From rush hour to shhh…

My driver (who must only have had the same couple of hours of sleep as me) picked me up at 9am for the 5+ hours’ drive. We hit the Nagpur rush hour which is like rush hour at home, with added mopeds and car horns. It didn’t seem to worry anyone and it died away to seeing just a few hundred over the rest of the drive.

Out of the town, lush green fields appeared along the roadside – and the mopeds often came towards us on the wrong side of the road. I saw ladies in saris riding sidesaddle, I was astonished at the sight of 4 men on a single motorbike who shot out of a side road in front of us! Sadly, we saw a lorry which had failed to negotiate a bend and was firmly wedged, cab first, into some road excavations. There was always plenty of horn-tooting action but it was less aggressive than at home, less “Get out of my way”, more “Just to let you know I’m here”.

Shergarh is, by contrast, a quiet, peaceful mix of birdsong and insects.

My welcome here has been warmer than I ever expected. More about this wonderful place next time

Long ago in a galaxy far, far away…..

….. I watched a Star Wars prequel on the plane from Doha to Nagpur. Afterwards a lovely member of the cabin crew made me a bed across 3 empty seats. All the cabin crew and assistance staff I met yesterday were so incredibly kind and helpful. I must also mention the man on the immigration desk who scrutinised my papers for so long that I thought he was going to refuse me entry! But afterwards he smiled and said “Enjoy your stay”.

Any way, that was then and this is now. It’s 8:30 and, after a couple of hours sleep, I’m ready to meet my driver who is going to take me to Shergarh.

The tour starts here….

…. at just before 3am, when I finally gave up the idea that I would get a few hours’ sleep in before I had to set off. A last minute panic that I had forgotten the elastoplasts and then I was collected by the lovely Garry, who chauffeured me smoothly off to Manchester Airport.

My next transport was a lady with a wheelchair who whizzed me through business class check in and all the secret (and speedy) ways through security and delivered me to the lounge. Now, much as I enjoy the comfort of a lounge, I always worry that the assistance staff will forget about me and that I’ll miss the flight.

She didn’t, of course and I am now in Doha where, after an extensive tour of Hamad International Airport by electric buggy, I am waiting for my onward flight to Nagpur.

During the flight from Manchester I kept checking our position. Once I was surprised to see that we were flying over a place called “Batman”. The closest place I recognised was Mosul, which caused me to have a wry smile as some of my local friends will understand!

Up in lights!

Just before I leave the Falkingham family business, there is another little story….

A few years ago, I was googling our family name (note: I was not googling myself!) when I found a reference on the website of the Yorkshire Film Archive. There was the name “Falkingham” on a list of Bradford shops and small businesses who had commissioned cinema adverts in the early 1930s! A visit to the Yorkshire Film Archive led me to a collection of nine adverts, including a thirty second gem advertising “Falkingham’s Cycles”. These short animations advertise a ‘fashion house’, baker’s shop, painter and decorator, optician and several others. The Falkingham advert is certainly nothing to write home about! A man on a bike crashes into a pig and ends up in a heap! The message is “Don’t buy a dud! When you can obtain a reliable cycle from Falkingham’s of Carlisle Road”. How punchy is that? It hardly trips off the tongue like “1,2,3 Sofology” or Kevin Bacon advertising ‘EE’ (there’s a bacon connection there, somewhere) but it is, at the very least, a piece of family history and a piece of cinema history. I now have the DVD to hold for posterity. Thank you Yorkshire Film Archive!

I’m going on holiday next week. So I am going to take a break while I embark upon the obligatory few days of panic! My girls know how this can take hold of me and how, sometimes, one or the other has to come and calm me down while I pack (and sometimes unpack and pack again).  I try to remind myself that I often used to work, come home and organise a husband and 3 children, pack the car (we always travelled by car) and depart for a trip to France but that was then and this is now!

Anyway, packing permitting and at the request of some friends, who decided they want to read about my travels, One Anne and Her Dog will be going ON TOUR (without the dog)!



No-one expects the Spanish Inquisition….

…. but there I was at 10:00 this morning with the dentist poking a little stick up the root of a front tooth!  Conscious of the fact that I am about to go on holiday, I decided that a trip to the dentist for some antibiotics might be a good thing.  Instead a found myself having two moderately painful and one excruciating injections and then having the inside of my tooth cleaned and drained. And, as I sat in the chair I just kept thinking “No-one expects the Spanish Inquisition”!

