by Mary Morgan

Chapter 1 page 9

I had started to get interested in athletics at school and ended up specialising in 220 yards sprint (200 metres today) and the long jump. I am convinced that my fitness for sport was born out of my daily early-morning "exercise" and the fact that I never had the time to just walk anywhere. I was always running and after a while it was second nature to me. I used to run to school each morning, forever trying to beat my own record time. I used to love the feeling of the lightness and speed of my feet hardly touching the ground as I ran to and from school. Yes FROM school too.

My work wasn't done even after a day of lessons. At night there were the orders to deliver to customers that were too busy or too elderly to collect them. They would leave a written order once a week with my mother and by the time I came home from school the trolley would be empty of the morning's purchases. I would have to weight up all the groceries and total up each bill, put them in separate boxes and deliver them to their owners. With a bit of luck I used to make some pocket money this way. A tanner (two and a half pence) here, a bob (five pence) there, and at Christmas I would even get a half crown (twelve and a half pence). Once I even got a ten-shilling note! (fifty pence) So I could always make money if I worked for it - this was one of the most valuable lessons I ever learnt in my young life.

I didn't have much time for playing with my friends though, and so I think I valued the time I spent with them more than anything else. I had four friends at school that formed our "gang" - Sally Robinson, Gladys Hancock, Jean Dovey and Megan Owen. Sally, Gladys and Jean all lived near our school and Megan's parents kept the Royal Hussar public house in Lower Stafford Street at that time.

At the start of my teenage years I was well into my athletics and my best coach was my Dad. Our shop was bang slap in the middle of Merridale Street. It was equal distance whether you ran up the street to the Penn Road or down to Graiseley Street. So dad would time me running up hill to the Penn Road, then down hill to Graiseley Street and eventually all the way round the block, both ways. It was only when my downhill run equalled my uphill run-time that he said I could beat anybody I liked! I can still remember that day as clear as a bell. My Dad always stood on the front step of the shop and held his gold pocket watch that hung from his waistcoat pocket, in his right hand. He would start me off by saying "On your mark, get set and…Go!" He would snap the button down on his watch and I would take off like a bat out of hell. I could always tell what sort of times I was doing because, if he was still standing on the step when I rounded the corner, I had done an average time. If he was off the step and leaning against the doorframe, I had done a little better. A good time had him standing on the edge of the pavement.

This sort of training went on for over a year, until the day I rounded the corner to see him standing in the middle of the road, shouting and waving his hands at me. This frightened me so much that I thought something was wrong with him and I ran even faster to get to him - but it did the trick, I had cut 12 seconds off my own record time. We were both out of breath and laughing fit to burst!

A couple of months after this happened I became Victrix Ludorum 1951 of Graiseley Girls Secondary School (that's Latin for "cock of the school") and on the day I brought home the two silver-plated cups I was presented with - my father had tears in his eyes. I was so proud of him and he was so proud of me.

He always cleaned the cups for me too, right up to the week before he died six months later.

End of Chapter One

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