Where do we go from here?

Well, children. I’ve told you as much as I know (or can remember) about where my family came from, when and where I was born and how I grew up. And, from your point of view, of course, how I met that most important man who became your father.

Do you want me to go further, to talk about the four years we had together before any of you were born? Even the days of your own lives that you don’t remember?

Maybe you want to fill in your own memories. I know you often remember things I have forgotten and vice versa. I need you to let me know.

In the meantime, I’m going to write about my travels. Starting with New England in the Fall……

The REAL summer of love!

I’m still looking through my boxes of photos and yesterday came across some which Richard and I took when we visited Austria to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. There is one photo of a bunch of flowers he had bought me and a card with a big heart on it (I’m sure I’ll have the card somewhere).

I’m glad that Valentine’s Day is over for another year. I find it the hardest day to deal with but I loved finding that photo because, together with some Valentine cards I have found, it reminded me of what we once had together.

So, it’s a while ago since I wrote about meeting Richard, in 1968. We had met in early December, spent the evening talking, eating the meal he had prepared (pork chop, mashed potato and peas) and inhaling a lot of cigarette smoke. And he had asked me out again! I can remember waiting outside the Odeon cinema in Bradford thinking “Well it was nice while it lasted”, before he turned up late, as usual. We ended up going to see a film called “Interlude” about a doomed love affair! I don’t remember anything about it but it had a rather melancholy but hopeful song as its theme

“What seems like an Interlude now
Could be the beginning of love”

It became “our song” at least for the time being. (The singer was Timi Yuro). We must then have had a long, earnest and esoteric conversation as I returned home to my little flat a day or two later to find a love letter tucked in my letter box. (I still have it, children).

After that, we grew closer – until university closed for the Christmas holidays and he disappeared with his friend to London and a holiday job in HMV.

Richard was in the second year of a degree in social work. He lived with two other students in a maisonette not far from the city centre. One was his partner in deciding to date every girl at the Central Library. He was not happy when Richard met me, or when my friend dumped him after she discovered he was married. I always felt that he resented me and he tried his best to split us up, even while we were planning our wedding. The other student was barely seen.

Children, you are all well aware of the notorious “Satisfaction Guaranteed” T-shirt, worn under a lacy blue shirt! He used to wear that when he was a DJ in the “Gatto Bianco” night club in Bradford. I was only invited there on a couple of occasions. In fact, I wasn’t included in many of his evening outings with the group of friends (mostly students, I think) who went out drinking most nights all over West Yorkshire. We did once visit a club in the Merrion Centre in Leeds. It was after I had passed my driving test and bought a car. I drove about 5 of us over there. It was absolutely neon! I spent the evening chatting to a lovely man (one of Richard’s non-uni friends) who was persona non grata with his family of local industrialists because he was gay. When we left, I quickly realised that I did not know how to make my way out of Leeds in the dark. I was stationary at a traffic lights, unsure which way to turn, when a police car pulled up beside me. I apologised for not moving promptly away when the lights changed. He said “Don’t you think it would be a good idea to put your lights on miss?” I think that was my only brush with the law in nearly 50 years of driving!

Richard had an eclectic taste in music and, while my favourites had moved on from the Beatles to Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, he introduced me to so much more. He bought me a Nina Simone album for my birthday but I also got to know Captain Beefheart, Janis Joplin, The Beach Boys, Hendrix, Leonard Cohen and many more. Unfortunately, Richard’s and his friends’ taste for partying meant that the university didn’t see them very much. Instead of sitting his end of year exams, Richard stayed awake for several days, causing him to collapse and be admitted to the uni health centre. He emerged determined to make a fresh start and opted to change degrees and begin the second year of a degree in economics and geography when the new year started in October.

Although I loved the independence of having my own flat, I had discovered that being in an old Victorian house meant spending a fortune on heating and, besides, the kitchen was damp. So, in early 1969, my best friend from the library and I decided to apply for a flat in one of the new tower blocks being built near Bradford city centre. The flats were mired in the building scandals of the late 1960s, which resulted in a local architect, John Poulson, being jailed for corruption. Completion was also delayed as a result of the collapse of a 22-storey block of flats in London in 1968. Four people were killed and many injured when a gas explosion tore through Ronan Point, causing load-bearing walls to collapse. Eventually, just the first two floors of our flats were declared safe, while the upper 14 floors were strengthened. (The towers were eventually filled, after several months. When we returned to live in the north in 1986 after our sojourn in Berkshire, we were horrified to see that the flats were already boarded up and were demolished soon after).

By the time the flats were ready in the summer of that year, Richard had already proposed and so, it was really the three of us who moved in. (Children, I have spared you the “too much information” that might outrage your sensitivities but I have to say that your father and I were rather ahead of our time and lived together, albeit in secret – my family certainly weren’t aware!). I still feel guilty that my friend moved out and found somewhere else to live, just a few months later as we began to plan our wedding.

We planned to marry in December but eventually decided that we would bring it forward to October. There was no reason not to! I had no parents to plan for me and Richard’s family lived at the other end of the country so we got on and planned it and paid for it. We planned it small! Richard was a regular patron of a Chinese restaurant in the centre of town, so we decided to hold it there, although we stuck to English food. The cost was 6/- (30p) a head! I wanted to be married at a church in the parish where I grew up, rather than my new parish, so had to pretend that I was still resident at my aunt’s in Bingley. My dress was bought in a sale in a Bingley dress-shop. That was half price and cost 18 guineas (£18 18s or £18.90p). My library friend’s father, who was a baker, made our cake.

The day before the wedding we were rushing around decorating the church, delivering the cake to the restaurant and collecting our outfits. It was very fraught and, I think, we were both tempted to call the whole thing off! Still, it went ahead on 4 October 1969. My very tall cousin Alan walked me down the aisle (it’s hard to believe that I used to be scared of him when I was a tiny girl and he was just a teenager). My library friend and an old schoolfriend were bridesmaids and Richard’s brother was best man.

We had already planned for a honeymoon in France at Christmas, visiting my friends, so we went to London for a long weekend. We left on an early evening train (no such thing as evening “do’s”). The weather, which had been beautiful on the day, continued warm over the weekend and we wandered around parks and shops, we ate at a Russian restaurant and we went to hear Jose Feliciano.

And that, children, was the real summer of love, as claimed on the invitation to our 30th wedding anniversary party…………….

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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 the 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”!