Liverpool #4

195 Woolton Road, Childwall, Liverpool 15



The house where I grew up was in the leafy suburb of Childwall. Woolton Road. It extended from Childwall, crossing Queens Drive, through Gatacre and ending in historic Woolton Village.

Our white pebbledash conventional house was a semi built in the mid 30s and when my parents married in 1937, they moved in forever and a day.

The top of the welcoming front door had embedded bowed stained glass so typical of 30s architecture. The telltale sign was the mezuzah to the right of the doorframe that our family was part of the Liverpool Jewish Community. There was a path leading up to the welcoming door with a scrolled low black metal gate. A narrow flower bed to the right and a small front garden to the left with a magnificent prunus tree that annually flowered producing pink blossoms. My green fingered mother loved gardening and indulged in the front and the back gardens so we did not need a gardener.

The front room to the left of the entrance had a bay window and was chilly only used for Jewish Friday night dinners and special gatherings when the usual suspects would gather for Christmas lunch or a birthday celebration. My mother would creep in on a Friday afternoon to switch on the shiny chrome 1930s electric fire to warm up the room for dinner at 7.00 after the inherited Mathew Bolton silver Georgian 111 candlesticks were lit and the brochas (blessings) chanted.

Friday night dinners rarely varied.  Half a Jaffa grapefruit browned under the grill with demera sugar and segmented with a special spoon, then delicious golden roast chicken, crunchy roasties that only my mother could make, homemade bread sauce and fresh garden peas that I would shell with Alma sitting on the terrace, our maid and lifelong servant of the Lyons family from Swansea, who had faithfully followed my mother after years of service in the large Victorian house in Uplands, Swansea.

 In fact my parents were quite anti-social only inviting the immediate small family and a couple of friends. Everyone was Jewish from the community where my father was the Secretary of the Gothic Grade 1 Princes Road synagogue in 'The Jungle', Liverpool 8.  I realised later when I became the 'outsider', that no one who wasn't Jewish, with the exception of Alma and her second husband Willy who came to wash the dishes and empty the rubbish, ever came to the house. Well, there was always Doris, the cleaner who managed to break vintage ceramics that my mother had to glue back after it or they had lost their value. An example was the once valuable large green china Lalique smiling cat that stood in the fireplace in the front room, which I eventually inherited, pieced back together with love!

The small coterie of visitors included Ruth and Sonny David from South Africa in political exile, miserable, unsmiling Uncle Abe, a retired doctor from Leeds, Miriam and Harold Dover, a furniture wholesaler who supplied all the Ercol G Plan furniture in the house at a special price, bien sur, Uncle Mark and Auntie Zella, my father's Masonic brother from Southport and to complete the family picture, chatty high pitched voice Auntie Gertie and silent Brylcreemed Uncle Harry, her hen pecked life insurance broker husband who had lost a finger in Burma.  My third cousin Vivian Morris often came round in my teens; despite our 5 year difference in age, we socialised on the 'Liverpool Scene'. I have not included the wealthy invaders from South Africa on their family tours in search of who knows what.

Outside one could hear the birds twittering, mainly sparrows and blackbirds and I would listen to their birdsong in the morning as my mauve bedroom was in the front above the hall with its red and beige swirling thick pile and a Victorian mahogany hall chair that no one sat on. The scrolled black metal mirror reflected the front door adding light in the dark hall while a ship's bell hung next to the mirror silently. On the hall table below the mirror, lay my mother's heavy Victorian brass pestle and mortar. So heavy, you could club an intruder to death with it.

Opposite my bedroom window, with a Cubist mauve framed print dominating the room, I could see Sinclair Drive out of the window and smiling bearded Rabbi Wolf in his house on the corner of Woolton Road and Sinclair Drive. The Rabbi acknowledged I was a 'heathen' but always had a smile for me and annoyingly would pinch my rosy cheeks saying I was a 'good girl'. Little did he know the 'real' spoilt demanding Gillian Tessa!

Next to the front room was the small kitchen diner, the hub of the house, where all the meals were served with the exception of Friday nights, Xmas and Boxing Day. We ate off a yellow Formica table so typical of the 50s era.  There was a G plan Ercol desk which housed the Philips record turntable and the beige dial phone.

Every Sunday my mother would play either  Emil Giles or Vladimir Ashkenazi  playing the Rachmaninov piano concertos while waiting for my father to arrive home from the Woolton Golf club where he was the captain, at 1.00 pm on the dot for the Sunday roast. Next to the desk was a real 1930s tiled fireplace with a mantelpiece housing a large 30s wooden clock. In the old days the hearth was alight with coal but later on with coke after the fuel act changed. A sign of the times. There was no room to swing our dog as we had no cat.

The beagle I grew up with had long floppy ears and was called Samson. I adored him. Later he was replaced by Ross who had to be put down when he became aggressive and then finally an Ormskirk heeler called Pluto. I loved dogs and still do.

The back kitchen led onto the Terrace overlooking the rockery and garden. It was a tiny room which housed the stove, overhead cupboards with hoards of tinned cans left over from days of rationing, a Formica work surface, sink and later on a washing machine although I remember a wash board as a child. I also recall milk delivered with a horse and cart too and I used to give the horse, with blinkers, cubes of sugar!

The back room was the main room we lived in. The heavy damask swirly red and beige curtains matched the thick pile carpet out in the hall and front room.  My father had a lime green upholstered Parker Knoll rocking chair and would fall asleep while watching the telly after a hard day's work at his legal office. There was a lime green typical 50s sofa with orange cushions. Oy vey, the colours!

We had a green metal bench at the bottom of the garden near the sandpit where I played with David and Peter. There was a triangular rose patch and borders of bedding plants on either side of the well tended lawn. My mother prided herself as an amateur gardener. She only asked my father once to do some weeding. He pulled up her new plants instead!

I left the house at the age of 19, when my friend Estelle said it was about time I left home because they needed a fourth girl to share the house in Withington, Manchester.

I turned the page of a new chapter of my provincial innocent life!