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Rest In Peace
By Isabela Hart
Trafford PublishingCopyright © 2014 Isabela Hart
All rights reserved.
I'm still clinging on precariously to my last breath when it would be much easier not to face another day and instead depart to the unknown place where we all end up. However to change the subject, you might be interested in learning more about normal life long before the arrival of television.
* * *
I begin his chapter with my experiences as a wee boy. The recession after the First Great War was destroying the lives of the already extremely poor families. My vivid memories, took place during the long dark cold winter evenings, when my dad and his cronies would be content sat at our living room table, heatedly or agitatedly, talking about football or morosely discussing the problems of mass unemployment and when their passions really surfaced especially when my dad mentioned his support for the communist party. Another discovery of mine was to learn my dad was a male chauvinist; his mates opinion of my dad, however I also learned they apparently seemed to believe my dad's opinions were good enough and not questioned, just as importantly dad actually knew what he was taking about, for instance he knew when the communists finally did take over Kilmarnock, we would all be made to wear a uniform, but because he was in work as a tradesman he would also need to share his wages with our unemployed neighbours. My mom did this already so I guessed she must already be a communist. She also used her thick Kennedy tartan plaid to cover our living room table, without being asked, and also place a big plate of shortbread and a bottle of Jonnie Walker. Of course being a woman she was never allowed to sit at the table, anyway she always sat by the fire darning old socks or knitting new ones. Before going to bed she would always warn us weans, about keeping the scullery door and the living doors closed to prevent cold draughts. Our living room coal fire was the only heating in the house. The black leaded heavy black iron kettle hung over the fire supplied the hot water for many uses, like washing our hair, scrubbing our back, and making tea. The bed for the weans to sleep in was too narrow for us, while she and dad had the bigger one on the other side of the heavy curtain hanging down from the ceiling, this was supposed to hide us away at night time, however being the oldest, I would risk being caught to be quiet as a mouse on my side of the bed, enabling me to listen my dad and his mate's conversations with bated breath well into the night. Tom my young brother always slept next to me, while Mamie slept top to tail with us. I knew I would get a good skelping from my dad for being awake and another skelping for ignoring his warnings. Too often the gas mantle fixed to the lamp holder, providing a decent light was regularly broken, usually when the door was banged shut by someone in a temper, the poor light was then made worse by the clouds of smoke from dad and his cronies smoking full strength Capstan cigarettes. If they stayed long enough they would to talk about some chaps referred to as Lenin and Stalin, I knew of course Rabbie Burns. I was longing to grow up and get a good job and then wear a cap, drink some whisky and smoke a Capstan. It was great for me to have so many uncles who are my dad's mates and learned why it was a sign of weakness for dad to kiss or cuddle my mom in front of anyone. I never let on I'd seen him cuddle my mom when he thought I was asleep. I never expected him to make a fuss of me or my brother, but he ordered us to always protect our little sister. When getting too cold some nights I would get right under the cover to get to sleep. The bed for the weans to sleep in was too narrow for us, while Mom and my Dad had the bigger one on the other side of the heavy curtain hanging down from the ceiling, this was supposed to hide us away at night time, however being the oldest, I would risk being caught to be quiet as a mouse on my side of the bed, enabling me to listen my dad and his mate's conversations with bated breath well into the night. Tom my young brother always slept next to me, while Mamie slept top to tail with us. I knew I would get a good skelping from my dad for being awake and sometimes another skelping for ignoring his warnings. Too often the gas mantle fixed to the lamp holder, providing a decent light was regularly broken, usually when the door was banged shut by someone in a temper, the poor light was then made worse by the clouds of smoke from dad and his cronies smoking full strength Capstan cigarettes. If they stayed long enough they would to talk about some chaps referred to as Lenin and Stalin, I knew of course Rabbie Burns. I was longing to grow up and get a good job and then wear a cap, drink some whisky and smoke a Capstan. It was great for me to have so many uncles who are my dad's mates and learned why it was a sign of weakness for dad to kiss or cuddle my mom in front of anyone. I never let on I'd seen him cuddle my mom when he thought I was asleep. I never expected him to make a fuss of me or my brother, but insisted we take care of our little sister. When it was cold at night I would crawl underneath the blanket dreading the morning to get up to go to school but at least we could have a bowl of porridge before we left and I could always hope that being the eldest I could get the first go at licking the basin the rice had been baked in. Fighting for the burnt black skin was for the quickest ones off the mark but only after I'd finished scraping most of skin off.CHAPTER 2
I was still wearing short trousers looking forward to being old enough to wear long ones.
