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9 , Erskine Road, was an address that will live in memory until the day of all days, where i spent an intermittent childhood, a port in a storm, the only constant this child knew, in a weird unpredictable childhood. Here in this modest maisonette lived my grandparents, parents of my mum, Tam and Nellie, plus two of my mothers sisters, Isa and Ellen, my aunts. This would sometimes be swelled by the regular visit of Jimmy, an uncle who was a vagrant and always down on his luck, i remember Jimmy coming and being sat at the table, food provided, and all he did was complain about the quality of the bread, the ham , while at the same time wolfing it down , and asking for another slice . He would dig deep into this old grubby raincoat and produce magically some jelly babies ( a kids sweet), and offer them up to me, problem was they were covered in bits of cigarette tobacco from dog ends collected in the street, the dog ends and jelly babies shared the same pocket.
Aunt Isa had returned home to Erskine road after many years in London, had been through the Blitz, suffered ill health with what was then called Goitre, now thyroid, and a once beautiful looking young unmarried woman, had now freakish bulging eyes and neck scars, she always retained a dignity however that was misunderstood , and treated me with a love for a child she never had, her one and only extravagance was cigarettes, she would send me out to buy the cheapest brand, and then my job was to transfer them to an empty packet she kept of an expensive brand, they would be smoked in a little holder with a faraway look in huge enlarged soft brown eyes.
Ellen suffered badly from Asthma, plus a mental health problem, the war had effected her badly, she would take fits and search under the beds for the enemy, armed with a walking stick and a tongue of swear words i learned assiduously from, totally ignorant of their meaning. My grandmother who was bedridden with rheumatics, ruled the house from her bedside, every day there was a performance where she was carried through to the toilet for a 'movement', but after a longish period where nearly every one had forgotten about her, she would scream ' get me back to bed, its no bloody good, can't go', i never remember her ever being able ' to go.'
Tam her husband, my grandfather had no problem ' going', he would sit happily in the loo , trousers and long-johns round his ankles, door wide open puffing on his clay pipe filled with ' thick black' which he would sometimes chew, patiently and studiously checking the daily newspaper for horse racing form and tips. He would shave around midday, exchange his old flannel underwear for a three piece suit, his clay pipe for a smart wooden one, then head off down town to the bookies like the last of the great gamblers, and place his threepenny bets, cross doubles trebles and accumulators, anything that could turn threepence into a small fortune, but it never happened. My mum would be more successful picking three horses with maybe red in the name, regardless of form.
Ach, i am done , could go on forever, thank you... 9, Erskine Road.