Louise Ford.....A Letter from The Netherlands.....More Photographs to go into this story...

Louise Ford.....A Letter from The Netherlands.....More Photographs to go into this story...

I was born in the house of my na-na (my mothers’ mother) at 1, Crow Nest Cottages, Lightcliffe. Later my parents moved to 20 Ripley Street, Lightcliffe. Granny lived at Hill Top, Lightcliffe.

Crow Nest Cottages2 22 July 1919

Crow Nest Cottages form the block of four properties in the foreground where the two white curtains are. These cottages were formerly part of the Crow Nest Estate which was once the home of the nineteenth century businessman Sir Titus Salt. This photograph was taken on July 22, 1919. 

Number 20 Ripley Street was a wonderful place for growing up, right at the end of the row of terraces and surrounded by the fields belonging to Green’s farm. I spent much time playing out in the fields there and in the winter sledging down Jasper Hill. School was Lightcliffe School, either walking there, or paying 2½ pennies on the bus. I remember the corner shop at the end of Ripley Street owned by Cockburn’s. This was the days before supermarkets. I used to run errands for mum and sometimes she would give me money to buy a bottle of pop. My favourite was dandelion and burdock which I suppose tasted rather like coca cola. I was surprised to hear that the shop famously exploded later, luckily without any casualties. At na-na’s house and granny’s there wasn’t a toilet it was a pot under the bed.

At na-na’s house we used to go mushroom picking in the fields behind her house (now the golf club) and making sarsaparilla in the cellar. Na-na always used get me to wave at the trains as they went past her house. It was still steam trains and travelling with the ‘puffing billy’ was still an exciting thing to do.

Granny’s home at Hill Top was just a very small house and I was surprised to see recently that this has now been doubled in size by building out over the garden. When granny had died mum and dad had sold it on something called ‘rental purchase.’ No mortgage!

Hill Top Lightcliffe c1912                                 

                     Hill Top, St Giles Road c 1912. Little has changed to when Louise's granny lived in the same street some 40 years later.                

At the age of six I was diagnosed with nephritis and was sent off to Halifax Infirmary and then for a year to recover at Fielden Children’s Hospital at Todmorden (since demolished). Since it was an Isolation Hospital visits were not encouraged, and as it was a long way away (my parents did not have a car and worked during the day) I was alone for a whole year with very sporadic visits from family. A lonely life for a six-year-old. This wouldn’t happen nowadays.

The house at Ripley Street did not have a bathroom, we used to bring up a metal bath from the cellar once a week. Amazing to think that most people nowadays do not feel clean unless they shower daily. Needing the extra room in 1963 we moved to Bradford Road, Bailiff Bridge, and I started at my secondary school, St Martin’s in Brighouse, which had a well-deserved bad reputation. It was a question of ducking and diving through it. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. After St Martin’s I went on to gain secretarial qualifications at Bradford Tech.     

In 1964 when I was 12, I remember going on holiday to stay in Blackpool with mum, dad, and my cousin Nancy. We went to see a new group at the Tower Ballroom called ‘The Rolling Stones.’ They caused a riot, and my parents were dismayed to find the street filled with ambulances and police cars when they came to collect us.

Rolling Stones July 24 1964 at Blackpool

The Rolling Stones - a ticket similar to the one I had in 1964

This resulted in the Stones being banned from Blackpool for 50 years, which I don’t think would have bothered them much. Later on, I would go to ‘The Plebs’ in Halifax. Anything trendy - I’d be there.

As a teenager I worked as a Saturday girl at Brown and Muff’s department store in Bradford - what a shame it closed. We used to go on family shopping trips every Saturday, and I remember going with mum and my sister up to Busby’s for mum to buy herself fantastically designed hats, and one particular one that was covered in plastic bows which mum loved. This was the 60s.

Brown and Muffs Dept Styore closed 1995 geograph 490896 by Betty Longbottom

                                           Brown and Muffs closed in 1995 and the property has been occupied by various different businesses                                          since - here in 2007 it was occup[ied by Dillions Books. Photo ©  Betty Longbottom (cc-by-sa/2.o)

At the age of 18 I qualified and decided to look for a secretarial position in London. I was attracted by the big lights and the trendy scene that London was famous for at the time.

The 1970s were famous for industrial strikes. At every opportunity, some union or another would decide that it was time for its members to go on strike. As soon as I arrived in London, they had a postal strike. I thought it might be a sensible idea not to apply at first for a secretarial position, as I thought they might not be requiring secretaries if you couldn’t post a letter. (Yes, I actually thought like that in those days!) So, I decided to take a job as a cinema usherette.

For this job, I was provided with uniform with ‘ABC Cinemas’ written on the pocket, and underneath a fake blouse with frills and a fake bow tie. If this wasn’t bad enough, the second day they put a big tray filled with ice-creams and lollies over my neck and I had to walk down the steps from the back to the front of the cinema with the spotlight following me and I stood shame faced at the front with the spotlight still shining full on me attempting to sell the ice creams. I died of embarrassment and never went back.

