I’ve lived in this house for 84 years. I was born in the back bedroom. I grew up here and when I married Herbert mother and father said we could have the house as a wedding present as long as they could have the back parlour. Father went thirty years ago and mother in 1999. Then my Herbert just three years ago. He’d suffered. For the last five years he couldn’t get out of his chair; Diabetes and COPD made life a misery for him, so he’s in a better place now. I miss him but I know it won’t be long. Most of my sand is in the bottom of the hourglass so it’s just a matter of waiting for the last few grains to drop through.
I’ve seen some changes in this street. I remember when the little slipper factory was still going. Most of us worked there at some time or another. That was my first job and that’s where I met Bessy. She was my best friend and we we had some fun together. Her mum and dad had the corner shop for donkey’s years but when she married Cyril they went off to the Isle of Man. We kept in touch by letter, then about five years ago I didn’t get a Christmas card, so I think she must have died. I did have a phone number somewhere but God knows where it’s gone. I must sort that sideboard out.
It was about 1965 when the change really started. I’d never seen a coloured person before and was quite surprised to see those bright orange and rose pink outfits fluttering past my front window. It felt a bit exotic at first. They never spoke. Then, one by one the faces I knew moved away and were replaced by more families from abroad.
We had some great Christmasses here. Nobody went without a Christmas Dinner because my mother used to borrow a trestle table or two from the church hall. She was a wonderful cook. I think the most we ever sat down was seventeen. We had to do it in two rooms. It was funny every time someone shouted “Please pass the gravy!” Somehow a meal for one doesn’t compare. I don’t bother now.
I wish I’d had kids. We tried but I couldn’t carry. I lost a little one at 20 weeks. He’d be in his fifties now. I say ‘he’; I don’t know whether it was a boy or a girl but I always wanted a boy. Herbert would have been a lovely dad. I can imagine them both toddling off down the street with their fishing rods, or going to a match. You used to hear the children’s voices out in the street. The lads would kick a ball up against the end house and the girls did skipping or hop-scotch on the road. No cars then you see. Now its like a ghost town. I could be dead for a month and nobody would be any the wiser.
There’s a rumour going round that they want to demolish these houses. That would be a shame. There ‘s so many memories in these walls. If I sit still and close my eyes I can hear the voices in my head. I know whatever they build won’t be a patch on these. Father told me we had three bombs drop in the next street during the war. The only damage we knew was mother’s teapot fell off the shelf. She was most displeased.
I wonder sometimes where they all went and what they’re doing now. That’s it. When change happens it happens so slowly you don’t really notice, but as the years have gone by the families I knew have all moved away, one by one. They built some new estates out on the edge of the city see, and they have gardens. I suppose if you’ve got little kiddies It’s nice to have a bit of grass for them to play on.
You know, time was when I could tell you the name of every single person in this street. I don’t know anybody now. They all look the same to me.
I had a knock on the door last month. I nearly jumped out of my skin. I never get visitors. Herbert put me a chain on. It was the man from the Labour Party. He asked if this is where Mr and Mrs Philpotts live, and I told him just Mrs. He asked if he could count on my vote in the election. I’ve always voted Labour. Mother was a Liberal but Father always said the future was with Labour. I wonder what he’d say now if he could see how the future turned out. Anyway, I told him to sling his hook. He laughed, but I told him I was serious. “You’ve made a big mess of this country. We had a lovely little community here. Where’s it gone?” He mumbled something about wealth distribution and how he’s created so many new jobs but I stopped him in his tracks when I said, “Hang on, it’s not about things you’ve done. We can all do things. It’s about people. It’s people that make a country great and it’s people that make communities, and you’ve broken them all up. I’m the last man standing here! Every one of these houses is foreign.”
He didn’t like that. It was on the tip of his tongue but I closed the door before he had chance to say it. They forget, these young kids, we’ve been here a long time. We can remember how things used to be.
I’d better go make a sandwich. I think I might still have half a jar of salmon paste.