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Authors: Katie Flynn

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BOOK: Rose of Tralee
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When the meal was finished off with a cup of tea, the two of them tackled the washing up and clearing away together, then, hand in hand, went contentedly up to bed. As they undressed, Lily remembered something. ‘If we’re goin’ Sefton Park way, I s’pose I oughter call on me sister Daisy. She might like to come wi’ us, you never know.’

Daisy was the sister nearest in age to Lily and the two of them had remained friends, though Lily saw very little of the rest of her family. But Daisy, like Lily, had married young and borne only one child, though she had not been as lucky as Lily; her husband Bill had gone off with a younger woman some years earlier and Daisy had been left to struggle on as best she could. She had never remarried and Lily was in the habit of meeting her sister a couple of times a week for a chat and a cuppa. It would have been nice had their children been friends, but the age gap was too great, for Daisy’s Mona was sixteen and had been in work for two years. She worked in a grocery shop on Heyworth Street and seemed to spend very little time at home. Sometimes it crossed Lily’s mind that Mona dressed awful smart for a shop assistant and occasionally it occurred to her that she had seen Mona out with several different young men, but she didn’t say so, not even to Jack. The girl was her niece and was probably at the age when she was testing her wings, so to speak. She would settle down one day and because Daisy did not care much for the house there was little incentive for young Mona to spend her time at home. Daisy seemed fond enough of her
daughter, but the two of them never went out together as far as Lily knew. Indeed, that was why she continued to visit Daisy so often; someone had to try to get her out of herself.

‘What, to the park? We-ell I suppose she might,’ Jack said doubtfully. Lily knew that he thought Daisy was a real moaner, always complaining, but that was not her sister’s fault. Life had treated her harshly and now Daisy had to work five mornings a week, cleaning in the insurance offices on Exchange Flags. ‘Still, even if she doesn’t want to come out wi’ you I dare say she’d be pleased enough to see the pair of you. I expect you’ve got some bakin’ for her?’

‘A couple o’ cakes an’ a meat pie,’ Lily mumbled. She often took food round to Daisy’s little house and her sister was always touchingly grateful, but Lily knew that Jack thought Daisy ought to bestir herself a bit more. ‘She does bake sometimes, Jack, luv, but it’s a bit hard when you’ve no oven of your own. It means she has to take the cake mix round to Watts to get it cooked, an’ then she has to collect it again. And wi’ just the two of ’em ... well, it’s easier to buy in.’

‘I didn’t say a word,’ Jack said, climbing into bed. ‘You know I don’t grudge Daisy the food or your work, it’s just that I think it would do her good to bake now an’ then. Still an’ all, you’re right about gettin’ it baked. We’ve gorra decent oven, so we do have it easy, I suppose.’

‘We do,’ Lily said eagerly. ‘Daisy can afford to buy wi’ the two of ’em earnin’ an’ Mona must make a regular wage at that grocer’s. But our Dais do love me home-made stuff.’

‘Yes, right, I’m not arguin’,’ Jack said again. ‘I can’t – I ain’t never baked a cake in me life! Now gerrinto bed, woman, an gi’s a cuddle.’

‘You’re awful, Jack,’ Lily said, getting in and snuggling into his arms. ‘Anyone ’ud think we’d been married twelve days, ’stead o’ twelve years! I’m sure our Daisy weren’t never so undignified.’

‘No . . . but look what happened to your Daisy, chuck! No, don’t pull away, I weren’t being nasty but you asked for that, didn’t you? Now you can jest settle down an’ tell me about your day and when you’ve done I’ll tell you about mine. Ready?’

‘Ready,’ agreed Lily. They always spent the last twenty minutes before sleep in swapping experiences. ‘Well, our Rose went off to school wi’ Peggy...’

Next morning, Rose got up, washed, dressed and made her bed. She didn’t make it neatly or tidily – no hospital corners here, no smoothing down of the sheets – but at least she made it and tidied her room, too, in a manner of speaking. Then she hurried downstairs. Her mother was already in the kitchen, having got up to see her father off, and was diligently stirring porridge.

Rose yawned and went over to the stove. ‘Mornin’, Mam! What’s for breakfuss?’

‘Porridge, as if you didn’t know, and toast and tea. Or I could do you an egg, I dare say. How hungry are you?’

‘Eggs-hungry,’ Rose said promptly. ‘Will you have one too, Mam? A boily-egg?’

‘I might at that,’ her mother said. ‘I’ve a few messages for you, then I thought we’d have ourselves an early meal an’ go out this afternoon.’

‘Out? Where?’ Rose said, pricking up her ears. ‘I do love an outin’, Mam.’

‘To Sefton Park . . . only I thought we’d pop in to
Aunt Daisy’s first, see if she’d like to come wi’ us.’

