All good things must come to an end, our nice time in Blackpool being one of them. It was time to finish packing our cases and set off home. We had arrived by train, and would be leaving the same way. Maurice and Tim were going in the opposite direction as they had to meet some people in Birmingham. Then they were flying from Birmingham (second largest city in England according to Maurice) to Lyon. I still was uncomfortable about that bit, especially because we didn’t have a phone at home and he couldn’t phone to say he was safely there. I am glad they didn’t offer to give my mum and me a ride home because cars made me sick and it would be a long car ride from Blackpool to Summerton, which is where I lived. They did drop us at the train station though, even parked their car and came into the station with us. Maurice took me off to get some sweets for my journey. I looked back over my shoulder as we walked to the sweet shop and saw Tim and my mum kissing. Yuk! I wished I hadn’t looked. He did make her very happy though, which was nice because I knew she had been lonely for a long time. We had left my real dad when I was four, he was mean and used to beat my mum and scare my brothers. I would hide behind chairs with my eyes tightly shut and my hands over my ears. He even killed my kitten, he told me a ladder had fallen on it, but I knew he had killed it. He would come home from the pub drunk and smash things. I had seen him a couple of times since we left him, but he didn’t really want to see me, he just asked me questions about my mum. In the end I said I didn’t want to see him anymore, I think my mum was relieved.
We reached the sweet shop, and I couldn’t believe my eyes, there were all sorts of sweets and rock and toffee, more than I had ever seen in one place in my life. I liked everything about this place! Maurice bought me six pink sticks of Blackpool candy rock. He told me I could give some to my friends in school. Everyone loved pink minty candy rock. He told me to choose some sweets for me and some for my mum. I chose iced caramels for me and sugared almonds for my mum. Maybe the train journey wasn’t going to be so boring after all. As we walked back to the platform, the train was pulling in. Not many people got on or off so it wouldn’t stop for long, I gave Maurice a big hug, and then looked at Tim. He looked like he didn’t know what to do, but then he took my hand and gave it a squeeze and told me to look after my mum and be good. That seemed like a funny thing to say, but not as funny as yesterday when Doris and Alfie thought he was my dad. I started laughing. Tim and Maurice helped us put our cases on the train and we found some seats, with a table between them and my mum and I sat facing each other. She had to face the way she was going because going backwards made her feel sick. We had just sat down when the train started pulling slowly away. Tim blew a kiss, at my mum I think, not me. Maurice waved and pulled funny faces. “Mum I really like Maurice” I said. She smiled “I know you do pet, how about Tim, you don’t like him?” “He’s OK!” I told her and she smiled. “We may be seeing a lot more of him” she said. When she said that I got a shiver running all the way down my spine, not because I didn’t like Tim, but I felt like something walked over my grave. I pulled the sweets out of the plastic bag I was carrying and handed my mum the sugared almonds. “Oh yummy, my favorites” she said. I don’t know why she liked them, they were just almonds covered with really hard sugar. I popped an iced caramel in my mouth, now that was a sweet! It was wonderfully chewy toffee, covered in powdered sugar. No one could resist that taste. My mum was reading the Sunday paper as we chugged across the countryside. Our train would take us to Darlington, and then we had to get a bus from there to Summerton. Quite a journey, but that was OK because while we were travelling we were still on vacation. I wasn’t in the mood for going home yet, or going to school the following day.
I sat and looked out of the window for a while, there wasn’t much to see, the sound of the train was lulling me to sleep so I put my head forward on the table and dozed. Maybe it was the position I was sleeping in, or the movement of the train, but I felt like I was fighting with someone in my sleep. I felt like I was pushing something away from me. I kept seeing faces of people I didn’t know, contorted in fear, screaming silently. I tried to wake up, but couldn’t. I felt like the train was flying through the air and everyone was being thrown around, their heads were bobbing and lurching as though they were on a roller coaster. I tried to push the dream away and wake up, but it had a hold on me. I saw the little girl again, the one from the beach, from the sunstroke dream. She was reaching out for me from the very back of the train. It didn’t look like a train anymore, everything was all wrong. I reached out to her and she got further and further away, both of her arms were reaching out to me, and then she was gone.
