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Sleeping Arrangements

I shared a double bed with my sister, who was seven years older than me and she took a very dim view of the new arrangements.

Photograph of Thompson's Butchers, New York village

Thompson’s Butchers, New York village

We lived above and beside my father’s butcher’s shop in New York village, a pit village about three miles from North Shields one way and about three miles from Whitley Bay another. It had five quite large bedrooms, built by my dearly loved grandfather in 1900 to house his large family of seven children. My grandfather built the property and ran the butchering business until my father took over in 1931.

One of my earliest memories was sleeping with my brother in a 3/4 sized bed in the corner of my parents’ bedroom, my brother being only 14 months older than me.

When we got too big for the 3/4 bed, my mother had the middle room decorated for my brother and he and the bed moved into it.

I then shared a double bed with my sister, who was seven years older than me and she took a very dim view of the new arrangements. We made uneasy bedfellows mainly because of my habit of wrapping my legs round my sister, ignoring her protests.

Eventually, this room was decorated and completely refurbished in a very pretty pale green with floral glazed chintz curtains and bedcovers. I was full of admiration but, out I went leaving Joan, a princess, in the beautifully transformed room.

I was then put in the room known as “the end room”, a very shabby, jumbly, sort of room, but it was large and had all my toys and possessions in, where I played undisturbed by the hour with my best friend Patty. I accepted the change without question.

The room opposite was known as “Edna’s Room” though it was now completely empty. It was called Edna’s room because it had belonged to our beloved live-in-maid Edna, now gone to work in a magnificent house in Jesmond. where I was lucky enough to visit her there once. It was my first glimpse of how the other half lived!

Now it was, as I have said, a butcher’s business and come Christmas and New Year it was an 18 hour day for all the workers in the shop, including my parents. We had a butcher who worked for us for many years, an amiable man, unmarried but very popular with the female customers who were very fond of him in a motherly way. He had an extensive round with one of the vans. He was out in all weathers from early morning and, in the busy times, ‘til very late at night.

Come Christmas and New Year it would be “Eh, hinny, hev a drop to keep out the cold” “Cum on, yer need yer New Year’s glass.” By tea time each day he was rather tipsy and from then on it was downhill all the way. A concerned customer would ring my Dad to “come and fetch him”. So my parents would set out in their Bull Nose Morris to find him, leaving my dad to finish the round and my mam to bring home the “sozzled butcher”, who would stagger upstairs and crash onto the spare bed. Oh, didn’t I mention it? In my room, there were two iron-framed bedsteads. In one there was a seven-year-old girl and in the other a large male adult who actually, as my parents well knew, would not hurt a fly. No one thought anything strange about it, not the family, and least of all, me!

It was actually a weekly occurrence, the sleeping, not the drinking. Because Friday was such a busy day and, they all worked until very late and Saturday was such a busy day starting very, very early, it was easier for him to ‘sleepover’ on Friday in the end room, in the spare bed, with little Margaret undisturbed by his snores.

As I have mentioned, “Edna’s room” was completely empty and my Mother had it done up for me when she could find the time and the cash. I lost my sleeping companion; I was a princess in my own room at last!

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