When Helen and I moved into our first home together, it was a ground floor flat in Central Road, Didsbury, Manchester. The upstairs flat was occupied by one of the smallest full sized (if that makes any sense) women I have ever known, named Ena.
Ena can barely have been 4′ 8″ tall. She was in her mid-sixties and told us that she had been in a cabaret act with her sister, who had sadly died not long before we met her. They had, I think, been acrobats.
We began by thinking that she was going to be the neighbour from hell, as she complained that we made too much noise late at night. Now, bearing in mind that Helen was at the time a trainee bakery manager, and therefore often had to be at work for 6am, we were not staying up that late and almost certainly weren’t making a lot of noise (well, not when we were not arguing). However, Ena turned out to be very friendly and helpful, even to the point of painting our front room whilst we were away – she had a set of brushes attached to poles which she used to reach the high spots.
The last time I saw her was the day that Margaret Thatcher resigned. We had not long moved out and had gone around to collect our post. Ena invited us into her flat for the first time ever, and then sat there and cried because Thatcher was gone. Helen empathised. I bit my tongue. Very. Hard. Indeed.
My guess is that, sadly, Ena is no longer with us. Although Helen and I dropped her occasional notes and cards, we never heard from her again. A look at the building we all lived in – thanks to Google Streetview – shows that it has been converted from two flats to four, so she clearly isn’t there any more. I remember her with nothing but fondness. She was a nice little person.