Shifting Horizons by Lynn Beaton
When Pauline and Alan first moved in next door I wasn’t the tiniest bit interested in neighbouring. Their house had been empty since we moved into ours and so it seemed like a loss of our privacy to suddenly have someone else living there. The two houses are a semi-detached pair so when Pauline’s house was empty we felt free to make as much noise as we wanted and the kids used to flow over into the yard as if it were part of their own. Not surprisingly we felt a bit put out when suddenly we had to contain ourselves to our own side. I was keeping myself to myself in any case, I'd only moved to Blidworth a couple of years before when I had come to live with Pip from my own brand new detached bungalow in Kirkby. It was strange for me to be living in a pit house in a pit village where almost all the men worked together at the pit.
But living with and among miners was not a new experience. Both my Grandads were miners, in fact my very first memories are of my Mum’s brothers coming home to my Grandma’s house, black with coaldust from working at the pit. That was in Kirkby, I'd lived there all my life until I came to live in Blidworth.
When I was first born we lived with my mother’s parents, my Grandad had moved to Kirkby in Nottinghamshire from Cambridge ‘cause at that time there were lots of jobs in Notts. pits. My only memory of him was a very frail old man who was very tall and very very thin. My Grandma said that he used to be a big strapping man but I only remember him sitting on the front doorstep and you could see his bones and his ribs sticking out, he was dying of cancer. My Grandma had a great big copper and when my Mum’s brothers were due home I'd help her fill it with water and we'd put a tin bath in front of it for them to wash themselves in, there were no showers at the pit then, like there are now, so they'd have to come home to wash the coal dust off themselves.
My Mum had seven brothers and they were all miners like their Dad, they all used to sit around and talk about life down the pits. I used to listen, fascinated, but my Mum told me that she'd seen too much of what goes on at the pits and she vowed when she was very young that she wouldn’t marry a miner.
We moved into our own house, the house my Mum still lives in, just after the first of my brothers was born, I must have been two years old. I continued to visit my Grandparents a lot and I always got on especially well with my Grandmas. I remember my Dad’s father very well, he didn’t die till I was eleven and I used to visit their house often from when I was about three. They used to live in a row of pit houses in Kirkby and when it was time for my Grandad to be coming home from work, my Grandma would take me to the front door and we'd watch for him to come walking up the street. When he got near enough my Grandma would let me run down the street to meet him.
He was a very grumpy man, he had my Grandma really under the table, she was really terrified of him. Whenever he came in, he expected his dinner to be ready and on the table and if it wasn’t he'd scream at her. Every Saturday my Grandma and I used to go shopping. My Dad used to drop me off at my Grandma’s at nine in the morning and I'd spend all day there. I'd walk around the shops and help my Grandma carry the shopping. We always used to call on the way back for fish for Saturday dinner, but it had to be ready, with the table set and everything by three o’ clock when my Grandad came home from the Club otherwise he'd have a fit. Whenever you were there you had to sit and not murmur while he was watching television, he was that blooming grumpy.
My Grandma had to do everything for him and if it wasn’t just how he liked it, he would yell and scream at her. The way he treated her used to upset me. If she poured him a cup of tea and put in his sugar but didn’t stir it enough, he'd create and chuck the cup to the other side of the table. If ever she went out for any length of time, he wouldn’t make himself a cup of tea or anything, he'd just sit in his chair, sulking, because she'd gone out.
When I was still very young he had an accident at the pit and had to have both his feet removed. When he got over the accident he still had to go back to work on pit tops because they didn’t get thousands of pounds in compensation like they do now and so they had no money at all and he had to keep working. I remember him hobbling off to work on his sticks everyday and coming home exhausted just from the effort of having to walk.
I was sure that my Grandad didn’t like me because he was always yelling at me.
I used to say to my Grandma, ‘I know he don’t love me ‘cause he’s always shouting at me.’
‘Don’t love you’, she'd say. ‘How can you say that, you know very well how upset he got when you had your accident.’ Then she'd tell me about the time I'd fallen off the slide when I was about seven and been rushed to hospital unconscious. While I was waiting for an ambulance to come my Grandad had walked up to our house on his sticks to see how I was. At the time my Grandma was visiting her sister in Derbyshire and she loved to tell me that when she got home she found my Grandad sitting, crying, in his chair.
She said to him. ‘Whatever’s the matter Frank, what ever’s up wi'ya.’
‘It’s our lass,’ he said, ‘You'd better get off up there, ambulance is come, they've raced her to hospital, you'd better get off quick, she’s going to die, I know she’s going to die.’
A few years ago I went to a spiritualist, I don’t really believe in them, I went for a bit of a lark, but I was missing my Grandma who'd died only a couple of years before and I sort of hoped I might be able to talk to her. The spiritualist said to me. ‘There’s a man who’s had an accident at pit.’ Then her voice became irritable and cross and she said, ‘Don’t you drink that cream soda. You can have the pop but don’t touch that cream soda.’
I knew it was my Grandad, every weekend my Grandma used to buy twelve little bottles of pop, six of them were always cream soda for my Grandad and the other six were for her. But my Grandma never got hers, she always gave them to me but my Grandad would never let me have his cream soda. He was like a baby, they had two drawers in the kitchen, one was my Grandma’s and the other was Grandad’s. I loved going to my Grandma’s drawer, she had a little black cat and I used to love to take it out and turn it in my hands three times because she said that would bring me luck. I wasn’t allowed in my Grandad’s drawer, of course, but every so often when he wasn’t looking I used to sneak a look in it. He kept some cough toffees in there and sometimes I'd pinch one, but he always found out, he was such a cantankerous old bugger that he used to count them.
