Run, Run, Run
Dogs, kids and a mad woman having fun.
The first house I ever half owned or had a mortgage on was semi-detached. I had only been married for about one year and had been living in a flat over a fish and chip shop and saving hard for a deposit.
Living in a flat over a fish and chip shop was okay, to a certain degree. Downstairs at the back of the fish and chip shop, the kitchen opened out onto a large garden laid mostly to lawn and surrounded by a high wooden fence. The lounge, bedroom, and bathroom were upstairs.
The owner of the flat and the chip shop would spend all day serving fish and chips, and then at about ten at night he would go home for his evening meal. The only trouble was that he would come back at midnight and begin peeling the spuds for the next day in some kind of machine that sounded like a road drill and vibrated so much that the flat appeared to shake. Night after night, except on Sunday nights, this dreadful noise kept us awake. The man would also whistle and sometimes sing. He obviously did not care about us trying to get some sleep ready for work the following day.
I was delighted when we found we had saved enough money for a deposit on a house and the estate agent accepted our offer. I was relieved to get out of that noisy, fish-smelling flat.
Friends and relatives gave us some furniture, which comprised a double bed, one armchair, and an electric cooker. But we had a home. It did not take long before we found other furniture to fill the house. Then the kids came along, two little girls.
In the garden, which backed onto a park, was an enormous garage and at the back of the garage were some large sheds. I filled the sheds with dogs and puppies, and my husband filled the garage with his car and his van.
The house stood about halfway up the road and about six doors up from the park entrance, which, at a later date, when the children were old enough to play in the park on their own, was very handy.
Two doors up from the bottom of the road, which joined a main road that eventually went into the town centre of Gloucester, lived a couple who had three little girls, Aisha, the oldest. As I remember her, before we left the street was tall and slim and athletic looking with long brown hair that ran down her back in waves. Inga who was also athletic and loved to run but was chunkier and not as tall as her older sister Aisha. Inga kept her hair short. She had the cheekiest of grins and even though the entire family had many hardships, Inga was always laughing and smiling. Then there was Melody, thin, petite with shoulder-length blonde hair.
This is how I remember them when they were about five, six, and seven years of age. Then we moved away.
My first memory of these three girls was seeing them sitting in their front garden as young babies, probably aged about one, two, and three. One was sitting on the front step on a blanket and the other two were sitting near the gate on a blanket. Various toys surrounded them. The front door was open but the parents no-where to be seen.
I often saw the three little girls sitting in the front garden as I went that way to the shops and to walk my dogs. I would say hello to the little girls and talk to them but received few responses, if any at all. From what I remember they had blank faces and just looked at me as I stood leaning up the metal gate.
I often wondered why the three girls were in the front garden. Did the parents not like the children? Did they want them to be kidnapped? My two girls were of a similar age to the middle and youngest child, and I would not dream of sitting them in our front garden in some stranger grabbed them and they were never seen again.
Sometime later I heard that the mother had left the children and the husband and had gone to live with another man. Later on, she had another baby, this time a boy. She looked thrilled with her new little boy, the one and only time I saw her after she had left the children.
I wondered if she only ever wanted a boy and that is why she left her husband. Maybe he did not want to have any more children after the three girls.
I also remember another family of girls that I knew. The father of the girls was the only boy for several generations. He had nine daughters and desperately wanted a boy to carry on his family name. He left his wife and family and then married another woman much younger than his wife and they had a baby boy together.
As the three little girls grew up, I used to see them playing in their front garden and the garage door would be open. The father had decided the only way he could manage was to continue to go to work as a delivery driver and leave the children alone in the house. This would be during term time when they would have to get themselves to school and during the school holidays he would leave them to their own devices. When I saw the garage, door open I found out that the girls had not been very good around the house and had made a large mess and so now the only place they had was the back and front garden and the garage to play in all day long and to occupy themselves.
Again, as they grew, I would see them playing in the street. They would pee in the street. Just take their knickers down and squat. They would also pick up squashed chewing gum from the pavement and put it in their mouths.
I told them not to do that, but they did not listen to me. Maybe they were hungry. As my children grew, I asked these three little girls into the garden and house to play. I fed them whenever I was feeding my own children. They were lovely children and no trouble at all.
The three girls and my two girls always played well together. Then the youngest child began putting mud through my letterbox. We had stones in our driveway, and she put those through the letter box as well. I asked her not to, and it really got on my nerves. So, one day I stood behind the front door and waited for her to come with her mud and stones. As she did so, I opened the front door, chased her down the road, caught up with her, grabbed her, and shook her. I was so angry as I had to clear up all the mud and stones all the time.
