NannyGranny’s Olden Days’ Middle Years 20

Settling back into life in Wainuiomata, my husband, carried on taxi driving in Wellington, the older children were enrolled in the newly built Arakura school in our area, and I found part-time work mornings, and Friday and Saturday teatime evenings. in a fish and chip shop over the hill in Woburn. A friendly Samoan lady, living around the corner replied to my advert for a babysitter and agreed to care for the youngest girl.

Kosta Karamahailov, an elderly Bulgarian, who could only talk in broken English, was my new boss, and each morning he and I cooked up enough, huge piles of battered fish, hot dogs, and chips. to last for the rest of the day. Then I cleaned the shop, mopping the floors and using what Kosta called, the old ‘Bulgarian sack trick’ to dry them. This entailed me, skating up and down across the floors on a potato sack, until they were no longer wet and slippery. Then, together we served up the ‘greasies’ in newspaper parcels, to the lunchtime customers.

Kosta was very good hearted and tried to send me home everyday with a large packet of fish and chips for the children, however, I always tried to decline, embarrassed the smell would stink my bus out. Sometimes, he would run up the street after me, all decked out in his white cook’s outfit and hat with the parcel and shove it on me, just as I was boarding.

In our quiet times, we would have breaks in Kosta’s little room in the shop where he cooked up his meals on a small hotplate, while I had a cuppa. In our talks, he told me, his father back in Bulgaria had been a minister in the government, before their country was taken over by the communists. One time he asked me in his pidgin English, if I would like to do some,’Jig a Jig’ with him. I guessed he was getting at doing ‘it’ and told him no thanks.

Two police officers turned up in the shop one morning and were questioning Kosta about a girl who had complained that he had sexually assaulted her. When he said he couldn’t understand English very good, they asked me, did I think he would do that. I told them, I didn’t think so, without even knowing what it was, and they left.

My husband’s brother was doing stealing and came to visit us with some of his stolen stuff, asking to hide it under our house, which really scared me. His mother Elsie blamed the family he had married into, reckoning they were a bit dodgy. But after he got caught robbing from a Jewelry store across the road from where he lived, which was a bit dumb, he was sentenced to do time in the Mount Crawford prison, way up on a hill overlooking Wellington harbour.

Going through two sets of the tallest doors ever and hearing the noise of them clanging shut behind, when we went to the prison on a visit, gave me a real creepy feeling. I thought how awful it must be to get locked in there, just like going through the locked doors at ‘Porirua’ mental hospital, to see my sister.

The visitors and prisoners were given an allotted time to all mingle together in a large room. It was a big surprise to me that children were visiting and even stranger, across the room, I spotted Reg, our old English boss from Bata’s gumboot line. I couldn’t help but wonder what he had done to come to this end.

Our eldest boy, now nine, had been given a new bike for his birthday, and was out riding up and down Wellington Road, when a car ploughed into him. He had forgotten to do his hand signals and turned directly in front of them. I heard the crash, and rushed out to see him lying all bloodied and still on the road.

Someone called the ambulance, and after it arrived, I traveled with him to the Lower Hutt hospital. It seemed a long journey to get there, over the big hill , with him crying and moaning, saying stuff that was making no sense and me fearing the worst. Luckily, he only ended up with a broken leg and spent a few weeks in hospital to learn to walk again, using crutches.

I found new work in the evenings as the tea lady at the, Wainuiomata, Bata factory, because it fit in better with my husband’s work. Getting to know one of the night shift workers there, we found out that we hit it off and began seeing each other outside of work. He was like me, stuck in a marriage that was miserable.

My husband had replaced hiding out in his shed with his taxi driving, and would completely disappear for days on end after arguments. One time, having no money and only a bowl of custard to feed all the children for their tea, I was desperate for money, and had to ring him at work and beg him to come home to help us.

Each time we would jog along for a bit more until he got upset again. I heard that when he was missing, he was staying over with Jean, his mother’s sewing line friend. Because she was a lot older than him, it never occurred to me that anything was going on, other than she was providing him a sleepover place.

We had been so unhappy for so long and grown so far apart, I figured if we had not been able to make things work out after nine years of hanging in there, it was never going to happen. With a heavy sadness, I went to a solicitor in Lower Hutt to begin the process of getting a divorce. When I told him, he wanted us to go to marriage guidance, but for me that was too little too late. We agreed for me to have the house and split up our other stuff.