Introduction by interviewer, Michael Thompson
Susan Sides was born in Bury, Lancashire, on 18th April 1931.
She was 8 years old when war broke out in 1939.
This interview records her memories as a child before the war and during it, and working and marrying after the war.
The transcript and the video are in one part just under 36 minutes long.
Recorded at The Bowling Green Hotel, Chorlton on 17th May 2017.
[Pauses indicated by ….]
Time codes on film indicated by Hour:Minute:Second for ease of reference between transcript and film on YouTube.
Wartime Memories of Susan Sides
Susan: My name is Susan May Sides …. and before I was married, I was called Monk …. and as I say, at school, I had a lot of trouble with children calling me “Monkey” …. I didn’t look like one though, fortunately!
But, I used to fight because of that, I used to hit them when they called me “Monkey” …. I have always been like that …. But, I was born in a place called Bury, I am sure that people have heard of Bury …. I was born in Rochdale Road, I think it was …. I’ve forgotten where it is …. but we moved to the countryside …. which I enjoyed very much …. but we had to walk a long way to school …. it must have been at least a mile …. I seemed a lot longer to me …. I didn’t measure miles or anything like that …. I had a very happy childhood, and unfortunately …. it is sad to say that, because it was during the war, and a lot of people I am sure didn’t have as much happiness as I did during the war.
I lived in a place called Burrs & Calrows, and I just called it Burrs, and that’s the woods nearby …. which we used to play in and …. we hanged about, we used to collect blackberries, my sister and I and I’m from a big family …. 9 of us …. 6 girls and 3 boys ….
I used to go out with my brothers a lot and do whatever they did …. and sometimes, sadly, we had …. a girl got drown because we went on the ice when my Dad said, “Don’t go on the ice, it’s thawing ….” But I followed my brothers, and as we were going along, the water was all coming up after the feet …. and I’m following them and, you know, it was all time, we got off there, and then we went to another place …. and …. it was a quarry, and I was the youngest of the lot …. and I was the one that was twisting them round to “Statues” [Children’s Game] …. and I did this boy over here …. and when he was over here …. I can still remember and I must have been about 6 …. and he said, “I’m going over to my girlfriend ….”
(I am sorry I shouldn’t be talking about this really …. because it’s not about the war, but it’s before the war …. )
…. and he crossed over, and as he crossed over, the ice cracked …. I’m right at the edge here …. and my sister and brother got their foot wet, but got out quick …. two people were stuck in …. one of them, sadly, died.
But I’m standing there …. my brothers and sisters left me …. and I have told this before on a programme called ‘Listening Project’ with a friend of mine, June …. and …. we were lucky to be alive because they left us on the edge of the ice …. And then my father came …. when I saw my father, I only reached up to his knees …. and I cried and cried then when he came …. because the man, one of the men that was in the water said to me, “Go and get some help,” he said, “It’s bloody freezing in here!” And I just stood there, I was petrified, never moved ….
Anyway, that’s one of the sad things, but after that, I had quite a lot of happy times because what happened was …. that I was walking along and my sister said, “Look at that woman, she’s got all that sugar in a cupboard ….” I said, “Why has she got all that?” There was packets and packets of sugar. I said, “She will never use all that ….” and my sister said “Well, it could be because there might be a war,” and I didn’t know what a war meant and I never even asked her, I never bothered about it.
But the next thing I do remember when I went to school …. the teachers on the Monday morning, they were all shaking their heads like this at each other and I thought, “I wonder what’s wrong, what’s wrong ….” Apparently, it was because we’d started the war …. not started it but we’d joined in with the war with Germany.
I didn’t know anything about it, as I say …. but then, a few days later, where I lived in Burrs and Calrows, a tiny village with one shop and one main street, no bus service …. not …. nothing whatsoever, but in the end, we did enjoy ourselves, as I say as children, because we made our own enjoyment ….
We used to slide down on pieces of cardboard when it was icy on downhill slides and all that …. But when …. what happened was, to me it was great excitement because all these soldiers came, and they had horses, and I loved horses, I didn’t know that I did, but I did love them and it was wonderful to see this because some of the soldiers, they started making …. putting taps at the end of the roads on pavements, you know and I am watching everything ….
