- by Mary
They`d always played together, run together, fought
They knew all the parks in Liverpool, spent hours walking
the green paths, rowing on the brown-watered lakes.
The city had been their playground. A penny
on The Sapphire ferry to Eastham would allow
them to travel backwards and forwards all day, whatever
Although the two girls looked alike, with small features,
they were completely different. Esme would
assert herself more readily than Wyn who would approach
things in a much more measured way. Their
relationship was close, depending as it did on
Once, caught in a summer storm, they`d had an argument
whether to run for it, or shelter under a tree.
They discussed the likelihood of being struck by
lightning. Wyn wanted to shelter but Esme thought
running for it was the best option.
alright for you, you`ve got a macintosh.
its only rain Esme laughed.
Finally they shared the coat between them and, crablike,
scuttled back home, jumping over puddles. Four legs
and lots of giggles under a mac`.
Arriving back home, tired, wet and hungry, to the large
elegant house, they would slip in through the back
passage. Creep up the three flights of stairs to
their room and leaning out of the window, stare across
the garden of the square, at the descending dark of
evening, unwilling to let go of the day. The
staccato sound of tiny high heels on wooden stairs chased
after them. The dogs had heard them, as if they could
tell the time.
that you girls?
Their mother called up the stair well. No
recriminations, just glad to have them back in the
house. They knew they were lucky to have such an
easygoing, generous mother, other girls had to report
back home long before them. They hugged each other
and leaning over the bannisters, called down.
Yep, we`re in
Tea wont be long, go and tell your father.
Their father was a tailor and cutter. A habit maker,
working from home. He had the basement rooms, warm
and cluttered, smelling of wool, always
welcoming. Bales of cloth lay on cutting
tables, large irons sat on and around the firegrate, at
Dummies with suits at various stages of completion,
pinned and chalked, stood silent sentinel around the
walls. The calmness of the room was suddenly
disturbed, the still air broken as the two girls and four
dogs flew into the room. They flopped down on the
bench that was a waiting area for clients and for the
outworkers, who would sit patiently for stitching work
when their father was busy.
Mind those scissors, and get those dogs out of
Just come to say tea`s nearly ready.
What about Good evening? their
father grinned tolerantly at them.
Oh yes, and good evening.
Tell your mother I`ll be along in a minute, I`ve
got something to tell you all
.and wash your
hands he shouted at the closing door.
The large windows, now dimming with the coming of
evening, let in sufficient light to allow him a glance
around the room at the work tables, the pleasing
paperwork of new orders.
A tall, slim man with a shock of white hair, he looked
out at the steps leading up to street level and smiled
with the anticipation of joining his family.
Tonight he would tell them about his plans, for a
forthcoming visit to his old family home in
Cockermouth. He left the warm workroom, locking the
outside, street door and mounted the stairs to the
Did you wash your hands?
Yes, yes, what are you going to tell us?
Patience. After tea
The meal was soon over and three faces looked expectantly
at him. His normally calm wife, her Irish colouring
of dark hair and pale skin, alight with
expectation. Wyn jumped up and down, skirt flying
out, curls bouncing out from her head like a halo.
Esme, hair in plaits, sturdy legs in an old pair of her
brothers` trousers, excited at the prospect.
Well, I`ve been in touch with Grandma Eland and
we`re going to visit.
Whee! the girls shouted together.
They loved Cockermouth. Staying at the Eland family
hotel was an annual treat. They would explore the
familiar old streets, the two rivers, the castle, the
bridges. And market day, when the hotel was full of
the animal smell of farmers. The raised voices
recalling the days` dealings. Country men hungry
for the renowned food served at Elands.
Are we going on the train?
Will we be there for market day?
Yes, yes to both of you
Ah! those wonderful dinners the girls mother
nodded contentedly, A holiday for two weeks.
Walter would look after the house. He had been
found wandering the city as a young boy, taken in
and adopted. A street orphan with no family of his
own, his chubby, prematurely aged, pale, face reflected
his poor childhood health. He had a job now, but
still lived with the Elands and adored Wyn and Esme.
- In a way he
had replaced the memory of their older brother Stanley,
who had left home when they were nine and ten. He`d been
killed in the First World War. They remembered
Stanley returning once from the front, covered with
Don`t come near he`d held out his hand to
ward off the girls rush of greeting I`m covered
with the little blighters
He`d gone out to the back area and stripped off his
uniform. Their father had heated his largest flat
iron and ironed the seams of his uniform. Stanley
went away shortly after; they never saw him again.
So it was decided as soon as the girls had broken up from
Grove street school, the family would set off on the
train for Cockermouth.
Couldn`t we break up early this year? They
laughed at Wyn, but she was only saying what they all
Arriving at the Grassmoor Hotel, locally called
Elands Temperance, they jumped down from the
omnibus that had brought them from the station and gazed
up at the sign. The solid, south facing, square
house was a plain brick-built rectangular box on three
floors. The doorway was decorated with stone
cladding, there were more stone dressings around the five
rows of large sash windows. They gleamed in the
reflected afternoon sun. A passageway, alongside
the main door, led to the courtyard at the rear.
It looks as if it`s made of gold
Nah! just golden
Tisn`t, golden isn`t real
Well it`s magic gold then
Democratically they settled for that, as they helped to
carry bags through to the back door and the
kitchen. Leather soled feet clattered comfortingly
on the flagged stone floor.
Go and wash your hands
You always say that
Go on with you, do as your father tells you
Their grandmother turned from the large range and
gestured for them to go up the back stairs to their room.