In the end you had to feel sorry for him because he was so pathetic, he wanted everything his own way. When I was about eleven and he was about seventy-six he took very badly. One day he was lying in his bed in the front room, the doctor was there and I went in to see him.
He said, ‘Hey up lass, you'll not be seeing me much longer, I'll not be on this earth long now.’
The doctor, who was a friend of the family, said, ‘Don’t be so bloody stupid, you'll be here a long while if you stop feeling so sorry for yourself.’
But he kept getting worse, my Mum and Dad used to come up a lot and my Grandma was sitting up at nights with him. He started having horrible fits and shouting and yelling out and talking nonsense. The last time I saw him he really terrified me, I was standing at the bottom of his bed and he was shouting and going at it and my Grandma said,
‘Come on out, he’s too far gone to know you now.’
I came out and cried and cried because my Grandad hadn’t known who I was. A couple of days later we were all sitting around in the living room and Auntie Phyllis, Grandad’s sister, was in the room with him.
She came out and said, ‘He’s gone.’
My Dad sat down on the floor with his legs outstretched and said, ‘Poor old Frank.’
I said ‘Has Grandad died?’
‘Yes.’ My Grandma said, ‘He’s gone to Jesus.’
The night after the funeral I asked my Grandma if I could stay with her and I ended up staying with her for about four months. We used to sit and talk and talk, she talked a lot about the old days, about her life and about my Grandad. After four months, my Mum made me go back home, I would have been happy to stay with my Grandma, I used to get spoilt there. I had three brothers at home and I don’t think my Mum liked to see me getting spoilt and not them. Still I continued to go often to visit my Grandma, I was as close to her as I was to my Mum.
I think my Mum was quite hard on me because I was the only girl and she expected a lot from me. Sometimes I know that she felt sorry for something she'd made me do and she'd try to make up for it. I remember one time very clearly, my Mum was expecting my youngest brother, Stephen. She was very pregnant and as well as that she was looking after her own mother who was living with us but was very very sick. My Mum was very nasty tempered at that time. One night she wanted a loaf of bread from the shop which was just up the next street and she wanted me to fetch it for her. It was dark and there'd been a lot of talk about a rapist in the area. I said I daren’t go, I was too frightened but my Mum really lost her temper and made me go.
I ran all the way, the street was deserted and I was petrified. I got the loaf and as I turned out of the shop to head home I looked up and at the bottom of the street ahead of me was this scary looking shape. I thought it was the rapist with a blanket over him and I thought he was coming to get me. Then I realised that it was my Mum standing there looking enormous in the dark because she was so pregnant. She'd come out to watch down the street to make sure that I was all right because she felt really upset and hurt that she'd made me go knowing I was so frightened.
Every year, ever since I can remember, we used to go on the train to Skegness and stay in a caravan for a week. They were really old fashioned caravans on legs, and they were all lined up in a field. My Mum used to save her Family Allowance every year and that used to pay for our holiday, without it we could never have afforded a holiday at all. In 1953 when I was about eight there had been terrible floods which had caused a lot of damage. Right next to the beach there were bungalows and the floods had ruined them. When we first arrived that year, we went down to the beach to have a look at the damage and it was eerie. The families in the bungalows had just left everything and fled and the beach was scattered with belongings, I especially remember seeing dolls and dolls’ prams, ruined and stranded on the sand. One day we were on the beach packing things up to go back to the caravan. I said I'd run back to the caravan by myself, but everything had changed so much that I got lost. I was walking round and round a caravan site and there was nobody about because everyone had gone inside out of the rain. It seemed like hours and hours and I started to cry because I couldn’t see anything that looked familiar. In the end a woman came out of one of the vans and walked around with me till we found my Mum who'd come looking for me. I'd ended up right on the other side of the site to where our caravan was because everything had changed so much because of the floods.
I was a very busy little kid, I went to Brownies, the Girl Guides, Life Brigade and I was very involved in the church, there weren’t enough nights in the week for all the things I wanted to be involved in. I went to Sunday School from the time I was three and always loved it. As I got older I started going to more and more activities organised by the church. One of these was a Gazette Class, we were given papers to take around to peoples’ houses to sell. They organised a day-trip to York one November. I was really looking forward to it, but when the time came it snowed and I had no boots, the only shoes I had were a pair of sandals and so it looked as if I wouldn’t be able to go. I felt very sorry for myself, it seemed as if I did everything else with the church and that when it was time to have an outing I couldn’t go. When my Mum saw how upset I was she borrowed the money to get me a pair of boots so I could go.
We never had much money, my Mum only ever had one dress to go out in and I can remember she used to have to wash it, iron it and put it straight on if she was going out. Every year, the two Sundays leading up to Whit Monday were Sunday School Anniversaries. They were brilliant, the church was always full, morning, afternoon and night and the Sunday School kids always helped with running the Services. Then, on Whit Monday there was always a big rally and march around Kirkby and all the churches would take part in it. It was a really big event, there were banners and streamers and everybody got dressed up in their best. Every year my Mum saved her Co-op dividends to buy us all a new outfit for the Anniversaries. The lads always got a new suit and I always had two new dresses.
