Sadly, on the 10th of May this year my wonderful mother, Sheila Cusick, passed away at home in Milton Keynes aged 77. The saddest day of my life.
Mum had battled with serious heart problems for a long time and her heart finally gave out for the last time whilst she was in her own bed at home. Her final moments were spent where she would have wanted to have spent them i.e. at home and not in some lonely, cold and impersonal hospital. She had her things and her memories and family photographs all around her. No more pain and suffering for her,only peace. ♥
I used to write a blog regularly with silly stories and things that I had noticed around me. Mum used to read my postings when her health was better and they always made her laugh and we would chat about it during our regular Sunday telephone conversation. After she passed away I was looking through old stuff including pictures and family tree stuff on my computer when I realised that I have not written anything for over a year. I used to really enjoy writing my nonsense and I realised I had missed doing it. So as a tribute to my mum I am going to start writing again. This first ‘revival’ post is going to be different to the ones in the past and ones still to come. You don’t have to read this if you don’t want to but I felt that I had to write it out as I found it helped me to get through the grief a bit easier. When I started to write this post I thought it was going to be reasonably short but as I have gone on it’s got longer and longer but it is hard for me to apologise for the length as Mum had a long and interesting life. Read what you can. This posting is really for my benefit but others might find it interesting.
This post is intended to be a sort of “This is your life” about my Mum. For younger readers “This is your life” was a TV Show originally hosted by genial Irishman Eamonn Andrews. He would surprise a ‘celebrity’ and get all of their friends of family into a studio to talk about their lives. There are no ‘surprises’ as such in this posting it is a chronological laying out of her life. I try to use humour in my writings not because I don’t take things seriously but because its just the way I am. My Mum taught me to laugh at problems and things that upset me and I continue to this day.
Most of what I know about mums early life has been pieced together over many years through conversations with her and by looking up documents and old family photographs. Knowing where I came from has always been very important for me so I have for the last 20 years or so done quite a lot of family history research some of which is relevant here. The hardest part about piecing things together has been the fact that as most of the relevant events were a long time ago the majority of the ‘participants’ are no longer with us. Of those that are, some are not as forthcoming as I would like but they have their own reasons for this and it has never been my intention to upset any apple carts or bring any skeletons out of any cupboards, if indeed there are any. Skeletons I mean, not cupboards! There are always cupboards. Some FACTS are easy to verify as I have certificates evidencing births, deaths and marriages but the bare facts never tell the whole story. Anyway I have done my best with what follows . . . . . . .
Mum was born on 14th August 1938, a Sunday. That made her a Leo for those that follow that sort of mumbo-jumbo. I don’t understand Astrology so I know nothing of the supposed traits of a Leo but I do know that the symbol for Leo is a lion. That is definitely accurate. Mum was brave and fearless her whole life. If you ARE interested in Astrology this is a link to an Astrology page with information about Leo’s. Napoleon Bonaparte was a Leo as was Fidel Castro and The Queen mother (god bless her!).
Mum was the youngest of 4 children born to my Grandfather George Carter and my Grandmother Mary Emma Carter (Docksey). The eldest child of the family, my Uncle George (Jnr) was born on 16th April 1920 when the family lived in Roseberry Street, Keighley, Yorkshire. At this time my Grandfather was described as working as a ‘Dock Labourer (ex army’). During the Second World War Uncle George was stationed at RAF Cardington in a unit responsible for the barrage balloons positioned around the country (but mainly in London) which were to designed to ward off German planes. You can see the massive sheds they used (near Bedford) as you drive up the M1 Motorway. RAF Cardington was also famous for being the home of the R101, the massive airship. Uncle George died in Lincoln in 1982. Mums mother Mary was from the Keighley area and when they first married she (Mary, my Grandmother) and her husband George(Snr) my Grandfather, lived with Mary’s family, the Docksey’s. The actual name of the village they lived in was called Oakworth. They lived at 5 Roseberry Terrace. Oakworth is famous as being the setting and filming location of the film The Railway Children, which is one of my all time favourites. I have never discovered exactly where George Carter Senior (my Grandfather) was from. Both his first and surname are very, very common and there are literally thousands of George Carters born in the UK around that time. He and my Grandmother married in Tynemouth in 1917 when he was stationed at an army camp nearby. That is a LONG way (107 miles) from Keighley so that part of the story is definitely a mystery. We will never know for sure how Mary met George and why they were not married closer to her home in Keighley. It is most likely that my Grandfather was from the local area (Keighley) and that is where they met but decided to get married near where he was stationed.
