Once a week dad would clear out the living room and mix
a huge bucket of water and ‘Aunt Sally’ carbolic acid cleaner.
He would empty the contents out onto the floor in one
circular sweep of his arms and scrub the whole thing from
end to end. This didn’t do the damp walls much good but it
did keep the cockroach population down to a mere few hundred.
Towards the end of the week, just before the next swilling
out and the roach population had had a little time to recover,
it was really not a good idea to wander down the stairs
in the middle of the night. Opening the living room door
would cause panic in the roaches. The resulting spectacle
has yet to be bettered by contemporary special effects
techniques in the cinema, as the black floor parted from
the centre out as if some force had pulled a dark carpet
up into the walls from all sides. I still shudder when I think
of those roaches and the sound of thousands of scurrying
feet across the lino.
Another ‘quaint’ aspect of the property was the outside
toilet. Just why it had to be so far from the house I will
never know, though it did utilise two existing walls down
there, the rear yard wall and the side wall of the yard,
which both reached the dizzying height of six feet.
At least we didn’t have to share it with the street, in
Garston every house had its own lav. (I think).
Because of all this, we had ‘Chamber pots’ in the
bedroom for night-time use. I use the term chamber pot
quite loosely as the one in our bedroom was actually a
galvanised mop bucket. I really can’t remember ever
seeing the one in our parents room. - Curious!
Needless to say, the morning stench provided an
excellent incentive to get up and out of the bed.
Once up we really did have to make up our own fun and
entertainment. Even if there had have been daytime
television back then it wouldn’t have mattered to us
because we didn’t have a television, not even a radio.
It was only a few years later, after we moved to Speke
that I remember getting a radio. Instead, we had a piano.
My mum could play the piano.
It was in the ‘parlour’ along with a few china things on
white doilies. The only time we went into the parlour
was on Sunday afternoon or when the priest came around
to see us. In the winter dad would light the two gas lamps
on the wall and we would listen to mum playing the piano.
Sometimes I would ‘Vamp’ for her on the low end.
Later on dad would get his suit out of the bottom drawer
upstairs and go to the pub. He always pretended not
to notice the new brown paper that the suit was
wrapped in every week.
When mum came out of the pawn shop every Monday
morning she would send me to the Tannery office on
the corner of King Street and Vulcan Street for a silver
shilling for the gas meter. I have never figured out why
that office would have all those silver shillings behind
the reception counter but I never once came away
Gas mantles could be bought from Rollo’s shop on King Street.
Being sent for a new mantle was the most terrifying message
a young lad could be sent on. Mantles were so delicate
and it is not in a youngsters nature to concentrate on
walking slowly and carefully all the way home.
Mr Rollo insisted on opening every box to check that the
mantle was in good condition before handing it over so
there was no going back with faulty goods.
It was a clout around the back of the head if you got
home with it in more than one piece - and a tearful journey
back to Rollo’s for another.