Shifting Horizons by Lynn Beaton
My first memories are of Doe Lee in Derbyshire. We lived in a colliery house which my Mum and Dad moved to almost straight after I was born. They'd lived in a caravan until then, in the middle of a field which they shared with a horse. Our Carol, my older sister, was born in the caravan and I was conceived there, but I was born at my Grandma’s house in 1959. The house at Doe Lee was very basic, the toilets were outside at the end of the yard. There was no hot running water and so my Mum used to put us in a boiler for a bath. Then we got one of those old tin baths and my Mum used to put that in front of the fire and bath us all in it together. There were four of us, by then I had another two sisters.
Everybody had a front room in those days, it was usually the best room in the house, but ours wasn’t, ours was a junk room where we kept all the toys. There was an old gramophone and we used to play ‘My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean’ and dress up in old hats, dresses and high-heeled shoes. We'd dance add sing to the music waiting for my Dad to come in from work. I used to wait by the window and when I saw him coming I'd run and open the door. As soon as he got in I'd tell him what I'd been doing and then ask him to tell me a story. He'd laugh and say, ‘Wait on, let me have me dinner first.’
We used to love my Dad’s stories. We'd all sit around, open mouthed and listening while he told them. He often recorded them on a tape recorder at night after we'd gone to bed and the next day my Mum, who must have had her hands full with four of us under six, would put the stories on when we were playing up. We'd all sit around quiet and listening. In the middle of the story he'd say,
‘Are you enjoying the story, kids?’
And we'd all say,
‘Yeah, Dad’ as if he were really there. Then he'd say, ‘Are you being good for your Mum?’ And we'd all say, ‘Yeah,’ and then he'd go on with the story. When he'd come home from work he'd ask us if we enjoyed the story and we'd all talk about it to him and ask him questions about it. His homecoming was always something we looked forward to, that is if we'd been good. Sometimes he'd come home from work and we knew we'd been bad. We'd all disappear because we knew my Mum would tell him and we'd all get a good hiding.
I remember ever so clearly my Dad coming home one day with some keys for a new house, we were going to move. I never understood why but I think it was because Glapwell Pit, where he worked, was going to close down. We all went over to see the new house which was in Pleasley, just on the Nottinghamshire border. It seemed like a palace compared to the old one, it had an inside toilet, a bathroom and hot running water. But despite all these things, we were never really happy in that house.
At first I had the back bedroom and it had a latch on the door like a coalhouse door. I never liked the bedroom, the latch seemed to make it eerie and I used to have terrible nightmares. Little men with hatchets would come up the stairs, lift the latch and come into the room. They'd climb all over me and hit me with their little hatchets. The dreams were so awful that after a while I was too terrified to go to sleep so my mother moved me into another bedroom which I shared with Carol. We had two bunks and I had the top one, but I didn’t stop having horrible dreams. This bedroom had a sliding door and one night I was lying in the top bunk and the door was half open. I heard my Dad, coming up the stairs but when I looked at the door, it wasn’t my Dad it was a skeleton with a hatchet coming to hit me. I closed my eyes and when I opened them again, it was gone. I used to scare myself to death with my dreams and my imagination, I don’t know why.
One day my parents went to Mansfield and left us out playing. I had a best friend I always used to play with, her name was Pauline too and somehow we felt it was very special that we both had the same name. This day we stood in the street looking up at my bedroom window. I said, ‘Look, the curtains are moving.’
‘Oh yes, I wonder why?’
‘Do you think there’s somebody in there.’
‘Could be, I think I can see something.’
We went on like that, just staring up at the bedroom window until we were convinced somebody or something evil was there and we were scared to death. We went into the house and stood at the bottom of the stairs, both petrified. Our Carol came in with a ping-pong bat and asked what was wrong. I said, ‘Ooh Carol, there’s somebody up there, in our room.’ ‘Yes, there is,’ Pauline confirmed, ‘I can see ‘em.’ Suddenly there was an almighty bang, it was Carol with the bloody ping-pong bat, but I screamed and ran out of the house and wouldn’t go back in.
When my Mum and Dad came back they wanted to know what was wrong and I told them that I wouldn’t go into the house ‘cause there were ghosts in it. I got the biggest thrashing I'd ever had. Afterwards my father dragged me around the house, room by room, saying, ‘Look, no ghosts.’ Then he chucked me into my bedroom saying, ‘I hope this'll teach you to be so stupid as to imagine bloody ghosts in the house.’ I had to stay in my room for the rest of the night without any tea. I hated that bedroom and it was horrible being forced to stay in it. But I never pretended there were ghosts again.
It wasn’t only me that didn’t like that house, my Mum didn’t either. I don’t really know why, I know we had trouble with neighbours. One of them was an old miner who worked nights. During the day when we were playing outside he'd open his window and yell and scream at us and we'd have to go inside which must have been hard for my mother. While we lived in that house we used to go away a lot camping for holidays and at weekends. In the summer we'd go over the Moors and we all loved it. It was always so open and fresh and summer seemed so hot and so long. We'd walk along, picking bluebells, climbing over the big rocks and splashing through the streams and when it was time to eat we'd stop for a picnic beside a stream and go paddling. If the stream was a bit deep my Mum and Dad would come in the water with us. My Dad would tickle fish, you know, catch them in his bare hands and throw them out and then we'd poach them. We had a Bedford van and we loved piling in it to go off for a day’s adventure or a camping holiday.
