BARBARA COLLINS - HER MEMOIRS

My father, Harold Joseph Hailstone was born in Small Heath, Birmingham on the 4th February 1891 and my mother, Margaret (Daisy) Langslow in Balsall Heath, Birmingham on the 29th March 1894. They met at The Old Meeting House, a Unitarian Church in Bristol Street, Birmingham and were married there on the 22nd April 1916. Mother was twenty-one years old and Father twenty-five. At that time Mother was a merchant's clerk and Father an industrial chemist. He was in a reserved occupation and was therefore not called up for service in the First World War. Father had one brother and Mother two sisters, Winifred and Jessica, Mother being the eldest.

My sister, Margaret Florence (known as Polly within the family) was born in West Bromwich, Birmingham on the 10th March 1917 and, because my Father's work had taken him there, I was born in Rochdale, Lancashire at Heald Cottage, Lower Fold on the 30th July 1922.

We later moved to a modern council house, 36 Falkland Avenue, Rochdale. This was rented unfurnished as were all, but one, of the future houses and flats we lived in. I went to the local council school when I was five. I remember the large classroom with at least forty children sitting at double wooden desks being taught to write with my finger in the sand which was sprinkled on to a slate.

Life at that time was very pleasant. Father's career was established as the Gaswork's Chemist in Rochdale. We had an Austin Seven car, a telephone and a daily help to do the housework and laundry. We went for holidays in Wales where my Father liked to walk - going for 'tramps' he would call it - sometimes carrying me on his shoulder. He would amuse me when he came home from work by showing me glass test-tubes filled with coloured fluid which bubbled over bunsen burners. He let me play with tiny drops of quicksilver (mercury).

I played with the other children in the road and on the dirt pavement - marbles, whip and top, bowling a wooden hoop (you could buy them in all sizes in those days) and I learned to ride a bike.

Horses and carts would deliver coal and a 'rag and bone' man would give you a small thing in exchange for some unwanted article. Mother would buy fresh flowers from a cart and when they were nearly dead, I would have them. One day I stole a penny from Mother's purse and bought a flower from the cart. Mother questioned me about it and I had to own up. That was the first and last time I stole anything.

When anyone was seriously ill at their house, straw was strewn in the road to subdue the clatter from the cartwheels and horses' hooves and when a funeral cortege went by, everyone stood still with the men removing their caps. There was consideration for others in those days.

I had scarlet fever when I was about five and was put in strict isolation in my bedroom. A disinfected blanket was draped across the doorway to prevent the germs from escaping. A coal fire was lit in the tiny grate. I was given steamed plaice to eat which I loved, and raw egg and milk to drink which I loathed! I was given a stuffed toy dog which I called 'Stumpy'. When I was well again, the sanitary inspectors came, sealed the room (with Stumpy in it) and fumigated it so it could be used safely again.

The winters seemed very cold and I dreaded going outside. My feet and hands would almost freeze despite all the warm clothes, including long leather gaiters which were fastened with dozens of tiny buttons done up with a button-hook.

My favourite toy was a train which when wound up, went round a track and under a tunnel. The whole thing was only the size of a tea-plate and was made of tin.

On the 4th March 1929 disaster struck our family. My Father had gone to the funeral of his mother and caught a chill and within a week he died at home with pneumonia. At the very same time, Mother was ill with scarlet fever. Mother then had to be moved from home to the Isolation Hospital way out on the Moors. Margaret (Polly) and I were taken care of by friends of the family and they took us to the railings of the Hospital grounds so that we could wave to Mother from her window. Father was buried at Rochdale Cemetery and none of the family was able to be there. He was thirty-eight years old.

When Mother was well again, she had to go out to work full-time. Work was scarce in 1929 but she was given employment by the Gas Company at the Rochdale Gas Showrooms as a sales lady - the only woman amongst the all male staff at that time.

