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 CHRISTINE CANN - MAIDENHEAD YEARS 1964-2005

 

1960s...

  

9 Shirley Road, Maidenhead, Berkshire.

In April 1964, Christine, Clive and Reva relocated 25 miles away to this 10-year-old semi-detached house in the growing riverside town of Maidenhead. They continued to commute
to their respective workplaces in London by train - the town had excellent rail links, and the London-bound stretch of the M4 motorway had been completed a year previously.

 

They purchased the property from Estate Agents Arthur Perrett & Partners - for the princely sum of £4,350!

 

This was to remain Christine's home for the remainder of her life. 

 

 

 

 

     


Here's Clive in the expansive back garden at 9 Shirley Road, 
overshadowed to the rear by a full-size oak tree which stood in a neighbouring garden (and fills most of the background here). To his right are rose bushes (inherited from the previous occupants), and to his left a kitchen-garden which he turned into a mini-allotment!
 


Jim: "One thing I remember very well is your father's first venture into serious gardening during the first year of their marriage. He bought a packet of lettuce seeds and planted them all - hundreds of them - and they all matured together, and everyone in the office had lettuces galore."
 

 

He would spend the next ten years or so pottering around the garden most Sunday afternoons in his galoshes, enjoying maintaining his new-found patch of garden. Very often on Saturdays he would visit his father at the butcher's shop in Chiswick - a very convenient journey literally straight down the M4. I think the grey tank-top he's sporting here was knitted by my mother!


 

    

 


And on Christmas Day 1964, Christine became a mum! She had left her job officially at 55 Gower Street on Nov 13th - obviously wanting to stay at work for as long as she possibly could. She started going into labour whilst eating her Christmas lunch - and Clive rushed her to hospital.



Maurice Christopher Cann was then born at 3:40pm at the Canadian Red Cross Hospital in nearby Taplow, weighing in at 7lb 12oz.

 

Christine: "Maurice is beautiful... the nurses sang 'Away in a Manger' round his cradle... the hospital's all decorated. He has a special cot for being the first baby born on Christmas Day. The Slough Express took some pictures of us and the Lady Mayor yesterday - lots of people have come to see him."

 

 

 

 

And here's a good photo of Maurice, taken during the summer of 1965, on the front porch. Christine and Clive had a friend at the time with name 'Maurice', so this is possibly where the inspiration for his name came from. 'Christopher' could have been a reference to Christine, or even the Christmas season perhaps - or Christmas Day itself.

 

 

 

 

 

One year and one week after Maurice's birth, on New Year's Day 1966, Christine gave birth to her second child - me! I was born at 8:50pm at the same hospital, weighing in at 8lb 3oz. This photo was taken in the back garden, on the day I was baptized at St Joseph's Church, Maidenhead (May 15th 1966).

 

Christine: "Stephen was baptized this afternoon by Fr. Flanagan. It was a beautiful summer-like day - and Clive was very well behaved! We had a ceremony all to ourselves."

 

The name 'Stephen' refers to the 'feast of Stephen' - which of course is the celebrated period over Christmas and New Year, being the nearest Saint's Day to my actual birthday. It must be very unusual and unique for someone to have babies born on Christmas Day and New Year's Day - there was always plenty for us to celebrate at this time of year as you can imagine! Funnily enough, the day before I was born (Dec 31st 1965) my nan (Reva) officially retired from working life at Shipley, Blackburn, Sutton & Co, Jermyn Street, London - at the age of 61.

 

 

 

 

 

This photo dates from July 3rd, 1966. We can now see the complete family line-up thus-far, seated at Wallys' (Clive's elder brother's) house in Sidcup, Kent. To the left are Wally's wife Rachel (always know as 'Ray' for short), and their son Simon Cann, my cousin - born on 5th Feb 1961.

 

 

 

 

 

And here's Christine pictured during the summer of 1967 in the back garden at Shirley Road. As I've mentioned before, she was quite a modest person... and the reason for her little frown here is that she didn't particularly want Clive photographing her in her bikini top! I think he was just having a bit of fun and winding her up.

