I’ve been thinking about Before You Were Mine – I want to write a version of my own , based on Carol Ann Duffy’s idea but its taken me a while to decide how to tackle it. I’ve decided to write it from the point of view of my two older sisters and so the title will be Before She Was Theirs. I’ve also decided to keep it third person rather than writing in my sisters’ voices. It makes it more distinct from the original title too.
In fact I feel I know more about my mother’s life before the girls were born than I do about her life between them and me (9-11 years) strangely. I have a couple of strong images. One is from her memories and that’s to do with working in a big department store. She started there aged 14, with her twin sister, Doris. Doris died of TB about 4 or 5 years later. I don’t know whether to mention that or not.
Behind the counter, arranging gloves
Sorting stockings, ties and
Making customers feel comfortable
And, sale made, zinging hard earned shillings on the wire
To the cashier in her cage
The other image is from photos and from talking to her – and that’s about visiting the seaside – mainly Southend and meeting boys, one of whom ended up being my dad.
On the charabanc to Southend
Where the pier is still the place to go
And on the promenade, photographers, musicians
And a pair of likely lads
The other likely lad was my dad’s brother, John.