Sunday, 31 March 2013

Sundays no 3

I had a wonderful folding double buggy.  Sam at four had little energy due to his heart trouble, so he still had to use it unless we were prepared to stroll very slowly.  The pavements were not as wide as shown, I had to choose my route to school and church carefully or I couldn't get through.  On one part of the road we lived in I had to cross over because the lamp posts were too close to the garden walls.  I used to get Sam out of the buggy and partially fold his side to get through the bollards at the end of the lane near the school.  It didn't fit in the lifts in John Lewis either!

When children ask questions like this I think it is ok if your mind goes blank.
Mine always did anyway.  Babies crying have the same effect on my intellect, so both at once is bound to do it.

Church was nice and close.  Sam was very friendly with the vicar's son Robert.  They used to chase each other round the pews after the service.  Robert used to let Sam win by taking short cuts.  He was a kind child.  Just before Sam had his second operation, the vicar came to bless him and left the communion bread unattended for a moment.  Sam and Robert scoffed the lot!   Blessed inside and out!

It was surreal having a blessing for Sam at home.  Everything was surreal at that time.  We didn't know much about how risky his condition was and just accepted things as they were.  Looking back that was probably just as well, but after his operation we went into shock for at least 2 years.

We took Sam for walks and outings but he was easily tired.   He could whine for England but we tried not to give in more than was good for him.  It is so hard as a parent to always do the right thing instead of the easy thing.

Luckily we lived close to some fantastic parks and gardens.  This one is Richmond park which is the largest royal park in London and dates from the 1600s when Charles 1 created it as a deer park.   The deer are still there and being a Narnia fan, Sam looked out for a white stag to wish on every time we went.

We often went to Kew Gardens as well especially if it was cold because the glass houses were lovely - they always smelled of summer and exotic flowers.  They had orchid shows there which took your breath away.  Still do in fact.

Richmond Park also had a good cafe at Pembroke Lodge so we could recover over a cup of tea and gaze out over the terrace at the beautiful view from Richmond Hill.  It is still one of my favourite places to have tea.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Sundays no 2

Sam and Daddy go down to make the drinks
On Sundays I had a little lie in before I had to wake up properly. It was my treat!  Once again I have drawn the banisters very low, but they really were quite safe, honest!

Jim always had this fantasy that he would be someone who would have a library with a leather chair and an open fire.  His preferred attire would be a silk smoking jacket, and maybe a fez!  This dressing gown which I made him for his 32nd birthday was in the same vein.  It had yellow silk lapels and a yellow cord with tassels!  He does now actually own a fez (which he wears when the mood takes him) and a library.  Sadly the dressing gown no longer fits.

In the early 80s you could no longer get flying ducks for the stairs so we had ghastly padded silk pictures with frilly gold coloured frames.  My grandmother gave them to us for Christmas so we felt obliged to display them.  Shortly after this they met with an "accident"  and had to be thrown away.  Shame.

Here you see the delightful inch-deep shag-pile carpet so beloved of interior designers in the 70s.  This was a wedding present (from my grandmother again) which both Jim and I loved -  so much so that we brought it to all three of our homes when we moved.  I only got rid of it when it went bald in the middle.  It was all wool, thick, warm and luxurious. It was also the death of hoovers and harboured at least one evolving civilisation.

The rest of our bedroom had brown wood effect lino all over.  It was easy to clean.  Can't think of anything else nice to say about it.

All our furniture apart from the bed was second hand.  The little table from Jim's grandmother because she didn't like it, the three drawer dressing table from Jim's sister's bedroom after she left home and the wardrobe was a gigantic affair from my parents.  They got it in 1954 just after rationing finished and furniture was no longer "utility", so it had decorative mouldings and frilly handles.  I had the long side and Jim had the short side.  We also had a mahogany chest of drawers.  We fitted everything into the room.  We didn't have a lot of clothes so it was fine.

George was always hungry.  He is 23  now and still always hungry.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Sundays no 1 George arrives

This is a Sunday just after George, my second was born in May 1990.  He weighed 10lb so it was a real relief to be able to put him down! That is 4.54kg in metric.  (I do wish the government would choose one or the other - it is so confusing with recipes and dressmaking, not to mention my weight.  No matter what, I always seem to need my weight in kg when I can only remember it in stones and pounds, and vice versa. Rant over!)

