Sylvie, my adopted mother.

Inevitably, acquaintances and friendships formed among the groups of women who made the trips to Alconbury, united in their aim to have a good time and thumb their noses at those who disapproved. Among these friendships the circumstances of my adoption evolved, tangled up amid romances, engagement, illicit affairs, heartache and single parenthood. It was far from a conventional adoption, involving deceit and untruths, leading to a complicated and chaotic life of hard work, abuse and oppression. It was also a colourful life with much love and laughter and a rich tapestry of treasured memories, forming strongly held values and enduring family relationships. The negative aspects of my upbringing and are there, they cannot be denied and are indelible. However, the positives will also forever remain, I choose to let them outshine anything else with the belief that ‘It is never too late to have a good childhood’.

Amongst the women who travelled to Alconbury every week for some time in the early to mid sixties was Sylvie. She would travel with her long time close friend Josie who lived close to Sylvie on a large council estate. It was the typical council estate of the 1960’s with the familiar council house semi- detached houses of that time, with brown brick or cream coloured rendering and large gardens. The houses were built with families in mind with large living rooms and good sized kitchens. Prominent were the large green, grassed areas, frequently inhabited after school, at weekends and school holidays by hoards of children, from toddlers to teenagers, banished from the house to get them from under their mother’s feet.  These areas were central to the estates, an oasis, taken for granted that the kids were safe there, everyone knew everyone, looked out for each other,they all gathered there and the area would be visible from many of the homes. A typical day when the weather was reasonable would see groups of boys playing football, laying down sweaters and coats as goal posts, whizzing around on bikes and climbing the trees. Girls would be singing as they skipped or chanted along to clapping games or sitting, cross legged, chatting away.

The homes were inhabited by proud, working class families, labouring away in the hosiery, shoe and engineering industries. Everybody knew each other and they all knew each other’s business. There was a deep sense of pride in keeping the home and gardens clean and well maintained, anyone who didn’t was frowned upon and gossiped about and generally regarded as slovenly.


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