The day the pigs ate my glasses

Going back to my roots

Hello and welcome to this week’s missive. I hope your week’s been a good one.


We had a day off on Wednesday as we both had packing fatigue and had reached that point where every day was becoming Groundhog Day.

Chris came up with a great suggestion - to visit the street where I lived until I was 17, and then to have a walk around Heaton Park. We did the full tour of the avenue, stopping at each house so that I could tell him about the people who lived there, back in the day.

The lady spinster who cultivated marigolds every year in her very neat and tidy garden, and shared the seeds with me. The people next door to her, known to me as Mum and Dad, and their daughter, Elizabeth, who was my first babysitter. I called her Bizbeth, much to her frustration.

Number 3 was home to Phillip, whose anxious mother only let me push him up and down the drive but fed me Jaffa cakes and milk as a thank you. Next, two of the children I babysat on Saturday evenings.

Then, my Mum’s friend whose husband died from cancer but had hung on for months, surviving on whisky alone. The older couple with a poodle whose bark was very loud, and a little bit scary for the younger me. Opposite us lived Edna and Jim. He had been a lecturer at a local college and once told my Mum he was a bit of a philatelist who believed in doing his bit to help others.

Next door to them lived Bert, one of our closest friends. He had always known my Mum and Dad but started visiting every evening after his wife died. He had two sons, Robert and Philip who loved to whizz up and down the avenue in their cars. Philip died suddenly when he was 41. Robert picked up the pieces of my bike when I rode too fast down our sloping drive, failed to apply the brakes and crashed into Edna and Jim’s brick pillar. I remember him offering to help but I ran home crying, with a golf ball sized lump forming on my forehead.

Bert had been a navigator in the war and flew in Lancasters. After he retired he took up watercolours and I still have all the paintings he created for my Mum. Some time later he moved house and I often visited him there, usually raiding his shelves for his copies of David Niven autobiographies, war stories and books of derring do.

The next four houses all backed on to the woods where we played. These houses had gates providing a short cut through the woods and on to the main road. Sometimes I would sneak through one of the gardens to save walking all the way round.

The first of the four kept hens. Next to them an older couple, the Mathers, whose caravan in Scotland we visited on one occasion. Sadly, one day and some time after his wife had died, my Mum, having realised she hadn’t seen Mr Mather for a day, spotted him lying on the floor in the house.

Known as Granny Dickinson, I don’t remember much about the owner of the next house. But adjacent to her was Peter, a farmer, who I worked for at weekends and in the holidays, delivering milk and gathering eggs. I remember mornings when I was drenched with rain, soaked through to the skin, but the money was great. Ever since those days delivering milk I’ve always made sure my milk bottles are spotless - there’s nothing worse than an unwashed stale milk bottle!

Along the route we had a couple of ladies who baked and made treats for us every Saturday. You probably wouldn’t get away with it now but we all stood on the back board of the van and gripped on to the top of the door frame. The guys could step off backwards while the van was still in motion, milk bottles in hand, but I never mastered that.

Collecting the eggs was something else altogether. These were pre-free range days and the birds were caged in a series of hen houses. The noise was unbelievable. I used to sing to try to counteract them. They might all pause for a moment before starting up their cacophony again. I was allowed to take home the soft eggs where the shell hadn’t formed. I put cracked eggs to one side. You didn’t want those as tiny black mites gathered at the site of the crack. Every day when I got home I was covered in these tiny black dots. It was always straight into the bath for me, and all my clothes went in the washer.

The most memorable incident at the farm was the mystery of the lost glasses! In the summer I often wore flip flops. I could just hose my feet down at the end of the day. I was wandering about looking at the piglets and some pigs in their sty. I put my foot down on what I thought was a paving stone but turned out to be a hole full of … er, liquid. I rushed over to the hose to get rid of the muck. I wandered around some more and then realised I couldn’t see very well. I had no idea where my glasses were.

My Dad came to pick me up and, together with Peter, we all started to look for my glasses. Suddenly Peter launched himself over the wall into the pigsty and extracted a pair of shattered misshapen glasses. In my frenzy to get my foot out of the hole, I must have knocked off my glasses and catapulted them into the sty. They were relatively new and the optician said glasses chewed by a pig was a first! He did manage to knock them back into shape and replace the lenses. I just lived with the teeth marks!

