My father Eddie, (or to give him his full name; Ernest Edgar Weaver), was a busy man during his life and especially during the 1970's, with 5 children all progressing well. Chief among my memories is that whenever I had a chance, I would cuddle up to him on the leather chesterfield couch. He had a particular smell (as Dads do), tobacco (cigarettes and cigars), scotch, aftershave and something I cannot quite put my mind to, but it was that smell that made you feel secure, that you were safe and that you were loved. I would rest my head against his (not slight) stomach and chest and as he talked would hear his voice through his chest, a deep booming sound that soothed.
|Eddie, somewhere abroad in Europe, whats going on with his hair though?|
I loved Xmas at our house, it was a beautiful home, (2 large living rooms, a fair sized kitchen, 4 bedrooms) and despite sharing a room with Richard and Julian, there was always space to play, alone or together, and not get in any ones way. The custom in our house was for pillow cases on beds for Santa to fill. Never in my memory, was that pillow case light on content. And there was always a Satsuma in there, along with books, and I was an avid reader when I was younger. All our relatives lived in Leicester and there were always presents from my mother’s sisters, Rosemary and Betty. It amazes me now that they were probably bought in August, wrapped and waiting for collection when we went over altogether.
I also never found them stashed in the house, (despite looking) and as Dad had an office just around the corner from our house, expect they were held there until required by Santa on the day of delivery. My brothers and I would be up early of course and would tear into our pillow cases for the goodies inside. A stocking holding chocolate, a book, a game, top trumps, cars, one year a battery operated Chieftain Tank, another year, a cowboy, horse and his kit, both of which I still have in the original boxes. Max, my son, now has the tank in his care, my daughter, Isabella, has the horse, but has managed to make it lame (snap it leg at the knee), through use.
I expect the following happened to all my brothers and my sister, but this is an abiding memory I have of my father. Every Xmas, from when I was around 10 years old, once the general raucousness of Xmas morning had died down, my Dad would find me and take me into the front room of our house. There, he would present me with a special gift, something he obviously put a great deal of thought into and as such it was something he particularly wanted me to take from him personally.
On one occasion it was a fantastic racing bike, a blue one, with the curved handle bars, 5 gears, black tape around the brake handles and a pump on the cross bar. Another year, it was a pair of Gola football boots, black with a white flash and another year a new football, Norwich City colours. The last one I got he produced from behind his back, in a small black case. It was my first watch, my own watch, a Timex, with a black strap, silver back and white face. It was the only time I cried when I got a present when I was a child, as it meant so much to me, it meant I was growing up (at last) but not fast.
The house was always full of pets, cats primarily, although there was a poodle, Mitzi, who came to Norwich from Leicester with us. I had a rabbit called August (!?) and he had his hutch just outside our back door. Just after Xmas 1976, I went out one morning to clean him out, refresh his straw and generally pay him some attention. He was a stiff as a board. He had died in the night. I went back into the house and found Dad, took him back out and showed August to him. He put his hand on my shoulder and explained what had happened, we wandered down the garden together, Dad with spade in hand and we picked a place where we could bury August. My Dad dug the hole, where the fish pond used to be before the goldfish froze the previous year (!) and we collected August from his hutch, placed him in bag, with some straw to keep him warm............ and laid him in the hole.
|August in my arms. |
Nice sandals and sock combination there.
I waited for Dad to start filling in the hole with soil and waited and waited. I looked up and he was stood next to me crying his eyes out. He was crying for me, stood there over August, saying goodbye. He was crying as he knew what I was feeling and he was so sorry for that. Desperately trying to find the right words and for once falling short "I" asked "him" if he was alright, he pulled me tight to him and held me for ages. We then both dried our eyes and covered up August and he held my hand as we walked back to the house.
