23 Almond Street
The recent snow here in the UK prompted some far distant memories.
To a five-year-old me in the winter of 1947/48, 23 Almond Street was a place of wonder and excitement. A small terraced house in a street of them in a grimy Northern mill town may seem the epitome of boring. Far from it.
It was my birthday, February 12th, and the snow hurtled down the street riding the wild horse wind like the shirt tails of a giant ghost. It raced horizontally past our single glazed window. The gas lamp outside rattled and shook in sympathy with our front door.
‘Can I play out mummy?’ I asked hopefully, knowing what the answer would be before I asked.
‘No, it’s not fit for a dog out there’ she told me and went back to knitting something for my baby brother. I ran into our kitchen past the black leaded cast iron range, the friendly flames licking the coals and the soot-black kettle singing atop it. Past the slop stone sink with its single cold tap dripping plip, plop none stop.
I threw open the back door causing the galvanised tin bath hung upon it to bounce and clang in protest. The cold air rushed past me, stinging my eyes and ears. Mother shouted her protest from the front room.
‘I’m just going to the lavatory mummy’ I bawled and shot out. I waded through thigh deep snow past the brick and concrete air raid shelter, thankfully redundant these last two years; now a playground for me and my sisters. At the end of the stone-flagged yard, I thumbed the rusted latch, pushing hard. The door, with its peeling shit-brown paint, reluctantly yielded. I stepped over the snow drift into what dad called the throne room.
The toilet was two broad dark red boards with an oval hole in the middle. I couldn’t reach to pee standing up, so I dropped my grey flannel shorts and leapt up. I warmed my hands on the candle we were forced to keep burning day and night to prevent the cistern freezing over whilst I completed my brief business.
Now I could dawdle on the way back, maybe build half a snowman before mother dragged me back into the relative warmth.
What cared I for the wind and cold? What cared any five-year-old for discomfort? Snow was magical and adventure and discovery were all…..