Bitter Sweet Memories

A Memory of Barking

I was born in Upney Hospital in early 1951, the youngest of six children. We lived with our parents in North Street. When I was two our parents split up and my dad eventually 'won' custody of myself and the brother next up to me, four years my senior. Dad had been disabled during the Second World War and, as such, was no longer able to do his job, in civvie land, in the building trade. So he was at home a lot and his passion for breeding birds and small animals became his trade. He had a stall in Brick Lane market in the East End. My aunty ran the Milk Bar, which I believe, was situated in East Street - does anyone remember it? She was the most wonderful pastry maker and her meat pies and sweet pastries were very well known locally. She would always treat me to having a go at rolling out the dough when my dad took me to visit at the bar. I would also get treated to a tasty treat whilst there.

Another of my aunties on my mum's side and her husband, had the Pie and Mash shop and as my dad remained on good terms with Mum's family, I would often go there too with Dad and my brother, and be treated to some delicous 'grub'. "Eat up", Dad would say, "It'll put hairs on your chest". Why I never doubted or questioned that, remains a mystery to this day, haha.

Now for the bitter... Dad had to do odd jobs as and when he could as well as his animal breeding, selling etc. I remember the day he took me to Eastbury House and told me to be a good girl and that he'd see me later. The manor house was imposing and very very daunting to a totally unsuspecting, unprepared, toddler. I was greeted and taken in to the nursery nurses and put with other children of my tender age-group. The nurses all wore uniform and I was scared and felt sick. Meal times were good unless, and until, a nurse made you eat something that you really disliked. I loathe marrow to this day! I remember trying to be a good girl and not cry but being overwhelmed at parting from my dad and watching through one of those huge windows, I think on the first floor, as my dad walked down the long path and away from me and sobbing until I was exhausted.

I do have some happy memories of being in the day care nursery at Eastbury House. Christmas was SO magical.  Presents and Father Christmas and party food and singing Carols and Christmas songs and, and, and ... ooo, I'm being transported back there now in my mind!

I remember how we would be lined up on benches and then served a spoonful of Cod Liver Oil which was then swiftly followed by a spoonful of Malt. Everyone loved the Malt, or so we thought! Haha. Most of the nursery nurses were kindness and warmth personified, but one or two were controlling and totally unaware of childrens needs and emotions.

I graduated on to Westbury infant and junior schools in Ripple Road and on from there at eleven, to Eastbury Secondary, the latter I refer, fondly to as Eastbury Academy For Young Ladies And Gentlemen. Haha. I loved school and did quite well, even being awarded a literary prize at one stage.

I would pass Eastbury House thousands of times in the years that followed.  Always, as now looking at that photo, it could evoke  a headful of memories and mixed emotions.


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