Brenda Peacock (Née Linden)

This was written in 2116 by Brenda with the aid of a volunteer, when she had the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.


My Family

My mother’s name was Rose Edith Stella Linden (née Wilson) she was an accounts manager in a shop (Women’s clothing, underwear).

My mother had 7 siblings! Only three siblings survived. They were Uncle Bill Wilson, Aunt Daisy (who married William Ransom), and Uncle Fred (whom married Nellie).

My father’s name was George Excel Linden he worked as a milkman.

My Childhood

I was born at home in Brighton on the April 5th 1935. I am the youngest of two daughters. My elder sister is called Joan and we are very close.

My earliest memories are of living at home with my Mum and Dad. We lived in a house at 83 Roundhill Crescent, Brighton. My father’s brother Len lived in the same house. He was married and had three children. They were a little older than me but I enjoyed playing with them. I remember that one day they were all ill and had to stay in bed and I stayed with them climbing into bed and giggling and singing. My mother was not happy when she discovered us there as they all had measles. I can’t remember if I caught it.

When I went to Lewes Road Infants School, I went there with my sister Joan. I remember that for the first days I went to school I was unhappy and cried a lot and my sister was asked to take me home.

After we moved to another house I went to Ditchling Road School. I was much happier there.

This was a wonderfully run school, calm, well ordered and with such high standards of teaching. On my first day of school there my mother told the headmistress, Miss Haffenden, that I was left handed and under no circumstances was I to be using my right hand. Before going to school I was writing from right to left and completely back to front, but I soon got it right!

When we came home from school, my Mum was still working, so Joan looked after me.

I remember when I was very young I was a shy little girl. My sister and I enjoyed playing games and putting on shows in front of my Mum. She found our shows very amusing, but she also wanted to sit down and have a cup of tea!

We had moved to a house in Princes Road, Brighton. This was much better than the old house as we had a small back garden here and more space inside to race about enjoying the space. In the kitchen there was a black range cooker which we often sat by. It was polished black until it shone and the concrete slab it stood on was whitened with pumice stone. Monday was washing day. First of all it was all boiled in a copper boiler which was built into on corner of the scullery. A fire was lit underneath it and it was left to boil for some time. When it was taken out Mother then washed it in a large zinc bowl in the sink, scrubbing the washing on a plank and I stood on a stool and was allowed to scrub small items, hankies etc. The washing was then rinsed and taken out the back yard where everything was put through a mangle, coming through the rollers like stiff sheets of cardboard to then be hung out to dry.

When I was eleven I progressed to a new school, Varndean Grammar School for Girls. It was further up the hill from where we lived and I cycled there, pushing the bike up the difficult slopes. I liked my time at Varndean and did well, passing a number of exams.

This was all during war time of course. I was only four when war broke out. It was announced on the radio on a sunny Sunday morning that war had been declared. My mother was making a fruit cake. I was leaning against the doorframe leading outside and was discreetly popping the paint bubbles I could find with my fingers. The news about the war didn’t mean much to me then, but my sister Joan remembers my mother saying “I never thought to see this happen again”. She had lived during the 1914 – 1918 war of course.

My Dad was called up to join the army on the 26th June 1941, and served in the eighth army serving under General Montgomery.

He was first posted to Africa and fought at the battle of El Alamein. He came back to England for about six weeks before he went to France shortly after D-Day.

On the day he left for the first time we went to say goodbye at the station but because we found it difficult to say goodbye we ended up getting on the train with him! When the train set off we were still on board! We went all the way to Victoria Station when we kissed him and said our final goodbyes. It was very sad to see my Dad disappear to catch the next train.

He served in the Royal Corps of Signals as a Linesman laying lines for telephone communications for the advancing troops.

My Dad didn’t tell us much about his war experiences. He was injured during the war with shrapnel in the leg whilst up a telegraph pole in France. He ended up staying in a hospital for a time out there. Whilst later in Holland he stayed with a family who looked after him. After the war my family kept in touch with this family. Joan and I became pen friends with their children and we sent them clothes we had grown out of to help them, and my parents went to visit them after the war.

At this time we had a Morrison shelter which was installed in our living room. Joan and I slept in it during bombing raids.

During the war my father came back on leave a few times. I remember one time when Dad came back and we hadn’t seen him for two years. I was leaving school with Joan and saw this soldier standing at the gates. When I saw him I knew it was Dad and I raced over to see him. Joan called me back; telling me to be careful, but I carried on and gave my Dad a hug. I was over the moon!

When I was at Ditchling Road School I was a monitor and in this role was responsible for looking after children if they fell ill. My favourite lesson was drawing.

