Arthur likened the conditions of Bacon Street to being back in the Stone Age
“where families shared a cave”. The houses on the street were all three stories
high, and two families shared each floor. It was exactly the same as The Nichol,
except that now Arthur was further from the school. An extremely narrow staircase
led up to their room on the top floor, where Arthur’s six-strong family shared
There was no front door owing to the needs of workmen who transported wood through
the ground floor of the house. They had built a workshop in the front yard where
the garden should have been.
The only tap was in the yard, so Arthur’s mother and eldest sister would fill
up a bathtub (what Arthur called “the most terrible instrument of torture”) and
carry it all the way up the stairs to the family’s room where they would wash
themselves and their clothes. This was such a strain on Arthur’s mother (who
found it hard to walk seeing as she was virtually crippled) that she got a hernia.
They used to call it ‘Mother’s cramp’. Washing themselves in front of each other
was never an issue. Miners were renowned for coming home, stripping themselves
off and washing in front of everyone. This is exactly what all the families living
in such conditions would do.
Arthur stressed that it was only in more modern times that people started to
look at each others bodies in a judgmental fashion. Back then to be naked in front
of your family, friends or even through the window to the people on the street,
was not unnatural, immoral or sexually suggestive in any way; rather just part
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