Some events were in some ways life-changing for us as a family. Anabel and Elspeth both did well at school and we had good reason to be proud of them. They worked hard and passed all exams with good marks – which isn’t to say we’d have been less proud if the marks had been lower! As teenagers they were a bit obstreperous at times, but I don’t remember anything that worried us much. We always said that as long as they did their best that was all we asked. Anabel’s A-levels allowed her a choice of universities and she chose Sheffield to study History. In September 1975 the day came when she left home. The car was loaded and we set off from The Crescent. Elspeth stayed at home with Mandy. It was a bit like the day Anabel started school except that she wouldn’t come home for tea. Everything was changed for us all and would never be quite the same again. That was the downside, the upside was that she was a capable young woman looking forward to the future and able to survive without her Mum and Dad! (We hoped.) The question was, how would we survive without her?! With difficulty, but in time we got used to being only three.
Elspeth must have found the house quiet but as she was in her O-level year she had plenty to keep her busy. Anabel kept in touch and came home for the vacs and the occasional weekend. Mandy suffered most I think, she moped around at first, whining now and again and just staring at us much as to say “where is Anabel?”. Of course when Anabel came home Mandy was ecstatic!
Because our income was small, both our daughters got the full grant that was available then and managed well on it. I suppose being reared in a Methodist Manse had been a good grounding for spending carefully! Anabel had a summer job in a local factory making paint tins, and says she could still attach the handles with her eyes shut. A couple of years she also worked as a postal delivery person at Christmas. Joy Wilkinson found the paint factory job and Joe Pattison helped her get the PO job. They boosted her income nicely and we were grateful to Joy and Joe for their help. Three years later in 1978 she had her degree and came home for the summer, at which time Elspeth had also had good A-levels and would be going off to Leeds University to study English in September.
Anabel now had to have a year’s work experience with Hampshire Libraries, so was going to be in three places – Southampton, Winchester and Farnborough – which would be followed by a year back at Sheffield getting an MA in librarianship. We had a holiday down there, and I think we stayed in Winchester and visited Southampton – or vice versa, neither of us can remember! We saw the Round Table and just about everything else. Being in our late youth, around 50, we had plenty energy for daily trekking! It is a lovely part of England but Northumberland, Durham and Tyneside are still the favourites, although I am not likely to be there again. Plenty memories though.
By the time Elspeth set off for Leeds we had moved from The Crescent and were living in Villa Real Road in a bigger terrace house, which was ironic because most of the time John and I would be alone in it. We drove Elspeth to Leeds with all the boxes and cases. I can’t remember whether Anabel was at home still, but I think she must have been as Mandy was getting too frail for the journey and the walking involved. We came home feeling miserable. When Anabel went off we’d be down to two! Mandy hobbled around searching for Elspeth, whining and unhappy. We knew how she felt!
We hadn’t told the girls, but we had taken Mandy for a check-up by the vet. She was losing the power in her back legs and sometimes could hardly walk, and she certainly couldn’t climb stairs any more. The vet said that although she could treat her there was little she could do. She was an elderly dog and perhaps we should think carefully about whether invasive treatment would be kind to her or not. We watched her carefully, and it was obvious she was becoming less able to move around comfortably. She just wanted to lie beside whichever feet were handy and doze. We waited till Elspeth was settled at Leeds and Anabel was down South before finally admitting it would be kinder to have her put to sleep. John took a day off and we spent an hour or so talking to Mandy and stroking her like a pair of nitwits! Then we went up to the vets who were out in the country. It was the same vet and she was very kind. She couldn’t find the vein in the front leg at first and said “you’d think she knows what I’m doing”. It shows how strung up I was that I thought she meant it for a minute and nearly panicked. Next try worked. She left us alone and we just stroked Mandy and told her she was a clever girl and other daft things. Her head gradually drooped and she fell asleep so peacefully. We felt like murderers. We paid £5 for the dreadful deed and could hardly bear to walk away and leave her. We sat in the car for half-an-hour or more crying then went home to the empty house.
In some ways, we missed Mandy more that the girls. She was always there, following us around the house, sitting at our feet, gazing at us adoringly, trying to climb on our laps. The girls were out a lot with their friends and weren’t inclined to do any of the things Mandy did. Not after they grew up a bit anyway! Folk said we should get another dog right away, but we couldn’t see any dog replacing her. Perhaps this was because she had been a ‘family’ dog, so loved by the four of us, and so much part of our lives. We had so many happy days at the coast and countryside and the parks around us with the girls chasing about with Mandy. She tried to keep us all together and looked for us if we were out of sight. It would have been different having a dog with just John and me. Well, I did say we were nitwits didn’t I? The house felt even more empty and quiet. After a few days we told Anabel and Elspeth.
This all happened about 38 years ago. Recently, Anabel took me over to Erskine Garden Centre to get some bedding plants for the garden tubs. We had our lunch there and were discussing my blog. I mentioned writing about Mandy and told her how John and I had had to sit in the car to recover from the ordeal! Anabel said she and John were the same with one of the cats they had to have put to sleep. Next thing we were both all weepy! What a pair. Animals certainly know how to capture your heart …