Our parents in 1932, with David their firstborn

St Stephen's gifts ! Stephen and Nancy ~ the answer to Mother's prayers ! (and three more to come)

Proctor Parents continued

Remember, this is only my version of the story of our parents' lives ~ my siblings will probably shout at me, that I've got it all wrong, but I can only tell you how it seemed to me, how I remember it ~ since our brother David died, I am the oldest by five years and obviously must be remembering things that none of the others can.   So, where were we . . . ?

Throughout the war, Daddy had been Secretary of Social Services first for Bristol, and then for the West of England.   A very important job dealing with evacuees, the homeless, emergency accommodation, and heaven knows what else.   He was also on standby to be sent out to Sweden should the Germans invade it ~ with his fluency in Swedish and his intimate knowledge of the Swedish railway system they might have parachuted him in to spy for the British, but it didn’t come to that ! (What a thought ~ dear old Dad parachuted in behind enemy lines !) 

Between pregnancies and babies, Mother went back to teaching, at the Cathedral School among others.  And along with every other able-bodied man, Daddy was an air-raid warden ~ Dad’s Army style ! ~ and out half the night dealing with incendiary bombs and checking everyone’s blackout.

Mother always hated Knowle finding it parochial and small minded.   So when the landlord wanted to sell 35 St Martin’s Road, instead of buying it themselves, she persuaded Dad to buy a house in Clifton which she fondly believed would offer a different kind of environment / life for them all, with University contacts among educated creative people much as she had known in her childhood in Muswell Hill, London.   But it didn’t work out like that.

By the time they moved to Clifton Daddy had gone back to teaching too.   For a start, he had never owed anybody a bean and couldn’t come to terms with the fact that he now had this frightful mortgage, a debt of several thousand pounds.   He had a nervous breakdown quietly, and never quite recovered.   The new house was enormous ~ I think it had four large bedrooms and 3 attics.   There were four large reception rooms but only a pokey kitchen.  And a whole cellar floor of rooms and stores.   What with the debt  and the responsibility of it all,  Dad couldn’t cope.  They took University students to help pay the mortgage but this meant the attic was bursting with teenagers in addition to (at that time) four of heir own. 

Mother was now teaching out at Pensford Village School, and later in the Chew Valley.  On top of the day’s teaching, this involved an hour’s bus ride morning and night.  And when she got home, cooking a hot meal for 12 !!   Small wonder that soon after this Mother developed angina and on the doctor's advice spent most of a year in bed.   But thanks to him (she always said) she recovered and kept going for another 50 years !!! 

Once all the Proctors bar Helen had gone off to University, they moved back to a pleasant house in Knowle, in Beaconsfield Road,   It was of much the same period as 35 St Martin's Road though without such a nice garden.  Helen was a boarder at the RedMaids School, but was “at home” until she went to Cambridge.

Now at last they had the house to themselves.  He had retired some years earlier.   And after the angina scare she soon gave up too.  All the family were married by this time.  But things were not so good for Mother and Father.   One winter they both were struck down by pneumonia from which he never fully recovered.   It seemed they could no longer carry on alone.  None of us was near enough to help except Nancy who lived in Somerton, Somerset.

 She found them a nice little modern house, much like her own.  But Daddy never settled in it.   He and Nancy were never the best of friends and I think he resented their dependence on her.   In effect, he sulked for the next 7 or 8 years and scarcely ever set foot outside the door, even though they had a very pleasant garden and he had always been a keen gardener.   So Mother, bless her, already in her eighties was lumbered with everything ~ house and garden ~ while he sat in a battered old arm chair quite frankly “waiting to die”.   We had not realised how seriously the pneumonia had effected him and his “sulking” was perhaps Alzheimers or early dementia.  Poor old Daddy. 

After he died, Nancy moved into Mother’s house and they bought the bungalow next door to it as a kind of granny annexe where mother lived quite happily for the next 12 or 15 years with Nancy being an absolute gem, looking after her.   But by her mid-nineties she was getting both frail and deeply confused and moved into a splendid Care Home, Castle House, Keignton Mandeville (only a couple of miles away) where she lived very happily and died there quietly in 2008 only a fortnight off her 102nd birthday.

The last time I saw her was when John and I went down to her 100th Birthday Party in Castle House ~ David had died before this butwith his wife Ann, the six remaining Proctor children and their partners, eighteen offspring and a handful of the next generation, there would have been fifty-odd of her descendents ~ she enjoyed the party tremendously without quite understanding what it was for.   And without recognising most of us.   When I told her who I was, she suddenly became excited : "Joy," she said.  "What kind of a name is joy ?   And with the life-long English teacher emerging briefly from the mist, "Joy is not a name but an abstract noun !"

Writing this up I realise perhaps more than I've ever done what a marvellous pair they were, our parents.  In addition to his full-time and demanding work as Secretary of Social Services, Dad practically kept us going with produce from the large garden at number 35 AND an allotment down by the Church ~ I believe that at one time he had TWO allotments.   He also took piano lessons with Miss Garjulio who taught us all turn and turn about.   And he taught himself Icelandic before producing a translation of the Icelandic Sagas in a new format.   The greatest event of his life, I believe, was the trip he had after retiring to Iceland with Magnus Magnusson.

And of course throughout those hectic years of family life BOTH of them were writing and getting published.  But I'll save that for next time . . .