In memory of Victoria Carter
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Our house was a three up, three down council house in Robinson Road. There was no bathroom just an outside toilet in the yard. The top three rooms were where we lived, and downstairs were my grandparents. We had two bedrooms and a kitchen and my grandparents had a bedroom and kitchen. The downstairs front room, which housed an upright piano, wind up gramophone and drinks cabinet along with our “best” furniture was reserved for special occasions, visitors and Christmas. The rest of the time this room saw no activity apart from the constant cleaning and polishing, and of course its prescribed dose of ‘Flit’. All the normal daily activities took place in the kitchen, which also served as sitting room and dining room. As there was no bathroom it also served as washroom for both humans, cooking utensils, crockery and our laundry. There was also only a cold tap, so all hot water had to be boiled on the stove first. If you're wondering about my personal hygiene, I have included a page about the visits to the York Hall Baths for my weekly scrub!
The people in our street who had the whole house to themselves, just mum, dad, and the kids, were lucky. They had their own front room, and one or two even had a bathroom. Or at least a covered bath in the corner of the kitchen.
For most of us though, the kitchen was the hub of the house, where everything took place. Washing, eating, watching TV (ours was a 12 inch screen in a wooden surround as big as a filing cabinet), and of course, cooking. I think the main reason my parents were so happy that I got married and moved out was because at last they could have a proper everyday front room and a separate kitchen when I went! Anyway, this room being the hub of the household sometimes had its problems. I don’t know if you have ever experienced the smell of “Amami” or “Twink” home perm, but it made a stink bomb smell sweet. So when you were trying to get your dinner down your gullet at the same time as the next door neighbour was giving mum’s hair a perm with one of the above products, it was not a very pleasant experience. The room was also shared by our dog, cat and budgie. Almost everyone had a cat. This was due to the numerous mice from the derelict houses. They were always on the lookout for a new place to live.
These rooms were pretty spacious, and just as well really. They had to house the legendary ‘flap’, the kitchen table and chairs, two armchairs, a settee, and all the other household items that didn’t belong in the bedroom, or the sacred downstairs front room. There was also a fireplace and mantelpiece. We didn’t use the open fire in this room. We had a paraffin heater, which had its own special odour when first lit. This was later replaced with a four bar electric ‘Magi coal’ fire which, as the name implies, had a simulated coal fire effect with an orange bulb behind fibreglass coals.
As I mentioned previously, the front room was used only for special occasions and when we had visitors. Mind you, I think I spent more time in there than anyone else. I would sneak in when no one else was in the house for a quick concerto on the piano and explore the wonders of the slide-out cocktail cabinet and pink and blue musical Bakelite cigarette box. There were some old 78 rpm records in there with the wind-up cabinet record player. The only one that stuck in my mind was a song called "How bright everything seems"! I don't know why, but I have never forgotten the opening intro.
Unfortunately, many of these "special occasions" turned out to be funerals. This was when the house was invaded by men wearing suits and trilby hats, and a crowd of old women (they looked old to me!) dressed in black coats and hats with giant decorated hat pins who insisted that they were my aunts, and proceeded to slobber me all over, leaving heavy deposits of lipstick and face powder over my cheeks. At the time, I wondered why they all had the same smell. In later life I associated this with Gordon’s gin. The men stood in a group with their beer in their hands while the aunts sat around the room nattering and weeping together. This was until the alcohol started taking effect and the piano started up for a sing song. The joviality went on all night, interrupted only now and again by one of the aunts deciding that their "old man" was a no good lazy so and so, and helped by the gin she had consumed, decided to tell him so in front of everybody.
The good-bye kisses at the end of the evening were even worse than the welcoming ones. It seemed to go on forever, the slobbering of their darling nephew! It did have one advantage though. Many of them would be pressing a sixpenny piece or three penny Joey into my waiting palm as consolation for the suffering I was enduring!