We took our first holiday at Butlins, Skegness, hoping to at least to be able to eat our meals in peace whilst Mary was in the nursery and perhaps to go out for an hour or so after she was in bed. No such luck! She screamed so much when they put her in the cot that we felt we couldn't leave her and although she was fast asleep before we went to the bar in the evening, she was screaming before we had finished our first drink.
It was at Butlins that Mary had her first birthday and took her first steps. We bought her a push along revolving wheel holding a mickey mouse. She tried to get the mouse out and screamed until we broke the toy to liberate him. How daft can you get? At the time we were sure she related the character's imprisonment to her own experience in the creche
Before the holiday was over I realised I was again pregnant. This was a double blow. The bank, where Wes worked, gave a child allowance of seven pounds fifty a quarter but they had earlier announced that this was not to be extended to any child born after December 31st. 1951. We had discussed having another child in time to qualify and as I had no intention of rearing an only child, I thought we should attempt it but Wes refused. It was strange really for he has made very few decisions during our married life.
I accepted his judgment and was using both a Dutch cap and pessaries but "Man proposes and God disposes," as my paternal Grandma was fond of saying. How much the allowance would have meant became more obvious as the months went by. I was supposed to save for the gas bills as well as paying the rent and running the home. In the time-honoured way I put the gas money in a tin at the beginning of the month, alas before the bill came I had borrowed to pay the milk bill or the butcher and when the gas bill came there was nothing to meet it.
We had a terrible row, which ended with my telling him to do the housekeeping. I think he deducted ten shillings a week and thereafter paid the bills himself.
Our monetary problems were not helped when we had our first attempt at wallpapering. I wanted to put Mary in a bedroom of her own before the new baby came. There is an old song "When father papered the parlour" which describes our efforts to the "T" but unlike the song, it wasn't funny for we could ill afford to make mistakes.
Plumb lines had never been mentioned and the pattern sloped at an ever-increasing angle between one corner and the next. We were covered in paste, there were several holes where our fingers had torn through the flimsy paper and the extra roll we had to buy wasn't quite the same shade as the rest, but it had to do.
Mary was still very thin although we did everything we could to encourage her to gain weight even making a bedtime drink of Bournvita in a bottle to which we added raw egg.
The Bournvita was expensive and Mam suggested I bought a canteen-sized tin from her. That proved to be a costly mistake for we kept it in the back bedroom and whilst we were scraping the several layers of paper Mary managed to get it open and played sand pies with the contents.
My second pregnancy was tortuous. Morning sickness developed into all day sickness. I had to stop my work in the snack bar for I could no longer cook without being sick. Even the smell of food made me nauseous.
The doctor couldn't help other than to suggest a dry biscuit. Everything taken would go straight to the baby so any pills or potions were strictly forbidden.
At this time, my old boss rang me to say the Inland Revenue was inquiring into my earnings and he thought he ought to warn me. We used to get a monthly bonus on top of our salary and he wanted to know if he should declare it. I was able to tell him it was Dad they were after. He had bought a car cash down and they were accusing him of fiddling his accounts. He told them I had tipped up all my wages since starting work and he had kept my wage packets unopened and used the cash to buy a car. I had left work three years before and they were checking on my wages.
And then Dad had a heart attack.
Some time previously I had noticed his lips were blue as he carried the milk crates from the backyard to the shop. I asked Wes if he would take them in for Dad before he went to work in the morning and yet I was shocked when it happened. I believe the tax authorities hounded him almost to his death. I remember feeling very bitter about it. God knows he had worked hard enough, he'd earned that car.
The last six weeks of my pregnancy my weight dropped by two pounds a week till December came, I begged the doctor to give me something to hurry the birth. I told her about the bank child allowance, which would continue as long as the child was in full time education, provided it was born before the end of the year, but she refused to help.
Dad had taken on a part time helper and she advised me to take gin and castor oil whilst sitting in a hot bath, so after Christmas I did just that.