But when we weren’t out things were getting on top of my Mum and really getting her down. She was very nasty tempered and was looking really old, older than she looks now. They decided to look around for another house. My Mum fell in love with a house in Ramonsthwaite, a part of Pleasley where all the houses seemed really big and posh. They were all semi-detached as well and so had lovely gardens and seemed so spacious compared to our little terraced pit house. My Mum wanted that house more than anything. She'd say, ‘It’s mine, I'll do anything to get that house.’
So we all tried very hard to save up for the deposit. For about six or eight weeks while we saved up we went without sweets or cakes and happily denied ourselves the bag of crisps we usually got whenever the baker came. We didn’t buy anything at all, not even a pair of shoes. None of us complained, it was a sort of conspiracy we were all involved in, because we all understood how important it was to our mother.
When we moved into the house I was about seven. It seemed so big compared to our other one. It had bay windows, three large bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs, a garage that you could get into from the kitchen, three big lawns, a green house, a shed and a really big rose garden on the front. But to live there we had to make a lot of sacrifices. The Bedford van was sold and my Dad had to work seven days a week to keep up the repayments which meant an end to our trips out. My Mum was very happy though, she devoted herself to the house and worked really hard to make it just as she wanted.
One thing didn’t change. My Dad kept telling us stories. As we were all getting older the stories would more often be about real life. These were even more exciting than the make-believe ones ‘cause we felt somehow, listening to the stories that we were being allowed into a world which was usually for adults. We'd hear about my Dad’s childhood and the early days of my Mum and Dad’s courting and marriage and about things that happened at the pit. These latter were always gruesome, about people losing hands and legs and one bloke who got the cuff of his overalls caught in a machine and it just took him in and minced him to bits. He'd also tell us about the time that he went down the pit and they asked him if he'd clean out under the cage (the lift that goes down into the pit) because there was a lot of rubbish caught at the bottom of the shaft. While he was under the cage, cleaning all this rubbish out, the winder, who operates it, let it down. My Dad was pinned underneath the cage and there was just enough room for him because he'd already cleaned most of the rubbish away, otherwise he would have been squashed to oblivion. The cage was resting on his chest and he was screaming and praying that somebody would come and let him out. Lots of really gruesome horrible things happened and it painted a picture for me of a black dark dirty hole and lots of sweat and blood.
The worst experience he told us about was one day when he was with a group of men who were crawling on their bellies a few hundred yards to reach the face they were working on. As they crawled they could hear this rumbling above them, the roof was rumbling. He said it was very frightening, you could hear wood splitting and creaking as chocks were being crunched. They'd just got to keep going and hope it wouldn’t cave in where they were, but then they heard this deafening noise. My Dad froze where he was but the others in front of him tried to scramble ahead and as they did all the roof came down and they all disappeared beneath it. My Dad could hear them shouting and screaming and started digging away at the fallen rubble with his bare hands. He called to some other men further down the tunnel for help and they started to come up but it took ages ‘cause they had to inch along on their bellies. My Dad was trying to get through the rubble and was pulling lumps of muck and pieces of wood away. He pulled one big piece of muck away and it made a hole big enough to see through. When he looked in through the hole he could see one of his mates, knelt down with his hands together praying. He could hear him saying, ‘Please help me God, I don’t want to die now. Please let somebody dig me out. Please God, save me.’
It took them ages, but they did eventually get them all out and there were no serious injuries but a lot of broken bones and shattered nerves.
When I was about ten and we'd been in the new house for about three years, there was a threatened closure of Pleasley pit where my Dad worked. He was offered £ 100 transfer money to move to a place called Blidworth. None of us were very happy about it, we'd all got our friends in Pleasley and my Mum was very upset to be leaving the new house.
‘I wouldn’t mind if only I could take the house with me,’ she said to my Dad.
‘Well you can’t do that duck,’ he said. ‘But I wish you could.’
They'd spent such a lot of time and money on making that house something beautiful, something that was a part of them. I felt sorry for my Mum because that house was something that she'd always dreamt about and worked so hard towards. Now she just had to up and leave it and go to a strange place with a strange sounding name.
We came over to see the house at Blidworth, it was nice enough but it was nothing like the one in Ramonsthwaite. It was smaller, we were back to small bedrooms again. The school was at the bottom of the garden and I didn’t like the look of it, I especially didn’t like it being so close, I thought, ‘No more pretending I'm sick.’
To replace the Bedford van we'd bought a little three wheeler Bond and we moved in that. All of us piled in with loads of boxes and baggage. On the way we had to go up an enormous hill and none of us thought we'd make it. But we did. When we got there all the neighbours must have thought we were a terrible sight, all six of us climbing out of the little three wheeler, we must have looked like sardines.
