In our travels we went to visit Mums sister Kathleen and her two daughters, Marion and Kathleen, in Blackpool. The girls who were a couple of years older than me, were so excited, they took me by the hands and ran me up the road a short way to show me off to their friends who had never met a Kiwi kid before. It was in Blackpool that I spent my last penny to buy a stamp to go on a letter home. That was the only time I saw my aunt and cousins, as there was no love lost between the two sides of the family.
As the school term ended I was told I would not be going back to school. The aunts had decided to send me home because there was so much talk of war, and the thought of air raids and gas masks and bombs was too big a responsibility for someone else’s child. So passage was booked on the first available ship going back to N Z. Angie was to travel with me and Emily was to stay and look after the house in case of any more break-ins.
It was early 1937 and the ship we travelled on was the Mataroa – a sister ship to the one we had come over on. The trip was uneventful and there were only a couple of other kids on board. We retraced our route back through the Panama Canal and the Pacific Ocean making the same stops as on the way over. When we got to Pitcairn Island the canoes came out to meet us and I was given sixpence to buy a little straw hat for my doll. I had to put my sixpence in the basket and send it down to the canoe and the little hat was sent up to me.
When we arrived safely back in Auckland and I was handed over to my sister, Mary, while Angie returned home to Wales.
It was decided that I should learn a musical instrument of some sort as both aunts were very proficient musicians – Angie with piano and organ, and Emily with violin and other stringed instruments. There was a mighty row over who should be my teacher. Eventually it was decided Angie would teach me the piano. So my lessons started with my learning the lines and spaces, E G B D F and F A C E for the treble cleff, and G B D F A and A C E G for the bass.
These were drummed into me at every lesson and I was getting along nicely, and was even playing simple tunes with both hands when trouble struck. At school we were learning the vowels and consonants, and they were also being drummed in to us. I started getting them mixed up with the music notes, so that when I sat down for a lesson and was told to recite the lines of the treble cleff, I smartly replied with A E I O U. I got a frosty look, but no comment and was asked for the other lines and spaces over and over several times. Then suddenly the piano lid was slammed down and I was forbidden to touch it again. I still did not know what I had done wrong until our next English lesson, when I realised I had quoted the vowels by mistake, and that Angie must have thought I was making fun of her. Oh well, it saved me from hours of practise and from singing lessons. They had already taken me to a singing teacher, but he said that when I could accompany myself on the piano he would consider me for a pupil.
Sometimes on a fine weekend we would go for a walk down to the beach where there were donkey rides on the sand. One day as a special treat I was given a ride but I was disgusted with it. The poor old donkey was led by its owner a few yards along the beach and back to where we started. It was pathetic after I had ridden all over the farm on horses three times as big as that poor donkey.
Other times we would go up through a little wooded area that was carpeted with bluebells and only a narrow path through them. They were so pretty I decided we should have some in our own garden and when no one was looking I pulled up a couple of bulbs. I sneaked them home and planted them in the garden near the gate where they could be seen and admired by everyone going past. I did not know they were regarded as a weed but was quickly informed and made to remove them.
During school holidays we would go on day trips to some historical site or an old castle in an attempt to further my education. I cannot remember anything about them except a heap of old stones.
When we arrived in Wales, it was the middle of a school term and the school did not want to take a new foreign pupil so close to the end of their school year. It was a case of private tuition or miss more schooling, and as there was a girl of about my age a couple of houses up the road being privately tutored, it was arranged that I should join her for the rest of the term.
After the holidays, I went to the next town by double decker bus to the catholic school in Rhyll. The bus would drop us off and pick us up at the school gate so there was no chance to go exploring on my own. I used to like sitting on the top deck of the bus because it was scary. When we went round sharp corners it felt as if we would tip over but we never did.
The school was a large concrete building one street back from the beach, but the only sight I got of it was from the top of the bus. You could see lots more from up there and it seemed so high to a little girl who had always been at ground level. School was a strange place for me as it was so big, and we had to have our lunch there, all together in a big dining room. We were not allowed to speak or ask for something to be passed to us unless we spoke in French. We quickly learnt the essential words for bread sugar salt etc. I was teased horribly for my accent and one nasty little brat pulled my chair away just as I was sitting down. Of course I landed hard on the floor and got told off for causing a disturbance in class.
When I left home, Mum gave me a half crown [worth two shillings and sixpence or twenty five cents in todays currency], and I had to put it away in a drawer in my bedroom for safe keeping. I had never had my own money before and was not supposed to spend it, but I could not see the point of having it just to sit in the drawer. So one day I put it in my coat pocket when I was going to school and there was a small sweet shop where we caught the bus. I went in and bought sixpence worth of sweets and when I got home that afternoon I put the two shilling piece back in the drawer and hoped it would not be noticed.
No such luck, it was noticed at once and was taken off me, and the next time we went shopping I was sent into Woolworths to see what I could buy for two shillings. I was not given the money but had to go back out and say what I wanted. It was a little black wooden baby doll with moveable arms, legs and head, and it was only one shilling and eleven pence. So they gave me back my two shillings and I got my very first doll. I had to give them back the penny change which I was made to buy a stamp with to put on a letter back home to Mum, telling her what I had spent her half crown on. By the way, the aunts would not go into Woolworths with me as it was beneath their dignity to be seen in such a cheap shop.
We arrived safely at Southampton after five and a half weeks at sea. Then we went by train to Euston station in London, and from there caught a train to Prestatyn in North Wales where I was to live for the next twelve months.
The first thing that happened was the news that the house had been burgled while the aunts were away. The police had caught the burglar and we all had to go down to the police station where the aunts had to make a statement as to what was missing or damaged. We were then taken to the cell where the man was held and the aunts looked through the peephole to see him. They lifted me up to see too, but I could not see anything except part of the cell. All I wanted was to get out of there, I had never had anything to do with police before and was scared stiff of them.
The house where we lived was called Birch Holmb and was in Abernathy Road, Prestatyn. It was a nice compact two storied home with an attic that ran the length of the house. One half of it was lined and furnished as a cute little bedroom for me. It was reached by a steep stairway inside a cupboard and I loved it at first. It seemed so high and was like a secret hideaway until one night there was a fierce thunderstorm and a chimney pot was struck by lightning and knocked down in the next street. Even the aunts were scared and came up and took me down to their own bed. After that I had a room next to theirs and did not go up to the attic much. It always felt stuffy and full of thunder even in bright sunlight.