In early September Mike, his sister Marie and I caught the ferry over to Ireland for a two-week camping holiday. The weather was wonderful, the blackberries were ripe and we seemed to find camping spots in spectacular places…mostly on headlands next to ruined castles. It should have been perfect but it wasn’t. This time Marie could do nothing right ( neither could my brother in Italy the year before) and was forever the butt of Mike’s anger and put-downs . I was so blinkered. saying ,’One day you will talk to me like that.’and believing him when he replied, “No, of course not, never.’ We made our way down to West Cork and here again alarm bells should have alerted me to the danger. Mike insisted that I camp out at Tralong Bay on my own two miles from his father’s holiday house where he and Marie were staying. This was holy Ireland and the house was next door to his auntie and it wouldn’t do to have us staying in the same house…we weren’t married!. So, I was hidden away for two days while they met the relations. I was unhappy about this but seemed to lack the necessary critical faculties to complain. Perhaps I didn’t want to see what was glaringly obvious. Writing this I want to scream at my old self, shake her.
We returned to the flat and Marie moved in because she was beginning her teacher training in Liverpool. I began third year at the university and spent every available spare moment on the allotment.
August /September 1973
My Dear Joy,
Well, here I am all puffed up and glad to be home. I’ve been on a blackberry sortie. This week I have made two ride outs on my bike right down the Huit if you know where that is-the lane to the left of Station Road. I gathered about eight pounds in quick time-the hedges were loaded and mam is making bramble jelly-lovely stuff. Yesterday as I was almost finished it came down to rain, but the hedges were so loaded with Nature’s Greengrocery that I couldn’t resist, so I had to pay the price of coming home well soaked. I loved being out in the fields so today I made another venture right up to the farm. I saw the old farmer coming across with his dog and I asked if he could put me right for a good picking. He directed me across two fields and there, sure enough, were some lovely berries. I soon set to, but it came down to rain again almost immediately, and there I was right out in the country and a two mile ride home. Still, I know where to go now in future and if it’s a nice day on Saturday I’ll be away again. I felt a proper Charlie though yesterday. Went to pedal my bike on the grass verge to straighten out before leaving, when the bike fell towards me and sent me crashing backwards through the hedge, through the thorns and into a five foot dyke. I struggled out none the worse, but covered from head to foot in those clingy burrs. I saw the humorous side and had a good laugh to myself but at the same time thankful that there was no one else about.
Apart from these episodes it has been an uneventful week. Had a hand bell practice on Tuesday. We’ve got a full programme ahead right into November. George Newton told me that his grandson Stephen goes to Manchester University in October to read Physics. But they are a clever family- his daughter Janet graduated there with second- class honours. I couldn’t help smiling to myself as we stood up to practice, what four old fogies we are. We’ve travelled a long way together in all sorts of conditions and places-enough I should say to complete four good sized biographies and next year-all being well- will see us into our fiftieth year together- a really wonderful record of entertaining.
Mam is off on Derby and Joan work again for the third day running. It seems that she has a field day getting two hundred and fifty OAP’s competing in the whist and dominoes final etc. And she is out again tonight-oh dear. I really shall have to put my foot down. Chris, it appears, is having a new bike.-at least it seems he will soon have to. His own is out of commission and he’s borrowing my old crank-and soon got to work on that too.. Saturday morning he came down and said,’ I’ll do your bike on Monday dad.’ He’d been out on it the night before and came home with a flat tyre and the chain locked around the hub. Of course father had to set to work on it and it was the best part of a week before it could pass its MOT test!
And now about yourselves. Hope things have got into their stride at 28 Devonshire Road, Liverpool 8. That Mike is settling down nicely and Joey back in his old haunts-how he’ll miss those Braeside fields. We enjoyed having him and he was no trouble. But those were summer days and tending him would be very different now. I often fancy I see him peeping through the window from outside. For one thing the birds will get a new lease of life When I came down for breakfast early morning [6-30 AM] I see the surviving blackbird on the lawn-where once there were two together-Joey had his mate.
I think all of you enjoyed your trip abroad, though I fear you overreached yourselves and tried to venture too far afield which explained the tired looks I noticed as soon as I saw you.
Later…here’s your letter to hand. Sorry to hear you have had the sniffles and runs-probably due to offset of the Autumn cold and turn of the year which we’ve got to expect. I shouldn’t worry too much on the temporary divorce check. Time is well on your side and that will sort itself out without too much trouble. It would be best to prepare for the future foundations-to complete your final year and be off to a good start. You’ve come so far and now you’re nearly there there’s the opportunity ahead with wise guidance which comes but once. I was interested to read of your third share in the allotment. That should be enjoyable and a relaxing fun and tonic after your studies.. Though , as you say, it may be rough but it reads like virgin soil to me and that’s the best. Turn it over rough-anyhow, in big lumps and the frost will do its workand it’ll break up clean and easy in the Spring. And the best of luck again. Never dreampt that there was provision in the teeming city of Liverpool. Best of love as always, Dad