My Dad decided that we should get to know our new village, so every Sunday we'd have to go on long walks all round the area. I thought it was a daft idea, I hated walking. We'd all get dressed up and off we'd go, we used to walk ten miles or so. I was a fat little girl and my legs used to rub together when we walked so far, and they used to get sore and bleed and I used to cry. But my Dad still made me go and used to shout at me if I moaned.
One morning, after we'd been in Blidworth about three years, there was a knock on the door just as I was getting out of bed to get ready to go to school. It was very unusual at that time of the morning so all of us kids crowded out onto the landing and peered down the stairs as my Mum opened the door. It was an ambulance man and my Mum started to cry and say, ‘Oh no, no, bloody ‘ell, what’s Ye done.’ We all came running down the stairs just as me Dad came walking up the path, his head was covered in bandages and another man was helping him to walk. He came in for a few minutes before they took him to the hospital, for stitches and x-rays. He'd refused to go straight to the hospital he'd insisted that they bring him home to see my mother first, so she'd know he was alright. We all started crying, there was blood seeping through the bandages and he looked awful. My Mum got dressed and went with them. We didn’t go to school but sat around crying and talking to each other about what had happened and wondering whether he'd be alright or not. All the stories he'd told us about accidents at the pit made us frightened that something might happen to him and now it had, our imaginations ran away a bit, like kids do when they don’t really understand what the situation is.
We talked about how upset my Mum was and that seemed to worry us as much as the sight of my Dad. We tried to comfort each other and made ourselves busy cleaning up the house so that when my Mum got back it was nice and tidy and she wouldn’t have to do anything. She got back about dinner timeish and said that he was badly hurt, but that he'd be alright. He'd nearly scalped himself and had thirty stitches in his head. We thought he was going to die, scalping himself seemed so awful to us. You know what kids are like, bad things seem worse and good things seem better. Next day he came home and the stitches were right around his head like a horseshoe and his back was badly hurt. We asked him to tell us how it had happened. He was riding on the belt and it was his turn to jump off. But just where he jumped, the bulb in the light had gone and he wasn’t able to see at all, so he tripped on something and banged his head on a steel bar. He ended up getting quite a lot of compensation for it but he was off work for a long time. After about three months he went back to work but only for a week, he was getting really bad headaches and had to come off work again for another week. Since then he’s had lots of time off with headaches and a bad back.
It couldn’t have been too long after my Dad went back to work that I heard my parents talking about stocking the pantry up in case there was a strike. By then I had moved up to Whittaker Comprehensive which was in the next village. I didn’t like it all that much but all the kids from Blidworth went there together on the bus and we were like one big family. My Mum started going out and buying extra food each week which she'd put in the pantry and she used to buy extra sacks of potatoes and store them in the lobby. Then they were on strike. Instead of my Dad going to work he'd go out picketing and come home and tell us about it. They'd go off in buses to the power station where there was a big tent set up for bad weather. Next to that was a sort of shack they'd built with a stove in it, they threw potatoes on it and made soup. They used to do long shifts then of six or eight hours. There weren’t so many police then as there are now, my Dad never talked about the police, I don’t remember that they were a factor at all.
The strike was solid then. Everybody was out, not like now. The pit was closed, so they didn’t need to picket there, that’s why they could all go to the power stations. Lots of kids at school had Dads on strike and we used to talk about them going picketing. We had free meals at school and that was fun in a way. I never felt singled out or victimised because of it, I know there’s supposed to be something shameful about having free school dinners but I didn’t feel it at all. There was a big group of us, we were all friends ‘cause your friends always lived in the village and all their Dads worked down the pit and were on strike. We'd queue up everyday for lunch and laugh and joke and actually we felt quite important, we knew our Dads were involved in something important.
After a couple of weeks all the food my Mum had stocked up was gone and there was nothing in the house. My Dad used to bring home a little bit of picketing money and we got social security benefits but it wasn’t enough to live on. My Mum used to buy lots of potatoes and we'd have potato all sorts of ways. We started going up to the soup kitchen in the Youth Club with my Dad. I can remember it ever so well, it was very exciting, something completely new and different. There'd be men playing table tennis and darts and sitting around talking about things that sounded very important. We used to really enjoy going up, I can imagine the kids in this strike thinking it’s great going up to the centre. I think that the kids must feel proud now to know that their Dads aren’t scabs. I know one thing, our kids won’t ever have to ask where we were in the ‘84185 Strike, they'll know because they were there with us and they were part of the strike. Scabs’ kids won’t remember ‘cause nothings different for them.
My Mum wouldn’t go up, none of the women did, it was very different to our Strike Centre, I can’t ever remember seeing a woman there. It was only men and kids. They didn’t serve cooked meals like we do now, it was all snacks, chip butties, bacon cobs and soup. All the cooking and serving was done by men. The whole strike was like that really, it was just men’s business and the men didn’t involve the women at all. We used to go up with my Dad, or sometimes, if he was away picketing we'd go on our own. We used to nag my Mum to let us go and she'd give us a bit of money, ‘cause you had to pay for the food. It wasn’t very much, only 2d or 3d for a bacon cob. While we were there we used to watch everything that went on. Sacks and sacks of potatoes would be brought in through the big double doors and the men would sit there with their bucket’s of water and potato knives, peeling them and chipping them. That was a bit similar to the way they do it in our Centre. But a lot of the food then was donated from local shops. The butcher used to give them bones for soup and the green grocer sent round bits and bobs of vegetables. All the shops donated food because all the miners were on strike and we, after all, were their business. The men used to cope quite well with the cooking, but it was nothing like the standard of food we've got now, just snack meals. But it did help us get by.
