Going back a bit from the day Anabel went walk about, to shortly before Mary’s Helen was born, John came in one day and told me he had met Wilf and asked how things were going. According to John he had said Mary had to go for a ‘severe examination’. I was thinking, that was something else nobody ever told me, when the penny dropped – John had heard wrongly and it must be a Caesarean operation which I vaguely knew about. So it turned out, and Helen safely arrived. Once Mary was ready for ‘promenading’ we established a routine of walking down to meet Linda after school and shopping if necessary on the way back. On summer days we walked down to the riverside where there were seats with a lovely vista all around, very relaxing. Mary and I were good for one another – we enjoyed being together and had similar views on lots of things. I was never a chatterbox when I was young, but I think to some extent Mary brought me out of my shell. We certainly talked a lot! Helen and Anabel liked being together too.
Not very long before Helen’s first birthday, Wilf became unwell with a chest illness which pulled him down greatly and eventually became pneumonia. He was taken to hospital and we never thought for a minute that he wouldn’t get better and come home. He had been in the Special Forces in the war, and perhaps what he had gone through then had affected his ability to fight off the pneumonia. He died after only eight years of marriage. Then, I couldn’t imagine Mary’s sorrow. Her family lived in Newcastle so she had company. My memory is a bit hazy about this time but I do remember that Mary asked me if I would come over with Anabel on the day of the funeral and take care of Linda and Helen, which I felt privileged to do. The family and others were gathering there and the funeral cortege would leave from the house. Wilf was well-known and liked and his dying at such an early age was a shock to many. Mary was full of sorrow but she showed real fortitude, being cheerful with the children and carrying on the usual routine on the outside despite the inner grief. We got back to our walks and meeting Linda.
Anabel had a pushchair (buggy) by then, except in bad weather, and before long Helen had one too and began to walk, so our travels were a lot slower! They may have been small but when in an open space, free of their reins, if they took the notion to run away they could move pretty fast! Two outings we had I remember with pleasure. The chemist and his wife lived in a lovely flat above the shop on the main street and she invited us for afternoon tea which we accepted. This was probably in the summer of 1959 and we went hoping there wouldn’t be many objects in reach of two inquisitive little girls. They had a large standard white poodle who had been trained to the gun and was very well-behaved. We had a lovely afternoon tea with no mishaps! While we chatted it was suddenly noticed that Anabel and Helen had quietly disappeared. We found them and the poodle having a nap with bits of all three crowded in the dog’s bed. If only we had thought of a camera! The other invitation was from John Dinning, a farmer and friend of Wilf. It was a Spring visit and it was to have a cup of tea with his mother and then out to show all the wee lambs to Anabel and Helen. He came down in his truck and collected us all plus pushchairs and brought us home later. Knowing how busy he must have been, we really appreciated the outing. The girls were so excited to be close up to tiny lambs and hold them and would have been ready to take one home with them, I’m quite sure. Once again I wonder – why didn’t I take our ‘honeymoon’ Brownie box camera with me? Back then we never thought of taking photos very often, now with colour and modern cameras there seems more point to it. We made up for it when our granddaughters came along.
More or less every week after we got settled down, Anabel came to Church on Sunday mornings. The walk down usually put her to sleep and I would put her in the Vestry by the door. I don’t remember having to go out to her much, if at all. Joyce Robinson was in charge of Sunday School Infants and once Anabel could sit up we attended and I became a ‘helper’. They sang all sorts of songs and I particularly remember one called ‘Row me over the tide’, which Anabel picked up as ‘Throw me over the side’! The Sunday School was large and there was a good crowd of infants and toddlers up to three years old. We enjoyed it greatly.
John started a Youth Choir for the Circuit, and it was good too. I was co-opted and learned the alto mostly. Before long they were being asked to entertain at Church Harvests, etc., usually in the evening which seemed to cut me out. However somebody said I should bring Anabel with me – they knew she didn’t go to sleep early. Also, many of the men were miners and farming people and events started early. So she became our wee mascot and had a great time among the Choir.
We took her to evening things at our main Church too. The Hall had heating pipes around it and one evening Anabel was wandering about happily among the people. She stood in front of the platform for a bit and when I looked over I thought she looked as if she was trying not to cry. I went to her and she held up her arms and said ‘Sore, Mummy.’ I asked her if she had a pain in her tummy and she shook her head. John had come over and he said there’s a red patch on the back of her leg. It turned out she had stood with her leg against the heating pipe and was too little to realise what was hurting her. It must have been so painful. Any way we dealt with it and comforted her and called at the Doctor next morning. It had to be kept covered so she was quite proud of her “banjy”. This word evolved the first time she fell and skinned her knee. I said “Mummy will wash it and put a bandage on and kiss it all better”. However she held her hands over her knee and cried “No, no, don’t touch it, just put a banjy on!”
She liked to help with the washing, putting her clothes in the washing machine and getting them out, and she always called it the washing sheen. One day I said to her, “Anabel, don’t say sheen, say machine”. She looked at me, quite astonished, and replied “But Mummy, it’s not ma (my) sheen, it’s your sheen!” I sent that to the magazine I read then and got 5 shillings for it! I still have the Magazine but the 5 shillings soon disappeared!