The pains started and I thought the treatment had worked. Agonising pains rooted me to the toilet. The midwife was sent for and immediately asked me what I had taken. I thought I was going to die and felt it would be preferable to living.
The griping and diarrhoea lasted two days and afterwards I felt so weak I could hardly stand but the baby refused to be hurried.
I finally went into labour on the ninth of January. The labour was protracted, although I had asked for pethidine the midwife said she couldn't administer it and she was unwilling to send for the doctor. Instead, I was to have gas and air. The machine didn't work and the pain went on for hours until both the nurse and Mam were yelling at me to push while I was too exhausted to obey.
At last he was born. Nothing was said and when I asked if it was all right, I received no answer. Through half closed eyes I watched as the nurse blew into his mouth. Then she laid him on a towel, picked up the jug of cold water, and threw it over him.
She then began to blow into him again and then to clean him up before attending to me.
When I finally got a look at him he appeared to be bruised all over. Unlike his sister, he was a chubby baby and although his head was large it did not look out of proportion, his back was covered in hair.
The following day the midwife told me she had thought the baby was stillborn and dashing cold water over him was a last resort before asking mother to take him away. The water however had induced a slight movement and so she had resumed working on him.
Mother was very angry and asked why she hadn't sent for the doctor when I was having such problems with the delivery. Her reply was that the doctor too was in the ninth month of pregnancy and she was afraid she might have two babies to deliver at the same time.
The doctor came several days later, still pregnant. She said I had been badly ripped by the baby's head, which was very large. It was however too late for stitches but the tear would heal itself.
Once again feeding caused problems, this time I had too much milk so when the baby tried to feed it gushed like a fountain and choked him. For a while, some of my milk was collected and taken to the premature baby unit.
I named my son Clifford after my father and Wesley after my husband. From the beginning Wes said he wasn't going to put up with the sleepless nights . Cliff was to be fed strictly on a four-hour schedule and once in bed he was not to be picked up however much he cried.
I wouldn't have kept to the four hours during the day but for him getting mild enteritis due to over feeding. The welfare nurse couldn't believe his weight gain was due entirely to breast-feeding. He would regularly put on eight to twelve ounces a week whilst his sister grew ever thinner.
The contrast between them became so marked that when I took them both out strangers made comments about "feeding one and neglecting the other." I often went home in tears.
Dad recovered and in spite of hospital advice refused to have a bed downstairs. "You're not making an invalid of me," he said.
He received sick pay until one day the health insurance visitor came whilst he was attending to a customer. Mam had gone to the lav but that wasn't a good enough excuse he was told he must not serve in the shop whilst he was on sick.
He signed himself off.
Following Dad's advice we began to rely on "stop in time" for contraception. I hated it but was afraid of being let down by mechanical methods.
Mary had been out of nappies for several months before Cliff was born but soon after she began to wet herself and following the advice of the district nurse I put her back in nappies.
I now got up at 5am on Mondays in order to boil the nappies and do the household laundry, which was ponched in the kitchen sink before being transferred to the gas copper. We bought a mangle, a smaller lighter version of mother's old wooden roller one. The rollers were rubber covered and because it was so light, it had a tendency to walk when anything heavy was put through it. It had to stay in the back yard for there was not sufficient room in the kitchen.
Cliff was only three months old when Mary took ill with measles. The doctor reassured me that he was unlikely to get it as I was feeding him and he would take immunity from my milk.
Mary was very ill and lay all day in a semi-conscious state. I had the cot downstairs and we kept the curtains drawn as it was said the light could affect the child's eyes. She recovered and Cliff didn't take it.
Now more than ever, I was glad of my friend's company. She too had two children and once Mary had recovered, we both would do all the household chores in the morning and wheel out the babies in their prams in the afternoon. At this time, Wes came home for a midday dinner so it was usually after two o'clock before I was free.
