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The memoirs of Cissie Ewen


Moving to Jesmond


In 1938, John had trouble with an ulcer; he had had tummy trouble before we were married, and the doctor advised him to change his job. He was off work and on a light diet for a while, so we were seeing quite a bit of Eddie Nurse and sometime his little sister would come in with him. Mrs Nurse suggested that he make some hot cross buns for the neighbours. She got around getting orders and telling all the neighbours, while he started making some. We had people coming all-day, even after he stopped making them, to see if we had any more. Then John and little Eddie, who used to follow him everywhere, decided they’d seek laths from the timber yard and chop them into sticks, make them into bundles, then sell them around the doors. John made a barrow and off they went. Each weekend they used to do the same; he told Eddie they were partners and they used to share the money. At Christmas time, they went shopping for Christmas gifts. Eddie thought John was wonderful. For years after we left George Street, his mother would tell Louisa that Eddy was always talking about Mr Ewen and asking about him.

At that time, the news wasn’t good; the trouble with Germany and the threat of war were on the radio every day. At the beginning of 1939, a job was advertised in the paper that John fancied applying for, but it was for a married couple to look after flats. I wasn’t so sure that it was a good thing, with Jack being so young (two years and three months), for me to take it on, but John said he’d be around all the time to help out. We decided to try it and we got it. We had to store our furniture with Ann and Louisa, for we had only the one place to sleep and live in with Jack’s cot in the corner curtained off from the light, and we had a bed-settee, and apart from a large kitchen-cum-washhouse; that was our living quarters.

The flats (called ‘Henshelwood’), were in two houses and they were really bed-sitters each was a large room with dining suite, a wardrobe and a bed-settee. They had a gas fire, which didn’t give much heat and ate up the money; fortunately, they all had their own meters. There were three flats on the bottom floor, all occupied; five flats on the second floor mostly occupied; and two flats on the third floor. In the house where we lived, they were serviced flats; we cleaned their rooms and provided them with meals when they wanted them. The house on the opposite side of the short one-way street was very similar except we did not service them unless they asked us and they paid for that. The owner was Jewish with a big furnishing business in Newcastle. The flats were in West Jesmond, a classy suburb of Newcastle at that time with hotels and lovely big houses. One could write a book about the people we met while looking after those flats for the ten months we were there.

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