During the Anniversary Services I always read a poem. One year, when I was about twelve, they asked me if I'd read the Twenty-third Psalm and if I'd take elocution lessons to help me to speak out clearly. I was very flattered and pleased, it was a great honour. A week or so later the Superintendent came to our house to see my Mum and Dad to ask if I could read the sermon from the pulpit on the second Anniversary Sunday. Each year they chose two of the teenagers to read the sermon each Sunday. My Mum and Dad called me into the room and asked me if I'd like to do it. This was the greatest honour of all and I was only twelve and had been asked to do it, I was over the moon. I was to recite the Twenty-third Psalm and read the sermon, I felt as if all the hard work I'd put into the church was being recognised.
When we went to buy our new clothes that year I saw a red nylon dress with white flowers on it, it was so pretty, I could just imagine myself standing up in the pulpit with it on. It was very expensive, I think it was three pound ten, and I could have had three or four dresses for that, but my Mum was so proud of me that she let me have it.
The Anniversary Celebrations that year were really fantastic for me, I'll always remember them. I stood up in the pulpit on the second Sunday and proudly read the sermon. It was just after tape recorders first came out and they recorded it, which made it seem very important. I felt wonderful, as I was reading I looked down at my Dad and the look of pride on his face as he looked up at me made me feel really excited. The next day at the Whit Sunday Parade they asked me to carry our church banner because I'd read the sermon and so I marched all around the main street of Kirkby in front of everybody else carrying our church banner.
After that I started going to scripture classes twice a week where I had to take examinations. If you did this for so many years, and got high enough marks in the exams, then you automatically went on to become a Sunday School teacher. I did it every year and always got prizes and highly recommended but when I was about fifteen they closed our Sunday School down because they couldn’t afford to keep it. I went to Wesleyan Methodist Sunday School a couple of times, but I didn’t like it’, after that I sort of drifted away from the church and only ever went to christenings, weddings and funerals. Whenever I went into a church I always enjoyed it but I never committed myself again until I turned back to the church a couple of years ago.
I used to enjoy school a lot, especially primary school. I can remember my first day. My mother took me up and left me there crying. I had to find my own way home for lunch and then go back again on my own. That was it, she never took me up again. But I settled in pretty quickly, I was a reasonably bright kid and got reasonably good reports. When I went up from infants to juniors I was in the A stream. The only thing I remember hating was the milk we had to drink, it made me sick. I failed the eleven plus, so I went to a Secondary Modern and I was in the A stream there as well. I loved reading, writing, spelling, composition and history, but I didn’t like maths and physical education, I was never a very energetic kid. I used to worry about maths, I can remember sitting up at nights, trying to learn my tables and I was pathetic at it, it just wouldn’t come. I used to read lots and lots, I think I must have read every book written for kids over and over again.
When I went into third year, the class had to elect a Prefect and a Vice-prefect. Somebody nominated me and I was elected VicePrefect. I couldn’t believe it, I had no idea I was liked enough to get that position. Later, when my daughter Karen came home from school one day really surprised that she'd been voted class prefect, I understood exactly how she felt because the same thing had happened to me and I could talk to her about it knowing exactly how she felt.
When I was fifteen I left school and got a job machining in a factory. I didn’t particularly want to, but my Mum said she needed the money. For the first three months I was training, I learnt to operate all the machines in the place. Then I started on as a fully trained machinist. I earned three pounds ten and used to give my Mum three pounds. As I got better at it I earned more and did lots of overtime as well, so I had quite a lot of money for myself. There was a union there and when they asked me to join, I didn’t know what to do, so I went home and asked my Dad.
‘You join it,’ he said. ‘You've got to join your union.’ So I joined, but it was a small private firm and if you ever had any problems you could always thrash them out with the boss. So we never went to the union at all the whole time I was there.
At one stage something really got at me and I bottled it up and bottled it up and then finally applied for another job and got it. The next morning I put my notice in and the boss called me into his office.
‘What’s this?’ he said, waving my notice at me.
‘It’s me notice.’
‘Have you been and got another job?’
He asked me where, and when I told him he picked up the phone and dialled a number.
‘I understand you've got Doreen coming to work for you.’
He waited a while and then said, ‘Well, she’s changed her mind, she won’t be coming after all.’ And he hung up the phone.
‘What have you done that for, because I am going.’
‘No you're not, you're going to sit down here and we're going to thrash out whatever’s the matter with you and we'll sort it out.’
That’s how he was, very fair with everybody, it was a good firm to work for. They used to take us all on holidays, we went to Belgium, Holland and France. He paid for everything and gave us some spending money as well. You could take a friend too, of course they'd have to pay something towards it, but it was great. I know people used to say that they'd get the money back on tax, but still not all firms gave you a free holiday.
One weekend we went to Blackpool and saw Cliff Richard for the first time. The trip was going to be to Bournemouth, but we all wanted to see Cliff Richard. He was at the top of the Hit Parade at that time and was doing some concerts in Blackpool. He'd always been my idol and to see him was fantastic, he was even better than I'd expected. I'd never seen anything like it, everybody was nearly hysterical with excitement and we were all there along with the rest, screaming and yelling and going, at it. I really enjoyed working at that firm, when the Manager left, everybody put in to buy him a clock. There were about three hundred workers at the factory altogether and I thought it was a great honour that they asked me to present the clock to him.
When I was fifteen, just as I started work, I also started courting. We got married when I was nineteen. During that time we hardly ever went out anywhere, we spent most of our time at my house or his, mostly his. We saved and saved and talked about getting married and having our own house.
It was all that seemed important, the one thing we shared was wanting our own modern bungalow. We had a great big white wedding and I suppose at the time I couldn’t see past that. It seemed to me that all I'd ever wanted was to be a bride, have a big wedding and my own house. It felt as if my dream was coming true.