I bet they thought “Get lost!” but I still watched everything …. and they set up a camp and they …. they were, the first day, I remember …. I was with someone, and they were all in a shed, kind of having their tea and I said, “What are you having for your tea?” and they said “Pellone ….”, I said “What’s Pellone?” …. and they gave me some, and it was horrid. I said “Oooooo, it’s horrid ….” They said “Well, don’t ask questions anymore!”
Anyway, we went home, I suppose, after that …. but what happened during the war, as I said, it was enjoyment to me …. because there’s all this excitement going on in the village. There were camp concerts, we could go to them and we could get sweets without rationing …. no coupons needed …. a penny for a bar of toffee at the NAAFI and the soldiers were always friendly with me because they knew I had got older sisters and they used to say “Have you got any older sisters?” and I used to say “Yes, I have.”
And my older sisters used to come to the camp …. camp concerts and take me if they felt like it and if not, I was left behind. But there were so many things that, you know we had to go and get our …. gas masks and things like that …. and we used to swing our gas masks and fight with them sometimes and yet, when you think, we were little horrors, I suppose, but it was just the survival of the fittest …. but …. there was so much things they brought to the village and it seemed to flash by so quickly …. and before you knew it, they were leaving …. and all the horses and the snow was coming down and I stood on the pavement and watched them leave and I could have cried …. because I got to know people, especially one called Sergeant Miller. He was always asking about my sisters and things like that …. and he always looked after me, you know, gave me things to eat, and stuff like that …. which to me, that was great, because when you …. in a family of 9, you don’t really get spoiled, do you? I don’t think anyway …. Yes, I’d just have to get on with it!
Full stop! I’m sorry!
Michael: No, that’s all right, that’s a great start and very interesting …. Tell …. me a little bit about your parents.
Susan: Oh, my parents …. my father came from Kent …. and he joined the army when he was about 14. I think his mother told them down in London there …. Plumstead, he came from actually …. and …. I think she told them about him, and he’d run away from home and came to Bury and joined the Lancashire Fusiliers …. and, he was under age, of course and I have seen the form, he signed …. and he signed to say, “telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth!”
And he always taught us to be honest …. but I have read that since that he joined under age …. and …. and he must have met my mother, my mother was going out with someone else …. But he said, “I’m going to marry you ….” and my mother said …. and this is what she said …. she said …. “You know, my mother ….”, her mother kind of said to her “Well, you can’t refuse him marriage, he’s coming all this way ….”
And she had a boyfriend of her own …. and she broke his heart, apparently …. But he …. they got married and he was away for 3 years then in the Army …. They didn’t see each other, so of course, she didn’t have any children then …. She got married …. me Dad gave his wrong age, because you could do, I suppose, they didn’t seem to bother about ….
Michael: This presumably was at the beginning of the First World War, was it?
Susan: Yes, it must have been …. he was in, as I say, he was in the war and he was badly injured …. He was blown up, he was a Gunner and he showed us his legs and they had all been stitched …. and he had stitches across here [pointing to her forehead]. They threw him on a pile of dead men, they’d thought he died …. and he moved, and when they saw him move, of course, they dragged him off, but …. he had to go back and fight after he was repaired, kind of thing, you know …. but he was lucky, he was lucky to live, he said …. so, he had a hard time …. and my mother, when she was 12, and my father when he was 12, worked ….
My father …. I’ll tell you, work in Sainsbury’s, the very first Sainsburys …. it was ever …. and he used to sell butter, and he used to eat it because that was the only way he could survive, and he used to sleep under the counter at night …. I don’t know how that came about, his mother …. must have been a bit …. you know, she was worried about him …. but I don’t understand that, but that’s what happened …. and my mother when she was twelve …. they had to go in the mill, half day …. and she worked in doing winding, and so on …. you know …. and …. I mean it was a hard life when you think of it, 12 years old, working ….
Nowadays, they don’t know they’re born, do they, towards that, when you think this is what happens with people …. so, it strengthens their character in a way.
