Welcome to my blog. I am not a very regular blogger, but I try to keep this site updated with news and information. If there's none of the above I may just share my random ruminations.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Memories of Noddy

    On Mothering Sunday......


Irene Kelsey aged sixteen 
In thinking about writing a short piece for Mothering Sunday, I immediately hit a snag. There is no way I can convey my mother - known by the family as Noddy - without considering her relationship with my father.  My understanding of their developing early relationship depends very much on the cache of letters I found after my father died. The letters begin just before he left for France, and continue throughout the war into 1946, when he was out in Germany with the British Army of the Rhine. 

Irene Kelsey's background was solid working class cockney going back a couple of generations, but her own parents had “stepped up in the world” from the East End to owning their own house in Orpington - a middle-class dormitory town in Kent. 

John Allan's character was undoubtedly influenced by his background, which was far more of an odd mixture than my mother's. Theatrical on his father’s side (Music Hall, Musical Comedy, and, going back a further generation, D'Oyley Carte), and quite privileged on his mother’s side. But his family deserves a blogpost of its own and I don't intend to go down that road today!     
L to R Irene & John, and my mother's sister, Joyce,
with a boyfriend of the time 

My parents met and became friends before war was declared. My father enlisted, falsifying his age, and was sent to France with the Expeditionary force.   He was sent back after a few months, following my indefatigable grandmother's repeated appeals to the War Office, thus luckily avoiding Dunkirk. For the next few years  he was stationed quite near to my mother's family home, but they didn't have telephones and communications were solely by letter and an occasional telegram.. 

They married in 1943

In the first letters, the communications are quite formal. It was apparent they didn't know each other very well.  My mother's evoke a shy girl, lacking in self-confidence. 

The letters from my father, however, portray an apparently secure and confident chap. It’s obvious he saw himself - as did she - as a sophisticated and cultivated Professor Higgins figure. His project to lift her up from her humble origins and educate her in music and in art, and in the ‘proper’ way of comporting herself in polite society.    
It was a bit of a con. His parents had fallen on hard times and his own family life was probably a good deal more hand-to-mouth than hers, but he was something of an autodidact and, having stayed on a couple more years at (art) school, he was definitely more educated and worldly than she was when they met. My dad talked the part and it's clear he impressed my sixteen year old mum. And he enjoyed the fact.  

En route to Cornwall in the 1950s

My mother was truthful, open, demonstrative, tolerant, left wing.  My father was more closed, and economical with the facts if they didn't suit him - though not exactly dishonest, he didn’t like to spoil a good story for the sake of few facts. But he was also funny, broadminded, left wing and generally good humoured. 

She was an enthusiastic rock-pooler

As their relationship developed my mother found him out. She was just as intelligent, deep thinking and sensitive as he was – if not more so – and increasingly stood up for herself.  It drove her mad when he pretended knowledge in subjects he had no real understanding of.   
In company with her mother and father, all "Having a fag"!

Noddy was a 'confronter' and, like dog with a bone, would shake a subject to death when she wanted resolution to a problem. But he was an 'avoider', whose method of handling stress was an explosive temper.  

And yet and yet.....  despite the fireworks, my childhood was very happy and secure. I loved them both dearly. And one of my mother's greatest delights was that we, her children, also loved each other, and enjoyed each other's company.    
Doing a turn at Christmas
Charades - Sultan's of Swing. 

Painting in Cornwall

My father was the acknowledged artist in the family - but his talent in lettering and design led him to a career in graphic design, rising to Creative Director of an ad' agency (that no longer exists).  He never painted or drew as a hobby until his retirement. 

My mother was creative, but her need to "make" did not really extend beyond sewing and making most of our clothes. But with the passing years, my mothers interest in art, fostered by my father's support, grew  obsessional. Particularly after they had moved to Shoreham Village in Kent, where she attended local classes and became an accomplished oil painter. 

Exhibition held in Shoreham Village Hall
It was a devastating shock and a huge loss to us all when she died far too young, a few days before her 64th birthday. After her death  our father organised an exhibition of her art, In support of Diabetes UK 
A gingerbread house made by my Mum
 for Tom's second Easter

Lying on the sofa with Tom for a cuddle

Thankfully she lived to meet her grandson, Tom, and to enjoy his first five years.  I am sad she didn't see me become a published author, but at least she knew I'd signed my first contract. and my book, 'Just Before Dawn' was published 8 months after she died.  


spabbygirl said...

what a great story Gilli, they sound like an odd couple, but a lovely pair. I'll write my family story someday. Its very weird, my parents couldn't live with each other, yet couldn't live without each other either.

Jane Risdon Author said...

Fabulous piece, so fascinating. I think they were amazing in their own ways. Really fab. Thaks.

Gilli Allan said...

Thanks Jane and Lynne. I'd originally just intended to post the photos with a few linking words! There is so much more I could have written about both of them, but hope I gave a flavour. gx

Jane said...

I loved this, Gilli. Thank you for sharing it. Isn't it odd how some couples can have hot tempers and yet remain in love for years? I was convinced as a child that my mum and dad would get divorced; they had appalling rows that shook the house. Yet they were solidly together until the day my mother died - also too young, at 62. My first serious relationships were quite explosive too, especially my first marriage. But I finally found my current husband, and now enjoy a relatively argument-free existence. Well, our kids complain that we argue too much, but they don't have a clue what a REAL argument is! Your mum looks like she was very warm and loving. A perfect mum, in fact! xxx

Gilli Allan said...

Oh, she was Jane. In fact, I used our recent conversations about my background as a prompt for this piece (nothing goes to waste!) My dad's temper was the way he handled stress. My mother's method - unfortunately - was to pursue and try to force a conversation about the things that worried her. An approach NOT guaranteed to achieve her aims but to light the blue touch paper. I avoid argument and confrontation, and to my shame, in social situations, have often kept my lip buttoned when I really should challenge. In our house arguments are always over trivial things, and usually when OH has misunderstood what I meant but then refuses to listen to explanations! It doesn't help if alcohol has been consumed. It makes both more thin-skinned. I feel for you losing your mum at a similarly young age. For us it was a complete and devastating shock.

Lesley Cookman said...

Excellent, Gilli. I've never tried to write about my parents, although perhaps I should. Your family sound terrific.

Gilli Allan said...

Thanks Lesley. I am usually hard pressed to come up with any subject to write about other than myself or my family. Just self-obsessed and egocentric I suppose.

A. J. Anderson said...

I enjoyed reading about your family. When I see stories like this I wish I knew more background on my own.

Miriam Drori said...

A fascinating piece. I bet you have lots of stories you could tell of their lives.