When I mentioned a few posts ago that Elspeth and Ian were back in Scotland from Australia for a while, it reminded me of the first time they came back when Anabel was still a babe in arms. They spent a few days with us in Haltwhistle. For a small child, Anabel had a very hearty laugh. When we were trying to take a picture she was very solemn so Ian took his large bunch of keys from his pocket and shook it to attract her attention then started dropping them from a height into his other hand. She was enthralled and started to laugh and it was so infectious we all ended up laughing our heads off. They stayed several weeks in Scotland.
Next time they came was when Anabel was coming up to two. Elspeth and Ian arrived in London and travelled by train to Glasgow on the Euston to St Enoch Line as it was then. The train always stopped for about 10 minutes at Carlisle, for mail I think. So on the day, we took the local train to Carlisle and enjoyed an emotional and happy short time with them. It was wonderful to see them and we went straight to the Post Office and sent a telegram to John’s Mum saying simply, “we have seen them”. We were daft in those days! That was the time they started the journey on a ship which caught fire somewhere near Fiji. All the passengers had to continue their journeys by air without their luggage. When their large cabin trunk arrived later the contents were all wet. It should have been a leisurely trip and a real holiday for them, but could have been a lot worse had it happened in the middle of the ocean.
Returning now to where I branched off the trail! Having two walking, talking bonny bairns I kept using the pram longer for Elspeth than with Anabel, on the principle that it would be easier to catch one runaway than two. The traffic wasn’t terrible, but it was the main road from Carlisle to Newcastle so it was busy at times. Eventually the by-pass was made which speeded up the journey for the motorists. Anabel would hold the pram handle, and if she got tired she could sit on the end of the pram. Also it was handy for carrying the shopping!
We always seemed to be busy, the days flew by, and when it came to autumn 1961 we said “this is the last time we’ll see the Haltwhistle swallows gathering on the telephone wires ready to fly away for the winter”. Then it was the last Harvest Festivals, Christmas services, Sunday School parties. A bit before Easter we got an invitation from the school to take Anabel in to meet her teacher and see the classroom and cloakroom and so on. Then after Easter, Anabel became a schoolgirl.
On the first day, mothers of beginners were allowed to bring them into the school and take them to the classroom and stay for a short time. It’s a harrowing event really! I managed to keep my cool until I left her and walked home holding back the tears and hoping nobody stopped to speak to me. However, Anabel seemed to cope. She was reading before long, and we thought she enjoyed school but parents don’t always know what is in a child’s mind. She seemed to be happy, and when we saw the teacher at a concert she told us Anabel was ready for school and wanted to learn things so that relieved our minds a bit. By the time the summer holidays came round she was reading well, knew the alphabet (with the occasional lapse) and was able to write some words in capitals and also numbers and simple addition sums. “What does that mean/say?” tripped off her tongue regularly. She also got to be a pussy cat in the school play – she looked so cute!
Elspeth was lost without Anabel at first, but Helen was still a playmate. Going to meet Anabel after school was the highlight of the day for Elspeth. There was ‘homework’ to be done, but mostly it was reading the next page of Janet and John. Elspeth was two by then and always keen to be involved in the homework, She had the book I made for Anabel, and plenty others around. Nowadays I think Janet and John and many of the Ladybird books are frowned upon but they were right for the time, whatever people think now, and our girls loved them. They are still constant readers. Elspeth works in the City in London, and sets out each morning Kindle in hand.
John’s successor was appointed, and they came to see the house and look around as we had done at Roker. We started touching up paint, washing curtains, dusting down walls and all the stuff you do for a major Spring Clean! It really brought home how soon we would be packing up and leaving our first ‘together’ home. The Circuit had a farewell ‘do’ and gave us gifts and a cheque for which we were very grateful. One gift was a Piquot teapot, and when Mary saw it she bought us the matching sugar dish and milk jug. They have been well used, although I seldom use the teapot now, and I don’t take sugar in tea, but the jug is often in use. Harry and Emily, who had been such good friends from our arrival, said they would drive us to Roker which was wonderful.
It was a sad time saying so many goodbyes, not only to the Methodists but a lot of the population as well. Leaving Mary and her girls left a gap in all our lives. There is an unwritten law that you don’t return to the churches you leave for a year, and we always abided by it. They came for a weekend and we kept in touch, and still do, although only with our Christmas letter now. We had a few days staying with Harry and Emily later on and made many visits over the years.
When we arrived in Roker, we were welcomed by the Stewards. They had a lovely meal ready for us which we enjoyed. I was amused when I saw the tea being poured from a Piquot teapot and wondered if they had rummaged in our boxes to find it. Just joking, I knew they wouldn’t have! Then they left us to settle in. First, we had a short walk in the lovely park across the road to let the girls run around and get rid of some energy. Harry and Emily were a bit shocked when they looked round the house. The one we left was bright and cheerful, the new one was a bit drab. They were all for taking us back to Haltwhistle and, while it was thoughtful and caring, the Haltwhistle house was a new minister’s manse. We assured them we would soon have it cheered up, although we didn’t know then how long it would be before we were settled.
We were all a bit downhearted when Harry and Emily set off for home. But there were jobs to be done and the first was to get beds ready for the children and ourselves. There was a lot to do, and we were tired and sad, but the stewards had welcomed us kindly and fed us well. We showed the girls our room and theirs and how to find us, unpacked essentials which included books and dolls and teddies. Anabel and Elspeth went to bed and we left the hall and landing lights on. We sat for a bit and did likewise. One chapter was finished, a new one beginning and we were full of anticipation.