Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Renting at Oakville Avenue

Volume 2 – A new life begins – chapter 5 – early marriage – Part 2 – renting at Oakville Avenue - post 55 on 28/03/12 - loaded on 28/03/12

Before we knew it we were back at Rhyl with no money and no place to live; now reality set in and it tested our relationship right from the beginning. Thankfully we had a genuine love for each other which stood the early test, and as time passed we found that it was true: ‘All you need is love’ as the song said. We needed to live with someone until we were able to afford something of our own, the Grants however would not oblige us no matter how desperate our need. They had the room to put us up but the offer was never made and I have often wondered why. I had no right to ask and it appears that Jackie never did, or at least she never told me that she had. All that was left to us was my Aunt and Uncle who came to our rescue in spite of the fact that their circumstances had changed.

Whatever their financial circumstances I never knew the details, but changing circumstances required them to increase their income. The running fight my aunt had with old man Slater had come to an end, with the old man finding a new partner and leaving. I assume that he had been paying a helpful sum to live with his daughter-in-law, and that is what had kept him in place for so long. Now with his departure their income must have dropped, which is possibly why they took the action that they did. Through their knowledge of the local scene they had discovered that a new estate of council houses was being built on the edge of town, included as part of the complex was a row of shops. Using whatever influence they had, aunt and uncle managed to secure the tenancy of one of them, and had moved into a small flat above the shop. With the money they made from the sale of their house they financed this new business which aunt ran while uncle continued to carry out his distasteful job as a maintenance engineer at Courtaulds.

Again I have to say that I never knew much about my Aunt’s affairs either financial or otherwise, but I did become aware that their shop was a commercial success, but at the same time a financial failure. Some time earlier uncle had another of his clever ideas to make money, which was to buy an industrial knitting machine which was out of date, being a hand operated machine. Using his considerable engineering skill he had got this piece of equipment up and running and was soon making high quality knitwear, which he sold by word of mouth. The quality and the price, which was lower than the retail price of other similar goods, made his product very popular. With sales going well it was logical that they would now conclude that what they needed now was a place of business where they could display their wares. The new shop on the council estate looked like the very thing they needed, so they were delighted when the tenants of the estate flocked in to buy their quality twin sets, cardigans, and jerseys. It took a year or so for them to discover that there was a snag which was to ruin the whole thing.

The problem was that all the customers were poor working class people, who had little money to spare for luxury knitted goods; they would buy but mostly on credit. As time passed aunt found an ever growing list of money owing, and eventually she realised that much of it would never be recovered. This situation was to eventually cause the demise of the haberdashery shop, but in the initial stages it looked like a winner. In retrospect it appears that when their affairs were going well Aunt Nin and Uncle Bill treated me like their own son, but when they ran into trouble they would drop me like a hot brick, with no thought as to the effect this might have on me. Their star appeared to be in the ascendancy at this point in time, so when they realised that we needed a place to stay, to their credit they did not hesitate to offer us the hospitality of their home. For the first few weeks of our marriage Jackie and I lived in this spare bedroom in a small flat above the shop, it was not a very large place and with aunt not the easiest of people to get along with at the best of times, it soon became apparent that life was not going to be easy for Jacqueline. It was not too bad for me because I was out at work all day, and only had to put up with my aunt’s peculiarities in the evenings; at the weekends we were usually out of the way visiting the Grants.

Once again we were caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, we had no alternative but to accept aunt’s hospitality, but we were not enjoying it one little bit. When I was at work Jackie would go to visit her mother escaping from the dictatorial ways of my aunt. It was to be expected that she would pour out her dislike of the situation she was in, it was also just as predictable that her mother would do what she could to prove to her daughter that she would have been far better off had she remained at home a single girl. The outcome was that one day when I got home Jackie told me that her mother had located a bungalow we could rent on the other side of town; it belonged to an acquaintance that Ethel knew socially so we could have it without a deposit and at a very reasonable rent. This was the answer to our prayers though I have to confess that my pride took something of a knock to have Ethel bail me out of my troubles. The rent was modest but even that small amount meant that I would have little left for saving, which was essential if we were to really get on our feet. My salary at the De Havilland aircraft factory was modest to say the least, and when the cost of travel was deducted, I had little left to live on after paying rent.

