‘Grand mother and grand father Frame – True Victorians’
Soon my Mother, my dear Mother was ill with something very bad indeed. My father stayed in the pub and my Mother stayed in bed. Her two sisters, Hannah and Peggy would come each day to take care of my needs; my three times weekly physiotherapy sessions at the clinic and dinner for Johnny Snots and me. My mother eventually went into hospital and I went to stay with my Auntie Peggy for a while in her little cobblestone terrace flat in Fenham. My budgie ‘Beauty,’ a couple of jigsaw puzzles and a Biggles Annual followed to keep me company. I was taken to Newcastle General Hospital at visiting time to see my mother who looked completely washed out, but she insisted that I sit close to her on the hard, starched and battered looking hospital bed.
Back at auntie Peggy’s, I was presented with a new pair of grey knee-length pants, a new blazer with a school badge on the pocket that I didn’t recognize, and a tie which completed the uniform that was far too big. They were hand-me-downs again. I was told I’d grow into them. I seemed to spend my childhood growing into other people’s discarded, mothball smelling rags. I would sit on the back steps contemplating the old tin bath that hung up on the wall, knowing that I’d be sitting in front of the fire that evening being washed in the very same tub.
My auntie Peggy and uncle Bob were at least having a few weeks as parents – something they thought they would never be able to do – and I was no longer drinking tea out of jam jars with Johnny Snots. I missed Johnny, I missed a lot of things; the pit pond, running through the fields chasing rabbits… All there was around was terrace after terrace, back lane after back lane, and the greasy fish and chip shop and off licence, which collectively served lard and brown ale to the whole neighbourhood.
My Mother eventually left hospital and auntie Peggy took me back to Arcot Drive. The next couple of months were very strange from my point of view. The house seemed to be endlessly full of doctors and relations, but never much sign of my father – father still lived in the local pub! I was allowed to play out later than usual – at least I was back with my bestest mate in all of West Denton, ‘Johnny Snots’.
Then one night I was not allowed into my Mother’s bedroom to say goodnight, I was just put to bed by my auntie Peggy. Just before I dropped into a deep sleep, I felt my Mother kiss my forehead, as she had always done before she got sick. I opened my eyes expecting to see her but she wasn’t there. Still, I felt safe and slept soundly.
The next morning, I entered the living room to find my Auntie Peggy talking to some doctor type man, my father was not in the pub but sitting there crying – head in hand. Auntie Peggy quickly put her arms around me and explained that my Mother had gone with the angels last night and I wouldn’t be seeing her again, I must be a big boy and now go and live with her and uncle Bob in Fenham. I felt so lost, confused, crying, yet in some kind of cocoon, because I was the little person in a family of adults, and all I wanted was to see my mother again.