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In association with The Royal Bank of Scotland

I have absolutely no regrets

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April Ashley with her mother, Ada, as they left London airport on their way to Gibraltar in 1961

Was there no love or compassion for her anywhere? "None whatsoever. My mother Ada slapped me every day. I was in the middle of six children; my mother had 10 altogether, but some died very early.

"She had such a hard life she was incapable of loving any of us, but she liked hitting me and she hit me very badly.

"Eventually doctors at Alder Hey Children's Hospital threatened my mother with prison, because they found a hole in my back they could put their thumb in and touch my spine, made by the buckle of a belt."

Nobody else from Pitt Street or Norris Green shares April Ashley's rich, treacly, cognac vintage voice. She says: "I'm not the aristocrat they keep calling me. I don't know where my voice comes from. As a child my mother used to keep saying to me, 'Why do you keep talking posh?' I'd say 'I'm not talking posh mother,' and that would get me a good slap across the face."

Ashley has a quaintly romantic theory that while a delivery boy biking out to Liverpool's classier suburbs, he somehow assimilated an Oxford English accent.

"I was the fastest runner in Liverpool. And bike pedaller. I had to be to get away from my tormentors," she chortles..

"As a child I went poaching on Lord Derby's estate at Knowsley. I cheekily looked through bushes at his house. I realised that there was another world and not just filth and dirt and outside bogs and only having one bath a week."

Other characteristics marked out young George from his Norris Green peers: "I had a wonderful carriage and walked like a ballerina. I was incredibly demure. Still am at 70. I was very shy and I'm still very shy.

"My first taste of the high life was working for the Lundy family, grocers at St John's Market, Liverpool, on the day World War II ended. Then I went to live with them when I was 10.

"From being slapped around all the time at home, suddenly I was treated to the cinema in a chauffeur driven car and allowed a tiny glass of whisky before dinner and wine at dinner."


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