I started work when I was 14, I delivered newspapers …. went round …. and also, I had a Saturday job at a mill, because my cousin went …. I did what my …. I’m not a follower, I’m a leader, but in this instance, I went with my cousin …. to this place, a factory …. it was Hardman’s Woollen Mill in Bury, and we used to climb in the loom, a German loom, it’s massive, I don’t know whether you know about this and we used to clean them, and when I think back now, cleaning those looms and all the fluff. We had no mask on or anything …. but we used to enjoy it anyway, we had lots of laughs and so on and I learnt about weaving as well and about people doing sign language …. [she signs] ….
They used to talk like that and mouth everything …. I used to be fascinated watching everything. I must have absorbed it all, because I did, you know, take notice of a lot of things and I learnt about weaving and about yells, have you heard of yells? Where they pull them through and so on …. and I watched people do that and I learnt how to do it ….
It was quite interesting, but, you know, I wasn’t there long and then I got a job …. in a dyers and cleaners and I enjoyed that …. and I found out that I could add up very very quickly, I didn’t know that before …. because at school …. I was a little devil, apart from English and Writing, I could do that …. top at that …. but the other things, I didn’t bother about, you know …. I wasn’t keen on them.
When we had …. when the war was on, going back to the war, I was glad when there was an air raid, because we could go in the shelter and sing songs instead of listening to history. I thought that was great. I shouldn’t have thought it was great …. but we didn’t have, apparently, there was only one bomb that was dropped in Bury, and it was dropped in a pub called The Dungeon in Tottington …. and it didn’t explode …. this is what I am told. I have no idea about it, but people have told me this, you know. That’s where the one and only bomb dropped on Bury, but when they used to have air raids and my dad was there, he could explain which …. whether it was a German plane over, or an English plane, by the sound of the engine …. he said, “Now listen to this ….” and he would tell me.
I couldn’t do it now, of course …. but he used to tell us things like that, so I suppose it kept us diverted away from the danger of anything, because we didn’t see any danger, we were too young, we were young enough to still enjoy ourselves which was good …. because then we used to start dancing, going to dances, you know ….
And that was why my father used to say to me “You shouldn’t dance so much!” I was going five nights a week. He said, “You’ll get TB ….” That’s what they used to think if you went dancing too much …. You know, close proximity with men and so on, but that’s what I used to do, dance a lot.
My brother taught me, he used to say to me “Get your legs back, you’re like a bag of potatoes!”
Of course, he was my favourite brother, I’ve got to say that …. he was because I did everything with him, you know, when we went dancing, he was a very handsome man, and all the women were after him, and when it was an excuse me dance, he used to say to me, they used to come and say, “Excuse me” and he’d say, “Come back after one round ….” and I bet those girls hated me, but I never bothered, I did what he said, you know …. went back and danced with him …. so, he wouldn’t have certain ones.
As I say, to me, it was a lot of enjoyment …. rather than sadness ….
Michael: That was during the war itself, rather than ….
Susan: It was yes …. because I grew up during it …. you know, 14, I learnt to dance when I was 14 ….
Michael: You were aged 8, I think, when the war started …. do you remember anything about the day it started?
Susan: Only that that I was saying when the teachers were all shaking their heads …. That’s about all …. there was nothing, you know my father told me to be quiet while he was listening to the radio, because I suppose I was talk, talk, talk …. and he said “Quiet, quiet ….” ….
He was listening. I suppose that was when war was being declared, you know, by Chamberlain, I think it was …. wasn’t it?
Michael: So …. that’s right …. yes, it would have been …. yes …. So, the war had started …. did you notice any, apart from the sugar, obviously, but there was a …. Were there other sort of changes taking place around you that were obvious, do you think?
Susan: Well, obviously we couldn’t have oranges and we couldn’t have bananas …. you could have oranges if you were pregnant, I believe, but what I didn’t like, one thing I didn’t like …. and I still don’t like is queuing up, because my mother would say “They’ve got to take us ….” at such and such, but my sister said, “Go to that shop ….” And we all had to go to different shops to get different things, and queue up …. then when you got to the counter, they had sold out …. sometimes, you know …. but this is what hardship was, if you call it hardship ….