For the first year of our marriage we lived at my mother’s house and it wasn’t a very happy year. Karen was born while we were there and then, when she was three months old we moved into our first house. By the time I was twenty-one, Paul had been born and so I had two children and my own house. My dream had come true but I was far from happy. I was really very bored, we never went out, the house was new and so the housework didn’t take long. I didn’t feel as if my life had any meaning, it consisted of cleaning the house, knitting and watching television.
We had moved out of Kirkby and so we decided to move back into the village and have a brand new bungalow built to our own specifications. When we moved into it, Karen had just started school. But moving into the new house didn’t change anything much at all. I was still very bored with my life as a wife and mother. When my husband came in from work, he would just lie down on the settee and go to sleep. If I ever asked him to take me out he made me feel like some kind of freak that wasn’t worth bothering about. Whenever I tried to express to him how I felt being stuck in the house all the time, he'd say, ‘I must be crazy, being stuck with you. ‘After a while I started to get an inferiority complex. I started to believe that there must be something wrong with me and that I really wasn’t worth bothering about. It got so bad that I wouldn’t go out of the house because I thought people would laugh at me and were talking about me. I started taking nerve tablets and at one stage went to see a psychiatrist about it, but nothing seemed to help.
Then someone offered me a job in an outside catering firm. I started going out and working at nights while my husband stayed in with the kids. It was during the time of the mini-skirt and I used to wear a black mini-skirt and white apron. I was the youngest woman working there and I started to notice that I was meeting people and talking to them and I was really getting quite a lot of attention, particularly from men. I had been feeling so bad about myself that all the attention went to my head and I started to have an affair. It got quite serious and I left my husband and took the kids to live with this bloke. But that didn’t work out either and after two years I moved into my mother’s house again with the kids.
Being back at my mother’s was not easy either, I suppose I'd had my own house for quite a while and I was used to doing things my own way. My mother was very opposed to me leaving my husband in the first place and so was my Grandma. I'd continued to be really really close to her through all these years. By this time she was living with my mother and it broke my heart that she'd turned against me. She was always the only person I could really talk to and now I felt unable to talk to her because she was so upset about what I'd done. I felt completely alone in the world.
Once I moved into my mother’s, my husband started saying that he wanted me to go back with him. One Sunday he came down to pick up the kids for the day and left a note saying that he wanted to see me. Later that day, when I went up to get the kids we had a long talk, he said he really wanted to give it a second try.
I said, ‘Well, if I do, would you agree to me being able to work as soon as Paul’s settled into school. I don’t want just to be a wife and mother, just being there at your beck and call like I was before. I'd want to go to work so I could have my own independence.’
He said he'd do anything, if I went back to him, so we decided to go out together that night for a drink.
I asked my Dad if he'd look after the kids for me and he was over the moon. I think it had been as hard for them to have me and the kids there as it was for me. Their kids had all grown up and they were used to just being on their own, so suddenly having two little kids in the house again was quite a shock.
That night my husband and I seemed to get on really well. Things seemed very different from how I'd remembered them, we talked and talked and I really enjoyed myself. The next day while he was at work I went up and let myself into the bungalow. As soon as I walked in I felt more at home than I had for two years. It seemed that this was where I belonged so I decided to move back in.
We both tried very hard to make it work. Once the kids were both at school I got a job and for a while I started to enjoy my life again. But there was one thing missing, although I tried and tried I couldn’t get any intimacy back into the marriage. That was my fault, I just couldn’t feel that way about him any more. Although he was trying ever so hard and I wanted it to work very much, that side of things just wasn’t right. Even when we were courting I found that side of things difficult. He was the first man I'd been with and he wanted sex all the time, whereas I needed lots of loving and he couldn’t somehow see the difference. I knew even then that something was wrong but I was so tied up with all the plans we'd made and my own dreams that I'd allowed myself to get carried along by events and ignored the warnings that were deep inside me.
For about two years the reconciliation was quite good but then things started to drift back into what they had been before. But this time, I had a bit of independence, I had a wage and I had a car. The kids were growing up, I started to get sick of not going out at night. I was quite happy with my job, and with coming home and looking after my kids and cleaning up my house, but then I wanted to go out a bit. I wanted to feel as if I was living a little bit.
I used to say to him, ‘you're only on this earth once, you've got to live.’
We started falling out over it, we started falling out over all sorts of things and then we started to go out separately. I used to go out on Thursday nights on my own and he used to go out on Friday nights. In the end we were living separate lives. He used to go out and not come back for a few days, I knew he was with other women but I didn’t think I could do anything about it.
I thought it was my fault. After all if I could give him what a wife should, he wouldn’t need to go with other women, but at the same time I didn’t much care. I was determined not to leave him again, I couldn’t bear the thought of putting the kids through all the upset the first separation had caused. But I used to go out too and I always enjoyed myself when I did. There were outings from work I used to go on and I used to go drinking every Friday night. After a while I started having affairs too and we started falling out about it, but we never admitted to each other that we were having affairs.
This went on for years and years, I wasn’t really happy, deep down I felt very guilty about what I was doing. I sometimes wondered what God must think of me, but at the same time I'd feel very bitter towards God for giving me so much suffering. Whenever I felt myself getting serious about anybody, I'd break it off, the last thing I wanted to do was to move with the kids again.
One night I went to the Miners’ Welfare at Rainworth. A group of us were standing around talking. Someone introduced me to this bloke who I could feel had been looking at me for some time. When the music started for the last dance I said to him:
‘Well, are you going to ask me for last waltz or not?’
‘I can’t dance,’ he said, but somebody whisked his pint off him and we had the last waltz. As it ended he asked if he could see me to the car.
