It was the summer of 1970 and Lizzie was on holiday in a caravan between Broadstairs and Margate with Granddad Bert, Nana Sadie, Vince and her younger aunt Lilly and Cousin Terry. Lizzie and the rest of the kids had just gone outside and they were driving Sadie mad, the sun was shining for the first time since they arrived and it felt warm on the face. The ground was still moist from the shower the night before and the kids took off their wet socks sodden by the damp grass and wore the sandals bare foot.
Mick, Lizzie’s youngest brother was at home with Janice as she couldn’t afford to send all three on holiday, besides she didn’t want to be alone and Mick was the easiest one to take care of as he always managed to keep himself amused and was far from being an attention seeker, plus he would help keep her mind of the divorce and Derek’s recent marriage to his mistress.
Sadie decided at the end of the previous summer that she wanted a holiday no matter what. It took her 8 months to scrimp and scrape for the money and with a contribution added from her older daughters, she managed to get enough money together for a decent site and chalet or caravan for 2 weeks. Bert didn’t want to go but she knew if she left him alone something would happen, there were too many people after him for gambling debts and she had everything put into hers and her daughters names to stop collectors from grabbing their belongings. She told Bert he was going on holiday, like it or not or he would have to find somewhere else to stay as the house was being locked up for the duration.
Sadie was busily tidying up in the way she did, at speed and lit a cigarette, it was her third of the day. She didn’t feel a 100% and her nagging headache had got worse. Dr Tyler had told her it was just the stress and the Valium would help her, but she had already doubled the dose and her headaches were more frequent. Sadie glanced over at Bert, he was seated leaning over the table top with his head carefully studying the back pages of the newspaper. Sadie stood in thought, she didn’t want Bert spending his time checking form, he would have to take the kids down to the beach or into town to the pictures if it started to rain. Luck had done its worst and it had rained for the first couple of days and the pictures were still showing ‘True Grit’ and only Bert was a fan of John Wayne and the kids had to sit through it again on the second day much to their annoyance and boredom.
Sadie was used to being with the kids and had this uncanny knack of controlling them while seated, they would buzz around like bees and she could be knitting with a cigarette on the go and still know if they were up to mischief and bark out orders that were obeyed without fuss. Sadie loved to knit and she arrived at the caravan with 2 cases, one for clothes and the other for her knitting stuff but she needed clear time to pursue her passion and the caravan was too small for them all to operate unimpeded.
Sadie loved Bert deeply but his wayward ways had taken its toll on her and know she would more and more often seek a bit of piece and quiet as the lack of sound and movement around her seemed to sooth her. As her headaches got worse, the quieter she needed it to be and Bert’s constant flicking of the paper and scribbling irritated her immensely. Any other time she would have taken no notice but it sounded like someone messing around with broken glass and the fact that it made the headache worse.
Something switched in Sadie and she had enough of Bert’s sitting around and with the bloody newspaper and the fact that somehow he always managed to find a bookie if they ever went on away. She had enough of his gambling after it led to his bankruptcy and on top of the way she was feeling it felt like she was going to loose control. Bert said he needed to go out for a bit, but Sadie was not in the mood for his gambling excuses and needed a break from everyone, her blazing on and off migraine she had for the past few weeks had done something to her and she was not herself.
Sadie took her cigarette from her mouth and began, “Listen you selfish bloody sod, I need to clean this place up and I need a break from the lot of you, so take the bloody kids to the beach or fair.” She put the cigarette back and walked around the caravan picking stuff up and wiping down the surfaces with her cigarette hanging form the corner of her mouth. She had an amazing ability of smoking the without having to remove the cigarette from her mouth to flick the ash and quite often it could reach nearly 2” long, but she always had her hand or ashtray ready to catch it.
Sadie was a slight woman and weighed around 7 ½ stone and was usually quiet as a mouse and this was out of character for her. “What the bloody hell as got into you, I’ve got to make a call that’s all” Bert responded sharply. Sadie gritted her teeth and it was something that she rarely did. “You’ve already blown half the money and we’ve only been here 3 days, so take the bloody kids out and don’t come back for a couple of hours and don’t spend their cash either.” Bert put the paper down and closed the door of the caravan.
All the kids could hear was them both shouting and screaming at each other, Vince was laughing with Terry, Lilly looked upset and Lizzie told her not to take any notice. Bert emerged and announced “right we’re off to the bloody beach, grab your bags and costumes and don’t say anything to your Nan or you’ll get a thick ear.” The kids went in one by one to grab their stuff but Sadie was fine with them and made sure they had everything. “Are you alright Nan” Lizzie asked, “just a bit of a headache love and I need a little peace and quiet” Sadie replied and gave her a little smile. To Lizzie her Nana looked a bit ill but she wanted them out of the way and of she went.
Bert marched the kids off to the beach but stopped at a telephone box on the way. He was on the phone for five minutes, the kids could hear his heated debate on the phone. “The betting office won’t give him credit again, or Renee won’t put the bet on for him, again” Lizzie remarked to Vince and she continued “Just make sure he doesn’t know how much money we’ve got or he’ll have it”. Each kid had £3 for the 2 weeks to spend on the amusements and funfair attractions, their Mums told them to keep schtum and Lizzie held on to Lilly’s and Terry’s cash. The telephone box door flew open, “Arseholes” Bert blurted, “come on then, down to the beach”.
