The cold glass flattens her cheek as she peers through the grey haze of the net curtain. Outside the wind kicks leaves, blowing the distant sound of children’s laughter and the muffled rumble of traffic. A large clock measures the long afternoon with it’s solid tick. Mabel hugs a faded photograph of her husband Percy. She looks down at it affectionately and speaks aloud.
“Fancy me still bein’ here Perce. I’ve lived in this house all my life now. Remember how we ‘ad the basement when we got Wed? Mum an’ Dad an’ the others all upstairs. Quite a crowd it was remember, six of us kids – all born at ‘ome too, every one of ’em. Couldn’t afford doctors an’ such in them days, before the “Elf” came in. Midwife’d do it all – if she arrived in time that is.
Little bruvver Alf, ‘e was early. Mum started four in the mornin’ and Alf pops up a couple of hours later. Our Winnie, the eldest ‘ad to help out ’til the Midwife arrives about half eight ! What a to-do that was, we was all gettin’ in the way an’ Dad runnin’ around like an ‘eadless chicken.”
She smiles at the thought and makes a face, as if Perce was there listening to her talking.
“Wouldn’ ‘appen these days mind. Everythin’ all organised in advance, everythin’ on time an’ tidy, all done for yer at the ‘ospital. Better I guess, safer too. Mum lost two little’ uns coz of ‘er ‘unusual medical condition,’ sad that. Down to five we woz. All gone now though, every last one. Mum, Dad, Bern, Winnie, Lily, and Alf, and the one wot didn’t get a name. I asked Winnie about ‘im once, she was the eldest see. She shrugged it off, said it was just one of those things that ‘appen sometimes, but I still didn’t see why ‘e didn’t ‘ave a name. Win said mum was pretty ill after, ‘ad to ‘ave the Doctor too in the end – that was another expense Dad couldn’t afford. Doctor said she should be in ‘ospital but she didn’t want to go – said it was too much fuss; he made ‘er go anyway despite all the trouble it caused. Win wouldn’t say any more so I ‘ad to leave it at that.”
She sighs and turns away from the window, staring at the photo thoughtfully.
“Mind you after Mum an’ Dad were gone and we cleared out the loft, I found all those papers. Looks like Mum was very seriously ill again after that, and something about a termination, I didn’t really know what it all meant and Win said she didn’t either; nobody talked about things much in those days – not to me anyway.”
She picks up her flask and pours herself a mug of tea, nursing it to warm her hands.
So, just me left now, not bad for 93 I s’pose – Mustn’t grumble though, still in me own ‘ome. I can always sit ‘ere by the window where I can see the children playin’ in the park an’ watch the world go by. Can’t help remembrin’ how I used to run about like them. Always on the go. Mum said I’d meet myself comin’ back if I wasn’t careful. Well, I couldn’t ‘elp myself could I ? I was always doin’ somethin,’ dancin,’ skatin,’ any kinda sports; I remember ‘ow we used to go up West ‘n dance the night away. Get the Milk Train ‘ome an’ tiptoe down the stairs so’s not to wake the others. ‘Appy Days eh? It’s gettin’ a bit chilly now, p’raps I can light the fire just for a bit eh?”
She drags her chair back and shuffles to the gas fire which pops into life as she strikes the match. She sighs as she settles heavily into her chair turning Percy’s picture over again in her lap and smiling.
“Even when I lost you Perce, I still ‘ad the dog of course, we’d walk for miles. I’d make some sandwiches an’ a flask an’ some biscuits for Buster. I loved that, couldn’t bear to be stuck indoors, still can’t come to that. Mind you, it’s ‘ard gettin’ about these days. I ‘ad to give up the dog in the end ’cause I couldn’t walk ‘im anymore; I do miss ‘im, he was real company. I can ‘ardly do anythin’ I used to, I get so frustrated sometimes I could scream. Don’t go out at night at all either, just sit ‘ere in the dark mostly with a flask of tea an’ a blanket on me knees, an’ watch them big cars whizzing up an’ down the ‘igh Road. Different world out there now you see.”
The distant sound of two young women shouting at their noisy kids who were squealing and laughing as they kicked a dustbin lid down the street, made her turn again to the window.
“Most of the folks as use’t live ‘ere when we was kids ‘ave moved away or passed on
I s’pose. All them new people who’ve come in round ‘ere now, young folks mostly or couples with kids; What they call ‘Professional Types’. I think I might be the only original one left, makes yer feel a bit funny really. Bit like an ‘Alien’ from outer space – ‘cept it’s them that’s landed ‘ere an’ I’m the last surviving member of the Lost Tribe – ‘Ark at me ! Though I do feel like I’m outside lookin’ in sometimes: but of course now, I’m mostly inside, lookin’ out.
When I do manage to get out though I really feel I’m a bit odd. Sometimes, if I try to talk to one of these young mums with ‘er kiddies in the street, they ‘ardly ever say much, cold lot they are. Often they practically ignore me, sometimes I think I’m invisible. Like they just don’t even see me – or don’ want to maybe? Makes you think though if you ever really existed at all, bit like our little lost brother. I wonder why ‘e never got a name …. ”