Gaining experience

There is stacks of stuff I could write about life with Anabel but I’m going to restrain myself. She wasn’t particularly fast getting her teeth, or, as was the more usual question from her fan club, ‘Has she any wee toothies yet?’ The last of the baby teeth came about March 1958 by which time she had a varied diet. On her first birthday she was showered with cards and presents. She liked to have music playing and turned her head to the wireless when it was on. She soon looked to the window when a train roared by, and liked to be taken out to look down on the railway and watch the steam billowing. Next door had a dog called Gyp and she reacted to his barking and soon learned he was a bow-wow. Not to mention the pussycats, moocows, baa lambs and all the rest we met in books or on walks in the country. Some people didn’t approve of ‘baby talk’ but our vocabulary changed considerably! We met an acquaintance with a large dog and Anabel was trying to get to the side of the pram to see him. ‘She’s not afraid of him’, said the lady. I was appalled to hear myself reply that our neighbours had a ‘bow-wow’ called Gyp and she liked to stroke him. So both John and I gained a lot of experience in caring for our wee treasure.

John also benefitted greatly from the time he spent with Walter Thynne observing how he dealt with a variety of circumstances. One of the people who wrote to me when John died said that John was the most non-judgemental man he had ever known. Much of that came from John’s own character, but it was strengthened by working alongside his Super. Mrs Thynne helped me along the way by encouraging me when I was unsure about speaking at meetings and presiding at others. I gradually began to show some of the necessary attributes of a Minister’s wife. I didn’t ask questions but listened carefully to people, didn’t try to solve problems but let them talk around things till the way became clearer. Sad things happened, folk died too young, happy young people got married, babies were born, pitmen got chest trouble, and we were part of it all. There were times when we were grieving with some and rejoicing with others. We gained experience in many ways that first year.

The two Supers who followed were each very different from one other and from Mr Thynne. The first one, Mr Goodison, stayed 3 years and John felt from early on that he wasn’t trusted to do anything without being questioned about the ‘how, why and wherefore!’ It got him down, so he said one day that he’d have to tackle the Super about it. It turned out that he had asked John to give his apology for not coming to our Castlehill Sale of Work, which John duly passed on to the Committee who arranged the event. The Super’s wife told him there was no mention of his non-attendance on the day, but all that had happened was that the ‘Opener’ said a few words and declared the event open. There were no formal apologies. That made him unable to trust John to do anything right!

We missed the Thynnes a lot. We visited them in York and we were glad to have Irene around quite often. But the new situation brought home how blessed we were in having the right Super and his wife guiding our footsteps in our first year together. Their successor was the only one with whom we had no real friendship, although we tried hard. The third Super, Mr Shorland, was an older man, almost at retiring age. He was an accomplished artist and had stacks of paintings in one of their bedrooms. He also played the violin. His wife suffered badly from arthritis and used a wheel chair, and they had an Issetta (‘Bubble’) car which had a lift-up door at the front. Mr Shorland devised a very clever contraption to assist Mrs S. in and out of the car without too much discomfort. They were very pleasant folk and I was glad to be able to use some of my surplus energy to help her by washing curtains, etc.

Julie McInnes

Julie McInnes

John and I had planned to have several children with not more than three years between them. Such naivety! However, soon after Anabel’s second birthday I was again expecting. This time I had no sickness and all went well. My sister Annabel was also expecting her first child and was having the sickness quite badly. She also had tablets given by her doctor (TV was recently highlighting Thalidomide which was being prescribed at that same time, a scary thought). Anabel’s baby arrived on 14th March 1960,  and was just over 5lbs in weight.

