There are various reasons that made us feel that 1962/63 was not our best ever year. It was nothing to do with the work or the people. They were warm and friendly, as we found very quickly, and we loved the Wearside accent. We had underestimated the effect of all the changes on Anabel and Elspeth. They were so tired the first night that they slept well, but Anabel wakened at around 6am and came looking for us. So we just took her into bed with us. After that she would waken about 2am and stand inside our door which we left open, and the wee voice would say “Mummy” as she came in with us. We gave her lots of cuddles and reassurance that we wouldn’t go anywhere without her. Then I started taking her back to her own bed and lying beside her till she fell asleep rather than disturb John’s sleep. Sometimes I went to sleep first! The time came when we decided she must learn to sleep in her own bed in the same room as Elspeth, so I just kept taking her back. She couldn’t tell us why she got up in the night, but after a few weeks it became less frequent and eventually was forgotten.
When the Women’s Bible Class (Guild) started its new year in September, I went each Tuesday taking Elspeth with me. She was a wee blether in Haltwhistle, and still was at home, but when we went among the new people she stopped talking. Some actually asked if she talked at all! The elderly lady who was President of the Guild was, as I had heard her described, a very masterful woman, but obviously she had a soft side too. The first time we were at the Guild she brought from the Sunday School Beginners’ room a little chair for Elspeth to sit on by my side. Elspeth would put her head on my lap and fall asleep. It was quite a while before she settled well enough to get her chatter back. Getting up in the night and not talking were things we didn’t foresee, and I’m not sure whether we dealt with them well or not, but they still were the happy wee girls they had been in their birth place.
Anabel started school early in September, and when the first day arrived I expected to be able to go in for a wee while as before. Alas, this was one of the differences between country town and large town. There would be a bigger intake so I suppose it would have been impractical to have so many Mums milling around. I just had to hand her over and leave her. She was put in the beginners’ class again, but even though she may not have learned much more she got to know some of the children who lived around us. Elspeth was a bit lost without Anabel and Helen.
Going back to our time before 1st September, John’s first effort was dragging all the fabric from the inside of the Victorian wardrobe mentioned in a previous tale. Then between us we washed it all. We got on with other things that needed doing and, just as we thought we were ready to empty all the boxes at last, we got a bombshell. The stewards surely must have known before our arrival about the rising damp which ran the whole length of one side of the hall. John had mentioned to a Steward that the wall paper was peeling and felt damp, then we were told of the work involved in dealing with it which was a lot worse than having flags lifted and walls plastered at Haltwhistle. The walls had to be pulled out and replaced, then decorated, and since every downstairs room was entered from the hall life was difficult. Fortunately a kindly providence has dimmed it in my memory! Eventually it was finished and we were thankful but worn out. It was Christmas when we were finally totally unpacked. Not the best of starts but the up side was that the people were friendly, John was happy in his work among them, so was I, and we all loved being next to the park and minutes from the shore. Evening walks by the sea when the tide was roaring in fast were a favourite pastime.
Once we were all feeling good again fate stepped in with another knock-back! Anabel came out in spots and flushed and felt poorly. It was measles. It was good that for our first two years our Doctor lived next door and he came in at lunch times to see Anabel. Her case was fairly mild, and after a few days she began to feel well enough to play with Elspeth and read to her. Then Elspeth succumbed to the measles and she was very ill, flushed, fevered, and for a few days getting worse. She needed a lot of care and Doctor came in every lunch time and was quite concerned. We were more like terrified! As with Anabel, we made a bed on the settee and I stayed with her at night as she needed to drink and to be sponged with cool water when she was hot and uncomfortable. Anabel slept in our bed with John. After about a week I wakened up in the night and switched on my torch to look at Elspeth and found she was fast asleep and her forehead was much cooler. I looked at the clock and I’d been asleep for several hours without her waking me. I restrained myself from dashing upstairs to tell John as it was only about 5am. What a change, we were so thankful. The Doctor came that day, and the next, then said just call me if you think it necessary. Lovely words.
Anabel didn’t go back to school until Elspeth was fully recovered and she ‘took care’ of the patient like a good wee nurse, while I got things done that had been neglected. We had had visitors from the Church with wee gifts for both girls and they played away happily, sometimes in the park. Anabel went off to school again, this time accompanied by an older girl whose Mum had called to suggest it might be helpful, which it was. By the time the longer days came and the winter winds softened we had emulsioned and painted the main rooms. We moved the study from the attic down to the dining-room. The ‘breakfast room’ had plenty space for our kitchen table and chairs, and we lived in it in the cold times and moved to the front room when warm days came. Two coal fires in the winter were enough! We had found that coal and butcher meat were both more expensive in Sunderland.
The blog is taking August as a summer break. See you in September!