And then they’d say, “They’ve got nylons at Marks & Spencers, go and get some …. “Will you go and get me some ….” and so on, like that, because it was so rare, because women used to put gravy browning on their legs to make them look as though they’d got them on and also, you used to use an eyebrow pencil to do a line up the back, I am sure you have heard all that …. They used to do all that kind of thing and it had to be accurate …. They’d say “Are you sure you’ve got it right now, let me see now …. and all that kind of thing, we used to have to make do and mend really, I suppose, with the war …. because there were a lot of things you couldn’t buy in the shops …. and it was absolutely marvellous when they got all the different things, you know, that we could rush and buy, but as I say, a lot of times, we’d queue up and they’d gone …. these things.
But, I don’t …. I didn’t feel any pressures of the war …. apart from when, you know, at night time when planes were coming over, and if my dad was there, I felt quite safe, I don’t know why, but we did have an Anderson shelter, my brothers …. I remember them digging and building this …. you know, and they were arguing about things when they were doing it …. But it was all metal, you know …. you’ve seen them, the Anderson shelters …. and we used to go in them sometimes … into it sometimes take candles in and ….
Michael: What was that like inside, did you sleep in there?
Susan: No, we didn’t sleep in there …. I don’t remember sleeping in there …. I used to go to the air raid shelters, I don’t know why, you see that was perhaps before we got the Anderson shelter, I don’t know, but ….
Sometimes we used to go down to the air raid shelters, I used to go with my cousin …. there was only 3 weeks difference in age, so we were like twins, they used to call us the terrible twins, both at school and otherwise, and I feel we were, because when we went to the air raid shelters, there were people lying asleep on …. big cushions and I didn’t always know there was somebody there and I used to go round jumping like this and then of course, when my cousin did it …. and …. we were laughing …. we thought it was funny because …. [shouting] “What are you doing? What are you doing?” …. and we loved that, making a fuss …. there was that running round the shelter, but when my mother knew I did it, “You had better stop! Behave yourself, behave yourself!” but of course we did it more and more when she wasn’t looking, you know. That was the kind of fun we had, my cousin and I …. And when V.E. ….. I know I am jumping the gun a bit ….
Michael: No, I was going to ask you about V.E. Day, so ….
Susan: When V.E. Day came, I do remember that …. a beautiful sunny day …. and we …. I was the one that instigated a May Pole, and we went into Bury Kay Gardens …. I don’t know why we blacked our faces …. I think I didn’t want to be recognised, I don’t know …. but I must say that was one of the days that I really had a marvellous time, because we had this May Pole …. we had a little baton from somebody …. who had been in the Army probably, I don’t know but …. We had these batons and we were going round doing [singing] “Way down upon the Swanee River ….” …. that’s why we blacked our faces, I suppose …. but we had never before, when we have had a May Pole, had people opening their purses and coming to us, and loving it and telling us at the end that they enjoyed it and we enjoyed it as well, and we got big bottles of lemonade like that afterwards and drank them. And then we had fish and chips with …. we had money to spare and it was absolutely wonderful ….
That was …. V. E. Day and I wrote a sign “V.E. DAY” and put it near the May Pole, you know, and all that! I do remember that, yes ….
That was when the Japanese …. was that when we finished and the Japanese had ….
Michael: That was V.J. Day ….
Susan: Because I can’t remember dates and things, even though I talk about it ….
Michael: V.E. Day was Europe and V.J Day I think was later in 1945 when Japan surrendered, that was in the Autumn, but …. so ….
Susan: I was oblivious to a lot of things, I just was …. I suppose ignorant really, when you think ….. I mean, I was enjoying myself, and that was all that mattered, kind of thing ….
Michael: I mean, you would have been 14 by the end of the war, that’s right ….
Susan: That’s true but I enjoyed the war …. I know you shouldn’t say that …. but it is true, I did, because I was oblivious to the suffering of other people ….
Michael: You probably didn’t know any different …. really, other than that you had had 8 years before the war of childhood ….
Susan: Yes ….
Michael: But did you see any change taking place after V.E. Day? Were there any sort of changes taking place in the world around you at that time ….
