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Red Tom

A Practical Man.

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I seem to recall being told that my old man had kept hens in our back yard,this may well be true,other people certainly did, and I'm pretty sure this would have been a common practise in the area around Linden St. and Oliver St. where he grew up in the '20s and '30s.
I can recall his being an afficianado of budgerigars, he kept them in a table-top aviary in the parlour. However, at some stage, these disappeared to be replaced with several pigeons.The racing of these birds was very popular in Liverpool's working class areas, and lofts could be found in the yards of many local houses, but not ours. Until the question of housing these avian arrivals could be resolved, the middle bedroom was emptied (a speedy process, given the sparsity of the contents) and they took up residence there until a more conventional dwelling could be built outside. What the mater thought of all this I don't know.
The loft took the form of a timber penthouse built onto the rear of the back kitchen/scullery wall, and extending out to the outside lavatory, leaving enough room for access to the dustbin housed in the entry wall at the rear of the privvy.
The floor was raised 2 feet or so to allow for ventilation and deter rodents. The stone roof of the adjacent lavatory was painted in a brightly coloured geometric design, the theory being that the impending aviators would require a landmark to assist their homing instincts.
Came the day, and came the birds,including one fine Welsh 'homer', a beautiful specimen even to my inexperienced eye, this cock was to be used for breeding and subsequently sired several squawking squabs of a decidedly ugly appearance.
After a couple of years the pigeons were fancied no more and it was decreed that the well built structure was to converted to something more useful, i.e. an ablutionary ante-chamber.
The raised deck was removed, the tiles below taken up,and concrete laid to form a floor (and at the same time the rest of the yard was resurfaced , all mixed by hand).The exterior was clad down to ground level and the interior studding was dry lined.A doorway was constructed to connect with the back kitchen, lighting installed, and a second hand bath connected to the previously installed waste pipe, an essential elemeny of a bathroom (for so it was now designated).
I have chronicled elsewhere concerning the absence of a hot water supply in the house, this meant that while supplying cold water to the tub presented little difficulty, the heated variety was more problematic.
The dillema was overcome with the pater's perpetual practicality via 8 feet of rubber tubing, one end connected to an adjacent gas tap in the scullery, the other to a boiler (copper tub,galvanised steel sides) of indeterminate age which was then stood on a board at the end of the bath.Another length of hose was used to fill the boiler, which was then ignited until the required temperature was reached, near boiling was usual.
This system was an advancement on using my grandmother's bathroom, 15 minutes away in Myrtle Gardens, and even more convenient than Lodge Lane public baths, and it went swimingly until Christmas day or Boxing day 1964 when the inevitable happened and I scalded my foot, I imagine the buses were off, as I walked to Sefton General to have it dressed (and back again).
I suspect that there was a problem with rent arrears, which would explain my dad's reluctance to involve the landlord in these proceedings, however, these must have been sorted because in early 1965 workmen delivered a copper hot water cylinder and some other materials and it looked as if the house was to be brought into the 20th century. For whatever reasons, these desirable items lay in the yard waiting for work to commence, until they were eventually liberated by someone and probably wound up in Isaac's scrap merchants in Spekeland Rd.
This was the closest we ever came to having 'mod cons', as within weeks the slum clearance orders were brought into force and slowly but surely, as the 'dozers did their work,people were looking to relocate to the suburbs.
By the summer of 1966, we were ensconced in Lee Park.

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  1. Oudeis's Avatar
    I am wondering where your father worked Tom as I recall out kitchen cabinets and work tops were from (fork lifting) pallets and sticky-back plastic.