The cliche of being restricted to your house is that it's tragic. In fact, the soundtrack to the session we've documented below was laughter. There are many housebound people tucked away in our communities who have a great deal more to offer than misery. This is not to belittle the difficulty of their situation, just to reaffirm that determined people can rise above circumstances. As part of the project at Four Acre, we've worked one-to-one with several house-bound older people. At this particular 'one-to-one' there were in fact five people present. Phil, Owen and I sat with Joe and Joan, who shared some of their stories while we made notes. This material was then edited into a poem by Joe and Joan the following week.
I can remember my dad coming home, rifle in his hand. He used to paste me, didn’t half lay into us. He went over to Europe in the war. He was strict, we could do with a few like that now.
Well-behaved. Catholic, every Sunday morning get up, Sunday clothes on, to the church, in the winter a red coat, black skirt, Sunday shoes. Easter - egg, paint the face on. My dad told us to come to 11 o’clock mass and we’d never heard him sing like that – we couldn’t stop laughing. We didn’t half get in trouble – ‘You’ll go to 9 o’clock mass in future.’
I had an old bike, riding around on the slopes, all the tyres were popped, no brakes, no spokes. I had more bruises than anything. Went to Downies, all hills and grass. Went there to play rounders. Southport without brakes. Over the red rocks, through the cemetery. Did a lot of walking – a bottle of water and a jam butty, go to Taylor Park.
When I grew up we took our kids to Colwyn Bay every week. The kids loved it, sandwiches and pop. (When we was young we never went.) Colwyn Bay, open air swimming. It was a change, we worked all week, it was our day out on a Sunday. The kids’d play on the sand, they couldn’t go far and it didn’t cost a lot. Splashing and racing. Now they take their own children. They remember, ‘We loved it. Didn’t want to come home.’
My old chap died age 56, I hated him but I loved him. Joan and I married 1961, fifty years. What’s the secret of a good marriage? Fighting. She was always throwing coffee at me, I had to keep decorating the house. It’s been alright cock.
I was a loose pattern maker, been made redundant 6 times, some hard times. Last 15 years we’ve done a lot of travelling. Used to go to Spain once every 5 weeks, have the cases packed ready. When the kids were little we’d go to Colwyn Bay – they still do it now cos they remember it.
Only went to Blackpool a few times. Went there and parked accidentally in the police compound – and I had two bald tires and a licence out of date. Went to Frodsham Mill, Delamere Forst with no brakes – needed an up hill to stop the car.
I was goalkeep for the Town and a man asked me how old I was. I said 15 and he said, ‘It’s a pity, it’s a pity.’ I always wondered was that my big chance?
My dad had two heart attacks watching Saints, he got that excited watching Saints. Saints was everything. When we meet Wiganers we still argue about it! I could have played, went for trials, but was to small. Fit as a butcher’s dog.
Used to go swimming in the Hotties Water. Hot water coming off the tanks at Pilks, sprinklers into the canal water. Pilks, that was the town. All went into Pilkingtons, Ravenhead. In the 50s or 60s at the Hotties, people going with nets for the tropical fish. I learnt to swim in the clay hole from the brick works- Shirley Pitt in the Delph. Used to climb up the walls, 200 yards high. Everything was dangerous in those days, they’d put a rope round you and throw you in the water- you soon learnt how to swim. I learnt in half a day. If you didn’t do it, you wouldn’t go back again. Used to climb up the walls like spiders, you had to do it or you’d be out of the gang. It was nothing, just an everyday thing.
There were bridges across two old slag heaps and we hung swing ropes, 20 feet up- how nobody got killed I don’t know. The mine was shut but the shaft was still left open, we used to climb down the rope to a big tied knot and swing across the shaft- 600 feet deep. We used to throw things down it and wait to hear it plop. Used to think if we ever fall down there, you’d be dead.
I remember em saying, “I’m going to hit you now, not for what you did, but for getting caught.” Playing on a haystack in Shirdley Park, fell right through it, Police chasing us right across fields, right through Parr, right back to our house- ‘Him with the red hair - he’s been in trouble again - been at it again.’ Me red hair always got me in trouble.