Things money can't buy
People sometimes say Derek and I have an enviable life and to a certain extent it is true. We have a lot to be thankful for – a nice home, we are still relatively fit, apart from Derek not being able to walk far, which he doesn't mind too much since he isn't by choice one of nature's wanderers! We can still drive, run a car and see friends on a regular basis.
However, we have both been through very difficult times. In fact we wouldn't even be together if my first husband and Derek's first wife had not died. We have experienced other great griefs also – mainly in my case the death of my only daughter, and my sadness for not only me but for Julie's sons. I am lucky to have my son and grandsons to live for. I always say I still have a place in life – for am I not "The Bank of Nan?" Mind you, I don't get any deposits but I have a lot of withdrawals!
But even if I won the lottery tomorrow I would never change or be wasteful, because I always think back to my roots – and mine were very humble, inasmuch we were "working class". And, boy, did my parents work. I don't think I appreciated my Mum enough because she would have worked her fingers to the bone for us. As for Dad, well he must have been quite smart. He was a barrel boy, as all my readers will probably know by now – up at 5am twice a week to go to the fruit market, then doing a day's work after that, whatever the weather, and turning enough of a profit to keep Mum and us children. Dad firmly believed a man should be the head of his household and, bless his heart, we never disillusioned him!
We didn't have posh carpets everywhere like today but every bit of lino was washed every week and we always had, even through the war, a good cooked meal every day.
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But looking back the biggest lesson I learned in life, certainly up to 1997, was going to Merrywood Grammar School. Being a scholarship girl was very different from someone whose parents paid for their place at Merrywood. School uniform, worn strictly in those days as school uniform should be worn – blouses buttoned up, and dresses demure, skirts at the correct length no "tweaking" allowed. I couldn't have taken my place had it not been for the fact my Dad, who was in the Army from 1942 onwards, got compassionate leave and, with the help of his CO got me a grant for my uniform – and I was a proud little girl as I set off for school on my first day, luckily with two other "scholarship girls" from Connaught Road, Iris and Janet.
One thing no one had taken into account was the fact that expenses didn't begin and end with just uniform. As time went by I needed a hockey stick, tennis racket, and above all money for books. And I soon realised it was quite hard for Mum to give me 2s when ever I needed it. In fact, I never had a brand new tennis racket or hockey stick or new course books – and I owed a debt of gratitude to those school leavers who donated their games equipment to the second- hand store cupboard, likewise books. Another great leveller was school uniform. I didn't look or feel out of place because regardless of how rich – or in my case not – our parents were, we were all dressed the same!
My interest in boys was nil before I met my first husband. Mind you, boys' interest in me was probably nil as I was never bothered about make-up and I was, I suppose, a bit of a "plain Jane" compared to those of my friends who left school earlier.
Almost as soon as I got a job I became engaged and then my first priority was to save for my wedding. Then, I must admit, as a married couple who both worked George and I did get our home up together and have one really special holiday in 1957. But my main priority in life has always been family and when it came down to having my children and grandchildren, time spent with them has been my happiest time. I always say children and grandchildren are what laps are made for!
So no matter how I live, or where I travel, I will always be the little girl who grew up in Knowle West and as long as I have enough money to live on that does it for me. It is very rare for me to buy new clothes nowadays since I have enough to last me the rest of my life. I am not by nature an extravagant woman. I am sure my lovely readers will agree when they recall that when my son remarried in March I "recycled" the suit I wore when I married Derek in 2013 – with the help of a waist expander! I have continued to wear it since.
But my lady readers will also agree, I am sure, that every now and then an occasion arises which is so tremendous and exciting we have to do full justice to it and "push the boat out", and next year when my eldest grandson marries his lovely fiancée, it will be "haute couture" all the way!