There was no doubt we needed our privacy and some space, being in our own home was a great improvement; we were much happier with the illusion that we had everything we needed. The fact was however that we were living in a rented house, where even the furniture belonged to someone else, but we were happy and for a year or two we were content to drift along. With me working long hours including travel time, Jackie spent much of her time with her mother who took full advantage of my absence. At the weekends we had little money to go out or have a good time, so inevitably we ended up allowing the Grants to provide our pleasure. We would join them for the usual car trips, picnics, visits to historical sites and other such places of interest, but always they decided where we would go and what we would do. If we were not sightseeing we were at their house having meals with them and watching their new television. It would have been churlish of me to have complained about the improvement that my in-laws were able to provide, but it was so hard to accept their dominance. Jackie was used to it but I had always stood on my own feet and made my own decisions, being beholden to others was something new to me, and it was not easy to stomach.

Occasionally we had some time to ourselves, it was not all that hard to enjoy simple times; the secret was to be satisfied with small things, to not wish for too much. For example one small and simple pleasure I enjoyed was being able to get a home town delicacy on a Sunday morning. The street in which we lived was called Oakville Avenue a long road of mostly seaside bungalows, behind us was another long line of similar houses which faced onto the Coast Road that ran in one direction towards Prestatyn and on to Chester, in the other direction it ran into town becoming Russell Road which crossed over Bath Street where aunt had run her guest house. On the other side of the Coast Road was the sea, and sand hills. A few yards from where we lived a side street joined the two parallel roads, and near to this junction on the main coast road was a small shop that sold groceries and general goods. The owner was a Staffordshire man like myself and he had arranged for long distance lorry drivers to stop on their way through to deliver our famous oatcakes freshly cooked a couple of hours before in some little oatcake shop in the Potteries. For me this was a Sunday morning treat, it was cheap and simple but it added a little pleasure to a life that was tending to change in so many ways.

Marriage required quite an adjustment not only for me but for Jackie as well; in fact it would be fair to say that the change to our lives was a greater challenge for her than it was for me. There were some amusing moments as well as the difficult and demanding; like the day she decided to give me a treat by making me a favourite meal. What would you like, what is a favourite dish? Taking her seriously I replied that one of my favourites was meat and potato pie, so that is what I was going to get for dinner that evening, she was very insistent about it. All that day I thought that being married was not so bad after all; if the lovely Jackie could bake a pie half as good as my mother then it was clear that getting married was the best thing I had ever done. That evening when I got home I found the table set and dinner almost ready, in came a grand looking pie and I could not wait to get started. Serving up a generous portion I was encouraged to eat while the proud wife stood by to watch me enjoy it; I knew this was an important moment for her so I did my best to oblige. The trouble was the contents of the pie were just about raw; my darling wife had not been taught that the contents had to be pre-cooked before they were used in a pie. I still laugh when I recall that occasion; sitting trying to look happy whilst eating a large portion of raw meat and potato pie. Jackie was charming, one might even say sophisticated, but she was not domesticated; her mother had few such skills herself so it was to be expected that she had taught her daughter little in this respect.

This humorous story may give the wrong impression, so let me put on record that my wife proved to be a quick learner, and she was willing to add to her knowledge and experience. During the early part of our marriage meals were not a big problem because I was at work all day and Jackie ate with her mother most of the time. Some toast for breakfast and a boiled egg for tea, that sort of thing could be easily dealt with, and at the weekends we usually ate with the Grants. At work I could get a reasonable dinner in the canteen for the main meal of the day; at morning tea break the canteen tea trolley provided large freshly baked fruit scones, hot from the oven and dripping with butter. I remember these scones as a particular favourite at that time.

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