The next job I took was at a place called ‘The Office of Manpower Economics’ as a secretary. Its role was and still is as a pay body for workers, teachers, nurses, and the army and the like. I remember when we were working on the miners’ pay during one of the miners’ strikes, we were asked to work overnight so that the nation could get its lights on again.

After a few years of living in London and after working in Bradford for an engineering company and a woollen company and in Jersey for a bank. I decided to apply for a job in Amsterdam, friends of mine had already left for Holland. By chance I got a job as Secretary to the Representative for the British Council in Amsterdam. It was like being a secretary on ‘Yes Minister.’

The British Council was responsible for British Cultural Interchange in the Netherlands - British books, cinema and music and ballet. The office was situated on one of the most famous canals in a very chique part of Amsterdam.

When I arrived in Amsterdam in 1979 it was a very different city to what it has now become. It was enjoying a ‘hippy’ phase. At the time a famous guru, Osho, was living in Amsterdam who had recommended to his followers that they would feel happier if they always wore red (as well as partaking in lots of free love etc, etc). So, lots of people dressed in different shades of red were wandering around the city.

'Amsterdam in the 1970s was very lefty inspired'. Many marijuana coffee bars and shops, all legal. Many people were drawing social security. You just had to have the slightest sign of sickness or stress and you could claim social security no questions asked. It was still a very wealthy city, and much good but unwanted furniture could be left outside for the dustbin men to collect. If you were quick, you could carry it home for yourself on your bike. I managed a four-drawer cabinet once. I used to be amazed to see how much the ‘cloggies’ could fit on their bikes – children, shopping, and the usual crate of Heineken. Nowadays bike carriers are used.

Marijuana growing was popular and legal and my then partner filled our balcony with so many containers of weed that I had no space left for hanging out the washing. Other things I had to get used to were the mosquitos which could wake you up a dozen times in the night with their vicious bites and the mice which just gnaw their way from one house to the next.

In Holland then, women were encouraged to give birth at home and painkillers were not given. I can bear witness to this, having received silent congratulations by way of (anonymous) bunches of flowers from the surrounding neighbours the moring after giving birth to my daughter Amanda at home in 1984. My partner and I have now gone our separate ways.

Many women in those days were having babies without partners for intellectual reasons (women’s lib), instead of the usual reasons I was used to in Bradford. In fact, young teenage mothers were and still are very much almost unheard of here.

At the British Council in 1981 we all toasted the happy couple Charles and Diana with champagne on their marriage, and I fell off my bike on the way home and ended up with a black eye having imbibed a bit too much of the champagne.

Things I noticed when I arrived was that people were taller than I was used to and the friendly, direct, and famous tolerance of the people. Now in the 20s this tolerance, especially in respect of government dictatorship and authority is now changing. There have been huge demonstrations against the ‘Covid’ regulations. If a demonstration was banned then the people just went ahead anyway, without permission. No masks were worn during the demonstrations and no respect for ‘social distancing’.

When, for instance, barriers are set up on pavements (sometimes for months on end) which can mean people having to walk a detour of 500 meters just to cross the road, these barriers are often dismantled. (They are constantly rebuilding roads and pavements which causes great inconvenience for all concerned).

When the traditional New Year fireworks were banned, people just went over the border to buy them in Belgium and set them off anyway).

I now live on the top floor of an old house in a very lively part of the old city. I wanted to live on the top floor so as not to be bothered by noise from overhead neighbours – these old houses are very noisy. The downside to this is that my apartment is reached by a very steep long staircase. I advise visitors laughingly that they will need to bring their oxygen bottle for the ascent to my house. These houses were built in this fashion to save as much space as possible in the days before Holland reclaimed land from the sea. This reclamation created more space and the flats built after the land reclamation are much bigger and quieter. Unfortunately, there is again a shortage of accommodation and property prices (whenever anything comes up for sale) are sky high.

In 1995 I decided to study painting at the art academy here in Amsterdam. By a sheer fluke I had also taken some ‘socially inspired’ photos I had taken in Bradford. I was accepted for the photography and not the painting department.

After graduating in the millennium year, I was granted a stipendium (twice) by the Netherlands Department of Culture which gave me an income for a few years to concentrate on my work. Owing to bad health I had to stop my practice.

As my sickness was not a recognised one, I was not entitled to sick benefits, so I took a job with a care organisation helping the old people with their daily tasks. The old people were often healthier and more energetic than me but somehow counting holidays and sick days I managed to keep going even though it was only for 24 hours a week spread out over seven days.

Since retiring, (thankfully for all concerned), I have been told I have become quite the nerd. I have also become a representative for the company selling the breakthrough product for cellular health which was eventually instrumental in me recovering my health.

Who would have thought that I would have progressed from disco-dancing with friends round our handbags in the 70s to being a nerd in the 20s? How could I have imagined that from using a chamber pot in my childhood I would now be living in such a technological age with computers? Somehow, I preferred my earlier simpler life.

I would welcome hearing from anyone who remembers me or connects in one way or another.

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