Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Gardiner Street. In the flat.

Last time I left you waiting to be invited inside our new flat. Well I'm going to take you inside now, in just a minute. First I wanted to remind you of the layout as you approached our flat from inside the house. Sorry about the quality of the picture, but if you look carefully you'll see the small square window that I mentioned, the window in our toilet. As I said earlier, the big window above it was just there to let in natural light, and to the left of that window is one of the 2 windows that were at the back of our flat... the kitchen part... no sitting room or anything like that. And I mentioned that there was a door leading to our landing. My Ma loved this door because it could be bolted, so I suppose she felt more like we had our own privacy at last with having the two doors, as well as the fact that the halldoor was a locked one. One of my memories as you approached that landing door were the stairs. Two flights, one from Judge's landing leading to the landing that had our toilet and the final flight leading from the toilet up to the flat. But one thing that sticks in my mind is how clean Ma kept these stairs. They were bare wooden stairs, no covering of any sort, and they were white as can be. They were white because Ma scrubbed them regularly. I can see her now going out with her basin of scalding water, her big bar of red carbolic soap, a cloth of some kind and a scrubbing brush with stiff bristles. She took pride in how clean she kept that stairway, and even as a kid I used to feel guilty about walking on them if I'd been out playing and my shoes were dirty.

Well there you have it again... an introduction to the approach to our flat.

So now gentle reader it's time to come inside.

Look to your left as you come through the landing door and there you see one door. It's painted a sort of dark green and has a keyhole and a shining brass knob. It wasn't a bright brass knob when we moved in, quite blackened in fact. But Ma soon had it shining like new.

But I digress. We open the door and there straight in front of us is what was known as the coal hole. In fact this was a ceiling height press, not unlike a walk-in wardrobe, even having small louvre ventilators in the doors near the top. It was called the coal hole because that's what it was used for... holding coal... if we had some. Why a hole though? Because in all of the old houses around there was a hole in the ground outside each house where coal was dropped through. But they were only really used when the aristocracy lived in the houses, but the name stuck... the coal hole... for wherever coal was stored.

This small hall is about 10 feet long by about 6 feet wide. To the right there are two doors, one for each bedroom. The door to the left led to our only other room... the kitchen. That door was always kept ajar for some reason. Probably so that we as kids didn't feel left out if we were in our room.

We walk into the kitchen and the first thing we see in front of us is a kitchen table. A wooden one, with two chairs. Ma kept that table whiter than white. It was scrubbed daily, and often several times a day with the carbolic soap. I remember that soap, it was a long bar, red in colour and no good for any other kind of washing apart from scrubbing because it was very hard to build up a lather. Sometimes Ma would cover the table with a table cloth, though it wasn't made of cloth, it was some kind of shiny oilcloth.

To the left of this room there was a sideboard and next to that was the sink. This was a huge sink, very deep too. I never heard anyone call it a sink though. It was always called a trough (pronounced throw) and above it a single tap delivering cold water. Between the sink and the window that you see in the photo there was a short wooden draining board. This draining board was used by us kids as a place to sit so that we could look out the window. That was because it was just far enough back from the window that we couldn't fall out (four stories high remember) but close enough so that we could see out clearly. We used to get Kelloggs corn flakes and at that time the packet had cut-out photos of big American cars. I used to stick those photos on the wall over the draining board, and at the time we were finally leaving that flat I remember that one or two of the cars were still stuck to that wall.

To the right of that window was the fireplace. Dad used to paint the bricks surrounding it signal red and he'd paint the mortar between in white. It looked good to me. Across in front of the fire there was a fender that as a kid you could sit on. But that has a painful memory for me. One part of that fender was held together with copper wire and I sat on it, and a piece of the wire stuck through a rather tender area for a boy. I was taken to Temple Street Childrens hospital where I was taken care of, and my parents were assured that someday I really could be a father, despite the injury. Some people actually pay to be pierced there now! But enough about that.