The motley crew continued their long walk to the beech, Vince piped up “Granddad what’s a trollop”? “What” he replied? Vince continued, “I heard Nana telling mum that Renee was a trollop and a trouble maker, what does it mean”? “Nana was just being rude son, Renee is my old war mucker’s Sheppy’s widow and she goes to the dogs with me because Nana doesn’t want to and I owe Sheppy a lot”.
Renee was Bert’s other woman, not in the biblical sense, but the one who accompanied him to the races and for poncing off of when he was skint. Sadie met her once when Bert brought her home much to her disgust and anger. She told Bert not to dirty his doorstep again and he never did.
Sadie and Bert and a very different type of relationship and Sadie passed on something to Lizzie in her character to do with what you don’t know isn’t going to hurt you, so don’t dig if you can help it.
They had reached the lane that ran along side the golf course which meant that they only had half a mile to the beach left to go. Bert walked briskly in front of the kids and kept telling them to hurry up, the 2 youngest kept having to take a half skip and jump to keep up and then it turned into a walking race, Bert’s competitive nature took over and he joined in going faster and faster.
Bert turned it into a competition for the 2 oldest and youngest. The older ones were more competitive and Vince got annoyed when Lizzie got into the lead and stuck his foot out. Lizzie went flying forward but managed to roll without putting out her hands. This wasn’t the first time that Vince done something like this, he was a spoiler. The type who couldn’t bear to loose and would often mess up games if he was losing or not included. “Vince, pack it in, just because your loosing to a girl doesn’t mean you can cheat” This was a typical debasing comment that he would use, just enough to create a turn of a key.
Bert loved to create little disputes between people in a subtle way, the man had a base Machiavellian streak running through him and would do it subconsciously and consciously until the day he died. It started when he was a kid and used it to answer his father back and then the officers of his regiment during the war.
Bert smiled at the “Right o Lizzie, get your backside of the floor and don’t hit your little brother. He can’t help it if he’s slow” . Lizzie got up and smiled while Vince grimaced and gritted his teeth and then start pulling faces at Lizzie as they walked along, these petty little slights that Vince took on board started to change his character from a funny, centre of attention, to a demanding meddlesome little twat who finally turns into something else quite sinister within a few years.
The road was coming to an end, the fair had been set up in a field next to the beach above the small cliffs and it was too early for most of the attractions to open so they to take a look at what rides they could look forward to, Lizzie glanced at the prize stools with their shutters closed with the brightly coloured yet faded with phrases painted neatly all over them with gold leaf with Victorian motifs with the most intricate cherub carvings that had cracked under the sun along with the flaking paint, how beautiful they may have once been.
There was a stall that every kid loved, Candy Floss, Rock and all sorts of sweets, the kind of stuff that had so many preservatives and sugar in them that a child of today would climb the walls before ending up on the toilet for a few hours. Then the smell hit them, it was a mix of the steam engine that burnt wood with burgers, onions and hotdogs thrown in the mix, they had just started to cook for the day and it wafted over the site, it was always a trick to get the cookers going by 10.30 to 11 so the beach bathers would get a bit tuckish and wander up for a lunch time snack. Sight sound and smell are the key attractors and they had the first on the go.
The merry-go-round or the gallopers as this one just had horses, was just having the curtains removed and it was in mint condition and looked out of place amongst its tired rivals. Everything was new shining like a bright new penny the mirrors caught the sun and the reflection flashed into Lizzie’s eye as they passed, there was a Pearly King and Queen carefully polishing the mirrors and checking the bulbs to make sure that every one was working.
The dodgems were being checked over by what looked like a bunch of out of date teddy boys, one of them looked up at Lizzie and shout, “all right darling.” Lizzie blushed and stared at him with a frown, the man was in his 20s with slicked back greasy brown hair and spotty, his slimy grin made Lizzie shudder, he the stuck his tongue out at her and she stuck her 2 fingers up in response “charming” he shouted, the guy was a real creepy git and just the thought of him coming near her made her mouth stretch down at the sides like a sad clown. Bert caught sight of him and stared him down very quickly, he could belt him one as he had too many kids with him and the little berk shied away quickly and it wasn’t worth the effort.
They continued on but Vince and Terry asked Bert if they could go back when it opened and he agreed that maybe they could come back but they would have to pay their own way. Just as they got to the edge of the fair the test run of the Merry Go Round had begun and the music followed them as the continued toward the beech, the music was the final piece to let people know that it opening.
They had reached the edge of the cliff and Vince grabbed Terry and pretended to push him over, Terry freaked and shouted “fuck off you wanker”. ”Oi, behave yourselves and don’t use that language or you’ll get the back of my hand” Bert roared at them both, it was more bark than bite, but he got his point across.