Back to the story…

By October 1956 we had lost a dad, a husband, our shop, our car and our telephone (Bradford 42901 – what a memory!!). But we were living in a house with an upstairs and downstairs and an inside bathroom and toilet! My auntie Doris (or Dodo as she had been christened by one of her small nieces or nephews), was one of my dad’s half sisters. She had been married to a merchant seaman who had also served as a lifeboat man off the north east coast at Robin Hoods Bay and who had taken part in a number of life-saving rescues. When they were first married they had lived in the family houses which I spoke of earlier but they soon moved to Bingley where they spent the rest of their lives. This house was obviously a great source of pride to them. Auntie once told me about the day that they moved in. They had unloaded all their possessions and were proudly surveying their new home, when she noticed that there was no fire surround. So her husband was dispatched into town so that they could complete the finishing touches. They had no children although Dodo had once told me it in an unguarded moment that she had suffered a miscarriage in the early days of their marriage. So whenever Richard Grainger Bedlington, also known as Dick, was sailing to European ports, she often joined him on the voyage. After he retired uncle Dick became a baker in a Bingley bakery owned by the family of his sister-in-law’s husband (if that’s not too complicated). Sadly uncle Dick had died suddenly the year before we all arrived in Bingley.

I say “we all” because there was still the three of us – mum, me and grandma. Grandma, of course, now had both a daughter and a daughter-in-law to boss around. At nine years of age I was not so much aware of this until I was told about the park “embargo” a little later.

The house was in a typical terrace, with a kitchen and living room and stairs up the middle. There were two bedrooms and part of one of these had obviously been sacrificed to make a bathroom. Grandma and Auntie Dodo slept in the front bedroom and mum and I were in the back. I think grandma’s little bed was somehow squashed into the front bedroom and mum and I shared a bed. There was also an attic which stretched across the whole of the house and became a wonderful hidey hole to play in. The house had a tiny garden with rose bushes at the front and a yard at the back. There were two little outhouses in the yard. One had an opening to the street where coal could be deposited and the other had obviously been the outside toilet.  Across the street at  the back were the “posh” houses, with three bedrooms, an original bathroom and a real garden.  And this was going to be my home for the next 12 years.

Barcelona: if God is willing we will meet again some day

After hearing about the death of Montserrat Caballé yesterday morning, I played “Barcelona” over and over and sobbed because of its absolute beauty.  A search for some of her other recordings led me to “Oh Mio Babbino Caro”, which, I remember, used to cause my mother extreme upset in the months following my father’s death. It is equally exquisite and caused me to sob even more.

I came to a bit of a halt the other day after I had described how our family suddenly changed. It was odd as Ive known all along what was going to happen. But, sometimes I watch a film or read a book where I know the ending and I wonder if it might turn out differently this time! Well it obviously turned out just the same as the first time!

But death shouldn’t be singled out for reverence. It should be laughed at like everything else. I certainly feel the need to laugh at it.  So, now that I have turned that particular corner, how do I go on?

I’ve spent some time thinking about my dad and realised that I really didn’t know him very well. Perhaps the fact that he was still called “daddy” when he died explains that quite well. I’ve been calling him “dad” here because I’m grown up and don’t use the name “daddy” any more, but it doesn’t feel right! It seems strange that I remember so little of him, especially as he was a dad who worked at home and didn’t disappear for twelve hours every day. Apart from the gardening, the trips out in the car (always with a warning that I must visit the toilet before we set off because we wouldn’t be able to stop) and the occasional holidays, I remember him taking me horse riding. Quite how we came to do this, I have no idea. Dad was more at home on a bike or a penny-farthing I’m sure and we did it so infrequently that there was little chance of me becoming at all proficient. But I loved it! We used to go to a village near Harrogate called Brearton and I always rode a pony called Candy. With dad on his horse we use to meander around the fields and lanes. Once Candy, who was usually such a placid creature, started to run off down a field. My trotting technique was not up to much, neither was my ability to stop a runaway horse and dad had to come charging down the field and managed to stop Candy before we disappeared out into another country lane.

I was led to believe that dad and his father before him were great practical jokers. Indeed one of the few stories ever told about grandpa was of the time when he hid in the cellar and poked a brush out of the window at the ankles of people who were walking past. The family seemed to think this was hilarious but I’m not sure what the passers-by thought of it! My dad once painted the underside of a slice of boiled ham with a particularly hot mustard and gave it to his friend for tea. Personally, I don’t remember any occasions when my dad did or said anything remotely funny but I do hope that my own sense of humour might have come from him. And it sounds as if both he and grandpa were slightly unconventional, although I’m not sure if they would appreciate today’s humour! The old radio programs like “ITMA” and “Much Binding in the Marsh” which had my parents and all their generation rolling in the aisles have not even raised a smile whenever I’ve heard snippets of them.

