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The blue and white striped cup (2nd Chapter)

A series of events leads Claire to be left for months with the most unlikely family.

Claire sat drawing with her wax crayons whilst her mother pushed pieces of meat and stale bread down into the top of the metal meat grinder with one hand and turned the handle with the other. Claire watched fascinated as the meat and bread came out worm like from the little holes of the disc through the round opening and dropped into the white bowl below.

“Can I help you make the meatballs?” six year old Claire asked.

“No, I’ve got no time for messing around. Go and switch the wireless on. Its nearly quarter to two. Time for ‘Listen with mother’."

Claire walked down the narrow hall to the sitting room, climbed on the big scruffy leather chair, reached up to the large brown Bakelite wireless and turned the big round dial...

...and she heard-“The time is a quarter to two. This is the BBC Home Service for mothers and children at home. Are you ready for the music? When it stops, Catherine Edwards will be here to speak to you. The familiar tune of Listen with Mother, Berceuse from Faure’s Dolly Suite, emerged from the brown fabric that covered the speakers Ding-de-dong. Ding-de-dong, Ding, Ding! Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin!”

Claire snuggled into the chair as she listened to fifteen minutes of nursery rhymes and stories.

“Come and have a drink of milk now Claire,” called her mother when the programme had finished.

She reached up to the shelves above the table and took down a blue and white striped cup and poured some milk into it from the glass milk bottle.

“I don’t like this cup,” quavered Claire feeling a lump in her throat.

“Why don’t you like it? I just bought this whole set from Woolworths”.

“It's just like the cups I drank from when I had to stay in Auntie Rachel’s house,” Claire answered sobbing.

“Well you’re at home now. You can stop crying,” her mother told her looking out of the window, her eyes glazing over with worry. That evening Claire’s parents discussed her future.

“She’s got to go to someone else next time I’m in hospital.”

“Come on Evelyn there might not be a next time,” Terry answered reassuringly.

“You know I ‘ll have to go back soon.“ And she explained how upset Claire had been with the blue and white striped cup.

“She’ll have to go to Harry and Cecile.”

“But they live miles away. I won’t be able to see her as often as I do when she stays at Rachel’s house.”

“Look they’ve got a lovely big house and a large garden. Claire will love it there.”

Terence had to give in to Evelyn. He didn’t want her to get palpitations.

Three weeks later Claire was sitting with Christine, Malcolm on the landing of the flats at a right angle to her part of the buildings watching the 8 year olds play five stones. She watched Christine as she threw the ball up, picked up one jack with the same hand and then caught the ball before it hit the ground. Then she put the jack into her other hand. As Christine came to picking up 4 jacks, Claire glanced out of the stained glass window and caught sight of two men carrying a stretcher from her section of the building towards an ambulance parked in the driveway.

“Look, they’re bringing out the dead,” Malcolm joked.

Claire saw a foot with her mother's slipper poking out from beneath the blanket.

“That’s my Mummy,” she gasped as she stood up and slid down the wooden handrail of the banisters to the bottom of the stairs and ran out into the courtyard. The ambulance was already being driven away. Claire caught her breath then ran into her ground floor flat to find her Auntie Rachel packing a suitcase.

“Where is mummy going?” Claire asked her Auntie.

“Didn’t anyone tell you?” Auntie Rachel asked impatiently. “Your Mummy is going into hospital for a long time and you are going to stay with Uncle Harry and Auntie Cecile.”

“But I want to stay at home. All my friends are here,” Claire pleaded, her heart thumping faster.

“You can’t stay here. Daddy’s at work all day and your sister is too young to take care of you.”

Auntie Rachel took Claire on the 244 bus up Winchmore Hill Road to Southgate Station and changed on the tube to Bounds Green, then the bus to Durnesford Road. It was a long wide road heavy with traffic. They arrived in front of a very large detached house set back from the road by a long garden. A woman who Claire had only met once before opened the door. She had crazy hair that stood out in loose curls. She looked unhappy. Clair sat miserably in Auntie Cecil’s kitchen waiting as she said goodbye to Auntie Ray.

“I don’t see why I have to look after her this time,” she heard Cecile’s whining, “I’ve got two children of my own to worry about.”

“It’s too late to change your mind now," Auntie Rachel answered, "Claire is a quiet child and perhaps she will help you with the baby. I’ve done my bit.” And she was gone.

Claire felt very uneasy in Uncle Harry’s enormous detached house. Over the next few weeks she moved around trying to make herself invisible and when noticed carried out the tasks that she was told to do.

