Aftermath

I don’t remember the War, only the effects of its passing – the tank traps on the beaches , the bomb sites in the cities. Hull was one of the closest ports to Germany and, therefore, one of the first places to suffer the Blitz. The centre of the city around Paragon Station was flattened, although the station itself miraculously survived. I recall most of the shops, including the big department stores, were in prefabricated buildings and the long terraces of houses had gaps like missing teeth. There was no rubble left. The empty sockets had all been cleaned out, leaving smooth, concrete pads, with bare brick walls on two or three sides.

All this damage made for a huge task in reconstruction and, by1950, this was in fill swing. If this was not an economic resurgence, then at least the country was moving again and the sense of activity and tangible progress led to a wave of optimism. I sometimes think that the Baby Boomers, whose formative years were spent in this brave new world, drew their unprecedented sense of self-confidence and personal privilege from this post war release of tension. Hence, came the sixties and the reinvention of London as the centre of modern culture.

The fortunes of my family took a turn for the better along with everyone else’s. By the end of1950, we had moved on from our house in Barkimgside to a white stucco place in Little Heath in a semi-rural setting. We had a big garden complete with beehives and fruit trees. We bought our first car. My parents switched their votes from Labour to Conservative. I was now attending William Talbot School, a more salubrious establishment than The Glade. My name was down for future enrolment at one of the minor public schools. We had come a long way in the five years since the War ended. Then my father died and everything changed.

My mother was left with a house still entangled in mortgage settlements from our old place, a car she couldn’t drive, an invention that was tantalisingly close to making money but never would, and an substantial insurance policy on my father’s life that the company wouldn’t pay out on because, although he had signed the forms and passed the medical (two days before he died), he hadn’t actually paid the first premium. Like many married women of her generation, she had no experience in financial matters and no prospect of  earning much over a minimal wage. She could have fallen to pieces. I think she almost did. Instead she took the advice of her sister, my Auntie Carole. She sold up and moved back north, to Bradford this time. This was not the best decision of her life.

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