HOW CAN I FORGET?

Dad poses proudly with his shiny black pre-war Austin before cramming everything into go to Swinderby in Lincolnshire.

Dad poses proudly with his shiny black pre-war Austin before cramming everything into go to Swinderby in Lincolnshire.

For the first few months after my premature twin daughters were born in 1951 we were living with my family, and the atmosphere, to say the least, was tense. Even so, the idea of living in an eighteen foot caravan was alarming.

But that’s what we did – and it was there waiting for us on a remote Lincolnshire airfield when we finally arrived at the end of a memorable journey in
my father’s pre-war Austin.

Even the Steptoe family would have been aghast to see us set off. The wheels of the pram were tied onto the letdown boot lid, and the body fastened upside down onto the car roof. Mother was in the back with one baby on her knee, and a heap of baby clothes and nappies piled up beside her. I was in the front beside dad with the other baby and more bundles by my feet.

“Don’t forget to leave room for the Elsan,” said Dad. My husband had rung up to say that the caravan had arrived minus the toilet. “It’ll have to go in the back beside Ma,” I said. Just a splutter from the back, Ma had already given us an idea of what she thought about collecting the toilet.

What a sight we presented as we set off down the old A1 towards Lincoln.

One of our first of many stops was to collect the Elsan. “Is it a new one?” I asked the man. “Oh yes,” he said. “I’m sorry we forgot to put it in the van. Not as sorry as I was when I got back to the car and proceeded to wedge it up against Mum. Looks were enough, as they say, and our journey continued in silence.

We arrived at the airfield and drove nervously onto the caravan site to see our Jowett 7 saloon lined up beside a very small caravan. I hadn’t realised how little space eighteen by seven foot meant. Ma looked tearful, and even Dad looked sad as I waved them good-bye, promising to return home if things didn’t work out. I entered my new home, and so began what was to be quite a hilarious six months – no disposable nappies, no washing machine, no hot water. Nappies, hundreds of them, in various stages of treatment engulfed us. We bought more and more to try to avoid the horror of heating. “There aren’t any dry ones left,” I’d cry.

The Calor gas oven certainly had it in for my husband Joe. We lost count of the number of times he singed moustache, eye-brows and front lock of hair while attempting to light it. Nappies draped round the open oven door were coloured various shades of brown to the disgust of my Mother who, on one of her visits, announced: “Don’t bring those dreadful nappies to put on my line, I’ve never seen anything like it!”

But the twins didn’t seem to mind, and even Mother had to admit that they were thriving.

Social life nil, but what a the thrill when Joe cycled up on his RAF issue sit-up-and-beg bike, a battery operated wireless set balanced precariously on the handle bars. This was living – Henry Hall, the news and, of course, Dick Barton, Special Agent.

An Aunt said that we would look back and laugh -and that is just what we do. So many memories, that even today, over forty years later, we are still laughing and talking about those hectic days coping with twin babies in an eighteen by seven foot caravan.

Isabel Hughes