a kidney removed.

Now, if only this bloody Brexit would go away, I would be able to get on with the rest of my life!

Two weddings, a dumping and a new beginning

I picked myself up at the start of 1968, thanks to family and friends. I was working in the Children’s Library and one thing we were doing was helping to welcome the families who were beginning to follow the men who came to Bradford from Pakistan to work in the mills and on the buses. At that time, children who were newly arrived spent some time in separate schools learning English, a very different approach to nowadays when children go straight into mainstream school and simply assimilate the language. Anyway, we used to visit these centres regularly, bringing books with us, as well as entertaining children from all over the locality at our regular storytimes and craft sessions.

In July, I went to France again to attend Françoise and Claude’s wedding. What an experience that was! I met her in Troyes, I think. Françoise was just about to begin her teaching career and I stayed with her, in the school where she worked as a monitor until the it was the end of term. Then we drove home to the help with preparations. They day that I went with the two of them to purchase some of the alcohol for the celebrations, I keeled over asleep in the car on the way home! The day before the wedding a chef arrived (and stayed for 3 days) and dinner was prepared and served to a large number of guests in one of the buildings outside the house, which had been decorated specially for the occasion.

Next morning I dressed in a brand new outfit. Françoise told me to ditch the hat as no-one wore them any more! I was rather disappointed. Guests gathered and we walked in procession through the village with Françoise and her father at the front, then the bridesmaids, all the guests and Claude with his mother bringing up the rear. The first part of the service was at the Mairie (Town Hall), a civil service performed by the mayor. Then we all processed to church (which we had cleaned ourselves) for the religious ceremony. Almost immediately after this was finished, the bride and groom disappeared for at least an hour – they had gone to a studio for a formal indoor photo. Then back to the village for a single, enormous group photo. I was perched on a bench high above them on the back row, with my “companion”. He was chosen to accompany me as one of the very few unattached young men. He was not my cup of tea. I can’t explain why but he wasn’t!

The wedding meal was several courses long and lasted for several hours. There was a fabulous croque en bouche, the “pièce montée” at the end of the meal, lots of wine and champagne was consumed, then we danced in the village hall until it was time to eat and drink all over again in the late evening. More dancing followed and the newlyweds disappeared. Then, all of a sudden, everyone was piling into cars and setting off to find them. They were “hiding” at Claude’s parents’ house, the bedroom was stormed and we all drank champagne from a chamber pot! I arrived back at the house at 6am to find that everyone else had retired to bed, including a couple who were asleep in my bed! I staggered down the road with Françoise’ cousin and was found a bed at a neighbour’s house. There was another enormous lunch the next day to finish off the celebration and then I returned home.

I then took the huge step of moving into my own flat. I was feeling uncomfortable at home. I wanted to be able to do spontaneous things with my friends but I was expected to return straight home from work every night. Auntie was of the opinion that “nice girls” had no reason stay out after 10pm. Perhaps I just needed some independence. I found a flat in Bradford, went along to see it with an older cousin and plucked up the courage to tell Auntie. She was furious. She thought that she would never see me again. I promised her that that would not be the case and 24 hours later she relented and then gave me a number of lovely and useful items which set me up in my new home. I had a groundfloor flat at the back of an enormous victorian villa on the outskirts of Bradford’s city centre. It was not far from where I had lived as a child. In fact, only the red light district divided us! I quickly moved in. The rent was £16 per month.

It was around this time that I was unceremoniously dumped by my boyfriend of just a few months. We were introduced by a mutual friend at work and over the course of the summer months he would pick me up in his car and we would go for a drive and usually listen to “Beyond Our Ken” or “I’m sorry I’ll read that again”. We didn’t meet up at work at lunchtime; I suppose we only saw each other once or twice a week. I remember we did go to see “Bonnie and Clyde” when it first came out and to one or two parties but it remained fairly low key. The end came when I invited him to my new flat and fed him the latest thing in instant catering – a Vesta Curry. As most of us had never tasted a real curry at this time, we thought this range, which you made from a dessicated state by boiling it in water, was the real deal. It definitely was not! You had to be there to appreciate just how dire this stuff was. Anyway, as he left, he said “I don’t think we should see each other any more”. I said “Oh, alright” and we parted company. I didn’t ask why.

