I AM sat in the office of Ibstock's Stourbridge factory, a local brick works that has now closed and passed into the annals of Black Country history. My role of Factory Manager is to organise dispatch of the remaining stock that was made last year.
My mind is drawn back to Christmas 1973, Slade, Wizzard, Elton John days when the best Christmas sounds were recorded. The weeks before Christmas always meant a church carol service for us.
I was17 and given a choice. Go to the Christingle service with my younger brothers or head off to Shropshire to a small village called Lydbury North to see a little known Great Aunt whom Granddad Bill and Dad Alf hadn't seen for some time and had heard that she was not very well. What a choice. I would rather be playing football after watching Star Soccer with Hugh Johns.
"It's about time you stopped worrying about what your mates might say and come and see one of your relatives while she is still around," Dad's wise words still ring in ears now. So attending church service was not an option neither was football and off to Shropshire we went!
Poverty! Church Lane, Lydbury North, in 1973 was a small row of dilapidated terraced one up and one down houses and living in the end terrace was Miss Annie Robinson, aged about 80.
From the broken gate a short cobbled path led from the road. The garden was overgrown.
The door was unlocked but there was no sign of aunt. A roaring coal fire warmed this sparsely furnished ramshackle room, the door didn't meet the floor, there was a gap of about 3 inches, and a howling gale forced its way into the living space.
"She must be upstairs," said Bill. Sure enough she had taken to her bed on hearing our car pull up. Dad filled a huge black kettle and placed it on the gale hook and swung it over the fire to boil, yes Annie was still using a gale hook!
Annie had led a solitary life and was shy of visitors, although Bill was her brother and knew he was going to visit her. I went up the steep stairs to see her but she would not speak to me. A frail little lady cowered under her bedspread. The room was run down with only a bed and a wash stand. The ceiling was worse for wear, a leaky roof caused it to bulge ominously.
Was she happy? I think she was. She had never known anything else. I had to accept that this was the way Annie had lived her whole life. She was well known character around Lydbury North and knew most people.
Her younger sister Kate took her in but Kate lived in Market Harborough and this did not go down well with Annie. The vicar found a place in a nursing home in Bridgnorth but sadly Annie died not long after moving there.
An era had passed, Annie was the last of her generation who lived a country life and never sought change.