The sound of a whistle woke me up, we were pulling out of a station, I couldn’t see the name because we were picking up speed. I looked across at my mum, who had also been sleeping. She looked comfortable and relaxed. She wasn’t dreaming about train crashes, I could tell. I had some awful dreams, even when I didn’t have sunstroke. The little girls face haunted me, it seemed so familiar to me now. I could see it in my head even when I was awake. I looked out of the train window again, the scenery had changed and we sped past houses now and churches. I hoped we hadn’t gone past our stop, and then I remembered we couldn’t as the train ended its journey in Darlington. I suppose we could have already reached Darlington and be on our way back to Blackpool again. I think I might like that. I thought about my summer holiday, it had been a lot of fun. It had been a change from my usual life of school, hand me down clothes and sitting waiting for my mum to come home from work, or sitting at the house she worked in. That wasn’t so bad because I pretended I was one of the people who lived there. I often felt jealous of my school friends because they had a mum and a dad and lots of aunties and uncles and grandparents to spoil them. This week while I was on holiday I had lots of attention, posh meal, dances, I had had the time of my life. I think I did want to see more of Tim because good things happened when he was with my mum. It was funny that someone had thought he was my dad though. My mum was fast asleep still so I pulled her newspaper over and looked at it, I was very good at reading and read lots of books, many more than most kids of my age did. Newspapers were boring usually, but I saw Blackpool mentioned on the page that was open. There was a picture of that funny pop group with the skinny singer. ‘The Rolling Stones’, they had been in there the same time as me! They had been doing a concert there and got into a fight, they had been told to never come back. That was awful, not being able to go back to Blackpool, they needed to learn how to behave themselves. My Aunty Laura didn’t like the Rolling Stones, she said Mick Jagger was a bad boy and should be locked up because of the way he danced. Maybe they didn’t like the way he danced in Blackpool and that’s why the fight started! Who knows? I didn’t like the way he sang at all. I liked the Beatles. My mum opened her eyes and smiled. “Reading the paper now? You are growing up aren’t you?” She stretched and popped another sugared almond into her mouth. Then she looked at her watch. “We should be in Darlington in half an hour, lets hope the train is on time because we only have half an hour to get to the bus station”. We could get to the bus station in ten minutes because it was down hill to the bus station. A big hill too. I forgot we had a case to carry and a huge bag. We would make it though. My mum looked at me and said “Maybe we will get a taxi” That sounded like an excellent idea to me!
The train pulled into Darlington station bang on time. British Rail was a little more reliable in those days. We found one of those trolley things and pushed it to the front of the station, where the Taxi rank was. A couple of big black Taxi’s were there waiting for customers. We walked to the one at the front and the cabbie jumped out to help us with our cases. It was less than a mile to the bus station, and we got there in just a few minutes. My mum paid the taxi driver and we dragged our cases into the bus station. Our bus was there so we pulled the cases up the steps and found ourselves a seat, the driver wasn’t there yet so we just sat on the bus and waited. My mum put her arm around me and gave me a hug. “That was a nice holiday” she said “you were a good girl”. I wondered why I would be anything other than good, I had been on the beach, eaten great food, had Blackpool rock and fish and chips, Italian ice cream, and tried my very first pizza. Why would I want to be anything other than good?
