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Archive for December, 2014

It was lovely to be home and see Mum, and my brothers and sisters again. I was surprised to find out that Anne was expecting a baby, and as she had to leave the forces, was now living back home with us. th6KLV1B8O

I soon settled back into my school and village life, and was pleased to see my school friends again. After living at Gran’s, it made me realise how primitive our house was, with no bathroom, electric light or running water. How hard life must have been for Mum, bringing up such a large family in those conditions.

It was now well into autumn, and Anne’s baby was due. Bill had a few days leave, and was staying with us, so he could be near Anne during the birth. On the day of the birth it was Bill who rushed to the village for the midwife, as our Lil was still at work. Anne, at last, was delivered of a lovely baby boy. He had blue eyes and fair hair, like his Mum and Dad.

However, all was not well, as the baby was born with his foot twisted inwards. The midwife explained to Mum that he would need an operation to straighten the foot, otherwise he would not be able to walk. Mum looked upset when she was told this, and asked the midwife to tell Anne about the operation. 354

Anne came downstairs after a few days, and as Bill’s leave was up he went back to camp. It was only when Anne bathed the baby downstairs that we saw his foot for the first time. It really was badly twisted, and you could see that he would never be able to walk unless the foot was straightened.

The baby was christened Keith. He seemed a happy and healthy little boy, until he had the first operation. When Anne had taken Keith to the hospital, the consultant said the sooner the operation was done, the better the results would be. The first operation was not a success, as the bone did not set properly. Keith came home for a little while, but he was a different baby, always crying, and Anne could not get him to take his food.

babyuntitledA few weeks later Anne had to take him back for the second operation. The consultant told Anne that everything had gone well, and Keith could go home in a few days. Mum and Anne went to bring Keith home, and at first he appeared to settle down much better this time. He was eating better, and seemed much happier in himself.

Then one morning Anne was bathing the baby when she suddenly shouted to Mum that something was wrong with Keith. We were upstairs helping Mum clean the bedrooms. When Mum dashed downstairs, we all raced down the stairs after her. Anne was holding Keith who was still wet from the bath. His body looked as though it was twitching all over, and he appeared to be choking on his tongue. As Mum took him from Anne, he went limp. Mum wrapped him in a shawl, but even though Mum had a large family, she had no idea what to do to help Keith. Anne was crying, and in a complete panic.

midwifeMum told us to go to the village and get the doctor or district nurse. We were lucky to catch the doctor in, and by the time we got back home from the village, the doctor’s car was already there. By this time Keith was asleep in his cot. Mum explained what had happened, and how Keith was choking on his tongue. The doctor said he was sure that Keith had had a fit. He said the district nurse would call, and tell them what to do if he had any more. The fits became more frequent, and Keith was taken back to hospital.

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As the winter evenings drew in, we missed Dad more and more. There was nobody to play with the boys, or to share our games. Mum was too busy looking after the new baby, cooking and cleaning. The rest of the year passed quietly by, and the first Christmas without Dad was not far away. Lil was the only one coming home for Christmas, as both Emm and Anne could not get any time off. There was no playing the piano that year. Mum could not even bring herself to light the fire in the front room. Lil cooked us a lovely Christmas dinner, and tried to organise a few games. But it was not the same without our Dad, and we were all glad when Christmas day was over.

snowimagesTV074U5MThe new year of 1944 began with a bad snow storm. Mum kept us home from school, as we had no suitable waterproof clothes or footwear. We still had the water and wood to collect, so we had to take turns wearing an old pair of my Dad’s boots, which were far too large for us. By the time I trudged to the stream and back a few times in the snow, the boots felt as heavy as lead.Old working boots

Mum was finding it difficult to get to the village for shopping and the baby food. Another worry for Mum was that we were getting very low on coal and candles, and to make them last longer we would all go to bed early. I used to envy my baby sister, as Mum would wrap a warm brick up and put it in the bottom of her cot. Our bed was so cold it made you shiver to get in it. In the morning our clothes would be icy cold when we put them on.

Although the snow made the countryside look like a picture postcard, we were all glad when it started thawing, and our lives could get back to normal. The bus service started again, and Mum went to the village to get some shopping and order a bag of coal. I was glad to return to school. I missed the lessons, especially the reading class, as that was the only time I had access to any books. I also missed my friends, and visiting their houses. As most of the fathers were miners, they were all entitled to a generous ration of coal, so they could afford to keep their fires burning all the time. Their homes always seemed lovely and warm compared to ours, and having tea there was a treat for me.

jamimagesVO85IS3NAt home we had bread and jam or cheese, but when I had tea at one of my friends, there was always something nice to eat, even though everything was rationed. There would be an assortment of sandwiches and cakes, and tinned fruit or jelly with custard. I know Mum could not afford that kind of food for our large family, but at the time I envied my friends their warm houses and nice food. I was also envious that they had running water, and did not have the daily task of collecting water from a stream.