Susan: Not after V.E. Day, no, I didn’t notice any different because I still used to go back to Calrows after we had left there, because we did leave there and moved nearer to town …. into town …. but I still used to go back there because I liked the countryside, you know … I believe now, it is all lots of activities there …. boating and things like that round there …. but I can’t say that I noticed a difference, no …. not really …. in fact, it was a bit of a relief knowing that we wouldn’t have air raids, perhaps, because they used to disturb us, of course, you know when you might be half asleep, and the sirens were going …. when I hear them now on television, or anything, it still makes me, you know, feel a bit strange. It’s …. takes you right back really …. when you hear that ….
Michael: Tell us a little bit about your later life, I mean you were 14 when the war ended, more or less, in Europe, but life didn’t end for you …. you have had a lot of time since then ….
Susan: Oh yes, yes I have …. and I have had a variety of jobs, because I believe in variety …. I can’t stand routine, I am bored to death with routine …. and as soon as I got to know a job, I am afraid I would leave after about 4 years …. I don’t think I would stay longer than 4 years in any job and eventually, I became manager of the Kardomah, after I went to catering college, but I had to leave before the course was finished because I worked for Kardomah as a trainee manager ….
They sent me to Swansea to open a new branch with other people, not alone, and Bristol …. I went to Bristol to open a new branch …. so, I couldn’t go back to college, because I, you know, missed most of the course …. But, I then became a manager and …. had my own place, Deansgate, I used to work at because they had 7 Kardomah’s in Manchester …. They had them all over the world, I believe, they had them in Paris as well …. I never got sent to Paris, but when I was starting as a trainee, I used to go to different parts of the country.
I went to Chester and managed if anybody was off, and things like that. And then, well I can’t say I became a manager of a block of flats because that didn’t happen until the last days of my working life, but eventually, that’s the type of work I did …. I did a lot of office work as well, I did wages, because I could add up very quickly …. that was before machines …. we used to do Kalamazoo, have you heard of that?
Michael: Kalamazoo? Yes ….
Susan: Wages and things like that …. and I used to go around to different places and do that because …. I worked for an agency and I preferred that, I don’t know why …. I must be an unsettled person! I just liked new experiences ….
Michael: Definitely someone who didn’t want to let the grass grow under her feet, by the sound of things ….
Susan: Well, that’s true, I suppose …. I never liked to be in the same thing …. because, I’ll tell you, one of the reasons was I met a man at one of these offices, and I can remember, it was GUT, I think it was, Great Universal Store …. I worked there a week, and I wouldn’t go back …. but he was sitting at this desk and in the desk, there was bevelled out where his arms had been, and he told me that he had done that, and I said, “How horrible, you’ve been here 30 years?” He said “Yes ….” he said, “and I have worn that out ….” He’d worn the wood out of the desk. Well, the following week, I said to the agency “I don’t want to go back there ….” And they said, “Why not?” I said, “Because they have a bell when you go for your cup of tea …. and a bell when you come back …. I don’t want that kind of thing …. I’m sorry ….” and so they said, “We’ll send you somewhere else ….” So, they did ….
So, I used to work all round Manchester …. and travel on the train until I decided I was going to live in Manchester.
Michael: So, going back to the war because you mentioned trains …. no, no, no, that’s all right …. because I invited you to, and I’ll come back to that what we were talking about in a moment, but …. coming back to the war, did you travel at all during the war? Do you have any experiences?
Susan: No, I didn’t travel, no …. no, I think we …. I think we stayed there until the …. Oh, I don’t know how old I was when I moved …. I know that …. I don’t remember …. I moved to another school called All Saints, and …. I don’t remember …. that there was any difference, no ….
Michael: Come …. just moving on a little bit further, I mean, you were Monk and then became Sides, tell me a little bit about that ….
Susan: Well, I’ll tell you how I met my husband which was very unusual, I thought, I haven’t heard of anyone else meet their husband like this ….
I worked with this other girl that was 6ft tall …. and it’s important because we were good friends, she was a trainee as well, and she said to me, when we had a weekend off …. she said, “Let’s do something we have never done before ….” I said “For instance, what?” and she said “Shall we hitch a lift?” …. so anyway, when she’s hitching this lift, I’m not taking any part in it …. because I’m absolutely bent double laughing at her …. Six foot tall, and she’s not doing it like this [with vigour], she’s just going [half-heartedly] ….
