Whilst still living in Lawrence Avenue my mother was pregnant with my younger brother and as this was the third it was to be a home birth. In those days, home help was provided and Mrs. Killfeather was dispatched. The woman terrified me and I am not sure if it was her ultra efficient manner, not unlike a kind of Mary Poppins, but without the warmth, or the fact that is was not my mum. I suppose she would only have been about for a few days, but she was much stricter than mum and I can only remember one redeeming feature and that was that she made wonderful lemon curd pies. She called them sun pies and the pastry was divine and the bright lemon curd had thin radials of pastry like the spokes of a wheel. The pies looked very much like the sun to me. Anyway my older brother and I couldn’t wait for the birth so that she would be gone.
The day arrived and I remember watching William Tell on the television when the midwife came down to speak to us. It was just as the adverts, midway through the programme came on and it was a really exciting bit. With reluctance we both trudged up the stairs to see mum holding our new younger brother. At the time, I was eager to leave and get back to the programme, but alas that wasn’t to be the case and I saw time slipping away as we stood around looking at a tired mother and a not very exciting younger brother. It has taken a long time to completely forgive him for his timing, but he did become much more exciting over time. I don’t think I ever discovered the ending to the episode, but as it was back next week, I assumed William Tell saved the day.
One good thing his birth did result in, was Mrs. Killfeather leaving and things getting back to almost the same as they had been. It was not the end of Mrs. Killfeather though. She made a return as the villain in my novel Wickergate where she is an evil headmistress. To Mrs. Killfeather and her relatives, I must give my apologies. I am sure that she was a truly lovely lady and that my feelings were those of an easily excited child with a fervent imagination.
I thought that you might enjoy this. If you haven’t been, you have never lived, as my father would say.
Shortly after the birth there was a bit of excitement that involved my new brother. Mum was getting ready to take us to the shops. Baby brother was in his pram fixed in with a harness and I had been sat on the back by the handle. For those not of my age, prams were very different from the complex devices used nowadays. They were more like a small bath supported on four wheels and I suppose were based on the design of a horse-drawn carriage. Silver Cross was the Rolls Royce of the pram world and I believe they were made near Guisley, near Harry Ramsden’s Fish restaurant, but I don’t think ours would have been that fancy. Anyway, I was left sitting there and mum went back into the house. I was sitting at the end nearest the handle, only three and a bit years old, with my legs dangling down. I wasn’t very comfortable and just shuffled myself to get a better position when the pram overbalanced. The back shot downwards and my younger brother’s end shot upwards and the whole thing turned over on top of me and my baby brother hit the pathway with his head. Mum rushed out, had a panic and then righted the pram. I was fine and she was almost hysterical with worry for said sibling. I believe that was the last time I ever got to ride pillion with my brother and looking back I can now understand why.
My brother was none the worse for his adventure, but in hindsight, some unkind folk could suggest that maybe that accident explains a lot about him. Just desserts for spoiling William Tell? What a thought! Actually, being the youngest would have had some disadvantages as he wanted to join me and my older brother as we played, but he wasn’t up to it for quite a few years.
My older brother and I did play a lot together despite our age difference, about four years. I would like to say that it was uneventful, but as I mentioned in an earlier story, he was a little accident prone. Whilst still at Lawrence Avenue, we had a hot spell and I remember him doing some simple gardening. He was using a garden fork and he was wearing wellington boots. Things had been going well and I think we had a little plot where we grew vegetables from seeds. Anyway, the soil in Leeds was incredibly heavy boulder clay. If the ground was wet it stuck like thick glue, and if it was a dry spell the clumps would set hard like concrete. You can probably see what is going to happen, but unfortunately my older brother couldn’t. He was digging with gusto and pushed down hard with the fork. Unfortunately his mind had wandered and the fork went though rubber wellington, foot and back out through the sole of the boot. I don’t remember a scream, more a slow realization of what had happened. Instinctively he must have withdrawn the fork and hobbled back inside to our long suffering mother. The boot was removed, the word ‘stupid’ was used a few times. There were copious amounts of blood, quick bandaging after cleaning of the wound, followed by a trip to Dr. Black’s for a tetanus injection.
I would like to say that he and I learned from such experiences, but that was not the case. Young children were allowed to play with things that parents would die of shock if they saw today. I remember something, possibly a shed had been demolished and it was another hot spell and I was playing in the garden when I stood, barefoot on a piece of wood that had a nail sticking through it. Following in the family tradition the force drove the nail right into my foot and it hung there trailing the plank of wood. I am sure that I screamed and had to balance in pain as I daren’t put my foot down as it would have driven the nail in further. I can only think my mother must have been on some kind of tranquilisers, or maybe was just a saint, with dealing with our frequent accidents, but she rushed out, held my leg, sat me down and against my wishes, just pulled the wood and nail out of my foot. This adventure was followed by the regular visit for the tetanus shot after bathing, cleaning and dressing the wound.
Eldest brother did excel himself on one further incident that involved his best friend from further up the street. I can’t remember his name, but maybe my brother can. We were all in the garden playing and there was a wooden garage. The garage was full of my father’s tools and old tins of paint, bags of cement and a collection of items, that I didn’t know the purpose of. I am sure that in our comics there was a character called Mick Mercury and he was an idol. He could do dangerous things and live to tell the tale. Someone reading this might remember more, as I might be getting this wrong. We were in swimming costumes and I think we had a tin bath full of water. It must have been another hot day. Anyway, number one brother was reliving an adventure and he decided to torture his friend in the garage. No pain was involved, I might add, but red mastic powder was. Brother, for some reason beyond me decided to rub his friend’s hair with the red powder and I must say it came up a treat, but unfortunately did not come out the same way. Mum, must have looked in on us to see how we were doing, whilst she was busy with younger baby brother, and had a fit. This time she did panic! Friend’s hair was shampooed, rinsed and repeated over and over, but still his blond locks maintained their now red colour. I don’t know how long this went on for, but she would still be doing it now, if she hadn’t been frightened his hair would all come out.
Eventually, she had to own up. She led the boy back to his home and suffered a very irate mother, who said she would never allow her son to play with us again. This wasn’t an idle threat as she never did. I do know that his hair eventually returned to his natural colour, but if like me, he later lost most of it, I wonder who he and his mother would have blamed?
I don’t think we were an unusual family. I just think that no one tells you the joys of raising children and three boys certainly must had taken my mother to the limit and beyond on many occasions. I haven’t got around to some of the exciting times we had, as ones I had forgotten came to mind as I was writing this, so they will have to wait till another time.
The link below will allow you to stream the first five parts of the fantasy novel ‘Hell Fire’. There is no cost and a new part will be added each week.