I saw the pain in Linda’s eyes and just wanted to hug her but I knew that would be more than she could handle. I said if ever she needed to talk then I would be there to listen and try to help.
I had noticed many times before if ever I offered to do something for her or if I did something nice she backed off. I mentioned this and she said all her life there had always been a payment expected for any decent thing done.
Linda worked with Dennis at Taylor and McKenna’s toy shop several years ago when he came to stay with us for a while. They went out on a couple of dates but it fizzled out and Dennis went back to London but Linda stayed a friend, the kids loved her.
I had decided to let the kids have a party a joint one, it wouldn’t be a big one but I felt they deserved it, they had coped with so much. I would make some butterfly cakes and chocolate and cornflake buns and some sarnies and drinks. In the end there were about 6 children coming I could cope with that. Then Linda offered to come and help me, of which I was grateful. She had trouble understanding the closeness the kids and I had and she loved to be a part of it.
The names went in the hat again to decide what day we were going to have the party would it be Lesley’s birthday or the twins birthday. Poor Lesley the odds were always stacked against her as Sheila and Stephen had two shots at it. Guess what Lesley won so it was going to be on her birthday. They decided they were going to make the invitations themselves so they all got sat around the table. Then Lesley said Mum I hope Sheila doesn’t get meningitis again blow me the situation was exactly as it was that night all sat around the table colouring. Fancy Lesley remembering that. Sheila looked panic stricken. I said no that couldn’t happen again just to get on and make some lovely invitations for their friends .I tried to play it down but it was a bit of déjà vu.
I was going to do all the baking the night before Lesley’s birthday Linda said she would come and help. I got the kids to bed then Linda and I got started . She said she had never done anything like this before making cakes and bits and bobs it was really sad. We had a good laugh made loads of buns. I only had the sarnies to do just before the party tomorrow after school.
I asked Linda if she would like to spend the night here as she was coming back tomorrow for the party, she said she would, she would have to sleep on the sofa but she didn’t mind. I made some sandwiches and a cup of tea and we sat down the first time tonight for about 4 hours.
The next morning the postman was nice and early there were several cards one from my Mum one from Mikes Mum but I couldn’t see one with Mikes handwriting. I would have to wait for the kids to open them as there were loads.
The reason I didn’t think there was one from Mike was the cards had been written by June it was to all the kids from June,Reg,Paul and Mike. Not even a card from him on his own. Inside was £3 one pound notes each. I was disgusted but not surprised. I thought June would have made him do the right thing. The kids didn’t make any comment so that’s all that mattered.
They decided they were going to open their presents before school which they did and all the oohs and aaahs could be heard, then of course the expected happened they all said in unison “do we have to go to school”. My reply was yes, as Linda and I have to get the party ready, it had been arranged for 4.00pm. They agreed that was more important and went without another murmur.
Linda and I got stuck in, the house started to sparkle. We put up Happy Birthday friezes and balloons. The table looked really nice with party serviettes and paper cups and plates. Mikes Mum had left me the money for a birthday cake and I was able to get a really nice one. Unfortunately it was all pink and girly….poor Steve next time it would be all boyish.
Linda then said she wished she lived here with me and the kids. I said if she wanted to she could stay for a couple of weeks it would be company for me and the kids would like that. Lesley could move into the twins room as there was already an extra bed in there. Linda could have Lesley’s room for a while. She jumped at the idea and said she would go now and get some clothes and bits and would be back in time to help with the sandwiches. What had I done, Oh well it was only temporary.
True to her word she was back in plenty of time. The kids had loads of cards, I was glad everyone in Yorkshire had made the effort, I think that was probably down to my Mum and Dad reminding them. Most of them had money in I think it was about £10 each in total, they were thrilled and couldn’t wait to spend it.
Linda offered to pick up the twins from nursery and I got our lunch ready. I think she couldn’t wait to tell the kids she was staying for a couple of weeks. When the twins came in they were gobsmacked with the dining room all trimmed up and said the table looked lovely.
They played for a while with their new toys then we noticed it had gone real quiet I went into the front room and they were both asleep on the floor. I covered them over and left them.
Linda and I had done all the sandwiches the drinks were all ready. We just needed the kids now. Lesley came in and said it looked really beautiful she said thank you and gave me a big hug. She was eight today and the twins five.
I wondered what Mike was thinking right now. I could not imagine not being with my children on a day to day basis and especially not being with them for their birthdays. The sad thing was I thought it would not bother him.Where were there presents , I knew money would be tight but it was for me also. He was now working on the buses and that was good money but I hadn’t received anything from him since the £5 way back. He could at least have sent them a card explaining the situation .
Still he was the one losing out. His Mum had said he was out every night drinking and June wasn’t to happy with this as she had to wait for him to come home to let him in as it was quite a rough area and if Mike came home drunk he may forget to lock the shop door. There must have been money for drink but that was typical of Mike he was only skint after he had everything he wanted .
