David’s Bookshelf Issue 2 – Cup of Tea Tales
- David’s Bookshelf Issue 2
- David’s Bookshelf – Issue One
- ‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – A Lifetime of Global Successes, Disasters and Wonders! Space the Final Frontier.
- ‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – Hetchell Woods (Bardsey) and Crags – A Special Piece of God’s Own Country or County! One of my Favourite Places to Visit.
- ‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – The Wonderful Yorkshire Dales. Trollers Gill, a Place with a Mysterious Legend and the Hell Hole where I Diced with Death.
Our first house as a family was in Lawrence Avenue, on the edge of the Gipton estate. It was a small, semi-detached two-bedroom house. This was fine until my mother was pregnant with my younger brother and, after a couple of years, we had to move to a house with three bedrooms. As this was the third pregnancy, 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 it 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 her having 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 of Stuart’s birth arrived and I remember Andrew and me watching William Tell on the television when the midwife came down to speak to us. It was just as the adverts came on, midway through the programme, and it had just got to 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 wasn’t his fault, but it has taken a long time to forgive him completely for his timing. In fairness, he did become much more exciting as he got older. I don’t think I ever discovered the ending to the episode, but as it returned the following week, I assumed William Tell saved the day.
One good thing his birth resulted 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.
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 placed on the back by the handle. For those not of my age, prams were very different from the complex devices used today. They were more like a small bath, supported and sprung on four quite large 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 in Guiseley, near Harry Ramsden’s Fish restaurant, but I don’t think ours would have been that fancy. Anyway, I was left sitting there and baby Stuart was harnessed in at the other end. Mum went back into the house for something, leaving me 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 plunged downwards and my younger brother’s end shot upwards. 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.
Fortunately, my brother was none the worse for his adventure. 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 quite up to it for quite a few years. It is worth noting that pram wheels were much in demand as we got older, as they were magnificent for bogies, gravity-driven wooden chariots, that every child wanted. The large pram wheels were best for the rear and small wheels at the front for steering.
My older brother and I did play a lot together despite our age difference of about four years. I would like to say that it was uneventful, but as I have 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 shirtless in the sun, 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 imagine what was going to happen, but my older brother couldn’t. He was digging with gusto and pushed down hard with the fork. Unfortunately, his mind had wandered, and he drove the fork down with force. Instead of breaking the soil clump, the prongs went straight through the rubber wellington, through his foot and back out through the sole of the boot. I don’t remember a scream, more of a slow stunned silence as the realisation of what had happened hit him. Instinctively, he must have withdrawn the fork, allowing his boot to fill with blood, and then he hobbled back inside the house to our long-suffering mother. The boot was removed, the word ‘stupid’ was used quite a few times. There was a copious amount of blood, some 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. In the late 1950s, early 1960s, young children were allowed to play with things that would cause parents to 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 drive 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 thin plank of wood. I am sure that I screamed. I had to balance on one foot in pain as I daren’t put my foot down on the ground as it would have driven the nail in further. I can only think my mother must have been on tranquillisers, or maybe was just a saint, dealing with our frequent accidents. Mum rushed out from the house, held my leg, sat me down and, against my wishes, just pulled the wood and nail out of my foot. I am sure that I screamed again! This adventure was followed by the regular visit for the tetanus shot after bathing, cleaning, and dressing the wound. The only bright side for my mother was visiting Dr Black. She found him very dishy, but I can’t say why.
My eldest brother excelled himself on one further incident and this involved his best friend from further up the street. We were all in the back 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 for. I am sure that in our comics there was a character called Dan Tempest, and he was an idol. He was an ex-pirate and could do dangerous things and live to tell the tale. He was in a series called The Buccaneers 1956-57. Anyway, we were in swimming costumes and I think we had a tin bath full of water. It must have been another hot day. 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. 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 when she saw what he had done. This time she did panic! Our 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 wasn’t frightened all his hair would come out. She was beside herself about what the victim’s mother would say. The boy was not overly worried, but he wasn’t too keen on all the hair washing.
Eventually, she had to own up to the family. 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 turned out not to be an idle threat, as she never did let him come over again. 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.
There were two families that our family became friendly with in Lawrence Avenue and they were the Wales and the Flathers. The Flathers lived across the small junction opposite our house. They had a daughter, Janet, and she was a few years older and quite grown up. Unfortunately, when I was two years old, I threw a small stone, and it hit Janet on the head and caused a small lump. My mother kept her friendship up for most of her life, but the one thing that always upset her was that Janet’s mother would keep reminding her about what I had done to her daughter. I have no memory of the incident, but it was never forgotten by Janet’s mother or mine.
There was a small slag heap and old colliery, just around the bottom corner of the street. I remember going there with Andrew, my older brother. I am sure it has long since gone, but at the time, it was fenced off and had warning signs. Like all small children, we thought the signs were meant for other people and they just added to the fun. Others obviously thought the same, as there were numerous holes in the chain-link fence and a collection of trays, bits of carpet and even a car bonnet that people used for sliding down the spoil heap as if it was a toboggan run. The hillside was quite steep and just stopped at the fence along the pavement’s edge. We decided to try it out, and the trays worked a treat. You picked up quite a speed and if not for the fence, we would have shot across the road. We even dragged the car bonnet to the top but showed the first signs of intelligence by trying it without a passenger. It charged down like a runaway train and, luckily, was stopped by the fence or it would have flown across the road, decapitating anyone who was walking by or slicing into a passing car. It frightened us sufficiently not to have a go at riding it.
I don’t think we were an unusual family. I just think that no one tells you about the joys of raising children, and three boys certainly must have taken my mother to the limit and beyond, on many occasions, but gosh we had some fun!
If you are looking for some presents for Christmas, then maybe a copy of either of my Cup of Tea Tale books would make someone from Leeds or Yorkshire a memory invoking gift. They can be ordered from Amazon by clicking on the image links and delivered in a matter of a day or two.