George wakes up and Mummy feeds him
I absolutely loved this room.  It was heavenly sitting in there with a warm baby, reading a book or just staring at the pretty lights on the ceiling from his night light.  I didn't even mind the night feeds too much.  I knew a bit more what to expect by the time I had the second one. Still tiring though.

George was a much easier baby to look after than Sam.  He liked his feeds, he only cried when he had a pain and was generally pretty happy.  He also didn't have anything wrong with his heart, which was a great bonus.  Consequently we took our eye off the ball with him as we thought he was fine.  Bit of a mistake as it turned out, but more of that later!

I look a bit spaced in this picture.  I was probably half asleep.

In the picture below, it was about 7am, which is far too early to get up in my opinion, especially if you have been up twice to feed the baby already.  Jim was happily snoozling away, as he always did.  The floorboards were a dead give away and nothing would stop them squeaking.  We tried talcum powder, screwing them down, everything.  As soon as Sam heard the tell-tale sounds of movement from the boards he would be out of bed like a rocket.

Jim, as you can see sprang from sleep with a glad cry, whereas I was just getting snuggled down again for a nice little doze.  I was not a happy bunny, which is why Jim and Sam always went to get the drinks at the weekends.  It was sheer self-preservation on their part.

Jim always used odd little words to call us like "snooksy".  It is one of his endearing little traits.  He still sometimes calls me "socket set" for some unfathomable reason of his own.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Saturdays no 5

Sam has his tea
These balloons were left over from Christmas and Sam's birthday in September. You can just see one behind him on the floor.  He played with them so much we thought it was a good idea to leave them.  They really got dreadfully in the way but that is the sort of thing you do for your kids!  By May when George was born we had managed to get rid of them.

It made Sam feel powerful and big to run through them screaming and shouting because they all moved so easily - it was such fun to watch.  He did it every morning before breakfast and whenever he came into the dining room.  I bet the neighbours thought terrible things about us!

Very traditionally, he adored Marmite soldiers, which is what I have drawn him eating.  He didn't always have boiled egg with them to dip into because it used to get everywhere and I didn't like washing the walls and his hair!
Sam was good about going to bed.  These were his last few nights in his nursery bedroom.  His new grown up (but sadly pink) room was almost ready.  We just had to move the bed and tidy up a bit. I was too pregnant to do any work, at least that was my excuse!  Sam's room had been the spare room for a while so it had the tumble dryer in, with a pongo (big hose) going out of the window when it was in use. He was thrilled by this and used to sit next to it resting his back on it when it was on, like a mini massage.  We had no room for it in our tiny kitchen.  It was a trial to me as I intensely dislike having kitchen/laundry appliances in the wrong place.  We had a spare fridge in the lounge once - awful.                          

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Saturdays no 4

Sam and Daddy play fighting

Not sure where "fangard" comes from.  Just a slight mistake from "en garde"  probably.  Sam was vicious and relentless when sword fighting.  Being dyspraxic he was also a danger to himself and others!  I mean, look at how he is using the shield!  He was so excited to see real blood.  It took some persuading to get him to stop trying to hurt daddy again.

Sam was obsessed with the "bad guys"  in Sleeping Beauty.  He somehow always identified with the naughty people instead of the good ones.  He still does.  He loves to stir people up then watch the fun!  Life has been much quieter since he left to go to university.

I may not have been allowed to go shopping on my own but I always did when Jim went out for "a few bits and pieces"  as he liked to call it.  Sam quite liked shopping, which is really unusual in a 4 year old.  He got tired quickly as he was very blue by this age, waiting for his heart surgery, so he liked to sit down and see things happening.  I used to have to wheel him around and explain to him what things were.

That is my Long Tall Sally coat.  It was really lovely because I have long arms and I am tall.  It was the first coat I ever had which fitted me properly.  Mum always used to have to put fur cuffs on coats to make the arms long enough.  I hated this.  Now everyone is tall so I don't have the problem any more.  Long Tall Sally no longer stocks things short enough for me!

I first started work at school in 2003.  When I started I was taller than most of the lads in year11 (15-16 year olds).  Now they are mainly taller than me, mostly by year 10.  It's a shame because it is much easier to be imposing if you tower over someone!

