Glad Thursdays

Thursday were always special when I was a child.

My Auntie Glad visited on Thursdays. Whatever the weather, she would get on the bus and make the half an hour journey to visit us. A journey that involved a lengthy walk at both ends of the bus journey.

Gladys was the eldest of thirteen children, reduced to nine by stillbirth and infant death; my Father was the youngest. When their parents died, it was Gladys that took on the role of mother to their surviving siblings, but to my father in particular as he was only a baby. Two of the girls perished in WWII, and their brothers (and Gladys’s husband) showed a tendency to fall out with each other over nothing in particular.

When my parents married, they spent the first years of their life together living with Auntie Glad, her husband and daughter. From what my Mother told me, it was Auntie Glad whose support and encouragement helped them through those early days. My Mother was a volatile red-head. My Father was a brooder whose moods were later diagnosed as depression.

The epitome of a grandma; Auntie Glad was denied grandchildren of her own because her daughter had been starved of oxygen at birth, and had learning difficulties as a consequence. The family feuds between the other siblings meant that we were the only children that she had really close contact with, and we were the recipients of her unconditional love – and rainbow drops.

Nowadays people think of those horrible multicoloured lumps of puffed rice as rainbow drops. Some people call our rainbow drops ‘Jazzies’. To me, a rainbow drop will always be circles of milk chocolate covered on one side by hundreds and thousands, and delivered in white paper bags by Auntie Glad. One bag for each of us to in order to ensure fairness and no squabbling. It was an unwritten law that you never pinched a rainbow drop from someone else’s bag. Auntie Glad would know if you did and that would make her sad. We all loved her so much that we never wanted to make her sad.

Back in the days when our city still had a pier, Auntie Glad would sometimes visit on a extra day, in order to accompany my Mother and the three of us on a bus journey to town. We’d sit on the pier and play on the attractions, or watch the sea and the ships while Auntie Glad fed us wine gums from a capacious bag. As soon as I could read, I can remember tracing the word on a wine gum with my finger. ‘Port’ and ‘Sherry’ were my favourites, and there was something slightly naughty about eating sweets that might have alcohol in them. I think we all knew that there wasn’t but it was another family myth that didn’t need to be exploded.

It didn’t matter how badly behaved we had been; Thursdays wiped away all our sins and started us off afresh. I can remember decorating the walls of one of the rooms of our council house with crayons. It was a small room between the kitchen and the front hall and in some families might have been used as a dining room. We ate in the kitchen, except for Christmas when the kitchen table was brought into what we called the ‘Living room’. The little room (named by my Father as the ‘Glory Hole’) also housed the Understairs Cupboard; a place of magic, mystery and spiders, where various items we had acquired were put for ‘lateron’. I was convinced that this was all one word for years, and described a time when all the exciting objects would be taken out and used.

It was a Wednesday when I decided to do a Banksy on the party wall. My Mother took the silence as a warning, and came in from the kitchen to see what I had been up to. She was not impressed, as in those days, the removal of wax crayons on a painted wall would require bleach, hot water and a great deal of elbow grease. My Father was at work, my Mother shouted, I cried and my siblings stayed upstairs, out of the way and absolved of any blame for my doodling. (I still doodle.)

“I wish it was Thursday!” I cried.

“So do I!” cried my Mother.

Auntie Glad’s magic touched us all and made our world a better place.

She died when I was about eight, and although we still had some happy memories, the loss of Auntie Glad was hard to bear. Life went on. My Father wheeled a bicycle several miles from the cycle shop when he discovered that I had learned to ride. We went on caravan holidays to Bournemouth and Selsey Bill, and trips to Winchester Cathedral, sitting at the front on the top deck of the bus, clutching a bag of sandwiches and a bottle of watered down squash.

It was only a few years later that without Auntie Glad, the glue that had helped cement my parents’ marriage, came unstuck and the family split in three directions. My Brother stayed with my Father, my Sister had already left home and my Mother and I left the house in the middle of the night in a taxi hurriedly called by my big Brother from the phone box at the end of the road.

It wasn’t a Thursday

Many years later and with adult children of my own, Thursdays are always a glad day for me. They have the ability to lift sad shadows and invoke happy memories. Rainbow drops are a rare treat now but even as I taste the first one out of the bag (there are still sweet shops where you can buy a quarter of sweets in white paper bag), I remember Auntie Glad and sunny afternoons in the days when none of us had anything to worry about.

It seems that Thursdays have become the day for going outside at 2000 hours and applauding the heroes in all occupations who are doing their best to keep us all safe, fed and well during this difficult time. Another reason to be glad for Thursdays.

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