At last the weather started getting warmer, and Mum could walk to the village with the baby and my youngest brother. Once a week she went to the clinic to have the baby weighed and collect baby milk and orange juice. She said she was glad to have somewhere to go after being indoors all winter. At the clinic she met a Mrs Davis, and Mum being very sociable they soon became friends.babyuntitled

Mum often spent the afternoon at her house having tea and a gossip. After school we would meet her there, and then walk home together. Like all Mum’s friends she was not too clean in her home or herself. Mrs Davis was a large, plain woman, and her clothes always smelt of wet nappies. I never saw her with a pram, and she always carried her baby everywhere. The coat she wore was black, but over the years the front had become almost white where her numerous babies had been held, with wet nappies. How Mum could have tea there amidst all the dirt is a puzzle to me as she was so clean herself, but it never seemed to worry her.

I do not know where Mum met her other friend, as she lived in Merthyr Tydfil, which was some miles from us. One day Mum said that her friend had invited us all to tea on the following Saturday. We set off on the Saturday feeling quite excited as it was rare for all the family to be invited anywhere. But when we reached the house our excitement soon faded.

dishuntitledMum’s friend opened the door and asked us in, and although we were poor, I had never seen such poverty. The street door opened on to the living room, which was empty of furniture apart from an old, dirty table and two chairs. The floor had no lino, and was covered in a layer of dirt. On the table was a bowl full of dirty dishes and equally dirty water. The fireplace was full of ashes from past fires, along with other rubbish that had been thrown there. We all looked at each other in dismay, and I wondered where we were supposed to be having our tea.

Mum said the lady’s name was Kit. She was quite a tall, slim person, and wore a flamboyant black and red dress. She would have been pretty but for her sore, watery eyes which were red rimmed, with the lashes stuck together. She told us that she spent a lot of her time singing at various venues around the villages. Kit then burst out singing and we were surprised that she had such a good singing voice.

It was late afternoon by now, and there was no sign of any food being prepared. I for one, was glad that we would not have to eat there. Mum, as usual, did not seem to mind all the dirt and squalor, and sat there happily drinking tea out of a cup that Kit had taken from the dirty  bowl of water. We were all pleased when Mum said we would have to catch the bus home.

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Mum was finding it very hard without Dad. Apart from the money problems, she missed Dad’s help in the home, and his company. She began to talk about returning to London. When she mentioned this to Lil, our Lil said that Dad would never have agreed to the family living in London while the air raids were still happening.

Then one day Mum surprised us all by saying she was going to London to find somewhere for us to live. When Mum came back from London she said she had found us a house, and now we would be able to leave Wales. Lil was very angry when she heard this, and told Mum that she wanted to see the house before we moved. It was decided we should all go to London with Mum and Lil, and so we all set out one day to catch the train to London.

We arrived at Paddington Station, and then caught a bus to the East-End. Mum called on a few of her relatives and friends, and then as the time was getting on we made our way to the house. As soon as Lil saw the house from the outside she said: “What a dump, I hope it’s better inside.”

imagesCAF072BQHowever, inside was far worse as it was almost derelict. Lil looked at Mum and said: “You can’t live here, there’s no water, and the whole house is almost a ruin. How will you manage on your own?” Mum looked very downcast, and said it was all she could find. Lil gathered us all together, and told Mum that we were going back to Wales, and that Mum would have to find somewhere better to live if we were to stay in London. So we made our way back to the station.

It was very late by the time we arrived at Paddington Station. Lil went to find out when the next train was due, and she was told there were no more trains to Wales that night. There was nowhere for us to go and stay, and so it was decided that we would spend the night in the station.

What a sorry sight my family must have made. Poor Mum looked tired and worn out, and the black mourning clothes she wore made her look even more pale then she was. The bench she sat on was very uncomfortable, and to make matters worse the baby would not stop crying.

It was way past her feeding time and the milk Mum had brought with her had all gone, and there were no shops open to buy any. My three brothers, who at first had thought it was a big adventure to be spending a night on a railway station, changed their tune when they started to get hungry and thirsty. They were hanging around Mum, moaning that they wanted something to eat and drink. Lil told them to shut up, and said Mum had enough to worry about. Mary, Kath and I were hungry, but we did not like to say anything as we could see Mum was upset. Lil said she was going to find someone who worked on the station, and ask if there was a canteen where she could get some milk for the baby.iPaddington Station

Lil was gone quite a while, and when she returned there was a man with her who was wearing a railway uniform. He sat down next to our Mum, and I heard him say: “Now, Mother, what’s all the trouble?” Mum started to cry, and told him how we had arrived late and missed the last train. He looked at all the children clustered around Mum and said: “Are all these your kids?” When Mum said we were, he then said: “I suppose their Dad is in the forces?” Lil told him that our Dad was dead, and when he heard this he looked really shocked. He said he had to go, but would be back soon.

iStaff at Paddington StationTo our surprise he returned with some more railway staff, and they had brought milk for the baby, and food and drink for the rest of us. They also handed Mum some money, saying they had all contributed to a collection for Mum. Both Mum and Lil had tears in their eyes as they thanked them for being so generous.

The night seemed to go on for ever, but at last the morning came and we were able to catch the early train back to Wales. Mum never forgot their kindness, and told many people about the night she spent on Paddington Station.

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