At the start of the Second World War, my grandparents ran a fishmonger and greengrocers shop in Birkenhead. My Grandfather was also a fireman which meant he was not constricted into the army because being a fireman was a reserved occupation. Because my grandfather and grandmother were both at home during the war years they didn’t want their daughter, Beryl, evacuated to Wales as part of operation Pied Piper. This was despite Birkenhead being bombed heavily by the Germans because it was home to Camell Lairds and other industry contributing towards the war effort.
The first job I had when I left school was working for the pharmaceutical company ER Squibb & Sons, which is now called Bristol-Myers Squibb. I think the first job for anybody after leaving school is a difficult time in life because you slowly start losing contact with all your old school friends and start making friends in the “adult” world. Probably my first friend as an adult was a guy by the name of Geoffrey Hughes. I say friend but in reality it was probably a bit more like hero worship because Geoff was everything I wanted to be. He was fairly good looking and pretty handy with the girls and liked a drink or two. He was what you would call a typical man’s man of the time whereas I was only 17/18 and still wet behind the ears.
I don’t have many memories of you as my father. When I was very young and you were still married to Mum, you were always away with the Merchant Navy. As I got older, you and Mum split up and you moved in with your parents; my grandparents. This was probably the only time in my life when I saw you on a regular basis and we spent some great weekends sailing and hunting together. You taught me how to fire a shotgun and raise a sail although I have by now totally forgotten how. You even trusted me to sail the dingy back and forward to your yacht on my own while other kids my age where not. I always felt proud and trusted whenever they looked at me in envy.
I spent a great deal of time with my Grandfather when I was young. I used to go and spend my weekends at his house being totally spoilt and listening to some of the stories he would tell me when we were alone – or at least when my Grandmother was out of earshot. The stories he told me from his youth in Oldham and his years of running a shop in Birkenhead were always enthralling but I think my favourites were from the war. It always makes me laugh when I watch Only Fools And Horses on the telly because every time Uncle Albert mentions the phrase; “During the war…” everyone would run for cover fearing another of his war-time stories. I was the complete opposite and could listen to my Grandfather for hours.
When I was a youngster in the 1960s I spent a great of time with my Grandfather. We used to go shopping together in Liverpool and, when my Grandmother was out of the way working in a Thornton’s shop, we would get up to all kinds of mischief. I was always sworn to secrecy of course but being the age that I was, I couldn’t keep a secret to save my life. During one of our expeditions over to Liverpool he lost me in a tailor’s doorway and the memory of that day still haunts me even after all these years.
My daughter is a vegan. There is nothing I love more than eating a nice juicy steak and yet my daughter is a vegan. I enjoy my food and I hate to admit it but sometimes I think I actually live to eat; my daughter, on the other hand, eats to live. I have a habit of slouching instead of standing up straight. However, if I do make the effort to stand-up I am six foot two and yet my daughter is a mere five foot two. I love loud rock music, my daughter likes silly little pop songs. I am big and loud in company whereas my daughter is quieter (although she has her moments) and petite. I have often accused the hospital of presenting me with the wrong child at birth simply because I cannot think of anyone on this planet who I have less in common with.
Despite our differences, I think I get on with her better than I get on with anyone else. Taking our differences into consideration, I don’t know why. Sometimes friendships end because one side of the relationship says a word out of place and upsets the other. Yet, we often shout and scream at each other calling each other the most terrible of names – yet we just laugh it off.