They finally reached the beach and it was already filling up. “OK kids” Bert said in an officious tone “find a spot above the tide line and set up camp and get changed we’re only her for a couple of hours and we’re not eating that crap up there.” The boys whined and the girls just carried on getting changed. Lizzie felt a little uncomfortable changing on the beach, she had already developed and looked a good 3 to 4 years older than her 13 near years, the costume she had was uncomfortable and too small and it squashed all the wrong places. Bert wanted them to go in the water and as usual made a race out of it and maybe Vince could reclaim some of his wounded pride by beating Terry.
Lizzie said she would stay and watch the belongings, not that they had much. Bert insisted but Lizzie just said “Granddad, it’s a ladies thing” Bert looked perplexed and then he realised what she meant and a look of discomfort came over his face, ‘bloody hell’ he thought his granddaughter was growing too fast. He mumbled something in comprehensible and ran after the small one. Lizzie wasn’t really having her period, it was an excuse, she just wanted to lay back and think for a while, about what was happening to her and her parents.
Lizzie’s mother Janice, and Dad Derek, had just had their divorce finalised which had come about due to her father’s uncontrollable adultery and he was due to marry his mistress straight after. Lizzie felt partly responsible as she found a love letter in her dad’s car and gave it to her mother. Her dad was having an affair with a woman 10 years older than he and most importantly for him, had no kids and had money through wealthy parents.
Janice made sure that she had the parting shot and named his ever so proper future wife as co-respondent in the proceedings and the fact that she resided in a trailer park in Tennessee for a period of time put the mockers on her refined façade and being a woman of virtue and good conscience. She wasn’t unusual, the gummy slug as she was later known, she wanted another woman’s husband for her own and had no thought for his children, but then again neither did he.
The affair wasn’t unusual and It wasn’t as though it hadn’t happened before, it had, Derek had a strew of affairs and it was rumoured that he fathered a child of a married woman and attempted to elope with her, but as usual it fell through because they had nowhere to go and the woman’s husband wouldn’t let the child go with her. So Derek returned with his tail between his legs as his mother wouldn’t even accept him and in his selfish disappointment had a half arsed attempt at suicide, but that was an excuse for something else and he need the physiatrists help for other reasons.
The problem with Derek was he came from a large Irish family with a dozen brothers and sisters and being evacuated at the age of 4 to the country caused life long problems, he stayed with a well to do family who had him taught at the local prep school during the war. He was their only evacuee and according to him they wanted to adopt him but his mother refused.
He finally returned home to Kilburn at the age of 9 to a working class family he never knew and was second from the bottom of the pecking list, he had gone from being the centre of attention with his own room, bed and clothes to sharing a bed with 2 brothers and wore hand me downs. He older siblings called him ‘Little Lord Fauntleroy’ because he was well spoken and of course with impeccable manners and the only way he could get around being teased was to play up the part. He became as close as he could with his slightly older brother and younger sister, but was a relative stranger to the older bunch and it was by his choice alone.
The fact that Derek’s children didn’t know all the names of his brothers and sisters shows how he felt deep down. It didn’t help that he was of full Irish blood and it was somewhat of a disappointment to him. The other main problem with Derek was that he was a wannabe yuppie stuck in a 1950s working class environment that had a single child attention demand in a squad of 12. Unfortunately he had to share his wife with his children and for him, it wasn’t enough, he needed more.
Derek’s need for attention led to him demanding that Janice have an abortion prior to the law change and feigned a suicide attempt in order to get a psychiatrist’s help to get it done. The drama he made about pressure of too many children, his abandonment issues and gave it the works. What made it so heinous is that he blackmailed Janice to have it done and the threat was something he fully intended following through, regardless if she done it or not. It was a simple reason for him, less children, less baggage.
Getting an abortion was a big deal in those days as it took extreme mitigating circumstances to get one and the criteria was narrow but he pulled it off. Derek always blamed Janice for the pregnancies but it was his choice not to use contraception so he was equally to blame. But he wanted to be completely free and what he was soon to do as a result of his need to be mothered was self centred and unforgivable but his soon to be wife was no better.
Lizzie was particularly heartbroken over her father, he had always carted her around with him, his cute little blonde princess who he displayed to all his lady customers who in turn doted upon her as well. Little did she know that she was his pass key, her poor dejected lonely dad, who had to look after his beautiful little girl while his wife was at home busy doing nothing, when in fact she was working too. Derek just needed a bit of comfort and understanding, what a selfish tosser he was.
Lizzie turned her mind to something else, as her father had basically walked out without an apology or goodbye she felt very lonely and spent her time babysitting for a young couple in the street. Frankie the husband was mixed race with a Fro bigger than the Jacksons and was very good looking. Lizzie had an immense crush on him and he was always nice to her and began to fill the gap left by her father and every time he spoke to her or walked in the room.
