|Mum and me, c1954|
Born into a working class family in Manchester in 1918, she knew what hardship was all about. Her Dad worked hard and played hard. He enjoyed a pint at the local pub and would bring home a ’milk stout’ for my Granny, who was from a family where 'ladies' didn't go to the pub. Mum remembered her Granny as a 'fine lady' who wore beautiful hats. Mum was the second of four children and, when it came to her outlook on life, took after her Dad. She married my Dad the year before the ourbreak of WWII and had the double difficulty of looking after her first baby, my sister, throughout the war years while Dad did double shifts at the aircraft factory and on 'fire watch'. She and my sister were 'evacuated' to a big house in the country during the 'phoney war' but returned home after only a week as my Mum was homesick and needed her family close by to help her look after a young baby. After the War, there were years of rationing and other hardships ahead and it wasn't until the year after the NHS came into being (and 11 years after my sister's birth) that she gave birth to me in Withington hospital.
Mum returned to work as an office clerk as soon as I began nursery school, having taught me to read before I started there. Granny would take care of me after school until Mum returned from work. We lived on the same street as Granny and Grandad and Mum's younger sister and her family until I was five.
When I passed the 11+ and gained a grammar school place, it was Mum who attended every parents’ evening and school fete. (My Dad was often working 'overtime' in the evenings and weekends.) Despite her own basic level of secondary schooling, Mum helped me as much as she could with my school work, testing me during revision periods for upcoming examinations and letting me off my ’chores’ during that time. I know that both Mum and Dad were very proud of my educational achievements and I have them both to thank for making that possible, especially their decision to send me to an excellent State Primary School as it gave the best possible start to that education. The church school I should have attended was a bus ride from home and my Mum wouldn't allow me to travel that far alone.
Mum was never over-protective or demanding. I was raised without the need for physical chastisement and enjoyed a very happy childhood. Mum raised me as her mother had raised her; sent me to Sunday School even though she'd 'converted' to Catholicism on marrying my Dad. She kept close contact with her siblings, especially her younger sister with whom we frequestly took holidays in the same small Blackpool hotel. An annual celebration around Christmas time was a tradition that began before I was born. This usually took place at the eldest's home, with the children (my cousins) playing in the fields behind the house if the weather was fine, the women busy in the kitchen, preparing a post-Christmas tea and sampling the sherry, and the men upstairs in one of the bedrooms, playing card - with beer.
Mum didn’t suffer ’empty nest’ syndrome when I left home for University because she worked until retirement age and had a busy social life with family and friends. She was devastated when her younger sister, Annie, died following a series of strokes not long after my Dad died. Mum loved holidays and, when money allowed, travelled with Dad to Spain, Italy, and Malta where she made many new friends. After Dad’s death 15 years ago, she was unwilling to holiday alone but enjoyed visiting MWNN and me, travelling on coaches or trains until her own health began failing,
After a fall one icy Christmas, she stopped going out and for the last 7 or 8 years, we communicated by phone. She would often surprise me during our regular phone conversations. Topics about which I thought she had no interest would enliven her, especially when I related the latest nugget of information I'd unearthed about her mother's ancestors. Nonetheless, she wasn’t sentimental about family and our relationship was never very close. She was a good mother who did what she could for me without asking for anything in return (apart from a regular case of wine in her final years.)
Raise a glass to her today, the day of her funeral. She would appreciate it.