However, in most aspects of life I would say my dad was a conservative with both a small ‘c’ and a capital ‘C’. When I was of an age when I had started to go out with my friends from work, my mum announced to me one day that “You father didn’t like women going in pubs”. And he was quite over-protective of me – I wasn’t allowed to cross the road to go to the shops with my friends. And, for some strange reason, I wasn’t allowed to eat the penny ice lollies made at the corner shop opposite our shop, in case they were “dirty”. However, one day the girls who lived at the shop, put on a concert in their backyard and all the local children were invited. On the menu, of course, were these delightful ice lollies and I wasn’t going to leave without sampling one. It was every bit as good as I knew it would be! Also, I wasn’t allowed to have bubblegum and, on the day that I managed to get hold of some and tried it out in front of the mirror in my parents’ bedroom, the bubble burst and got stuck on my face and in my hair. I can remember the panic of trying to get rid of it and somehow I think I did it without asking for help! Even members of the family were very much aware of this over-protectiveness. One day, my cousin Muriel (she of the real Muriel’s wedding), took me to the fair. I can still remember being on the little roundabout when it stopped and the fairground man lifting me out of the tiny aeroplane. Apparently the fairground man with me in tow was running round just behind Muriel and it was some time before we caught each other up.  Muriel told me many years after, that she had thought, “I have to find, Anne, Cuthbert will kill me if I’ve lost her”.

Anyway, all of this came to an end on 13 August 1956 and life changed. Mum was never going to be able to look after the cycle shop. She tried to sell it as a going business but there was no interest (where was the Tour de France when we needed it?). So the cycles, accessories and all the other equipment were sold to a man who already had a cycle shop in Shipley and the premises were sold to someone else – I never knew who it was. I just remember one night, when I was desperate to go to bed, I had to stay up because everything was being packed up ready for our move. Mum, grandma and I were moving to Bingley to live with dad’s sister and my mum had lost her last chance of a home of her own.

Two days

Today is the 49th anniversary of dad’s and my wedding.  On our photos we look ridiculously young but, of course, we were (21 and 22 respectively).  Family, you will hear more about the days before you were around later on. There is still something to tell you before the 50s are finished (“surely not” you will say!); Something happened which brought about a huge change in my life…

Life drifted along fairly easily until 1956. I can remember birthday parties, sometimes in our tiny flat but occasionally at my cousin’s house which always seemed enormous to me. But one thing that was different was that I was not allowed to invite my friends in ‘to play’. I couldn’t understand the reasoning behind this and it’s another of those things that had a profound effect on how I wanted to behave when I became an adult and a parent. I always felt that the family home was our home not just mine or mine and my husband’s. I felt that if my husband turned up on the doorstep with a friend I wouldn’t tell him that the friend couldn’t come in so why did I have the right to tell my children that their friends couldn’t come in? Gosh (that’s a mild exclamation to protect the sensitivities of any readers) I hadn’t realised just how much of my early life has influenced me. And how it’s made me want to do the direct opposite of what I experienced then. It’s happened with my political affiliations too but, as I wasn’t entitled to vote until I was 21, that comes much later.

Contrary to what people seem to believe, I don’t think this was a particularly friendly and open time. Anyone who wasn’t family was kept at arm’s length. I have recently discovered the announcement of my birth in the local paper. It says “to Mr and Mrs C Falkingham (Manningham) a daughter. Both well”. No “delighted to welcome” or “precious gift of” even though they had been waiting many years for this arrival. No mention of my name and only the most formal mention of their names. It was a different era and I think my parents belonged to an era even before that.

It’s not that I didn’t play with my friends but we played outside. We played in the street and we played on the slum clearance sites a few streets away. We played cowboys and Indians and sometimes we played Tarzan. When we played that I always wanted to be Tarzan and my best friend had to be Jane. Any boys around had to play the parts of whatever villains or creatures Tarzan happened to be fighting that day. And of course I always had a bike! I was allowed to ride my bike in the street and sometimes one of my parents would take me to Lister Park along with the bike. I have unsightly scars on both my knees caused by accidents which happened after my mum told me it was time to go home and I had begged for just a few minutes more. (I think the damage to my knees was not helped by my grandma’s over-enthusiastic commitment to Germolene combined with less than thorough cleansing techniques). We were regular visitors to Lister Park where I loved to see the stuffed animals, working models where you could turn handles and the glass fronted beehive, all in the museum. In winter my dad used to take me sledging there, down a scary hill known as the “Yorkshire Bumps”.

