Part 1

Episode 5

    A month after James’ holiday, Ruth had come back to England with her mum for a visit, they had plans to see relatives, old friends and go sightseeing.

 The plan had been set in motion long before James and Ruth got together and was an entirely separate venture. Ruth and her mum had decided on it; and indeed could only afford it, after her granddad died the previous November. He left Mog a legacy in his will.

Without it they would have remained in Australia when Fred and James left and may never have met again! Fortuitous or not, it is a fact.

 Ruth wouldn’t have; and indeed couldn’t have gone back to England at all under her own steam. Ruth and her mum flew in to Heathrow on April 16th   and stayed with friends in Hounslow, it was groovy. She saw her good friend Ben and made contact with her Father.

It was as always a turbulent and emotional thing, both joyful and heartbreaking calling her father. She had seen him for a total of three weeks out of the four to five years previously, although they had written to each other. She still has one from all those years ago in her keepsake box.

 She told her dad over the phone that she had exciting news and he laughed that she might be pregnant! 

However Ruth was full of getting married. Looking back Betty was saying shit she didn’t understand; she didn’t have a clue, why? She was and is an intelligent young woman! 

Even though James had proposed marriage and they had written to each other once in the 3 weeks since he left Australia; they had only spoken on the phone a few times. Ruth hadn’t actually cottoned on to what it actually meant. Maybe it was all the dope she’d smoked or maybe it was her absolute naivety but she really didn’t consider any of the effects being James girlfriend /wife would have on her life.

She never considered that she might actually have to do something, like spend more time with him, change her plans, move in with him, get a job, run a house and stay in England! 

She didn’t actually know that she had a choice to stay in England with him. 

Mog had booked return flights remember. Had she had to confront this, she might have fought to stay in stay in England anyway, but she might not have. 

However, other people, in part her mum but mostly by Jenny Pound, in effect led all the events of 1991. Ruth was quite prepared to follow either but was torn as to which way and in the end Jenny was more persuasive!    

On May 1st , there was a dancing thing going on and James was back in the team, several of the old gang they used to know where in on it, it was going to be a blast. 

That’s how James first met Ruth when she was 11 years old and he was 18. He had been a Morris Dancer like her mum and a bloody good one too. James and Fred danced in a side that had a reputation in the folk world of being exceptional and with the team came excitement and some kudos for an impressionable child. There was lots of socialising, and not a small amount of fawning. 

It really isn’t and wasn't what the picture most people visualise when they think of Morris Dancing.  

 It was very cool, like some kind of mini boy band or football team. What with that and James being in the vanguard of the art world, out there with Damian Hurst and Tracey Emin, Ruth was going to be a WAG and she loved it! 

She was wild and gregarious, she made everybody laugh and she was loved thoroughly by all she met. It was as if she was made for the role.

Ruth was due to stay with James at his parents’ house and she was properly nervous, it all seemed terribly grown up.

There was something magical about Jenny Pound’s living room. It was unreal like a picture out of a house & home catalogue. She had a few well-placed ornaments, the very nicest of NEXT soft furnishings, it was sparse, but not minimalist and it was quiet. The smell of polish was heady in the morning sun and the room had been hoovered and dusted to a state of Zen like precision. 

 Betty has described it as being like a hotel spa lounge and Ruth stood with her shoes off staring round at this magazine supplement glossy picture before they settled.

 Jenny sat gently poised with her ankles crossed and her knees sideways in the kitchen and offered Ruth a cheese sandwich. Jenny Pound smiled broadly, expectantly and nervously. Ruth did very much the same. 

This house was so normal, or the picture of normality Ruth had gleaned from the telly and books. She was not used to normal and nor was she very comfortable with it. It was something Ruth’s mother had always aspired to in many ways but also despised because of the class, money, and political divide that went with it. 

Ruth had been brought up to be a loony leftie, a socialist worker, and a protester. In a hippie culture with drugs, music, dance, peace, love. Nearly every one she knew was a mess, alternative / or both and there was no shame in it. 

Ruth also knew some very normal people, very normal people; and she had mistrusted them. They may well have been quite harmless but seriously different from her. 

She isn't sure why she thought James’ family would be alternative. Perhaps because he had portrayed himself that way but really, there was nothing alternative about that house. On that morning Ruth wondered, seriously wondered if The Pounds might be snobby, rich even, blimey she wondered if they might have voted Tory! They had bought their ex council house in the right to buy scheme after all. 

After the sandwich she and Jenny started chatting about clothes and shopping and Ruth began to feel quite excited, Jenny appeared to be very nice person. Seemed very nice and in many ways reminded her of her old next door neighbour where she lived as a child, a woman she had always felt safe with. Her neighbours had been ordinary, safe and lovely. Something Ruth very much liked and loved about them.