One of the biggest hardships was lack of coal. At night we'd empty potato sacks and carrier bags and sneak out with my Dad to go over to the pit tip where we'd rake the slack coal with our hands to find little lumps. It was freezing and we'd come back absolutely filthy but we'd have a bag full of coal and it was such a luxury to come back and light a fire and stand around it getting warm. It was the only way to get coal then, because there was none being moved. Often people got caught pinching coal from the pit tips. One night when we went we saw these flashing lights coming our way. We all ran for our lives but we wouldn’t leave our bag of coal, we were running with the bags trying to squeeze through the little gap in the fence and when we got home we told our Mum.
‘We nearly got caught tonight.’
We were all flustered and excited and my Mum worried and said that we couldn’t go any more, but of course we did.
Then, the strike was over. I don’t remember really what it was about but I remember that it was a victory and everybody was celebrating. There was another Strike in ‘74, but it didn’t last so long and I don’t remember much about it. I knew that it brought the Heath Government down, I didn’t really know what that meant, but I knew it was very important and that there was a lot of talk about it on the television. I also know that the men were really proud going back to work after that.
My life changed a lot between the two strikes which is maybe why I don’t remember much about the ‘74 Strike.
My older sister, Carol, had started babysitting. The husband’s brother took a fancy to her and they started courting. I was very intrigued and excited by that and used to want to talk to her about it and somehow share in it. But we were never very close really and she treated me even more than ever like a silly younger sister. Suddenly she seemed so grown up and I suppose that made me feel a little more grown-up as well, but most of all I was fascinated by what it was like for her. She started doing things with David instead of with the family and it made her seem a bit apart. One day, we all went out and our Carol didn’t come. When we got home my Dad went into the toilet and came back into the kitchen quite angry.
He said to my Mum, ‘Have you seen what’s in’t toilet? ‘My mother went into the toilet and came out looking shocked. I was completely bemused, I thought, ‘Whatever can be in’t toilet.’
Then my Dad said, ‘That’s what they're up to when we go out.’
I had no idea what he was talking about, I was ever so confused, I guessed it had something to do with our Carol and her boyfriend but I couldn’t imagine what on earth they'd be getting up to in the toilet.
Me and my younger sisters were all sent to bed early, my Mum and Dad sat in the kitchen talking ever so seriously. I shared a room with Carol and the other two shared a room so when my Dad had gone back into the kitchen I crept out onto the landing so I could listen to what happened. I heard Carol come in.
My Dad says, ‘Is that you Carol?’
‘Come in here, we want you.’
I heard my Dad say, ‘What have you and David been up to?’
And Carol says, ‘What do you mean?’
‘Well, you've been having sex haven’t you.’ And I thought, ‘Ooh, that’s what it were.’ My Mum and Dad had always been very open with us about sex. When they were first courting my mother was looking after her whole family — her mother and father were both away, in prison. They'd had no money to buy Xmas presents for the children and my Grandad was a postman so he stole some postal orders and my Grandma signed them all. They'd both been sent down. My Dad started staying nights and my Mum got pregnant but she didn’t know anything about sex and I don’t think my father knew much more. Anyway she lost that baby, she lost it sitting on the toilet and my Dad was with her. It was a little boy. They didn’t want us to get caught like that so they used to sit with us late into the night telling us about how sex was a lovely thing, a beautiful thing but that you must do it at the right time and only if you loved each other. My Dad told us that if we were getting serious with a boy we were to come and see my Mum and she'd make up an appointment to get us on the pill.
So when my Dad said they'd been having sex, I knew what he meant and I was quite titillated. They started having a row.
My Dad said, ‘Well at least you're using something, but them things aren’t safe you know. Me and ya Mum used them and they burst and they're no good. If you're gonna use something, use something proper. Anyway I don’t like the idea of you having sex with him. You're too young.’
There was a pause and then he said, ‘And he’s too old.’ There was seven years difference between them and my Dad was worried that David was taking advantage of Carol because she was so young, she was still at school and hadn’t yet turned sixteen.
The door opened then and I scuttled back to bed. Carol came up and got in beside me and I said, ‘What’s the matter?’
‘Nought, get to sleep.’
‘Has me Dad been shouting ya?’
‘Mind your own business and get to sleep else I'm telling me Dad on ya.’
So I tittered to myself and thought, ‘I know what you've been up to.’
But I really wanted to ask her what it was like because I really wanted to know if it was as nice as my Mum and Dad said it was. But I daren’t.
As it turned out Carol did get pregnant, she missed a month and my Mum seemed to know and asked her about it.
Carol said, ‘Yeah, I think so.’
It was two weeks before her sixteenth birthday and so my Mum said she should wait till her birthday and then go to see the doctor. When the pregnancy was confirmed my Mum said, ‘You don’t have to get married just for the sake of the baby.’
