I grew up in a council house on a council estate. I never had the latest of anything and was always at least one step, if not more, behind my classmates on the trends. The only time I remember going to a shop to buy new clothes as a child was when I moved up to secondary school and some of my uniform was bought new. I remember being given a small amount of money, maybe a pound or two, at the start of the jumble sales in my grandparents’ village and using it to buy toys and bric-a-brac while Mum and Grandma would rummage through the clothes stall. Other than that our toys and clothes would come from charity shops or other jumble sales elsewhere. New toys were usually presents for birthdays or Christmas or perhaps as mementoes of holidays. I remember being bought a new toy when my brother was in hospital having fallen out of the bedroom window, but still being envious of the new toys he was bought.
We never ran out of things to play with and we always had enough clothes to wear. In fact we probably had more toys, games and clothes bought second-hand than a lot of our friends had new. On Christmas morning we would wake up to full stockings with as many little toys, chocolate coins, sweets and little trinkets in as would fit and then when everyone was awake we would go to our grandparents’ living room and there would be our main presents, often the thing we had asked Santa for, and a big sack full of other toys and gifts. We would sometimes have presents from Grandma’s friends and from our aunt, uncle and cousins on Mum’s side. The only thing that was missing on Christmas mornings then was our parents, who both worked in hotels at that point and would have to work on Christmas Day. That did mean that we would repeat some of Christmas Day on Boxing Day, opening presents from our parents and anything from Dad’s side of the family.
We never went on holiday abroad. In fact only twice before I was thirteen did we go on holiday outside Yorkshire, once to Great Yarmouth and once, when I was twelve on our last holiday with Grandma, to Prestatyn. We went to Cayton Bay a few times, to Primrose valley once or twice and to Blue Dolphin once. Always us and Grandma in a caravan. Yes, I was sometimes jealous of friends who had been to Spain or somewhere that seemed far off on their holidays, but we made the most of our holidays. We loved the ‘Tiger Club’ and would be singing the songs we learnt there throughout the holiday and for weeks after. I can still remember some of the songs and the dances we learnt including ‘The Time Warp’ and ‘Wig-Wam Bam’. I did sometimes wish that I could pack myself in Grandma’s luggage when she went to Germany to see my aunt, uncle and cousins. I would have loved to see the country as much as seeing my family.
My parents weren’t always in work and even if they were we would usually be considered a ‘low-income family’. I can remember times when we would be on free school dinners and maybe wouldn’t get another two good meals at home. On a weekend when we stayed with Grandma we usually had our three square meals but during the week it wasn’t always easy. I remember times when I was hungry but there wasn’t anything else to eat.
Weekends and school holidays with Grandma were often fun. We would quite often go to the museums in town, usually the ones where you didn’t have to pay but sometimes we would be treated to a visit to a museum where Grandma would pay the entry price. If we didn’t go into town we might go to Beningbrough Hall, where Grandma worked part-time as a cleaner, and we would roam the gardens and the playground there as if they were ours and we explored every corner. If there was a special themed day then we would join in, dressing up as Edwardians, Victorians and even suffragettes or turning up loaded down with teddies for the Teddy Bear’s Picnic. We joined in with the nature trails and Easter Egg hunts and came to know the hall as well as we knew the gardens. There was always the walk up the river to Linton Locks to be enjoyed and watching the boats go through the locks was always fun, so long as we stayed away from the edge. The village where my grandparents lived provided a safe place for us to go out and play, to explore and learn to ride our bikes and scooter. The playing field was a favourite haunt and we even had our own ‘beach’, a sandy spot of the river bank that we shared with the cows.
We could never boast of having the money to spend on all the latest gadgets and gizmos, we never quite managed to keep up with the trends and maybe, sometimes, we did feel like our friends had things better than we did. In retrospect though I can see that I had the childhood I’d like to be able to give my children when they come along. We were never spoilt, pampered or pandered to unlike some of today’s children. We were also not made into grown ups before our time, except perhaps by certain events that we could not avoid. We were children that were allowed to be children and if in ten years or so people look at my children and can say the same of them I’ll be very happy.