The pressure cooker!
Somehow, in my memory, it always seems to have been on the stove. Every day when I came home from school, there it was, hissing and steaming, and I'd know it was boiled spuds. Again.
Of course, we didn't just eat boiled spuds, but that pressure
cooker stamped itself into my memory.
Mum's had a lot of stick for her cooking over the years,
but I can't honestly remember any of us having food poisoning (well, not until much later) – or ever going hungry. Since I now have kids of my own with healthy appetites, I can appreciate that that's not so easy to achieve. Of course, I probably didn't like everything put in front of me – what kid does? - and I seem to recall some serious disputes over brussel sprouts (which I now quite like) and cauliflower (which I still hate!). But I have much clearer memories of some of her triumphs, such as treacle tart or suet pudding!
The scariest memory I have is of Mum's bike. Back at the dawn of time, Mum and Dad both had bikes and I had a little chair that went on the back of Mum's. I can remember it very clearly – chrome metal frame, green plastic seat. When she put me into it, Mum always told me to keep my legs clear of the wheel. Consequently, I spent every bike trip holding my legs out as far as I could stretch them, in mortal fear of relaxing for a moment and having them ripped off by the spokes.
Transport improved when Dad learned to drive and we got our first car. It was a Vauxhall Wyvern – if anyone remembers those? I don't remember much about it, except that it was grey and seemed enormous to me. And that it had a bench seat at the front, as well as the back, which must have made it easier to fit everyone in. Especially since there were no seat belts then.
Us kids were quite impressed with Dad's mechanical ability. We thought he knew everything there was to know about cars. In retrospect, I'm more impressed with his ability to drive this monster. Years later he told me that it only had three forward gears and no synchro-mesh, which sounds quite challenging to me.
Mum didn't learn to drive for a while, but then she got a job as a District Nurse, which meant she had to. It also meant that the family got its first new car – a Ford Cortina, I think it was, in metallic blue. Very smart. It also came with seatbelts, but Mum refused to wear them. In fact, the Government had to pass a law making it illegal not to wear them just to get her to buckle up.
One use of the various cars we had was, of course, the summer holiday. Dad never liked to go to the same place twice – or perhaps we were never allowed back – so my early memories are bit jumbled up. I can't be sure where we were, but we did all the proper sea-side things. We went to beaches, had donkey rides, ate ice-creams, watched Punch & Judy shows. We were with Nana one year – Grandma Bidwell, that is, Mum's Mum – and she took me away from the Punch & Judy because she thought I would be scared by the crocodile. I was furious with her. But the angrier I got, the harder it was to explain, and the more convinced she was that I was having a panic attack or something. I never did get to see the end of the story.
One holiday I do remember more clearly is when we went to Morecombe, in Lancashire. It was particularly exciting because we actually stayed in a railway carriage, on a siding near the sea. I think they called them camper-coaches? Sort of like caravan made out of a railway carriage. I don't think Mum was impressed, as it was in a pretty grotty state and she had to spend the first day cleaning it!
As it happened, our holiday there strangely coincided with the last scheduled British Railways steam engine run (August 1968) Steam engines are one of Dad's life-long interests (the other being cricket), so it perhaps wasn't surprising that we were all bundled into the car one day and driven off to a stretch of railway line, high up on the moors, to see this historical event. I'm not sure what Mum thought of it, but we had a friend staying with us that year, an elderly neighbour called Mrs Wilkinson – Wilkie – and she thought it was quite mad. She was amazed when we got to this remote location, and found it packed with other people who had come to see this steam engine. She hadn't realised that there were so many mad people around.
Back at home, the Trembling household was slow to catch up with the rest of the world. It was years before we got a telly, and when we finally did, it was a tiny black and white portable. We got that just as everyone else seemed to be getting colour TV's. We'd watch favourite programs like 'Daktari', 'Batman' and 'Star Trek' (the original series). Then I'd have to question people at school about what colour things were supposed to be. In the early days, there was a strict rule about no TV on a Sunday. That was a problem when it came to watching 'Batman', because it was always a two-parter, shown on Saturday and Sunday. So I'd get to see the first episode, at the end of which either Batman or Robin or both would be in a desperate situation, about to be finished off by one of their enemies. Then on Monday, at school, I'd have to ask how they'd got out of it.
My early life was plagued with unfinished stories. Perhaps that's why I started writing my own!
Instead of TV on a Sunday, there was Church. This church, actually! Church was as much part of our lives as boiled spuds and summer holidays. We all went to Sunday School every week, of course. But more than that, we went to the services as well, though we were allowed to take paper and crayons so we could do some colouring during the sermon – an excellent way of getting through it. I sometimes wish I still could. Later on, I occasionally went out with Dad when he was preaching. I can even remember one of his sermons – he was talking about 'Elijah's Bonfire'. I was probably wondering if there were any fireworks.
Looking back, it's easy to get nostalgic. Of course, we remember the good bits, and forget the bad ones. But in truth, there were a lot a good bits, and even the bad bits aren't as bad as they seemed back then. We had a good childhood. I'm afraid we took Mum & Dad for granted, not appreciating the hard work it took to keep us all fed and clothed and mostly healthy. But that's what they did.
And they did more than that. They made a home. A place where we belonged.
We had our complaints and our tantrums and our disappointments. We didn't get all the things we wanted, and we didn't want some of the things we got. But we had all that we needed. We were loved, and we were secure, and as we grew up, we never had to question those things.
Mum, Dad – thanks for those years.