I was an avid footballer. Richard and I would spend many summer evenings, and winter afternoons, playing football at the Recreation ground. We would collect friends from their homes on the way, or they'd collect us, including Andrew Bunn, Gary Harrison, Dale and Julian Wiseman, Richard and Patrick Holmes, Andrew and Christopher Riches and Andrew Lake. We'd play for ages, centres and headers, attack and defence. It marks a stark contrast to what parents allow their children to do nowadays, as even when on my own, I would not think of coming home until I could no longer see the ball being passed around. And the number of times my Mum would stand at the gates of our house, waiting to see my silhouette appearing on the rise of Earlham road as I neared home, I cannot count. She would be more worried of the reaction of my Dad to my not being at home in bed, than as to what other harm I might have come to! She would tell him I was in bed anyway and then sneak out and wait for me, a thick ear being my reward and fortunately for me, my only punishment.
Julian was also poorly as a child as he was born with Perthes disease, a condition where the femoral head (ball on thigh bone) breaks down and softens, causing a limp and other symptoms. There were many treatments dependent upon the severity of the illness, and through some recent research for this blog, it appears that Jules got the mother lode. He was either in a hospital bed with his leg in a sling, or home and in a leg brace. I smile now when I consider just how "mobile" Jules was, as I can still see him haring around the garden both in Leicester and in Norwich.
There are photographs of us children, in rough jeans and Guernsey jumpers, playing with Mitzi in Leicester, and there is Jules, one leg in a normal shoe the other leg with this Heath Robinson contraption that had a suspended shoe an inch or so above a rubber support, itself attached to a steel cage that ran up either side of the leg, to a leather cuff that fitted against his thigh muscle. Far from slowing the bugger down, he sped up and using the calliper as a weapon, and could deliver a stunning kick to the shins.
|Julian, plus Caliper (His kicking shins equipment)|
my Grandma Ada and myself circa 1971
My own and Richards shins and the impact scars, stand as testament to Julian's ability to dent bone with steel. Julian spent some time, once we had moved to Norwich, in the Jenny Lind Children's hospital, and I visited him there with Mum and Dad. He also had operations on his knee and his hip when a child and I never once saw him cry or moan, he just got on with it. As a reward, Mum and Dad took him to London, just them and him, to see the sights and we have wonderful pictures of Jules with Mum and Dad in Trafalgar Square, Pigeons ET AL.
Richard was a typical older brother, smart. By his teens, he had an amazing capacity for sarcastic commentary, would call me Joan-athan, which was guaranteed to kick off an argument, but all the same and probably despite his mates preferences, typically included me in most things he did. He had plenty of friends and was liked at school, (we all went to Avenues Infant and Junior schools and Earlham Comprehensive). He was also very protective, which was contrary to how he appeared to others, or made himself appear to others. I was always invited up to Earlham Park, where, behind the Elizabeth Fry home, was a large green lawn.
His friends, Jonathan and Jeremy Steer (who i worked for later in life at the Pickwick Pub in Norwich), Richard and I would play football for hours with me in goal and the other 3 blasting the ball toward me. Typically, these sessions involved a period where the fun of playing football would wear thin and the fun of beasting me would come to the fore. Looking back though, I loved being with Richard, he was grown up, a proper big brother (Mark also, but he was 10 years older than I) and I felt safe in his company, he never let the hidings others gave me go to far (ha ha)!
Richard and another couple of friends, Gary Pye and Jeremy Goodchild would frequent the Disco, held at the Roman Catholic Cathedral community centre, at the top of Earlham Road in Norwich. I remember all of them being good dancers, Gary especially being a great Disco Dancer. Initially, I was to young to go, but Richard became my introducer to music. He was very much into Northern Soul and Motown and still is, and would come home with a new 45' and play me the latest thing he'd heard or found. Although I was musically minded, I was not musically gifted and could not play an instrument to save my life, apart from smacking homemade drums, with broken drumsticks. I also fancied myself as a bit of a singer/songwriter, and used to sing to my Dad in the car.
By the time I was 14, Julian was 12 and Richard 16, life was pretty much in its groove. Helen and David were parents; Mark and Monica were settled and about to marry; Mum (who I will write about much more as this blog progresses), was managing to juggle being a housewife and mother, wife and support to my older sister and brother, along with a morning cleaning job (her holiday money) and Dad was going all out, working as hard as possible, providing as wonderful an upbringing for his children as possible and enjoying all the perks and benefits, such a wide network and respect could bring.
What on earth could go wrong..........................................?