Al Picasso

In this memoir Barry tells us about the time his mum, sanguine about most things in life, took exception to his second eldest brother’s foray into the world of fresco art. Well, pencil artwork that is 🙂

Al Picasso
We were still living in 17 Millward Road, when my second eldest brother displayed a talent as an artist. Our house was one of four in a row on the high side of Millward where the land levelled out right outside our front yard.

It was a 3 up, 2 down dwelling that my mum, dad and my two eldest bothers moved into shortly after completion in 1939. Before then they had been living in Hulton Street, Far Green. Thomas, my eldest bother, was 11 years old, Alan was 3 years.

They were in Bucknall just months before the outbreak of WWII.

Mum and dad’s bedroom was to the right of the landing at the top of the stairs and looked out onto Millward Road. Thomas and Alan slept in the two back bedrooms which looked out over the tops of the houses in Langford Road. Alan was in the smallest room to the left of the landing – which also had a box room annex.

The downstairs front room – referred to as a parlour by some of our neighbours – looked out onto Millward Road. The hallway by the front door also provided access up to the bedrooms. The Kitchen had a separate pantry on one side which was located under the stairwell. On the other side was a bathroom with a large copper hot water storage unit. Between the front room and bathroom was a small coal harbour. And whilst the toilet was under the main roof access was gained from outside.

There were fire hearths and hobs in the front room and the two largest bedrooms.

Okay, let’s roll the clock forward a few years to 1954: my eldest brother Thomas was in Australia; my second eldest brother Alan was an apprentice mechanic at Hanley Garage; my eldest sister Jocelyn and yours truly were now attending Cellarhead Secondary Modern School (later renamed Moorside); and Port Vale F.C. were impressing British football with their amazing league performance and dizzy F.A. Cup run into the Semi Final against West Brom.

I’m not sure when the painting and decorating thing formed part of my psyche, but it seemed mum and dad were always sprucing our home. The downstairs front room was always wallpapered; the other rooms always painted. The year 1954 was no different with mum doing the bulk of the work – especially the bedrooms.

Alan, my second eldest brother, always presented as a suave man about town, and the saying ‘Clothes makes the man’ was his benchmark to impressing the girls and networking his future. When he went on a date there were no tell tale signs of garage oil on his skin or under his finger nails, his shoes would gleam in the night lights, and he would finish off his appearance by wearing a cravat that seemed to give him that extra touch of class. To see him walk tall down the street you would be forgiven for thinking he was anything other than a working class lad.

Several years later Alan did join The Young Conservatives – much to the chagrin of our dad. Maybe I’ll tell you about that another time, eh?

Where was I? Oh yes, mum had just put away the paint brushes for another year.

It was a very late Sunday afternoon and I had just returned home from a scout camp at Kibblestone. My mum and dad had arrived home before me having spent the day visiting relatives in Smallthorne. Alan had been at a loose end for a change so he had spent the day at home.

Walking into our home via the back door I could hear mum’s raised voice. To say it was strident would be an understatement because my mum rarely spoke loudly or in anger. As I walked into the front room dad was sitting in his favourite corner watching the contents of the teapot stew away on the hob. He looked towards me momentarily then lifted his eyes in the direction of my bedroom. Not knowing what to do next I stood by the china cabinet. It seemed an eternity before dad suggested I should go outside for awhile.

It was dark when I returned home and mum was in the kitchen with my sister preparing tea. Dad was still in his favourite chair. Alan was nowhere to be seen.

During tea I gave mum and dad a run down on Kibblestone; mum and dad said they had a good time in Smallthorne; my sister Jocelyn said she had spent the day with a girlfriend. Then it was bedtime.

At the top of the landing my sister said goodnight before entering her room – the smaller of the two back bedrooms. When I opened my bedroom door there, looming large above the fire hearth and stark on the soft cream coloured wall, was a large drawing – and I mean large – done in pencil of wild horses racing through the under wood. It was impressive artwork.

Had Al Picasso been seen in Bucknall? Mum didn’t think so.

See you later…

Barry Edge
Western Australia
March 12, 2007


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