We sat in the car and he started all over me.
‘Look,’ I said, ‘I want to get one thing straight. I might be here at Rainworth Welfare on my own and I might have a stormy marriage, but that doesn’t mean I'm going to have sex with anyone unless I really know them.’
We made arrangements to meet again then started seeing each other quite regularly. He was a miner called Pip and I could feel myself getting quite involved emotionally and I decided to call it all off. I didn’t trust relationships, the two I'd had had both in their different ways been disasters and I wasn’t prepared to put the kids through a lot of trauma again.
When we next met I said, ‘I've got sommat to tell you.’
‘Well, I want you to understand ......
But he wouldn’t let me finish, he said,
‘If you're going to say what I think you're going to say don’t say if before you listen, ‘cause I've got something to say ‘n all.’
‘Oh, it don’t matter, it’s your decision, you're going to tell me you want to break if off, aren’t ya?’
‘Yes, why, what do you want to say?’
‘Nothing, it don’t matter, if that’s your decision.’
‘So you're quite happy with that decision then, are you?’ He said, ‘No, I'm not happy with that decision’. He hesitated, he isn’t a man to throw words around and I already knew him well enough to know that he found emotional things hard to talk about, but he managed to say,
‘No, I'm not happy with that because I love you.’ I could feel myself suddenly filled with fear, I said,
‘Well, that’s really put the kybosh on it then hasn’t it?’
‘I didn’t want you to say that.’
‘Well,’ he said, ‘It’s true and I want you to go home and think about it. I won’t ring you or anything, I just want you to think about it.’
So I drove him home and as he got out of the car he said: ‘Remember what I've said, ‘cause I mean it.’ That night I couldn’t sleep, I tossed and turned and didn’t know what to do with myself. The next morning after my husband had gone to work at seven o’ clock I sat with a cup of coffee and tried to make some sense of my feelings and my situation. It was a very difficult situation. I was living with a man from whom I'd become estranged and who'd never really made me happy. Now another man was offering me happiness, he had his own house, his wife had left him some time before and he had told me that he loved me and I knew I loved him. But I still wasn’t sure if I trusted that enough to risk the security that I had with my husband and could give my kids. As I was sitting there trying to work it all out, the phone rang. It was Pip.
I said, ‘I thought you weren’t ringing me any more.’
‘I can’t help it, have you thought about what I said last night.’
‘Of course I have, I can’t think of anything else can I, you've put me in a funny position.’
‘Well I don’t want us to pack it up.’
I told him that I would have to think about things some more and ring him back.
At this time a friend and I were making children’s clothes and selling them at the market. We also used to do parties in people’s houses to sell them. I went to the market and rang Pip up and we had a talk on the phone and I arranged to meet him in a few days after one of the parties. All the time I felt it was wrong, I thought I should leave it alone, but I couldn’t.
I was very tense over the next few days, and when I finally got over to Pip’s house he was very miserable. He told me that he'd been listening to a record and that he was going to buy it for me. Just then it was played on the radio. It was Andrew Gold, ‘Never Let Her Slip Away’. As I listened to the words I started to feel differently about everything, the confusion lifted and I knew what I had to do.
To protect myself I decided not to move in with Pip straight away, but to get a council house and live there on my own with the kids for a while to see how things worked out. I knew that lots of new council houses were being built in Kirkby at that time and so I put myself onto the waiting list for one. I was told to expect about a three months wait. I told my husband what I had done and that I was going to leave him as soon as I could get a house. Things between us then started to deteriorate even more, they got very bad.
Pip and I introduced our kids to each other. Karen was twelve and Paul was nine. Pip had two boys David, who was eleven and another Paul who was also nine. We decided to take them all out for a picnic. When I picked them up in the car, Pip sat in the front with me and all the kids piled into the back. None of the kids said a word. Pip and I were as nervous as anything and I could feel Pip looking at me and whittling because they weren’t getting on. When we got to the picnic spot, I took a football out of the car and the three boys quickly joined in playing football, and were soon the best of mates. But Karen was very reserved and didn’t want anything to do with it. Pip was worrying about her and asked her if she'd like us all to go back to his place for some tea.
‘What is there?’ she said, very off-handed.’
Well I've got a piece of steak in the fridge, if you'd like that.’ Karen’s face lit up, she adores steak, Pip had won her heart, after that the atmosphere relaxed, it had been a big test but it had worked out well.
After that I used to take the kids to Pip’s and often we'd all stay the night. The kids were really at home there. In fact, they were happier there than they were at home because things between me and their father had got so bad. One day after an especially nasty fight between me and my husband I decided that I couldn’t live with him any more. I asked the kids if they wanted to move into Pip’s house and they were dead keen. So I rang him up at work that morning. ‘Hello, Pip, we're coming.’ That was all I said, I didn’t know what to say.
‘What, for your tea’ he said.
‘No, I'm coming and I'm bringing the kids.’
He said, ‘What, for good?’
‘Oh, I better ring me Dad and tell him I can’t come down and help him with his car then hadn’t 1. What time will you be here?’
Pip wasn’t all that surprised, although I'd never said that I'd consider moving in with him before a council house became available. He knew that the situation at home was getting worse and worse.
That was in June. Once I'd moved in with Pip and it was working quite well, I knew I'd never move into a council house on my own, so I took our name off the waiting list. But the first few months were by no means all plain sailing, we did have our problems. It took some adjusting for us all to live together, it was quite different from just visits, but we were happy despite the difficulties. At Christmas I said to Pip, ‘How about you and I have a baby of our own?’