* * *
At the primary school big Jimmy Fowler an older boy from the tenements, picked a fight with me and jealously accused me of being middle class, only because I had an inside lavatory at our Glebe Road house. I did think about this but got more and more confused about me being middle class. I knew my more well off pals living at the top end of Glebe Road had much bigger houses, some with a very large brass knocker on the front door, and also a big porch to keep visitors dry while they waited for someone to answer the door, when my mom's visitors just walked in without knocking, although our front door was never locked anyway, but then again perhaps this was because our front door didn't have a brass knocker. My best pal "Chocky Milton" living at the top end of the street, although he was very well off, he played with my gang down at the bottom end, mainly because the big Coop grocery shop opposite my house had a big red sandstone block wall, which was great for ball games and football practice. Mr Nimmo the manager had long ago stopped his regular habit of removing our white chalked goal posts from his brick wall. He'd learned to accept our football pitch. Unfortunately on a Saturday morning my older cousin, Wullie Ferguson was riding the shop's message bike down the hill, showing off with his feet on the handle bars, shouting to get our attention when he lost control, mounted the pavement, crashed through the large front window of the shop and scattering boxes of Scott's porridge oats every where. Wullie showing signs of being the worse of wear subsequently lost his job but his broken arm was another handicap. Later when me and my gang we were a bit older, during lunch time at the secondary school, when it was raining we usually sheltered inside the large brick building which was covered with a tiled roof. A long wooden bench built against the brick wall was ideal for the game of last boy standing. We joined the teams of other boys to face each other standing on the wooden bench and the battle took place when the first two opposing boys facing each other fought furiously to remain standing. The first loser replaced immediately by the next in line, the winner obviously was the only boy still standing. Usually our heads never clashed, however the bricks were always stained with blood from skinned knuckles or torn finger nails. Usually the winner was the school bully. Our Mom's were not too impressed as our jumpers or shirts required repairing. The other problem was that moms never did understand why this playground game was so important to boys; we had of course learned how to fight our own battles growing up, or why we had to fight their own battles, or why at school we tried hard not to cry. I knew how to impress my English teacher big Mac by taking six of the best with the strap from him without crying and learned how to blink back my tears even when the pain couldn't be ignored. Girls in the classroom would check our faces for any signs of tears. If we passed their scrutiny we knew we would be respected by the girls for our bravery.
Later on my first, but old second hand bike had no brakes and like other boys we'd learned to stop by planting both feet on the top of the tyre but when cable brakes were later invented, this enabled us to ride faster and really impress the girls. Impressing the girls was very important however they only played a minor role in boy's lives. We believed it was important for boys to prove how brave we were. Boys never admitted it but most of us had a secret girl friend. The usual practice to meet the girlfriends inside the picture house, then in the dim light in the back rows we could enjoy a crafty kiss or a smoke, usually the one Woodbine we'd bought for this occasion. After the movie had ended we would furtively separate and meet outside accidentally, of course, for fear of being spotted by any other gang member.
I was at that time beginning to realise there was still a lot to learn about how to treat girls, especially after they'd lost interest in playing doctors and nurses. Wee boys were becoming stronger while girls were learning how to gain advantage from the situation.CHAPTER 3
Betwixt and between when boys longed to become men before they discovered girls.
