The girls had to seek out the Music they loved, they had to discover it, they had to remember it, they had to wait for it to be played on the radio, or later on Top of the Pops, or Ready Steady Go, or Juke Box Jury (only three half-hour tv programmes in a whole week in the early sixties). They heard it so rarely that it was precious, they had to stop and check themselves,
‘What was that I just heard – that was amazing’.
And so it became the thing they most wanted, and they went to any lengths to get it. To hear their favourite song was a rarity, a treat, often an accident they just stumbled upon, or by word of mouth, someone would tell them it was on a juke box in some coffee bar in Ipswich, or a friend’s brother might have a copy and he would let them have a listen.
And then as the movement gathered pace and it became more available with the advent of portable radios, and Pirate stations and then Radio 1, and Dansette record players, and Juke Boxes, and record shops springing up everywhere it was all changing so fast that each new release was a new world to discover. And they were like sponges that just kept absorbing more and more of the stuff. They moved from The Beatles and the Seekers and Gerry and the Pacemakers to the Animals and the Kinks and The Stones, interspersed with Cilla and Dusty and then all the stuff from America, the Beach Boys, the Supremes, Otis and Aretha and all that Detroit sound. And they never imagined it would ever end.
9) – Dying all around us…
June’s mother died when the girls were sixteen and fourteen. It wasn’t a big surprise to anyone; she had been poorly for a few years by then, and had been in a home for the last two. She and Julie and would visit her, and what started out religiously as weekly visits became, through a sense of futility and boredom, at best a monthly routine by the end. She would hardly notice thy were there really. It was dementia, though it wasn’t called that then. ‘A bit doo-lally’ was the closest to a real diagnosis in those days, it had been coming on for a few years and maybe before Julie and June got married even.
June had never been that close to her mother, she was always living in the past, or her supposed and largely invented past. She had always been a bit of a snob too. or, like so many of the English, she imagined she was something she had never really been. She lived inside this myth that her family had once been something, and she had somehow married beneath her. June’s father had owned a Grocer’s shop, well rented it, they all discovered, after he died. And though they lived in a largish house on the outskirts of Ipswich, they never had that much money to spare.
It was a genteel sort of poverty, a quiet existence, where they tried desperately to keep up appearances. It was always, ‘What will the neighbours think?’ or ‘Keep your voice down, the neighbours will hear.’ They lived in a detached house with a three-foot wide gap between them and the Chenerys, so that argument was a bit weak, but it was what it said about June’s mother that told you everything. She was always so conscious of how she was seen by everyone else, rather than how she might feel about anything herself. June’s dad died when she was eleven and she didn’t really remember him too clearly. He was always in the shop, especially all day Saturday, and on Sundays they had Sunday school in the mornings and then after lunch the family would all sit around and listen to the Wireless. Julie and June had to be quiet then, ‘Little girls should be seen, and not heard.’ She learned early on to hate Sunday afternoons.
June must have been a bit of a rebel really as she was only sixteen when she started seeing Ted Wasp. He was a year older than her, and went to a different school. She met him at ‘The Galleon’, which was a greasy café where they all used to hang out. They had swing music playing on an old speaker, with a wire running all the way round the walls from a radio behind the counter. No-one really knew why some places just become the place to hang out, but they were too young to go into pubs, and there was nowhere else for miles around. There was always a row of motorbikes outside too, and a few leather-clad blokes would be sitting at the back, and this was years before Teddy Boys or Rockers or anything like that. June had to be back home by nine, so her friend Wendy and she would try to get there by seven, before it used to fill up. They would sit over two cups of milky coffee; their bright red lipstick making kisses on the rim, and smoke cigarette after cigarette, trying to look all sophisticated and catch some fella’s eye. And the one June caught was Ted Wasp, by far the best-looking boy in the place.
* * *
The funeral was in Ipswich and Phil and June decided to leave the girls at home, ‘It would only upset them.’ Phil said, and they hadn’t seen their Nana in years. Jane did cry when June told them, but she didn’t remember any reaction from Harriet at all. They went in the Bentley, her sister and June in the back and Phil driving with Ted in the front passenger seat. Ted had a suit on, the same one he was married in; that must have been all of seventeen years ago. June was surprised it still fit him, he wasn’t fat by any means, but he had filled out a bit since then. Julie told her as they sat in the back that she had moved the buttons on the jacket over and unpicked the waistband and re-sewed it with a bit of extra black material in the back, no-one would notice if he kept his jacket on.
It reminded June of the change in their fortunes, if she wanted some money for clothes she only had to ask Phil for it. He might moan a bit, but he never refused; especially if she was buying something for the girls at the same time. Poor Julie had to manage on Ted’s money, she even used to go fruit picking every summer to make ends meet; she had three growing boys to feed and clothe. June felt quite sorry for her, though Julie never seemed to be jealous of her, what with the Bentley, the house and the pool and everything. ‘Maybe she was just a happier person than me’, June mused, ‘maybe she had found contentment with Ted and the boys, or maybe she just didn’t have the imagination to want anything else.’
June did feel a bit guilty sitting there with her sister as they wound their way through the heavy traffic in Ipswich on their way to the church. She kept looking at Ted’s neck, the very neck she used to love stroking, with those short little blonde hairs growing there, and she remember quite clearly thinking that this couldn’t go on forever. Ted and her couldn’t carry on like this for ever. Could they? She couldn’t imagine them doing it when they were old, and she couldn’t bear the thought of not seeing him either. Surely it would all have to resolve itself before then. She kept telling myself, ‘just wait till the girls have grown up and are off your hands; then you will have to resolve it, one way or the other.’ She just couldn’t bear thinking about the other way.