‘Don’t you think we've got enough mouths to feed,’ he said, not very keen on the idea.
‘Yes I do, but we've two of your and two of mine, if we had one of our own, it would really bring us all together, we'd all really be related and I think it would help the tensions between the kids.’ Eventually he agreed and within three months I was pregnant.
We'd always said that we weren’t going to get married. I was getting bigger and bigger with Mark and one evening as we were laying on the settee together, which we always did in the evening, I said, ‘Shall we get married?’
‘Well, it’s only a piece of paper.’
‘Yes I know, but shall we?’
‘Do you really want to?’
‘Well, I don’t know, because if we get married we don’t want to lose what we've got now. That’s the only thing, sometimes when people get married they take each other for granted. I want you to know, that if we get married and we lose this, I shan’t stay with you. So don’t feel that by getting married you can take me for granted and feel that you can treat me any way you like, ‘cause you can’t.’
‘Well, are we getting married then?’
‘Do you think they'd mind me coming to the registry office as big as this, seven months pregnant?’
‘I don’t know, I suppose not.’
‘All right, I think we might as well do it then.’
At that time we were living in Pip’s house, the same one he'd lived in with his ex-wife. Even though we'd redecorated it and I'd bought all my own furniture and stuff over, I never really felt comfortable there, I always felt as if it was someone else’s house. Because it was a rented pit house, it was a bit of a problem, because the pit wouldn’t find us another. I decided to put a notice up in the Post Office to see if anybody wanted to do a swap. That’s what happened, we got married in July and moved a couple of weeks later.
Mark was the most spoilt child you've even seen, all of us doted on him. He was the link between us all, all the kids felt that link. Mark was everybody’s brother. He never whimpered without one of us would be there picking him up and making sure his every need was met. Pip absolutely adored him and became very involved looking after him. Our naps on the couch now included Mark and often Pip would lie for hours on the sofa half dozing with Mark half dozing beside him. It was wonderful for me to really share a baby with it’s father the way Pip and I shared Mark. My first husband had never had anything much to do with the kids when they were babies and so I enjoyed just watching Pip and Mark together.
The house next door was empty but then Pauline and Alan moved in and at first we all kept ourselves to ourselves. After a bit Pauline and I would occasionally chat with each other.
I was very busy with four teenage kids and a baby so I didn’t have much time anyway. I knew that Pauline was having a lot of trouble with her second pregnancy so I used to go around and help her. After that we were a little closer, but still not much.
Then Pip got ill, he had hurt his knee at work and had to have his cartilage removed. He had to wait ages and ages for the operation and then when he finally had it done, he came out of hospital on a Friday only to be rushed to Mansfield General Hospital on Monday in terrible pain and having trouble breathing. It turned out that he had a blood clot on his lung and he nearly died, it was really a terrible time. I was worried sick about Pip, rushing into the hospital whenever I could to be with him. Having to keep things going at home and looking after the kids was taking it’s toll on me.
One night, the hospital rang and said I'd better get straight in, he was in a very critical condition. Later I came back home, he seemed to be all right but was still in a very dangerous condition. When I got home I sat in front of the television blankly staring at the screen wondering what I would do if Pip died. Suddenly my old teenage hero, Cliff Richard came on the screen. I can remember him saying, ‘Jesus Christ is knocking on the door of your heart, he only wants to be let in.’ That night I went to bed and prayed for the first time for years and years. I prayed for Pip to be alive, I said, ‘What will I do with five kids and Pip dead?’ The next day Pip was much better.
A couple of weeks later I went around to have a cup of coffee with Pauline and I told her about Pip’s illness and how worried I'd been about him. She started to tell me about Michael’s birth and about how her and Alan had turned to God when he was born and she thought that his birth was a miracle, because he had actually died and when her and Alan had started to pray he had started to breath.
She said to me, ‘You might think I'm being stupid, but I'm not, that’s just how it was for me.’
Pauline and Alan had started going to church, we talked for a long time about religion, but I didn’t do anything about it. Pip was getting better and I was busy keeping things at home going.
Pip went back to work eventually, altogether he'd been off for nine months and during that time he'd paid no maintenance. He was supposed to pay his ex-wife fifteen pounds a week maintenance because when she had left she had taken their two youngest children with her. We weren’t very happy about the maintenance anyway. Pip’s ex-wife had remarried a miner who was probably making as much money as Pip was, so the situation didn’t seem very fair.
When Pip went back to work they wanted to put him on light work for a while but he wanted to get back to his own job. The first week he almost lived at the pit, he worked so much overtime that at the end of the week he'd made £290 before tax. But all he brought home was £20. They deducted the rest for the maintenance payments that were owing. For three months Pip brought home twenty quid a week. It was impossible to make it spin out, to feed seven of us. The result was that Pip was very nasty tempered because he felt that he wasn’t able to bring home enough money to feed us. I was nasty tempered because I was trying to make twenty quid a week feed a family of seven.
It was one of the most difficult times of my life. I was very bitter that we were struggling so hard just to make payments to another woman who I didn’t think needed or deserved them. I didn’t believe that the courts could be so callous to our needs and leave us to try and survive on such a pittance. The kids seemed to pick up the atmosphere. Teenage kids are always difficult and I was increasingly finding that having a mixed family could be very trying. With both Pip and I being very tense things in the house were very difficult. The kids were trying to establish themselves as grown up, and that was complicated for everybody by the fact that Pip and I were each step-parents to two of them. Bringing your own teenage kids up is difficult but trying to bring someone else’s up is very hard, because you've got to be so careful. It fell mostly on me I think, being the woman. It was harder for me with Pip’s kids than it was for him with mine. Things got so bad that Pip and I were going to split up, not because there was anything wrong between us, but because things with the kids were so bad. I really felt that I couldn’t cope, I felt at the end of my wits. I was on nerve tablets and I just didn’t know where to turn.