But Carol said her and David had talked about it and wanted to get married anyway.
When the baby was born, because Carol was so young and hadn’t had any life, she wanted to go straight out to work and she asked me if I'd look after the baby for her. I thought it was a great idea, so I just stopped going to school and used to go around to Carol’s house every morning and look after the baby. They were magic times, I had this tiny little baby and it was just as if it was my own. I was only fifteen and it was a wonderful feeling to be responsible for it and to think that the baby depended on me and that what I did would reflect on that baby. I used to go around to Carol’s house at half seven every morning and they'd go off to work. I'd get the baby up, feed her, change her, put her in the pram and take her for a walk to the shops where I'd buy the things that Carol wanted for dinner, she always left a shopping list. Then I'd come back and play with the baby for a bit, get her off to sleep, tidy around and get the dinner ready for Carol and David when they came back from work. I was like a mother to that baby. They used to come back about half past five, David would run me home and then at half seven I'd come back to babysit while they went out. I was living the life of a housewife and mother and taking on all the responsibility as well. I was really enjoying it, but after about a month my Mum and Dad started to worry about me. I was getting tired, I wasn’t getting home until half eleven and then I'd be up at seven again in the morning. I never went out or mixed with young lasses of my own age.
‘You ought to be out enjoying yu’sen,’ my Mum started to say to me, ‘Not tied down with a baby, ya just like a married woman, it’s not your baby ya know, our Carol had the baby and she should be responsible for it.’ ‘I know, but I enjoy it and I said I'd do it, I can’t very well just stop now and make her give up her job can I?’
My Mum arranged for them to bring the baby to our house instead of me going around there, so she could help me with it. She thought that would take a bit of the strain off me and that I might start to go out a little bit. But I wouldn’t go out, I wouldn’t let my Mum help me, I was so possessive with that baby, I insisted on doing everything for it myself. My life circulated around the baby. One night my Dad came in and I was fussing with her and he took one look at me and shouted,
‘Get out of this bloody house, get out of here, now, before you go round the twist.’
I walked out, slammed the door behind me and walked to the park and sat on a bench and just cried. When it got dark I didn’t know where to go, I felt sorry for myself, I didn’t want to go home but I hadn’t really got anywhere else to go. I knew that what my parents were saying was right, but at the same time I felt happy just being with the baby and scared about forcing myself to go out and make friends.
I'd had a couple of experiences with boys and both times, they'd tried to make me have sex with them. The first time it was with this fellow that I was really madly in love with, like you are when you're young. He seemed at the time everything a woman could dream of. I used to see him at a pub I used to go to with my Mum and Dad. For a couple of months, we just stared at each other all night. Then one night he went to the door and nodded to me to follow him. I got very excited, with butterflies in my stomach cause I'd never been out with a lad before. He started chatting me up in the passage and he asked me straight away how old I was. When I told him fifteen he seemed shocked and I thought that was going to be it. But he kept chatting. He said, ‘I've had my eye on you for quite a while. ‘I didn’t know what to say so I said, ‘I've had mine on you.’
‘Yeah, I know,’ he said and he kissed me and it was lovely, it made me sort of melt. After that, every week he'd give me a nod and we'd stand in the passage snogging and fondling each other.
One week he asked me to go out with him. I was over the moon. He came to the house to pick me up and took me to the pictures and we sat in the back row, snogging. Afterwards, he asked me what time I had to be in. When I told him, no special time, he asked if I'd like to go for a drive around. I was very naive and thought that was literally what he meant, but of course soon we were parked in one of the country lanes. He pushed a button and my seat went back to the lying down position and then his seat went back as well. I was terrified, I really liked him a lot, but I was scared of what would happen and knew that this situation was all wrong. In the end I told him to stop. He was quite nice about it and asked if I wanted him to drive me home. I said, ‘I think you'd better, yeah.’ So he drove me home, the perfect gentleman, but I never saw him again.
Another time I was at a club with a friend who had got off with a Teddy-Boy. One of his friends asked me to dance and it was a smooch. He started kissing me and I hated it. He was ever so tall and lanky and he had a really big nose and mouth. His mouth was so big that when he kissed me it covered my nose as well as my mouth. He asked me to go outside with him for some air and I naively agreed. That just led to his hands being all over me and me struggling to get away, cause I didn’t even like him.
So I was beginning to think that all men ever wanted was your body and I wasn’t very keen on it. A few weeks after I'd sat and cried on the park bench, our Carol asked me to go to a party with her and her husband. ‘No, I'm not gatecrashing no party.’ ‘Don’t be silly, it'll do ya good to get out.’ Carol insisted.
‘Yeah,’ my Mum said, ‘Go on, take her out wi'ya and get her off wi’ somebody.’ Then she said to me, ‘Come on, ya ought to go, you've got that new dress you've never worn, get yu’sen upstairs and put it on. ‘That persuaded me. By that time I'd got a job working as a trainee machinist in a hosiery factory that made ladies nighties. This was just after Xmas and all over Xmas I'd hardly had any money ‘cause almost as soon as I started working they put us on short time. Having a new dress was quite a treat and I did want to wear it.