She had to attend a new school that was just a ten minutes walk away from the house. Claire would shrivel up in embarrassment as her aunt saw her across the road still in her dressing gown looking like a witch every morning and let her walk the rest of the way by herself. Her teacher was quite kind and it was a relief to be away from Auntie Cecil. She tried not to think about her friends in her real school and her Daddy coming home all on his own every day from work.

A month later whilst her aunt struggled to feed Ian, her two year old son, his breakfast, her hair standing out in haphazard angles, she yelled at Claire, "The milkman’s here. Go and tell him I need a dozen eggs as well as my usual milk and bread.”

Terrified that she would forget the message, Claire walked down the long path towards the gate that opened onto a busy main road chanting to herself, “A dozen eggs, a dozen eggs, a dozen eggs”. 

She reached the milk float and told the milkman, “A dozen eggs please.”

Then relieved to have discharged the responsibility of the message raced back into house.

“Well. What did you tell the milkman?” screeched her aunt.

“Um …” Claire thought panicking, ”I’ve forgot!”

"What girl, why don’t you remember-think!”

Claire’s body went rigid and her mind froze with fear. She said, “Um I think I said six eggs.” She guessed, heart beating rapidly with fear.

“Go to your room!” screamed her Aunt. “I don’t want to see you again today.”

Claire knew she did not deserve the punishment but dutifully went to the dining room and shut the enormous door behind her. This is where her aunt had put a camping bed for her to sleep on. 

“I don’t want you bothering Ian and Cheryl in their bedroom," she had told her. “So I’ve put you downstairs in the dining room.”

To a 5 year old the room looked like an immense hall with an enormous wooden table big enough for 12 people to sit at and 12 very tall chairs.

Claire shivered with fear and her heart ached for her sister and Mummy and daddy. All the times she had stayed with her other aunts she had slept in the same room as her cousin and shared a bed with her sister.

At night she would wake up terrified of the horrors lurking in the shadows of the room and call out for someone to get her a cup of water. Of course her aunt could not hear her because she was up in her bedroom at the top of the castle like house.

Claire dragged a big heavy chair across the room towards the mirror over the fireplace. She pulled herself up on the chair and looked into the mirror. She looked different than when she was living at home. At home her mummy had combed her long almost blond hair into long coils whilst she sat in front of the open fire. Auntie Cecile’s took a look at her on the first day together and snapped.

“I’m not bothering with combing through long tangled hair every day." And she had taken her to cousin David who was a hairdresser. He had sat her on a chair in the back garden and cut her hair in a very boyish style. Then he had left her and went back into the house. Claire stood looking at her feet where her hair was lying crying. David had reappeared. "I wouldn’t have cut your hair if I’d have known it would upset you so much," he had told her anxiously.

She looked into her big brown eyes and whispered, “Don’t be afraid. This will all be over one day and I’ll be back home with mummy and daddy.”

Her Auntie Celia had hurt her feelings and she felt that she could not bear to be in her house for another hour.. It had been three months since she had seen her mother.

In hospital her mother wrote in her diary,

I have been in hospital eleven weeks today without getting up from bed. And I’m tired of having six hourly injections all this time. All this treatment has been necessary as I have been suffering from an illness called Sub Acute Bacteria Endocarditis which required millions of units of penicillin to kill the bacteria in the blood stream. I look forward to my happy reunion with Terry Dorothy and Claire and be my own mistress once more.

Terrence says he wants to take off a weeks holiday in August and have Claire home as it will be the school holidays and she will be in Cecile’s hands all day.

Terry’s having Claire home for the weekend. Am so pleased. I gave back the dress that I had let out and down it took me all morning.

As Claire was looking in the mirror her cousin Charlene called through the keyhole, “Mummy says you can come out now.”

Claire did not want to go out. She did not want to forgive her Auntie for shutting her away but she obeyed.

"Go and hang up the washing." She did not say sorry, Claire thought. Claire’s father Terry wrote to his wife that night.
Terence wrote:

Thanks for your letter, it was very welcome for I miss you very much although I find it difficult to put it into words.

I am very miserable at home and I cannot bear to be in the flat on my own.

It certainly was a wasted visit on Wednesday. I have a lot to tell you, but I always forget what I have to tell you, after the rush to the hospital and waiting outside amongst the crowds on the pavement, then the rush to get to the wards. I just sit down and listen to your tale of woe, my brain seems to go numb and I can’t think what I was going to say.