 

 

 

 

    

 

These photos are from our family trip to Brussels in September 1968. It was my first ever trip on a plane - a 35-minute BEA flight from Southend Airport! Whilst out there, we met up with Madelaine Schmalkwijk (seated above left with my mother and nan) whom I always knew as Auntie Madelaine. I'm not sure if she was actually related to my mother or not, but I know she was Dutch and lived in Amsterdam during the 1970s, so it's very possible she was.

 

On the right-hand side we of course see Maurice (in a very smart blazer) alongside our father and nan. I think we're seated at Le Jardin Botanique - possibly Brussels answer to Kew Gardens! On our final day we travelled to Waterloo, and climbed the mount up to the stone lion - which is actually one of my earliest childhood memories.

 

 

 

 

  

 

Here's my mother, Maurice, myself and Auntie Bertha (Han's sister), pictured at Windsor Castle in 1969. Bertha still lived in Brussels, but was visiting England on holiday. During her stay we also visited Cliveden House and grounds, just on the north-eastern edge of Maidenhead. As I mentioned before, Bertha had been a teacher by profession, and could speak several languages - she also spent time living in London too.

 


 

1970S...

 

 

 

 

This photo is from an article in the Maidenhead Advertiser, dated April 24th 1970 - and shows the Maidenhead-based Berusca Singers in ful voice, with Christine (fourth from the left) and Reva (sixth from the left) - who had both joined back in 1968. Seated at the piano is choir leader Ruth Hand, who started the group as a 'housewives' choir. 

 

Ruth: "When Christine and her mother first turned up at my front door, I thought they were sisters!".

 

Here's an extract from the article, by Ann Kendall:

"Lots of people ask us about our title - the Berusca Singers", Mrs Hand told me. "They think it sounds exotic, maybe Russian. In fact it is simply the name of our house!" (the name of the house was in fact an acronym of the four members of Ruth's family - Bert, her husband, Ruth, and daughters Susan and Catherine).

 

[Ruth] advertised at first for musical housewives... "We just got together and sang and played what we all liked."

 

The choir meets at her home in Pinkneys Drive on Tuesday mornings and Thursday evenings. If no baby-sitters could be found, the youngsters [come] to singing practise and listen to their mothers hitting the high notes. From these domesticated beginnings, the highly efficient, professional sounding and prize-winning Berusca singers have emerged. I asked Mrs Hand if her husband enjoyed the house reverberating to song every Thursday evening...

 

"Well, he's not musical, but he doesn't mind... He doesn't dash out to the pub to escape or anything like that. As long as he can hear the TV he doesn't mind!".

 

I must say, I thoroughly enjoyed listening. From this chorus of talented housewives came some of the best choral singing I have heard in a long, long time.

 

 

 

 

Here's a photo of the group, also from 1970, pictured on the lawn at Ruth and Bert's house. I have a feeling that they each made their own matching outfits - and Bert silk-screen printed the very professional-looking music folders which they took to every performance.

 

Christine and Reva stayed with the group up until the late 70s - the group itself continued on until 1986, when they finally gave their swansong after 19 years together (following Ruth and Bert's retirement and move to Newton Abbott). They had performed at numerous shows, including every Maidenhead Festival since 1967.

This wasn't entirely the end though... the group later re-emerged in the 1990s (sans Ruth) as the Tuesday Singers. My mother re-joined them for a couple of years too, and was delighted to catch up with old friends again.


 

DAWLISH 1970

 

 

 

 In June 1970, we all spent our second holiday at the wonderful Langstone Cliff Hotel in Dawlish Warren (we'd previously stayed back in 1968). This was (and still is) one of the largest family-run hotels in the UK - and boasts a wealth of facilities and entertainment in its 12-acre grounds high up on the cliffs, overlooking the Exe Estuary.

 

 

 

 

Here's Christine relaxing on the beach at Dawlish Warren during our stay, and where she helped us collect sea-shells! This was a very quiet and undeveloped area back then... though when she and I (and Sam) returned in 2002, we found that over the intervening years the Warren had succumbed to the inevitable seaside developments and had become more of a 'resort' - although I'm happy to say the hotel still remained an idyllic haven!

 

Below left - me playing in the sandbox at the hotel and, below right, Clive helps Maurice with his swimming in the hotel pool (with the aid of an inflatable swan we'd purchased at the hotel shop). The pool is still there today- Sam and I even had a dip there on our return visit back in 2002.

