from Ted Marriott
I was born at 7, Abbey Bridge, Lenton, Nottingham, in 1940, a couple of months after the Battle of Britain. My earliest memories are of happy contented days in the company of my mum Gladys and her mum Annie, my Grandma Smith, or Nannan as I used to call her. Contented would be the best way to describe my first five years of life. I was loved and protected by two of the most loving people ever to walk this earth. When in the company of these two ladies I felt wanted and was hugged often on a daily basis.
Was it also because of the war and the uncertainty of future events?
Was it because my dad was away in the forces and at war, like thousands of others?
Was it because I was the only child…?
Who knows? The main thing was… and I will always appreciate and remember…I was loved.
I suppose the earliest memories that always stay with you are the ‘traumatic’ ones, such as injuries and accidents. My earliest memories are from my nursery days in 1943/4. As both my mum and Nan had part time jobs, I was put into the local nursery called “Merrivale, on Clifton Boulevard, Dunkirk. This was a wooden sports pavilion that was never used for its intended purpose for some reason
Merrivale Nursery, Clifton Blvd, Dunkirk (1989)
In the cloakroom were hooks with tiny pictures above each one. I was allocated the picture of three cherries on my coat hanger and blanket, and was to remember to only use the spaces in the cloakroom reserved for me.
I would have been about two and half to three years old and can remember my first playmate, Johnny Whitworth. Once, he shouted he could see a fire from atop of some steps in the playground. We all ran to him like demented banshees, me leading the pack to get first look, only for me to trip at the bottom of the ladders and crack my bottom lip on the bottom rung splitting my lip on my teeth. The resulting thick scar can still be felt today. We called the carers, teachers, and she carried me home.
Another occasion when a few of us toddlers were discussing if bees went to heaven when they died (I’d dropped half a house brick on one) I nudged it to see if it had expired. I’ll NEVER, EVER forget the red hot like needle that shot into my prodding finger. I screamed, the two sisters who were by my side screamed because I screamed, I don’t know wether Johnny screamed, but we all ran to a teacher who wiped our eyes and rubbed Lifebouy soap on my throbbing finger. (Or was it carbolic?)
For some reason, I never knew why, Nan mum and I used to sleep overnight at a property I only knew as BENTLEY’S. This house had a vacant shop front and was situated on Abbey Street between PYM’S pawn shop and St Anthony’s Priory church on the corner of Gregory Street. The house is still there, but the shop front altered to a normal house window. I remember well the telephone on the wall. It was the type you held one piece to your ear and spoke into a trumpet like fixture on the front and turned a handle on the side. In the vacant shop were a set of steps, placed under the ceiling light flex awaiting a replacement bulb. My mum said “DON’T put your fingers in that”, pointing to the flex, and left the room.
WHY? Why did she say that…? I climbed the steps and raised my finger… WHY am I sitting on the floor?
WHY is my finger on fire again?
WHY did mum HAVE to say ‘owt?
I was still about 3 yrs old and again at Bentley’s with Nannan. I was warming my hands in front of the open coal fire. She called out to me…”DON’T lean over the fire or you will…”
I can still see the glowing coals falling over my tiny fingers…Nannan must have moved fast as she must have pulled me from the fire before my body followed. She filled a biscuit tin lid with some sort of oil and I bathed my hands in it. I didn’t have to ask WHY my finger was on fire that time! No memories of any bad after effects of that event are recalled.
Oh, I do remember having a rag doll called Mary and a Teddy bear. Also a blue painted plaster or chalk car with yellow wooden wheels. It would be about six inches long and while out with mum, I dropped the string that I pulled it with and it rolled into the road. A passing electric milk float squashed it into dust as it ran over it. I do think tears were shed.
This reminded mum of what could have been a very serious accident when I was still a baby in the pram. She told me that an army lorry turning the corner at Abbey Bridge mounted the kerb and struck the pram tipping it over. Mum pulled me to safety before I fell out. Thanks Gladys.
Back at 7, Abbey Bridge, we lived next door to the Stevenson family. Nannan considered them ‘a bit rough’. There were, I think, 3 brothers and one sister. Gerald was about my age and Elsie was a bit younger, the other two brothers were older. One day, as had happened before, rusty tins had been thrown over the garden fence and I, following Nannans daily ritual threw them back, only to cut my left forefinger on the jagged lid. Over the following couple of weeks my finger went red, a red line went up my arm and a lump appeared under my arm. I was taken to the Childrens Hospital in Nottingham with blood poisoning. I came home with my arm in a splint and sling and my finger painted brown. My arm felt on fire for days…but the Stevo’s never threw any more tins over again.
7, Abbey Bridge, Lenton
Did Nannan make a stand?
Nans council house on Abbey Bridge was the first one in a block of four. We were at No.7, (why it wasn’t No.1, I never knew) Stevo’s at 9, Johnny Pritchet at 11 and Mick Cumberland was at No.19, I think, next to the end of the second block. Mick was deemed to come from a ‘posh’ home as it had fitted carpets and both his parents went to work. We were pals from day one and we played together pushing our pedal cars up to the top of the bridge and racing each other back down. I remember Mick always stopped his car in spectacular fashion by turning into a skid and crashing into the railings, putting numerous dents in the front. I wasn’t so brave. I just wore out my shoes skidding along the pavement to a stop. We were both about 4 years old. Those were innocent days with hardly any traffic on the road and parents not afraid to have their children out of sight.
Oh happy days. Sadly gone forever!