Anyway, our second super and his wife were going away for a few days at Easter, 1960. He asked John when our baby was due and was told the Saturday after Easter. However, around lunch time on Easter Monday, the 18th, I became uncomfortable but not worried. However we phoned the hospital and was told to come ‘just in case’. So away I went, telling John I could be back before tea-time, probably a false alarm. Anabel and John waved me off. I spent a short time in a small ward wandering about, doing the breathing then I just had to ring the bell and say ‘it’s time!’ Sister Cuthbertson disagreed. I got quite desperate and rang again, and this time Nurse Murphy thought there wouldn’t be time to get to the Labour Ward, but Sister disagreed again! I found it very difficult as I had to try not to push, concentrate on holding on to the baby and keep walking, plus hoping I didn’t meet anyone I know. In the Labour Ward, I had to struggle to get on to the bed and after no time at all the baby came soon after 4 o’clock, about 2 hours after I got to the Hospital. They had phoned the doctor, but everything was over before he got to us.

Elspeth Anne

Elspeth Anne

So Elspeth Anne arrived all in a rush, unlike Anabel who kept us waiting all day. She was a beautiful, 7lb 8oz blonde and just under 21 inches long. So was Anabel, but now Elspeth is the taller one. I was brought hot, sweet tea, which I dislike very much, but it was for shock! When I was handed our new baby I saw one eye was very bloodshot. I was afraid it was caused by pressure when I struggled to get onto the bed. The nurse just laughed and said it would fade away, which it did. Elspeth was a wee Mitchell who looked a bit like John’s Mum and had his lovely auburn hair. No mistaking her parentage! We had told Anabel she was to have a wee brother or sister some time before, and she knew where the baby was. She liked to lean against me and feel the kicking. She said she would like a ‘lickle’ sister but, when John told her she had a sister called Elspeth Anne, she sat on the bottom stair and cried because she wanted a brother! I think maybe missing Mummy had something to do with that.

Elspeth and Elspeth

Elspeth and Elspeth

The new baby’s Godmother, also Elspeth, John’s middle sister, was on an extended holiday from Brisbane with Ian, her husband. She came and took care of Anabel for the ten days I was in Hospital. When the Super came home somebody told him the baby had come and he came round to see John and seemed quite indignant that he had been told Saturday and it happened on Monday. Another instance of John’s unreliability!

The Hospital had an Open Day every April with stalls and entertainments, although only the grounds were used. The Mums were shut in! However we were gathered by the windows and John and Elspeth brought Anabel over and sat her on the still for a cuddle. That was lovely, until they lifted her down when she cried so sorely I could hear her as they walked up the road. I shut myself in the bathroom and wept. She must have felt abandoned and I missed her dreadfully.

John’s sister went home but they came for the Christening later. John and Anabel came to take us home and we had a doll for Anabel. John sat in front with Elspeth and Anabel sat on my knee in the back cuddling her doll. When we got home there was a cot waiting for her ‘new baby’ doll. At this birth, none of the ‘things nobody had told me about’ happened. It was all over so quickly I had no time to notice pain or anxiety! We had had ante-natal classes which were good, especially for first baby Mums. We had relaxation instruction which was great and has stayed with me. There were probably about ten of us, each with a mat and flat pillow, and after the exercises we lay down for minimum 15 minutes. I was the only one who actually went to sleep and the only one who lay on my right side because I got indigestion if I lay on the left. The two District Nurses who ran the class looked after Anabel and most weeks she bathed the big doll the Mums practised on. But, and I only learned this later, when I was asleep she would go round the circle and tickle feet or do ‘this little piggy goes to market’. Apparently it caused a lot of merriment. If it had been Elspeth she would likely have been asleep with me. She had to be wakened to be fed and if she was out the back sleeping in the pram now and again I forgot about her feeding!

I used to wonder if second time would be as wonderful as the first and it was. We cuddled her, sang to her and did all we did with Anabel, and were equally besotted with second as with first. The capacity to love and cherish just keeps on expanding…


2 thoughts on “Gaining experience

  1. Loved the idea of the Super and his stubborn opinions. I suspect we have all had bosses evidencing their own inadequacies in this way. And did we all get dressed in those white cardigans as babies? All the pictures of me at the same age seem to involved knitwear!


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