So then I was bridesmaid for the other friend who had come with Françoise and I to Scotland. It was a lovely day and Auntie came too. Which just reminds me that I had already been a bridesmaid for another friend who was married in late 1966. I was surrounded by weddings and still no-one in sight for me!

I applied for the post of the Children’s Librarian of Halifax. I had flourished under the mentorship of Vera Jacques, the innovative Children’s Librarian of Bradford. My library qualification was going well, if slowly. It was a day-release course paid for by my employer and took around 5 years to complete. I was successful and started in the autum of 1968. I also made my final appearance with Bingley Amateurs in the chorus of “Die Fledermaus” (The Bat) a Strauss operetta.

The end of the year was approaching and I was rehearsing with colleagues from my previous job ready to sing at the Christmas party. The friend who had introduced me to my previous boyfriend now invited me to go on a double date with her. She had met a group of students from the university (not sure how). She and another friend had gone out with them but it hadn’t worked out for the other couple. My singing friends gave me a lift to the flat where these students – 3 of them from Bradford University.

Children! I was about meet your father. He came down the stairs and I thought “I always end up with the short, round one”. For some reason, the three of them all lived in their own rooms and there was no socialising in the living room. I sat in his room while he prepared a meal of pork chop, peas and mashed potato. We talked for hours until I insisted on being taken home. His friend, a young man from Iran, had a Ford Capri! Richard asked to see me again…..

And to quote Charlotte Brontë “Reader, I married him”!

The girl who missed the summer of love

They say that, if you remember the 1960s, you couldn’t have been there! I was so conventional and unadventurous that I do remember all of it. The “Summer of Love” in 1967, however, completely passed me by, although for me it happened in 1969 instead.

For those who were there but don’t remember, as well as those who were not yet born, the summer of 1967 saw a great gathering, a “love-in” of hippies in San Francisco.

“If you’re going to San Francisco
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair
If you’re going to San Francisco
You’re gonna meet some gentle people there”
(John Edmund, Andrew Phillips)

If you’re unsure what a hippy is, I suggest you visit Wikipedia, as I’m not going to explain here. You could also listen on YouTube to Scott McKenzie singing this anthem for 1967.

Me? Well I was going on holiday with Françoise, back for her second visit and newly-engaged and a former schoolfriend, just back from teacher training and also newly-engaged. The three of us were off to Scotland, back to Oban which I had last visited at the age of about 4. We stayed in a small hotel, learned to eat porridge with salt instead of syrup, tried haggis, neeps and tatties and had fun exploring the locality. We did not visit any pubs because, at that time, Scottish pubs did not welcome women!  Our big trip was a repeat of my visit by boat to the island of Iona.  We had an interesting time – until we boarded the boat back to Oban.  It became very rough and Françoise began to feel very sea-sick.  She disappeared below deck and could not be persuaded to come out into the fresh air.  Afterwards, when we were back on dry land and she had recovered, we laughed a lot. It was a good holiday.

While I was in France the previous year, Mum went on holiday to Hastings with my Auntie Elsie and they flew to Le Touquet for the day.  This trip to France was the first time she had left England and she had greatly enjoyed it.  They planned to have another holiday in 1967 but then, early in the summer, there was a query when she went for her annual breast-cancer check up.  The consultant asked if she always had a croaky voice.  It wasn’t something that we had really noticed but it was the sign that a secondary cancer had developed and, when she was due to go away on holiday, she was, instead, admitted to hospital to have fluid drained from her lungs.  As the year went on, her health declined very rapidly.  I have a photograph of the two of us at my cousin’s wedding in October, which I find very hard to look at but which I can’t bring myself to throw away. It’s our last photo together.

