This is me about 60 years ago — the little chubby one (some things don’t change) with my sister Esme.
And this is me (centre, in my dutch girls dress,) (I tended to have descriptive names for my dresses) with Esme again and my little sister Christine who would hardly ever have her photo taken, and our nephew — yes, nephew — Robert (for whom I wrote the story Picture Book, which will be in my wee collection when I get it together. I think that is my sister Margaret in the doorway. She was 20-ish then. It was a big family!
in Dutch hats
dance around my gingham skirt
blue and white
neat and fresh
tied at the shoulder
i wished I could dance
as they did there
out in the sunshine but
Between those two photographs being taken, our father had died. It was a sudden event that separated who we were from all our future selves and that is a big deal. But for my mother, 46 at the time, and having lost three little girls in infancy during the war years, (see The Bridge Between pg 6 here) to lose her husband, her support was truly devastating.
It is a hard lesson to learn, so early in life, that the you of today is fundamentally different from the you of all your tomorrows, and in everlasting ways, and it makes for some deep introspection. And I could (but won’t) document what that meant and how it affected the lives of each of us in negative ways. You can see it in my writing anyway. LINK: THE STARE’S NEST
But we were very lucky. My eldest sister was already married to a truly remarkable young man called Hubert, who at the tender age of 25 stepped into the breach and supported us three littlest girls like a father,
all the way through primary school and secondary/ grammar school — a very good schooling for which he paid and to which I owe many of my future selves. I worked hard and got top grades.
I think Mammy knitted this cardy — or might have been Margaret.
Can you spot me in the choir below?
and university (here at the White Rocks, Portrush.)
In January 1978. The Christmas No 1 had been Mull of Kintyre by Wings, I’d just got my degree and was about to leave Ulster. I didn’t really have much choice because I needed a teaching job and they were scarce. Also I couldn’t, for all manner of practical reasons, live at my mother’s house. So I applied all over Britain, and got a job in Cardiff just before Christmas. In February I was to join the staff at Glyn Derw HS in Ely. So the family threw me a farewell party and the 23 year old me in this photo with my brother-in-law Hubert, was about to step out into the world all on her own. Okay I’d been to Uni and I’d been to France but this was different — this was for good and in a city I didn’t know at all. And I may have been smiling but believe me, I was scared. I left on Fri 3rd Feb, lurching into the unknown, with a trunk Esme bought me, a suitcase, and a stomach full of terror.
(I wrote last year about my eldest brother having always reminded me he left home on my birthday — literally the day I was born. It’s only now I see an irony here. Feb 3rd was also his birthday! Sometimes) 40 years ago
I had temporary accommodation (diggs) with a not very nice lady in Grangetown. I didn’t have much money, and I needed to find a bedsit quickly. I had a fortnight til my job started. So I based myself at Astey’s Cafe in the Bus Station with the local papers, studying the To Lets, and traipsed round Cardiff by bus. Most people at the cafe were friendly and helpful. In fact some of them seemed quite concerned that I was all alone in the big city and three older people, a husband, wife and her brother, to whom I’d spoken a few times, having seen me there day after day, offered me a lift to Wenvoe, just west of the city, to view a half bungalow share that would have been difficult to find on my own. But they turned out to be genuine folk and they took me and brought me back and they even helped me move my stuff from the diggs to the bungalow. I never saw them again. And apart from being haunted, it was a good billet — a very suitable beginning for a small-town girl — alone in the big city! I shared kitchen and bathroom with a speech therapist student called Christine Baber, who was very nice. It gave me time to acclimatise, and to find a good bedsit nearer the centre before the September term.
Now, I only knew one person in Wales. Noel. I’d met him the year before so when I’d got my accommodation sorted, within the week! I decided to pay a visit to Swansea. The next cake I cut was this one — two years later
so it worked out okay — lurching into the unknown.
I think it’s only a fool who isn’t afraid of the future but really, you know, I wouldn’t change much about who I am today. And as for the future — well, it’s always better than the alternative! Here’s to a good deal more lurching — Cheers!
Me, Esme and Noel somewhere in the future — a good place to be.