My grandfather bought my father a garage on the corner of Prince’s End High -Street. Behind the garage was an area known as the Lost City, full of -character and back-street abortions. Although a rough area known for street fights, money was to be made there. Known as Laws of Tipton, which sold a variety of camping equipment, guns, radios, electrical fittings, dart sets, fishing tackle, cigarettes, petrol and oil. People had goods on hire purchase through credit from the Practical and the Provident. At one stage, the garage helped to run three houses. My grandfather therefore sold his coach business, to run the garage with my father.
PART 1: THE EARLY DAYS
A family wanted a bicycle for their seven year old disabled daughter for Christmas. She had moderate learning difficulties. Her face had been badly burnt due to being scolded as a baby. They had been turned down by both the Practical and the Provident. Local shops would not give them any credit for goods.
Father had them in his office, as someone had traded an old bicycle in for a new one. At least four hire purchase companies had turned them down for credit but he said that he would stand them himself. They had to pay him five shillings a week towards the cost of the bicycle till the balance was cleared.
He then took them into the back of the garage where Jack, who repaired bicycles, was working on the bicycle. They choose transfers for the bicycle. My father thought he would never see them or the cycle again. But, the child would turn up every Sunday, riding the bicycle. with two shiny half-crowns towards the cost of the bicycle. The payment was always made on time.
A TIME OF CHANGE
I walked through Prince’s End with my grandfather; it was cobbled streets, with fields by the railway crossing. These fields later become housing estates. When the road was widened, the old post office vanished along with the butcher’s slaughter house and hardware stores, to be replaced by a shopping area. My family decided to move to Kingswinford from Dudle. I can remember my mother carrying me on her shoulders to meet father from work when we used to live on the Birmingham new road by the Wrens Nest Dudley, a noted beauty spot. She would take me to Raymond’s in Wolverhampton to have my hair cut and styled.
But all this changed with the move to Kingswinford. She lost interest in the home. So my grandmother Elsie became my mother taking me to buy school uniforms. I missed the mother who ran errands for the neighbours and took me to visit relations on both sides of the family. I felt very withdrawn and other children teased me.
One day I went to visit grandmother and grandfather, thinking that they only had the one child, my father. However, I learned that Aunt Sally was staying with them together with my cousins Joe and Brian. Suddenly life took on a new meaning, at the age of seven.
Aunt Sally would take us for walk in the woods behind the houses where we lived in Summer Drive. That weekend become fun: the cousins spoke with a cockney accent, and I felt like a princess. Joe wanted to ride the bicycle that I had gotten for my birthday, a blue and red bicycle with balancers to steady it. Grandfather told me to Joe the cycle, and he was thrilled with and rode it for most of the weekend,even falling off the one time to rip his best suit .
The local children stopped mocking me about being Christine Truman the tennis girl, dressed in white shorts and plimsolls, when Brian came on the scene. When one lad insulted me, Brian grabbed sat on him and slapping him across the face. The lad’s mother, Mrs Jackson, was not having any one hitting her favourite son. She was up Summer Drive like an avenging angel, screaming abuse at my grandfather for letting the incident happen and pointing her finger at my grandfather and the cousins. Grandfather just leaned back on the bonnet of his green Rover, taking in the scene. He told her that Brian was just defending my honour. The next day, Joe upset my grandfather and hid in the car boot. Grandfather drove all around the streets looking for him, until he heard a noise from within the car boot.
The bicycle I thought was lost forever turned up the next day outside grandmother and grandfather’s house. The cousins had gone back to London with Aunt Sally.
A TIME FOR DECISIONS
The 1970s came. I wonted to stay on at school, but Elsie had other ideas about that and suggested that I attended a secretarial course at college. I was an outdoors person and did not feel that I was suited to secretarial work.
Father rang the school to say that I was leaving. Things didn’t work out with the college and the secretarial course. I ended up working at the garage, doing a variety of different jobs, from serving petrol and dealing with customers, to buying accessories and putting pedals on the bicycles.
PART 2. PHOTOGRAPH
During the late 1970s I still worked at the garage, and managed to have a social life with my friends. We would meet at the Cross Pub at Kingswinford, dressed in long dresses from the charity shops or from C&A Stores. A friend, Kevin, used to walk me home from the pub. It was just a quick kiss. Looking back, I should have made more effort.
After grandfather passed away, Elsie developed dementia, and my sister needed her own bedroom. So I lived in my grandmothers flat while grandmother was at a residential home in Wolverhampton. I still worked at the garage and found time to visit Elsie every day at the home. I did her personal washing and bed linen. When Elsie died, the flat got left to father he sold. I bought a flat in Cosley.
My father and brother could not agree over the running of the garage, and so it got sold in the late 1980s. I always thought that the garage could have been rented as a factory, but father had other ideas. I began training as a care assistant, attending a variety of courses.
My parents divorced and father went to live with my brother, whilst mother bought a house with my sister. I lived in Coseley from the late 1980s till 1998. My work then took me to Essex where I became a live-in carer for a gentleman in London whom I helped to sort out his tenancy and his rights as a sitting tenant. It gave me the initiative to help others. I meet other single people, joining organisations to gain more insight into my work. A clairvoyant said that I would write a book.
When my mother died I found a message on the Internet saying “write the book you know you want to”. I then got the urge to visit Mark Bolan’s grave at Barnes in West London. It was like a summers evening when I arrived there although February, the next day was very cold and wet. I will take this as my sign.