Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Iris... The later years

Iris stayed in care until she was sixteen. She could have left earlier but she chose to stay rather than go back home. She was, I suppose, getting to be “institutionalised” but this was when social services were in their infancy.
At sixteen, in 1954, she went back home to live with her mother and sister. Her two brothers were in the army doing their National Service. She got a job as a store assistant and later as a clerk/typist in a commercial company. She was given time off for day release to learn typing skills and soon settled into her job. Money was tight. She had to support her mother, who had never worked a day in her life. Her sister, three years older, escaped this drudgery by getting married at the earliest opportunity when she was nineteen. Iris stayed at home looking after her mother for the next sixteen years! She never had the chance to go far but a couple of nights a week, she would go to the local dance hall. Boy-friends were always discouraged by her mother, fearing she too, would leave her as her sister had done.
Eventually, she met someone with whom she had a chequered relationship; he was a dull plodding sort of person (I met him once, years later) and his idea of entertainment was to go to the pub, stick a drink in her hand and then chat to his mates all night. The only time he paid any attention to her was when he was feeling the need for sex. He hated dancing and hated Iris going dancing. The relationship eventually came to an end.
Meanwhile, her mother had died from pneumonia following a heavy chest infection and Iris was on her own. Her sister and brothers rarely visited and apart from workmates, the only friends she had were those she had made while going dancing. Money was tight and she augmented her income by baby-sitting occasionally. This was how we first met in December 1972. She was at a party given by some friends of mine and Iris was there, as she knew them through baby-sitting for them.
Iris had only ever been away on holiday twice in her life before 1973. The first time was at a summer holiday centre at Saltburn run by the care home when she was fourteen. The other time was when she went away with her sister and her husband. They went to Scarborough for a week when she was in her mid twenties. Apart from occasional days out to Blackpool, Bridlington and Skegness, that was the furthest she’d ever been. After we met, it was an entirely different story.
I’ve already written about our early days together in January/February 1973 and from then on, it got better and better. Read on!

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