All the kids started arriving and they all had presents for their respective hosts. They had a lovely time it didn’t take long for the food to disappear. Good job we made loads because I didn’t think there would be any leftover. Then the games started all the kids seemed to have a game they each liked so it went on for ages. There wasn’t one argument it was a real pleasure.
They all decided to go in the garden and play for a while on the swing etc… After about an hour they came in exhausted. By now it was nearly 7pm and they were being collected at 7.30pm so we just had time to wrap their cake to take home with them. They all said they had had a lovely time.
At last they were all gone…..normality again we were all shattered the children also but all agreed it had been a nice party. At least, when the birthdays are so close you get it over all in one go.
It took us quite a while to tidy up and wash up , then it was bath-time and bed, they would sleep well tonight. They had received some really nice presents and a little money.
The next morning there was a letter from Mike I recognised the handwriting. It was short and sweet never mentioned the birthdays just that he was enclosing £5 which he would try to do each week. He had been gone about 6 weeks and this was the first money and contact from him. He also thanked me for passing on his address to everyone, I somehow don’t think he meant it .
I had been getting pressure from DHSS to apply to the courts for a legal separation to enable them to reclaim some money from Mike as maintenance. I had been putting it off but they were getting a bit insistent, so I thought I had better find out what to do. I was told I had to get a solicitor and he would explain the procedure.
I remembered seeing one up the Old High Street called Smee and Webb so off
I toddled. I didn’t have to make an appointment there was a solicitor free so in I went. I explained what had happened and he said he would apply for legal aid for me so that it wouldn’t cost me anything and get things started. He needed to know everything even how many bedrooms we had. He then said I would hear from him shortly there would be a short court hearing and a separation order would then be granted and Mike would have to pay to DHSS a specified amount towards the money I received from them.
I knew he wouldn’t be very happy as he thought I should let him send money when he felt like it I am sure he didn’t realise it would’nt be coming to me but to them. Still it would keep DHSS off my back.
A few days later I received a letter from the solicitor saying the court hearing was fixed and I may or may not be called it just depended on Mike co-operating which I doubted. The solicitor had written to Mike as well. so we would have to wait for his reaction.
For whatever reason I did have to go to court and of course Mike was there, it was the first time I had seen him since he walked out on us. I knew he would challenge me about the legal separation . Guess what his first words were not how are you and the kids but why go to court . I told him DHSS had forced me, either I did or they stopped benefit which left me no choice, unless he paid for everything and of course it would be a lot more than a fiver now and again. He said it was my fault for telling everyone his address if I hadn’t he could send more. I just said pigs might fly. I told him I also thought he should pay what he owes and he deserved it for leaving us with an eviction notice pending that he kept to himself .
The court hearing was short it awarded custody of the children to me, Mike agreed with this. They awarded me £5 maintenance which Mike had to pay into the court every week on a certain day. Of course I wouldn’t get it it went straight to DHSS.
Linda stayed for about 2 months and then we both decided it was time for her to go home as Lesley really wanted her bedroom back. Linda understood.
My Mum and Dad invited me and the kids to go to them during the summer holidays for a couple of weeks. I told the children and they couldn’t wait especially as we had to go on a coach. They also knew they would be spoiled. My Mum was still under the doctor with some internal problems to do with the womb the doctor was going to refer her to the hospital as he thought she may need a hysterectomy.
It would be nice to see them all again it seemed ages. I was also looking forward to seeing Dennis as well. The other thing the kids liked when we went to Yorkshire was visiting all the relatives, as my Mum was one of 13 surviving children there was a lot of visiting to be done and 11 of them were all within a 5 mile radius.
We were going in about 3 weeks time when the summer holidays started. Sheila and Stephen would be going to full-time school after the summer holidays . I was hoping to get a part-time job then.
I booked the coach tickets the green line went from Gadebridge to London Victoria and then we got another coach to Sheffield, my Mum had arranged for my Uncle Doug to pick us up from Sheffield Coach Station . It was going to be a long tiring day. I had got loads of I-Spy books for the kids to try and keep them occupied. They were good kids very well behaved.
Sheila had now completely stopped stuttering and our house was a much happier place no one seemed to miss Mike in fact, he was never mentioned by the kids. I did think they might get upset about him not either visiting them or contacting them but it didn’t appear too.
I got a letter from Mike very short and sweet saying he was coming to see us on the Sunday would that be ok, if it was could I ring June and let her know. I had no choice I wanted to see the kids reaction to him anyway. I rang June that night and said it would be ok. She asked me how I had managed to put up with him all these years as she couldn’t stand it much longer. He wouldn’t help at all and she had a corner shop to run which was open from 8.00am to 11.00pm 7 days a week. She said she was going to ask him to find somewhere else.