The second child born to the family was my lovely Aunt Rosemary. I only met her a few times but the family resemblance was striking. She and her husband Ernest were both very nice people. Rosemary was born on 28th May 1925 but by this time the Carter family were living at 81 Camden Street in Grimsby.
My grandfather was at the time said to be a bricklayers labourer. I have no idea why the family had moved to Grimsby, but I assume it was for work reasons. That was a move of about 100 miles. Aunt Rosemary died in Leeds in December 1990.
The third child of the family was my Aunt Heather. Aunt Heather was born in Lincoln in late 1933. The Carter family were by now living at 56 Arboretum Avenue, Lincoln. A move of only 36 miles this time. Again I guess that was for work reasons but I cannot be sure as I do not know what job my Grandfather was doing in 1933. Arboretum Avenue is now quite a smart part of Lincoln as it is fairly close to the cathedral. Heather and her family now live in Thamesmead, South East London, having moved there from Willesden (NW London) in 1973.
The last child of the family was of course my dear Mother, Sheila. She was, like her sister Heather, born at home in Arboretum Avenue, Lincoln. This is, judging by the picture taken from Google Earth, a VERY steep road. That would have kept the young sisters fit going up and down that every day to and from school.
When Mum was still quite young (its very hard to say exactly when) there seems to have been some sort of family dispute. Certainly a big falling out of some kind. The reasons behind it will now never be known. I would guess that whatever happened would have been before 1940. I say this because in 1940 George Junior was intending to get married. At that time, to get married you had to be “of full age” (21) or have parental consent. George was only 20 when he married but lied on his forms stating that he was 21. This must have been because he couldn’t or wouldn’t get parental consent. There is no other explanation I can think of as to why he would have lied and risked getting in trouble with the authorities. He had a difficult choice but as his wife (to be) was pregnant there was no other way. The families were living quite close to each (when George was not at Cardington). I have had a conversation with a cousin of mine, Barbara, one of Uncle George’s children who sort of knew something about that (her dad had sort of mentioned it in vague terms) and certainly knew that her father did not get on with his father. Barbara had never met her Grandfather or her (my) Grandmother. The real truth is not even relevant now but is buried somewhere in the past.
Then at some unknown date the family moved again, this time back to Yorkshire. I asked my mum about this quite a few times because until the last couple of years she had not mentioned this at all. I was quite shocked as I had always thought that she had moved to London direct from Lincoln. She said she really couldn’t remember when this was so I have to assume she was quite young. I cannot be certain when it was but it was after February 1946 as that is the when her sister Rosemary married Ernest Winters and moved to Durham Street, Leeds. Mum remembered that when she, her sister Heather and her mum and dad moved to Newcastle Street, Leeds (the street next to and running parallel to Durham Street) Rosemary and Ernest were already living there. If it WAS 1946 mum would have been 8. In the picture of Durham street (where Rosemary lived) if you look closely to the right of the pub is the start of Newcastle Street, where mum lived.
Mum went to school close to the family home at Burley C E School close to Kirkstall Lane, which ran at 9o degrees across the bottom of her road. She would have left that school at age 11 (I assume?) but I have no idea where she went after that or which school her older sister Heather went to. She may have gone to a senior school but I don’t think she did, certainly she said she couldn’t remember doing so. Just another unsolvable mystery. The next major event in her life was very dramatic…………………
The above is the earliest photograph I can find of mum. There is no date on the back but I am guessing that mum was about 6 and Aunt Heather was about 10 or 11. This would make it around 1944 when the family were living in Lincoln. The writing on the picture is by my Grandmother. Mums writing was almost identical.
In 1950 my Grandmother, Aunt Heather and Mum arrive in London. No Grandfather with them! I have no idea what has caused this massive split in the family and it is unlikely that I will ever know. But as they say the truth is out there so never say never. In 1950 Mum was 12 and her sister Heather was 17. My Grandmother would have been 58. Whatever it was that happened must of been serious as I doubt a 58 year old woman would leave her home and up-sticks to London with two children one of whom was only 12 without very good reason. It feels like some kind of escape but as I have already said I don’t know what actually made her decide to leave Yorkshire. Uncle George was in Lincoln and Aunt Margaret stayed in Leeds. Maybe they had just had enough of the frozen North, brrrrrrrr!
When the three of them arrived in the big scary city of London I guess they were homeless and destitute. For a while they had an address in North Wharf Road, Paddington. Eventually they moved and settled on the White City estate in West London. The block they lived in was called Mackay House which overlooked Loftus Road home of QPR Football Club.