 

      

 


 

OSTEND 1971

 

 

 

 

 

Here we all are with our fellow travellers during our stay at Ostend in June 1971, in an unusual wide-angle lens photo. From left, we have: our tour guide, Clive, Reva, myself and Auntie Bertha; and under the 'skyline' logo on the coach (just a little farther to the right) you can see Christine with Maurice.

 

 

 

This is our hotel, the Hotel Mayfair. I always remember being fascinated by the 'dumb waiter' in the dining room - I'd never seen such a thing before! We were all cosily ensconced in room 32, at the front of the hotel.

 

 

 

On the beach at Ostend: Reva, Auntie Bertha, Christine and Maurice. I remember making sandcastles here, and Auntie Bertha helping me put little flags of the nations of the world into each one! I also remember it being fairly warm and sunny - despite the ladies here adopting winter coats and scarves!

 

 

 

 

Here we are at Leopold Park, Ostend, by the giant flower clock that we used to walk past each day. I'd started school in the January, hence my blazer! My mother is also heavily pregnant now with her third child, my sister Diana.

 

This photo is also significant for me because it sadly appears to be the last one I can actually find of my parents pictured together - despite our week's holiday in Swanage during the following month.

A few weeks after this, my mother attended an Old Girls' reunion in Chiswick for St Anne's Convent.

 

Christine: "It was nice to see Sister Stanislaus again (and the school) after twelve or so years. I'm very glad I went."

 

In early 1971 Christine became a lunchtime playground supervisor at St Joseph's School, Maidenhead, where Maurice and I were both now pupils. She also worked for a while part-time at the Maidenhead branch of Marks & Spencer - I remember seeing her in-store in her uniform! She'd had previous part-time jobs during the 1960s too at local companies Boxalls and Beachams.

 


 

 

 DIANA!

 

 

 

And here's Diana Cann! She was born on 27th September 1971, at the Canadian Red Cross Hospital, Taplow.

 

Christine: "Went into hospital and Diana was born at 6:20pm tonight. Mummy and Clive came to see me, and I can't believe we have a baby daughter! Diana is beautiful... can't believe we have her."

 

 I remember being at the hospital that evening, along with Maurice - although we didn't actually meet our new sister until Christine was discharged about 3 days later. I also remember my mum describing her at the time as looking like a 'little Japanese baby', which I really liked!

 

 

 

 

 

Diana a little bit older now (pictured in 1972) sitting in her pram. She was baptized Diana Helen Patricia Cann on 6th February at St Joseph's Church, Maidenhead, as of course were Maurice and I before.

 

My mother bought this big pram secondhand in April - so I imagine it must be getting road-tested here by Diana! I remember she used to push Diana in this as she walked us to school the short distance up Altwood Road from where we lived.

 

Christine: "Diana is 7 months' old - she has just started to roll over in earnest. [She's begun] to make word-like sounds... bah bah bah! She's so sweet and has brought us all a lot of happiness."


 

           

 

Here we all are pictured in July 1973 on the platform at Maidenhead train station - the first photo of the family since Clive's untimely death in May.

 

This is basically how the family would remain for the next 20 years or so, continuing to live at Shirley Road as Christine's children all slowly grew up!

 

 

 

The above family photo was actually taken by my mother's Spanish friend, Joana Munné (pictured here) - whom she'd known since the early 60s since her days at the Young Farmers' Club. She came to visit us in Maidenheaf that summer, and stayed in a hotel up the road.

 

Jim: "[Joana] was an art teacher and I first had contact with her through a correspondence club, in the days when I used to be into philately. When she visited England, Mary and I accommodated her a couple of times and, probably, I took her to London and to the NFYFC office where she met your mother. Her portrait of our daughter Lucy (then about a year old) still hangs on our wall. Lucy now has two children, and is currently teaching [at the time of writing]."

 

I also remember Joana being a talented artist, and drawing a lovely picture of Maurice and myself. My mother kept in constant touch with her for the rest of her life, and we always knew her as Auntie Joana. I remember her (with Diana) going to visit Joana too during the 1980s at her home near Barcelona.