As with other children who do not attend the local state school, I was lucky enough to have a second set of friends at school. Some of these lived near enough for me to be delivered to their houses to play but some lived far enough away for it to be only birthday parties which brought us together out of school. One of them obviously had cause to leave some sort of hand-written evidence in my house – perhaps it was a message in a birthday card or a birthday present or an invitation – but it was used as a reproach on the state of my own handwriting. You can tell that even after 60 years I still haven’t forgiven her!

One day at the beginning of August in 1956 dad wasn’t well. I remember this clearly because he was in bed during the day. For some reason nothing was done about the pain in his abdomen for at least a day. But eventually he was taken off to hospital where it was discovered that he had appendicitis. In those days (there I go again) children were not allowed to visit adults in hospital, so I was only taken to the hospital on one occasion and then I had to stand at the door to the ward and wave to him. I can still picture him sitting up in bed and waving back at me and I was sure that he would be home soon. Then a few days later, on a Monday morning, my mum was missing when I woke up and I found out that she had been called to the hospital during the night.

She returned later in the morning and told me that “Daddy has gone to sleep”. I know that these days this would not be thought of as the best way of telling a child that her father has died but, as I keep on saying, things were different then. According to his death certificate, which is now in my possession, he died of an intestinal obstruction, following an operation for adhesions and appendicitis.

So that’s when our life changed and the end of 50s was very different.

I think I’ll go again tomorrow…

We jumped forward a bit yesterday, if only by a year or so. I started school in January 1952, as  five was the usual age for this.  I’m rather embarrassed to say that it was a (shhh..) private school. I’m even more embarrassed to say that my parents chose to do this having visited the local primary school and seen “grubby children with runny noses”.  So they chose to spend £3 a term for me to attend St Patrick’s private school, with a total school population of around 30.  I hold one of my first actual memories (not just something I’ve been told about) from that day. I picture myself sitting at a desk, having been given a box of letters and told to learn them.  I must have enjoyed it, as I announced to my mum that “I think I’ll go again tomorrow”.

The 50s progressed – I’m sure that anyone who is reading this will be glad to hear it as the 50s seem to have gone on for a very long time. School was school….. I think I mostly liked it although I have one distressing memory of being hit on the hand with a ruler for something I hadn’t done. I have always thought that my lifelong hatred of injustice stemmed from this. I also remember being embarrassed at the age of seven for being the only person in the class who still believed in Father Christmas. I once sang “the Owl and the Pussycat” at a school concert but only after I had lost my nerve and recited it. I can still remember the teacher stepping forward at the end of the recitation and saying “And now Anne is going to sing it”.

After a couple of years tucked away in a tiny building next to the church in city centre Bradford, the school moved quite a distance away to Heaton Mount in Frizinghall. An Italianate-Baroque villa built in 1866 must seem a strange place to house a primary school but it was certainly a wonderful environment for those of us who went there – except, possibly, for the school dinners which were about par for that time. With huge grounds, we had plenty of space to play and our classrooms were the high vaulted rooms and fabulous glass conservatory. I certainly blossomed there, to the extent that, by the time I was nine I was being put forward for my 11+. But that’s getting a bit ahead of myself.

I should add here that throughout my school life I was taught by nuns who, by and large, were a set of wonderfully kind women, some of whom would have been leaders in their field of expertise if they had not gone down the route of a religious calling.