Frankie made her heart flutter and she would flush at the thought or sight of him and she did the just that while laying there on the beach. She was thinking about him, wondering what it would be like to be the one he loved, at this moment in time for Lizzie he would be the perfect husband. As much as it could be for a girl at her age, but then again
The sky began to cloud over once more and the temperature dropped, there were dark clouds heading toward them and Bert decided to swing back to the caravan before it started to rain. “Come on kids, time to go, get dried and dressed double time, hup, hup.” Bert said while clapping his hands together. Vince and Terry asked if they could stop at the fair, Bert refused but said they might come back after lunch or tea, but only if it wasn’t raining. The boys sulked and Lilly just walked along as quiet as a mouse as usual.
Lilly was low profile to say the least and although she could be a mini Thatcher when playing with her dolls by being condescending and patronising to them, telling how to drink their tea, brush their teeth and eat properly, It could drive some people to hysterics, but the poor little thing was ever so serious about it all. Bert stopped off at the phone box again to try his luck again but had no joy so they continued on.
Lizzie and Vince got to the caravan first as part of a race and they fought over who would get in first. They both fell through the door to the sight of Sadie collapsed on the floor, Lizzie told Vince to get Bert to hurry up and she tried to wake her but she couldn’t. “Nan, Nan, wake up” she kept saying and gently tapped her face but got no response. Bert flew through the door and pulled Lizzie out of the way.
Bert bent over Sadie to check if she was breathing, she was “ Lizzie, go to the site office and call an ambulance, Vince take Terry and Lilly over there as well and wait there”. Lilly started to cry, Terry and Vince were in shock and Lizzie just ran as fast as she could. They arrived at the site office and in the panicked confusing the manager told them to go to the telephone box. Lizzie shouted at him “My Nan is dying call the bloody ambulance will you”. The manager was annoyed at Lizzie’s impudence but picked up the phone and called, the operator told him it would be there in 20 minutes.
The manager told Lizzie that a Doctor lived next to the site and she should go and get his help just in case and she ran as fast as she could. When she arrived she banged and banged on the door until an irate man answered the door. “What the hell is going on, what you want”. Lizzie went on “My Nan has collapsed and we can’t wake her up, we’ve called an ambulance but it won’t be here for anther 20 minutes, I think she is dying”. The Doctor calmed down “Just let me get my bag and lead the way young lady.”
They raced back to the caravan as fast as the Doctor’s legs would carry him, they both entered the caravan and the Doctor asked Lizzie to wait with the youngsters as they need the biggest one to look after them. Lizzie waited patiently and Lilly was becoming more upset, so Lizzie asked the manager of the site if she could use the phone and he agreed without question and told her not to worry, Sadie had probably fainted and bumped her head.
Lizzie got through to her mother and told her what had happened. “I’ll get hold of Viv and we’ll drive down to get you, wait in the caravan with the kids, make them some sandwiches and get some sweets and drinks from the site shop and for Christ sake keep them occupied, I know it’s asking a lot but it’ll take 3 hours to get there”. Janice then went on to ask the details and what had happened and told Lizzie how proud she was of her in dealing with the ambulance and doctor.
The ambulance arrived just as the dark clouds came over head and a light drizzle began. The Doctor told them to hurry in as the patient had to be taken to intensive care immediately and the nearest one was in Gillingham, over 45 miles away. As Sadie was removed from the caravan, Bert told Lizzie to phone her Mum again and tell her to go to the hospital directly and we can catch up later, he gave her the address and Lizzie ran back to the office.
Lizzie called Janice once more but there was no answer, so she tried Viv again and got through, once again she had to go through the whole story and it started to get to her, the whole event was drawing in on her and tears welled up in her eyes and her throat began to ache and a heavy sensation in her chest, she really wanted to cry but she couldn’t or it would set the rest off. Viv told her that her mum was on the way to met her and she would see her at the hospital”. Viv continued trying to calm Lizzie Down “Don’t worry love, I’m sure she probably fainted and bumped her head.
Viv knew it was more serious as Sadie had been taking more and more medication to alleviate the headaches but the growth in frequency and intensity pointed to something much worse. The ambulance drove away and Bert told the kids to get packing and once again put Lizzie in charge.
Bert walked over to the site office and was in there for a good half an hour. Lizzie told Vince to put the bags into the car and she went to see what Bert was up to. When she arrived at the door she found Bert trying to get a refund on the holiday but the manager wouldn’t have anything to do with it. Lizzie stood near the door and listened to the conversation. “Oh come on, it could have been a gas leak that or electric shock that caused it and she is in no fit state to come back, we’ve only been here 2 nights and we are paid up for 2 weeks, we paid £200 so let’s make a deal”. The manager was taken aback by Bert’s concern for the refund over his wife but to Bert and anyone else for that matter. £200 was a lot of money in 1970 but there is a time and a place. “I’ll have to talk to the owner and see what he has to say, I can’t give refunds”.
The Manger picked up the phone. He was disgusted with Bert and called his boss. The conversation mumbled on for a few minutes and offered £100. Bert asked for more as the camp was completely full, besides the kids have lost their holiday and he would have to make it up to them. “OK” said the manager, “£150 and that covers the time you spent here”. “Done” Bert stood there as the manager went into the back office to get the cash.