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Saturdays no 3

This was our big, lumbering family-style car.  It was a VW Passat.  We bought it when Sam was on the way and I could no longer fit my bulk behind the wheel of our lovely MG Midget sports car.  I still regret parting with our Midget.  It drove like a dream with the best heating you can imagine.  It was perfectly possible to have the top down in snowy weather and still be warm and toasty.  In fact we did this often!

Driving in the new Passat felt like travelling around in a lounge, it was so roomy.  It also weighed a ton and steered like a cow.  I believe they have improved somewhat since then.  It was also solid, safe, waterproof and never went wrong, which was all quite different from the Midget!  Great for carting kids about, in fact.

Jim used to do the shopping because he didn't trust me to do it right.  I admit that I wasn't the best shopper, but I am sure I could have learned.
I once had to do the food shopping (before kids)  when Jim had mumps.  He says I came back with cleaning products and cat food.  I have to say I don't remember this, and therefore deny it hotly.

Even now I only shop for food if he is incapacitated.  It takes hours because they have always reorganised the aisles in the supermarket since the last time I shopped, so I can't find stuff.  I think it is a secret supermarket plot to get people to walk miles in search of their food so that they will be hungry and buy more.

Jim loves to cook.  He likes to feed people too. When we were first married he had been cooking his own food for years.  He says he rebelled when his mum provided tinned ravioli on toast with instant mashed potato for the main family meal.  My mum was and still is a fantastic cook so I never had occasion to go in the kitchen.  I just hung round the outskirts getting mixing bowls to lick out.  I left home to get married at 18 so learned nothing of cooking.  In my first two weeks of marriage, I cooked chicken for 15 minutes from frozen under a hot grill, made creme brulee which we drank through a staw, and burned a salad.
Then he took over.  Result.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Saturdays no 2

Here we are having second breakfast!  More tea, with toast and marmalade if I remember correctly.

I really don't know why Jim is sitting in that peculiar position. Could be to emphasise the revolting slippers again.  People don't warn you about things like that before you get married.  I think they should.

Sam is impatient to have a book

It was the longest distance from the bedroom to the bathroom of any two rooms in the house.  Our bedroom was right at the top and front of the house,  with the bathroom downstairs in the back extension.   We had to go down the stairs, and through the hall, dining room and kitchen to get to the bathroom.

Sam hated it if we were both occupied at the weekends.  He seemed to think we were at his disposal.  Which, of course, we were!

I thought about this before I put it up!

Jim wasn't sure about me showing his horrible slippers to the world (potentially)  and likewise I was not sure about showing the enormous baby bump!  I have seen that lots of young mums nowadays wear more revealing and figure hugging maternity clothes instead of the voluminous smocks we wore, so I don't think this will cause offence!

I had such a bad back with this baby, something to do with joints in my pelvis?  I do know that it hurt to walk and made an unpleasant grating noise which was better if I waddled.  I waddled a lot.  I found it hard to do anything to my feet, including putting socks on, or even finding them.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Saturdays no 1

Sam wakes up
At this stage I was still trying to finish the week in pictures to teach Sam the days in order.  I hoped the routine would give him a better idea about the passage of time.

I know now that you can't hurry these things, and they learn it all too soon anyway, no matter what you do.  Still, I am glad I made the drawings because they are fun to look back on and I kept doing them for that reason, long after they weren't needed any more.

Sam comes to find us
Sam used to feel really grown up coming to find us in the morning.  He used to bring all his soft toys and his little cover with him.

I made the little cover for him as a pram blanket.  I used old dresses and scraps from dressmaking projects to make a patchwork,  so it was very haphazard.  One good thing was that if it wore out I could just replace bits of it from the stock fabric in the loft!  I had re-made it at least 4 times by the time he left home.

Once Sam arrived in our room whoever's turn it was would go downstairs and make the drinks.  We had lovely chocolate biscuits as a snack to start the day.  I found out far too late that they were rather high calorie. Like Hobbits, we had second breakfast later on...

On Saturdays there was time for a particularly extended and sleepy wolf game, also known as lookout games.

Sam didn't know what a wolf looked like.  By the look of this picture, neither did I.