Margaret and I were farmed out to various people - who they were I have no recollection. Eventually, when I was about seven, we moved back to Birmingham to be near my Mother's sisters. We rented a semi-detached house in Blenheim Road, King's Heath and I went to the local council school where my cousin Jean also went. We were good friends and we used to get the most uncontrollable giggles in class! 

As Mother worked full-time in the Gas Showrooms in the Council House in Birmingham City Centre, Margaret and I just fended for ourselves somehow. It was impossible for Mother to devote any time to look after us so, on the advice of my Uncle Jack, we were sent to a boarding school. It was called Burcot Grange and was at Four Oaks, Sutton Coldfield, near Birmingham. 

I cried when I was first left there at eight years old but was reprimanded by the very strict Headmistress and told that crying would worry my Mother and I was to stop it! So I didn't cry any more and soon got to enjoy my life at Burcot. 

I made some good friends and I looked smart in a dark green pleated gymslip and cream blouse . My blazer had an embroidered badge of the Staffordshire Knot on the pocket. I wore a panama hat in the summer and a green velour one in the winter. I enjoyed all my lessons with the exception of history and was consistently in the top four in my class. I had two extra periods on a Saturday - drawing and piano lessons which were paid for in addition to the standard fees. Everyone had elocution lessons and I soon lost my north-country accent and learned to speak in a cultured style. I joined the school Brownie Pack and was a 'Sprite' - brave and helpful as a knight! 

Although I was for the most part very happy at Burcot, there were some not so happy situations. I dreaded mealtimes. I had a poor appetite and seated at a long table with a prefect at the head, seeing that we ate every morsel of food from our plate, I was nauseated. It was made worse when, for a long spell I had to wear a brace on my teeth! 

I remember feeling so cold in the winter. My fingers and toes would be covered in chilblains which swelled and broke so much that I couldn't get my shoes on and I had to wear slippers for a while. 

Because there was no real 'home' for us, we often had to stay at school in the holidays when all the other boarders had gone home to their parents. I always felt slightly different from the other girls because they all had fathers and I remember feeling guiltily jealous of my best friend when she received lovely letters from her grandfather - I didn't have a grandfather either! Not that Mother didn't write to us. She did, every week and I looked forward to those kind letters very much. In our turn, all the girls had to write a weekly letter on a Sunday. We had to mend our own clothes and darn our stockings and woollen gloves. 

My sister left the school about eighteen months before me and then when I was eleven, I had to leave because the money ran out. I was so upset about leaving that Mother let me stay on for one more term and then I had to go. 

It was during this time at Burcot that Mother was ill advised to leave her job with the Gas Company and buy a newspaper, sweet and tobacconist business in Shirley, Birmingham. So when I left Burcot I lived there and went to the local Sharman's Cross Senior School at Shirley. It was a big co-educational council school. I felt very strange. I was put in a big class of boys and girls, dressed in my Burcot uniform. You can imagine how popular I was, dressed like that and speaking in my posh way too! I soon made it my business to fit in, by wearing ordinary clothes and acquiring a Birmingham accent! I can't remember life being very happy then . We muddled along at home but I was conscious that the house was neglected and I was too ashamed to bring my friends there. It didn't occur to me that I could have tried to clean the place up myself. 

When I was about thirteen, Mother sold the business as she really couldn't cope with it and we moved to Smethwick just outside Birmingham. Mother got a job at the Gas Showrooms there. My sister was working too. I went to a very small private school called Bearwood High School for Girls. There were only about twenty pupils of all ages, divided into two classes! These classes were taught by two teachers, mother and daughter, and I learned absolutely nothing there. 

In Smethwick we rented a flat over a photographer's shop in the High Street. From the sitting-room window I could almost touch the top deck of the trams as they clanged by. It was very noisy. At the back, the nauseating sickly-sweet smell from a sweet factory seeped through the kitchen window. I shared a double bed with my Mother who complained that my wriggling kept her awake, so I volunteered to sleep on the big leaf from the dining-table, supported at each end by chairs. I padded it with a blanket but I remember it was still very hard! It was in this bedroom that I heard of the death of King George the Fifth. I was very sad. 

