When I was a gal, I went to a posh school in Birmingham. Lots of the girls who attended were from really wealthy families and lived in great big mansions of houses in Moseley, Edgbaston and Harborne. Helen Redstone was one such a girl and her family had a beautiful, double fronted, plumptious house in Moseley, all decked out with deep red velvet curtains, soft carpets and expensive furnishings, it was indeed a lovely house and I occasionally accompanied Helen to her home after school, like friends do. On one such occasion I had gone to Helen`s pad specifically to borrow her posh black swimsuit as I hadn`t got one. I had swimming the next day at school and I didn`t want to miss it. More of that in a bit……
My family were not at all wealthy. Dad was a greengrocer until he was struck down with a massive heart attack in his sixties and had to find much more sedentary work. Our family flat which was situated over the shop, was large and rambling and I loved living there. We never had posh furniture, we never had gorgeous carpets but what we did have in abundance in our home, was masses and masses of love so I didn`t ever feel lacking, it didn`t occur to me how much my mum and dad struggled sometimes, to make ends meet.
I never really felt like I fitted in at my old school, lots of the kids at my school took drugs, especially speed and LSD which were de rigeur in the nineteen sixties. I never really got into drugs when I was at school, I smoked a bit of pot, I tried speed once. I wouldn`t have been able to afford a drug enhanced lifestyle even if I`d wanted it which I didn`t.
The day after swimming, my dad and I were in the kitchen. Dad was at the sink washing up and singing old army songs, (“her father came home late one night,” etc. etc.) . I was busy making myself some beans on toast. At that time I lived on beans on toast with great chunks of Lurpack butter melting into the bean juice and masses of salt sprinkled over the top. I never ditched the Lurpack but I have at least moved on to Lo-salt which is a bit of an improvement.
Anyways, unbenownst to me dad had draped Helen Redstone`s very expensive swimming costume over the grill. It was an eye level grill and being a titch, I didn`t spot it. I finally smelt something singeing and looking up with a cry of horror, I snatched the costume down from the grill – too late, the cossie was toasted to buggery and had a giant, melted hole bang in the middle of it.
Mrs. Redstone was none too pleased and immediately got on the phone to my mother. She demanded, in a rather uneccessarily rude fashion I have to say, that my mum reimburse her pronto for the cost of the cossie. It was a designer costume and had been purchased from Rackhams. It cost a whopping £12.50 which was about a week`s wages in those days. Mum scraped the money together and placing it in an envelope she penned a note to Mrs. R on her best Basildon Bond writing paper…….
Dear Mrs. Redstone,
I am so sorry to hear that you and your family are going through a difficult time financially. I do hope that things improve generally and meanwhile, please let me reimburse you for the cost of Helen`s swimsuit. I hope the money will see you through until you and your family meet with better times.
Sometimes my mum could be so embarrassing and now guess what? I am just like her! Seriously Helen, if you should ever stumble upon this blog, I was mortified the day I toasted your cossie, do you recall the incident?