Water`s in the bowl, usual room
Slowly they mounted the stairs, not wanting to leave the
warmth of the kitchen and the security of the sound of
adult voices that followed them.
On the train journey they`d met a man, had chattered
uncontrollably and smiled with satisfaction when he`d
agreed with them, that Elands had the
best food in Cockermouth. Later, dinner was
every bit as good as they`d expected and soon finished.
Please can we get down?
Can we go out to play?
Yes, but only for half an hour
Stepping out onto Main street, they gazed around them.
Down to the cattle market
Why not up to the the bridge .. and the
Not enough time, maybe tomorrow Esme
They crossed over the street and passed the ornate
windows of the Black Bull, wrinkling their noses at the
smell of smoke and ale that drifted out of the open
door. The noise of loud male laughter bounced of
the walls of Challoner Went, as they continued down
towards the market square. Here, in contrast to the Bull
it was quiet and peaceful. The echoes of bustling
market days merely a memory in their minds. Leaning
on a fence, they watched the sun start to go down over
the river Cocker.
I love it here
Two whole weeks
Dare you to go into Old Hall yard this year?
Maybe, but not in the dark
Wonder if that Billy Watts is still here
Or Tom thingy, whats his name he`d go into
Old Hall yard
Shut up, anyway bet you wont cross Cocker bridge
That`s silly. You`ll fall in one day
Early evening sent them home, ready for bed and a whole
fortnight of carefree adventures ahead.
The teenage years had been an extension of their
childhood; the two went everywhere together. They
were the most sought after girls in Bedford square.
Their laughter was contagious. All who met them smiled
and felt better for being with them. They sculled
competitively, on the Dee, they rode in Sefton
Park. Played tennis at the Mersey Bowman club,
winning singles and doubles year after year.
Everything was enjoyed to the full. They were
Wyn attended a secretarial school. Her clothes
became smart floral dresses and high heels, her hair,
curly and well dressed. Sometimes, for a dance, she
wore it in on top of her head. She started a job in
Liverpool with Stewart & Lloyd as a secretary.
- I love
it, everyone`s so smart and well dressed in town
she looked down at Esmes trousers.
Esme worked at a zoo in Aigburth. Animals had
always been her passion and the chance to care for them
was an opportunity she grasped when it came. She
particularly liked to talk to Mickey the chimpanzee.
He had belonged to a local garage, where he`d helped to
move the tyres for repair and fitting. Becoming too
strong, he was placed in the zoo.
Poor thing, he`s in such a small cage, I`m sure he
can understand me when I talk to him
One day Mickey escaped, enraged by the constriction of
his six feet by six feet cage. He ran amok, Esme
tried to reason with him. He knocked her
over. She lay still, but he jumped on her back and
badly bit her shoulder. He then wandered off to the
local school. The schoolmaster hurried the children
into the school house. Mickey was shot, good
job too people said he was
dangerous. Esme was distraught.
She was able to wear the kind of clothes she liked at the
zoo, tweed trousers and a shirt, hair scraped back off
her face. Nobody commented about her clothes
there. She met Harold, also an animal lover, who`d
volunteered to look after some of the animals. It
was through this contact that Wyn was introduced to her
future husband. The three went everywhere
together. Harold, Wyn and Esme. Cycling to most of
the Liverpool sports clubs or taking the train to Chester
and the Dee.
The Second World War started. All three were
involved with civil duties.
Harold and Wyn married, moved to Wavertree and quickly
had two boys. Sporting activities continued to be
an important part of their life. They joined a
local tennis club, still won tournaments together.
Esme, wanting to leave the family home, came to live with
them. She was the first in Liverpool to have an
Eton crop.//////(Eton Crops came into fashion first in
the Nineteen Twenties: Ed./////// It went
well with her collar and tie. She bought trousers
and matching jacket.
What d`you think? she asked Wyn.
Dont like it Wyn replied with a flat
voice and pursed lips.
Well, I do
You look like a man
Perhaps you should be a bit more open to new
New ideas, huh! Everyone`ll stare at
So! Who wants to wear a dress all the time?
I do! You look disgraceful the same flat
There would be no compromise this time. It was the first
real disagreement they`d ever had. It gave them
both a shock.
- The row was
shortly after. Terrific shouting some said.
Others said it was in consequence of the clothes.
Nobody knew exactly what caused it. Harold was the
nearest to what had happened, what had been said and he
said very little. Wyn never told anyone what had
happened. Esme packed her bags without another word and
She was gone, nobody knew where. Wyn was sad, deep
inside, she didn`t tell anyone of her emptiness. It had a
huge effect on her. She missed her sister, they may never
agree but they might learn to make
concessions. She hugged the thought to
herself, willing her sister`s return. Every morning
she would look at Esme`s dry toothbrush, hating its
reminder of her loss, maybe she`d left it on purpose and
meant to come back. She cleaned the room Esme
had used, remade the bed. She knew there would
never be the closeness of before, but secretly hoped Esme
might come home. She never did.
Walter married a girl called Lilla. They lived in a tall
narrow house in Oxford street. Wyn visited them
regularly. Walter helped her to realise the
finality of Esmes disappearance but even he
couldn`t find out what had happened between the two
Many years later, in The John Bull magazine, there was a
photograph and an article about Sergeant Eland, a member
of the armed forces in charge of dog training. She
looked smart in uniform. It described her duties of
caring for the dogs. Wyn cut the photo and article