The Auntie Doris Years: 1946


When my Raymond eventually came back from the war, he realised that Ethel, his mother was beginning to find life difficult in that big house she had down the Avenue. His father had died in 1940, nothing to do with the war, everything to do with a bad chest, which he had tried to cure by smoking more cigarettes, and changing to the ones without cork tips, in a bid to “clear his tubes.” Mother Ethel was only 53 at the end of the war, but she looked a lot older, bringing up four boys had taken a bit out of her, and between you and me, her mind wasn’t as sharp as it had been. If it ever had been sharp. Apart from Raymond, there was Bernard, who went into the merchant Navy in 1945, John who stayed out in Italy after helping to liberate it, and took up with a woman in Turin or some ruddy where, and little Cyril, who had been born in 1931, and was an awkward 15 year old, hardly helping his mother with anything at all.
So Raymond decided that he was going to move in and help out. The only thing was, after demobilisation, he got a job on the buses, and he felt as if he might need a bit of help if he was going to keep things on an even keel, what with the lad and the mother both being a bit of a handful. So he asked me if I would live there too.
I must say that it took me back a bit. My mouth opened and closed a few times before I finally spluttered it out. “Are you asking me to marry you?”
He blushed and stammered and then he said “well… Not exactly”
“Thank the ruddy Lord for that” I said, and I moved in the following week. What would I want to get ruddy well married for? I liked Raymond, but I couldn’t think of one good reason to marry him. And, Lord bless him, neither could he. Yes, we had a nice relationship. Yes I was vey fond of him at the time, but i was wise enough to know that these things might not last. I could see that, plain as day by looking at my own mother and father. They must have cared for each other once, I could almost remember a time when they had, but they didn’t see eye to eye much by the mid 1940s, and my mother was stuck with him, because they were married and it wasn’t all that easy to get out of it in those days. I wasn’t worried about having children. Pearl had had little Walter, and she wasn’t married and she had managed to pull the wool over most people’s eyes, so there didn’t seem to be too much of a problem there. Security? We had just been through a ruddy war! It might seem daft of me, but I didn’t feel that I had had a great deal of security for a long time, so I wasn’t going to worry too much about that now. My mother didn’t see any problem either. It was only my father that raised an objection, and the spectre of an eternity in Hell for my sins. But me and mother had given up listening to him years ago.
Auntie Doris’s pop pick of 1946: “We’ll Gather Lilacs” by Geraldo and his Orchestra. I can’t remember gathering many Lilacs with Raymond after the war, but he did used to sing it to me, if you could call the noise of his warbling “singing”.

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