"All people are different in their nature and in the amount they feel comfortable telling us about their background and self. Whereas one person seems perfectly at home to let it all hang out there and reveal everything to all and sundry, another would die of embarrassment were some private aspect of their past or present life be publicly revealed about them.
I was brought up in the 50s and though the average family had less to live on than any family has today, you would never have guessed it. I recall that whenever an unexpected visitor called to the family home, however sparse the pantry was, whatever my mother had to eat was put out on the table for the guest. There has been many an occasion when a visitor ate my evening meal in a sandwich without ever knowing it. I also recall our family living on tick from one week to the next. We would pay the grocer, Harry Hodgson for this week's groceries from dad's next week's wage packet! Often, Harry would know when mum entered the shop that her order would be on the tick, but pride would allow mum to disguise our poverty from the queue behind her. Instead of extracting a ten bob note from her purse to pay for the required food wanted that day, mum would palm Harry a piece of paper which explained she would pay him when dad next got his wage packet. Harry, God bless him, always played the game and rang up the till in which he placed mum's note and gave her a few coppers change to complete the pretence (which he would naturally add to the eventual bill). I only learned in later years that half of the mums on Windybank Estate played the same game with Harry as did my mum as they shared the same queue in his shop!
Every Friday, the households on the estate would get the weekly 'Spenborough Guardian,' where the news that was most sought after was the news that shamed. Of most interest would be discovering those who'd been fined for failing to have a dog licence or no tv licence; and who had appeared before a court for poaching or some drunk and disorderly offence. Only once in a blue moon did one ever read about some dirty old man in a mackintosh raincoat frightening walkers down the fields of Green Lane. Then, there was also the obituary column, revealing who had died rich, who had died poor and who had died in debt. I often imagined Harry Hodgson hurrying to read the obituary column on a Friday morning to find out who'd died owing him a weekly grocery bill that would now never be paid!
My father was a miner at a colliery in Birstall for many years. Every day the miners would take sandwiches to work in their lunch boxes, but few ever revealed the simple fare that often filled them as they ate in dusty silence. I remember being told about one miner who daily bragged to his workmates each lunch time underground about the beautiful sandwiches his wife had packed him that day. 'What's she given you today, Jack, you lucky bugger?' his mining mates would ask smilingly as they ate their bread and jam. Jack would reply, 'Beautiful ham and cheese again today, boys.' Jack and his wife had been separated since she walked out on him two years earlier for a younger man, but being ashamed to reveal this fact to his work mates, he preferred to carry on with his daily pretence that she made him sandwiches to die for instead of the jam or fish paste spread between the slices of bread he'd put there himself. Unknown to Jack, all his work mates knew the truth, but never shamed him by letting on that he was kidding nobody.
When my first mother-in-law, Dorothy died, I nursed her at home during her last three weeks of life. Two days before she died, she revealed to me, that her first child had been a son who had been born to a soldier out of wedlock. As was often customary in those war years, the child was reared by a distant relative and brought up as their own child. Dorothy later married and had two daughters. Apart from her only brother and the distant relative who'd adopted the child, nobody ever knew about this secret family arrangement; not even Dorothy's husband. A few years after my mother-in law's death, having learned of this secret, I eventually told my ex wife and her sister, but neither of them ever chose to initiate contact with their brother.
When I was first married in the 70s, compensation from an earlier accident in life enabled me to purchase outright a brand new detached house in Mirfield and five couples in the Avenue became the closest of friends. We would socialise weekly as a group, dine at each other's house in rota fashion and even go on holidays together. One of my friends lost his well paid sales job and was so ashamed at being out of work that he pretended to go out to his work daily rather then tell his wife and feel a failure. It was almost four months before his wife learned that he'd been unemployed and had been borrowing large amounts of money to live on.
Friends cheating on their wives or husbands is always a dilemma for most of us. My best friend's wife was cheating on him with another man and all the group knew about it except Christopher (my best mate) and myself. Indeed, three of the other women in the group even provided Chris' unfaithful wife with false alibis on certain nights; saying she was with them instead of being out with her lover. When I eventually learned this I was angry, especially as my wife had been one of the women providing a false alibi. At the first opportunity I felt duty bound to tell Christopher. His marriage ended in divorce, he moved area and I never saw him again.
After my first marriage ended in divorce and the usual period of feeling sorry for oneself had passed, me and another male friend went out dancing to the Mecca Ballroom in Bradford. While we both loved dancing, being foot loose and fancy free, we each had our mind on other things; preferably good looking women who were also prepared to be good time girls. We each decided to take our own cars in the event that were were lucky in our pursuit by the end of the night.
We had a great night out and by the end of the evening, we had each found a good looking partner to take home. My partner was a very nice woman, but was obviously a person who had some unresolved issues. She talked a lot on our way home and I half-listened. To my shame, I'd have to confess that my mind was elsewhere throughout the journey. The upshot was that while we were both happy to become closely acquainted for a first meeting, she probably needed to talk much more than I did. When she talked, her content was highly relevant to whatever problems she was experiencing at the time and represented in large measure, the unravelling of her life story. This seriousness of her situation contrasted greatly with the smallness of my conversation. While she was opening up her life to me, what I'd been prepared to tell her about myself concealed much and revealed little. It wasn't that I lied, but I undoubtedly deceived and misled by omission. I had been prepared to let her reveal all, and though she was also willing to fully engage with me, her mind was clearly on tomorrow whereas mine was most definitely on tonight!
The day after I felt so bad by the behaviour I'd displayed the previous night that I determined there and then, it would never reoccur. The situation was made all the more ironic by the fact that I had been trained in a job that paid me to listen to the troubles of others and to problem solve. Last night's listening by me had been halfhearted at best. In truth, I felt very disappointed with myself for the lack of respect I had shown towards her overall situation. I vowed there and then never again to place my own needs above that of another's and however difficult or embarrassing it might prove, to be fully open in all I said and did thereafter.
I have, to the best of my ability, kept this promise to myself that I made 40 years ago. I won't pretend that it never presented problems to be open and truthful at all times and in all situations since, but it has become easier to carry on with the passing of every day. I can say that it has made me a much happier person with myself and my environment and there is not one thing that would ever induce me to return to the man I once was instead of remaining the person I am today." William Forde: June 14th, 2016.