Garrison Fields

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Chapter 24 - Mrs Gerard's rooms

Now that Matt and Joe had been accommodated it was time for Jane to think of herself and Ted’s wellbeing. She had nearly run from the building when the Church Board had asked her, “We understand you have another younger male child”. Thank God it was not conditional that all had to go as one job lot to the orphanage. If that had happened she would have struggled for a purpose to carry on and it would not be unimaginable to think that shortly after she might have been found, having taken her own life more likely than nought being pulled from the river Wear that ran through the town. This river seeming to personify life itself, in that it had given this town its life and at certain times it would take it.

Thoughts for the moment now quashed in the immediate need to confirm the room at Mrs Gerard’s house. Luke had approached Mrs Gerard privately and asked her to keep the room available for Jane, having known Luke through her late husband for many years she agreed.

This now allowed Jane to confirm the rent for the room and prepare her few possessions. She had lost many of her essentials to the house clearers, but at least she had a room over their heads, which she could, if frugal manage to keep. On returning to Albert’s parents, she scrubbed out the room to ensure everything was in order for her sister-in-law’s approaching confinement. Then, together with her mother-in-law, they scrubbed the white cotton sheets to such a degree that one of two purposes would have been served. Either they would create holes to warrant them as rags, or they would achieve a clarity of white which would allow hanging on the washing line and inserting high in the air with the clothes prop to allow all to see.

The two worked alongside each other and soon all was completed, fingers chaffed with the cold water they had used. After which, being her final night at her parents in law, she started to prepare dinner for them all. She had used a couple pennies of her precious money to obtain some offal from the butcher, liver and kidneys, and made not an extravagant or exotic meal but one which they would all enjoy thoroughly. It had suet puddings dropped in, and she remembered many years ago when she was first married standing watching her mother-in-law make the same dish. When she placed the suet puddings in, she called them corner puddings. Jane being young and possibly naïve at the time thought that a special secret ingredient had been added while she was not looking and asked the reason? At which point the answer came.

‘Why lass it’s because my tin is square, and I’ve put them in the corner!’

They had looked at each other and both erupted into laughter to such an extent that the tray and its contents all but ended up in the floor as tears streamed down their faces as each bout of laughter in one caused the other to erupt into fresh spasms. This was the point when they had bonded and she had become a true daughter to them. Her final meal she hoped would help them look back on those happy times and let them move on to new ones.

It was a quiet meal, there were too many loved ones missing from the table for any joviality, but they all tried hard and after dinner, Luke walked Jane to Mrs Gerard’s and who knew what future. Her few possessions had substantially increased, it appeared that her mother-in-law had such a vast array of things that.

‘I’ll never use this again; you may as well take it.’

‘Oh, take this, I don’t know what possessed me to buy it.’

‘Well, if you don’t take it, I’ll be putting it put for the rag and bone man, and he’ll only give me a couple of dolly pegs for it.’

The net result was that through her mother-in-law’s kindness, she had enough basics to get her through the next few days. She arranged her few items in the room and pulled out the bottom drawer from the chest of draws, and placed a pillow and towel in it, this would serve as Ted’s new cot until times were better. Her unhappiness was tempered by the knowledge that she had been fortunate so far. The boys would not starve and if it had not been for Mrs Gerard, both she and Ted would have ended up in the workhouse, or whatever name they were now calling them or the street.

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