Vince walked in past Lizzie and walked up to Bert who was standing by the counter. Lizzie watched as Vince grabbed a handful of sweets and stuffed them into his pocket. Bert clocked him and said nothing but smirked, his grandson was doing the same tricks as he was at the same age. Lizzie walked in and Bert span round, “what are you doing here, you should be with the littleuns”, he turned to Vince, “you too you little sod, get back to the caravan, NOW”.
The pair shot out of the office and Lizzie shouted at Vince for nicking the sweets, “You’re a bloody embarrassment, nicking while Nana is on the way to hospital”. Vince piped up “she only fainted, it isn’t so bad, ladies always faint don’t they! Granddad said women are delicate and fragile, except the funny weeks when they go a bit mad and it’s best to keep clear”. Lizzie smiled, she had become aware of what he meant by the mad weeks as her mum half explained to her what it was all about. All Lizzie knew is she had to wear horrible mini nappies for up to seven days. Gran Bernie told her it was the curse on women handed down by God himself. It was typical of Gran Bernie, she was a strict Irish Catholic with the blind belief in church’s ways and the sin of being a woman. Although it was through fear and superstition that she used it!
Bert came back to the caravan with he manager and they done the check over before he handed over the cash, which was £185 in the end because it included the damage deposit. They all piled into Bert’s Old Zephyr Mk2 and Bert tried to start it, it was a temperamental car and needed work done on the engine and it always took ages to get started. Bert turned the key the engine began to turn over and gradually each cylinder began to splutter into life and the engine roared and belched a cloud of oily, foul smelling smoke that wafted through the windows and the kids began to complain. Bert told them to stop whining and set off.
Bert put his foot down and managed to squeeze a little over 70 every now and then out of the old banger but kept slowing as he didn’t want a blowout and the brakes weren’t the best in the world and besides the tyres were a bit on the worn side. The kids remained remarkably quiet during the journey to the hospital. Lizzie looked over at Bert and wondered what was going through his head, did he really care? After all he was more interested in getting the cash than getting to the hospital. But then again no one thought she was in a real bad way but she was going to intensive care and even to a near 13 year old that meant something was wrong.
When they arrived in Gillingham, Bert did an unusual thing. He asked for directions to the hospital. Bert had spent some of his time before and after the war as a lorry driver and claimed to have known every main road in the country, so they were a little surprised at his request from a stranger. The man he spoke to gave him precise details and they drove off again.
By the time Bert and the kids reached the hospital Sadie had just been examined and was on the way to have some x-rays done. They all sat down in the waiting room and within half an hour Janice and Viv turned up. The pair of them were less reserved than Bert when it came to finding out what was going on, especially Viv, who went directly to the Nurses station and asked to see the staff nurse. “Do you have any information regarding the state of Mrs Sanderson? first name Sadie, she’s my mother”.
The nurse asked her to come to one side and began to whisper to her “She has been unresponsive and we can’t wake her up properly. We are concerned that she may have a severe concussion and we found that she has a swollen thyroid. Once the x-rays and blood test have been done we’ll know more. Please don’t mention anything to the Doctor or Sister. It’s usually up to them to inform you on the status of the patient”. Viv thanked her and whispered the info into Janice’s ear, they didn’t mention it to Bert knowing full well that consciously or not, he would drop the Nurse in it.
The time was approaching 4 O’clock and the kids need to get back home, Janice said that she would take the kids and Viv could stay with Bert. Bert didn’t want to let Janice drive his car, or any woman for that matter, so Janice had to take Viv’s Cambridge. Lizzie had mentioned to her mother that Bert had collected the £185 refund from the camp site so Janice told Viv what he had done.
Janice had given £70 toward the holiday and Viv gave £35 and they didn’t want their dad blowing their hard earned cash on the gee gees’ or the dogs. Viv had a mind like a calculator and worked out that he had to hand over £50 to Janice and £25 to herself.
Janice took the kids and left. They were all upset that they couldn’t see their Nana and for Janice her mum, the parent she was closest to. After they left Viv sat next to Bert and asked what had happened and then hit him with a question. “Dad, I understand that you got the refund, where is it”. “I’ve got it, why?” he replied with a hint of irritation “anyway this isn’t a suitable time to talk about it, your mother is ill and all your worried about is the cash”. Viv patience with her father was fading fast “Sorry Dad but I wouldn’t have waited around for it while Mum was on the way to hospital. Beside that, Me and Janice have to find someone to look after the kids during the holiday and it is going to cost. So hand it over and I mean all of it because the rest belongs to mum”. Bert’s eyes widened and a cold dark expression filled his face. He gave his sneering reply “No, I am going to need it to come back and forth to this place and it’s going to cost an arm and a leg. Anyway, what are you going to do about it, uh? Just what I thought, nothing”. With this remark he got up and walked away.
Viv was fuming, she knew what he was up to and by the way he was acting meant that he was in the red and owed. ‘His incessant fucking gambling’ she thought. She hated him for it and it had cost them all so much. All Viv knew that from her earliest memories Bert was always betting.
Only once in all the years of gambling did it pay of big for Bert and he won £10,000 on the pools.
