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Chapter one – When it all started – 0-10

Born

The date was 12 July 1951 and my mother was all set to go to Halifax General Hospital to give birth to me. But it was not to be. As it turned out I was two weeks late and finally arrived on 26 July 1951. A blonde 10 pound baby was I.

Shortly after this arrival I was baptised at All Saints Church, Dudwell Lane, Halifax, Yorkshire. That’s me being held by my Great Grandmother Turner.

Left to right – Doris my maternal grandmother; maternal great grandmother holding me; Hilda my mother; Helen my elder sister and Ivan my father outside my paternal grandparents’ home.

christening

Britain, not that I was aware at the time, was still very much recovering from the effects of the Second World War and was depressed in austerity, rationing was still around (it was another three years before it was abolished) and the United Kingdom was a grey and tired place.

When I look back as some of the black and white pictures of the time it is hard to imagine now the hardships that people were still enduring. There were slums, real slums with no toilet inside, they were damp and some still used coal gas lighting – quite Dickensian really.

I was fortunate. My father had a building company, Bower’s Builders, and I was taken from the hospital to a comfortable stone terraced house in a pleasant and leafy area of Halifax, St. Ives Road, Skircoat Green. Of course I remember nothing of this until later when my first memory of home was Kim the Golden Labrador.

kim

Kim and myself. I have no idea what the drawing was of.

I shall always remember my father and mother as very caring and loving parents. I was very lucky in that way. I know that memories can be skewed by ‘rose tinted glasses’ but I genuinely believe that I was hugely privileged in having such caring and nurturing parents.

Most of my early childhood memories are of playmates. We all had nicknames, I was Bowser and my friends included Peapod, Poddle and Stewy. It’s difficult, after fifty five or so years to remember all the things we got up to but I clearly remember, in the back lane (the lane where all the back gardens faced onto) spending many an hour planting nasturtium seeds adjacent to all the neighbours’ walls. In summer it was a real treat to see them all in bloom. I have never, though, been green fingered since and that was my one and only claim to gardening. We also spent many a happy hour at Manor Heath which was about a five minute walk from home. Up until 1960 there stood a dilapidated manor house which we used to play in letting our imaginations run riot. We would play pirates in there, gangsters, light fires to roast potatoes and all sorts of mischief. How we didn’t kill ourselves is a mystery as I recall falling masonry and collapsing floors. In 1960 the house was demolished and was replaced with a formal garden and a paddling pool! The rather baron pool proved very popular with us for sailing our little yachts and, later, battery powered motor boat models.

My father’s building company took up much of his time and he had one and a half days a week off , two days holiday at Easter and one week in August during Wakes week. Saturday afternoons and Sundays I remember taking the caravan, a 16 ft Safari to Threshfield, near Grassington, to spend lovely summer days paddling and messing around in the River Wharf.

austin gypsy

Father, myself, Helen and Mother with the Austin Gypsy at Threshfield

School