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Made In Chertsey.

I’m eighty seven, and this is my life blog/Memoir, I was born in nineteen thirty two, in Chertsey, Surrey.

I need to set down the important—and not so important— moments in my life so that I have something to pass on to my family.

My parents were Charles, and Ethel. They were married in 1920.

I was born in 1932 and was the youngest of six children, 3 boys, Bernard, b 1924,Don, b 1930, and myself, b 1932, and 3 girls, Deidre, b 1921, Iris, b 1922 and Christine, b 1927.

I am the last one of this family living,

I have 2 sons, Iain and James, 3 grand daughters and 2 grandsons.

My father died on his way to work in Weybridge, he was 34, he had been ill with ‘flu and because there was no sick pay, he probably returned to work too early.  After cycling up Woburn Hill,  he fell from his bike, and died before a doctor could be called. The cause of death was influenza myocarditis.

My mother was 34, with 6 children to bring up on her own, there was no welfare state in 1934, my mother relied on her friends and neighbours to manage.

In 1937 my mother met Fred Barker, he moved in and took responsibility for our family, he must have been quite a man to take on six kids. I was young enough to think of him as my dad, although we all called him Fred. Mum and Fred had two children, David and Sylvia.

I am using this blog, so that this story is passed on, the stories are mostly unedited and as I remember them— with just a little imagination.

 

Sad David.

On Tuesday I had a cataract operation. I had the first assessment four months ago, the actual op’ was about fifteen minutes. I now look in the mirror in total surprise—as Don Williams would say.

It is incredible what we have with our NHS, I know people will say that we have paid for it all our working lives, but it must rank as the most cost effective health system that there is.

As I came out of the eye unit, I met a man that I had been in the same cardiac ward with a couple of years ago.

Of course, he didn’t recognise me—story of my life—but he was unmissable, I have never met such a sad looking man in my life.

I remembered how I tried to cheer this poor man up when we were in opposite beds, but everything I tried he found something to moan about.

He told me about his life and I could why he was so sad, he’s about sixty years old, he looked after his invalid mother for thirty years until her death, when ever he brought a girl friend home his mother would say she was not good enough and so he never married.

He told me that is the trouble with having a Jewish mother, no one is good enough for her son.

As soon as I realised he was Jewish, I thought I would tell him a joke that I had heard on the American TV show; ‘Old Jews telling jokes’.

As soon as I started he face slumped even more but I carried on regardless.

“An old Jewish couple living in New York, Rachel and Joe, Rachel was in the bathroom when she screamed for help, Joe rushed in only to see Rachel was stuck in the toilet bowl with just her legs and head and shoulder’s showing”.

David looked even more disgruntled, he said.

“That’s he oldest joke I have ever heard”

He then took over the joke, and I must say there is no one that can tell a Jewish joke like a sad Jewish man.

When he finished he didn’t even smile, and just said mildly funny, mildly funny.

I don’t think the the rest of the joke is suitable for the refined people of Chertsey Chatter, so I won’t finish it.

 

 

E.E.Wegs.

 

 

 

Most mornings you would find my mum scanning the Daily Herald and the Mirror.

Not for her the headlines on the front pages or the stories of banking scandals, or even the obituaries of famous people.

No, mum was focusing all her attention on the back pages, where the likes of Bouverie or Newsboy were holding forth on which horse would win the two thirty at Ascot or Alexandra Palace.

Such was her immersion in the written word of these racing guru’s, that no one would dare to interrupt her.

It was like she actually believed that the horses these tipsters were putting forward as likely winners were going to give her a good return on her sixpence each way five horse accumulator, (total outlay one shilling).

I’m not sure how this bet works but I think it is something like this, a sixpence is placed on the first horse to finish in the first three, if it is successful, the winnings are placed on the second horse and so on to the next horse, if one of the horses fails to finish in the first three, the bet is lost.

This is how bookmakers or turf accountants as Gordon, my brother in law called himself, make all their money— ‘Tom Astor’, Turf accountant, behind the the old lodging House.

Mum never gambled with the house keeping or anything like that, she was a bookies runner for Gordon, she would earn commission for the bets she collected from our neighbours.

