The 60’s Beat Scene
Back home in Hamilton Street, life wasn’t happening quite at the same pace as rock ‘n’ roll, in fact, nothing much was happening at all. My Uncle Bob was taking a lot of time off work to care for my Auntie Peggy, who was now ill and spending all of her time in bed. This had been going on for six months and I had been too busy dreaming of having my name in lights to see that she was not just ill, but seriously heading towards checkout time.
I managed to anchor myself enough to help tend to some of her needs, in order that my Uncle could do the odd day on the building site. So he could hold the job down and bring a couple of quid home, it would help pay for the nurse. Auntie Peggy weighed something under six stone and could not climb out of bed to visit the W. C. at the bottom of the yard.
We fixed up a commode in the cupboard under the stairs, and I had to carry her from the bed and keep her upright on the commode whilst she prayed to be able to do the impossible. I made her tomato soup but she couldn’t keep anything down longer than five minutes. She kept saying, “I’ve had my chips, Charles.” I can still hear her saying those words.
It was 1am on a Wednesday morning some three months later. I had just returned from seeing Greta. My Uncle Bob stood at the bedroom with tears streaming down his face. “Your Auntie Peggy is dying, Charles,” he said. My immediate response was, “Don’t be stupid!” Why did I say that to him? Because I just didn’t want to accept the fact that we were going to lose her.
I put my head around the door to see my Auntie Peggy lying in bed, asleep, breathing a succession of short pants. Then, two minutes later, she stopped. She just lay there, motionless, quiet. Uncle Bob stood frozen to the spot, crying – I burst into tears too. We should have been able to hold each other just for a moment, just for the comfort of a pair of loving arms, but we had never been a physical family.
The third sister, Auntie Hannah, came the following day with some thick, white wool, fisherman’s socks to put on Auntie Peggy’s feet. She shouted for me to give her a hand in the bedroom, it took a lot of strength to get me into that room. “It’s alright Charles, it’s only your Auntie Peggy,” said Auntie Hannah in a matter-of-fact tone. She lifted up the sheet off Auntie Peggy’s feet. “Now, what I want you to do is lift your Auntie Peggy’s feet up whilst I slip the socks on.” This was a total freak out time. A seventeen-year-old boy, lifting up his beloved Aunt who had become totally rigormortisised! She felt like a thin 5’10”, length of cold brittle balsa wood. “Why are you putting socks on her?” I questioned. Auntie Hannah just mumbled something as my uncle Bob entered the room. “That’ll do it.” She said, and pulled the sheet back down over my Auntie Peggy’s dead feet.