I have known many interesting characters in my lifetime. .

Until I was about two years old we lived in the house where my father had been born and we were surrounded by family members and even though they shared the same gene pool, they had quite different characteristics.

The next people I knew were the neighbours when we moved house. We stayed in that house for the rest of my childhood so I got to know these people  and the tradesmen of the district quite well.

One interesting fellow was “Stick Jimmy”. Jimmy was a rather simple fellow with little formal learning, but a very quick mind for money matters. I think he would have been around twenty years old when I first knew him. He lived with his uncle somewhere and between them they did a variety of jobs. In the morning they each had a newspaper pitch and sold the Journal. They were always on their pitches whatever the weather. In the evenings they were on the same pitches selling the Evening Post. In between their newspaper selling they pushed a large flat bedded barrow around loaded with bundles of firewood and any other bits and pieces they had acquired. My mother had a soft heart and usually bought a bundle of sticks when he came round and would give Jimmy a cake or two when she had been baking, a hot drink in the cold weather and a cold one in the summer. I remember once , a few years after the war, when she felt sorry for him because he was blue with cold in his ragged jacket and she gave him the Navy great coat which my father had brought home with him and used for going to the garden. Jimmy was highly delighted with this, not so my dad when he found out!

A mysterious lady and her  middle aged daughter suddenly appeared amongst us. She was what my mother called “a would-be” and thought herself a cut above the rest of us. She ignored most of the neighbours but for some reason decided that my mother was worthy enough to visit. She would appear with the unfortunate “Floella”, who confided to my mother that she was really called Florry, and carrying a little hairy dog called “Mr Wu”. I never saw Mr Wu walk, he was always in her arms. He wore a little bejewelled collar and had a ribbon bow keeping the hair out of his eyes!  Mrs C  always inferred that she was used to a much fancier lifestyle, but when they disappeared again, as suddenly as they had appeared, they owed money all round the neighbourhood!

Our next door neighbour was unusual as she always insisted that I called her Emilie, and this was in a more formal time when neighbours were Mr or Mrs to we youngsters. She was French and about sixty. She had been married to an Englishman, though whether she was widowed or divorced I don’t know. She had a daughter from whom she was estranged and had had a son she had idolised. He had gone to France during the war to work with the underground and lost his life there. She kept a picture of him on a little corner table and always had a candle and fresh flowers on it like a little shrine.

She was very houseproud and scrubbed not only her doorstep every morning, but the pillars of her bay window too and then brushed the pavement beyond her wall and swilled it with disinfectant. I never saw her without makeup and she never went out without a hat and gloves, even to visit  the corner shop.  

She was an excellent pastry cook and would appear at the back door with a china plate, covered with a lace mat and an assortment of French pastries. Her only fault was that she could not be friendly with us and the neighbour on her other side at the same time, so one day she would be bringing the cakes and a few days later she would completely ignore us, until she tired of them and turned up at our door again!

These are just a few of the neighbours,  but enough to be going on with. 🙂