Wednesday, October 13, 2010

8. The Willey family & father's shops.

We were very friendly with Joan and Lorna Willey, the two children across the road who had the television set. Kay, their mother, was very house proud and frugal, and I was amazed to see that at Easter there were still boxes of chocolates under the tea trolley that had been there since Christmas! One night, as a great treat, I was allowed to sleep over with Joan, the eldest. We had picked some blackberries, smuggled them up to the bedroom and hidden them under the pillow, so that we could have a midnight feast. We went to bed and, when we thought it must be midnight, we lifted the pillow only to find that the pillow case and bottom sheet were stained black with the juice of the fruit. We were both absolutely terrified because Kay was very strict, and would be furious and I would probably never be allowed to sleep over again! We spent the rest of the night sucking the sheet and pillow case to try to get the stains out, which we never did. I don’t remember any dire outcome, but I was only seven.

Kay was a careful housekeeper and mother used to say that what she saved on food she spent on doctor’s bills! One afternoon Joan and I made a cucumber sandwich with a tiny piece of cucumber we found in the pantry. Boy, was she mad because that had been destined for Cliff’s supper salad! Joan and Lorna were very thin and never looked healthy. I think my mother and Cliff, Kay’s husband, had a bit of a thing going, because mother later admitted to me that while Kay was away visiting her sister, mother went over to see Cliff and father came home unexpectedly that night and found her over there. I don’t think they were up to anything because there were four kids around but Father was furious, and that might have been what caused the spoon bending episode. I do remember that when Cliff was reported missing, while on a bombing mission in 1943, my mother sobbed and sobbed. He was never found. By that time we had long ago moved from Raynes Park, but mother and Kay had kept in touch.

Father’s first radio and cycle shop was so successful that he soon had four other branches. But with money came women and booze and the inevitable violent outbursts.  Looking back, these outbursts were quite extraordinary.  I was in the shop one day, and accidentally bumped into a display stand, causing a radio set to move slightly.  Without any warning he shouted something to the effect that, if I wanted to break the b------ let's break it!  Upon which he picked up the set and threw it across the shop floor, where it landed with a crash, smashed to pieces.  Anyway, the violence became so bad that mother took us to live in a bedroom in the house of some Salvationists. It was during this time that the incident with the man in the raincoat took place. Father refused to give us any money, saying that there was a perfectly good house in Elm Walk for us to live in, and there was no court order to make him give us anything. One day we walked to his main shop to ask him for some money, and he shouted at us as if we were beggars, then threw some money into the street and watched us scrabble for it. Well, hunger and the inability to pay the rent meant mother had no choice but to move back with him. The unbelievable part was that he really did love mummy, but his terrible jealousy, and fear of losing her just drove him crazy. The booze and manic depression did not help.

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