We lived nearer to Sheffield than to Leeds, but it’s in the same neck of the woods - although the locals would dispute that. We had a detached house on Rackford Road, with a parquet floor in the hall and a garden that was bigger than a tablecloth, more like a tennis court. Mum polished the floor and everything else on Thursday. Monday was washing day, and on Tuesday she went shopping. Dad did the washing up and Sunday breakfast, and he cobbled our shoes. He kept meticulous accounts of the household spending: ‘Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves’.
We were self-sufficient in the vegetable department. Dad even had a cucumber frame. Mum had a thing about leaving the gate open, letting the dogs in. She didn’t want cats in the yard either, although a closed gate won’t keep them out. Dad fought a constant battle with the moles, and secretly cuddled the cats.
We didn’t get many callers. Our house was at the end of the lane so folks didn’t just just pass by. I remember the milkman and his horse and cart, though, and Dad on standby with his shovel in case the horse dropped him some manure for the garden. Doris wouldn’t have liked the muck. I don’t think Mum did either, although she didn’t say as much.
Mum always baked the bread, in a coal-fired oven. Woe betide anyone who opened the back door in winter when the dough was rising. I used to come home from school on baking days, sit on a stool by the fire and wait for a warm, fresh roll and butter. ‘Don’t spoil your tea, Joan’, she’d say.
She made my frocks when I was little. I’ve still got the one she ran up for my ‘big white Teddy wiv a gween wibbon’. The one I remember best was the ‘sweet little Alice blue gown’ I wore when I was five and a bridesmaid at Uncle Les’s wedding. Mum did embroidery as well. I’ve still got some of her cushion covers.
I’ve been drawing on these and other memories in my search for Doris. There are millions of women like her, but Alan Bennett made her special. All Christian and I have to do is to bring her to life on the Puoli-Q stage!