Friday in 1990 episode 4

It was always nice when Jim came home.  When we were both working, we worked in the same part of London and travelled up and back together, as well as meeting for lunch.  We really missed that when I stopped work so any time together was very valuable.

We had been used to having dinner together after work, at around 8pm.  When Sam arrived, we used to give him nursery tea at 5.30, then Jim would cook something for us later.   In retrospect, this was a bad idea as it was too easy to get into the habit of not eating with Sam.  We did eat together on  Fridays and all weekend though, so we tried.

It looks like Jim is standing in a dip here!  I am afraid it is just bad drawing, although the kitchen did have a 3 inch step down because it used to be the scullery.

The house was built in 1902, so originally had no bathroom or indoor toilet.  There was a coal hole in the kitchen when we moved in, and a large double coal bunker in the garden.  All the fireplaces were still intact so if there was a power cut, we were ok.  The one in the dining room smoked terribly, but also gave out a lot of heat. We really only used the one in the lounge, which was a good drawer.

Even Sam's tiny bedroom had a small cast iron fireplace with a mini hearth about 18 inches square.  It had a cast iron flap in the flue which you could close to stop draughts.

Jim was desperate to spend time playing with Sam.  He would play with the Lego as soon as he could after work.  Most of the fun for me was listening to them talk together - Sam was like a little old man in the way he spoke sometimes.  I think Jim played with Sam more than most fathers because he felt he never had enough attention from his parents as a child, so he wanted to make sure his children were not deprived of his time.

Friday in 1990 episode 5

On Fridays Auntie Carol, my sister, came to see us for tea.  She was and is a very pretty girl (I still think of her as a girl despite the 53 years I have known her!).  I was always so jealous of her almost white blond hair.  I only had a yellow pencil so that's why it's like that in the picture.  By the way, Sam had white blond hair as well.  He still has it, and the most gorgeous blue film star eyes you ever saw.  He would say that his luck gave out after that!

He waved his sword at everyone.  He has a full sized replica claymore now, which he still waves about from time to time, but not unless he is a long way from everyone else!  As he is still only 26 I have put it in the loft until he is more mature.

Sam was at this time waiting for his first bout of heart surgery.  We had to wait for his lungs to grow after he had his lung artery improved when he was 18 months old.  He was supposed to blow the bubbles to help his lungs, so I used to get a few going as he wasn't very good at getting them big enough to float around.  I used to let him have a go too.  Eventually.  Honest.

That bathroom!  Horrible, cold place with three outside walls and a flat roof!  The walls are brown because, in a vain attempt to warm it up and insulate it, we put  cork floor tiles on all the walls.  Probably should have bought a lighter shade.

The carpet was made of vile rubber-backed felt tiles that moved around if you couldn't walk like a ninja.  No one in our family has ever walked like a ninja.

Wolf games!  Sam always played this game in our bed.  When he came in to our room first thing he would snuggle in and start.  "Ssh!  What is it?  It's a wolf!  Quick, hide!" It involved us all getting under the covers and being very quiet.  He never twigged that we were trying to go back to sleep!  After a bit of snoring on our part, we would have to go and get breakfast, or if it was the weekend, drinks in bed.  Such luxury!

He was always trying to get a wolf game whenever he passed our bed. Especially if he knew it was his bedtime.  He would become very charming and use all the long words he could think of.  He hoped that we would be so fascinated, we would forget to send him to bed.  It didn't work.

Sam was very insistent that Auntie Carol  had to come up and listen to him saying his prayers.  He usually put her in anyway, but I think he wanted her to know!

Aah!  The songs!

There were three songs that HAD to be sung before he could go to sleep.  Away in a Manger, even in the height of summer, a little lullaby called Sleep Gently My Own One and Stay Awake from Mary Poppins.  After I had sung these he was out for the count in seconds.  It was like Pavlov's dogs, just sing the songs and he would sleep anywhere!

I think Carol was dieting...

Friday, 22 March 2013

Friday in 1990 episode 3

Here is Sam watching Thomas the Tank Engine.  He really liked dressing up as a brave knight in his play time.  He had a plastic breastplate as well.

That Brownie is still behind the curtain.  It was a bit like "Where's Wally" in these cartoons.

I haven't drawn in the video player, but I think that was just laziness on my part because it says he was watching a tape!

