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chapter 5 alison

Alison lived at the other side of town in a new council house. The house had plenty of gardens, front and back. The kitchen had a large larder and was still big enough to have a table in it without feeling cramped. There was hot and cold running water upstairs and downstairs. There was a proper bathroom and separate toilet upstairs. The whole house felt light and airy with it’s large windows and spacious rooms that were painted in light colours. The kitchen and bathroom had tiled floors and walls up to dado height. The rest of the house had fitted carpets throughout, which made it feel very luxurious. There was no separate ‘front room’. Instead, the living room was at the front of the house and the dining room was to the rear, with a square archway between them. There was even a little hatch from the dining room through to the kitchen so that food could get passed through without the inconvenience of walking through the living room.
Alison’s mother loved it! She loved the space. She loved her new gas cooker with an eye level grill.
Alison’s father liked the outside space. There were two outbuildings, both of them near the kitchen door, which was actually on the side of the house. The first outbuilding was the coal bunker. The second he claimed as his garden ‘shed’. It was full of his gardening equipment and he liked to plant out little seedlings while listening to the portable radio he had. In the back garden, he could not afford the luxury of a greenhouse, but he had a little cloche that he had built himself. The small garden to the left of the path was where he grew a variety of vegetables and his prized roses. He would enter them into competitions in the summer. The other side was a simple lawn with flowers in the borders next to the fence. There was a bench outside the dining room window that looked out on the neat garden and out onto the playing field beyond.
Alison’s father worked down the pit, on the coal face. He was a short, stocky man - very strong and very fit, although he did not look it. He liked to smoke a pipe which filled the house with the smell of his tobacco.
Alison’s mother Edith, loved her new house, which was a vast improvement on her old one. The local shops were within easy walking distance. From there, she could catch a regular bus to the town centre or further afield. She was definitely in charge around the home. She kept up to date with all the bills and always made sure there was a hot meal on the table when anyone came in from work, no matter what time of day it was.
They lived with Edith’s brother, Jack, who worked to the pit. He came and went as he pleased. When he was not working he would either be with his mates at the working men’s club, or he would be visiting his lady friend. Alison Had never met the woman. Jack thought the world of her, but she was not well though of in the rest of the house. There was something shady about the relationship that Alison never got to the bottom of, but it was strange how he had never married. The speculation was that Jack’s lady friend already had a husband and Jack only saw her when he was out at work. Another rumour was that she was a lady of the night, selling her body because her drunken husband spent every penny he earned down the pub. Edith found out the truth about Jack years later after he died. His lady friend was a Roman Catholic and he was Protestant. It was as simple as that. History stood in the way of them getting together properly. That was all.

Alison shared a bedroom with her younger, prettier sister, who was still at school. She worked at the local grocers shop selling fresh fruit and veg and cut flowers. When she was younger, she’d failed her 11+ exam and therefore gone to a secondary modern school, which had taught more vocational subjects rather than academic ones. She had left with no qualifications, but that was not unusual for the time. After all, she did not expect to have a long working life. Once she got married, it was expected that she would give up her job to look after the home. She would have children after all and be expected to look after them as well as her husband. Her job at the grocers was only temporary - until she found a husband.
Alison did not think she would attract the best husband. She was already eighteen and had never had a boyfriend. The trouble was, she was very plain. Her fondness for her mother’s pies and scones had made her plump. She wore clothes that her mother approved of - her necklines were so high they barely revealed her clavicle bone. She did not loosen any buttons on a blouse or dress. Her hemlines were not to rise above her mid calf. She did not want to attract the ‘wrong kind’ of attention, so she did not wear make up, her heels were always low. Her clothes could not be too bright or be too gaudy in pattern. Pretty pastels were best, especially if she kept her arms covered. Form fitting dresses were out, so we’re corsets, or those corselettes that held everything in. Indeed her ‘foundation garment’ did nothing to make her figure any better. Over the top of that she had to wear a full slip, just in case her dress was of a thin fabric that would show her legs when he sun shone through.
It was a wonder she was allowed out at all! However, she was allowed out once during the week to go to the pictures and one weekend night to go to a dance. She had to be accompanied by at least one friend and she was never to be left alone. She was not allowed to go into a pub, even if it was into the lounge area and not the bar, which was for the men. She was not to get drunk, either.
Of course, Alison did not follow her mother’s wishes to the letter. She would meet up with her friends and go straight to the lounge room of a pub. They would sit together, sipping sherry, catching up on any events during the week. When they felt suitably tipsy, they would go to the dance. They did not venture far because they could not risk missing the last bus home and could not afford a taxi. Usually, they would go to the Miner’s Welfare Hall. This was a rather grand building for a small town. There were two function rooms, the largest of which had a sprung floor and a large stage. The smaller function room was more suitable for a small audience that was sitting down. Meetings, comedians, that kind of thing. Each room had it’s own bar.
Also in the building was a room with a mirrored wall and a barre suitable for dancing lessons, rooms where children’s groups could gather such as cubs, scouts, brownies and guides, a cafe for the ladies, a bar for the men. It was a brilliant facility, paid for and maintained by miners, ex-miners and their families.
Once she was out, Alison would go to the toilets and adjust her clothing as best she could. The foundation garment was the first thing to be pushed into her bag. Then she might hitch her skirt up a bit by rolling the waistband over. At least one and maybe two buttons would be undone around her neck and her cardigan would be removed. It would get much too hot for all the extra clothing anyway.
Once at the dance, she would sit, at a table near the dance floor waiting to be asked up to dance. The dances were only suitable to dance with a partner. That partner has to be of the opposite sex. Young girls and older ladies might get away with each other, just for the fun of the dance, but she was of marriageable age and looking for a husband.
Quite often, she would be sitting down the whole night until some bloke, too drunk to care would ask her to dance.
Her friends would get asked out on a date after just on dance. She never was. She was beginning to think she was going to end up a spinstress left at home to look after her ageing parents.

Her sister, Mary was almost the opposite of Alison. She was tall and slim, she had beautiful skin and wavy blonde hair. She would look good wearing a paper bag. She had passed her 11+ exam and gone to a grammar school. She was currently studying for her ‘O’ level exams. She had plenty of friends who were always coming round. Their mother had high hopes for her. University was a distinct possibility.
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Wonderful tease...looking forward