During the holidays we used to play crib and darts, the dart board being fixed on an easel at the foot of his bed. Our cat, Snowy, used to sleep on the vacant bottom part of his bed.
One amusing story, which I will never forget, concerns a tortoise that we had. It one day laid an egg, which Sue put in some sand in the airing cupboard for it to hatch. I was into collecting common birds eggs, not frowned upon or illegal way back then, so when, after about six months it had not hatched, without a mate how could it, I suggested that it be blown and added to my collection. Now blowing birds eggs was not one of my strong points, having either broken or put very large holes in some, so I suggested to dad that with one of his syringes, as he was diabetic, he could pierce the egg and suck out the liquid. When he tried this, the egg broke right under his nose and after six months in the airing cupboard the stink made me run from the room. Poor dad had to endure it until Sue could clear it up and change the bedding.
I remember three stories that dad told me of his youth. Along with his brother and cousins he was full of fun. The streets were all lit by gas lamps, controlled by a small lever on the lamp posts. They would tie black cotton from the lamp control lever to the door knocker of one of the houses and at the correct height so that when the local bobby came along on his bike, policemen were much more in evidence in those days, the cotton would knock off his helmet, turn off the gas and knock the door all at once, to the annoyance of the policeman, who had to grovel in the dark for his helmet, and also the house owner, who found no one on their doorstep, but most importantly to the boys who, waiting in the shadows, found it all extremely funny.
The second story also concerns gas, though of a different sort. Sunday teatime was a time when the family, with their lady friends and family members gathered around to enjoy tea. My dad and his cronies, so he told me would all take sulphur tablets, which had the effect of generating internal gas so that once one had broken wind the others could follow more or less to order in turn. This natural bodily function was a source of great hilarity as the older family members, particularly the ladies, became more agitated with each rise in the level of potency.
The third story concerns dad and his friends and his miserable next door neighbour. The houses they all lived in were terraced and the outside toilets were semi-detached, with a partition trap door to allow the “night soil collector” to only have to make half as many journeys. He could drag the bucket through the trap door, thus saving quite a lot of time. Now the neighbour would not let them have their ball back if it went over to his garden, and was generally unfriendly. When they knew that this old miser was comfortably ensconced in his privy they would go into theirs with a stick, poke it through the trap door and whack him on the butt. Such was the best revenge they could exact.
Sue had lived with us, being a widow, ever since I can remember. She, on later reflection it seemed, actually ran the household and did everything for both dad and me that we needed. I cannot imagine just what it must have been like for mum to have been second fiddle to much that went on. I now understand the reasons for the shows of temper and frustration that at the time I thought were not reasonable. These carried on even after Sue died and I am sure were made worse by the strokes , mum had more than one, that left her with ever increasingly less independence. Mum had an awful fear of the dentist, her teeth were really rotten and this may also have contributed to her lack of well being. I, in my earlier years, retained mum’s fear of dentists but this has now, since knowing several dentists and sticking to one good friend who I trust implicitly, fortunately has become a thing of the past. I guess that today’s modern technology and knowledge has contributed to the ability of dentists to cause us less pain and anguish. I digress.