Chapters

Cleethorpes 1954

The Sheffield Blue Baby

Al Jolson enjoys a come back. Raymond becomes a big fan so I grow up to the sounds of 'Mammy'.

Mavis is still attending hospital due to her heart condition and now cannot walk very far without becoming out of breath and turning a pale shade of blue and now has to be pushed around in a wheelchair. She becomes known as 'The Sheffield Blue Baby', and becomes a bit of a celebrity. The Sheffield Telegraph and Star have a club called the 'Gloopers' and Mavis is an honorary member, they have a strange looking mascot called Gloops. The club is run by 'Aunty Edith', who takes a special interest in Mavis and writes about her quite often on the gloopers page, she encourages other gloopers to write to Mavis. There are always photographers and reporters around, and at a very young age I start to meet the 'Stars' of the day - Frank Randall, Al Read and Albert & Les Ward - one advantage of being the sister of a 'famous' person! On one occasion, the whole family was the special guests of comedian, Frank Randall, and invited to the Empire Theatre, where a 'box' had been reserved for us. We felt like Royalty!

Unfortunately, for the most part, we can only afford to sit in the 'Gods'. A special trip to the Empire Theatre to see a Christmas pantomime - and I'm terrified! We have to queue for what seems like hours, then we have to climb so many steps, I feel my little legs will give out before we get there. Mum practically lifts me off my feet in an attempt to get me to the top! Now for the terrifying bit - we are so high up; the stage appears to be the size of a pinhead and the slant of the rows so steep that, as we make our precarious way to our seats, we almost tread on the heads of the people seated on the row in front. I sit as far back in my seat as I can, clinging tightly to Mum's hand, (and I'm wishing that seat belts had been invented!)

During the interval, Mum asks if I want to go and get an ice cream from the lady standing at the end of our row with her tray of delights, but there is absolutely no way I am leaving my seat, the smallest movement in the wrong direction, and I shall topple over every ones heads on my way down to that tiny stage a million miles below. I want to go home. I've decided I don't like pantomimes, fat, ugly men dressed up, supposedly as women, shout silly things to the audience, and I don't understand any of the jokes. Albert and Les Ward sing a silly song about a hole in their bucket, which the audience find highly amusing. I like the singing and the dancing - but I still want to go home!

Aged seven, we move to Colley Road, on the other side of Sheffield, and into a brand new council house on the huge, sprawling Parson Cross Estate. Our house is known as 'the one with the big tree'. Although we live next to and opposite 'fields' (actually waste ground), there are no trees or shrubbery of any kind, as all the houses are new, the gardens have yet to mature. But we have a huge tree in our back garden, which Maurice is required to shin up at regular intervals, to rescue all the local moggies!

Richard Page is the young curate at St Paul's Church, every time he visits our house, I tug on his sleeve, vying for his attention - I have two older sisters and two older brothers, who he would much rather talk to. I may be young, but I recognize a handsome young man when I see one, and Richard Page is certainly very handsome!! (And one day he will marry me!) He also runs the church youth club, and I beg him to let me join, but the answer is always the same, "sorry, you're to young". A refrain that will continue to echo in my ears for years to come...

Mavis continues to go to London for tests and now she is to have an operation to plug up the hole in her heart, it is all pioneering stuff, and no one knows how successful it is going to be. The idea is that they will take the pulse from her left wrist (no one thinks to ask, so they do not know that Mavis is left handed...) and insert this small piece of muscle into the hole in her heart, thus preventing the blood from going the wrong way - the blood will now circulate the heart correctly and be oxygenated. Mavis will not be completely cured, it is intended to prolong and improve the quality of her life. She has been told that she will never be able to lead a 'normal' life, get married or have children - but the doctors have not reckoned on Mavis's amazing tenacity and desire to be just like everyone else - she will do all these things!

Mum 1951 To be near Mavis, Mum takes a job as an auxiliary nurse at the Hammersmith Hospital, where Mavis will be operated on. Barbara and me are going to stay with Uncle Walter and Aunty Ena at Stannington, on the other side of Sheffield. I hate changing schools; it's awful being new and not having a special friend. Worse, I find that the lessons are all so different too, and find myself consistently at the bottom of the class - this is not where I am used to being and I hated every minute of being at that school. Barbara seems to have adapted all right, I try to hang around with her at playtime but she wants to be with children her own age. I am totally miserable! Aunty Ena and Uncle Walter have plenty to say about my poor schoolwork - especially my terrible handwriting! But there are some good moments - bilberry picking for instance, we go on to the nearby moors and pick tons of bilberries for Aunty Ena to make into the most amazing steamed bilberry pudding - I still dream about it! There's a fete on in the village and a fancy dress pageant, we decline to take part but enjoy seeing all the others, we like the ones dressed up as the Bisto kids best, (they used to feature on the Bisto gravy box and were very popular characters) and sure enough they won!

After several weeks Mavis comes home - and what a homecoming!! The papers have a field day, and Mavis's story is splashed across them all. She is feted by all and sundry in Sheffield and she has a special party - she now has a new birthday to celebrate - July 11th, when she was given a new lease of life. Mum and Dad have bought her a super red bicycle as an incentive for her to get really well, but it is me'n Barbara who will be doing most of the riding on it.

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