Although I was a happy wee girl and contented with life as it was, once I got over the enforced separation from home and family in hospital, there was a whole new purpose to it. I had a baby to take care of! I still loved school but it was a long time till lunch, and again till home time when I could watch Annabel. I could feed her from the bottle too. Babies’ bottles then were banana shaped with a rubber stopper at one end and the teat at the other. We had a special brush for cleaning them. She was always ready for her food (and hasn’t changed!) She didn’t like to be lying down for long, preferring to be held upright to see all that was going on. (Strange as it may seem Anabel with one N was exactly the same. Our Circuit Steward’s wife told John that she would grow up with a crooked back as a result of it. But she didn’t!) Time seemed to fly and Annabel grew. She was the loveliest baby I had ever seen, with blonde, wavy hair. I hadn’t seen many, of course! Her first tooth was a big event. She also ‘talked’ a lot and I was sure she was trying to say Babs to me. (For some unknown reason I was known as Babs till I was seven when I became Chrissie.) One day, we were having a wee walk up and down the pavement when Helen Laird came out with her big Silver Cross dolly’s pram. By mutual consent, Annabel was transferred into Helen’s pram and the dolly into Annabel’s pram. Then we had a sedate stroll up and down to the stables and back again. It wasn’t long till the baby was sitting up, crawling and walking. I was very proud as she reached each of these landmarks, quite sure my careful guidance had helped. I learned a lot about babies and toddlers between 1933 and 1936!
In early summer, before she was four, Mum took us to Glasgow to Lewis’s Store. Annabel didn’t want her hair cut and was quite likely to make a fuss about it. However Lewis’s had a lovely Hair Salon on the top floor near the Pets’ Corner. There was a children’s section and the seats were like fairground animals, and Mum thought such distractions might help. I remember the lady who performed the operation was very skilful, not only with the scissors but also with the lovely way she spoke and apparently mesmerised my wee sister to succumb. From then on, I took her to Joanna’s in the village for both our trims.
We spent a lot of time together along with friends. We liked to go to the sliding crag which was in a field on the Port Glasgow Road. It was a large rock which projected out of the ground and was actually shaped like a slide at a time when I don’t think they’d been invented. It must have been in use for a hundred years, judging by how smooth and shiny it was. It was probably about four or five feet long and it was a perfect slide. When we were at a loose end someone would be sure to say “let’s go out to the sliding crag”. Or we’d go up to the wood behind the park and climb trees. Mum didn’t know about that! In the days of tar and gravel roads, mothers’ had to face their children arriving home with tar on their socks and often on their legs as well. When the sun shone the tar melted a bit and formed bubbles on the surface, so naturally it gave a lot of pleasure to boys and girls to stamp on them and burst them. Many a lecture we got! The remedy was to rub butter on the skin then scrub it after a while. The cotton socks then had to be boiled to clean. We wore white ankle socks for years, purchased in Woolworth’s. Some were all white and some had coloured bands on the ankle turnover. It was sandal weather, which allowed plenty of sock uncovered to gather tar stains.
Early on in 1937, our Dad had won a bit over £52 on the Football Pool he did, called ‘Four Aways’. That led to a big adventure for us all. In August, shortly before Annabel was four and I was ten, we travelled by train to London to stay with Uncle Albert (Dad’s brother) and Auntie May. It was a long journey and I’m sure Annabel and I must have slept some of the time. However we saw so many hills and rivers and canals and country villages and towns and people, that looking out of the window was great entertainment. Dad’s brother lived in Plumstead in a terraced house with a long garden at the back. We were amazed to see tomatoes growing down each side and we could just pick one and eat it if we liked. They had a dog too. Uncle Albert and Cousin Bill worked in the Woolwich Arsenal. Edith had been married shortly before and her husband was Jim. They lived in a brand new house in Welwyn Garden City which I think was the second Garden City to be built. We hardly saw the two younger boys, Albie (Albert) and Freddy who were about seventeen and fifteen. They were apprentices, and came home from work for tea, changed and were off again.
We had a happy time visiting places. At Buckingham Palace we were more impressed with the Guards than the Palace. We went to London Zoo and I had my picture taken with a chimpanzee. There were so many animals we had only seen in pictures. We saw the snake pit – it was quite scary. One memorable day we sailed down the Thames in an Eagle Boat. I think it was a paddle steamer, but perhaps not. The river was very busy with lots of small ships and yachts. There were barges with red sails which carried coal and other goods. I had never seen a boat with red sails before but they reminded me of one of the songs Mum and Dad sang, Red sails in the sunset way out on the sea, oh, carry my loved one home safely to me. We arrived at Southend on a pleasant sunny day and spent some time in the huge Fairground. I longed to ride on the Big Horses that went up and down, not the little children’s ones that only went round and round. Dad took me on them for the first time ever and it was really exciting. We rode on other things but the most exciting was the boat slide. I can’t remember the proper name for it. It was a flat, broad boat high up over a big pond. When it was full up and all belts fastened it slid down towards the water, just like us on the sliding crag! Then it was a huge splash as we hit the water and we all got wet! It was terrific. Some people were screaming, but it was quite safe. Then we had tea somewhere and enjoyed the sail home, tired but very thrilled with the adventure. Another day we were at the War Museum, I can’t remember a great deal but we do have a picture with Bill and Edie, Mum and me and Annabel with a big metal thing which had been bombarded by cannon balls in a war sometime. Dad had the camera so there aren’t many pictures of him. Going to Madame Tussaud’s was better. First thing Dad sent me over to ask a steward for a booklet and when I asked him I saw he was a waxwork! I didn’t much like the place that was all about murderers. All the wax people looked real and we saw film stars and people from history and too many to remember. We must have been there for hours and were very tired when we got back to Plumstead.
We were used to London accents in the family but it was strange to hear everyone having them and we were the odd ones out. The boy who lived next door asked me if all the men in Scotland wore kilts and did it rain all the time and did all the people talk funny like we did? Cheeky wee rascal! It was a lovely week, and by the time we got settled back at home it was nearly school time again which was the first Monday in September.
About a week before the new term, Annabel declared that she was going to school with Chrissie. She had her fourth birthday on 12th August and Mum explained that she was too young and thought no more about it. But Annabel hadn’t forgotten and kept telling me she was going with me. So on the day, she remained adamant and had what Mum called one of her tantrums. In the end she won, and Mum wrote a letter to Miss Jackson, who by then had replaced Miss Barclay, which I was to give to her along with the Naughty Wee Girl! The teacher took both calmly and said your wee sister will soon get tired and want to go home and someone will bring her up to you, Chrissie. I was going into the pre-qualifying class upstairs, one of the big girls now. All morning till playtime I was expecting her but when I met her in the playground she was like a dog with two tails and as happy as could be! And so it continued. Both Mum and Miss Jackson expected a day or two would enough but they were wrong. Annabel was launched into school life and never looked back. So we set off together every morning. She was a wee rascal, but she was our special wee rascal, tantrums and all………