In November I returned to the stage with Bingley Amateurs, this time in the chorus of “Summer Song”, based on Dvorak’s “New World Symphony”.  On the penultimate night I fell while leaving the stage and was carried off to hospital in full make-up and costume, where it was discovered that I had torn a ligament in my ankle.  I couldn’t go to work for a couple of weeks and, with hindsight, I am so grateful that I was able to spend this time with Mum.  When I visited our GP about returning to work, I was shocked when he warned me that she was soon going to die.  I think that, deep down, I knew it but I wasn’t able to admit it to myself. She slipped away day by day and then, one evening a few days before Christmas, she died.

A wonderful family and group of friends gathered around and I had a very understanding boss.  I can still remember making all the arrangements for her funeral, going to see her and thinking that all the suffering had gone from her face.

The same family and friends helped me to celebrate my 21st birthday in Janury with a small dinner party at home.  1968 was a bit of a roller coaster but it did have a happy ending!

Snails and broken hearts

Throughout 1966 I was still working at Eccleshill District Library and enjoying the course (paid for by my employers) which would be the opening to full library qualifications, instead of the dreaded ‘A’ levels!  I’m relieved to say that my pattern of failures turned into one of success so that, year by year, I got nearer to my goal of becoming a chartered librarian.

I forgot to mention that, when I started work in 1964, I earned the princely sum of £28 per month. (That’s roughly the equivalent of £540 today). Someone used to go around by car to all the libraries and pay us in cash!!  I gave it all to Mum, save £2 per week.

In July 1966, I had my second trip to France and was with Françoise and her family for Bastille Day (14 July).  We went to a restaurant and I ate a dozen snails!  I loved them; they tasted rather nutty and were smothered in garlic and butter.  I did feel a little sick afterwards, though.  We watched a firework display and the next day (still feeling sick) set off with a coach full of people from the local villages to visit Mont Blanc and the ‘Tunnel’.  The famous tunnel at that time was under the alps, connecting France to Italy. We climbed Mont Blanc by a little train and then descended onto a glacier by cable car to explore ice caves. It had to be just about the most dangerous thing I had ever done (apart from the snails).

We also visited Germany, by car. Françoise had learned to drive and had purchased a 2CV.  She was, by this time, studying at university, while living and working part-time in a girls’ boarding school.  We set off in two cars, three girls (including Françoise’ cousin) in one car and four adults (aunt, uncle and two friends) in the other car. Françoise’ car was hit from behind when we slowed down to allow another car to turn.  Luckily, even the fragile 2CV was not too badly damaged and we were able to continue.  The two men of our party were concerned about meeting Germans for the first time since WW2.  “Will we want even talk to them?”  It’s strange though, that when we came to stay overnight, they settled into an easy conversation about their time as soldiers and our host’s spell in a POW camp on Corsica. We spent a couple of days with Françoise’ cousin – the boy who had been her father’s apprentice on my previous visit.  Apparently, he liked me and wanted to see me again.  I imagined marriage and an idyllic life in France ahead of me but no words were said and we drove home via Luxembourg, which we managed to see in one afternoon.

I developed a huge crush on another new colleague.  It lasted for many months and made me hang about, full of angst, even writing poetry which was returned with a “Thanks but no thanks” by a magazine.  He kissed me once and I was taken aback and didn’t respond, so he assumed I wasn’t interested and went on to go out with two of my other work colleagues.  At the same time, we were playing our guitars and singing together at his house on a regular basis but, to my total despair, it was just as friends (although I always clung to a crumb of hope).  It lasted until he left to study to become a teacher.  I saw him, in the distance, a few years later and not long after I married your father and I have to admit that my heart still skipped a beat.

In 1967, I moved to the newly built Central Library to work in the children’s library.  I actually moved just a couple of weeks ahead and helped to pack up the old library.  Every single box that I packed came open en route!  I was given a lesson in tying things up with string which I have never forgotten!  An amazing eight storey building,  arranged in a non-traditional subject-based way, it was built according to the dreams of the City Librarian, Harold Bilton.  It was a comfortable place to work, with windows right around the building. We even had a separate room for storytelling.  And our new overalls were slightly less offensive than the old ones!

I was in the reception area to watch Princess Alexandra officially open the building in the summer of that year.