I have so happy to be on the blog tour for The Forgotten Family by Pam Howes. On my stop I have a wee excerpt for you, to whet your appetite.
The war is over – but are their troubles just beginning?
It’s 1951 and rationing is finally coming to an end. But while Liverpool is recovering from the ferocity of war, a family is about to be torn apart…
Dora Rodgers is adjusting to a new life in Liverpool with her young daughters Carol and Jackie. After the fear of the war years and a difficult break up with her husband Joe, Dora is finally building a future with her children.
But then an unexpected knock at the door rips her family in two.
To Dora’s horror, Carol is taken away by a welfare officer to live with Joe. She is determined to fight for her child, but when a tragic accident leaves her mother in the hospital, and shocking news from Joe breaks her heart again, she struggles to cope.
With her family in pieces and her marriage over for good, will Dora ever manage to get her daughter Carol home where she belongs?
Sneak Peek ~ The Forgotten Family By Pam Howes
Kirkby, Liverpool, June 1952
Dora Rodgers looped her long blonde hair behind her ears, banged on the kitchen window and wagged a warning finger. Her daughters were squabbling over the doll’s pram again, with five-year-old Carol hanging onto the handle for dear life, while two-year-old Jackie screamed at the top of her voice. She turned back to the washing. It was over a year since her husband Joe’s departure from the marital home, following a breakdown in their relationship, which had seen dressmaker Dora sink to the depths of despair. She had since found within herself a grim determination to prove that she didn’t need him and could care for their daughters on her own. Sometimes though, like today, when she had housework and the washing to see to, as well as a skirt and blouse to finish making for one of her customers, it all felt too much to cope with. It was all right for Joe, living the life of a single man, apart from when he took the kids out for the day. He only had himself to think about.
She folded the dry towels she’d brought in from the line and laid them on the table, then picked up the basket of washing she’d just put through the mangle. One day, when she was better off, she’d treat herself to a new washing machine with an electric mangle on top, like the one her pal Agnes had. Agnes said it made washdays a doddle. Joe had told her he’d get her one, but she’d refused and said she’d buy one herself when she could afford it. Mam said she was cutting her nose off to spite her face and to let Joe pay for it. But Dora was stubborn, and she was already living in the house Joe had got through his job at the Royal Ordnance Factory; she didn’t want to take anything else from him.
She went out into the garden and dropped the basket onto the small lawn. Jackie hurled herself at her legs, crying. Carol, looking smug, was pushing the doll’s pram up the path towards the shed.
‘Carol, share. Let Jackie have a turn, there’s a good girl,’ Dora said, giving her youngest a comforting hug. But Carol chose to ignore her. Dora put Jackie down and went to stand in front of Carol, who scowled and rammed the pram hard into her legs, laddering a stocking. ‘Ouch,’ Dora cried, jumping backwards. ‘Right, you naughty little madam; go to your room, this minute.’
Carol let out a howl and stomped indoors, her plaits bouncing on her shoulders. Jackie gave a delighted squeal and ran to grab the pram. Dora watched as she pushed it up the path, her earlier tears forgotten. She turned back to pegging out her washing. Mam would be arriving soon. Maybe she’d take Carol to the shops with her. She was hard work that one always had been, although now and again, when the fancy took her, she could be a proper little angel.
Jackie soon lost interest in the pram, just as Dora expected she would, and picked up some clothes pegs to hand to her mother. ‘You’re a little monkey, you are,’ Dora said. ‘You didn’t really want that pram at all.’ Jackie giggled and ran off with a handful of pegs. ‘Bring them back here or you can go and sit in the bedroom as well.’
‘Are they playing you up, gel?’ a voice called from a couple of gardens further along.
Dora looked up and saw her neighbour Dolly hanging over the fence. ‘Just a bit,’ she called back. ‘Though no more than usual.’
‘Not too long now before Carol starts school. Then you’ll have more time to relax with just your Jackie to see to. I miss our Alice, but I love the peace and quiet now she’s at school all day. I’ll pop down for a cuppa when I’ve finished hanging this lot out.’