When we got there our Carol started trying to set me up with the only available male that was there, but I just didn’t fancy him. He didn’t seem attractive to me at all so I spent hours trying to avoid talking to him with our Carol trying to push me at him. I hated it and wished I'd never come. A bit after midnight a group of men walked in, they were all old except for one who looked all right, although he was a bit spotty. I thought, ‘He’s probably married.’ I don’t really know why I thought that, maybe because he was wearing a suit, something about him definitely looked married. Carol and David introduced me to him, he was called Alan, Alan Radford. Carol said to him, ‘Are you gonna dance with Pauline.?’ I felt so stupid but we did dance and then he started chatting me up. He asked me where I worked and I asked him where he worked. He was an apprentice welder in a street furnishing factory. ‘What’s street furnishing?’ I asked. ‘Oh, you know all the things there are in streets, lamp-posts, litter bins, park benches, all that type of thing, we make it all at our factory.’ I kept on thinking he was probably married, but I never asked him and he kept on dancing with me and everything seemed alright. Then a smooch came on and he went and sat down and wouldn’t dance with me. I was just standing there feeling silly and awkward when this great big fat old bloke came up.
‘I'll dance with ya duckie.’ As he said it he put his arms round me and started mauling me, I felt quite sick.
Carol was standing next to me and she was saying, ‘Don’t dance wi’ him, don’t dance wi’ him, get back wi’ Alan, look he’s sat there on his own, go and dance wi’ him.’
She was talking so loud that the bloke I was dancing with must have been able to hear her and I was very embarrassed even though I didn’t want to be dancing with him. I sort of whispered to Carol behind this bloke’s back that Alan wouldn’t dance with me.
‘Well, go and sit next to him,’ she said.
I did, I felt really stupid and pushy but I was also very keen to get away from this bloke mauling me. I sat on the floor next to Alan’s chair and after that dance finished everybody went into the other room for supper. Alan didn’t move and I didn’t know what to do so I just stayed where I was. The next thing, Alan bent down and kissed me and I thought, ‘Ooh, he’s fast.’
We left the party after Carol and David had had some supper and they gave Alan a lift home. He sat in the back scat next to me and put his arm around me. He asked me to meet him the next day to go to his house for tea. When I got back to Carol’s my other two sisters were there, they'd been baby-sitting. I climbed into bed next to them and they started asking me loads of questions about Alan and what had happened.
‘Oh, he’s alright,’ was all I'd tell them, ‘a bit spotty, but alright.’
Next day I set off to meet him as we'd planned in the market square in Mansfield. He was a bit late and I'd decided that he wasn’t going to turn up. He lived in Sutton which is a village not far from Blidworth and we had to catch a bus to get there from Mansfield. When we got on the bus, Alan had no money so I had to pay our bus fares. Then when we got there I discovered that his parents didn’t know that I was coming, but they made me very welcome and I thought they were very posh because we had our tea in cups and saucers. After tea Alan asked me if I'd like to go up to his room to listen to his records. When we got upstairs, there was nowhere to sit except on the bed, so I plonked myself down and he put a record on and then sat down beside me. Next thing, he was all over me, he pushed me down on the bed and his hands were everywhere. I got really cross then, it wasn’t only Alan, it was the others as well and I'd had enough, so I hit him as hard as I could across the face and told him to stop it through clenched teeth.
His response surprised me, he was ever so sorry, he couldn’t apologise enough and promised that he'd never do it again. I stayed for a while and we sat chatting and listening to his records. It was very comfortable and I started to feel quite relaxed. When I left he gave me a kiss and we arranged to meet the following week. After that I saw him once a week for about a fortnight, then twice a week and then almost every night and weekends. We just got on really well and being together was easy and seemed right somehow. We grew to love each other and at Easter got engaged. By then of course, Alan had broken the promise he'd made that first day in his bedroom, but it was different then, sex grew between us in a natural and really lovely way. One night we almost had intercourse but stopped ourselves because we had no contraception.
The next day I said to my Mum, ‘I'm going to make an appointment with the doctor.’
‘Why,’ she said very surprised, ‘aren’t you well.’
‘No, no, there’s nothing wrong wi’ me. Only, me and Alan’s getting serious and I think it’s time I went on the pill.’
‘Ooh,’ she sounded a bit shocked and a bit embarrassed but she said, ‘Well, I'm glad you've decided to do that and not take the same road ya sister did.’
In March the following year we bought a house and we used to spend all our time doing it up. We stripped it from top to bottom and Alan’s Dad, who’s a painter and decorator, helped us with the decorating. We had quite a lot of arguments about it. I thought Alan’s Dad interfered too much, at one stage he even tried to tell me where to put the bed. I was working at Sutton where the house was and so I used to stay overnight quite often on my own. Alan’s parents would have thought it improper for him to stay there too. It was ever so scary, sleeping on a piece of foam in the empty house, but it seemed silly to go back to Blidworth because we wouldn’t finish working on the house until eleven at night and I had to be back in Sutton for work at half seven the next morning.
