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A Shout From The Attic: My Safety Zone – And Beyond

Ronnie Bray tells of the boundaries of his childhood world.

To read earlier chapters of Ronnie's autobiography please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/a_shout_from_the_attic/

Starting with my childhood north, and working clockwise around Huddersfield, my boundaries were well defined. unmistakably marking the limits of civilisation as I knew it. These boundaries also circumscribed my comfort zone.

I was born at 121 Fitzwilliam Street in January of 1935, to Louis Bennett Bray and George Frederick Bray, eighteen months after my sister, Irené, named after Irené Wigglesworth, one of the sisters of her two godmothers, who was a worthy in the Girl Guide movement, and chief official at George Moxon's Coal office at the corner of Upperhead Row and Westgate. My sister was always called René.

We left Fitzwilliam Street for a short period when my parents moved to Alder Street in Fartown. The horrors of wife and child abuse caused us to return to Nanny’s home, where my mother divorced George Frederick Bray, and, some time little later, married Tommy Scott.

Apart from three painful memories at Alder Street, the world of my childhood rippled out from the house in Fitzwilliam Street, close to whose top Trinity Street went down into town and up to the roof of the world before rapidly descending into the enemy territory of Lancashire where they “spoke funny.”

Trinity Street’s outer limit was the Junction public house beyond which, it was told, James Mason was born and lived and his mother continued to live there long after her son left Syringia Street to follow in the footsteps of Harold Huth. One summer, René and I actually went past there and wandered a little way up Westbourne Road, just below The Cropper’s Arms, where a man hired out rickety antique bicycles at sixpence an hour, entirely on trust and no deposit or names and addresses. This outreach was exciting and troubling, but the hour passed, as hours do, and soon we were headed back down the hill to the satisfying safety of terra cognito.

In later years I travelled even past the bike hire man to go to the Savoy cinema, affectionately referred to as the cabbage. The commissionaire, a man who wore a multi-coloured overcoat made in mock military style sufficiently roomy for a family of itinerants and who was well along in developing full blown paranoia would walk along the queue that sometimes stretched out into Westbourne Road and if he overheard anyone calling the Savoy the “cabbage,” he sent them away. Obviously, the commissionaire was not on commission.


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