Mum’s mum, a widow, lived five minutes away next to the coal sidings and engine sheds on the main railway line. Another stone built terrace end and shared yard. When we slept over it seemed the coal siding lights were on all night and every few minutes there was a sudden noisy rush as a railway truck tipped its load into a chute. The chamber pot stunk. Newspaper, candle, matches and outside toilet key were looped with string on a bobbin hung behind the front door, but you didn’t go outside and down the yard once you were in bed. She had two kitchens. One at the back, a cellar really, dark and damp with bare stonework and a permanent smell of gas coming from the stove. The other was the one downstairs room with a big cast iron range, an upright piano, a single window with blackout curtains, a view of the yard and a sink in a cupboard. She also had a amazing floor-to-ceiling sideboard. Illuminated, with mirrors and carved pillars. It looked like a fairground organ. A large wicker armchair stood next to the table, in front of the window. Which child got to sit there had to win a war. As I was the smallest and youngest of the lot, tagging on at the end of the line, it was never me. This was where my mum grew up and it was here we spent Christmas Day.
When you work out ages, granny was seventy three in 1953, and looked it, with a round wrinkled face, hair in grey braids wrapped up around her head and circular glasses in black health service frames. I didn’t recognise her one morning with her hair down, younger somehow. Whatever the weather, she wore thick stockings and a hat and coat. Her toast was like eating a crisp biscuit. Mum worked, so granny looked after me when I was ill or during school holidays. One morning, between mum going and granny arriving, older brother broke my arm. He always had his nose in a comic or a book and an easy way to get at him was to hide them. That morning I threw one down the stairs and hid under my bed. Big mistake. The bedsprings got very close to my face each time he bounced. I used my arm as a pitprop, wedged between the floor and the bed. I still had the pot on when they took my tonsils out.
I went to Birkby primary school for a short time. There was nowhere for the boys to do a crap, so you’d either to ask a teacher about their lavs and they usually said no, or brave the girls’. A queue of them outside the WC chanting and pushing the door open. Not good. I shouted out very loud in the middle of a class for no reason, other than it had been on children’s TV the night before. Sent to the headmistress.
Older brother passed the 11+ and started at the high school in 1953. Huddersfield College, before it merged with Hillhouse and became Huddersfield New College.
Mum said Denis Compton was a dashing playboy. To me, he was about as remote as the royal family. When he scored the winning runs his hair flopped over his forehead. He became the man in the brylcreem adverts. According to dad, Len Hutton was the best cricket player in the world.
We moved to the suburbs in 1953. Three miles east of Huddersfield town centre and a two bedroom semi with a garden. Dad said later he’d got a mortgage for £4 a month. He’d a head for figures and skill with wood. His mum and dad ran a shop on Leeds Road. School at Hillhouse ‘Redcaps’ which offered a technical type of education and no qualifications. Then office jobs, The Pays Corps during the war, and ‘wages’ at The Yorkshire Electricity Board from 1947 to his retirement.
I remember the day we moved. Granny took me on the bus. Two buses to be accurate. I struggled back to my old school for a few weeks, but then changed to the new local primary. I was six years old.