‘Okay.’ Dora nodded and rolled her eyes as she turned her back on Dolly. That’d be half the morning gone before she got rid of her, no doubt. Although her neighbour was kind and helped her out with the children, she could talk the hind legs off a donkey once she got going. Dora pegged the final tea towel on the line and went back inside to put the kettle on. As she spooned tea into the pot she heard the front door opening.
‘Only me, chuck,’ a voice called from the hallway.
‘I’m in the kitchen, Mam,’ Dora called back. ‘Just about to make a brew. Dolly’s popping round in a minute.’
‘Oh, okay, well I’ll nip to the shops while the pair of you have a gossip. Where’s our Carol?’ she asked, peering out of the back door and seeing only Jackie playing in the garden.
Dora jerked a thumb towards the second bedroom door. ‘Been a right naughty girl, look.’ She lifted her leg with the laddered stocking and a red mark where the metal pram had hit her.
Mam frowned. ‘That’ll bruise; you need arnica on it. I’ll get some from the chemist, and I’ll take Carol to the shops with me. We’ll have a bit of dinner in the café and then I’ll take her to the library. It’s story time this afternoon, she’ll enjoy that. Give you a break while Jackie has her nap.’
‘Thanks, Mam, I was really hoping you’d suggest something like that,’ Dora said. As the kettle whistled on the gas hob, Dolly knocked and walked in the front door.
‘Have a seat, Dolly, while I see to Carol,’ Dora said. She went into the bedroom where Carol was sprawled on the bed, her lips pouting and her cheeks red and tear-stained.
‘Sowwy, Mammy,’ she sobbed, holding her arms out.
Dora gave her a hug and lifted her off the bed. Her heart skipped a beat as she looked at her daughter’s woebegone expression. Carol was so like Joe with her soft brown hair and big hazel eyes, while blonde-haired, blue-eyed Jackie was Dora’s double. ‘Right, monkey; let’s have no more being naughty and I’ll let you go shopping with Granny. Okay?’
Carol nodded and wiped her snotty nose on her cardigan sleeve.
Dora sighed and led her contrite daughter into the bathroom, where she washed her face and brushed her hair. ‘Now no messing about, and make sure you hold Granny’s hand, or else.’ She lowered her voice as they left the bathroom. ‘Daddy’s coming for tea tonight, and he’ll want to know that you’ve been a good girl for me. All right?’
Carol nodded again and ran into the sitting room where her granny was talking to Dolly.
‘Come on then, Carol,’ Granny said, giving her granddaughter a hug. ‘Have you made a list, Dora?’
‘It’s on the table, with some money. I only want sausages, spuds and custard powder.’
‘Okay, chuck, we’ll see you in a bit.’
Dora closed the front door behind them and went to pour the tea. She handed Dolly a well-sugared mug, thanking God that sugar rationing was over. She offered her a ginger snap and sat down next to her on the sofa.
Dolly took two biscuits and put her mug down on the coffee table. ‘So, Joe’s coming for tea, is he?’ She tucked a straying red curl back under her turban.
Dora looked at her in surprise. ‘How do you know that?’
‘I heard you telling Carol.’
‘Oh.’ Dora took a sip from her mug. God, the woman had ears like a bat. She’d spoken to Carol in a low voice, or thought she had. ‘Yes, he’s coming to see the girls. He didn’t see them on Sunday because the band was playing out of town at an afternoon garden party.’
Dolly pursed her lips. ‘Was she with him?’
‘I’ve no idea. I didn’t ask. I’m not interested even if she was. He can do what he likes now we’re separated.’ She being Ivy Bennett, who managed the canteen at the Royal Ordnance Factory where Joe worked, and with whom he’d had a brief relationship when Dora had suffered depression after Jackie’s birth.
‘She’s got a lot to answer for, that one.’
‘Yes, so you keep telling me, Dolly. But that’s Joe’s business now, not mine.
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