Catherine and Tom Cookson
Not long ago I shared with readers my definition of treasures, amongst it memories of family storytelling.
One such remembrance came from an elderly lady as she was recalling her youth, young love and fancies.
Times were hard at the beginning of the 20th Century for her family. She told stories of how her mother then a midwife, would in time of need, just pull the bed sheets from under her young children. Women in their neighbourhood were sometime so poor they could not afford bedding on which to give birth.
She remembered being twelve years old and sleeping under the staircase in the great house she worked at, no other accommodation available for a scullery maid.
Tenacious of life and a hard worker, she eventually married a miner and gave a chance to her children to be all they could be. She had spunk, she loved to laugh and was fond of telling everyone she had strawberry blond hair!
She was for awhile dating a fine lad of the middle class and he insisted on walking her home one day. Not wishing to show him her family humble lodgings, she decided to keep on walking until eventually they arrived at a lovely brick house. She turned to her attentive beau and said: "Thank you, this is my home." And he, taking a quick look at the house, smiled and said "I don't think so...this is where I live!"
I still hear her laugh as she recounted the story and I promised myself there and then, this was how my children should remember their paternal Grand Mother...
Years later I was introduced to the writings of Catherine Cookson, an absolute gem of English literature and a wonderful source of local history.
Her books she said, were not of the romance genre but historical novels about people and conditions she knew.
My first book from Dame Cookson was The Fifteen Streets. I was given the book to read on the plane and it soon became a treasure in my library.
Out of her all of her books, nearly 100 of them, and with 123 millions copies sold, I would be hard pressed to choose a favourite!
I could name The Moth, The Wingless Bird, Maggie Rowan, The Dwelling Place, The Rag nymph as those I like best but albeit I now own 36 of her volumes, I still am looking forward to the others!
Such stories can never be forgotten...
Hastings Circa 1930.