The pictures above have all been scanned from Mum’s collection and all have the dates (helpfully!) on the back. Some of the dates are in Mums’ writing others were dated by her Mum my Nanny. I think the most interesting picture is the one in 1954 where she is sat on the edge of an outdoor swimming pool aged 16. I have checked other old photographs from the era and it is definitely the swimming pool that was once on the White City estate. The pool opened in 1923 and didn’t get closed down and demolished until 1979. It was massively popular in the 50’s and 60’s.
After Mum left school at 14 she had a few short term part-time jobs but when she was 18 she started work in a leather goods shop in Acton. I don’t know the name of the shop but she carried on working there until 1961 when she was 23.
The next major event in Mums life was meeting my father George WC Cusick. They met in early 1961 at the then World famous Hammersmith Palais, the nightclub in the area of its era. All the youngsters went there and all of the music stars of the time played there. The Palais finally closed in 2007 with Kasabian being amongst the last performers. My Dad was living in the Ladbroke Grove area at the time so it would probably have been a regular haunt for him and his friends. I have no idea really how often either of them actually did go there but anyway they did meet, fell in love and got married at Kensington Registry Office 09 December 1961. They both look very young in the wedding day photograph below (and happy!). Mum and Dad were both born in 1938 so they were both 23 when they married. I have only included this photo because I think Mum looks absolutely terrific in it. Young, pretty and happy.
When they first married, Mum and dad lived at 6 Bosworth Road, London W10 which is not far from Ladbroke Grove and the World famous Portobello Road Market. It was Dads family home with his mother, Jean (Clarke) my Paternal Grandmother. My paternal Grandfather George Walter Cusick died of food poisoning in 1944 when Dad was 6. I don’t really remember Dad’s Mum as she died in 1969 when I was six and I understand she spent at least the last year of her life in Tooting Bec Mental hospital as she suffered from Alzheimers disease. Mum never said it to me as such but reading between the lines of what she did say I don’t think Mum and her got on. Mind you it was an old run down house which originally had no electricity (lighting by town gas) and only an outside toilet. Typical of the area in that era. Also it was soon to become quite crowded in the house! . . . . . . . . .
On 5th of June 1962 my sister Anita was born at Queen Charlottes Hospital, Hammersmith. I followed on June 30th 1963 and brother Steven arrived September 19th 1964. By now Mum definitely has her hands (very) full!!! Steven and I were also born at Queen Charlottes. It must have been very difficult for Mum living in that tiny, run down house with 3 babies. When Steven was born Anita was only just two. I don’t know how she did it. She was amazing. The family had to get out of there and after a brief stay at Princedale House on the 18th floor(!) which is in Westborne Park the family of 5 moved into Whitstable house, London W10 on the more manageable 4th floor.
If this was a blog about MY life I would now be waxing lyrically about how great it was growing up there. We all had great times there I and I really wish I could turn the clock back and do it all again. This isn’t about me so I’ll carry on with Mum’s story. The flat compared to Bosworth Road was massive. Mum and Dad had a double room, Anita had a single room to herself and Steven and I shared a bedroom. Mum has told me about all sorts of adventures we all got up to including me climbing out of the balcony with some sheets and getting caught (luckily!) by the neighbour below (remember we were on the 4th floor), Anita climbed a quite high wall in the small play area at the front of the building then slid down it wearing her chin away and Steven had the front door slammed (by accident) on two of his fingers nearly chopping them off! Good times, hahaha!
Things changed again on 20th March 1969 when my beautiful baby brother, Peter arrived on the scene. I very clearly remember going with Dad to the hospital to pick him and Mum up. Marvin Gaye I heard it through the grapevine was on the radio. The flat had suddenly got a bit more crowded. When Peter pops was old enough to not be in his cot he moved into the bedroom with myself and Steven. Three single beds in that room did not leave a lot of room for anything else and Mum wisely invested in bunk beds. I was up top and Steven was down below. Peter had his own bed but if he got lonely in the night would often share either mine of Stevens bed. These years were the greatest times of my life. All six of us were very happy. Sadly nothing stays the same for ever and life moves on.
Sadly in November 1972 my lovely Nanny passed away and I know Mum really missed her. Of course at the time I was sad and I did miss her as well but I couldn’t understand the sadness completely. I can now. You can prepare for a sad event for years but when it actually arrives it is a 10 times worse than you could have imagined. Mum must have felt something similar to what I am feeling now, a feeling of complete loss, grief and still not believing that the thing you knew would happen has actually happened. Nanny is buried in the cemetery at Kensal Rise. Nanny’s passing precipitated Aunt Heathers move to Thamesmead mentioned earlier.