 

Joana: "Jim and myself used to exchange letters - [it was he] who introduced me to Christine... just before Maurice was born. Christine was a very good friend, and I enjoyed hearing from her and her lovely family. I'll miss her letters which always gave me a sense of peace and bonhomie."

 

 

 

 

 

This photo of Christine and Diana sitting on the lawn in the front garden dates from 1974 - and I think it was taken on Diana's third birthday in that September.

 

Notice the bicycle in the background - my mother had a special seat fixed on the back so she could take Diana to her playgroup at the Castle Hill Centre. She'd also recently purchased a motorbike - a Honda 70 - and a brand new car, a silver Vauxhall Viva saloon from the Gregory's dealership in the town centre.

 

 

         

 

These photos date from April 1975, and show Christine and Maurice during their stay in Amsterdam. Christine's father was of course a Dutchman - but it appears that this was her first actual visit to Holland, even though for many years she held dual Dutch nationality. They're standing here among Keukenhof Gardens, Lisse - one of the stop-offs on a coach tour they enjoyed of local attractions.

 

Christine: "We spent nearly two hours there walking round the lovely gardens with their lake, on which were swans and other water birds. We climbed up the windmill and walked round the outside platform. [We] visited a small nursery where we saw some beautiful bulb flowers in a hot house, and I bought some seeds and some gladiola bulbs. [We] went on to Delft to see the pottery factory - it was much smaller than I had imagined. A gentleman explained to us how it was made, and we saw some girls painting the various pieces."

 

Other highlights of their stay included a sightseeing boat trip down the canals of Amsterdam; visiting a clog-makers; a cheese farm; and a diamond-cutting workshop.

 

Christine: "[It was a] short but very interesting stay in Holland. I have brought something living back... that is the seeds and gladiola - so when I see them flowering it will remind me of my visit to the Fatherland. I am so glad I have been there at last."

 


 

           

 

 

Above left: Auntie Bertha's house in St Mard, Virton, Belgium - photographed by my mother during our first visit there in 1976.

 

Christine: "We travelled through some lovely scenery on the way to Virton - beautiful fir forests and broom blooming everywhere - this was the Ardennes. Auntie had a nice meal ready for us when we finally reached home, which is a lovely old house in which she has a very nice flat with large rooms... 3 Chemin Morel, St Mard."

 

On the right are my mother and Bertha pictured at the café (Le Sapiniere) at nearby Croix Rouge. She took each of us children out there in turn (during the late 70s) for a little holiday to visit Bertha, which we all enjoyed very much. Bertha now was retired from her school teaching, but was still very active and full of energy. I certainly remember she had pupils round to her flat for one-to-one private language tuition during our stay.

 

Christine: "Caught the bus to Croix Rouge... went for a walk in the lovely woods where there were masses of Lillies of the Valley growing, some still in bloom... we saw a deer leaping through the trees."

 


 

 

 

 

Here's Christine (now aged 40) at the top of Dodd Summit, during a week's holiday we spent in the Lake District during the long hot summer (and drought!) of 1976. It was her first visit there since 1964, and we all enjoyed it so much we returned many times over the next few years. We stayed at a B&B farm in the tiny and charming village of Bassenthwaite, nestling at the foot of Mount Skiddaw.

 

Christine: "Arrived at Bassenthwaite at 7:30 after a 9.5 hour journey... we found Bassenthwaite Hall farm quite easily. We were awakened [next] morning at about 6 by the cock crowing, and the sound of milk churns clanking! We drove to Watendlath Tarn up a very narrow, winding road... the boys were soon in the water playing with the stones - it is very pretty there with a little packhorse bridge over the beck. We climbed... Dodd Summit (1612ft), from where we got a wonderful view of Bassenthwaite Lake and the Derwent River leading into it."

 


 

           

 

 

These photos are from Christine's cousin Margaret's wedding to John in July 1977. Margaret had of course been my parents' bridesmaid at their wedding back in 1963! Above left we see Christine with Maurice, looking very smart - and on the right the happy couple, complete with Diana (aged 5) as one of their bridesmaids.

 


The story continues into the 1980s... with Mum's Photo-Biog Part 3 on the next page.