Carol Beckham

When you are diagnosed with a life limiting illness, you become retrospective. You find yourself examining your life, looking at past memories and thinking of the hopes you may have had for the future. Carol is in that position. In April of 2019, she was diagnosed with cancer. I, (Carols daughter) interviewed her, and we talked about her life together.

Talk to me about early life

When I was a child, I always remember being happy. Where some kids have to come home and do chores or where some kids come home to an empty house, I didn’t. My mum was always there. I always came home to the smell of tea cooking. Meat and Potato pie was something my mum always cooked. Such a great memory.

27 Sterry Road

One thing I vividly remember from being a child was the boy next door, Colin Glover. I used to go ballroom dancing with him in a hall above Burtons menswear at Dagenham Heathway.

Colin and I always used to ride bikes together too. All of the houses in Sterry road had privet hedges along the kerbside at the bottom of everyone’s front garden. What they also had were metal bars and a wire holding them together, so I used to try and cycle holding on to the metal bars then peddling along to the next one. Sometimes it worked but one day I missed and fell against the metal bar and bruised my hip. On another occasion I remember Colin Glover rode his bike along the road in front of me. Then he stopped suddenly causing me to brake hard and ended up going over my handlebars. I’ve never liked riding bikes since!

School days

First day at school was also a milestone for me. I would happily skip along the road on the way to Richard Albion school in 1956 I think it was, holding both parents’ hands and when we got to the door, I changed my mind and didn’t want to go in. As soon as I spotted the Wendy house and rocking horse, I quickly decided that I was going to join in and started school from that day. I loved my school days. When I went on to secondary school (Parsloes school) I was goal attack in the netball team. I was always interested in French of which I always came top in. I also loved geography and biology (not the cutting up of animals but the scientific side of it).

Saturday teatimes at grandparents

Who doesn’t have recollections of weekends with grandparents!! I remember Saturday teatimes at my dad’s parents’ house in Stratford which is in east London. I would sit on my dad’s lap while he pretended, he was watching the football results on tv. He would put food on his fork and say, “don’t eat that while I’m not watching” and I would eat the forkful of food. But yes, I was a fussy eater way back then.

After the football results, we would have steamed jam roll poly pudding and custard and watch the Lone Ranger on his horse Silver and Tonto his sidekick on tv.

Things my mum used to say

While looking through Facebook today I saw a post about things our parents used to say. It got me thinking. When asked what we had for dinner, my Mum used to say, “shit with sugar on”. If you dared to ask what was for dessert the reply would be “air pie and windy pudding”.  

When did you meet your husband to be?

I remember it like it was yesterday – 12th October 1966. I was walking down the Heathway in Dagenham, with my friend Petula Clatworthy. My future husband pulled up alongside us in his mate`s Morris minor. His mate was Graham Bale. They asked if we wanted to go for a drive and we agreed. As Barry got in the back of the car, I said I am getting in the back or going home. Petula was ok with that. The rest is history.

Your new in laws

Not long after going out with Barry, he took me home to meet his mum and dad and two younger sisters Lesley and Sally. When Barry got back home that evening, he told me his Mum said she didn’t like me as I was so quiet. What she had also said though was that I was to be the one Barry would marry and how right she was. She turned out to be a great mother-in-law and Barry’s Dad a great father-in-law. Well Barry and I did get along and he asked me if I wanted to get engaged on my seventeenth birthday 17/12/67 – I was overjoyed.

What’s your favorite memory of your wedding?

We got married at Barking Register Office on 28/3/1970 and had lunch in Nans Pantry for close family and friends. We cut the wedding cake that Barry made. (He went to college and was a bread maker/confectioner.) It was a beautiful cake.  The evening reception was held at my parents’ house and all our friends that came round in the evening sat on the stairs while a Barry played Beatle songs on his guitar while we all sang along. If I had to choose a memory, I`d have to say it was being in the car with my Dad on the way to the Registry Office. I always was a “Dads girl!!”

What`s your favorite memory of your first five years married?

It would have to be getting our first house together in Oval Road North in Dagenham as well as having our first child. Granted, she wasn’t planned!! She was born just under 2 years after we married.

Buying our first house together

Barry worked very hard and was always conscious of having savings should we need it for any house repairs. When we bought our house, the mortgage was through the Greater London Council and they were taking ages to get a document signed so I took a day off work and went to the offices in London. When I got in there I asked if the document had been signed and they found it in a tray still awaiting a signature so we could get our mortgage. It was at this time I held my head and said I didn’t feel very well, so they sat me down with a glass of water. It was then that I said I would stay sitting there till I saw a signature on my document. The person in the office said they were soon closing. Me being the person that I am, said that’s ok I can stay there till I see that signature. Well, it all went smoothly from then on in as someone took the document to get a signature and within a couple of days, we were offered our mortgage.

First child

She was born on a snowy Christmas morning in 1971. We named our first child Joanne Lesley. Lesley was after Barry’s sister. Originally Barry wanted to call her Victoria. We laugh now as she would have been the original “Victoria Beckham!”  I didn’t want that though as I hated the thought of her name being shortened. So, Barry said “how about Joanne?”  There it was!!

Joanne left home when she was 18 and completed almost 30 years in a stellar nursing career. She met her husband during that time and married him on 6th May 1994. They made a huge life change and emigrated to Brisbane, Australia in 2005. They celebrated their silver wedding in 2019. Unfortunately, that same year her husband Mark lost his battle with myasthenia gravis.

Camping trips

We went away for a weekend camping when Joanne was a few months old. We borrowed Barry’s parents’ tent which Barry had waterproofed and when we turned up at the campsite Barry pulled out all the poles or did he?  They all seemed to fit together but the canvas would not fit. Joanne was in the pram in the car crying for a feed and Barry was trying to figure out what went wrong.

Well, if he had tipped the bag up, he would have found the four poles that were missing. He did find them so all ended ok and we had a good weekend. 

Dinner parties

When we were younger, Barry and I, John and Caroline and Alan and Elaine used to go out for a Saturday evening meal every couple of months. It was on one of those evenings out Barry said that we could do this in our own homes, taking it in turns every couple of months. Well, that’s when the dinner parties started, cannot remember the year but I am guessing around 1972. 

The host would purchase everything, and we would split the cost three ways. We would have a starter, main course then dessert, followed by nibbles and accompanied wine, which John always got on his various trips to France with great discount.

As money became free-er for all three couples the cost of the starter and dessert would be taken up by the host and the meat and wine split three ways. Then as money became easier again, the host would pay for everything and just the wine would be split three ways.

These dinner parties continued for years until we emigrated to Australia in 2008. They still continue in the UK but not so frequently now.

Second child

Lee was born in 1977, the day after Valentine’s Day. He has always had, all through his life, a great work ethic. He works as a courier driver and works some long hours.

He has been with his  partner Clare  for over 20 years.  They have a lovely house in Dunmow, Essex.UK

They have two Evo cars. They go to Germany several times a year so they can drive around the Nürburgring ring. As any mother would, I constantly tell him that safety on that track is a priority not speed. I can’t wait to hear that he is home safe after every trip. 

Jim and MND

My Dad was told in February 1989 that he had Motor Neurone Disease (MND), after he had difficulty in swallowing and his speech got slurred. We were told that he had 12-18 months, but he died on his seventieth birthday 21st December 1989.

During his illness, he went into hospital to have an operation on his throat to open it up a little to be able to eat. The night beforehand my Dad asked me to bring in his makeup and dressing up stuff. Strangely I wasn’t surprised, but I reminded him he was having an operation not a party. He insisted so I did as he asked.

Well, the next day the nurses asked my Dad to put on his gown ready to be taken down to theatre. My Dad didn’t stop there. He put on an old man’s face mask with ping pong eyeballs on glasses. He then covered his face with the bed sheet. Then he called for the nurse who came running. She turned down the sheet and saw what my Dad was wearing. The nursing staff burst into laughter. So even with the life-threatening disease my Dad still had his sense of humour.

 Losing my mum

My mum was told that if she didn’t go into hospital in the next couple of days she would not survive. It was very hard to convince my Mum seeing as she had just lost her husband. When my Mum was in hospital, the evening before she died Lee (who was almost 13 years old) and I took her in her favourite dinner of meat and potato pie which we helped her eat. We then played cards. All the while, we had tears rolling down our faces with laughter as my Mum won all the games we played. I reminded her that it’s a good job we weren’t playing for money or we would be broke.

The next morning, I had just dropped Barry at the station to go to work and when I got back Joanne said the hospital had rung and wanted us up there. I immediately rang Barry’s work and asked that they send him straight home again. When Barry returned home, we went straight to the hospital to find my Mums name was not on the patient board. We were told my Mum had passed away. (41 days after my Dad had passed.)

Coming to Australia

In 2008, we made the biggest decision as husband and wife and emigrated to Australia. We packed up our worldly goods and made the change. I had always wanted to come to Australia for years and was able to live my dream. We had support from UK family. Our children (one was already in Australia), supported our decision. We also had amazing support from cousins in Australia, Peter, his wife Dianne and my other cousin Lin.

What do you love about Australia?

I love it all! I love the weather. I love the country and I love the people. They are so much friendlier and laid back than in the UK. One thing I never realized was how big the place was!!

Do you miss anything about the UK?

Apart from my son and daughter in law, not really. Of course, we have been back for a visit and it is lovely to see all the charm of UK villages and the history, but nothing beats living where I am now.

Favorite Australian holiday

My favorite has to be Far North Queensland. You have the hinterland, beaches, rainforests, the lot.  It’s all there!

Would you change anything?

Nope!

My Dad and I on my wedding day.

The Phillips Family

On my birthday -2018