One or two other passengers climbed on the bus but that was all as this bus was never full, it went through several small villages, and no one strayed far from home on Sundays. It ran what was called a ‘Sunday Service’. During the week it was a little busier with people coming to and from work, but on a Saturday it was mainly people visiting family in town. The driver got on in his black ‘bus driver uniforms’. Those uniforms looked so hot and uncomfortable, it seemed silly that they wore them, but I suppose it was so we all knew he was the bus driver. My mum went and paid for us, “one and a half to Somerton” she said. Why was I a half? It always made me laugh. I think it was good being a half because it didn’t cost so much, but it always sounded funny. When everyone had paid the diver started the bus up and pulled away, when he pulled out of the big bus station I expected to squint in the bright sunlight, but the sun was hiding behind the clouds now and a light drizzle had started. Yes, our holiday was definitely over. I felt a little sad now, as we slowly drove through the deserted town centre, a far cry from the busy hubbub I had grown used to in Blackpool over the past week. We drove through the deserted market place, empty deserted market stalls lined up looking like metal dinosaur skeletons. There were not many people out today, probably all at home keeping out of the rain. Darlington wasn’t very big, and soon we were in the country side again. There weren’t many stops on the way home, and not many villages to pass through, apart from Walton, it was one I knew well as I had a friend who lived there. Her mum was the housekeeper for Walton Castle, and it was haunted! I know because I had once been locked inside a room there and was very scared. The castle had been a hospital during the Second World War and I was excited to be given a tour of the place. It was incredibly pretty, with beautiful paintings and ornate ceilings that looked like intricately decorated wedding cakes turned upside down. I had been left in one particular room on my own while my friend went and answered the telephone. I wasn’t left in the room for long, but it was long enough. The big heavy door had slammed shut all by itself and the room got very cold and fuzzy looking. I had felt like I was looking at everything through frosted glass. I had felt like someone was in the room with me, but couldn’t see anyone, and although it was daylight, it felt DARK. I had wanted to get out of that room so badly, but I couldn’t move, couldn’t even raise my arm. The whole incident only lasted three or four minutes before the door opened and my friend Shirley appeared, smiling like nothing had happened. The minute she opened the door, I bolted out, right past her and didn’t stop running until I got to the big front door, which was standing open. I ran straight through it and kept on running down the big driveway to the bus stop, where I sat for the next hour, refusing to budge. Shirley, her older sister, her handsome brother (yes he was young enough to be called handsome) and her mum tried to persuade me to come back, but I would not, so instead they brought my coat and bag to me, along with a sandwich and a drink, and sat with me on the side of the road until the bus came. They asked me what had happened and I had been so scared I would not talk about it. That had not been a sunstroke dream at all, that had been a real life broad daylight scare!
As the bus drove past Welton, my mum put her arm around me. “That’s the place you got the bad scare isn’t it”. I didn’t answer, just nodded my head and looked at the little castle from a distance. It looked like a mini castle. It wasn’t huge, like the castles you paid money to walk around. It was more like a big manor house built like a castle. My mum worked in a big manor house, which had seven bedrooms, and I guessed if you stuck four of those houses together, they would make up the size of this castle. Where my mum worked was light and airy though (apart from the long corridor that connected the bedrooms, and the one directly below it that connected the ground floor rooms), this place was dark on the outside, and although the inside rooms were light, with big windows, darkness was lurking! I was glad that the bus didn’t stop there, that castle gave me the shivers.
The bus travelled slowly along the country roads, it had stopped raining, but was still gloomy. It was hard to tell what time of day it was, but it must be getting near to tea time because I was starting to feel hungry. When I felt hungry on a bus, it made me feel sick too. My mum looked at me and saw how pale I was getting “Don’t worry, we will be home in about twenty minutes” she told me. I knew she was right because we were on the road I travelled every day when I went to school. There was the big tree that served as a bus stop when I came home in the evenings. The bus didn’t go right down to my school, I had to get off and then walk another half mile or so, which was ok most days. One day in the spring, that had been a bit of an experience too, I had been walking to school, on my own, during a bad thunder-storm, it was a dry storm which were sometimes very dangerous. Lightening had struck the ground right in front of me and knocked me off my feet. I think it had knocked me out for a while because when I came too and looked up, there was a horse standing right there beside me. I knew it wasn’t going to step on me because it was Kit, Freddie Black’s cart horse, I fed it often enough. I heard footsteps and Freddie appeared beside it. “What are you doing sleeping in the middle of the road?” he had asked me. He helped me up and picked up my satchel for me. I told him the lightning had hit the ground and knocked me over. He laughed hard and said he had heard everything now! He gave me a ride on his cart all the way to school. I was glad he did because when we got further along the road ‘Ringo’ the mean Alsatian from the farm had got loose and was running up and down the road barking and growling. I was terrified of that dog. Freddie cracked his whip at it so it didn’t worry his horse. I had felt very special when I arrived at school that day, the bell hadn’t gone for lessons yet, and the kids playing outside saw me arrive at school in the ‘Hos and Cart’. Everyone loved riding with Freddie.