‘Oh Mam, not Aunt Daisy’s,’ Rose said, dismayed. ‘You know what she’s like, she’ll keep us there for hours, grumblin’ and moanin’ about everything, an’ she won’t come wi’ us into the park – which is a good thing, if you ask me.’

‘She’s me sister, an’ she’s gorra good deal to grumble about,’ Lily said, taking a couple of eggs from the bowl in the pantry and putting them into a pan. ‘Why don’t you butter some bread, chuck, whiles I cook these eggs?’

‘Awright, Mam. But I’d much rather go straight to the park – you know what Aunt Daisy’s like, it’ll be dark afore we get there if she has her way.’

‘I’ll mek you a promise, young lady. We’ll not stay longer than thirty minutes . . . that’s only a little old half-hour . . . because I’ll say we’re meetin’ a pal o’ yours in Seffy. How’s that?’

‘Well, if we’re goin’ to say that, how about us takin’ a pal really, so you won’t be tellin’ no lies?’ Rose said hopefully. ‘Peggy might want to come ... or Alfie, or Moggy. They all love Seffy like I does.’

‘Get your breakfast et an’ your messages done, an’ we’ll talk about it,’ Lily said prudently, taking refuge in delaying tactics. She wanted her daughter to herself, she didn’t want to cart half the neighbourhood along to the park. ‘Is that bread an’ butter ready, chuck? Right, here’s your egg, then. Now get eatin’!’

By the time Rose and her mother arrived at Aunt Daisy’s small house in Prince Edwin Lane they were both cross: Lily Ryder because she’d been jockeyed into bringing Ricky Elliott, who was a year older than her Rose and a good deal more street-wise. At twelve, Ricky knew all about the seamier side of life and Lily
was anxious that he should not pollute the ears of her darling daughter with tales of Saturday night drunkenness in his parents’ pub, or stories of his older brother’s exploits with the ‘young ladies’ who walked the pavement alongside Lime Street station. Ted, Ricky’s eldest brother, was a notorious womaniser.

And Ricky, when told to take himself off to Sefton Park and to wait for them by the aviary, had not been best pleased. ‘Why can’t I come round to Rosie’s aunt’s ’ouse?’ he demanded querulously. ‘I ain’t gorrany money for ices nor nothin’ whiles I wait for yez.’

Rose saw her mother give Ricky a slant-eyed look and knew that the older woman was thinking ‘What a common boy!’ and that didn’t please Rose, either. She and Ricky weren’t best friends, like she and Alfie, but they were good mates and you didn’t like your mam thinking your mates were common just because they said ‘yez’ instead of ‘you’.

‘If he came to Aunt Daisy’s as well, Mam, you could say you’d promised his mam to take him to Seffy and we’s both wanted a go on the boating lake,’ she said craftily. ‘Besides, if there’s two of us we can play in the yard, whiles you an’ Auntie have a chat.’

Lily Ryder could see the sense in it and she did feel, a trifle guiltily, that if young Ricky got into trouble of some sort whilst alone in Sefton Park then his mam would blame her and put it about that ’that stuck-up Mrs Ryder weren’t to be trusted’, so she grudgingly agreed to Ricky accompanying them, then had the satisfaction of seeing the youngsters disappear into the mucky little yard where Daisy kept the dustbins, apparently much preferring it to the inside of Daisy’s small house. At least that way Ricky was less likely to
take back a bad report to his mam.

‘Bring ’em in, they can ’ave bread an’ conny-onny, or some cake,’ Daisy said, her eyes fixed greedily on her sister’s basket. She was banking on that basket containing a cake, Lily knew, but it wasn’t poor Daisy’s fault that she wasn’t domesticated. She’d never taken to housework or homemaking and, when you thought about it, why should she? Her man had gone off before they’d been married a twelve-month, she’d borne her child alone and lived alone ever since. And why should she clean her own house when she spent her mornings scrubbing other people’s floors? Lily knew very well what Jack would say – that Daisy was a slut and that was why her man had left – but she didn’t let it influence her feelings for her sister. Daisy had had ill luck whilst she, Lily, had been fortunate in everything she did and Daisy was fond of reminding her of the fact. Nor could Lily deny that she had the best husband in the world and the best daughter, too.

Now, however, she had to think fast so as not to hurt Daisy’s feelings. ‘Oh, lerrem play out,’ she said, squeezing past Daisy’s bulk and entering her untidy kitchen. ‘You know what kids are, Dais, they’d rather be outside than in a palace. And as I said, I promised ’em a go on the boatin’ lake, so I can’t stay long.’

‘You never stay long,’ Daisy grumbled, but Lily ignored the remark and began emptying the basket onto the table. ‘Anyways, I’ll pull the kettle over the flame.’

‘Aye, a cuppa never went amiss,’ Lily agreed. ‘Gorrany milk, queen?’

‘Only conny-onny,’ Daisy said through a mouthful of the rich sponge-cake which her sister had brought. ‘The milkman never calls ’ere.’