The win was the only time that reason had got to him and he bought a fruit and veg wholesale delivery business with a strew of top end clients including most of the restaurants and hotels in the west end. When business was good he splashed out on his grandchildren and there was a certain amount of restraint. But when business was light he would revert to gambling and worst of all, used the tax money to supplement his losses.
It all came to a head when Viv and her husband, Terry Snr, separated and although Bert would never believe it, Terry Snr informed the tax man on his excesses. The Tax man paid a visit and by the time they had finished with him, he was on the point of being put away for tax avoidance. Bert was saved by a special contribution made through his solicitor to keep him out of nick but it all came at a further cost, he ended up bankrupt.
What made the matter worse was that Viv, Janice, Sadie, Derek and Terry Snr, who of course was on his way out, all worked for him and they all had to look for work except Bert, who wasn’t allowed. Those years surrounding her father’s selfish gambling behaviour were some of the worst for his daughters and their mother and they needed to be forgotten.
The Doctor finally came to see Bert and Viv at around 10 that night, and by the look on his face the news wasn’t good. “Mr Sanderson, Miss Sanderson, please would you come with me”, he walked with them down a passage and led them into a side room. That sat down and the Doctor spoke to Bert “I’m afraid the news isn’t good. Your wife has 2 interconnected growths in her neck. The first is growing behind the thyroid gland on the left and the other which is much deeper is growing at the base of the skull and it has been bleeding. I understand that she is taking Warfarin. Has she been taking anything else?”
Bert didn’t have a clue what she was taking. Sadie would never discuss her problems. It was a woman’s place to keep illness under wraps from her husband. Viv knowing her father’s lack of knowledge cut in “I knew that she was taking Valium and Aspirin but I didn’t know about the Warfarin”. The Doctor explained that the mixture of the 2 drugs would thin the blood and that it was the cause of the tumour bleed leading to the headaches and ultimately the passing out. The drug is normally safe but in unforeseen circumstances like Sadie’s it can be dangerous. In Sadie’s case it highlighted an underlying condition.
The Doctor turned to the present “We have put her on beta blockers as it will help calm the metabolic and systolic anomalies. I can’t you what the full diagnosis is just yet, not until further tests are done, but the preliminary tests show elevated cell counts cause concern and at some point we will need to operate”
Bert remained quiet, “Has she woken yet” Viv enquired. “She is coming around but is in discomfort at a little confused, her blood pressure is fluctuating over a wide range and as I said, we need to get that under control and she will come in and out of consciousness. Hopefully the beta blockers will work. We’ll have more news tomorrow. You can see her for five minutes but you will have to leave, don’t worry, she is in good hands”. The Doctors had an underlying confidence in his tone made the pair feel more at ease
“Can she be moved closer to home” Bert asked. “I’m afraid not, but we’ll see how it goes over the next few days before making any decisions”.
Bert and Viv walked into the ward. Sadie was linked up to monitors and machine. She had an oxygen mask covering her face. Sadie looked gaunt and pale and held her hand out, Bert took it “You had us all running around like blue arsed flies with this palaver, how are you feeling Luv?” Sadie just pulled her hand away. “Where are the kids” she said in a rasping faint voice”. “Janice has taken them home with her mum” Viv replied in a light voice. “What about the caravan the holiday, are you staying” “No Mum, Dad needs to be here, we all do, but don’t worry dad got most of the money back” Bert’s eyes rolled then squinted as he grimaced. “Bert give the money to Viv, she’ll look after it for me”. “I’ll sort it out later Luv”, “No Bert you’ll sort it out now the quicker the better, I don’t want it getting lost.” Bert was raging inside and you could tell by his expression. His wife and daughter had gotten the best of him and he was in a corner and couldn’t get out, at any other time he would have laughed and ignored them but in circumstances like this he could do nothing but comply. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the envelope. Viv put it in her handbag and they carried on talking “Looks like your going to be here for a bit mum, Janice will take on Lilly until your sorted, so don’t worry”. Sadie frowned a little “OK, just make sure that she has her dolly and blanket or she’ll get upset.” Her voice was rasping and distorted from the swelling. The nurse arrived and asked them to leave.
The journey home for Viv and Bert was quiet and cold for the majority of the time and only once did Bert mention about the money but deep down he knew he was in the wrong but the addiction of the bet tended to blank out the reality of the consequences.
Within a few days the news had arrived. Sadie had multiple acute papillary tumours and needed an immediate Thyroidectomy and a more difficult operation to remove the secondary growths as they had encroached on nerve clusters in her neck. It was difficult to distinguish if they had grown into or just against the nerves and it was touch and go. Bert, Janice and Viv kept vigil while Lizzie took care of the kids with Ma Sanderson.