Jenny was first and foremost a wife and mother. Ruth learnt a lot about The Pounds that first day. Like her old neighbours, they were not rich but neither were they struggling. They were not alternative but were fairly accepting of differences, if slightly mocking of them. They were solid as a family and sensible, a typical working class family, from a specific era. 

Jenny and Harold met a the hop, aged 17 and 19, got married in 1960 and had 4 children in 5 years. He was a builder, she a part time nursery nurse. All the kids were earning, organised and all achievers. Jenny had loved Cliff Richard when she was a teenager and had worked for children with special needs. There really were classifications like cretin and imbecile in the 50’s! 

 Jenny fed Ruth, she offered her all sorts of food, a biscuit, some crisps, 'how about a boiled egg?" much like Ruth’s old neighbour, or Mrs. Doyle. Jenny seemed to dish out her love in serving spoons. 

It was all right, they weren’t normal they were ordinary and Betty loved a bit of ordinary, she still does to this day.

Betty remains really not quite sure how that weekend turned into 3 months. Suffice it to say that she wasn't looking for work and was being subsidised by Mog. Whilst living with Jenny and Harold, Ruth acclimatised back to cold weather and mooched about the house. She sat and watched James paint next door at his Granddad’s house. She met all James’ family of which there were many. She met some of his friends, they all found her strange and a bit alien but were most welcoming, and she was the girl that James brought back from Australia. 

With her dyed hair and her undies on the outside, she was different. Ruth felt a little like fish out of water. They did not eat the food she ate, watch the telly she watched, they did not stay up late, they did not smoke weed, that did not go to festivals, they did not sing or dance, they did not talk about politics, or religion, existence or changing things. 

Ruth thought this is not my world but she liked it. For the most part she kept to the original plot and visited her old neighbours, her Gran, and went on a few jaunts about the place and such with her mum. 

She enjoyed her mum’s company and they got on really well, the distance did them a power of good and they had a lot of fun together. Picking up some of the remnants from their old home, they were both in a better frame of mind and realised how much they missed what they had left behind 4 years earlier. Neither James or his family went with Ruth but she didn’t mind that at all.

It was nice, dipping into the good things that were still there in England. In a few short weeks she began building a life of her own. That was going to include performing; she might even earn some money doing something artistic, like James. She was going back to Australia at some point though, and that was all right by her. 

Although maybe it wasn’t so certain because her mum had got a new boyfriend in England and he was good value, such a nice man, so really it could have gone either way! It was Fred! 

Ruth did like living with The Pounds, coming back from her adventures to that semi detached idyll in 33 Westbrow Avenue, the peacefulness, the slowness, the routine. Jenny and Harold seemed in control of their lives, so unlike her own family, who were, much as she loved them, a bit of a car crash if truth be known; and she admired The Pounds for that.

 In the June, Ruth’s mum, had the cracking idea of going on a road trip! She had bought a clapped out old van to get about in and the plan was for she and Ruth to drive down through France, into Italy and into Greece, then back again!! In a month!! 

 It was a brilliant idea and she was going to pay for Ruth, as it happens Mog had set up an account for Ruth and was drip-feeding money into it, her mum was excellent and generous, generous to a fault as it goes.

 James was invited too and he had some cash to do it, he hadn’t sold any of his paintings in those 3 months, nor had he shown any at gallery, or been to London when it came to it but he had some left from somewhere. She did think James might have been telling porkies about himself but she couldn’t damn him for that, we all do it! She didn’t exactly have much to bring to the table after all!

 Fred was going to come over as well but he couldn’t get time of work and was going to meet them in Italy. They would recreate the week in the outback, at the bus station in Alice Springs, except this time it would be Pisa. They were by accounts Ruth had heard, bosom friends Fred and James; they went to school together and were in the Morris team together. Fred was and is a legend in his own lifetime and has not changed a jot in the 20 odd years since. He is a gentleman and a chap, no man can sport a tank top or waistcoat, wear a beard and carry a woman’s purse in the same way or with the panache he can. 

Ruth thought it no surprise, him getting together with her mum; he had clearly liked her mum back before they left England in ’87. She was well happy about it. Fred was and is the most positive thing that has happened to her mum and he was and still is one of Betty’s fondest mates, though at only 8 years older than she, he was never going to be her stepdad.

The seed was sown, Ruth and James were picked up early morning with kitbags in hand and her mum took them on a trip that would unbeknownst to Ruth at the time, be the backdrop for the events that would change her life for ever and not in a good way!

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