I agree about Claire and I worry about her a lot, but I think in the end it is really the best thing for her, as she has quietened down and she will not be such a handful for you when you come home.

Those shoes were not quite right for her, as they just fitted but did not seem to give her feet room to spread. So I took them back, and although they were not keen to change goods brought in a sale they changed them for a larger size.

Dorothy has come home for a few days as she will soon come home for a couple of weeks as Ray and Les will be going on holiday. I will try to make her do a little housework, now that her exams are over.

I can’t write anymore as it is dinner time and I must start work again.

See you on Saturday.

All my love Terry Xxxxxxxxxxxx (I wish they were real kisses)

Terrance did not think that Claire was a problem. He knew that in Evelyn’s weak state any lively child would seem too much to cope with but he was bringing his 6 year old daughter back for two days.

Terrance's face was very open and gentle. His brown eyes showed his intelligence and he had a shy smile. 

When he arrived to pick Claire up on Friday afternoon, he gave his strange sister in law Cecile a polite smile as he bent over to hug Claire.

“Do you want to stay and have a cup of tea?" Cecile asked unenthusiastically.

“No, no thank you. I want to get Claire home in time for supper,” he answered hastily. He felt uncomfortable in Harry’s house.

Claire chatted all the way home about the school she had to go to and how funny Ian her 2 year old cousin was tottering around the house and falling over when he took the corners too fast.

She kept her fingers crossed that everything would be as usual when she got home including the orchard where she could run wild with the other children who lived in the flats.

When they turned into the long drive to their flats there were her friends Malcolm and Peter playing on the front lawn.

When walked through the door of the flat home Claire ran into her room, curled up under her eiderdown and played with her Hank hand puppet and her ballerina doll. She felt safe and happy. Here she could be herself and not worry about being seen but not heard.

“Here we are," Terrance called out. “I’ve made baked beans on toast with cheese grated on top the way you like it.”

After dinner they sat and listened to the wireless until Claire’s bed time.

In the morning Terrance made her creamy scrambled eggs and then took her as he usually did on a Saturday to the library. She chose a book about Heidi and a picture book about Cinderella.

In the afternoon Claire ran down to the orchard and climbed her favourite tree. Then she played with fie other children until bed time.

On Sunday they took the 244 bus up to Southgate station where Terrance bought the Times and the News of the World. Claire asked for a Lyons Individual Fruit pie to eat on the journey. They took the tube to Piccadilly Circus. As they climbed the stairs to go to the famous Cartoon and Newsreel cinema they passed a man who just had a hole in his face instead of a nose, Claire walked closer to her Daddy. He was selling newspapers. They passed another man who was sandwiched between notice boards that had the End is Nigh written on them.

In the cinema Terrance enjoyed the News and laughed heartily at the antics of Tom and Jerry and Micky Mouse. Claire found the news very boring but she was pleased to be sitting next to her Daddy.

On the way back to the tube station they bought some hot chestnuts from a man who roasted the chestnuts on a coal fired stove right on the pavement in front of the statue of Eros. They walked along eating them from brown paper bags.

After Claire had returned from her weekend with her father, and was sitting at the kitchen table having lunch, Cecil snapped, “I can’t believe that you complained about me.” 

Cecil looked at her daughter sitting at the kitchen table next to Claire. "Look at Cheryl, she doesn’t cry all the time like you do and she’s three years younger than you.”

“I just wish you didn’t mash all the meat and potatoes and vegetables in one heap on my plate, Can’t I have it like you do all separate?”

"I can’t believe it. Listen you are eating a much better quality of food with me and you're going on holiday with us next week. I only agreed to it because you will be able to help me with the baby whilst we are at the beach. Go and hang these towels out in the garden.”


Finally Uncle Harry was able to take some time with his family. He worked long hours as a high level chemist but now he was on holiday.

Uncle Harry was Claire’s mother’s little brother. His wife Cecil was only her Aunt by marriage.

He packed the whole family into his large American car and off they set to the seaside.

They stayed in a large hotel on the sea front.

Once auntie Cecil had got herself settled on a deckchair on the beach with her baby Ian beside her she didn’t move.

“Claire, she screeched go and clean this nappy in the sea,” and gave Claire a terry toweling napkin.

“But it's got poo in it,” complained Claire. “A lot of poo.” 

”Never mind. Do as I say,” snapped her Aunt.

