What do I know …

When I was seven or eight years old I was not allowed out in the street to play with the other kids.  I remember some nights staring from my bedroom window wondering why I was different.

My grandfather, Fred,  would occasionally make the long trip north from Andover to Manchester, just to escape Mrs Kipper. One glorious evening he had words with Peg, my mother, and I was finally allowed my escape – I can still remember the sense of elation as I ran down drive the drive to join the others. From then on I was the same.

Ironically, Fred had a reputation for iron discipline but, even if this were true, times were different.  My mother was just sixteen as war broke out and there were army camps nearby; Fred knew all about the military. Growing up a teenage boy in semi-urban Cheshire was a world away from Andover in the 1930s but the inherited rules were the same.  When I needed Fred the most he was already gone – the Carnival King died in 1966.

This photograph captures his spirit best – Mayor Carcetti thinks he is taking centre stage but the real star is my grandfather, wearing the Carnival Queen’s crown and smiling like an errant schoolboy.

Andover Carnival ...

I had thought to write that May, his wife, is not present – she is at home stoking the fires of her resentment. But, enlarged and repaired, I now realise that she is sat to the left of him in the photograph, smiling widely – just shows what I know:

Carnival King ...


  1. suej · February 6, 2015

    It is amazing what we find out about people when they are no longer with us…I have found history rewritten….not necessarily big events, but interesting to find you have been standing on shifting sand!

    • northumbrianlight · February 6, 2015

      I agree Sue – It is the small detail that can be so revealing. My grandmother looks almost radiant here, not the person I remember at all but then my young opinions were heavily influenced by others.

      • suej · February 6, 2015

        Received information from others, as well…..

  2. Tish Farrell · February 6, 2015

    Mired regions, family histories, Robin. It’s interesting how ‘what happened’ according to siblings can also sound like two different realities. Now I’m wondering what got to Florence May, and if her bad press was deserved. Intriguing stuff.

    • northumbrianlight · February 6, 2015

      Me too Tish – one thing is certain, she was unforgiving to the end. According to my sister, in her final days she lay in her hospital bed, refusing to open her eyes to my mother.

      • Tish Farrell · February 6, 2015

        Sad where enmity takes us.

  3. Malin H · February 6, 2015

    A lovely post (as usual), Robin. Very interesting reading. ❤️

    • northumbrianlight · February 6, 2015

      Thanks so much Malin – have a great weekend ❤

      • Malin H · February 6, 2015

        And you too, Robin. ❤️

  4. LaVagabonde · February 6, 2015

    Quite the cast of characters in your family, Robin. It is strange how our memories reconstruct things sometimes. Were you eventually allowed to play with others?

    • northumbrianlight · February 6, 2015

      A strange bunch indeed Julie 🙂 Yes, my grandfather’s influence was permanent in that regard – war broke out between me and my mother in my teenage years but Fred was no longer around to support my cause.

  5. thevenerable1 · February 7, 2015

    I could identify this as a photo of a group pf English people, regardless of where I saw it ! 😀

    • northumbrianlight · February 7, 2015

      So true and a very definite time and place. It is the local football club grandstand (there was probably only the one) semi-disguised with a draped stars and stripes which, heretically, appears to be upside down – what was the organising committee thinking 🙂

      • thevenerable1 · February 7, 2015

        They were thinking things to be kept under their hats ! – or crowns …

  6. socialbridge · February 7, 2015

    Robin, this is so heartfelt and heartwarming.

    • northumbrianlight · February 7, 2015

      Many thanks Jean – my grandfather was my favourite, after my dad – Fred was a tapestry of reassuring smells – brylcreem, Three Nuns pipe tobacco and probably alcohol.

      • socialbridge · February 7, 2015

        Sounds like a character and a half!

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