I was going through some old photos the other day and came across some of my mother and one remaining one of me at the same age as Elliot, it started me thinking about my youth and a few rememberances that I had from an early age (about 7). I used to go up to the shop to buy my mums cigarettes "Players weights" and on this particular day I was returning back to home in Battersea when the local window cleaners 1932 taxi cab (with the perambulator hood) pulled up with its ladders on top, as a hearse passed . My father was sitting inside and the window cleaner (Pat) said we`ll be back in a while Grandad is at home with auntie Lilly waiting for you, and off they went. The night before I had crept into my mums room as I hadn`t been allowed to see her for the last six days, to just look at her and I noticed that she was lying flat on her back in bed fast asleep. My mother used to cough all night some times and couldn`t sleep as she was that night, but I didnt think anymore of it. I kissed her goodnight and as she felt cold I covered her up a little higher with the spare blanket. She had come home from hospital a week ago and I was so happy to have her home, even if I couldnt see her tor a while. The last time I had seen her she was waving out of the Brompton hospital as I had to wait on the pavement outside behind the fence.
I used the key on a string inside the letterbox to get in to my house went into the Kitchen where my Grandad was sitting, my Auntie lill was in the scullery making tea. I gave him the cigarettes and he thanked me and out of the blue told me that I wouldn`t be able to see my mum again and that it was all for the best, her best. I remember he had tears in his eyes and my aunt looking from behind the wall of the scullery was also crying. I asked why and told him that I didn`t want that and wanted to know where she was to stop her from actually going ahead with this.
He was a very brave man having survived three major wars in his youth and his hobby was amature boxing. He had obviously been left behind to break the news to me . I will never forget him for that and the way that he explained to me that my mum had gone to "live with God" as we all do eventually and that I would be with her again when I died. I obviously cried and told him that I didn`t want that to happen, and then the cold realisation about my last nights activities when I had crept into my Mums bedroom only to find her cold and asleep, hit me. She was actually dead. The Funeral crowd returned and I was taken off to Leicester to live with my aunt Vera who lived over a fish and chip shop in a rather nice flat with a scatty dog (a Daschound called fritz) I must have stayed there for about 10 weeks and then returned to my home minus my Mum, a Dad that worked from 07-00 to 18-00 and a Grandfather that was a lamp man on the local diggings. I used to creep out of the house at midnight to go and sit with him and share his tea and sandwiches, I loved him very much as I did my Father. In the later years when my grandfather had passed on I would sit and remember these times. The smell of parafin still immediately brings back the memories of the black that I used to be covered in after a visit to his particular diggings, where he would look after the lamps to make sure that they were all alight and doing their job like little soilders he woud say guarding the hole so no one would come to harm.
The highlight of my visit would be when he would let me ligh up a few lamps and put them in their positions, I felt really quite grown up, (I really missed my mum at that time too!) he had a small hut that had scaffold boards for a seat and an old coat that he used to wear if it was cold and often I would snuggle down in it and sleep until the early hours when we would go home togeather and I would have to get cleaned up for school, we kept it a secret from my Dad, our secret, that I had been with him for the night but later My Dad confessed that he knew all the time. I was seven years old when my Mum passed away and nine when my grandad died. From then on I had little or no real parental guidance , My father used to work all the time to keep us and pay the bills, and his occasional enjoyment would be to have a drink, and I went completely off the rails. I never attended school unless they were really on my case. I drove my father hairless, as to where I was, sometimes going missing for days on end. I became a ferral Kid street wise to the limit, a genuine "Battersea boy". "The school board man", one day, actually collected me from Richmond park where I was fishing instead of being at school (I was grassed up by the long suffering lady who lived upstairs to us) I loved my dad and during all those years that we were togeather he never chastized me, he would explain where I was going wrong in his gentle voice and put up with the flack from all and sundry about their window being broken by me, of how they thought I was out of control and that I should be "locked up" My dad loved me too, and later on, used to relate that as a seven year old I had ensured that both my Grandad and he had got to bed safetly on Coronation night after the street celebrations, They had both had a skinfull and needed virtually to be carried up the stairs to bed. (To be continued maybe)