Mothers Endearing Qualities
When she lost her son…
Ah, dear mother… occasionally she went home from wherever she happened to be at the time, often leaving me behind in my pram. I was forgotten and abandoned in the recreation park, at the tobacconists, at school and on the bus station. The most memorable occasion being in, of all places, Mablethorpe, Lincolnshire.
She and I went on day trips to the seaside resort of Mablethorpe (Dad worked for the Railway and got free rail tickets).
Once there, Mother was in her element, smoking away and playing at the bingo stall to her heart’s content. I was usually left on the beach in all weathers and – if she’d had a win or two – I’d get a thruppence (1¼p) or a sixpence (2½p) from her when I eventually tracked her down to whichever bingo stall she’d camped at. She played with at least five cards; she could multi-task when it suited her. I’d then be told to get lost for three or four hours in the amusement arcade, so I had to play the halfpenny machines in an effort to make my vast fortune last.
On this occasion she actually caught the train home, getting as far as Lincoln before she realised I wasn’t with her.
She rang the Lincolnshire constabulary, who sent a massive, scary policeman to find me. I was still in the seafront arcade, on the only winning streak I’d ever known, having amassed an unimaginable fortune of over three shillings (15p) from the ha’penny machines.
So when the big bobby found me, I was not very pleased, and went begrudgingly with him to Station Road Police Station. From there I was given a lift in the back of a ‘Black Maria’ into Lincoln. I thought I’d been arrested.
We arrived at the Railway Station, where dear Mummy blew cigarette smoke into my face and promptly relieved me of my three bob (shillings=15p) winnings.
An Education in Nub-Ending, Roll-ups and ‘Homework’
She would regularly have me going around the streets picking up cigarette nub ends, taking them home, and rolling up her reconstituted cigarettes. I just thought everyone did it. With so much practice I became an expert ‘Rizla’ roller-upper of her fags.
She used to take in home work for a while, which meant that while she was out playing cards or bingo, I would have to occupy myself in putting fifty hairnets onto circular cards, slot 20 hairpins each into countless cut-away cards and assemble comb kits and the like for hours on end. Every night.
Mind you, she did give me a shilling (5p) a week for doing it.
Thank heavens she kept on disappearing and I had a bit of a rest from the constant worry.
As soon as I was old enough, dear old Dad made sure I took a morning and evening newspaper round on, got me a Saturday job at the hardware store and a night job at the Grove cinema, lighting the gaslights in the auditorium at the beginning of the shows, then going back late night to extinguish them. Child-labour sweatshops? Tell me about it…
Avoiding the Law
Even as a child, I thought my mother’s ability to keep out of court and avoid the attentions of police and debt collectors for so long was simply amazing.
I lost count of the number of times I was suddenly instructed to answer the door to a caller and deny all knowledge of her – as she hid in the larder, under the stairs, the outside toilet or coal-house in the yard.
Fast-forward about 40 years or so. She was eventually taken to court – by then I didn’t want to know, but my sister Jane (who was farmed out to rich relatives at a young age) did go to court with her. This is what Jane said about it:
“I was so embarrassed when they read out the charges. It took the usher about 15 minutes to read them all out, by which time everyone in the court was either nodding off or looking at each other in amazement!”
Mother even had some of the people she had conned over the years give her glowing character references during her day in court. On conclusion of the trial, I wondered why they bothered. She emerged from the court with a new, rent-free fully furnished flat, 50% of gas and electricity bills paid and only 12 months probatio
Mother and ‘Our Kid’
Mother’s antics drove my older step brother Pete into the forces. He got married to a Chinese gal while he was stationed in Hong Kong, where he lived for a few months. The time came when he had to decide whether to stay out there or return to England. Dear mother wrote them a begging letter, asking how much he had been earning in Hong Kong; which was enough for our kid to decide to stay there.
I missed and still miss him so much, but couldn’t question his wisdom in keeping away from her.
A Nottingham Lads True Tale of Woe – Part Three to follow ASAP…