To the left of the fireplace was another window just like the one in the photo. Dad used to buy cage birds in the bird market on Sundays and their small wooden cages used to be stood on the windowsill and hung on nails outside. It used to be nice hearing the birdsong of linnets, red polls and goldfinches. A lot of people did that back then, and some even bred birds in their flats. But Sundays were special for me becuase Dad always brought me to the bird market on the South side of the city and they were wonderful outings for me. I'll talk about them at some time later.... and about the open air markets that we used to go to on the way to and from the bird market. As a matter of interest that bird market is still in business and is supposed to be the oldest in the world.

The window I've just mentioned met a wall to the left. Standing against this wall there was a dresser. This was a kitchen dresser, the type that held dishes, cups etc and had two drawers for cutlery and presses below that held pots and kitchen cleaning stuff. I remember it as being painted blue and white. The cups used to be hung on hooks fixed to the edge of the shelves, and the very top of the dresser was reserved for stuff that Dad didn't want us fooling about with, and as it was too high anything he put up there was safe. Or so he thought! One day, he must have been out or no one was paying any heed to me, I climbed up the dresser and took down a hand drill. and bored a neat hole in the floorboards. Wasn't an expert job but good enough... till someone spotted what I was up to and my career as a carpenter came to an abrupt end.

That wall I'm speaking of was where any pictures that we had were hung, and at the farthest end from the window there was a niche in the wall, covered with a curtain. This was the wardrobe.

Then we come to the wall that led back to the entrance door. Ma and Da's bed was here, along this wall. I suppose they didn't have a lot of choice about where to put their bed because there was only two bedrooms and the family at that time was two boys and a two girls. Then again the second of the two bedrooms was very small and I doubt if their bed would have fit in there anyway.

The room was lit by one lightbulb hanging from the center of the ceiling. Oh I remember in Summertime how sticky fly catchers were hung from the ceiling and down beside the bulb. I hated those fly catchers, you'd always see a fly trying to extricate itself from whatever sticky substance covered the ribbon that hung from the ceiling.

Dad took great pride in keeping that flat looking cosy and hospitable. He always seemd to be painting or wallpapering, and Mam would be scrubbing and dusting. I suppose they were proud of their home and they made a great team in keeping it looking good.

The floor was covered in lino, though I remember it being called oilcloth and even for years after we left that flat Ma used to polish the lino and get us kids to put on old socks and slide on it. We made great lino polishers, bringing the lino up to a shine you could see youself in... and if you weren't careful when walking on it you might have gone skating and broken a leg.

Over on the sideboard in pride of place was our radio set. A big one with a 'magic eye' which had something to do with the tuning of the radio but all I ever saw was a green light changing shape, but it kept me interested, though I never found out for myself why that 'magic eye' was there. Oh the radio wasn't ours! It was rented. Radios were very expensive then, so people rented them from a firm called Brittans, now long gone out of business of course. But I remember that a woman used to call each week for our payments which I think was about 1 shilling a week. If you missed three weeks they came and repossessed it. If that happened no problem. You simply went back to Brittans and rented another one under a different name! I think the collector eventually got to know all of the names we used because there came a time when we could no longer rent from her firm and we had to change to another one.

Next time I want to talk about what we could see when we looked out of the windows, and I also want to talk about life in that street. I also want to post some memories that my brother Tony has sent to me and also some that Marie has shared too, and there's lots more to come.

So do drop back... we have a lot to get through... including the fact that we had a ringside seat for the fights that took place in the street after the pubs emptied at the weekends.... I think you'll be entertained... and have a laugh too.

Oh, before I go. I must say that my abiding memory of living in Gardiner Street, the memory that always comes back when I think of us living there is of our Mam singing. Yes, she was a happy woman, and I remember her songs too. I'm going to upload some so that you can hear them too. Bet some will remember all or some of them.

See you again soon.

No comments: