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A Cuppa tea and an aspirin
on 13 May 2013
Living in a court in one room in 1939, with nine kids and a husband who tries to get hired twice a day for the tides, Martha Connolly has no way to better her conditions. She buys old sheets and tears them into square rags to sell for cloths, and her few pence barely cover food. When she has no food she goes around the charities of Liverpool, hoping for a pot of soup to carry home and some bread. They have to meet rent and coal, and several families use one toilet. Martha has one child in a TB sanatorium and one boy away at sea, and keeps her daughter home from school to help hemming handkerchiefs and mind the youngest child.
Life was cold and tough and dirty and people did not wash, carrying vermin. There was never enough food and kids did almost unthinkable things to get treats. Boots had to be begged. With a large population of workers and more desperate men coming from Ireland all the time, labour was cheap.
Then the war came along and everyone's life changed. Liverpool was a prime target as a port, and was bombed for a solid week. Young people got work and money, but at a terrible cost.
Looking back over her life from a care home where she has been put after falling and hurting her hip, Martha bemoans the fact that the family got broken up and kids moved abroad for work, others just dropped her when they married up in the world. This is a sad tale and it makes us grateful for the better conditions we have today. I found it readable and very evocative of the hard times endured in many cities.