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The Day Before Yesterday: 107 - First Trip To London

...You probably think I am mad, not taking every opportunity to have a great time but to me this 'great city' seemed a sham. I had left real life back home with my children and though it had been a very different experience, I was pleased when we were on our local bus and home...

Gladys Schofield was far from impressed with what she saw on her first trip to London.

Some of the couples at work were going for a trip to London in late October. Cliff said it would be good if we could go but I knew this was impossible. I couldn't leave a four month old baby, in fact I didn't want to leave them at all. Mum and Dad had called more often since Linda was born and the subject came up again. Mum said "Why don't you go, we will come for the weekend and take care of the children. It will be just like old times".

The baby was sleeping through the night and I didn't really see a problem, so decided to go.

I had never seen London before. It seemed stark and cold looking, in the Autumn sunlight. I couldn't settle at all through the night, wondering how my parents were coping in our absence. You probably think I am mad, not taking every opportunity to have a great time but to me this 'great city' seemed a sham. I had left real life back home with my children and though it had been a very different experience, I was pleased when we were on our local bus and home. Mum and Dad were fine and seemed to have coped well, even though Susan informed us Linda had cried all the time. She probably had cried more than usual as babies that age respond more to change, just as little girls expect their Mum to always be there.

Dad said he took the baby for a walk in her pram. I bet he couldn't count the years since he last did that. Everything had run smoothly and we were very grateful for the help that was given us.

Susan had persuaded us to buy her a pair of skates for her sixth birthday. I thought this a bit early as she was only a trim little girl. They seemed very popular and were in all the large stores. I need not have worried about her safety. She had already had plenty of practice on her friends pair and took to them like a 'duck to water'. She would fly down the pavement, hardly pausing as she rounded the comer through our gate and down the drive and I thought I had got a dainty girl at last. Other times she would practice her ballet steps, a real little Prima Donna.

Dorothy did not seem to pick up with any more men and was content visiting the many young growing families we had scattered around the neighbourhood. She would spend each weekend calling in on one of us, she loved the children.

The family did not gather any more around my parents large table for Christmas dinner. We usually invited the old folk to our Christmas dinner. They liked to be amongst the children at this time of year. On one or two occasions, brother John beat us to this invitation. We also had Cliffs mum for Christmas day.

The house was always decorated with trimmings and the tree glistening long before Christmas. Everyone seemed in high spirits at this time of year. I always started the preparations in good time to make sure everything would be ready. Dollies clothes or tiny cot covers had to be done late at night, away from inquisitive little eyes. We loved to see the surprise on their faces on Christmas morning. It was always well worth all the hard work.

I can remember this Christmas clearly. Harold liked to call at this time. Linda was having her first Christmas and was content just kicking her legs and talking in her own little way, to the coloured streamers above her head. I was putting the finishing touches to the frosty Christmas cake. My brother watched as I tried to guide the icing flowing through my icing bag, as I wrote the appropriate words in fine red icing, 'A Merry Christmas'. All this time he had sat quietly watching. I wouldn't say I was an expert at this but at least it was readable and my brother said "How do you find the time to do all this, with such a big family, Glad?" "I don't know Harold" I said, "it seems to be a mixture of routine and planning ahead. Can you and Eileen join us for Christmas dinner?" "I'm sorry kid" he replied, "Eileen's brother is coming for Christmas".

Turkeys were bought fresh. They hung in the shops, head down, looking very sorry for themselves. The cold air at that time of year kept them fresh. They were plucked and cleaned but always had their heads on. You always got their giblets. They had not been spirited away somewhere between killing and selling, they made the gravy.

The butchers sold pork pies also, in all sizes. These early ones were full of pork. The taste of these has declined throughout the years. Everything was always made by hand at our house, the cake, pudding, savouries and pastry, also the stuffing for the bird and of course the mince pies and other goodies. I can't seem to get into buying 'ready made' although they do a good job of this, for the busy lady of today.

The brass bands also kept 'earlier hours' now compared with when I was a child. They walked the streets in the evening, playing their rousing carols, stood around each lamp. We seemed to miss out on this as they couldn't be expected to come around every street in the new suburbs, so some of the magic had been taken away, though the Salvation Army played in every cul-de-sac and nowadays the brass band gets a ride as they play their instruments. How things have changed.

After that Christmas, I began feeling unwell. I remember seeing the Doctor on several occasions during the early Spring. I knew I was rather overworked and Cliff had changed his job working nights at this firm as it paid more money but he never got used to night work and only kept it up for about three months. It was hard to keep it quiet for him as Linda was only young. A neighbour across the road said to me one day "I have more noise and arguing with my two children than I every hear from your five. How do you manage it?" I did know the answer, her children were much closer together. A girl and then a boy and ours were spread over many years, the older ones having their own interests.

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To read earlier episodes of Gladys's autobiography please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/the_day_before_yesterday/

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