Stony Lane was one of my favourite places; it seemed to have lovely flowers and blackberries late. I didn’t go there on my own as far as I remember, but seemed to often be there with Dad, Maurice or the gang. One day I was out with Dad, and for once picked some magnificent buttercups along the lane and lagged behind. When we turned into Scholes Lane, I ran very fast to catch him and show my flowers, but unfortunately fell and really hurt my knees as the road had recently had big chippings spread. I always had a blackish mark on my right knee as a result, and I howled and howled. The thing that caused my heartbreak however was the sight of the smashed golden petals, smeared over the sharp granite chips.
There were no other girls within reasonable distance, but I played on my own a lot, and was accepted by the gang of boys that my brother played with, when I could manage to keep up with them. The leaders of the gang were two brothers living at the big house, whose father owned a mill at Sowerby Bridge; their garden seemed huge and park-like and they employed a gardener and a proper live-in maid. We didn’t get to the garden as far as I remember but could scramble through the hedge at one corner where the grass clippings were tipped and the smell of hot, rotting grass seemed a big part of life to me in those pre-school days, meaning that I was romping about, rolling in clippings and out of earshot of my mother. Once we were trying to cut the grass with a small scythe, and I must have swung it against my left inside ankle bone, because when my mum removed my wellies, there was a wet foot caused by a little hole leaking in some puddle water. On close inspection, there was a little hole on my ankle. I remember deciding that the sickle-swinging incident was not a suitable item for adult ears, and said I’d no idea what had happened to my boot. I still have a little scar, just at the front edge of the ankle’s bony knob.
The living room seemed light enough for all my needs; I only noticed the gaslights when a mantle conked out and had to be replaced. The bedroom was hideously dark however and my Dad would carry me upstairs in one arm, with candlestick in the other hand, and there were some very strange shadows always. Of course when we were in bed, the candle went back downstairs. Maurice and I went to bed at the same time in those days, and no wonder we used to talk quite a while, making up pretend games, imagining we were heroes of some sort- I was never a girl.
Me in the Garden 1932- a black and white print which I later hand coloured-(this was my job for a while)
I was told that I fell down the cellar steps once when the door had been left open, I’m sure most children did ‘ I burnt the backs of my legs when a toddler, tottering on to the fire front that had been moved off the hearth to give access to the ashes – ‘blisters as big as eggs’ I was told, that prevented me from enjoying a particularly heavy snowfall, as I had to keep my legs dry.
Families like mine with hardly ever a penny to spare ever, were reluctant to use the doctor, and my Dad was pretty good at first aid; infectious diseases were always treated by doctors but we gave any problems a chance to put themselves right, or perhaps accepted things that didn’t cause too much distress, without indulging in outside help. One year I was poorly for a while with what was said to be ‘flu’ but could easily have been typhoid because of my liking for playing tea parties with tiny tin tea cups and saucers, ladling dubious liquid form a neighbor’s rain tub, beside his hen hut. There is the memory of feeling bad, just the knowledge that I was kept downstairs in the warmth day and night, with anxious parents nearby.
Maurice and me on the steps 1932