One of my favourite things to do at the farm was look after the calves. They would suck on the legs of my jeans. They were just the cutest things I’d ever seen. (Maybe this is where my love of cows stems from). One day, a calf got loose and with no-one else around to help, I managed to get him settled on some straw and sat next to him, until my Dad came to pick me up and the farmer appeared and took the calf back to the cow shed.

Next door to Peter lived Lillian, our neighbour. She had a poodle called Pip. I spent a lot of time in Lillian’s house, especially on a Sunday when her parents, Nana and Grandpa, came to visit. Nana and I would spend ages sticking green shield stamps into a book. I’d quiz Grandpa about his false leg, a hollow construction with no bend in the knee. The story was that he’d lost his leg in a cricket match when a ball had hit him. But, the truth, he lost his leg in the war. My favourite thing was to sit on the floor next to him and tap on his leg so I could hear that it was hollow. Nana brought me a lucky bag every week. I imagine I flitted back and forth between our two houses until, in the evening, we would take them home in Lillian’s black Morris Minor. We dropped Nana off at the bingo and Grandpa back home.

I don’t remember at what point it happened and I only have fleeting memories of Lillian’s husband, Earl. He died one Sunday in the bath. I think I must have been quite young as most of my memories are just of me and Lillian.

On the other side of our house lived Miles and Phyllis, and Grandma Holt. I spent quite a bit of time in their house too. Their garden was ruined very early one morning when the cows in the field behind our houses broke out, flattening Miles and Phyllis’ fence. I remember my Mum, Dad and I being out in dressing gowns and wellies trying to prevent the cows from heading to the main road. There were cow pats everywhere!

Further down the road lived a couple with two boys who put on garden parties every year with games and ice lollies. It was a highlight of the summer holidays.

A couple of doors down from them was my nemesis. An Alsatian that often roamed the avenue, especially about the time I was coming home from school. If I came round the corner and saw him, I would go back, walk all the way along the main road and cut through the woods!

The avenue was split in two by an area known as the cinders. A track that led up to the gate of the field, we would ride our bikes up there or just hang from the gate watching the cows or the hay making. I didn’t know the people at the far end so well. But there was Catherine who I played tennis with on a Saturday, and Dawn who I also babysat on occasion.

The visit brought back lots of memories. The avenue was the same but different. It felt like a long time ago since I lived there. I hadn’t been back there in years and it was another closing of a door, the end of a chapter.


This week’s guest on the podcast is Scott Aaron. He describes himself as a human connection expert and is a LinkedIn specialist. We talk a little about LinkedIn - if you want to improve your profile, Scott’s advice is very helpful. He offers a free download on his website too.

Scott shares the story of his Dad’s incarceration, and how that impacted him, becoming a millionaire and declaring himself bankrupt, being married and divorced twice, and how he learned to live his life on his own terms.

Click to listen


Visiting the avenue where I used to live has triggered lots of memories, more than I’ve shared here. So many people who had an impact on my life, even though I might not have realised it at the time. It was a different way of life back then. Everyone knew each other in a way that doesn’t seem to happen so much now.

The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there ~ LP Hartley

Until next time, thank you for reading.

Nicola


P.S. In case you’re not interested in reading about the move (some of it does get repetitive - we’ve packed more boxes, I’ve been to the charity shop … again, I’ve sold something on Facebook etc), I’m going to give it a section of its own.

The Moving Chronicles

The weeks are whizzing by and our days are just more of the same - wrapping, packing, running out of bubble wrap, taking cardboard to the tip for recycling.

Next week my shredding will be collected and a pile of computer stuff will be taken away for data destruction and possible recycling. As we were waiting for some more bubble wrap, I brought forward a couple of jobs. I defrosted and cleaned the fridge/freezer. We have a small fridge and freezer to tide us over. And I finished Chris’ accounts.

We’re on track with the plan. Still waiting for confirmation of our moving date. I’m hoping we may finally hear something early next week! Fingers crossed!