Lizzie was distracted by the situation. It played on her mind and was wondering what she would do without her Nana but shook it off. It was too difficult to contemplate. Lizzie was at one time the centre of attention from her grandparents and parents and Vince was a close second. When she was younger she was doted upon, given everything a child could desire plus more. Then one by one they were all taken away. It started with the birth of Lilly and Viv’s attention waned when Terry arrived. The icing on the cake was Mick. All 3 were born within 15 months of each other and Derek became the one person who gave her the attention that she needed. Then he dropped her like a stone and buggered off without a bye or leave. But Sadie and her mother were still there, however Viv was occupied with Terry since his Dad was booted out on his ear and got a touch of the Sanderson fire and vinegar piss on the way out. Bert wasn’t much good because his interest was directed toward his gambling or Lilly and had difficulty spreading his attention no matter how hard he tried
As she was stable, the doctors decided to move Sadie to the Royal Hope London as the Neurosurgery Unit was better equipped and more advanced than Gillingham. The operation took 5 hours and they managed the Thyroidectomy but complications ensued with the secondary tumours and the surgeon decided to cut the operation short when it became apparent that the tumours were more entrenched than first thought and they where too close to the artery.
After further discussions and tests it was decided that they use radiotherapy but the prognosis good. Even though the use of the big C wasn’t used, Janice and Viv realised it was and the nurse told them it was a rare form. Cancer wasn’t something that was discussed.
There was one major side effect of her condition and the operation, weakness and partial paralysis of the arms. The Surgeon informed them that it was to do with the inflammation and with time it should come back. Only time would tell.
The whole family went to the hospital to see Sadie, her parents, sister, her husband and kids. Even Ma Sanderson came to see her, but most important of all her Lilly and Grandchildren. There was an added shock for the kids. Sadie’s face and voice had changed and she had large dressings around her neck. Her long hair had been cropped at the back for the operation and with radiotherapy due it was decided that the whole lot should be cut off. All the youngsters thought she was someone else, it wasn’t Sadie. It was someone pretend to be her.
It was a week after the operation when Lizzie and Lilly had contracted Chicken Pox and were put into isolation at home. At the same time a message arrived from the hospital that Sadie had shingles and was isolated as well.
The bad news kept coming. Derek took the opportunity to play a few manoeuvres relating to maintenance. His new wife was up the duff and he wanted his kids to pay for it while this was going on.
It was Christmas 1970 and it was a year when the whole family, excluding ex husbands, pulled together and had dinner under one roof and Janice’s was central to them all. It was decided that they would make the best that they could make it and spent as much as they could. The older kids especially were worried. Lizzie and Vince were Sadie’s and Bert’s favourites before Lilly came along. As the oldest, they knew for more about the seriousness of the situation and to a degree, understood how bad it was.
This was the time that finality of the divorce was accepted by all. The marriage and the new obstacle in the shape in the impending arrival of a faceless sprog was the last kick. This added insult by the usurping gummy slug would stop all chance of her Dad coming home and it hit Lizzie the hardest. She could not come to terms with the way her Dad had dropped them like a broken toy broke her heart and she was angry. Vince too felt sidelined and rejected and increasingly he would misbehave. The only one who seemed oblivious was Mick, he didn’t care much as Derek paid him no mind and Mick did likewise. As far as Mick was concerned, Derek was a man called Dad.
It was Christmas day and Lizzie was given a load of annuals and some scents from her mum and Viv. Vince was in the dog house as he had been caught shoplifting and his mum was none too pleased but he wasn’t left out. The presents were typical of the era, stickle bricks, Lego and Mouse Trap Buckaroo and Kerplunk and they were all shared. Vince ended up with a load of the top comic annuals, but somehow felt that he had been short changed when he hadn’t. But Just for now, just this Christmas, everyone got along with each other and the world for the kids at that time felt as though it had something special no matter how fleeting it was. It was intangible but made them warm and happy inside and it was just what they needed.
The Christmas lunch was something special. The living room had been cleared and 2 dining tables were placed in the centre. Bert headed the table with his daughters sitting in the middle facing each other in order to keep the kids from sniping or teasing. Prevention is always best for smooth running. Ma Sanderson had a place at the end of the table but she opted to spend it with Uncle Rob and Ethel. Ma was still annoyed over her granddaughters’ divorces, but no one really cared. After all it was freedom of choice. The spread was something special and had a party atmosphere with hats, balloons, and bundles of coloured paper chains intertwined with tinsel made by the kids. It was a sight that would stay in the minds of those present for the rest of their lives.
When the lunch finished everyone chipped in with the tidying up. The kids had to pack away all the wrapping paper and unwanted packaging before taking it in turns to help with the washing up and drying. Unusually there wasn’t too much moaning as there was an added treat after their work.
When all was done and everything was put away, each kid got a jamboree bag. The little kids loved them but it was a little short for Lizzie and Vince, after all they were much older.
Viv wanted to pop back home before going to the hospital, hopefully the Matron would allow a visit on Christmas Day and she could sneak in a piece of turkey and stuffing for her. Janice had to chop it up into little pieces so she would be able to eat it without too much discomfort. It was decided that Viv went as she would be more capable of dealing with an obstructive Matron without loosing her wig. The hospitals didn’t like too many visitors in the hospital on Christmas Day, there weren’t many staff and only the seriously ill or infirmed without family spent Christmas in hospital. It was a question of not disturbing or upsetting the other patients at sensitive time. So everyone could be equally miserable.
