The first winter I spent with my new family, of Raymond, Mother Ethel, and little Cyril was ruddy freezing. It was so cold that the milk froze in the milk bottles and pushed out of the necks of them in solid white columns with the silver foil on the tops. Then it snowed so much that the milkman stopped delivering, and all the blokes down the street had to dig a path to the main road and walk to the shops for provisions. And they had to keep digging it, for weeks. Little Cyril helped out, and he also got the shopping in for some of the neighbours an’all, and collected a few bob in tips for doing it. Then when the snow eventually melted there was flooding, and some people had to put bags outside their houses and wear waders to get to the shops. We were alright, but my friend Violet lived nearer the river, her rugs were ruined, and she found a drowned rat in her outside toilet.
The hardships that the weather caused sort of drew us together as a family more, and it really seemed as though it would work. I grew to like mother Ethel, she might not have been completely compost mentis, but she could tell a good story and knew some funny songs from before the first war. You should have heard her doing “He Went in Like a Lion and Came Out Like a Lamb” or “With His Hands in His Pockets and His Pockets in His Pants.” All sitting around the paraffin heater on a cold night, I laughed until the tears soaked my cheeks. Little Cyril wasn’t so bad either, when you got to know him. We called him little Cyril because he was small for his age, but he was willing, and in the summer of ’47 he landed himself a job in a radio repair shop. It was mostly fetching and carrying for the proprietor, Mr Hilversum at first, but he took a real interest in the valves and dials and stuff and, so the old man started to teach him a thing or two. He soon graduated to twiddling knobs and finishing off the casing and even adjusting the capacitors and fitting coils. He learned a trade there that served him a good few years.
Not that I had abandoned my own mother and April May. Once the weather turned nice again, I visited them regularly, and we had them over for Sunday tea most weeks an’all. April was doing well at school, and even helped to make bread and buns with me.
I took the two mothers and April to see the Royal wedding at the pictures that year. It was Princess Elisabeth (who is now the queen) and Prince Philip who is now the Duke of Edinburgh. My Raymond didn’t hold with Royalty. He also said that Philip was the princess’s cousin and that any children they had would be backward. I told him not to be so soft, but when I look at Prince Charles, I sometimes wonder. And that woman who looks like a horse. But I always have had a soft spot for royalty me. There’s no real harm in them, and they keep us amused and tempt the Americans over to spend their money here.
Auntie Doris’s pop pick of 1947: “Smoke that Cigarette” by Tex Ritter. We all smoked in those days. Even Little Cyril, (but not April May… yet). We didn’t think it did us any harm. But it brought an early end to plenty of us.