Thursday, 19 January 2012

Mannie and Eliza? Eliza and Mannie? Who Knows?

Yesterday I told you about Mannie, who was a foster parent of mine many years ago. Today I want to introduce you to Eliza, his wife, and a foster mother. To describe Eliza as Mannie's wife, doesn't quite ring true as I write this. Perhaps I should turn things around and say that Mannie was Eliza's husband.

Because the truth is that Eliza was the strong one in their relationship. For all his show of toughness, Mannie was no match at all for her quiet strength of character. If all the stories Mannie spun about his sexual shenanigans were true, then it was obvious that Eliza had put up with an awful lot of nonsense from him, during their many years together. But then again maybe Mannie had to talk himself up, just so that he felt manly.

Most of the bullshitters I have met in my life, and there have been quite a few, have been fairly sad characters. Watching Mannie as he dried the dishes, or hung the washing on the line, or going off to the shops, pulling a little shopping trolley, it was difficult to equate that with the tough guy he undoubtedly had been once. This observation of mine has to be taken in the context that in those days, men did not, in the main, contribute much in the way of housework.

Eliza was beautiful. She was tall, and even in her faded clothes, elegant. Her hair was long, but always worn up. Ladylike. Statuesque I believe the word is. The complete antithesis of her short, wiry husband. In her late sixties when I first met her, I admired her a lot, and perhaps not always in the respectful way a teenage boy should admire a lady of her age!

She was an undoubted snob. Meeting her for the first time, you would be surprised to learn that she had spent most of her life on the road, living in a wagon, traveling with Mannie from showground to showground. Although remembering the snobbishness of my Mother, who lived at times in a tent in the woods, maybe it is not such a strange thing.

A highly intelligent woman, Eliza had gone without formal education. What she knew, and she knew a lot, she had mostly taught herself. She and I would spend time together doing crossword puzzles. She could complete the 'Times' crossword in record time. The 'Times' being the only newspaper she would allow in the house.

She chain smoked. Each cigarette being held elegantly in a long holder. Even in those days, when filter tipped cigarettes were commonplace, the holder seemed to suit her character, without appearing an affectation.

There was, in Eliza's eyes, only one way to sit in a chair, even an easy chair, and that was bolt upright, back straight. She frowned on slouching.

I never knew her to leave the house, apart from sitting in the garden. I never heard her speak to any of the neighbours, or them to her. Although this was a council estate, where everybody knew everybody. Perhaps she felt she was too grand for them. Or maybe it was that she came from a completely different way of life, and found it hard to adapt.

She frightened me a little with her ladylike ways, but truth to tell I was very fond of her. Looking back now with the benefit of wisdom built up through many years, I have come to believe that Eliza, had made a shield for herself. I think she was simply just a terribly shy person.

Sometimes during the writing of a post, I find my thoughts changing. It has happened again. I have somewhat revised my opinion. Maybe Mannie was the strong one in their relationship after all!


  1. You are gaining a great deal of wisdom as you look back at moments of your life. We can all take a lesson.

  2. It seems to me that children used to interact with very interesting people, but that now they are kept protected from anyone who seems "a little odd."

  3. Your story proves that you can not judge a book by it's cover.

  4. Writing does that ... it evolves, suddenly. Writing is strong therapy.