In July we got married and moved into our house, we didn’t have a honeymoon, but we both took two weeks off work and spent them in the house, making it just how we wanted and relishing living together in our own home. In October I stopped taking the pill and got caught the following month. It was a very easy pregnancy and a long but straightforward birth. That’s when my role as housewife and mother really started. Before that I'd been working so I'd had my own independence, but I didn’t mind losing it, I was perfectly happy to fill my new role. I absolutely idolised Amanda, she became everything. I really enjoyed just spending hours and hours playing with her and watching her growing up. I was blissfully happy, we had settled into a comfortable routine and everything seemed very secure.
But then, when Alan was nearing the end of his apprenticeship there were rumours that there would be redundancies where he worked and it seemed likely that he'd be put off when he got his papers. I told my parents about it and a few days later my Dad rang up to tell us that there was probably going to be a vacancy for a pit-top worker at Blidworth. ‘It’s not official yet,’ he said. ‘But I know that one of the welders is leaving. Get yu’sen over here t’ see Manager on Saturday morning. ‘When Alan got the job, I couldn’t believe it. Most of the jobs on pit-top go to older or injured miners who can’t get down the pit any more. So it’s a very rare thing for someone to be employed for a pit-top job and I was very excited about it.
At first Alan used to ride over on his motorcycle but when the winter and the snow came he couldn’t always jet through so he put us down for a pit house in Blidworth. They showed us two houses before they offered us this one. They were both awful, I couldn’t have lived in either, but as soon as I walked into this house I felt at home in it and I knew I could make it mine. I started travelling over on the bus with Amanda to clean it all up, it wasn’t in very good condition. There was no sink in the kitchen which had a brick wall that wasn’t even plastered, but they agreed to plaster it and put a second hand sink unit in. I cleaned the whole house through and it was ready to move in.
It was like coming home for me, I was very pleased to be coming back to Blidworth where I could be with my family again.
When we first moved in we kept ourselves to ourselves, I noticed that there seemed to be loads of kids living at the house next door, but I didn’t really know anything else about them except that Pip, the husband, was an electrician at the pit. Occasionally in the summer when I was hanging clothes on the line, Doreen, would be hanging hers out too.
‘Morning’, I'd say.
‘Hey up, think it'll dry ‘em today.’
Bit by bit the conversations got longer and some days when it was very hot and we were both sitting out in the sun we'd chat a bit over the hedge. Then occasionally Doreen would come around for a cup of coffee but we never really talked personally, it was just neighbour chat, about the street and so on. We were both quite wary of each other.
At about this time I found I was pregnant again, we'd been trying for nine months so I was ever so pleased. When I was nineteen weeks I went to the doctor for my regular check-up and told him I wanted to have my baby delivered at home. I wanted to share the experience with Alan and Amanda, it seemed so artificial to get carted off to hospital to have a new baby when it was really a part of the family that was at home. That night Alan was working and my youngest sister came to stay the night to keep me company. We'd just got into bed and were starting to settle down for the night. I was feeling my tummy, feeling him moving inside. I do that a lot when I'm expecting. Without warning I felt a gush of water and knew at once that my waters had broken.
I called out to my sister.
‘My waters have broken.’ I jumped out of bed and grabbed for a bath towel. My sister got up and when she saw me standing there clasping a bath towel around myself she said:
‘What on earth are ya doing?’
I just looked at her and repeated, ‘My waters ‘ave broke.’
‘Ooh, those waters.’ She said, her face showing sudden understanding before it broke into a wide grin. ‘Oh, bloody ‘ell, I thought you meant the water tank, I thought the house was flooding. What does it mean, what we going to do.’
‘I don’t know.’ We were both very confused and went downstairs and made a cup of coffee and talked about what we ought to do. The water gushed again. I grabbed another bath towel and rang the doctor who came straight out and suggested I go straight into hospital. They kept me in overnight. They tested the water and said the tests were negative so it couldn’t have been my waters breaking. ‘You must just have wet yourself,’ one of the nurses said to me. I felt really awful, I was worried about the baby. You know when you've wet yourself, and when you've already had one baby you know what your waters breaking feels like, there were two bath towels at home both ringing wet. But how could I argue with their tests. It made me feel very frustrated.
The next morning I was on the ward walking around and I asked one of the nurses for a sanitary towel because I was still loosing water. She seemed quite cross with me.
‘What do you want one of them for?’
‘I'm still losing water.’ She shrugged her shoulders in response and just walked off.
Soon after the doctor came and tested me again, this time the tests showed positively that the waters had broken. They sent me off to have a scan and then I saw Michael moving about on the screen. It was so fantastic to see his little body moving around inside me, I'd always loved feeling him move, but to actually see him was brilliant. Back up stairs I wanted to see a doctor to find out what it all meant, what was going to happen now that the waters had broken. Alan was with me, they drew curtains around the bed.
‘I'm sorry Mrs. Radford, but we think you're going to loose your baby.’
I just went to pieces, I can’t tell anybody how I felt, I'd just seen him moving around and alive inside of me. I couldn’t believe I was going to lose him, the thought of it just broke me in two.