The other thing is that they also put some of our stones through other people’s letter boxes and the posh lady opposite told me to change my driveway and concrete it over and get rid of the stones. That made me even madder. The posh lady also witnessed me getting hold of the youngest girl and shaking her and shouting at her. The posh lady tutted at me and shook her head. Well, I thought you, posh lady, are partly responsible for my anger as you kept telling me to get rid of my stones and concrete my drive over. I kept thinking that this is something that I am incapable of doing and it would cost a considerable amount of money if I employed someone. It was something my husband could do as he laid the stones. But he would not want to do it anyway, because he liked the stones. We saw on tv that if you had stones in your driveway, then you could hear people come up the drive and it was a deterrent for burglars. So the stones stayed, and Melody ceased putting stuff through our letter box after I’d shook her and shouted at her.
About three doors down from us was an enormous family. They had extended their house out the back and into the loft to accommodate everyone. There were his children, her children, and their children. About twelve children in all and a very unruly black dog that would come charging up the road at me. I would shout stop to the dog and point my finger and luckily it would go back home. I would be left shaking. I heard it had attacked a Poodle, and the Poodle had spent a few days at the vet recovering. I did not like the dog at all. It appeared very aggressive.
The couple had a young boy called Tristan. He was probably a year older than my elder daughter Crystal. Crystal used to sit on the back of the sofa and look out the window and watch the three girls from down the road and Tristan playing in the road. When I thought she was old enough and it safe enough, I let her play with the children outside.
One day, when I picked her up from the nursery, the head teacher called me in. She told me Crystal had been using terrible language that day and she certainly had not learned it from any of the teachers. I then realised that she had learned whatever it was from Tristan. I discovered Tristan had repeated these words to Crystal and made her repeat them back. Then she used them at nursery the following day.
I had to sit with her for a while and explain about bad words and naughty words and very naughty, naughty words.
One day Crystal came in from playing with her friends in the street and stamped her feet and shouted, “balls, balls, balls.” I asked her what on earth was the matter as I thought, here we go again with the bad words. Crystal then told me that everyone was throwing balls at her. That was a relief, and I burst out laughing. However, it did not amuse Crystal as it upset her being bombarded with balls. I walked her back outside and her friends came to join her, and everything calmed down again.
The following day I went to step out of my front door and saw a wet puddle and a giant poo on my doorstep and little Tristan going out of my gate pulling up his trousers.
I had another fit of madness. I had enough to do clearing up after my own dogs (I bred and showed Terriers) and after my kids and husband without having to clear up after other people’s children.
I stormed round to Tristan’s house, knocked on the door and told Tristan’s mum I was not happy and certainly would not clear up Tristan’s mess. Tristan’s mum said he had done it to prove he was a man or a boy or his manhood or boyhood. I thought it was a weird way of trying to prove his boyhood or manhood to me, but I knew little about boys and their behaviour having only had daughters.
As Aisha, Inga, and Melody grew, they spent more time playing with Crystal and Jade. They would come into my house, and I would give them a sandwich and a drink, but they would not stay in the house and play, nor would they stay in the garden. They were used to playing in the road. They continued to urinate in the road as well and pick up the chewing gum that was stuck to the pavement.
One sunny day during the school holidays, I decided it would be lovely to take the dogs for a walk in the country. I went to see the father of the three little girls and asked if they could come with us in my enormous car. He agreed. I packed a little picnic for us all and put the five dogs in the back of the vehicle in their cages. The three girls sat on the back seat, all belted up, and my two girls sat in the front. There was plenty of room for us all.
I had not driven more than a mile when all the dogs suddenly began vomiting. Maybe it was because they had not been out in the vehicle for a few weeks and were not used to it. I do not know, but once again anger rose inside me.
I drove into a nearby layby, slammed on the breaks, took each dog out of its cage and tied it to a nearby tree. Then I pulled the cages out of the car one by one and cleaned the vomit, which was last night’s dinner, from all the bars of the cages. Then I put the cages and the dogs back in the car and set off on my journey once more. I was moaning and groaning to myself and wondering if it was worth all the hassle. But then I was determined to get us all out into the countryside for a change. Eventually I calmed down and thought of our walk and the picnic.
We finally reached our destination. Luckily, there were only a couple of cars in the car park. I parked at the far end, opened the back of the car and the cages, undid the dogs’ leads and let them all out. Meanwhile, the five girls had let themselves out of the car and were running about, trying not to trip over the excited dogs.
I closed all the car doors and made sure the windows were secure, grabbed all the leads and walked past all the trees to an open piece of ground which was the top of a long sloping hill into a wooded valley, which contained a small stream. A place I loved.
I asked the girls to line up as we were going to race down the hill together, to the woods and the little stream at the bottom. The dogs were still milling around the trees that surrounded the car park.
“One, two, three, go.” I called out, and we all ran down the hill laughing, giggling, having fun, the wind blowing in our hair. The sun shining on our faces. We all ran, the girls in front, me panting along at the rear and the dogs galloping everywhere.
Then I heard a voice call out. It came from a lady on my left; she was watching this spectacle of a woman, five kids and five dogs careering down a hill with reckless abandon.
She called out, “have you got a husband as well.”
I just laughed and ran and ran and ran.