If it was fine, we took them on the nearby Forest and if it wet we shortened our walk to take a cup of tea in each other's house. I had to be home by four thirty though because in those days, the banks closed at three thirty and Wes wasn't best pleased if he got home before me.
I found his attitude hard to accept. I couldn't see why he couldn't have made himself a cup of tea instead of waiting with a face like thunder. It was of course his upbringing. His parents were ten or more years older than mine and had known the time when they had a "live in" maid. His father would not have undertaken any household task, indeed he didn't even mow the lawns whereas my Dad scrubbed floors, cooked and dusted, though I never saw him iron.
However, my husband made no objection to Barbara and me going dancing once the baby was fully weaned, something my Dad would never have allowed mother to do. Indeed, he told Wes he shouldn't allow it. I found his concern quite amusing since we danced together most of the time and when we danced with a fella, we returned to our own table. Both of us agreed the men we had left at home were better than anything that could be found at the Palais.
We never saw anyone from the old days until one night when Cliff was two or three years old and Fred was there. He asked me to dance, I think it was foxtrot and I couldn't follow him. It was very odd for although we had never gone dancing together I had no problem the night we met at the Civil Service dance. We gave up trying and he invited me to have a drink. I told Barbara and the three of us left together.^
Spitefully I gave the glad eye to another fella that I had danced with once or twice. I was so angry because he thought I was going to fall at his feet again. The other fella came and asked me to dance and I left Fred with Barbara.
Later, she told me how surprised she was that I was obviously bored in his company. That too was deliberate, there was no way I would risk my marriage.
I tried hard to be a dutiful wife and to make our home nice. The red tiled kitchen floor was scrubbed with the wash water after the laundry was finished. It was a good smooth floor and I thought how nice it would be if I polished it with Cardinal Red polish. This was a heavy wax polish, which was supposed to need only mopping to keep clean. I used it first on the outside window sills and got Wes to fasten a wooden bar across so that I could put geraniums in plant pots on the sill.
Polishing the kitchen floor was a mistake. Not that it didn't look nice but one morning while I was making the beds the children decided to help by polishing the floor. I suppose I must have left the tin out. Unfortunately, they decided to use their Dad's suit as polishing cloths. I never bought dusters but used rags cut from old clothes so presumably they thought the suit was "old clothes" whereas it was his best suit that had been left ready to take to the cleaners.
I had forgotten this incident until my young brother reminded me. He went into paroxysm of laughter as he recalled me sobbing to mother. He fell about laughing then and she clipped him over the ear.
Mother's cleaning lady told me to take the suit to the cleaners straight away and tell them what had happened. They tried to be sympathetic but couldn't stop laughing as they told me they would do their best. Their best was marvellous, the suit was returned in pristine condition and Wes knew nothing about it until John and I were swopping memories for this biography.
When Mary began to crawl, we broke our resolution of buying everything in cash. We had a coco-matting floor covering which grazed her knees so we took out a Co-op club for a carpet square. I think it cost thirty pounds. The collector called every week and you got "Divi" on the payments. We continued to take out "clubs" with the Co-op for many a year, we wouldn't have managed anything new without it.
We acquired a new wardrobe, Mam's old one. It was oak and had an oval mirror on the door. Dad had bought a new one (second hand), a huge mahogany wardrobe lined with quilted blue satin. I'm sure he expected Mam to be delighted but she hated it.
They couldn't get it up the stairs and it had to be taken apart to get it through the bedroom window. Poor Dad he never did get it right. He once bought me a pair of opera glasses and I thought he'd found them. I went to plays not opera or revues and I had never seen anyone use opera glasses.
I was still working in the shop. Cliff took his day time sleep in the pram in Mam's back yard. Before I had realised he could pull himself up he had managed to fall from the pram and over the wall which must have been about an eight foot drop. I was distraught but there wasn't a mark on him.
Wes & me at Skegness
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