After school, in the winter, as I was the first to come home, I would light the coal fire. If the wind was in the wrong direction, as it often was, all the smoke poured into the room and I would have to fling open the windows to let it out - and the bitter cold in - until the fire had burnt up sufficiently. It took about two hours to get this one room warm. 

I left the little Bearwood school just before my fourteenth birthday and we had moved again to another rented flat in Barclay Road, Warley Woods, Birmingham. This one was much nicer, facing the lovely woodland park. It was on the top floor of a big house which had been divided into two flats. 

I stayed at home so that I could 'keep house' while Mother and Polly worked. I hated it, but every now and then I would have a 'blitz' and try and clean everything in one go! As compensation, I had found the delights of the Public Library and often, when the breadwinners had departed, I would sit in the kitchen, escape into my book and keep warm with my feet inside the gas oven! I would sing the latest pop songs at the top of my voice, knowing that there was no-one to hear me. I also enjoyed being a Girl Guide and I became a Patrol Leader and later, a Company Leader. 

My Mother being attractive, had several men friends. Two or three over the years came to the house and sometimes I would meet them, but usually not. If one wasexpected, I would be asked to light the fire in the sitting-room so that it would be warm for the evening, then I would have to keep out of the way. If a letter arrived from one of these paramours after Mother had gone to work, I would have to take it to her, going by foot and by tram. 

After a few months I rebelled against the lonely life of domesticity and, contrary to my Mother's wishes, I got a job at a leading wholesale drapers' departmental store called Bell and Nicholson in Birmingham City Centre. I was fourteen. As far as I can remember, I worked a five and a half day week from 9.00 a.m. until 6.00 p.m. and I earned ten shillings a week. Half of that wage went on bus fares and the rest on National Insurance and to Mother to help pay the food bill. My first job was to address hundreds of envelopes and bill-heads with the aid of an 'Addressograph' machine. I got to be very quick at it and was promoted to going from one department to another with queries and 'memos'. It was a huge building and I was fearful of getting lost. I was a nervous girl. Sometimes on leaving work in the winter evenings, there would be thick pea-soup fog, so thick that I could see only a yard in front of me. People would wear masks over their noses and mouths. I couldn't see the number on the bus I wanted. 

A few months later I found other employment and doubled my wages. It was with a leading chemical works in Birmingham called W. Canning. I was the junior in a big office and I had my own desk! 

In 1938 we went for a holiday to Shanklin on the Isle of Wight where Mother met John Partridge. He was a bachelor aged just over forty and Mother forty-four. John lived in Ilford, Essex and worked at the General Post Office in the City, London, as a Civil Servant. They soon married and Mother moved to Ilford leaving Polly and me in 'digs' in Birmingham. I was sixteen and disappointed that I hadn't been allowed to join Mother and John. After some months at Polly's suggestion, they did agree to have me living with them and I moved to Ilford in their rented house. Mother had prepared my room beautifully, with new green rugs on new lino and a china trinket-set on the dressing-table. John was kind to me and I took great care to not be a nuisance to them. 

Although there was little employment for girls without qualifications, I eventually joined a queue, fifty yards long, outside a new knitting-wool shop, for a vacancy as a saleslady there. I was given the job and I enjoyed selling vast quantities of wool from one-ounce skeins, to several pounds in hanks. 

The war came next. Mother, John and I were on holiday in Aberyswith in Wales when war was declared on the 3rd September 1939. I was seventeen. It wasn't all bad for this is when I had my first kiss - on Constitution Hill, by a handsome boy who was the local champion swimmer! In Ilford we had an Anderson shelter in the garden. There were a few air-raid warnings but no bombing at first. When the siren sounded everyone would make their way to the nearest shelter. One day I was late for work and because of this I was severely reprimanded by the manageress. I was so cross at this injustice that I gave her a piece of my mind. Next day I handed in my notice before she could give me the sack! 