I went around to visit Pauline and the Pastor from the Church she went to was there. He knew straight away who I was. He said to Pauline as I walked in.
‘Is this your neighbour from that side.’
Then he looked at me and said, ‘How are you, alright?’ I was so low, I couldn’t even casually say yes when someone asked how I was, so I said ‘No, I'm not.’
‘Why don’t you come to church’ he said.
‘I can’t come to church, I haven’t got the time, I've got five kids to look after.’ I said, but after he'd left I said to Pauline.
‘I think I might come to church with you on Sunday.’
‘Well what have I got to lose, things can’t get any worse, it’s either that or the nuthouse. There’s only that left and if it helped you, it might help me.’
The following Sunday I went, and I sat there right through the service and got nothing at all from it, not a thing. Through that week things got worse and worse, I had an enormous row with David, Pip’s eldest son and he moved out to his Grandparents’ house. Pip wanted him to come back, he wanted to come back, but somehow I just felt too depressed about everything to make a decision or to imagine anything but more rows. I was beside myself feeling that I just wasn’t coping with the situation.
The next Sunday I decided to go back to church with Pauline and Alan. I don’t know why I went, it was a Pentecostal Church, people were throwing their arms up in the air shouting, ‘Praise the Lord’ and ‘Allelujah’
I thought, ‘Oh, these people are, mad, whatever am I doing here,
I must be crazy.’ .1
All the way through the service I kept wishing it would end, thinking, ‘There’s no way I'm coming here again, I think I'm crackers, but these are worse.’
When the Pastor gave his sermon, I listened and a lot of what he said seemed to reach out to me, and have meaning for me. As I listened I thought, ‘Well alright, but I feel so stupid sitting here, there’s no way I'll come back unless I have proof that Jesus Christ exists.’
The service ended and Alan went off to take his Grandma back to Sutton. Pauline and I were talking to people and this man who I knew vaguely because he worked at the pit with Pip said,
‘What’s made you come to church, Doreen?’
‘I'm glad to see you here.’
‘Well, there’s no way I'm coming again unless I find that there’s some truth in what you all keep saying.’
‘What do you want out of life? Do you want to find peace and contentment?’
‘Yeah, that’s what I come hoping to find.’
‘Do you believe?’
‘I've always believed, or rather, I've never not believed, although I think that God’s given me a raw deal. I've always believed that he’s there and can see everything I'm doing.’
‘Well, what do you want then?’
‘I want help from him, and I want proof that he’s there.’
The Pastor came over then and asked me to go and talk to him in his back room. He asked me what was the matter and I told him.
He said, ‘Well, what way do you want to go, do you want to find out if God’s really there and if he can really help you?’
‘Yeah. I do.’
He started to say a prayer, at first I felt really stupid, I thought, ‘Ooh, people will think I'm crackers, I hope nobody hears about this’, but as he went on and as I started to say the prayer with him, I felt something happening to me. It started in my toes, then went right up my body and right off the top of my head. All the depression had gone. I came out of there and I was singing and I was laughing, Pauline and I walked up the street dancing. I felt as I had never felt before. As we were singing and dancing up the street I didn’t care if people saw us and I didn’t care what they thought, all of that self consciousness had gone too.
I started to go to church regularly and got very involved in it. Things keep happening that gave me more faith, it seemed that everything I asked for I got. It wasn’t so much that anything changed, we still had very bad money problems. There were still fights with the kids and between the kids, but I felt that I could cope with it all. I'd been taking nerve tablets for years and over the last few months a lot of them. I just stopped taking them, without even thinking about it I just stopped. Whenever things got really bad there seemed some way out, I no longer felt trapped in an endless tunnel.
Pauline went away for a week to a Christian Camp, and one day while she was away, I was sitting, machining and singing some of the choruses we sang at church. Suddenly I started thinking about a Sunday School. It was like a sudden thought or a voice or something. It was as if it was saying to me that I'd got to do something about a Sunday School. It confused me quite a lot because I thought there was already a Sunday School at the church and yet I was having this very powerful feeling about it. It kept playing on my mind and started to drive me crackers.
When Pauline came back, I said to her, ‘I've got a problem.’
‘Well, while you were away I got this thought into my head that I had to something about a Sunday School, but there’s already a Sunday School at the church in’t there?’ She started to laugh.
‘Well, its really strange, ‘cause when I was at Hollybush I had a message, somebody said that I had to do something about helping with a Sunday School.’
We invited the Pastor up to the house and said we wanted to get a Sunday School together.
‘That’s great,’ he said. ‘It’s a wonderful idea, but you know you're new members to the church and it might upset people if I just let you come into church and set up a Sunday School. Besides, there aren’t any kids. Perhaps you should bring Amanda and Mark down to the Sunday School that is there and see what you think about it.’ The next week I took Amanda and Mark but I didn’t like the way the Sunday School was run. Mark hated it, he didn’t want to go any more.
A couple of weeks later that Sunday School just closed down, the two kids stopped going. We asked the Pastor again and he said, ,If you can get thirty-five kids together, you can have a Sunday School.’
So we started, all of a sudden kids who we'd never seen in the village before came knocking on our doors asking to play with our kids. They came five and six at a time, all in about three days. These kids used to come and play and me and Pauline would be sitting out on the garden, or the kids would come into the house for something and we'd talk to them. We asked them if they'd like to come to a Sunday School in Pauline’s house. The first Sunday we had thirteen kids, the second week we had eighteen, then twenty and it grew and grew.
