Alf, or to be more precise Lloyd, Alfred Tudor Bright. Date of birth 25/10/1919 .weight 6 lb 4 oz, seventh child of Albert Tennyson Lloyd and Susan Ann Lloyd, nee Thompson, of Station St, Witton, Birmingham That would be one description, but like all the rest of his family Alf was a complex character. Born of Welsh parents in a mainly Welsh street, even if it was in Birmingham, Alf looked like a typical South Waleian with his square, solid shape, his thick neck and barrel chest. Indeed until the age of five he had been surrounded by Welshness – its language, its stories, its tea stewed and thick and dinners cooked over an open fire. Alf had started school just before his fifth birthday. His first year had been under the benign rule of Miss Mitchell, a fellow Welsh woman. But this year the first weeks back at school had soon removed almost every vestige of his heritage. Welsh was banned in this class and those who used it were derided by the other kids and caned by the teachers. His older brothers had warned him and his sisters had tried to teach him English but Alf knew he was Welsh – at least he did then.
“ I will not have that nonsensical jabber in my classroom!” had stormed the master as he laid out six of the best. Little Alf had staggered back to his place on the bench, eyes screwed up but never a tear escaping. For days he did not speak at all and when he did it was in English with as broad a Brummy accent as he could manage. It was to get broader as he grew older. He came to hate his Welshness, even denied it when people asked. At home his parents continued to talk the tongue of their ancestors, but Alf replied only in his newly acquired English and after a few shouting matches and threats of the belt his parents conceded that perhaps it was for the best and let him get on with it, but for the rest of their lives they continued to address him in Welsh.
There were already two girls and four boys in the family and there would be another 6 children to come, the next, George Henry Keats arriving only ten months after Alf. By the time George could crawl the two boys were inseperable. His other brothers seemed almost grown up and his sisters were already out earning their living – in fact Lizzie was already walking out with the butcher's boy. The two brothers did everything together – fishing in the river, sailing paper boats in the gutter, feeding the chickens. Everything they did they did together. They even slept in the same bed, but that's hardly surprising with so many people in a two bedroomed house. The older girls slept in the front room, the older boys in the kitchen, the latest baby in with his parents and everyone else shared a large double bed and a pile of coats in the back bedroom, that is until George's fifth birthday. His sister had bought him a record of “Mammy” and “Sonny boy” and wound up the gramophone repeatedly to cries of “One more time Maud,” from all the others, but George had sat quietly picking at a slice of cake. The cake had been bought from the bakers as in this house all cooking was done over an open fire. Everyone old enough to have a wage had contributed a penny and it was a beautiful cake, but George didn't seem to taste it. At six o'clock he said he had a headache and after a trip to the lavvy in the yard and a wipe with the communal flannel he went to bed.
The others didn't know what to do. How can you have a birthday party without the person whose birthday it was? The older children went off to the pictures and Alf climbed the wooden hill to bed. George seemed to be already asleep as Alf pulled his pully over his head and unbuttoned his trousers, but as soon as he climbed in he knew that George wasn't going to wake up, not ever. Childhood was over and Alf would never be the same again.
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