My Pop Life #234 : I Remember You – Frank Ifield

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I Remember You   –   Frank Ifield

When my life is through
And the angels ask me to recall
The thrill of it all, then I will tell them
I remember you, ooh

 

I was born in June 1957 in Cambridge.   I don’t have the date of my Christening but I am told by Dad that it was in Downing College Chapel.  There is a photograph of the family outside, with most of his family, and Mum’s sister Valerie.  The older lady next to mum is their landlady in Cambridge who was very happy when told that Mum was pregnant “It’s been a long time since there were children in this house”. 

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Grandad & Granma Brown holding Helen’s hand, Mum tucked behind, behind her Pam and Pauline. Tall guy is Reg, married to Pam, then Horace with the moustache my other Grandad. The lady next to Mum is their landlady, and in front of her is dear auntie Jessie, then it’s Dad holding me and Mum’s sister Valerie next to him!

Dad had four sisters, Pauline, Pam Jessie and Mollie, all older than him.  Mollie wasn’t there.  Mum had one sister, Valerie, who Dad had walked out with before Mum.  Valerie turned out to be gay many years later, after a marriage to Uncle Keith (see My Pop Life #49).  It’s quite remarkable to see that many people travelled from Portsmouth to Cambridge.  Peter, Pauline’s husband was taking the photo.  Mum’s mum, nan, Ruby wasn’t there. No idea why.

I turned one year old in 1958 and dad graduated in English from Downing College and we all moved back to Portsmouth.  My first memory of childhood was related earlier in My Pop Life #12Rubber Ball, at my dad’s parents in Manner’s Road,  Fratton.  This current memory comes from at least a year later when I was around five years old.   We lived in a terraced house in Hyde Park Road, Southsea – the front door stepped right out onto the street – if you turned right it went up to Commerical Road, if you turned left which Paul and I always did it went to the bomb debris.  There was a small garden at the back.

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These are Dad’s sisters Pauline and Jessie and their families. Mum & Dad are standing at the back.  Me front central (it’s my blog!) Paul is looking down in front of Dad’s parents. Somewhere in Portsmouth I imagine.

I remember very little about this period of my life.  Paul would have been born just after I turned two years old.  I cannot but wonder where he was during this story.  Perhaps he was asleep upstairs in a cot ?  He would have been three.  Later I recall us playing down the street in the bomb debris site left over from World War 2 – yes even in 1962 there were these bombed out houses, piles of brick and rubble and we loved messing about there, pretending to be soldiers or explorers.  Of course they were dangerous, but it was a different time. Kids just played outside unattended for hours.

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Wendy was a cousin who lived with Nan. She’s holding Paul. We’re all sitting on Dad in the back garden.

The bombing of Portsmouth on the 10th January 1941 is recalled in this People’s History of the Second World War.  My Mum’s dad Horace was a volunteer auxiliary policeman in Pompey during this time and was often scouting on the roof of the Guildhall for unexploded bombs.  Portsmouth was a major target for the Germans because it was and still is the headquarters of the British Navy.

One day there was a very heavy prolonged bout of rain and water started to come into our house, via the ceiling.  Lots of water.  Pots and pans were placed under the drips which became steady streams of water.  It was incredibly dramatic.  Eventually there was so much water coming out of the ceilings of the house that Mum and I went into the garden, where it was still raining, but less wet than inside!   Maybe it was a burst pipe?!?

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I started going to the local school aged 5.  Cottage Grove Juniors.  We had a gill of milk every day which is an ancient measurement equal to a quarter of a pint.

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I’m assuming that I’m in school uniform here, carrying Paul. Is that evidence of the flood on the wall?

We drew. We played. We sang.  We learned things.  Then one day there was a medical alert.  Some children in the class had worms. In the early sixties one of the panic illnesses for children was worms.   They’re a gastrointestinal parasite which comes in various forms, tapeworms, hookworms, others.  My mum collected me from school one day and they explained, or gave her a note.

When we got home Mum explained to me that when I went to the toilet, I wasn’t to flush, because she wanted to check to see if I had the parasite.  I have absolutely no idea how she could tell but at the age of five you just agree.  Later I went upstairs to the bathroom, did a decent enough poo and pulled the chain automatically without thinking.  When I came onto the landing Mum was waiting there, livid.  “Why did you pull the chain?”  she demanded.  “Sorry mum I forgot” I cried, expecting a clonk.  CLONK.  I got a fourpenny one around the side of my head which toppled me over and straight down the stairs to the first landing.  I cannot remember if it hurt.  Mum was absolutely horrified.  She came and gathered me up and we went to the kitchen where some form of treat was administered.  She felt guilty and scared.  Checked me for cuts bruises and breaks.  Nothing.  Then she said “Let’s go and see Watch With Mother shall we?”  This was strange because now I was at school I always missed the programme, which went out at 1.30pm every afternoon : Andy Pandy, Bill & Ben and Rag, Tag & Bobtail.  I’d watched it all through nursery.  It felt like another treat.

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The television was in the front room and we walked down the corridor and I sat on the settee.  Mum put the television on.  It took a while to warm up.  Then a white dot and there, in black and white, was Andy Pandy.  You could see the strings on the puppet but it didn’t matter.  Andy looked like a girl and had a strange crooked smile.  I watched it, with mother.

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Andy Pandy and Teddy

I can clearly recall the feeling of being treated suddenly with kid gloves.  She was attentive and careful, and I realised that she hadn’t intended to knock me down the stairs.  She was hugging me.  I was grateful.  I didn’t really know what had happened but it felt significant.

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Bill and Ben and little weed

We watched Bill and Ben, the Flowerpot Men after that.  “flobalob” they said to each other, “flobalob“, accompanied as ever by Little Weed.  I think she was a dandelion, and an early example of sexism for a five year old boy.  There were plenty of others.

The street we lived on – Hyde Park Road – doesn’t exist anymore.  It, and the bomb debris sites further to the south were all demolished and blocks of flats built there.  I will ask my Dad if he can remember the street name and area.  It was Southsea I think.

*Correct – Dad remembered the street name.

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The song “I Remember You” by Frank Ifield was one of Mum’s favourites that year.   He was an Australian who moved back to the UK from Sydney and this was the second biggest seller in the UK that year, 1962.  Written by the great lyricist Johnny Mercer (and about Judy Garland apparently) with Victor Scherzinger’s music it has a country flavour and a continually interesting melody, which features hints of Ifield’s yodel, all the rage at the time.  Love Me Do by The Beatles was released in 1962 and got to number 17 in the charts.  When Frank’s tour got to Liverpool Brian Epstein approached him to put the band on as support and thus it was that The Beatles’ first few gigs outside of Liverpool were supporting Frank Ifield in Peterborough & other places.  There is a bootleg of them singing this song out there.

Hands up who remembers The WoodentopsSpotty Dog ??

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Goodbye.   Say goodbye children.