With the war still going on we had to stay in the shelters underground often. We always carried an assortment of crayons and books and anything else which might amuse us in bags or satchels when we went to school in case we had to go down into the shelters. There were lights down in the shelter so we could read. I remember the sirens going off, telling us we had to seek shelter. The teachers made sure we went there in an orderly way. I also recall the gas masks and wearing them when we were told to by the teachers.

I remember that we couldn’t go down to the beaches in Brighton because the authorities had closed them off with barbed wire. Another memory I have is of the doodle bugs going over little dots in the sky. They came with a strange sound and when the sound stopped it was worrying because it meant that they were about to drop to ground, and we didn’t know where they would drop.

When the war was over the streets were filled with celebrations and parties and people were dancing everywhere.

My father returned from the war on the 11th June 1946. I was so excited when he came home that I didn’t want to go into school. I wanted to stay with my Dad. I told Mum I was ill but she could see I was being cheeky, but she let me stay at home for one day.

Dad then announced he had plans of moving abroad and setting up a new life in South Africa or Australia. My Mum was not keen at all and did not want to go, and after a lot of discussions about this Dad eventually gave way and we stayed in Brighton. I’m glad we stayed.

The shrapnel in my Dad’s war wound was not fully removed and this caused him some problems. Towards the end of his life it began to cause him a lot of pain and ended up being the cause of his death.

I did not really remember what it was like before rationing as I grew up from an early age with these restrictions. You could say rationing was a way of life. Later I became aware of how much Mum had to cope with getting us meals. When rationing ended the thing I remember the most is being able to eat lots more sweets!

Another memory I have is when Mum and Dad got a TV. This was memorable because we were the first on our street to get one and the neighbours wanted to come round to find out if it was true we had one and could watch what was on. On the day of the Queen’s coronation we invited them all in and the front room was crowded. The family spent a lot of time making cups of tea for everyone.

The first time I travelled on holiday was when I was about seventeen. I went with my sister Joan. We travelled over the channel on a ferry and then took a train and headed into France.

We were met at the station by Joan’s friend who we were to stay with. We then went off on trips into the countryside and sometimes we met boys who wanted to chat us up. Joan was much better than me at dealing with this, as I was too shy to want to talk with them much. But I have many fond memories of these days in the sunshine, wandering about with my sister Joan.

Significant Life Events

I met my husband Gerry when I was 16 (he was the same age). I was at the dance hall and Gerry asked me for a dance. Gerry wasn’t as keen a dancer as I was. I loved dancing! In those days we danced mainly to big band music and I went regularly with my friends to the Regent Dance Hall where we danced to Syd Dean’s band.

Later, when I was outside the ballroom venue, my girl friends told me Gerry was interested in going out with me. I was astounded when I heard this. I thought he must be being silly but he wasn’t! And so began our romance.

Our first few dates together were often spent at the cinema because here, whilst the film was showing we could discreetly hold hands. We also took long walks along the seafront in Brighton, with the family dog Rover on the end of a lead. We went along the pier and looked out to sea whilst the waves broke over the shore. Gerry looked very like Tommy Steele who was a ‘pop star’ of the time.

Gerry had a difficult time living at home. His father was often ill and in hospital for much of the time. His mother had mental health problems and she ended up being taken away to stay in a mental hospital. It wasn’t a nice place to visit when we went to see her.

So I asked my Mum if Gerry could live with us. It was agreed he could and Gerry moved in.

Soon after Gerry had to join up and do his National Service. We wrote to each other every few days. He came home for short periods on leave and we met up. It was good to see him again, and we had a lot of good fun.

It was always sad to say goodbye when he had to return to the barracks. I remember one time when he lost his cap as he was racing off to catch a train. Fortunately he got it back.

It wasn’t long after he was demobbed that we were able to get married

I remember it was very early in the morning we married as Gerry’s brother (Jim) could only make it early in the day. It was also very cold. Jim was an ice skater and had to get back for his work. Gerry was working at the time as a sign maker and just before the wedding he cut both his thumbs and so he turned up with bandages. The wedding was in January and it was a wet day.

I remember my father was getting nervous about the whole thing and kept giving Gerry cigarettes. The reception afterwards was a bit odd as it was so early in the day. My father was too nervous to give a speech and disappeared to the bar downstairs and wouldn’t return. So my good friend Brian, who worked with me at the Co-op, stood up and gave a lovely speech.

Afterwards Gerry and I went on our honeymoon to London. We went by train and had an entire carriage to ourselves. We stayed at the Strand Palace Hotel. It rained but we didn’t care. We spent five days there, visiting many places and going to the cinema. It was great fun. When we returned it was very cold and so we stayed at Mum and Dad’s.