Claire wandered sadly down to the edge of the sea where the water lapped at her toes. She went out until the sea was up to her knees and got rid of the offending item, then she refused to go in the sea again for the last three days of the holiday. Cecile was complaining to her husband.

“Oh I wish I hadn’t asked Claire to clean that nappy in the sea. She won’t go in again. Take Cheryl and Claire for a walk. Let me have a nap.”

Harry took his daughter by one hand and his niece by the other hand and took them to the sweet shop.

Claire looked round the shop. There was a large array of seaside rock in all shapes and sizes. There were enormous lollipops, banana shaped rock, animal shaped rock, rock in tiny pieces.

“Come on, Claire, I’ll buy you anything you like,” her uncle coaxed her.

Cheryl chose a whole basket of fruit shaped rock. Claire reached out and chose a plain stick of rock that said Bracklsham Bay all the way through it.

"Why do you just want a plain stick?" 

“Because my friend Malcolm always brings me one of these when he gets back from his holidays.”

"Alright if that’s what makes you happy Harry told her."

Claire knew that she was lucky enough to even be at the seaside let alone ask for expensive sweets.

On the last day of the holiday Uncle Harry told Claire that she was going to have a special treat and sit up with the adults to have supper and watch the live band playing that evening.

“You’ve got to go to bed with your cousins first so they don’t know you are getting up again, though,” chipped in Cecile.

Late that evening Uncle Harry arrived to take her down to the ballroom. She was wearing a lemon coloured dress that her sister had worn as a bridesmaid and felt very excited until she saw Cecile’s face.

"I don’t know why I can’t have my evening in peace without you niece hanging around us."

"Just until the second course," Harry stated.

So Claire sat down and ate some plain fish and listened to the band playing some vibrant jazz.

The second course arrived.

“Alright Claire back to bed with you," Harry told her and the evening was over. 

The next day they set off for London.

Ian started crying.

“Why don’t you sing us something to cheer Ian up?" asked Cecil

Claire thought for a moment. And then in a sexy husky voice like the singer the night before she sang, 

“I’m in the mood for love, simply because I’m with you. Honey because I’m with you, I’m in the mood for love.”

Then without pausing she continued.

“Good for nothing, men are good for nothing I’ve never seen a good one yet.”

Auntie Cecile gave a her husband a long look and burst out laughing.

This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.

Copyright © 13 August 2011 The Desert; 14 August 2011 Solitude; 15 August 2011 the Gift; 16 August Do not regard me by my age; 17 august 2011 Vincent Van Gogh, Starry Night; Hey Diddle Diddle, 17 Aug. 2011; The Dance 16th Aug. 2011; Mother, 19th Aug. 2011; the Mirror, 20th Aug. 2011; whosshing, 22nd Aug.2011; The Blue and White striped Cup, 24th Aug. 2011; The Broken Fall, 30th aug. 2011; Adolescent Blues, 31 Aug. 2011; Taste,The Swan, 08.01.12 09.09.2011;Take Five Oh , 10.09.2011;Chamelian, 11.08.2011;the Coral 13.09.2o11; If only 29.09.2011, Dodging puddles 29.09.11; Mothers Monologue, 3.10.11; Oh, oh, oh, let me weep, 05.10.11, Water, 06.10.11; the flood, 6 Oct.11; Who am I?, 8 Oct. 11; Destiny, 9 Oct.11; Five a.m. Blues, 10.10.11; Three Wishes, 11.10.11; I'm a stone, 14.10.11; Meditation on an Amethyst, 15.10.11; Inheritance,17.10.11; Shorn Child, 20.10.11, Nightmare, 28.10.11; Gathering of the Clan. 27.10.11; That would cause a stir; 26.10.11, At A Crossroads, 28.10.11; Rowan, 29.10.11; My Pumpkin Pie, 31.10.11; A Set back, 14.11.11; Finding peace, 10.11.11; Liquid Lunch, 9.11.11; Out of Body, 8.11.11; Zen 19.11.11;I know why,24.11.11; the Fox, 27.11.11: the Dark, 06.12.11;Be Brave my Love, 9.12.11, The Poet, 17.01.11, New horizons, 11.01.12; New beginnings, 16.01.12; Subconscious Reality,30.01.12; Ruby Lola 03.02.12; Rock a by baby, 09.02.12; Paris, 10.02.12; Valentine chocolate, 13.02.12; the smell of baking bread, 14.02.12; My Father, 15.02.12

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