At home, dad continued to be busy in the shop and I remember him constantly leaving the table at meal times to go and deal with customers. By the mid 50s he had decided that the roads were too busy to make driving out on a Sunday an enjoyable pastime and we changed our focus to gardening. Now, I blame this activity for my lifelong hatred of gardening (you may already see a pattern here of my early experiences influencing my adult life).  It may seem a bit pretentious to talk about owning a row of houses – but we did. These were tiny terraced houses in a village called Wilsden surrounded by farms and countryside and at various times, they were owned by members of our family. By the time I was born the family had all moved away and most of the houses were rented out. My father appeared to own the whole row of four houses as I used to go with him to collect the rent. I will always remember that at one house there lived a little girl who had a doll which was almost the same size as she was and oh how I wanted a doll like that! I never got one. The bottom house was empty and this was our base for gardening Sundays. Number 1 Norr Green Terrace was a very strange shape. The rooms were not square but the house tapered away so that the back rooms upstairs and downstairs were just tiny triangles. We kept our gardening equipment there, including a miniature plough. My heart sinks even thinking about it. Just below this house was a small field where we did most of the gardening and there was also an orchard at the top of the row, where we grew apples and soft fruits such as gooseberries and raspberries. (I mustn’t forget to mention a row of outside toilets next to our field). So, every Sunday, we would spend our afternoons ploughing and hoeing and weeding. And this was a man who spent Monday to Saturday selling and repairing bikes, recharging batteries and doing various other repairs and a woman who spent her life running around after him, her child and her mother-in-law. At one point I amassed a fine collection of worms in a jar but, other than that, I was mostly bored. So bored that one Sunday I released the handbrake of the car so that it began to roll down the hill towards a road and a wall with me in the driver’s seat and grandma in the back! Mum and dad raced out of the field; mum went flying full-length and dad just managed to open the door and apply the handbrake again. I don’t remember what was said. I don’t remember what was grown, either, other than potatoes and they stick in my mind because the seed potatoes were laid out on the upstairs floor of our gardening house.

Holidays were taken at what is now Flamingoland but was then a very pleasant country house hotel called Kirby Misperton Hall. It was run by a couple called Colonel and Mrs Stone (isn’t it strange how you remember little details like that) and over the few years that we visited, mum and dad seemed to become quite friendly with them. Not that dad was there much. He would take us one weekend, go back to open the shop in the week and return the following weekend.  One year, Mrs Stone even suggested to my parents that I could come and stay with them on my own at some point if I wanted but that never happened. (I’m not sure it would have done given my aversion to being left anywhere without at least one parent!)

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

There is a stand of trees where I walk the dog. A few weeks ago I was walking under their shade trying to escape the overpowering heat of the sun but more recently, I walked below them trying to escape the wind and then yesterday, I avoided them in order to walk in the sunshine and capture what remains of the warmth.  Still, the trees will be there, summer and winter, whenever we need them.

Last weekend, we lost my cousin Alan, the oldest of Ethel’s grandchildren, which makes me now the oldest of Ethel’s grandchildren.  He was 86 and I haven’t seen him since his 80th birthday, before he was overtaken by dementia. I’m remembering him as a handsome young sailor in the 1950s, during his national service. Another older cousin, also called Alan, was in the RAF during his national service.

National service ran on and off throughout the twentieth century, finally finishing in 1963. My two cousins were among those caught up in the post-war version, which required 18 year-old males (not females!!) to undergo “service” in one of the armed forces for 18 months or more. (If they were due to go to university, they could postpone the service until they completed their course).

Airman Alan reminded me the other day that he had played a role in the coronation of Queen Elizabeth.  He was part of the services parade which accompanied the Queen to and from Westminster Abbey.

Now, I remember having the day off school for the Coronation in 1953, but the most exciting thing about the day was that grandma bought a television! In those days a television cost the princely sum of £60, which is the equivalent of around £1200 today. I’m surprised that she was able to afford that. Maybe she’d saved it up through not having to pay her private doctor’s bills – another reason to give thanks for the NHS! Televisions were big pieces of equipment but with tiny screens! Their component parts were quite different to now (that’s as technical as it gets). The parts – including valves – heated up and the TV had to be turned off from time to time in order to cool down. The TV engineer came and set it up, tweaked the picture and left us to enjoy the great day, which, of course, we did. Unfortunately, we got hooked on the whole thing and obviously didn’t give the thing sufficient opportunity to cool down. So, with a certain inevitability, it blew up!

Luckily, it was soon mended and I began my lifelong fascination for all things televisual. It continued through The Flowerpot Men (I liked them because they were anarchic, although I obviously didn’t know it at the time), Andy Pandy (though I thought he was a bit of a softy) and Muffin the Mule (I had the puppet!) to – eventually- Hopalong Cassidy, Circus Boy (an early starring role for Micky Dolenz of Monkees fame), Champion The Wonder Horse, My Friend Flicka and many, many more Westerns as I grew older.

I think my obsession with all things spurs and chaps might have begun when my dad took me to see ‘Annie Get Your Gun’. Now, I can’t remember if we saw the film or the theatre production and I have no idea why just dad and I went to see it. I’m not sure what it was about “Annie Get Your Gun” which inspired me. Maybe it was the strong woman with my name that I identified with but, anyway, I’ve been a fan of nearly every western series which has appeared on the TV. And – I’ve downloaded the Ethel Merman version of “Annie Get Your Gun” and have been happily singing along to it ever since.