I was working for the Brighton Equitable Co-operative Society in their department store, doing the window dressing. I loved this job and got on extremely well with the people I worked with. At this time, though we were living in a nice flat, there was a horrible landlady who lived downstairs. We decided that we had to move and found a house on Old Shoreham Road in Southwick. It was too far for me to get to work in Brighton, and so, after eight very happy years there, I had to leave. Gerry had been working for a shop in Brighton, making high quality carrying bags and cases. His brother wanted him to work with him skating in the ‘Holiday on Ice’ shows which travelled all over the world. Jim, Gerry’s brother, had a solo act he wanted Gerry to join. I was against it, and Gerry wasn’t interested at all. It was about this time that he changed his job and became an insurance agent, work which he did until he retired.

Gerry was a practical man, who could turn his hand to almost anything.

He would often embark on complicated repairs with the most basic tools, yet he would always succeed and never gave in. He once spent a whole day taking the family car’s engine apart to fix something. At 4 o’clock in the afternoon, he hit a problem. So he did what dad did and he went to bed. Early the next morning, he dashed to the shed and emerged with an improvised tool made a bent spoon, which finished the job.

When our boys were young he would always make, fix, or improve things. When it snowed, he built us a sled from an old sideboard.

At Infant school Graham needed a Robin Hood outfit. Dad made him a bow and arrow from a stick and string and a horn from a banana, some tin foil and sticky-back plastic.

Later on in junior school at an Easter egg competition. The other children’s eggs were painted with pretty patterns. The Peacock boys with a little help from Gerry entered Egg-ward Heath and Tutankhamen-ham-and-egg. Each won top prize for a masterpiece that Madam Tussaud would be proud of.

Later on when we had our two boys we had a dog who was very fluffy. We called him Sam.

My Working Life

My first proper job was working in a department store, the Brighton Equitable Co-operative Society in London Road. I worked there as a window dresser, arranging displays with a small team. This was the most favourite job in my life. I made many friends while I was there. We had to make all of the props and decorations ourselves and come up with new ideas all the time. At this point I was the only woman wearing trousers in the department store. I worked with two men, one was in charge and the other, Brian, became a great friend and still writes to me to this day.

After we moved to Southwick I found a job at a women’s lingerie factory – Deyong Golding. They made underwear for Marks and Spencers. My job was to cut everything out. Mr Golding’s family used to come to the factory sometimes, and I remember seeing his three little daughters. Little did I know that one day my nephew David would marry the youngest of them – Georgie. After two or three years I gave up work entirely to bring up my two children, Trevor and Graham.

After the boys had started school I returned to work and this time I worked at the Co-op in Boundary Road, Hove. I was based in the electrical department. When the managers were away I liked to turn up the volume of the music and fill the whole store with lovely sounds!

My next job was working for the Alliance Building Society near Hove Park. I was an office administrator at first but then was moved to the repossessions department.

I didn’t like this job, telling people they had to move out of their homes owing to debts, but I had no choice. My work involved me in making sure all the figures added up and in the end I settled in and enjoyed working with the team. I stayed here until I retired and to this day I still stay in touch with a number of my old colleagues.

I enjoyed all of the jobs I did and the worst thing was leaving them! I would do exactly the same jobs again.

Important people

Today the most important people for me are my two sons, Trevor and Graham, Graham’s wife Juliet and their children Gabriel and Isabelle.

I am also very close to my sister Joan. I speak with her every day.

Joan married Bill, who was an accountant, in 1953. They moved to Hassocks. Six years later Bill got a transfer to work in Kenya East Africa. They moved out there and lived there for 20 years.

Joan was a secretary to the manager of a prestigious hotel in Nairobi. Joan and Bill had two sons Pete and David who were babies when they went to live in Kenya.

They returned to the UK to live in Brighton in 1979.

Sadly both our husbands have now died. Since we have both been widowed we have been on some lovely holidays together. When our husbands were both alive we went on holidays together then, mainly staying in Gîtes in France because Gerry was frightened of flying. Since Gerry passed away, I’ve been with Joan to places such as Kenya, Pompeii and Weston Super-mare! I hope we can go way again, even if only for a short break.

Special Places

My present home is my ideal place. I’ve lived in Southwick and Portslade for most of my life.

I like walking up on the Downs behind my house. I used to walk my dog Sam on the Downs and he enjoyed it very much.

My husband’s ashes are scattered on a path nearby, next to a stone called “Rest and be Thankful”. I also like to walk along the sea front. I enjoy the space and the feel of the wind and the smells too.

We used to go on holiday to Cornwall when the children were young. I loved it. We also had friends in Credition, Devon.

We met these friends Don and Jill when we were on holiday, aboard a flight to Crete. Gerry noticed that Jill was very anxious sitting in the plane and was reading a book upside down. Gerry asked if Jill was all right. We then realised we were both going to the same place for our holiday. From then on we became good friends. Don and Jill invited us to stay in their farmhouse in Devon. We visited them several times. Sadly Don died a few years ago. But Jill is still living on the farm with her son who is continuing with the business.