My next job was at Plessey's Engineering Works in Ilford where I was employed in the accounts department. When I was promoted to another section I couldn't understand what I was supposed to do and it was a nightmare for me. It was a huge office with the clerks sitting in rows behind a supervisor who sat facing us behind a glass screen. It was very strict. No talking was allowed and I had to 'clock' in and out every day by inserting my card into a machine which would record the time of my arrival and departure. Occasionally I would have to deliver some paper-work which took me through enormous work sheds stocked up with rows upon rows of bombs. I could not conceive that they were being made ready to drop on human beings. 

Meanwhile, after some weeks, my Mother began to get paranoic about the possibility of air raids on London and Ilford and she felt she must flee to the country. So, early one morning, without any prior discussion, just as I was getting up to go to work at Plessey's she announced that we were all going to leave Ilford THAT MORNING! We didn't know where we were going but in fact, with our suitcases, we got on the District Line and went to the end which was at Chesham in Buckinghamshire. 

We stayed at The Lamb Inn in Chesham for a week and John travelled daily to the City to work. After that, it proved too expensive to stay there so Mother and I tried to find someone who would rent us a room. We just knocked from door to door! Eventually someone let us have two upstairs rooms and the bathroom in a little terraced house. In my bedroom was a tiny grate where we cooked our meals over a coal fire. We washed up in the bathroom. 

I got myself a job at the Co-operative Society Bank in Chesham. I had huge ledgers with columns of figures which I had to add up. I hadn't done such a thing before and could only add up on my fingers! Nightmares again! Every night at home, I would practice adding and eventually I could do it. Another thing, being the timid creature that I was, I was terrified of answering the phone. This fear lasted for months until of course, I overcame it. I became good at my job and was eventually promoted to having my own till on the banking counter. 

After the two rooms in the house, we moved to a little rented house in King Street, Chesham which was a big improvement except for a battle with an infestation of fleas in the bed. It was the first time I had encountered fleas and over the weeks I exterminated them all by squeezing them between my nails. They have tough little bodies, but I was the tougher! 

We stayed there for some months until we were offered a little detached cottage to rent. It was 'Wren's Nest' in Asheridge Lane, a couple of miles out of Chesham. It must have been two hundred years old and had no running water or sanitation. The water was drawn from a well in the front garden and the contents of the outside closet was emptied into a pit at the back of the house. The stone sink was outside the back door under a lean-to porch. We did have electricity. I loved it there and my bedroom window looked out onto uninterrupted country. This was the first time I had been in the country apart from the odd holiday and I just felt at home in it. 

I had a wonderful time in Chesham at the beginning of the war. I played tennis, went walking in the country and danced and danced and danced! There were weekly dances held in the local village hall with, usually, a live band and the choice of lovely young men in uniform to dance with. I was a good dancer and so was never short of a partner. The 1940's music was compelling dance music. 

At nineteen I decided to join the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) later to be re-named the Womens' Royal Army Corps (WRAC) and went away to train at Honiton Camp in Devon. I was very excited about it and was glad it was a long way from home and in such a lovely place. I really enjoyed the drill and the discipline and above all, the provision of clothes and food. I had never had any pocket-money to speak of and could not afford anything but the most necessary of clothes, so to have that problem solved was a relief for me. 

I spent four years in the ATS, from 1942 - 1946 and achieved nothing. My work was clerical and boring but relieved from time to time by working a telephone exchange. I was attached to various Corps during my stint - Pay Corps, Royal Artillery and Intelligence. My postings took me to many parts of England from the South to the North with umpteen places in between. All the towns were interesting and I took the opportunity of exploring them on my days off duty. The longest part of my service was with the 183 Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery and I was Private Hailstone B.K. W/159850 (later to become lance-corporal). I enjoyed the life but it was uncomfortable at times, sleeping on hard 'biscuit' mattresses in a Nissen hut with little or no heating in the winter and washing in cold water very often. During my last months, I was transferred to the Intelligence Corps because my Regiment was sent abroad and I had the luxury of private billets. 

