How old am I son?
You’re a bloody liar! I’ll tell you nothing… you always were a liar. You’re a bloody liar but you’re my boy! Get me cup of tea will you? Good, you can call me Aunty El like my mum. My mother’s name was Ellen… Ellen Alice… I’m Ellen and my dad was Ernie… still three ‘E’s’ in the house.
My mum was a very nice lady… she helped everybody… I never knew until much later but she was blind in one eye… she worked in the laundry… an ironer all her life… when she ironed it was beautiful… I can’t iron at all. She always said it was worse after I’d finished it. Mum used to promise me she’d buy me a little brother for two and six if I was good, but she never did… I never got one…
Where is she?
It seems like I’ve known you for years… who are you? A little bugger!
Dad was a carpenter… a stout man but so honest and kind… if he had a penny and you had none he’d give you half. He worked different houses. I was never his daughter… I was his nipper… he was funny… to him there was never anyone as good as his daughter but his daughter was a bloody cow… I couldn’t do anything… I was always running around in the street with the arse out of my pants… we never had any money… we were in and out of the pawnbrokers at the corner of the street.
One man down the street he didn’t like me at all… he was dirty… he used to offer kids money for a feel. I told him what I thought of him. It’s not money that makes life it’s what you do with what you have… that’s why I don’t agree with the Royals… you work all your life… you share… you’re good and what do you get? A load of shit. We’d have to go down to the butchers for two pennies worth of bones… “With plenty of meat on please.” He always used to laugh at me… he said to my mum, “She’s a little cow but a good kid”. And my grandmother was a cow… she’d buy something for mum and charge her double.
I hated school… I wanted to be free… but in there it was a case of just sit and do nothing and wait until you could leave. I started working in the print works the day after my fourteenth birthday and I worked there for more than fifty years. God… it’s making me feel old.
How old am I?
What? You’re a liar! You’ve got me confused with someone else… look it up… I was christened Ellen Gladys Mary Shaw… and I was a Shaw until I was Baldwin… until I married Burt… Burt was a bookbinder… he worked in J. Lyons… the print… the same place as me. He used to bind them and I used to sew them. We used to go to work together… at half past six in the morning and worked hard till half past seven at night… but he’d work later most nights so I had to come home on my own... back to Claremont Road… to the outside loo that wouldn’t flush. But I love Burt he’s a wonderful man.
Where is he?
I have to go now… I’ve left a pan on the stove. Can you get me up? I have to go… Burt’s waiting… he’ll want his tea… there’s something happened to my legs… I can’t get up.