It was only after Mark was being carried through next doors front room that he kicked and giggled; just missing a slap on the leg for that realistic play-acting by their dad! It hadn't been long after this that he was taken to Harold Wood hospital first to get a crayon removed from his left nostril and then, only weeks later, a saucepan from off of his head. Esther had been up to childhood pranks returning from the off license with wet sudsy hair and an empty bottle of shampoo saying simply, "I wanted to and I felt like washing my hair in the rain mummy!” Those were the sort of things both parents were accustomed to.
Times like when Andrew hid his vinyl ball in the oven and then wondered where it had gone. Their daddy, forced to conceal his amusement, spending hours scraping the molten mess from the bottom of the oven.
Esther had been so excited the day she’d returned from infant school to find a fluffy ginger and white kitten dangling from the sitting room curtains. Squealing for release, being un-able to move either way. She’d lifted his tiny fragile claws from the netting and then scooped him into her arms, the most welcome of friends. Esther lowering her face to his purring head and sneaking him to bed that night. Soon after Timmy, the kitten, appeared, a black and white mongrel puppy with a patch on his left eye joined them on their walks round the common at the back of the house.
Life seemed the same, but there were tiny differences, when their daddy no longer joined them on these walks, but lay instead in bed. Esther felt scared as just before their trip to Coventry with her daddy, she had been in a stream which was near to her school retrieving her bag a boy in her class had thrown. She knew that she should not have gone into the water, and if she did then her daddy would smack her and so she had remained quiet on returning from school; and stuffed her wet socks and skirt to the bottom of their cane laundry basket where she hoped no one, not even Mrs. N their home-help, would notice.
"But…but, Daddy. There wasn't enough water there. It was only a little stream.”
He hadn't stayed angry for long as after that incident, she was skipping along besides him. She had been close to her father; knowing that he would be a constant in her life. She’d peep behind the living room curtains of 8 Swindon Close, patiently awaiting his return from London, but often he’d be late.
They had just emerged from the doctor’s surgery with her daddy very quiet and not really listening to her pleas for an ice cream from a Mr. Whippy van.
"Have a lovely time in Coventry with your nana." shouted the doctor’s receptionist, “and take care that that case doesn't burst open again, won't you!”
She had already assisted Esther with stuffing a motley assortment of overnight clothes and her Dad’s shaver back into the case.
Once on the train, having reached Liverpool Street, it didn’t seem a long journey. Esther wished she could remember her grandfather, but all she knew was aware of that he had died about the same time as the coronation of Queen Elizabeth and how there was a strange sadness and quietness in the house. Or so her mum had said to her daddy, when she thought she was upstairs and asleep in bed. She had skipped along besides her father with him always insisting that she held his hand tightly when on the underground as they wound their way to the station…… with lots of people and barrows.
A man reprimanding an old lady for losing her handbag, a lady, talking into the air from high up on the wall; everyone stopping for a while to listen to her. Something about a cancellation whatever that was! Not for one moment did it enter her child's mind that she wasn’t safe, as he took what to her long strides, his thin white stick tapping from wall to line. It seemed that most people stepped to one side, but some didn't seem to care.
“Bloody ignorant or lazy,” muttered her father, as he forced his way forwards and onwards, yet nothing seemed to stop him.
Life meanwhile seemed the same but there were tiny differences when their daddy no longer joined them on walks but lay instead in bed.
“Daddy is resting in bed, he is tired and he has funny pains in his legs which the doctors are trying to help to get better. Doctor, Feldman at the practice, is trying to help him to get better with strong medicine.”
Their mother had mentioned quietly; whilst they walked together only a few weeks later that their daddy mightn’t be coming home again.
It had only been a couple of months earlier that Esther remembered her father taking himself off to his vegetable patch at the bottom of the garden, following a huge row about bringing Michael home. As a peace-keeper he had returned clutching a huge cauliflower which he had given to her Mum and she had cried and said, “I really don’t know what to do about this Jim.”
If they argued about anything it was about Michael, and how wrong he wasn’t there with them, where he belonged. Not for one moment did it enter her child's mind that life could ever change anymore.