Later came Snantneys (otherwise known as St Anthony’s), swimming, buck teeth, Cornettos, bicycles, Rise and Shine and Adrian, not necessarily in that order and still with the cowlicks and the NHS specs.
So I had cowlicks, I had specs, I had nasty knitwear and I was fed, but how did I get about? Even fashion orphans need wheels. Well, though I was only 3 I did in fact have a very flash car indeed, which went by the moniker of ‘Tommy Rally’.
Tommy Rally was a very special racing car, with a very special chauffeur. Although I liked to think that I was the driver, I was really only the passenger, although most definitely the back seat driver (Royal blood don’t you know). The real driver, pit manger, fuel attendant and mechanic, nose blower and ice cream buyer was Clare, (Great) Aunty Clare.
Tommy had quite a thirsty engine and I would regularly direct Clare to top him up with petrol. This would usually take place at the filling station by the hedge of no. 26.
The sketchy stories I have been able to piece together about Clare, mostly from my Mother, spotlight a life of highs and lows with a key final position as my chief assistant and team Tommy manager. She had been a housekeeper in fashionable swanky hotels in central
When she came to Leamington in later life, pretty much without anything I think, looking after me filled a void, gave her something to do, and distracted her from the Gordons.
In the mornings I went to Nursery. Mum was working in
My only real memory of Mrs Franklin’s was of being ‘evacuated’ to a hall in Trinity Street and having milk and biscuits in a line, in beautiful sandals. Although as with most things this might all be down to false memory syndrome, ‘you in a wood in a hood’, and be based on a photograph I may have seen of one of the others when they were at nursery. But suffice to say I have never required the services of a therapist in order to deal with my time there, and although I have no real memories apart from the afternoons, I believe it all to have been warm and appropriate, with lots of colouring outside of the lines and tissue paper glued onto sugar paper. I don’t remember any of the other kids, although I do remember two friends from that time who could have been from there or they could have been the kids of people Dad worked with or played golf with. One was Victoria Selby, who lived in Landsdowne Crescent and had a red plastic tomato with ketchup in which I remember thinking was the height of advancement and excitement. We probably didn’t have ketchup at the Gables as it was a bit ITV. I don’t remember anything else about her. The other person is Charles Budd. Again I can only remember one thing about him, and that was being in the back of mum’s car - Triumph Toledo I think, and he wouldn’t stop talking. My early onset impatience had obviously taken to tire of this and I uttered the immortal line, repeated by my Mother ad infinitum for years, hence the clear memory, ‘You are too speaking Charle Spud.’ Bless.
FYI - this gorgeous child I write of was referred to later in life by my sister Mary as ‘rat on a string’ but I imagine I was wearing a bright jumper and looked half presentable following bath night. ‘You were lovely when you were asleep’ I was oft told.
Now the afternoons were the jewel in the crown. Aunty Clare would pick me up from Nursery and we would go the 300 yds back to her flat in Bertie Terrace. There she would finish preparing lunch, and we would wait for Gran to come back from mass. Then we world sit at the big table me in the middle, Gran to my left and Aunty Clare to my right and we would have, thank the lordy lord, always and everyday and without fail we would have fish fingers, mash and peas. And I think for pudding it might have been tinned fruit and cream (carnation). All served on blue Beryl.
After lunch we would go to the Dell, which was a sunken garden, more like a hidden valley in the middle of town, where there were swings. Why were swings such nectar of the Gods, the holy grail of activity? We would then traverse, all in Tommy Rally I think, but again, that might have been earlier and some of these journeys might have been on foot, to the post office for sweets - cherry drops are pleasantly burnt in my memory. We would then get a bus, yes a bus, to the
It was a world of adventure and exploration and Clare and I made the most of it, as often as possible. The gardens were split both by level and by a lovely iron bridge, brightly painted blue with a mesmerising weir you could lean through the bridge and watch as the water passed from the lakes down to the pump rooms and the river Leam. On the other side of the bridge were the mystical and far away swings of
Once back in the flat the afternoon had other delicious routines. First of all there was treasure. Aunty Clare had a great big treasure chest filled with lots and lots of treasure (old cigar box with a few trinkets in) which we would go through like pirates examining the day’s spoils. Then there was the musical box, which I still have! A glorious red lacquered box from
Then it was back home and to the madness of the family - my other life. But the secrets and the treasures of my afternoon with Clare would come round again, tomorrow whilst the others were back at school, and mum and dad were back at work. The magic would be played out once more and further adventures would be had and more fish fingers and ice creams would be eaten. Oh the sweet joy!