When I was stationed At Preston in 1942, my friend and I would hitch a lift into Blackpool and it was there, in the Tower Ballroom that I danced with an Airforce boy. He was Frank Collins, aged nineteen and I thought that he was very handsome. 

He was stationed in Blackpool and while I was at Preston we met quite often and got to like each other. However we were soon parted when I was transferred to Hastings. We kept in touch by letter and the occasional meeting and eventually, on the 6th November 1943 we married. We hardly knew one-another but because of the war and the uncertainties, life was accelerated. We managed to get seven days leave and the wedding took place at St. Mary's Church, Castle Street, Reading - Reading being the home town of Frank. I wore a white gown borrowed from a friend (clothes were rationed during the war), Frank wore his Royal Air Force uniform and my sister and Frank's sister were bridesmaids. They had hired very smart bridesmaids' dresses and hats. We had a reception in the local tea-rooms and family from both sides were there. We had a three-tiered cake but only the top layer was real - the other two being cardboard covered with icing because it was almost impossible to get the ingredients. Frank and I spent our honeymoon at the Apsley Hotel in Torquay, going there on the train. 

I had a marriage allowance from the Army and every week I deposited it in the Post Office Savings Bank. I didn't spend any of it and it came in very useful when I was demobilised on the 20th July 1945. 

I went to live with Frank's parents at Rose Cottage, Grazeley Road, Three Mile Cross near Reading and got a part-time job as a typist for a while. How and why my employer took me on when I could only type with two fingers was a mystery, perhaps it was because it was a Government office! Frank was still in the Air Force serving abroad in Europe. He came home on leave occasionally and I became pregnant. I found the restrictions and frustrations of living with my in-laws claustrophobic and very hard to bear. I had enjoyed a relatively free life and although they were extremely kind to me I felt I had to try and find a home of our own for Frank and me. Fortunately, the Army Captain I had worked with in the Intelligence Corps owned a little house just outside Reading, 75 Essex Street and he let us rent it for a modest sum. It was a turn-of-the-century, end of terrace house that used to be a tiny shop. The front window was still a shop window. It had a little strip of garden at the back. I went to the junk shops and bought a deal table, two chairs and a three-foot iron bed and I was very proud of our first home. There was gas lighting and an old gas stove and when I could afford it I replaced the two flat-irons which I heated up on the stove, for a modern gas iron! 

For the last three months of my pregnancy I periodically went to Watford Hospital for check-ups. This was because my sister and her husband Bill, lived near there and I stayed with them for the last month to be near Watford Hospital where the baby was to be born. I preferred this arrangement to staying on my own in our little house. So when the baby started to come, my sister and I went on the Underground train from Hatch End to Watford! Frank had difficulty in getting leave to come and see me, but he did manage it - just before the baby was born on the 3rd June 1946. He weighed eight and a half pounds and we called him David Roger. When we left the hospital, David and I went to stay with my Mother at Wren's Nest, Chesham for two weeks. Frank had to return to the Air Force, abroad. David slept in a drawer by the side of my bed. Back at the Reading house, we were on our own until the late Autumn when Frank was discharged. David was about five months old. 

About a year after that, we moved into Rose Cottage at Three Mile Cross after Frank's parents had vacated it to run a grocery store at Ash, near Aldershot. They sold the bungalow to us for a modest sum. It was rural and had a huge garden at the back which we could not control - any more than the chickens we tried to keep! David learned to walk here. 

Stephen John was born at Rose Cottage on the 17th May 1948 and a very kind midwife delivered him. He weighed six pounds fourteen ounces. My Mother came to stay for a while to help and David stayed with a near neighbour for a few days. Frank couldn't take time off work - one didn't in those days! 

Before Stephen was born we had a motorbike-and-sidecar and later, when Frank had a company car, we sometimes went to Hayling Island or Wittering for the day. Our weekly treat was to eat a hot steak and kidney pie and gravy for our supper. We would sit and toast our toes in front of the coal fire and enjoy the pies as if they were caviare! I would have walked a couple of miles to the butcher's that morning pushing the babies in the big pram. 