* * *
I'd arrived by bus at my Aunty Ella's house in the village of Catrine, it was a Friday evening and I got up very early on the Saturday morning, planning to spend the whole day along the river with my pal Tom Lorrimore. It was great but by mid day we were starving. After buying a bag of chips at Angelos chippy, we agreed with him to come back later with some good eels at the usual price. In the afternoon after playing on the swings in the play area we went up the river to the salmon leap just below the rapids and start the hard work of turning over large boulders it was later than expected before we grabbed our first eel. Just before dark we'd earned enough to return for payment from Mr Angelo. John and me were experts at beheading eels by using a sharp blade made from a piece of steel hoop removed from old whisky barrels which we'd been quite good at cutting and sharpening part of the steel hoop to make a cutlass, then wrap a strip of canvas round one end as a good strong handle. Grabbing eels is dangerous work, you could easily lose a finger if you weren't very careful and sixpence was not easy money. We'd had a good day so after being paid, we'd tucked in to our fish suppers followed by vanilla milk shakes. I left Tom to walk the few minutes back to Aunt Ella's house at number 8 Bridge Street, expecting a good ticking off for being late; I quietly opened the living room door ready to make my well rehearsed excuses however unfortunately my announcement dried in my mouth. The sight of two unexpected girl visitors in the sitting room had made me blush but reacting quickly mainly to avoid their eyes looking at me I crossed the room to disturb Scotty from his doggy dreams. Then hiding behind his thick black coat I managed to mutter my excuses to my aunt Ella and also Uncle Bill. Fortunately both of them were comfortably settled in their well upholstered favourite seats. Uncle Bill was as usual peering at me over his small reading specs, while Aunt Ella with a closed book on her lap was nodding in time to dance music on the grama-phone. She'd save her complaint for another occasion, instead smiled with the briefest greeting while I was now still blushing and covertly examining the two girls with stolen glances while Scotty was still being strategically held securely between my brown legs and bare feet. My embarrassment however continued when I was painfully aware of my well-worn dirty breeks supported by a pair of brown braces, held by large safety pins. All of this must have been obvious to them, and wasn't helped by my equally well worn faded tartan shirt which was tucked into my breeks, my agony continued when they must have also seen my old grubby well-holed canvas uppers of my plimsolls, once white but were now multi coloured and still soaking wet. I'd not removed them outside because being very late I'd been anxious to hurry up with my excuses. I was now also very conscious of their amusement and worst of all the girls were wearing pretty dresses. Desperate to get help from somewhere I wondered if my Aunt Ella had realised that the girls were wearing make up and lipstick. I'd never before in my entire life been this close to girls like them. I was still desperately searching for a good reason to really dislike them and was now forced to escape with my excuse they were a lot older than me. I refused Aunt Ella's offer of supper and then immediately run upstairs to the bathroom get washed then seek the security of my small bedroom at the back of the house. I loved the sound of the river but now forgot all about it, being more worried the girls wouldn't still be here on Sunday. As it turned out they had to return to Kilmarnock. Meantime I resolved in future to wear long trousers when I arrived at Catrine.CHAPTER 4
My dad was by now working in India and I was nearly eleven years old living at home helping my mom raise my two younger brothers and sister unaware of what the future held for me.
* * *
The rain puddles on the pavements of Kilmarnock were gradually disappearing and although the warm westerly air current was noticeable, there was an absence of the sun in the morning's dull grey cloudy sky above, when upstairs in the Gibson's house in Mill Lane two very bedraggled young lads had just arrived, wearing dripping wet breeks which were dripping onto their remarkably clean and unusually pink bare knees, a result of them being unmercifully peppered a few minutes earlier by a violent rain downpour. However being well used to being outdoors in the rain they were now content to let their clothing dry naturally relying on the warmth of their bodies, knowing from experience they could hang them on the clothes horses in front of the fire and be ready for wearing to school in the morning; while they would also confidently believed they wouldn't be scolded for playing outside in the rain, however they were also aware the Sabbath day was different and by spoiling their best Sunday breeks was sacrilegious, and of course merited punishment, but both boys being worldly wise already realised if you have to survive the pains of growing up you had learned to grin and bear punishments then just forget them. Eddie the oldest was later to be only annoyed at wasting his time on attending the morning Sunday school bible class at the Presbyterian Kirk. They were now playing darts on Gibson's landing which was the only place they were allowed to play on the Sabbath and Eddie also knew Jim's mom could keep her eye on them and if he and Jim managed to play without fighting she would usually bribe them with a jeelie piece or some bread and dripping, always providing they managed to keep the peace on Sundays.
Suddenly, a very loud deafening shout firstly boomed to bounce then echo off the walls of the granite stone stairway.
"We are at war with Germany—I've heard this on the wireless."
Mr Broon the downstairs neighbour shouted this from the bottom step just before midday on the Sunday morning of 11th September 1939,
Excerpted from Rest In Peace by Isabela Hart. Copyright © 2014 Isabela Hart. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
My Story, xi,
Chapter One, 1,
Chapter Two, 4,
Chapter Three, 7,
Chapter Four, 10,
Chapter Five, 14,
Chapter Six, 17,
Chapter Seven, 20,
Chapter Eight, 24,
Chapter Nine, 29,
Chapter Ten, 31,
Chapter Eleven, 36,
Chapter Twelve, 40,
Chapter Thirteen, 43,
Chapter Fourteen, 47,
Chapter Fifteen, 49,
Chapter Sixteen, 51,
Chapter Seventeen, 59,
Chapter Eighteen, 62,
Chapter Nineteen, 65,
Chapter Twenty, 68,
Chapter Twenty-One, 72,
Chapter Twenty-Two, 75,
Chapter Twenty-Three, 81,
Chapter Twenty-Four, 83,