Within a few days I was home, but my waters broke again. They brought my bed downstairs and my Mum and sisters came around during the day to look after me. I was confined to bed and that went on for four weeks. It was a hard four weeks, the central heating was installed and some new windows were put in the house I'd got Amanda to look after and Alan had to go to work, he took some time off but couldn’t take the whole four weeks off. It was during this time that I realised what a good friend Doreen was. She used to come around and see if I was alright. Whenever there was nobody with me she'd make sure that the phone was at the bottom of my bed and tell me to ring her if ever I needed anything. That was especially comforting at nights when Alan was at work. People tend to shy away from you when you need help or when you're in trouble, but Doreen didn’t. We hardly knew each other yet she was a great support to me.
As far as the baby was concerned things were getting worse. I started loosing blood, the doctor decided it was safer to leave me where I was, they thought I was going to have a miscarriage. One night I lost such a lot of blood I had to phone the doctor again and he sent the Flying Squad out. They came into the house and took over, they put a drip in my arm, took blood samples in case I needed a transfusion and then raced me off to hospital in the ambulance. For fifteen days I was kept in the hospital, not allowed out of bed at all, I had to have bedpans and bedbaths. I was very weak, very worried and very tense. It was the first time I'd been away from Amanda, Alan used to bring her into the hospital but it broke my heart. I used to say to Alan ‘I'm missing Amanda growing up.’
She'd been my life, every little thing she did was a great joy to me and suddenly I'd been taken away from her. When she came into the hospital she'd do things she'd never done before and it broke me up to think that I was not going through all her new developments with her.
I went into labour three or four times and each time they managed to stop it but one evening after tea I started contracting and although they pumped me full of pethodine the labour continued. They took me down to the delivery room and sent Alan home saying, ‘The baby won’t be born yet, Mr. Radford, your wife’s just constipated.’
But at three that morning I knew the baby was coming. I could feel within me that powerful urge to bear down. The birth itself was reasonably straightforward and quick.
At first I kept saying to them, ‘What is it? A little girl, or a little boy.’
They'd only say, ‘It’s very small Mrs. Radford, it’s very small.’
When Alan arrived a little later the baby was on a resuscitation table and there were no signs of life coming from him. Alan came and sat down beside me and we held hands and prayed and prayed and prayed. It was the first time we'd ever prayed together, it was the first time we'd let each other knew that we believed in God. It took twenty-five minutes before he cried, and then they rushed him straight away and I was taken back to the ward.
The next day they put me into a wheelchair and took me down to see him. I was very weak, I was losing lots and lots of rubbish, the afterbirth was absolutely deteriorated and smelly, one of the nurses said to me:
‘However he’s lived in that, I don’t know.’
When I saw him I couldn’t believe that anything so small could survive. Although he was there and I knew he was mine I was frightened of getting attached to him. Earlier before his birth I was lying in bed at sleep time and I could hear a woman screaming and crying. Although no-one told me I knew her baby had died and the pain in her screams really terrified me so I held back my feelings. Her baby was called Michael and somehow I wanted to make up to her for her pain, so I called mine Michael too and prayed that he wouldn’t go, that I wouldn’t lose him.
I stayed in hospital for another ten days and he was growing stronger each day. I used to go down to the nursery and put my hands into the incubator and stroke his little face. When I left they gave me photos to take home with me. Of course, Michael had to stay in the hospital. We used to go in every day to see him. I learned how to tube feed him and when he was a month and a half they let me hold him. It was fantastic, looking down at him in my arms and knowing that he was mine and that one day we'd take him home with us. But he had a set-back, he got a heart murmur and so they had to keep him in hospital until he was two and half months and five pounds.
It was wonderful when he came home, but that was short-lived too, after twelve days the heart murmur returned and he had to go back into hospital. That was another very traumatic time, we thought we might lose him again, but he was only in for a couple of days and then he came home with the all clear.
Life started to return to normal. Doreen and I had cups of coffee together more frequently and a closeness began to develop. I told Doreen all about Michael’s birth and my trauma through that. Doreen was having a very hard time, her husband had been off work, ill, for nine months, they had a lot of financial worries and five children to feed. Neither of us felt we could go out to work because we both had very small children but we talked about needing more money and the possibilities of taking work in at home.
One day Doreen came around with a newspaper advertisement for machinists to work at home. We both decided to give it a go. It was slave labour, we used to work from eight in the morning till ten at night for about forty quid a week. But we were both making a bit of money and of course we got to know each other much better too, we found out that we could work together. We were brought even closer because my experience with Michael’s birth had led me and Alan to start going to Church and Doreen started to come with us. Life developed a pattern which included a lot of toing and froing between the two houses and a deep and trusting friendship between Doreen and me. A small gap in the hedge between our two back yards widened with the number of trips we made in and out of each other’s back doors.
Not long after Michael turned two his eyes started puffing up and his tummy started swelling. I took him to a doctor but he dismissed the symptoms as being those of a cold. When I got home I was still worried, you know your own children and I felt in myself that it wasn’t a cold. I was frightened in case it was the heart murmur again so I rung my own G.P. and he admitted him straight into hospital. Within half an hour the hospital had diagnosed that Michael had a chronic kidney disease which they called Nephrotic Syndrome.