Fridays were quite busy because I was always trying to do everything so that we could go out at the weekend, when Jim was home.

Sam liked most foods , but was ornery* and always took the opportunity to say he wanted something else.  Hence my rather harsh response!

Looks like he needed a haircut at the time this was drawn...

I have always hated washing up.

Especially weetabixy plates.  In fact any kind of plates.  Saucepans are pretty awful as well.  Don't much like washing up cups or mugs either.  Cutlery sucks.

On the other hand, dishwashers are wonderful.

* ornery means contrary in disposition, amongst other things.  It was a word my mother used to describe stubborn or difficult behaviour especially if it involved the word "no" from the child.

It was such a relief when Jim got home each night!  I was thrilled to have someone to look after Sam so I could go to the loo in peace, or rest.

Jim was a civil servant in those days and had a plastic official briefcase with EIIR stamped on it in gold paint.

I am wearing  a blue corduroy sack, and a 1970s recycled dress as a pinny.  I blame my grandmother for the pinny.  It came from a lovely and very expensive dress which I wore to a disco in 1975 with a date who was a student at the London School of Economics.  It wasn't a good disco, and he was an even worse date.  His breath smelled of Evo-stik -  I later found that all dates did after a few beers!  The dress was the best bit, and my mum at some stage gave it to my granny to make aprons.  I was gutted when I found out, and even getting one of the aprons didn't really help.  I still have the apron, and yes, I still wear it.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Friday in 1990 episode 2

The plastic  sword was probably a mistake, but Sam loved the whole "brave knight" thing.

Isn't being pregnant with the second so much more difficult than the first?  I was in full time work in central London the first time and stopped 2 weeks before the baby was born.  It was fine.  He was 2 weeks early but I was a bit gung-ho about it all. Travelling on the train and tube in the rush hour through Clapham Junction was interesting, but I used my brief case as a shield and people were good about offering me a seat.  (Thank you, the young man with the purple Mohican haircut).

The second time around I was simply enormous.  I fainted when I laid down on my back towards the end.  I was constantly exhausted - always looking for somewhere to lie down!  Sam was not really a demanding child, but he wanted to play all the time, and I was his only playmate in the day.  Looks like the cat suffered too.

When we moved in to this house in 1981 (horribly cold winter,  no central heating) we got a home improvement grant as there was no kitchen.  We had £200 to pay for it, so to make it stretch, I put the kitchen in myself.  I bought the cheapest and most basic units which were white laminate with aluminium handles along the tops.  We had no room for wall cupboards.  The fridge freezer wobbled because of the old gas pipe which I hadn't been able to saw off properly  (it was cast iron and too tough).  I had terrible trouble with the plumbing because I forgot to allow for bends in the pipe so the taps were in the wrong place.  A rookie error as it turns out!

The kitchen was really a bit tired by 1990, but we had finally got around to putting the lino down so it seemed quite luxurious compared to bare concrete.

Sam at nearly 4 years old was a bit bolshy about going to bed in the day.  I think I needed the rest more than he did by then, so it was a purely selfish act to make him go!

He still hadn't quite got the courage to get out of bed once he had been put there.  I look back and feel so mean!

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Fridays in 1990 episode 1

FRIDAY Morning in 1990

Now that I know what it is like to go off to work leaving everyone else in their pyjamas, I can see this in a different light!

It was very cosy and safe staying at home with Sam  Of course I missed having my career, but I would have missed Sam more, and it would have cost an arm and a leg to hire a nanny with nursing qualifications.  No one else would have taken him on with his heart problems.  It was strange, but I felt almost grateful that I had a "real" reason for giving up work to look after him.  On the day he was born, as soon as I saw him, I knew I didn't want to go back to work but I had already agreed to, so I believed I had no choice.  A doctor's letter saying he needed my care got me off the hook, and I never went back.  Being "just a housewife" was mostly fun, although there was an associated loss of status (and income!)

Sam watches the tent stop on Playbus
Playbus was Sam's favourite TV programme.  He would have watched it all day, but at the time I wouldn't let him.  The pixie-like thing poking out from behind the curtain is a Brownie.  I loved A A Milne and used to read "When We Were Very Young" to Chris sometimes.  He loved "Brownie", but was also a bit afraid of them.

