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I Just Grow’d (Like Topsy)

Pat Chrisfield is one of those people who, firmly and with conviction, but nevertheless quietly and without making any fuss about it, make the world a better place. Here at LifeBook, we love to hear stories like hers.

Pat’s book, like so many others

Pat’s book, like so many others at LifeBook, also documents the social history of the mid-twentieth century, and her recollections of the Second World War and of the lives of girls and women in the 1950s and 1960s are certainly revealing. Born in the middle of the Battle of Britain, she grew up in London’s southern suburbs. The railway line running beside her home was the target of frequent German bombing, and the many cold, wet hours she spent in the family Anderson shelter, combined with a poor relationship with difficult parents, left her with largely unhappy memories of her childhood. She started work at the age of 17 with Rothschild bank but was obliged to leave after she married her husband, Larry, because the bank did not employ married women. Although initially very short of money, Pat and Larry embarked on what was and remains a happy married life together, bringing four children into the world and coping with all the incidents and accidents of family life.

The next step

As her children grew older, Pat began training as a probation officer and then as a social worker, meeting, in the course of her work, such people as the infamous madam Cynthia Payne. She sets out, fairly unflinchingly, some of the difficult cases she encountered while working in the Child and Family Team in one of London’s boroughs. After a period working at Esther Rantzen’s ChildLine charity, Pat was invited to travel to Romania in the early 1990s to work with the disadvantaged children recently discovered to be inhabiting its orphanages. This led Pat to start a charity that helped to provide medical care for Romanian children, and she continued to run this organisation for 19 years.

Pat’s life was not all about social work

She and Larry travelled together, once taking a rather fabulous three-month cruise around the Indian Ocean, and enjoyed owning a holiday cottage in rural France for some years, complete with colourful locals, bad channel crossings and bees in the chimney! Almost at the end of the book, Pat, in a rather unexpectedly glamorous turn, reveals that, owing to Larry’s work, she regularly attended red-carpet film premieres and after-parties, including those of all the Harry Potter films.

Pat concludes her book by remarking that even if her life didn’t start too well, she “just grow’d.” She has enjoyed, and continues to enjoy, a good life, and the rest, she says, “is going to be brilliant!” It’s a happy ending to great story.

Pat Chrisfield