Eventually the Pastor agreed to give us the key to the church ,so we could bring the children in for Sunday School. The Sunday School thrived, but there were a lot of people in that church who weren’t very pleased about what we were doing.
Just before Christmas we suggested that we bring the Sunday School kids into the church to do a Carol Service, singing the Carols that we'd taught them. We thought it would be a good way to bring people to the church who'd never been before and we knew that was one of the main concerns of the Pastor and the other church members. On the appointed day the church was full, they were fetching seats out of another room. There were people standing at the back and more people sitting in the aisle on the floor. People who'd never been in that church came to see those kids. There'd never been more than twenty people in that Church before and for the first time it was full to the brim. There were parents, aunties, uncles, grandmas and grand-dads, it was one of the biggest things that had happened in this village for years. The Pentecostal Church was full because of this fantastic Sunday School that had opened up. The kids all stood at the front with Pauline and me and sang beautifully, everybody was thrilled.
Things continued on for a while and we decided to have an open service, on a Sunday afternoon to let people know what the kids were doing at Sunday School.
This Sunday afternoon we had exactly the same response as we'd had to the Carol Service, the church was packed out again. But this time there was no-one there to preach. There was just me and Pauline and forty kids and all their families.
We didn’t preach at all. I started the service by welcoming everybody into the place, then I thanked God for bringing the kids into our Sunday School and said a little bit about how we'd got the Sunday School together. Then Pauline talked a bit about the things that we did at the Sunday School and then we let the kids take over. The bigger kids gave lessons from the bible and they sang songs and we got one of the women to read a story. It was really fantastic, it'd never happened before.
Despite the enormous success of our two major events we met continuing opposition to everything we suggested. We wanted to take the kids on a Sunday School outing, but the Pastor said that he didn’t have any money to put towards the bus. As we worked on the idea, people started coming to our doors asking if their kids could come on the outing and offering to pay towards the cost of the bus. We raised enough money and we took the kids and some of their parents and everybody had a great time.
As Harvest time approached we wanted to bring the kids into the church to the Harvest Festival and have them bring fruit and vegetables up to the front and sing Harvest songs, but we were told that would be too much trouble. Then we wanted to have a bonfire, but they said that would be too much trouble and cost too much money. So we got fed up with asking. We started talking about leaving the church but it was a big decision to make and we were very worried about it. But we felt we had no choice really and decided to leave. To our amazement most of the kids wanted to come with us, so we continued with the Sunday School in our own home as it had been in the beginning.
Soon after that I saw vacancies for machinists advertised in the local paper and rang up about them. Pauline decided she wanted to try to get one too. With the two men working shift work we were fairly sure we could work out child-care arrangements between us all. The money was much better than working at home and money was very short. The men were working with an overtime ban, miners depend on their overtime for a decent standard of living. Without it Pip, who is a qualified electrician and therefore one of the better paid workers at the pit, was only bringing home between eighty and ninety quid a week. On top of the difficulties that had arisen when he was off work we could barely manage on the money and so I was quite keen to go out and make some more. I wasn’t all that happy with the Miners’ Union, I felt that they hadn’t helped Pip when we were in such trouble and I wasn’t at all impressed by Arthur Scargill, I thought he was just out for a strike. He'd called two ballots and lost them both, then they put the overtime ban on and it seemed to go on and on.
Pip didn’t ever tell me much about what went on at union meetings, he thought I wasn’t bothered. He'd just tell me if something happened that was to affect us. When the overtime ban came on I remember he came home and just said, ‘There’s going to be an overtime ban and it'll go on for a long time.’ One day a few months after Pauline and I had started going out to work Pip came back from a union meeting.
‘Arthur Scargill’s coming to Blidworth, to our next meeting.’ he said.
After the meeting attended by Scargill, Pip came home and said, ‘He’s right you know.’
‘He isn’t right at all and I don’t want to listen. If he’s turned you his road I don’t want to listen.’
‘But you don’t even know what I'm going to say.’
‘I don’t care, I don’t want to hear.’ To tell the truth I was terrified he would tell me that there was going to be a strike. My mind was so poisoned against Arthur Scargill by the media and I was so terrified of a strike and what it would do to our already disastrous finances that I just wouldn’t listen. But Pip kept on and on, in the end he made me listen.
At the meeting someone has asked Scargill what he was going to do about the overtime ban. People were becoming impatient with it and some of them thought we should go for a strike instead and settle the issue more quickly. Scargill had said that it was not time to strike now, that with summer approaching we should wait and consider a strike in November. Pip said,
‘I agree with that. I think he’s right. And I think if we don’t get any result from the overtime ban by the beginning of winter we should think about a strike then.’
I said, ‘Oh well, if that’s what you think, you do what you think right. You know more about it than I do.’ But I added,
‘How are we going to manage, all I've had to do since I met you is struggle and now we'll have to struggle again by the sounds of it.’
But on the other hand I'd been watching the television and I'd seen different places closing down. There was a great outcry when it was announced that there were a million on the dole but still kept seeing that they were closing down this and closing down that and making cuts to the other. I wondered where it was all going to end and I also wondered when it would be our turn. Somehow we all knew that sooner or later the Government would turn on the Miners and then what would happen because everybody so far was calling on the Miners for support.
Little did I know that it would only be another six weeks before I would begin to find out the answers to these questions and to learn what these things would mean for me and my life.