"In the corner of the bedroom is a great big curtain,
     Someone lives behind it, but I don't know who;
I think it is a Brownie, but I'm not quite certain.
     (Nanny isn't certain, too.)

I looked behind the curtain, but he went so quickly -
     Brownies never wait to say, "How do you do?"
They wriggle off at once because they're all so tickly
     (Nanny says they're tickly too.)"

All our grandparents except Great Grandma were called Nanny and Grandad so he didn't realise it was a children's nurse.  He thought it was his Nanny, who was so famous that she was in a real book with poems and everything.  I made him a Brownie out of felt based on the book illustrations, and stuck it behind curtains for him to find.
One episode of Playbus let me get washed and dressed - about half an hour I think, then I dressed Sam and we played.  I had a lovely selection of jumpers which my mum made for him.  She still likes to knit at 83, but then she was prolific.  He had a wonderful one with dinosaurs.

This was the day we made a matchbox guitar.  He was really excited to make and play his own musical instrument!

That Brownie certainly got around.

Monday, 18 March 2013

The end of Thursday 1990

All the time Jim and I were both working, he had done the shopping and cooking, and I had done the house maintenance and decorating sort of stuff. (Pretty radical in the 70s and 80s).

When I stopped work (I didn't intend to but Sam was ill), I had to give Sam his tea earlier than Jim could as he got home around 6.30. It seemed natural that I would get food ready for Jim as well.  Sadly he found it really hard to give up control of the kitchen.  So did I! - Let battle commence!

This was a lovely maternity dress in mini green paisley. I made it from a Vogue pattern.  It was hard to make as it had 8 box  pleats across the front.  Getting the hem to hang straight was the worst bit. Every time the bump grew I had to lengthen the front!

I had trouble with my perspective and proportion. I am sure the stairs had banisters at waist height.

Who remembers those little calendars the children used to make at playschool?  I always felt obliged to keep them and display them prominently.  They went well with the overall chipped paint and weetabixy decor.

Secretly I yearned for one of those swish homes where nothing was out of place and everything beautifully tidy and clean.  I always felt that most of my friends had such homes.  I found out afterwards that they used to tidy and clean just as frantically as I did before guests, so I suppose we were all trapped the same way by aiming for the perfect "Stepford Wives" stereotype.

One day at my friend Bobbie's as we were wading through Lego to the kitchen, she said something which let me relax a bit.  She said the kids are only little for a while, and you can tidy up when your nest is empty and they don't need you any more.  True.  Still haven't done it though.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

More Thursday in 1990

Actually Sam couldn't run that fast, because he had a congenital heart defect but at the time in January I couldn't run at all!  He really needed these naps even at three and a half because his oxygen levels were low and he had to have the rest.

That maternity dress was truly horrible.  I believe it was made of sacking or something else equally scratchy.  The only thing was, it was roomy and the baby in the offing, George, was already pretty enormous.

Although we didn't know why at the time, kids with heart trouble often cry a lot when they wake.

He did it every time, so it was very tempting not to let him sleep during the day, but we had been told he should.  He did used to go out like a light as soon as he was in bed though, so I guess the doctor was right.

I loved this bedroom.  It had blue cloud wallpaper and lovely trees with little ducks under them all round the top.   Some of my happiest memories are of reading stories to babies in this room, or feeding them in the quiet of the night when they were tiny.

Pink and grey.  Anyone remember that?  It was everywhere.  I painted the hall one afternoon without warning Jim.  Unfortunately we had an extremely deep stairwell.  My broomstick-lashed-to-a-paintbrush was too short to reach the ceiling, so we spent the rest of our time there trying not to notice the patterned wallpaper left unpainted at the top of the stairwell.   You know that sudden horrible revelation about the state of the place you get when you have someone coming over?  Well we never got it,  because guests could not see the missed bit from the hall. We only saw it when we went to bed.   Like I said, it is surprising what you can get used to.

We had bare plaster between the new windows in our bedroom for about 4 years as well.  When we finally got around to decorating, we quite enjoyed it, and wished we had started years before.

There is a moral here somewhere.

On the plus side, we got to know Carmina Burana well.  Records and tapes were the main things.  We taped our new record of Carmina Burana to listen to while decorating.