I couldn’t stop laughing because she was so feeble …. and I couldn’t do anything …. and all these cars kept zooming past, zooming past …. and then, this car stopped, and it was a Jag …. I didn’t know at the time but that was my husband to be ….
I sat in the back seat, she sat in the front with him, I wouldn’t bother with him, I thought I don’t know who he is or what he is, you know …. But anyway, afterwards, he took …. he was off out of the car and went for a …. I don’t know where we went …. for a drink, for coffee …. and we started talking about the Norfolk Broads …. and I’m terrible with names, still am …. it’s a weakness I have, and he said to me, he was called Tony, and he said, “Where did you pick up the boat?” because he’d been on the Norfolk Broads, and I said instead of Lowestoft, I said, “Levenshulme ….” [Manchester] ….
Well, he started laughing …. I thought “What are you laughing at?” And they both started laughing because my friend lived in Levenshulme at the time …. so that’s why I must have said it, and we got talking, and that’s …. I did find him interesting right away ….
And he was a fencer, I had never met a fencer before, you know, a foil and all the rest of it, and I was asking him about that, and he said, I don’t know whether it was true, but he said it …. he was an Olympic …. it was an Olympic time …. and he said he was a Reserve for it …. he was a master of fencing because …. he took me to them, and I saw that he adjudicated them, you know …. and he said, “I am telling you now, it’s boring ….” and it was …. It was boring …. just watching them doing that, you know …. but I found him interesting, and then he said, “Where do you want to go?” …. We said “Well, we just want to go anywhere ….”
He dropped us off at New Brighton …. and he said “Will you come for a meal with me tonight, the pair of you? I’ll meet up with you in Liverpool”, or something …. He said, “I’ll come and pick you up ….”
Anyway, I never told my friend but all day, I kept thinking about him, I don’t know why …. because I am telling you now, it doesn’t sound very exciting, but he did …. he must have had an attraction, physical or something …. he was good looking …. and when he said his name, I said, “That’s a funny name …. Sides ….”, he said “I don’t think Monk is so clever!” I said, “Don’t you say that about my name ….”
Anyway, we did meet up for the meal, and I didn’t like him at night, he’d had a drink and it changed his personality …. Anyway, he took me home to Bury, he dropped off and I’m left with him on my own …. Everybody said, “You didn’t know who he was, he could have been horrible to you ….” …. I know, he could, I took a chance, didn’t I?
But anyway, he took me home to Bury and we arranged to meet on the following Tuesday …. And I have a rule, I never said anything about this rule, an unwritten rule …. and I never waited for anybody longer than 15 minutes.
And I …. worked at the Kardomah …. and we arranged to meet on Market Street and he didn’t turn up on the Tuesday, and then on the Wednesday, he came into the Kardomah in Deansgate …. he didn’t know where I worked, which Kardomah and when he came in, he was all smart in a suit and a trilby, you know …. and I wouldn’t serve him ….
I was standing in for somebody who was off sick and you had to be able to …. you had to be able to do every job and I said to my friend, “Would you serve him ….”, she said “Why won’t you? ….” “I not serving him” …. I wouldn’t speak to him, and she kept saying to me “Speak to him ….” “No,” I said, “I’m not, I don’t want to be bothered with him, he just didn’t turn up, I am not bothering with him ….”
But she must have told him it was my afternoon off …. and she …. he waited for me and I was arranged …. I had arranged to meet someone dancing for the afternoon, you know, and he said “Oh, you can’t go there ….” and he put his arm round me and took me out and he said, “If you come with me, I’ll take you with me ….”
Anyway, he did make me laugh, he said something to make me laugh, and I thought “He does make me laugh ….” and I went with him and that was it, we had, you know, we got on all right, and that’s how I met him, and so on ….
Michael: So, did you have family?
Michael: Did you have any family?
Susan: Yes, I had one son ….
Michael: Very different to you being one of nine ….
Susan: [Laughing] I know, absolutely …. most people have had more than one, I think I am the only one in the family that’s had one….
Michael: Probably the sensible one ….
Susan: Well, I don’t know …. he was hard work because he didn’t sleep until he was three and when he slept, I thought he had died, believe me I did …. because he never slept until he was three …. He would be awake all night, he was lively and full of life, you know, but …. so, I never got any sleep, and I used to say to people “I wouldn’t mind if I could get some sleep ….”