My work was never done. The washing alone took the whole of Monday, boiling the white things in a gas copper, washing all the rest by hand. It had to be rinsed, mangled and if fine, hung on the clothes-line in the garden. It made a very long line indeed and the clothes had to be hung in batches. Sometimes the line would break and the washing would dangle on the ground and often had to be re-washed. There was no hot water on tap. I would be near to tears. In the winter, the clothes hung about in the house nearly all the week before they were dry. The nappies were priority and were dried hanging over the fire-guard around the fire, making the room steamy. This was the only source of heat, the rest of the bungalow was icy in the winter. Then everything which needed ironing was done with the gas iron and it was all just about finished before the whole procedure started again! In between tending to the children, cooking, shopping, cleaning, I would somehow find the time and energy to make jam, preserve fruit (in Kilner jars) knit the childrens' jumpers and make simple clothes. This was always in the evenings when the children were in bed. 

There was little money to spare and there were no luxuries but we did manage to save up and buy a wardrobe, a tall-boy, a chest of drawers and a double bed. This furniture was on coupons and was called 'Utility' furniture. It was well made to a standard pattern and we kept it for very many years. We couldn't afford carpets so didn't need a vacuum cleaner but we had lino and rugs. 

In 1950 Frank went to the little grocery store (then called Doreen Stores) in Shawfield Road, Ash, near Aldershot to help his parents who were finding the running of it difficult. His parents lived behind the shop but we rented the basement of the nearby big 'Shawfield House'. Our living-room was large with a stone floor. There was a fireplace and a stone sink with a cold-water tap. We had electric light. I had two single camping primus-stoves and a pressure-cooker and managed to cook nourishing meals for us all that way. There were two large bedrooms and our one was regularly flooded at night by used bath water! The drains were blocked and when the owners' upstairs had their baths, the water escaped into our bedroom. We always had a broom ready to sweep it through the back door! The other novelty was the big grain-store (the owners' kept horses) next to our living-room. This harboured mice which used to run along the skirting-board and up and across the mantelpiece. We would try and attempt to limit their numbers by standing each end of the retaining boards of the grain-store, myself rattling it and Frank with the broom ready to strike when the mice ran out! We used the owners' toilet on the first floor (quite a journey) and washed ourselves at the sink in the living-room. It was here that Stephen learned to walk. 

We lived there for nearly a year when Frank's parents decided to move to Weymouth and sell the shop to us. So we moved into the accommodation behind it. This comprised of three small narrow sections, one behind the other. The kitchen, living-room and bedroom (which David and Stephen had). Frank and I had a home-made bed-settee. There was a coal fire and electric light. In the tiny kitchen there was a dresser, table, gas copper and a gas stove. There was cold water on tap, a stone sink with a plug-hole - and that was all! NO DRAINAGE. Every drop of water from the bucket which was placed under the sink, had to be carried to the bottom of the garden and thrown into a ditch. There were gallons of waste to dispose of. Frank's and the assistants' hands were frequently washed. There was extra washing with Frank's heavy white coats and aprons, not to mention the weekly scrubbing of the wooden floor- boards in the shop and the various utensils. There was no bathroom of course - we washed in the kitchen and had a weekly bath in the living-room in a big tin bath in front of the fire, the water being heated up in the copper and carried through in buckets. It was emptied likewise in bucketsful, down the garden. No wonder we shared that bath-water! The lavatory was outside, down the path. It was an Elsan chemical one which was emptied twice a week on to the council sewage disposal cart. We called the man 'Lavender Jim'. 

We bought our first television set, a nine inch black and white one, to watch the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and sat enthraled, watching it all day. 