In February 1976 all six of us moved out of London a bit to Copley Close in Hanwell, Ealing. Copley Close was a brand new housing estate and we were in number 201 a lovely 4 bed-roomed house with a small garden at both front and back. The house was in a square of identical houses with a large communal ‘green’ in the middle. In April 1976 things changed MASSIVELY for Mum and us 4 kids. My Dad decided he could not resist the charms of a blond Scandinavian 20 years his junior and decided that the grass was greener on the other side and left the family home. This was, of course, for Mum a devastating event. Even putting her feelings for my Dad to one side she was faced with bringing up 4 youngish children on her own. This must of been a terrible and scary time for her but I don’t remember her ever complaining about it or running around screaming or panicking or even really slagging my dad off. She just got on with it because she had to. She dedicated the whole of her life to her children and I and my siblings will never forget that. Her courage and determination and hard work got us all through those hard years. I have no idea how she did it but I don’t remember ever being hungry or having no clothes to wear. Considering my idiot of a Dad had refused to pay any sort of maintenance this was quite a miracle. I know Aunt Heather helped out where she could and we were all grateful for that. The only upside to 1976 was that it was the Summer that never ended. Everyday was hot from about May until September. Hosepipe bans and standpipes were the norm that year.
After most of the family grew up and moved out Mum moved not far and had some lovely years in her 1st floor maisonette in Homefarm Road, Hanwell. She had good neighbours and still had our beautiful family dog, Prince with her. The only issue I really remember her complaining about in Homefarm Road was the noise that the foxes, particularly the cubs, made in her garden. She became a bit obsessed with them and tried all sorts to try and kill them off. I remember bleach going down the hole she thought they lived in as well as concrete. I don’t think it worked.
Mum loved the sea and always had a yearning to live near it and so in 2003 she moved to Hayle in the far West Of Cornwall. This was quite near where I lived so I was very happy with that. Christine and I took her all over Cornwall to different beaches and towns and she loved it. Her favourite town was Porthleven near Helston. It had a lovely little harbour and the bakers there sold the best pasties she said she’d ever had. She also loved Lamorna Cove and Penberth Cove. At Flambards, which is a tourist attraction, she was absolutely thrilled to see an exhibit they had entitled ‘Victorian Village’. It was a very detailed recreation of a Victorian village including sweet shops, chemists, needle-workers rooms and a post office. It was very interesting but I used to tease her that she liked the the Victorian village because it reminded her of her childhood! Hahahahah! She was not amused! Still we did take her more than once so she cant have been that upset.
In 2005 when her health stated to fail she moved up to Milton Keynes to be near the majority of the family and more particularly my sister, Anita, who looked after her really well. It helped me too as I didn’t have to worry about her, I knew she was in good hands. Mum never lost her love of the sea though and her flat in Milton Keynes was adorned with several dramatic pictures of the sea.
Mum had various address in the Milton Keynes area but eventually ended up in a lovely bungalow at Corfe Crescent. She has really happy times there despite her worsening health problems. She joined various local groups and regularly went on organised coach trips all around the country including Blackpool, Scarborough (her favourite), Brighton, The lake District and various others. Everywhere she went she sent me a postcard (even if it was only a day trip). I still have ALL of them, they are a treasured memory of her. She always wrote something funny on the back. She once sent me a postcard depicting a public swimming pool in Brighton that neither I or her had actually visited. The funniest coach trip day was when Mum and her friends had booked to go to Weymouth. She was very excited about going there she told me because she had never been there before. The coach sets off and the driver is noticed displaying some very odd bvehaviour. He stops a couple of times for no apparent reason gets out leaving the engine running and disappears into bushes for 10 minutes with no explanation given.When the coach eventually arrives at the seaside the passengers get out and discover…..they are in Weston Super Mare and NOT Weymouth! Those two places are not even close to one another, they are 80 miles apart and on different coasts. Mums postcard simply said “went to wrong place, still had a lovely time”, hahahah!
Amongst Mums lovely neighbours in Corfe Crescent was her wonderful friend Kathy Nolan. Kathy and Mum had some right good laughs and some great times. Mum spent quite a bit of time in and out of hospital and Kathy always looked after her flat, made sure she got some milk and food in for Mums return and just generally looked out for her. I know Mum loved her and I will always be grateful to Kathy for making Mums’s last five years such good fun. Thank you Kath.