This is my Dad in his Robin Reliant. Also in the photo is a little me, along with my two older brothers and my cousin. I’d say it was taken around 1971-72 and I found it in my mum’s photo album.
When I was little my Dad had a Robin Reliant and it was his pride and joy.
I loved the weekends when my Dad would take me out in his car. On a Saturday he would get me to ask one of my friends or my cousin and we would go to the park or the bluebell woods to play. He would be so patient while we would run around playing or making dens in the woods. Then on Sundays he would take me to the pub while Mum cooked Sunday lunch. My favourite pub was the Merritt’s Brook, there was a field at the back with horses and we would stand at the fence feeding them grass from our hands. Or we would go to the brook that ran along side and if it was warm enough I could paddle in the water.
When I was born my brothers were already teenagers (I think I may have been a bit of surprise!) and as our home only had three bedrooms I had to share my Mum and Dad’s room. My eldest brother got married and moved out when I was five years old and then I had my own bedroom. I didn’t like it much though and I would sneak into Mum and Dad’s room and get into bed with them. I remember being squashed in-between them. I think my claustrophobia was already present as I would have to have one leg out of the blanket or I’d feel trapped. I do remember bedtimes when Dad would tell me a story, usually an old classic like Little Red Riding Hood, or Sleeping Beauty. Sometimes he would draw me picture, I remember he used to like to draw ballet dancers or cowboys.
When I was seven my Mum became pregnant again. I was with my auntie at home while she was in hospital giving birth. The phone rang and my auntie told me I had a baby brother. I cried so much, I really didn’t want a brother, I wanted a baby sister. I was devastated and wanted them to take him away. I did love him eventually, but I still think today that life would have been so much better had he been a girl.
His life seemed to hang by a thread, he had a traumatic birth that he nearly didn’t survive. Then he got really sick at just a few months old and had to spend even more time in hospital. And one night we were all sitting watching television and my baby brother was in his carry cot on the table by the window. Suddenly Mum got out of her chair and picked him up and I remember my Dad saying ‘why have you picked him up while he was sleeping?’ Then suddenly the window smashed and the glass filled the carry cot. Right where my brother was laying just a few seconds before was a broken bottle! The neighbours were having a drunken brawl and our broken window had been the result. My mum could never explain why she picked up my brother when she did but she probably saved his life.
When I was nine my Dad worked the night shift at a local car factory. When he came home in the morning he would leave me half a packet of polo mints and on one morning a week I would also get a Beano comic. We still went out at the weekends, after dropping Mum and my little brother off at my Nan’s. One evening, just before my Dad went off to work, my Auntie arrived with an offer. It was eight weeks before Christmas and my auntie worked for a credit agency. She said that Mum could have some vouchers to spend at an open evening in Woolworths and then pay for them weekly. I knew Mum was nervous about asking Dad, he didn’t like credit, but she was thrilled when he said yes. After he’d gone to work my other auntie and my Nan came around and they celebrated with tea and cake. They were talking about how fabulous Christmas was going to be when they realised that Mum had run out of sugar so me and my cousin were sent to the corner shop to get some.
When we got back from the shop there was a police car outside my home and my next door neighbour was waiting for us. She ushered me and my cousin in her house and told us we had to wait there for a while. It seemed like forever. Normally, when I was with my cousin you couldn’t shut us up we were so chatty, but we sat in silence, neither of us knowing what was going on. Eventually we were told we could go back home. That’s where my memory stops. I can’t remember going home or what happened next. I just know that it was the day my Dad had died on the way to work.
I didn’t go to my Dad’s funeral, instead, me and my cousins stayed at my nan’s house with my uncle. He kept us occupied by holding a talent show and we all had to get up and perform. When it was my turn I sang ‘I can Sing a Rainbow’ and now every time I see a rainbow I think of my Dad.
This is our family grave, my Mum and Dad, my Nan and my little brother all rest here now.