We had a van in which to deliver the grocery orders and I reluctantly learned to drive it. I passed the test after the second attempt. As usual, I was very nervous and dreaded driving the van and on the first occasion with a load of groceries to deliver, I promptly went into a ditch at the side of the lane and had to be towed out! On another occasion, I had pre-school Stephen with me and whilst I was going to someone's back door with their order, I came back to find Stephen and the van gone! He had taken off the hand-break and the van had veered across the road and had come to rest some yards away. 

In 1953 the semi-detached house next door to the shop became vacant and we were able to buy it. This was paradise. Although there still wasn't proper drainage, Frank made an unlawful entry into a sewer pipe at the end of the garden and our waste water escaped through that. I bought a small Hoover washing machine. 

Hilary Ann was born from here on the 2nd March 1954. I had her in luxury at Mount Alvernia Nursing Home in Guildford. She weighed six and a half pounds. Frank's parents kindly had David and Stephen for a fortnight. 

The next year in 1955 we sold the business and the house and moved temporarily to a rented bungalow in Jubilee Road, Mytchett. Hilary learned to walk here. It was small, detached and had a garage. For a while Frank ran a small mobile wholesale grocery business from the bungalow. Deliveries from the suppliers would be made and the crates and boxes stored in the garage. I was always anxious when the vans came as we were not supposed to conduct a business from the premises. Frank bought a Transit van and, as a precaution against him being off sick, I tried to learn to drive it. I didn't succeed. 

Then I entered my religious phase! Influenced by a devout Roman Catholic neighbour, I was baptised and confirmed into the Church of England at St. Andrew's, Frimley Green. My enthusiasm lasted about ten years until it was a relief to acknowledge the fact that I could never be a good Christian! 

In 1956 we sold the little wholesale business and bought a house at 31 Coleford Bridge Road, Mytchett. Frank took a job as a representative for Nestle's. It was the nicest house to date, detached with a fair-sized, but neglected garden. We bought our first three-piece suite and a second-hand Bechstein piano which was going for a song. We had a caravan and towed it to Woolacombe for a two-week holiday. The weather was perfect and we spent all the time on the beach. I remember the sheer bliss of coming in on the breakers with a surf-board. 

Frank wasn't happy working for Nestle's and yearned to be his own boss again and have a business to run. So this took us to Frimley Green where we bought a large grocery shop and called it Frimley Green Stores. This was in 1957/8. It was a late Victorian building with out-houses, in a lovely position facing The Green. The spacious living accommodation was behind and over the shop. It had gas, electricity, water and main drainage but no central heating or hot water on tap. I did all the washing in the big bathroom upstairs and used the gas copper to heat the water and to boil the white clothes. There were three large bedrooms, a kitchen, a dining-room and a pleasant sitting-room with a coal fire on the first floor which overlooked The Green. I served in the shop as much as I could and helped with the weekly stock-taking when Frank and I would be working until midnight. As consolation we would treat ourselves to a bowl of Rice Krispies covered with double cream! Although there was food all around us, we still lived very frugally as we didn't want to encroach on the profits. We ate a lot of things that would have otherwise have been thrown away and that included bacon which had begun to turn green, and rashers which had got fly-blown! Once the eggs had been washed away with vinegar, it was fit to eat! 

Rosemary Jane was born from here on the 27th June 1962 at the Louise Margaret Hospital in Aldershot (a Military Hospital). She weighed eight pounds five ounces. She completed our family and we thought ourselves to be so lucky to have had two boys and two girls, all lovely healthy children. 

I bought a New World gas cooker - the first new one I had ever had, and also as spin-drier. 

In 1963 Frimley Green Stores was extended to include a separate wine shop. This became Frimley Green Wine Store. We sold the grocery section and Frank concentrated on the wines. There was a small flat over the wine shop and we moved into that. Rosemary learned to walk here. We bought our first domestic refrigerator. The washing line was strung between the upstairs kitchen window and a post across the yard, the line being on a pulley. It was quite a feat hanging out the washing for six people including a baby in nappies! Somehow I found the time to be on the St. Andrew's Church Hall Committee and I organised two Christmas Fairs to raise money. 

