Below is a further chapter from A Kerridge Childhood written by Enid Simpson. For a full introduction and index to all the stories please see the head page.
Here was another soul who needed help. Harriet, who would be in her mid 40’s, lived with her Mother in a tiny cottage nearby our house on Kerridge. I never heard of her father, who probably was dead when I knew them. Harriet was tall, around six feet, and when I visualize the tiny home in which they lived, I wonder how they managed. Theirs was the cottage which contained a Grandfather clock which was too tall to fit into the living room. So they had a square hole cut in the ceiling and the head of the clock was pushed through this, with the face sitting on the bedroom floor. Why ever they did not cut the same amount from the foot of the clock, I don’t know.
Harriet’s mother was taken ill and eventually died. Mother was sent for at the last moments of her life and told how Harriet cradled her mother in her arms, crying “Dunna leave me”. Poor soul, she had probably leaned on her mother all her life, and could not picture life without her.
Though Harriet was tall and physically well built, I think she was slightly mentally retarded. Following her mother’s death, she would walk about the village muttering to herself and never returned a greeting.
Wearing an overlarge Burberry with nary a button, a large floppy hat and men’s boots without any laces, she looked like a wild woman. Her eyes were red and her whole demeanour was of abject neglect. She always clutched a large handbag under her arm, and this, with her collection of flapping clothes, gave her the look of a witch. Children were frightened by her, though I always found her benign and defenceless.
I suspect Mother paid her many visits and listened to her, though she never said very much. I do know that Mother would always take Harriet’s side and defend her from those who wanted to deride her.
I wonder often what happened to poor Harriet, for she was an object of pity. Maybe she found sanctuary and peace at the end of her life.
I hope so.
© 1985 Enid Simpson