By the way there were several bookies runner’s nearby, Hoppy Wells in Barker Road, Sykey Balchin in Pyrcroft Road and my Mum also in Pyrcroft road.

There must have a great deal of gambling in our little area!!

The amazing thing is, she once won with this sort of bet, probably about five pounds, a week’s wage for some.

Her Non de plume was E,E Wegs, at the bottom of every betting slip was, AFC, (Anything To Come) and then another five horses, and so on.

It was not about the winning but the taking part, she might have said.

She was never upset if she lost, but she liked to tell us, if only that horse at Ascot had finished, she would be in the money.

Unlike some of our family, I never had the betting bug

I would take and collect the bets my mum had collected and realised it was nearly always a one-way trip.

Although, I have done the Lottery since it started, I am afraid to stop as all my numbers are birthdays.

 

Batwing Jumper.

When I am writing a story, one word would trigger another story. In my last post the trigger word was ‘Jersey’.

By now I had become more interested in what I wore, and this jumper looked just the ticket.

It was a ‘batwing style’, this meant the sleeves started at the cuffs and gradually swept up to about mid waist, it was black with a red stripe along the top of the sleeves to the collar, this was all held together with very large black stitches. I loved it.

 

My brother David had just been married to another Ann, and they were staying with us for a while.

I came home from work one day and was greeted by the jubilant young bride, she pointed to the washing line and said.

“Guess what”.

I’m never very good at this guessing game, so I looked to where she was pointing.

With what can only be described as my heart hitting my bladder, I saw my lovely black batwing jumper with the red stripe and black stitching hanging from the washing line by the sleeves, the body almost touching the ground.

“I’ve done your washing and it’s dry already”.

It may have been dry but not as dry as my mouth, as I said.

“That’s very kind of you Ann, I didn’t know it needed washing though”

I looked in dismay at what now looked like a large Manta Ray that some fisherman had hung up to display his prowess at fishing.

In a moment, the enthusiastic Ann, had removed the jumper and was urging me to try it on, actually it wasn’t too bad; it was just the sleeves that I could see might be a problem.

They were always a bit long, but now they were about a foot too long, but the ever-resourceful Ann, said.

“All we have to do is roll the sleeves up a bit.”

This, she helped me to do, I had the feeling that she had begun to realize that all was not well with the sleeve department, and I saw the jubilation drain from her body.

To save her feelings I said it all looked great— the rolled up sleeves looked like something Anna Karenina would wear as a muff in the Russian winter.

“At last” I said. “I may be at the forefront of men’s fashion, by leading instead of copying.”

 

But it never caught on.

 

As I am slightly colour blind, so hadn’t noticed that the lovely scarlet sleeves that had caught my eye in ‘Cecil Gee’s Outfitters For the Younger Man’, had also lost their vibrancy and were now a sort of rusty colour.

The heavy knitted woolen texture of the whole jumper was more like a cheap wool mixture, with most of the wool missing, this made it all rather floppy.

I soon found another problem with this loosely knitted material,

It made cycling even more difficult in an unexpected way

The ‘batwings’ would flap, even at quite low speeds, and if I were in a hurry, the whole jumper would inflate, causing a large hump on my back.

All this plus the ‘Anna Karenina’ cuff’s was not the image I had originally sought.

 

Like all my clothes, once I had tired of them or more likely they had become just tired I would then wear them to work.

This was a common practice and some worker’s could be seen riding their bikes dressed in clothes not at all meant for cycling.

The ride to and from the Vickers Armstrong factory was always an exciting affair, with so many workers arriving in the morning at about the same time— eight thousand of them— it was a race to ‘clock in’ at eight.

One of the most inappropriate of these garments was a single-breasted raincoat, which a year or two earlier were all the rage with local youths.

Now these younger workers could be seen with these cheap coats flapping around them, racing to work, looking like a posse of cowboys lead by Clint Eastwood` chasing Doc Holliday in a cowboy film.

As if this was not enough of a pantomime, some of the older worker’s had invested in a little petrol engine, which was fixed to the rear wheel of their bikes, with these, they were more than capable of overtaking the ‘posse’.

They looked a grand sight with their ex army waterproof capes billowing in the wind at twenty miles per hour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Karen.

 

.

For this story, the word ‘Kingston’ from my last story, was the memory trigger, and Bentall’s in particular.

