Mr B is attempting to snooze in his armchair in front of the television. He has had a slightly traumatic morning at the diabetic clinic having his retinopathy checked. I know all about retinopathy because I picked up a
leaflet while waiting for his eye-drops to work. Anyway, he really doesn’t want to be disturbed...
“Do you remember,” I ask, “what you
were earning in 1966?” He considers for a bit then says he thinks he averaged £20 a week - after which he closes his eyes again.
“How much rent
did we pay a week for our flat in The Greenway?” I want to know next. He struggles awake and reckons it was the princely sum of £3. I write down the figures dutifully. Mr B tries to go back to sleep.
I am busily working on a Grandparents Book for the second of my grandchildren, who will turn 21 in December. Earlier this year, I completed a similar book for my first-born grandchild, thus setting myself up for the daunting
challenge of another nine such historical documents if all the Tremendous Ten are to receive equal treatment. I don’t know why I do this to myself, I really don’t.
It’s fortunate, I tell Mr B (who really doesn’t want to know but for some reason seems to have given up on the chances of sweet slumber) that this second book asks different questions from the first. It concentrates on my early life, rather
than roaming into more up to date information as the first book did. I enjoyed writing the first book tremendously, of course, but it’s good not to have to repeat everything. I cannot rely on Mr B to help me with the first sixteen years of my life -
but I am relying on his memory, as well as mine, for what the book describes as “”Early Married Life.”
I am really enjoying going back in time,
despite uncovering some alarming gaps in my memory. As I fill in the pages, I am picturing our very first home together, 59a The Greenway in Uxbridge, a ground floor flat leased to us by the firm for which Mr B was working at the time. When we moved in, it
had no central heating nor even an immersion heater which meant that the only way of obtaining hot water (aside from boiling saucepans) was to light a fire. This was not ideal in the summer months - while in the winter the bathroom was so cold that it was
impossible to bath the babies there and a baby bath in front of the fire had to suffice.
It must have been a rather grand house before it was divided into
flats. I was once told that it had been owned by somebody famous, who used to sit in the bay window at the front of the house doing her embroidery. Try as we may, neither Mr B nor I can remember who this famous person was. If, indeed, she ever existed, with
or without her embroidery.
At the back of the house was a room we fancifully called “the cellar” where, not having a fridge in those days, we kept
our milk and other perishables. It wasn’t too effective; I still remember the Christmas when the piece of beef we had saved up for went off, leaving us to feast on egg and chips for Christmas dinner.
Our shared back garden was hopelessly overgrown but did boast the most magnificent apple tree - we lived on apple pie, apple crumble, baked apples, stewed apples. I was the Queen of Puddings - provided said puddings were Apple
It was hardly a mansion. Our living room, in the middle of the flat, was so dark that we had to have the light turned on all day; when we were looking
for our first house and the estate agent asked what we were looking for, all I could say was that it had to be light and sunny.
It was, however, the place
where our first two daughters were born, in the very room where Somebody Famous sat in the windows and worked on her embroidery.
How special is that?