1964 took us to our new house in Wharf Road, Frimley Green. It had been designed by our friend Basil Rizzi and built on the site of an old farm-house called 'Lake House'. We retained this name. There were several acres of ground and an orchard. We sold most of this to a developer who built a small estate of bungalows. This became Wharf Way. 

The house seemed luxurious and it had every convenience. Central heating, hot water on tap, a Mira shower, downstairs cloakroom, a Baxi coal fireplace, double-glazing in the sitting-room and parquet flooring throughout the downstairs. It had five bedrooms. We had a new carpet in the main bedroom and vinyl elsewhere. The curtains which I made myself were all new. In previous moves I had cut down or added on to the old ones to make them fit. We bought a new dining table and chairs and a light on a pulley which shone over the table. (That light is still in use). 

Eventually, I felt I wanted to do something in my own right but having no qualifications, it was difficult. So I attended a full-time course at the Farnborough Technical College in order to get the Medical Secretaries' Certificate. This was in 1968 when I was forty-six. I was the only 'mature student' in a class of twelve ex-sixth-form girls. I enjoyed the eighteen months very much and found it quite easy to keep up with the girls. I got on with them very well and had great fun. I learned shorthand and typewriting, medical terminology, physiology, anatomy, first aid and not to mention English and the formation of the National Health Service! I passed the examinations and with the confidence that gave me, I soon got a job at a doctors' group practice in Frimley. I worked five mornings a week from 9.00 a.m. until 1.00 p.m. and the occasional Saturday morning. I had help in the house for two hours a week and when the old washing-machine broke down, I replaced it with an automatic one - luxury indeed! 

My Mother died of cancer on the 24th June 1973 after a long illness and she was cremated at the Bournemouth Crematorium. 

By 1976 Frank and I were not getting along together very well so we agreed to a trial separation. I went to Poole and took Rosemary with me as she was still at school. The other three children had left home by then and were independent. We bought a bungalow at 21 Denby Road and I got a full-time job, first with James and Son, Property Surveyors, and then at a doctors' surgery in Parkstone Road, Poole. After nearly a year of separation we decided to give the marriage another chance. The bungalow was sold and I moved back to Lake House and back to the Frimley Surgery working part-time. 

In September 1978 we sold Lake House and bought 31 (then number 11) Mount Pleasant Road, Poole. Frank sold the Frimley business and Rosemary had left school, so it was an opportune time to move and start a new life in fresh surroundings. I worked for a lady doctor in Parkstone as secretary/receptionist, part-time until I retired at sixty-five. 

The house in Poole is my dream house. It is on two levels, faces south and has uninterrupted views over Poole Park, the Lake and the Harbour. It has every amenity and is a few minutes walking distance from the town and the Arts Centre. 

Since retiring I have had more time to enjoy the house and the garden and to explore Dorset's country lanes and footpaths. I feel that Poole and Dorset is my home and there is nowhere in the world I would rather live. My sister Polly lives a few miles away in Swanage and we meet often. Our lives have gone along very different paths but it is comforting to know we have both come from the same source and can share the memories of life in the very early days. Although we have quite different personalities there is deep affection and concern for each other. 

Frank and I celebrated our Golden Wedding Anniversary on Saturday the 6th November, 1993. We hired a large room at the Grasshopper Inn in Poole and every member of the family was able to be there. It was a wonderful afternoon and after a meal we danced to the music of the Hambledon Hopstep Band. I felt pleased that Frank and I were still together and enjoying life. I have such a lot to thank him for and over the years I have grown to love him more and more. We have had bad times but there have been many happy ones to compensate for them. 

Now as I write in March 1996, I am seventy-three. The four children are happily married and I have five grand-daughters and four grandsons, the eldest of which is himself married. That they are all strong and healthy, honest and successful is a bonus indeed and I consider myself to be the most fortunate of women to have such a lovely family. I want them to know what pleasure and interest they have brought me and just how much I love them.