It was hard, I found it hard …. and I did want another child though, but my husband didn’t …. so, you know …. I didn’t like him being an only one …. I don’t think it is fair …. really ….
Michael: But that is the way it is, sometimes ….
Susan: Yes, it is …..
Michael: If you were to think back over your life …. because I know you’ve …. you have done all sorts of things …. I mean …. in recent times, you have been working on local radio, I think ….
Susan: Oh yes ….
Michael: Do you want to tell us a little bit about that?
Susan: Well, how I started on the radio …. I was …. working at somewhere as a relief manager at a block of flats …. You know, we used to …. we were there just in case anything went wrong with the building …. needed anything doing …. we didn’t look after people …. what I am saying is it wasn’t that because there were 40 odd people, and they owned their own flats ….
And I heard it on the radio that they wanted volunteers …. so I phoned up and that’s how I came to go on ….. and I have interviewed quite a few famous people …. which I will brag about!
But I forget all the names …. but I have …. Alistair McGowan, I enjoyed very much and I said to him by the way at the end, I said “I’ve really enjoyed it, I haven’t been able to interview you properly because I couldn’t stop laughing ….” and he did make me laugh. And he said, “When I come to Stockport, I’ll come to see you ….” I said “Oh, great!” …. and I said to the producer when we had finished, I said “He’s very convincing but it didn’t seem very …. ” “No!” And he never did. When he came to Stockport to the Plaza, he never came you know …. Sometimes I got free tickets for different shows …. When they had the 4, the “Rack Pack’, we got free tickets for that …. I interviewed them, and, I went to have my photograph taken with them afterwards …. I enjoyed all that, of course …. because, I suppose …. I had done a lot of amateur dramatics …. I did that when I was young, but it has never left me, because it is a certain thing that’s within you …. you know, you can’t …. it is in you …. you’ve got ….
And I said, I have done Wythenshawe radio as well …. and I said to the man there, I said “Acting, they say, if you are not nervous, you are no good ….” I said, and when I have gone on stage, people have said to me “Are you nervous?” and I have said “No, I am not ….” but I knew that I was all right because, people …. the producers used to write to me and say, “Will you come? We want you to do the lead in this play ….” and every play that I did when I was young ….
I was the lead …. so, I must have been all right …. but I wasn’t nervous and the man at Wythenshawe radio said to me, “You know why you are not nervous?” …. I said “No, why?” …. I said, “Do you mean because I am not good?” …. He said “No, because you are a natural ….”
Now, I was pleased with that!
Michael: Yes, of course, yes ….
Susan: Because it was a compliment, and you don’t often get compliments ….
Michael: No …. just to …. before we wind up, because we have done very well …. If you were to think back over your life, are there any sort of particular highlights you’d like to mention? This is the killer question, of course, I mean it is quite difficult but …. and I have surprised you with this one, but …. Is there anything that you would go back …. or alternatively, if you were talking to a younger person today, what would be your advice to them for a long and enjoyable life?
Susan: Well, somebody gave me some advice and that was …. to be your natural self is very charming …. and don’t be …. and I just can’t …. I hate that and I would say that to be people myself …. Be your natural self, and I try to be and if I am putting my voice on every so on, it is because I am trying to speak clearly, so that people understand what I am saying …. because some people with accents, you can’t always understand what they are saying …. and I know I’ve got a Lancashire accent …. I’m not ashamed of it but I do try and speak clearly, and people say, “You’ve put your voice on, it spoils you ….”, so, I would say “Be natural” to people …. That’s how, what I would say because everybody feels differently about their lives …. they don’t feel like I feel …. some people can soldierly go on for thirty years and work at the same job ….
I hope you haven’t done that …. because I could not do that …. I just like the new things to happen, and …. you can’t always have them, but this is a new experience for me ….
Michael: Well, I hope it has not been bad one ….
Susan: No, I have enjoyed it ….
Michael: Susan, thank you very much for taking part in WarGen, thank you.
Recorded by Michael Thompson, Hardy Productions UK, Manchester, Hardy Productions UK.
Susan Sides died August 2022.