A Nippy Remembers

Betty Davis

Creative partner Julia Pascal

reader Ruth Lass

I was born on D-Day 6 June but not ’44.
1927
Middlesborough, my home town where my father beat
My mother
My brother
And me.

Belt
Fists
Against a wall.
I hated him, the paralytic drunk.
Why are you hitting me?
Because you’re a liar!
Why are you hitting me brother?
Because he stutters

Why are you hitting me mother?
Shut up or I’ll hit you again.
The belt
The fists
No!

He beats mother so hard they send him to prison.
Only for one night.
Let’s get away.
To London!
Get shot of him.
He follows.
Wants to come back.
And then the Germans hit us.

Screaming sirens.
My brother goes to the army
When he gets back his wife has a baby
Not his.
I am fourteen. Escape!
I’m what they call ‘a nippy’ in Lyon’s Corner House.
Nipping in and out to do my work.
Fifty four hours a week.
Twenty six shillings.
Salmon and Gluckstein.
They are the owners.
Lyon’s Corner House
I wait table. All smart in my uniform.
Bombazine.
Mother cleans the toilet seats.
There was an old man Gluckstein.
There were some German men who escaped.
Never women.
One man, I think he was Gluckstein, gives me a ring that was his
granddaughter’s.
But I lost it.
They see I am a good worker.
Send me to Conduit Street, The Strand, The Inns of Court.
To Olympia to wake up an old man and give him his breakfast.
They tell me he is famous
Coco the Clown.
I serve tea to everyone.
Lord Denning.
Princess Margaret. She was running after that man who sang The Green Door.
What was his name?
Franke Vaughan.
She’s a party girl. Not me, but I love dancing.
Quickstep. Rumba. Foxtrot.
On the first floor of Lyon’s they used to play jazz. Was that Joe Loss?
I am 18 when I marry.  The only boy I ever had. He’s from Tipperary like my father.
My husband doesn’t have a job. I teach him to do the same work as me.
I train boys from Italy
To become commie waiters.
Five children
Only one left.
My son Richard Martin, he couldn’t speak.  Richard used to call the priest ‘Jesus’.
The priest didn’t like that. That’s when I left the Catholic Church.
Became Protestant.
I took Richard to Lourdes. To see the Pope.
Nothing worked. 
I worked til I was 70. 
Lots of interesting things.
I worked with handicapped children.
One Black, one mixed, one white and my son. 
He died. There’s only my daughter left.
She calls me three times a day. I hated my father.
She loves me.

Betty Davis

Giving Voice

Find out more about Giving Voice