When we went on holiday with the children they were always very happy, ‘as happy as sand boys’. Everything went well, though I do have a memory of Graham almost losing his shoes! He got them back but they were soaking wet. For some reason he had dropped them in the river. Gerry made him walk back home with them so he learnt not get them wet again. Sometimes Gerry came home and said to us all: “We’re going out!” Suddenly I had to get everything organised and off we went. But it all worked out well.

In the latter part of the seventies my sister Joan invited Gerry and me to stay with her and Bill in their home in Kenya, Nairobi. They had been living there for 20 years but were thinking of returning to England so asked us to come before they returned.

Gerry didn’t initially want to go to Africa. He was scared of flying such a long distance and thought it would cost too much. But he eventually came round to the idea. We had to leave the children behind as they were still at school, so I asked a friend to look after them.

We were out there for twelve days and saw many amazing sights: elephants, giraffes, zebras. We had a guide who took us on the safari trips. The weather was lovely and hot. When it was time to come home, I was very sad, especially leaving my sister Joan behind. But Joan and her husband were coming back to England soon so I wouldn’t have to wait too long before I saw them again.

The children were delighted to see us when we got back, so it was a joyful occasion. We brought them gifts from Africa. Once we had settled back into our lives in England, Gerry got his films developed and we then inflicted our home movies on the kids, showing us having fun in Africa seeing the wild animals.

Social Activities and Interests

The one thing I loved to do most of all in my spare time was to draw and paint pictures. During the war years we didn’t have much spare paper lying around, so when I found some I always made sure I made use of it and drew pictures.

When I retired I had more time for my art work and I went to classes as well. In fact I became the treasurer of the club for a while. I had a few of my paintings shown at exhibitions which was very exciting, though I didn’t sell any! I used to paint in the dining room, with my artwork spread out all over the table.

Going to the art classes meant I made some new friends and still see some of them today. Gerry and I used to enjoy visiting art galleries and sometimes we bought a painting and took it home.

If I wasn’t drawing then my other love was to read, mainly thrillers. Robert Goddard is my favourite author. Sadly I don’t read so much now as I tend to fall asleep!

I like going for walks and enjoying the scenery, listening to music (I enjoy all sorts of music and when I was young I especially liked music to dance to), knitting (though usually things turned out the wrong shape!). Another thing I would love to do is playing scrabble. I would regularly play with my sister.

Music is an interest of mine. I enjoy listening to Peter Dawson – if those lips could only speak and cruising down the river. These days Joe and I go to a U3A group where we enjoy singing.

My Life Now 2016 onwards

In our retirement Gerry and I would often go on holidays with Joan and her husband Bill. The place we visited the most was France. I loved these times and enjoyed the trips we made and also the times we simply sat down and enjoyed a beautiful view.

Sadly a few years ago, my husband Gerry became ill and I looked after him at our house. This was very hard but I loved him and knew this was what I had to do. In the end Gerry moved to a hospice. I visited him there everyday. On the day he died I remember it so well. It was a beautiful clear day, the sun was shining but it was cold. I was sitting with Gerry in the morning and in the afternoon I met Graham – he and Juliet had only just had their second baby, Isabelle, and together we both went to see Gerry again. Gerry held my hand. He couldn’t speak but he gave me a huge kiss. Somehow I knew it was close to the end. Trevor then came over on the train. Graham picked him up from the station. This meant we were all there to say our goodbyes. I said to Gerry that wherever he was going to end up he was to save a place for me right next to him. Afterwards, when we left the hospice the world outside looked amazingly beautiful, the sky was a strange pink and I think there was snow on the ground.

Now when I look back on my life I know that I have so many happy memories. I wouldn’t have done anything differently. I am still living in my lovely house in Southwick. I am trying to start my painting again. This has been difficult but I am slowly getting there. When the weather is nice I go out for walks, especially by the sea. I am supported by my lovely sons and they mean everything to me.

People who are important to me now

I am fortunate to have two sons; Trevor and Graham.

Trevor lives in Surrey and his occupation is in IT. He has created many gadgets and clever systems for me that helped me remember things and stay organised.

Graham lives with his wife Juliet in Plumpton Sussex. Graham works in music managing bands and events. I am very proud of my two beautiful grandchildren Gabriel and Isabelle.

My sister Joan lives in Hove.

My two nephews are David and Peter

Joe Pepper is my personal assistant and he visits on Tuesday and Thursday’s. He has a lovely dog called Roxy.

We go out for lunch, attend appointments, and enjoy days out.

Some of our favourites are the having lunch at the Cricketers, Borde Hill view, walking in Haywards Heath, Southwick/Shoreham, and walking to the beach with Roxy. We also enjoy going to Charlton House and gardens, Sheffield Park, Eastbourne Discussion Group, and the Towner Art Gallery.