A blog I was reading the other day had an old photograph of a young girl on a motorbike probably circa 1950’s, which put me in mind of a photo of myself and my cousin J sitting on my father’s motorbike dressed up in our auntie Margaret’s clothes. We loved rummaging around auntie’s bedroom.
Me riding pillion circa 1956
Auntie Margaret was my mum’s sister. She worked for WH Smith at their office in Leeds, she always had nice clothes and lots of accessories. Her bedroom was an Aladdin’s cave of goodies. My mum had nice things too, but auntie was able to afford little extras. She never married and I often wondered why, because in those days most women married and had babies. I’m sure it wasn’t for the lack of suitors. One day I plucked up the courage to ask. She replied that there had been a couple of proposals but she didn’t want the responsibility of another person and preferred to stay single.
My mother’s family lived in Leeds and we would visit at Christmas, Easter and during the summer.
I only knew one grandparent. My father’s parents died before I was born, my mum’s father died when I was a baby and I only have vague memories of my grandma.
We lived in Peterborough so the journey on the A1 was quite straightforward. Mum sat in the front of the sidecar and I sat in the back. Our 1 case was strapped on the back. That journey seemed to take forever. When my father bought a car I thought we were ever so well off! The journey was more comfortable but still took forever! Even when the M1 was built my father still preferred to use the A1. When I was older, maybe 11 or 12 I would go up for 2 weeks during the summer holiday. I have a vague memory of being put on a train at Peterborough and auntie Margaret meeting me at Leeds. I don’t know if it was a direct journey or whether I had to change trains at some point. My stay was divided between auntie Margaret and two other aunties.
I loved Auntie Margaret’s house, probably because it was so different to ours, having four levels! It was a two up two down back to back terrace house with a cellar and an attic, and a small neat garden. Steps led up to the front door whilst a smaller staircase led down to the cellar. Entering straight into the lounge there was a small kitchen on the left with stairs down to the cellar. The lounge was a lovely room with a big bay window that let in lots of light and sunshine. Auntie had her dining table in the bay. A door from the lounge led up stairs and curved round to the first floor with a bathroom and auntie’s bedroom. Another door led to more curved stairs up to the attic. From the attic I could see for miles, rows and rows of cobbled streets, terraced houses and washing strung across the streets. And I could see the rag and bone man with his horse and cart calling out that familiar “Ragbooone”l.
I enjoyed visiting auntie’s neighbours, or taking the bus into the city to meet her during her lunch break. Sometimes I would meet her from work and we would go to the pictures. She would also take a day or two off work and we would go to Roundhay park or visit her friends and elderly relatives.
The only one I can remember was great Auntie Annie who was profoundly deaf and used one of those huge hearing trumpets. She was very old, very kind and had a terrific sense of humour.
Me, auntie Marjorie and cousin J
Auntie Marjorie’s house was a two up two down with an attic. Cousin J’s room was on the first floor and I slept in the attic, it was great. J and I spent our time talking, experimenting with make up and going into town to meet auntie Margaret during her lunch break.
Auntie Clara’s house was in Guisley, a lovely cosy semi det that was back to front. It was down a lane, so the front door and hallway were at the back of the house overlooking fields, and the side door and porch were at the front off the lane. Directly opposite was a cemetery with a high stone wall. From upstairs you could see almost all the graves. The room I shared with my cousin M overlooked a grave with a beautiful white stone statue of an angel, I always thought she was my guardian angel. Cousin M’s brother, cousin D had the middle bedroom because he needed the space for his amazing railway set that he had built. It was awesome but he wouldn’t let anyone operate it, we could only watch.
Me at the front, cousins J, M and D
Holidays with auntie Clara always involved walking into Ilkley, over part of the moors, a picnic, then catching a train back or vice versa, train there and walk back. On our return we would often have fish and chips for tea. She taught me how to prepare fresh crab.
Me, auntie Clara and my friend P. She was one of 7 children, her father and my father met during the war and remained friends. The family couldn’t afford annual holidays so she sometimes went to Leeds with me.