I was so lost in my thoughts I hadn’t noticed we had passed the road ends, and the tip, and the bus was slowing down by our house. There were no bus stops in Sommerton, only a little bus shelter outside the pub, the bus just stopped where you asked it to. The red telephone box was the land mark the bus looked for. The bus driver got from behind the wheel and helped my mum get off the bus with her big case. Bus drivers were friendly back then and usually drove on the same route, so they knew you by first name. My oldest brother Jim, was a bus driver for a while. The bus pulled away and my mum stood there for a few seconds, maybe like me, she didn’t want her holiday to be finished. “Ok Chicken” she said “Let’s go!” We started to walk across the gravel to our house. We lived on the far end of a row of three houses. I liked ours the best because it had its own private walled garden, the other two houses had to share a garden and entry way. The three houses were whitewashed and didn’t have many windows facing this way which was towards the road, the all faced the other side where the gardens were, and looked over the fields and the little wood at the end of our garden. They all belonged to the farm and the other two were inhabited by farm workers and their families. My mum was special, because she worked inside the farm-house. She cooked and cleaned and made beds, but they treated her really well, and were nice to me too. Most of my clothes came from there and even though they were worn, they were nice clothes.
We got to our house and walked around the side to the door that opened into the kitchen, this is the one we used the most. My mum took out her big key and opened the door, you had to push it hard as sometimes it jammed, so she used her shoulder and pushed the door open. Home sweet home! There was a note on the table. ‘Pop round when you get home, I have some milk and bread for you’. It was from Mrs. Hodges, the lady my mum worked for. We didn’t have a fridge back then, everything was kept in a larder, which had stone floors and was cold, but not cold enough to leave milk in for a week. We emptied all of the dirty clothes out of the case, onto the kitchen floor, ready for washing, and then I helped carry the case upstairs. We quickly put everything away. The big clock on the wall said it was seven o clock. No wonder I was hungry. My mum told me to get a wash and get ready for bed, while she went around to Mrs. Hodge’s and picked up the bread. I ran some water in the bath, not too much, just enough so I could sit in it and get a good wash, and then I got dried and put on my nightie. Just as I got downstairs my mum came back. She looked tired, but was carrying a big basket of food. Mrs. Hodges was good to us. I think she felt sorry for my mum because she wasn’t married anymore. Mrs. Hodge’s husband had died a few years earlier, but she was rich, and had a big house she shared with three grown up sons and two grown up daughters (when the daughters weren’t at boarding school), she knew how my mum struggled so she often helped out. I sat at the kitchen table and waited for something to eat. The basket contained a ham shank with lots of delicious looking meat on, crusty homemade bread, peas pudding, a pat of farm butter and some fresh dairy milk. It didn’t take long to make ham and peas pudding sandwiches, washed down with hot tea. I felt so much better. After eating we cleared the pots into the sink and then sat down on the little sofa and watched our favorite show on the little black and white television. ‘Sunday Night at the London Palladium’ with Jimmy Tarbuck. I loved watching this, especially ‘Beat the Clock’. I liked a lot of things on the telly, but Sunday Night at the London Palladium had to be my favorite. At the end, everyone stood on a big carousel that turned, and they all waved. The women wore fancy swimsuits that were glittery, and they wore feathers in their hair. The women had a name, I think it was the ‘Tiller Girls’, they were all blonde and very beautiful, like film stars.