‘Never mind, I’ve not got time for drinkin’ tea right now,’ Lily said. She did not take sugar in her tea and disliked condensed milk. ‘You know how it is, Dais; if we don’t gerra move on there’ll be a queue a mile long for the boats an’ I can’t let the kids down.’

‘But you can let your flesh an’ blood down,’ Daisy grumbled. ‘I’m that lonely on a weekend, Lil. Why can’t the kids go to the park by theirselves, eh? You an’ me, we could sit down wi’ our tea an’ have a jangle whiles they play. Why not, eh?’

‘Because I promised, like I said; and besides, Rose
is
me flesh an’ blood,’ Lily said equably. ‘But why don’t you come wi’ us, eh? We could have that jangle you wanted, and we’ll have a cuppa over there an’ a bun or something. Come along, our Dais. You’d enjoy an outing. And it would do you good to wash up an’ put on some shoes an’ a coat an’ come along wi’ us.’

She waited for Daisy to object to her last remark, for her sister was barefoot and dirty, with food stains down the front of her grey dress and runnels of dirt across her arms. But Daisy just sniffed. ‘No, me feet get quite tired enough walkin’ to work an’ back each mornin’, I’m not givin’ meself more grief, walkin’ when I don’t ’ave to. No, no, you go off an’ enjoy yourselfs, don’t worry about me, I’m used to bein’ alone.’

‘All right, then, I’ll just stay for a cuppa,’ Lily said. ‘Now what’ve you been up to all week, queen? An’ how’s our Mona?’

‘Oh, I been doin’ the usual – workin’, an’ waitin’ on Mona hand an’ foot,’ Daisy said wearily. ‘That reminds me, chuck. Mona wondered if you’d let your Rosie come over ’ere tomorrer, for Sunday dinner. She thought the pair of ’em might go off together in the afternoon. Well, it wouldn’t be just the pair of ’em,
because Mona’s gorra lovely young feller, a real gent. Mona’s tek a rare shine to him and she telled him she’d like to settle down, see, and ’ave a nice little place of her own, kids one day, perhaps a car, even. And there’s no gettin’ away from it, Dennis – that’s ‘is name, Dennis Brannigan – is ’ead over ’eels in love with me daughter. Well, I mean, when Mona suggested bringin’ Rosie along there weren’t no ’esitation, he agreed right off, said ‘e’d mug the pair of ’em to a day in New Brighton, Seaforth, anywhere Mona ’ud like to mention. Your Rosie ’ud love that; kids love a day at the sea.’

‘That’s ever so kind of Mona,’ Lily said at once. ‘But Sundays our Jack teks us somewhere, after we’ve been to church, that is. It’ll be the seaside this week, that I do know, for we’ve discussed it and I couldn’t disappoint him, queen. But thanks for the offer, it were a lovely thought.’

‘Why don’t you ask Rosie if she’d rather spend the day with ’er cousin? After all, she can see ’er dad any day of the week,’ Daisy was saying persuasively, and Lily was wondering how to refuse without causing offence when Rose burst into the kitchen. Lily turned to her daughter with considerable relief. ‘Manners,’ she said chidingly. ‘What’s up?’

‘There’s kittens next door,’ Rose said longingly. ‘The lady looked over the wall an’ said we could go an’ tek a look. Have we got time, Mam?’

‘Ten minutes, then we’ll be off,’ Lily said, glad not to have to admit that she had weakly agreed to have a cup of tea with her sister. ‘Shall I give you a shout?’

‘Oh Rosie, luv, your cousin Mona asked me to see if you’d go out wi’ her tomorrer,’ Aunt Daisy said, breaking into the conversation with heightened colour in her cheeks. She plainly considered that she
had been snubbed by Lily and was thus taking matters into her own hands. ‘She thought you might like a trip to New Brighton wi’ her an’ her feller.’

‘No thanks, Aunt, Sundays is me dad’s day off,’ Rose said with a promptitude which endeared her doubly to her embarrassed mother. ‘You don’t need to shout us, Mam. The lady’s bringin’ the box into the backyard, we’ll see you in the jigger as you leave Aunt Daisy’s.’

‘An’ we’ll come away wi’ you as soon’s we’ve seen the kittens,’ Ricky said, hovering in the doorway behind Rose. ‘We want to have a good go on the boats. Come on, queen, there’s six of em to see, you know!’

‘Why it makes a difference how many there are I can’t even begin to guess,’ Lily said as the two children scampered out of the yard and round to the next-door house. ‘Let’s mash the tea, Dais, an’ you can tell me what you’ve been up to this past week or two. And don’t be upset because of tomorrer, only Rosie loves to be wi’ her dad an’ five years is a big age difference, really. When they were younger I know they used to play together, your Mona an’ our Rosie, but Mona’s a young woman now and Rosie’s just a kid still. My goodness, this tea’s hot!’

BOOK: Rose of Tralee
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