This was a happy time. I loved my allotment plot, my social life and the summer in London was magic.
Our lives in Devonshire Road continued busy and happy. Around Easter time Sonia’s friend Ernie asked Mike if he’d like to help dismantling a decommissioned church on Belvedere Road. Mike kept returning to the flat with pews, beautiful Minton floor tiles, some Gothic double doors and oceans of ancient pitch pine which years later were incorporated into our house in Ireland Mostly our lives were sweet but occasionally I’d wince …wasn’t there too much negative criticism of others and sometimes flare –ups of intense anger and irritation.
I had tried to dig the back garden at Devonshire Road but it was all brick and sooty clay. In the Spring I got an allotment. The flat was busy and happy and felt like a home. Sonia and I each had cats, my cat was Joey and hers Florence. Sadly Florence died six days after giving birth to four kittens. We hand reared these with a dropper and consequently they became very tame. I kept Tommy who died sixteen years later in Ireland.
Mike was enjoying his teacher training and finished the year with a glowing report. He successfully applied for a junior teaching job for the following September. All was well.
That summer I travelled down to London with Tommy (Joey went to stay in Earl Shilton). Initially Tommy the cat and I lived at Sonia’s parent’s house in Westbourne Terrace. Sonia and I both worked at the Oriental and I moved to Sonia’s auntie’s penthouse flat in Soho. I thought I was the bees knees…its back balcony overlooked The Marquee Club. Sonia’s auntie was away for the summer and wanted the flat to appear occupied. (Tommy spent the summer with his brother Heathcliff at Westbourne Terrace). I also worked as a fast plate breakfast waitress at The Great Western hotel nearby and after serving lunch in The Oriental ‘worked’ in The Scottish Merchant in Covent Garden. For two years Jenny had worked there. The Summer was hot and sunny and most afternoons we sat outside the shop drinking lager. No one bought jumpers. I returned to The Oriental for the evening meal. While I was in London I took my forty -three Japanese prints to Southerby’s to be valued. I was told the name of the artists who made them and they were dated mid nineteenth century. Some are more valuable, than others. I have given many away but my son now owns the residue, including the three most notable ones. ( In his letter my father refers to ‘the treasure trove business’. At the end of the summer Sonia told me that her auntie had wanted the flat to appear lived in because one night before she went on holiday she had woken up finding herself pinned down on the bed by a burglar. She said she could feel his heart beating and realised that he was more afraid than her, calmed him down and gave him some money. I was there because the prints on the living room walls were very valuable. He didn’t know this and neither did I.
Back in Liverpool Sonia had been a member of a left- wing organisation called Big Flame. She had told the women’s branch that they could use our flat over the summer. When I returned it was a mess. The women’s branch had set up a printing press in my room and left bed bugs. I always referred to this women’s branch as Little Flame because the previous year when they visited they had lectured me about my life style. They were without exception big women with Doc Martens and biker jackets. They made passes at Sonia but never at me!
My Dear Joy,
It’s a beautiful , warm and sunny day. We’re lazing about watching the England /West Indies 2nd Test Match on TV-really too lazy to do much else. I’ve just come back from the factory marketing our produce from the garden. Made a sale of beans, tomatoes and lettuce which brought in 85 p and I also sold quite a lot last week which all goes towards buying our winter spuds and a nice bit left over. We really have been fortunate this year and I think it is the best ever year for tomatoes and they’re lovely for flavour-wish you were around to sample them. Chris’s marrows too are yielding well and are a good size.
Chris is off early tomorrow for a week in Ilfracombe [Devon] with some of his ringing friends and it seems that he is off to a good start if this present spell lasts. Joey keeps sauntering in from his forays looking up at us with a plaintive Miaow. I should think that the country air should give him an appetite though he is still finicky with his food- a little left over and he won’t touch it. It doesn’t do to be too extravagant with him by throwing each lot away which makes me think that this Moneysave brand is actually expensive.
When I came down at six thirty there lay a dead thrush outside the French windows-was it Joey I wondered. I wouldn’t be surprised from the way I have watched him stalking-oh so stealthily-one paw at a time and hardly moving.
Gran Cis has just called and mam gave her some beans and a taste of our tomatoes. Now she has gone up to Auntie Sylvia’s. It seems she slipped on the parquet floor of the hall and came a nasty cropper which shook her up badly and bruised her all down one side…Dolly best came to tell us as we were having supper so I cycled up immediately after. She answered the door hobbling like a real old cripple but happily there were no broken bones.
Back in Liverpool 8 how are things sorting out? Did you get tenants to fill the interim period whilst you were away? And that treasure –trove business…any more news about that? If I were you I would tread warily there and keep one eye on Liverpool Ed-you are supposed to declare actually. In fact I think that is what I would do really, to spare myself any unpleasant consequences arising-for be it known the law affirms that anything found should be declared. You could still come out of it quite well always supposing that the articles really are of some value-here’s Joey on my lap making writing difficult. However, best of luck whichever way you decide.
Mam gave us all a worrying time early this week, complaining of pains in her tummy. She didn’t seem to have any go in her at all and I just didn’t know what to think. Anyway she was packed off to bed at 7 o’clock with a hot water bottle alongside her. But not for long. She had settled lovely warm and cosy when the bottle sprang a leak. I thought miserably that I just couldn’t win. However, she had a good night’s sleep after the set-backs had been put right and although still not 100% is more her old self. It could have been a nasty chill/Cystitis o some such. Chris, on he morning shift had to get his own breakfast at 5 AM and Joey, meowing for his breakfast kept getting entangled I Chris’s legs when every minute counts at that time in the morning. . When thoroughly exasperated and with a ,’Damn you, out of the way,’ he put the boot in Joey’s ribs for a booster. When Chris came home for dinner Joey was in his room upstairs and as soon as he saw Chris he took a flying leap through the bedroom window. He must have landed on the shed roof. Happily there were no complications for Joey either from sore ribs or his jump from the window.
Later Sunday…Thanks for your welcome letter. It didn’t take you long getting to work putting a new look to your flat. It’ll no doubt be your last, but a good send off for your last year and a refreshing return from your holiday.. Mike means business apparently with his thesis and the best of luck to him and I know your help will be invaluable too.
And now here’s you coming up to your 27th-we’ll try and think something up for the occasion. Next year I hope will be the crowning ceremony and nothing would please your dad more then to have the pleasure of buying your cap and gown to set the seal. That is just the sort of challenge that would just appeal to me-it would have my undivided concentration, To achieve it would be best to approach it with quietly and with purpose-it is your year of opportunity. So, best to keep fit and with your health, that is the first essential and foundation, and here’s to a good success story and good luck.
Chris went off with glorious weather for his Devonshire holiday and it looks like keeping that way.
It was such a lovely evening that it prompted me to get out my bike for another rural ramble. I went by way of Kirkby, Sutton Cheyney [where the old church is all done with quaint horse box pews and where I said a little one for us all] , a half pint at the old pub then on to Bosworth for another then on to finish at Stapleton . It was most enjoyable
Looking forward to seeing you on Thursday and to take up the threads for another pleasant yarn with you. Love and safe keeping always, Dad.