There was always something to do at home. I would spend hours sitting on the fluffy carpet in front of the bookcase in the passage. Books were to be treated like people; gently and with respect. We weren’t allowed to touch the ones on the top shelf but there were two shelves just for us. Enid Blyton and Beatrix Potter took up a lot of the space. Then there were the Bobbsy Twins and all the Annuals of our favourite magazines; Lucy Attrill, Topper, Beano, Dandy, Thunderbirds and of course Black Beauty, Rupert and Paddington were all there. I read them all numerous times. There was a picture book about a little boy on the Amazon River that I read over and over again. I was fascinated and dreamt of going there one day. Reading was my favourite thing to do. Val would catch me reading under the blankets late into the night. The torch told on me.
The passage was also for practising gymnastics. It was perfect for headstands against the wall, backbends, splits and forward walks; just too small for cartwheels. I loved that passage and hated it too. Dave loved to hide and jump out at me from the rooms. I was a nervous wreck.
There was one bathroom with a tub and washbasin and a separate room for the toilet. It was tiny. We all tried to get in there before dad and his newspaper did. They were immovable until the paper was finished.
The bookshelf on the back veranda was piled high with, “World of Knowledge” and “Look and Learn” magazines. They would arrive in the post every month and there was a fight to see who could read them first.
When we got too old for family concerts, dad would play dictionary scramble with us. We each had our own Little Oxford Dictionary. He would say a word and we raced to see who could find it first. I loved words and spelling was my forte. My favourite word was the longest one in the dictionary and we learnt how to spell and say it: floccinaucinihilipilification. I loved that it meant “meaninglessness”.
Then there was our wooden “Flick” board. It was square and there was a pocket on each corner. We each got a red “goon” and we had to flick the black and beige discs into the pockets. There were a few rules and they were usually broken; especially the one about having to stay in your seat. We got at those discs in whatever position we could.
When we were bored we would open the fridge door and stare into it and if dad wasn’t around we drank out of the milk bottle. Val hid the tins of condensed milk on the top shelf of the highest cupboard. She should have known that nothing was hidden from us. We got the tiniest nail from dad’s workshop and banged the tiniest hole into the side of the lid. Whenever she wasn’t around, we each took the tiniest sip and put it back on the shelf.
At night we would go to sleep listening to the Jazz greats crooning away. Big Bands were our lullabies. Dad’s jazz collection covered one of the walls in the lounge and that was his favourite place in the evenings. We would sit and listen to the drama about Porgy and Bess or anything else dad thought might interest us.
TV was banned from our house until we all grew up and left home. Family concerts, dress ups, singing, dancing were much more fun than sitting around watching other people doing it.