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Finding a Home (Part One)

Updated on March 4, 2017

Bedsit Land

Here in Torquay, England, the posh word for bedsits (bed sitting rooms) is flatlets. These are basically furnished one-room living, with the lounge, kitchen and bedroom all in one space and the shared bathroom facilities out in a corridor somewhere or even on another floor of the building. Back in the early1960's there didn't seem many health and safety rules but I do recall a fire extinguisher in the communal hallway because it fell off it's wall bracket one day and exploded, shooting foam all over the place, which I had to walk through until somebody cleared it up.

The Landlords were an elderly couple from up North who chose to retire to a large Victorian house down here by the sea. To afford this they had to rent out their first and second floor rooms keeping the ground floor living space for themselves. They had to clean up the mess while I could just walk on by *grin*

I got clean bedding provided weekly in with the rent but a drawback was the communal bathroom up a flight of dodgy stairs in an attic room, where everyone had to put a shilling (five pence) into an electricity meter to have hot water for a bath.There was another money-grabbing electricity meter in my bedsit too, in case I wanted the light on or, heaven forbid, use the electric fire! Then I had to eat out mainly as the cooking facilities were less than minimal, but I was lucky that my job on the reception desk in a local hotel enabled me to have my dinner there and the hotel was close enough to be able to walk to work.

So there I was, ensconced in my own little private paradise about fifty years ago, until...

Living in a Caravan

...I met someone (my future husband) and we decided to flat-share (okay, live together but shush because it wasn't the done thing back in the 1960's). Anyway, the Landlord found out and kicked me out, well, gave me until the end of the week to find somewhere else, but I was so embarrassed that I telephoned a taxi and slunk off into the night - into a local caravan park actually, where we hired a caravan at a weekly rental as a couple but both paying our own way (going Dutch).

I practised my cookery skills in this caravan, the Baby Belling cooker was in the middle of the 'van, the double bed filled one end by the door and the seating area with a central table was down the window end with views over the countryside. No television again (the one thing I did miss from home) but we had a radio for the evenings after work and after a visit to the pub. Sussex people only have one drink when they go out, don't you know, but Devon people, well, let's just say that there were an abundance of cider apple orchards around back then!

The caravan was only jacked-up onto grass in a field, no hard-standings there, so when I carried our plates of home-made dinner to the table after it had rained, the caravan would tip forward as the legs sunk into the soft grass, so often our dinners went all over the table, especially when I had made gravy. Had to persevere though because a) there were no ready-meals in those days (unless you ate out or bought fish and chips) and b) the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, so I was told!

Finding a Flat

Writing of stomachs, mine began to swell. Oh dear, now I was in the soup, erm no, in the family way actually *sigh* and I could see my new found independence flying out of the window together with my dreams. I wrote to my mother. My parents drove down for the weekend, discussions were held, plans were made and all this culminated in a shotgun wedding and me being exiled in Devon for ever and ever. Goodbye Sussex!

In my defence I have to add here that we stayed married and faithful to each other for over fifty years until the day he passed away here at home, which is why I am writing these memory hubs I guess. A trip down memory lane until I feel strong and positive again, which I will one day.

It wasn't too difficult to find a one-bedroom flat, Torquay is full of flats, everybody wants to live down here (except me). Now I am retired I suppose it suits me better but it will never be my home county like Sussex is. Maybe I will move back one day, who knows what the future holds? To continue: we stayed in this rather nice furnished first-floor flat with big bay windows and a black and white television set and had another daughter a year later. My girls have daughters of their own now, how time flies!

The wife of the live-in Landlord in this next large Victorian house that they couldn't really afford, was a nasty piece of work. She reduced me to tears more than once. We had our rooms along the back of the house with a view of the garden where we tenants were allowed to hang out our washing or sit in if we didn't wish to go over to the local park. I remember walking round that park one afternoon, pushing my pram, crying my eyes out, wishing my husband would get home from work, because Mrs. Nasty had taken all my baby clothes out of the communal bathroom's airing cupboard and dumped them outside our flat door. Hadn't asked permission to use the cupboard, had I? So went and asked permission when hubby got home to mind the babies and was told No! I don't like being told No and I don't like being told what to do, or not do, so this made me hate Torquay even more. However, salvation was on the horizon.

My Fab Prefab

After two years on the waiting list and three children later, the last one being a son, the council designated us a Prefab. A home of our own at last, with a private garden all around it. Space aplenty, I was happy, really happy, there which lasted for about eighteen months. I learnt how to paint woodwork and hang wallpaper, to tend the garden and grow things like potatoes, runner beans, tomatoes and strawberries Then we received a letter from the council informing us that the prefabs were being demolished to make way for new housing.

Hmm okay, an unavoidable move was now on the cards after I had made friends and got to know everybody in the local shops, also it was a reasonable walk into town which made a nice day out for clothes shopping and to tire the kids out although there was a swing park nearby and a big field. Lots of fields around in those days, lots of housing around these days!

We were allowed up to three choices of location for our three bedroomed council house, but I viewed and accepted the first one offered. I must have liked it because we lived in that house for thirty years. We had two more children there and after twenty years when the yougest left school, we exercised out right-to-buy made possible by the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.



Have you ever lived on your own?

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© 2015 Bren Hall


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