Lou Royle was his name. He was a high roller, good looking. He was my dad. I last saw him when I was eight.
While I was evacuated to Lincolnshire, mum got together with Bill.
He was a kind man. He took me swimming after a night working on the print. He wheeled a sewing machine to where we lived.
Bill and mum, Florie, spent their last years in Herne Bay, on the Kent coast. I grew up in Islington, with the music halls as the place I went with mum. Florie had a good singing voice. Jimmy was much older than me, and he always had a big smile. He loved his little sister, Rose. Minesweepers were the lot of non-swimmer Jimmy, he was never the same after the war. Mum visited Holbeach, where I lived with the rich people for three years she came with high heels and a bag of sugar. Her and the locals didn’t know what to make of each other. Back in London, we guessed where the Nazi doodlebombs would drop. At 14, I was doing piecework, six dresses per day.
Us girls would go dancing up West, but we weren’t interested in boys. It was the Earnshaws who saved me. Mum and I moved in. Now I was Pat and the piecework would not continue.
I learnt shorthand and typing, and Mr Earnshaw had me helping in the garden. This is where I got my green fingers.
Gladys Earnshaw was to have a big impact on my life, securing me a job at Norway House. She later moved to the Isle of Wight, and we were regularly in touch until she died, aged 106. Her sister, Hilda, who had some difficulties hearing, went to Australia to investigate the viability of opening a Bed & Breakfast there. Answer was no, but her life, previously in the shadows, took off. She became a nurse for the Australian Royal Flying Doctor Service, doing various live-in roles. Airmail letters, always blue and made of thin paper, arrived frequently at 15 Pear Tree Avenue. Kangaroos, the Opera House, Ayer’s Rock were on the air letters. I sat at the bureau in the sitting room and wrote hundreds of letters back. I was happy that she was happy. Photos to come.