Bert sat down in front of the telly and fell asleep within minutes, Lizzie went to her room with the radio and Janice started to prepare the Christmas tea. The rest of the kids were playing quietly. Except for Vince, who began to float around looking for a reason to disrupt the contentment of Mick and Terry.
Vince made a beeline for the pair who had constructed the tall tower of Lego with Mick’s present and the box Terry had brought from home. The boys had spent part ages making a list of what belonged to whom and had been at it for hours. Vince sat down next to him and smiled “Need any help?” Terry Spoke “No thanks it’s nearly done”. Mick stayed quiet, he knew that it wasn’t a good idea to get involved in squabbles. He learnt that it wasn’t worth it. He belted Vince once and made his nose bleed and his older brother harboured a grudge. Vince continued “Doesn’t look to safe to me and it looks like it’ll fall over, It needs a bit more at the bottom”, “No it doesn’t, it’s fine” Terry replied. Mick started to frown as he knew what was coming. Vince smirked and pushed it over with his finger. The whole thing began to tip and when Terry tried to stop it Vince laughed as it fell into chunks of Lego and ended in a pile. “See I told you” Vince announced while giving a faux laugh. Terry propelled a strew of obscenities at Vince and threw a multicoloured chunk of bricks at his head but missed. “Mummy, mummy, Terry keeps throwing toys and swearing at me”. Vince gave his usual irritating infantile way with a big smile and deliberated demented laugh. This was a trade mark that would follow him through life only to become a prerequisite for something darker the older he got.
Janice walked into the room and told Terry off. Terry started to cry and tried to tell he what happened but she took no notice and told the both to behave but Mick piped up. “Vince started mum, he knocked it down because we don’t want him to play because he always messes our games and when he loses, he’s horrible”. Terry got up, “if you want to play can them you can, but not my stuff because it’s going home.” Mick helped him sort out the pieces but Vince kept jumping in and grabbing pieces. He threw them around the room laughing. “Missed that”, Missed that” “10, 1, 3,6,4,7,9,18,” he would not stop until Terry jumped up and pushed him over, “Mummy , Mummy, Terry pushed me over” Vince announced in a pretend crying voice. Once Vince started and if he remained the situation would escalate unless he left or someone intervened.
Janice ran into the room and grabbed Vince by the scruff. “Do you really think that I’m that deaf and stupid? Leave them alone and go out or go to your room. Bert was listening pretending to be half asleep, he could have stopped it at any time but he didn’t. It’s just another game.
“He’s not doing any harm they should have let him play” Bert was bored and needed entertainment and this little episode was far better than the offering on TV. “Dad, he doesn’t need encouragement thanks you very much. He’s in enough trouble already”. “If only his father…” “DAD” Bert did it with half a thought, it was a reflex but Janice cut him off in his stride. With that Vince was ushered upstairs with an armful of his stuff. Hopefully he will keep himself occupied, she thought to herself not
Janice walked into the kitchen and Terry followed soon after, he asked her why Vince was so horrible and she told him that Vince just needed a little patience and was just a bit unhappy because of his Nan, but Terry knew even at that age Vince should be avoided and he was turning into a bully. Janice didn’t want him going home, Viv had a rendezvous that at the time, would be seen as treading on dangerous ground. She was in a relationship with Eddie, Bert’s old warehouseman and there was something else he was a black Barbadian. Janice knew what was going on and to a degree Bert. Viv wasn’t sure if Bert condoned or condemned the relationship as she could be tapped for cash.
Viv too would soon make a decision that would ripple through the family and have a long term affect on all their lives.
They whole family managed to see Sadie before the New Year and she was in great spirits and was looking forward to coming home. No one could touch her as she was in isolation. It was the good sense of the ward sister that they at least got to speak her through the door with a face mask. The little ones still could come to terms with the changes in her appearance. Even though her voice had improved since the operation it had changed significantly and was unrecognisable.
The doctors informed the family that once the Shingles calmed down Sadie would be released for further treatment at the Marsden. Even though her condition made her very uncomfortable, she seemed to be improving on a daily basis. The main change was the swelling and her voice. She sounded and looked like her former self. The sensation began to return into her arms and hands and seemed much better. Every one made an effort to see her before and after Christmas and on New Year’s Eve and a feeling of relief had been felt by all. Best of all Lilly recognised her mother once more
Lizzie had got over her chicken pox and was clear and began babysitting once more. Jenny, Frankie’s wife thought it best that Lizzie stayed clear for a couple of months just to be sure and had Lizzie’s sidekick Deb’s take her place for a while. Lizzie had changed over the past 5 months and had filled out and grown a few more inches, Jenny noted that she was now the same size as her and had bigger boobs, which made Lizzie blush. Lizzie’s crush on Frankie hadn’t diminished and she was always lost for words in front of him, which was unusual for Lizzie as she always had something to say, but for now she would have to leave her crush to one side as her Nana’s illness played on her mind and Deb’s could help fill in for her. It looked like 1970 wasn’t going to be that bad a year after all. At least Christmas was one of the best yet and everything looked bright, for now…..