International Writers Magazine: Life in 1907
after lunch, Donald Wickens called at 211 Albert Road for Miss Hattie.
It had become such a tradition that today she was sitting by the
window with her hat already on, awaiting him when the clock struck
three. She played distractedly with a wisp of tawny hair that refused
to stay in its place, as she watched out the window for him.
She pretended to
read her youngest sisters new book a Beatrix Potter
but couldnt really absorb the tale of the kitten that was almost
turned into a roly poly pudding. When
she finally spotted Don walking jauntily along towards the jewellers,
only propriety stopped her from flying to the door to greet him. After
paying his respects to her parents and siblings, he offered her his
elbow and they set off along the road.
He waited until they had passed the Wish Place junction until he spoke.
"Where are we going today?"
"Where would you like to go?"
He considered. They had so many outings. They could go to Southsea common,
or walk along the Clarence Esplanade or Pier. They could take the Tram
to Fratton, or wander the markets on Commercial Road or take a stroll
around St Johns Cathedral. They could amble over to Old Portsmouth,
and sit in St Georges square, or visit the Dockyards. She smiled
up at him, politely waiting. "Lets go to the Aviary,"
he finally said. There was time to get there and back comfortably before
And so, her arm through his, they walked towards Victoria Park. They
talked about such things as a jewellers daughter and a butchers
son would, and in no time found they had walked past the place where
Elm Grove became Kings Road. He was pleasant company, and looked
very dashing in a blue coat that offset his eyes, with the sun bringing
out the blonde in his hair. He always took time on Saturday evening
to scrub the blood out from under his fingernails after he finished
helping his father in the shop. he didn't want his dirty hands would
to offend his sweetheart.
Landport and Hampshire Terraces were walked in silence, each just happy
in the others company, as they enjoyed the clear sunny day, and
the crisp autumn air. On passing the church on Saint Michaels
they struck up a conversation about Reverend Wests sermon that
morning, both concluding, at the gates of the park, that it had been
an enlightening topic, but delivered without enthusiasm.
They meandered along the paths, past the fountain, towards the Aviary.
Wrens, robins, pigeons, larks and doves all native birds that
could rarely be seen this deep into the city preened themselves
and fluttered about in the branches of the small trees planted for them.
A fine net was hung over them and stretched to the ground, to keep the
birds in a constant place for observation.
Hattie pressed her face against the net, trying to pick out the prettiest
bird in the flock. Don stood back to admire her instead. Her family
was not overly well off with eight children, every penny the
father earned went to feeding and clothing them, but they managed admirably,
with a little left over occasionally for luxuries. Hattie was the eldest,
so was lucky in that she always got new things, while her four sisters
had to contend with mended hand me downs sometimes to make the money
stretch farther. Her brown coat, for example, was growing a hole in
one elbow, and was looking slightly short in the sleeve for her today,
so it would soon be Emilys to wear. The coat would probably wear
to threads sooner than ever be worn by the youngest child, little Vicky,
who was only seven, a full ten years younger than Hattie. She was pretty
enough, and amiable, and as his father said, it was high time that he,
at twenty three, ought to take a wife. Her parents would consent to
the match, and very few in the neighbourhood would say that they did
not make a fine couple. They would have to find a small place, until
they could move into the apartment above his fathers shop, but
they would make do, he supposed, and prosper.
He joined her then; his mind made up to talk to her father on their
return, and admired the caged birds in all their glory.
© Laura Patricia November 2007
Laura is the editor
the student newspaper at the University of Portsmouth
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