Monday, September 3, 2012

I wasn't the daughter she would have been ...

I've just celebrated a birthday.  Not a significant birthday, but a birthday none the less and one I was quite happy to keep to myself until my daughter posted an effusive greeting on facebook. There are days when I don't feel any different to twenty years ago - then I look in the mirror.

When my mum was the age I am now she had lived through an economic depression, mass unemployment and two world wars.   She was unhappily married with a 16 year old daughter she didn't understand.  Nothing had gone quite according to plan, and I wasn't the daughter she would have been, given half the chance. She sewed curtains in our pokey back room, the Singer machine positioned beneath the window to make best use of the natural daylight.  She now wore her glasses all the time, no longer just for sewing and reading.   She had a wash and set at the hairdressers every fortnight and she wore false teeth.

She loved day trips to the seaside, especially Brighton.  She liked jellied eels and cold, boiled potatoes but not tomatoes because the pips get under your plate.  And she didn't understand the concept of diet foods - a contradiction in terms to someone who had been permanently hungry as a child.

She wished we'd never moved away from London, but in 1969 it was too late - no going back, bridges well and truly burned.  She liked to talk about the war.  I think that might have been her happiest time - the blitz spirit.

She watched TV in the evenings but there weren't many programmes she really enjoyed.  She liked anything to do with animals or sick children.  She liked Val Doonican and Max Bygraves.  She liked Dickie Valentine as well and Tommy Cooper made her laugh, but she didn't watch the soap operas, which she found either daft or depressing.

As a much younger woman she had enjoyed going to speedway meetings but by 1969 she settled for the wrestling on the telly on a Saturday afternoon.

She was under 5ft tall and her dad called her Titch.  My dad called her Mick, after a lucky greyhound he had once won money on. She had lots of acquaintances but no real friends and a complicated relationship with her sister, my Auntie Ruth. I think she was probably quite lonely.  She loved our dog - a corgi called Shandy because of his colour.  When he died she was inconsolable so we got her a tiny cross bred puppy that grew to enormous proportions and dragged her along on the end of his lead.  She hated him at first. He was black and white - she called him Shandy as well.

She was as honest as the day is long, hard working and fiercely independent.  Even at 16 I could see that she was frustrated with the hand life had dealt her.  She was talented and shrewd and would have made a brilliant businesswoman, but there weren't the opportunities for working class girls in the 1920s, but then has anything really changed.

When my mum died I hadn't seen her for more than three years.  Dad said it was like they didn't have a daughter.  He was angry with me when I cried at her funeral.

The greeting on the back of this photo reads 'with best wishes for Xmas & the New Year from Harry & Lizzie 1941.  I think this could possibly have been taken at Charlton Park, Malmesbury at the home of the Earl of Suffolk where mum frequently worked.  Mum is on the left of the photo.

Mum with Shandy as a puppy - c1958

Typical British summer's day.  Mum and me c1958

One of my early photographic efforts taken on holiday at Caister Holiday Camp, Norfolk in the early 1960s.  Dad, mum and Auntie Ruth

Mum, dad and Shandy.

You might also like to read

Dad's Story 

Birthday Greetings 

Dinah Watts Devizes 1824

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