Summer 1962, I was, and still am a shy person. Shy people will know how harrowing this story would have been for them in the same situation.

I was thirty, my wife Ann and I, having been married for four years, were expecting our first child in a month’s time.

For some reason, that I now find inexplicable, we decided to take my five-year-old niece, Karen for a day out in Kingston.

We found our little niece amusing, she had lots to say in the car journey to town, she was a lovely looking child and her mother Sylvia, had dressed her in a very nice pink frock.

******

Had we not already been expecting a child, I think that day in Kingston, would have prevented us from ever going into parenthood at all, never ever!!

*****

For as soon as we entered the large showrooms, our angelic little niece became a tornado in a pink dress, she disappeared into racks of ladies’ dresses, this we thought was funny.

But then……… she spotted the escalators.

For some-one who had never, ever seen an escalator before, she managed to

become an expert at running up the down side and down the upside and not only that, but reversing when-ever I was anywhere near her.

Only by one of us standing at the top and the other standing at the bottom of the escalator, were we eventually able to capture her.

Keeping a firm hand on her, we thought a dinner followed by a nice pudding would keep her occupied for a little while, and then we would return home as quickly as possible.

We sat down in the restaurant, it was full of group’s of ladies, they seemed to belong to some sort of women’s club out for the day, the tables were joined together to make several long tables.

We ordered our meal and Karen was fascinated with all the pretty hats, at last she had quieted down, and her meal was soon eaten.

While Ann and I were deciding on our pudding, there was a disturbance a couple of seats along the row, the ladies’ were looking under the table.

It was like a tsunami.

Each lady jerked back as our little angel was passing under the legs—and sometimes through them. Then to surface at the end of the table with a wave, in much the same manner as our twenty-minute ordeal on the escalator.

I tried to walk casually along the table following the wave but she had learned a trick or two on the escalators and she would go into reverse.

I saw Ann looking at the menu, I could see the large open card she was holding, shaking, I could be mistaken but I think she was either laughing hysterically or was just plain hysterical.

A rather superior looking waiter managed to grab our little treasure and bring her to me.

A round of applause went through the dining room; I think the ladies’ thought it was amusing to see a mere male trying to cope with a little girl of five and then losing the battle.

On the plus side, we were escorted from the room and didn’t have to pay the bill.

 

P.s Karen Price Weguelin is a regular in this group.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The story page fourteen.

The story page fourteen.

I am not sure of the date of this story, I have tried to find out on the internet but have not found any mention of this air-raid. I will visit Chertsey museum next month to see if there is any information there. It is only what I remember of that night.

So far, apart from rationing, everything is calm, you would not think we were at war.

That changed one night when a bomb fell in Pyrcroft Road, just across from us.

Four houses were totally destroyed and three people were killed. The front of several houses on our side of the road had the front walls removed as if they were sliced off with a knife.

Our house was about 200 yards away, from the bombed houses, all our windows were broken and the front door blown up the stairs.

When ever the air-raid siren sounded, Mum, Fred and the young ones would sleep under the kitchen table.

On this night I slept under the dresser, as the baby kept crying.

No matter how I try, I can’t recall the actual explosion, it must have been deafening.

What I do remember is jumping up and cutting my head on the dresser.

I see my Mum, she pulls off the old army overcoat that I liked to cover myself with, it was covered with broken glass and plaster from the ceiling, she pulls me under the table with the rest of the family.

The room was so thick with dust you could hardly see the light, although it was switched on.

Our new evacuees, Mrs. O’Keefe and her son Dennis, manage to get down from upstairs, over the front door which was almost at the top, followed by Iris and Chrissy, they were all unhurt.

A few minutes later we are all in the scullery, Mrs. O’Keefe is making a cup of tea, she has seen it all before, they were bombed out in Stepney.

It is very light outside and we all go round to Mrs. Salmons, her house is further away and undamaged.

People are running around to see if they can help, there is a loud bang and sheets of flames from the bombed houses, the firemen have arrived and making everyone move away.

Ambulances arrive, I see lady on a stretcher, she looks soaking wet, then I see it is blood.

The houses are now blazing and even the firemen have to move back.

We are all together but we don’t know what to do.

My poor Mum she cried and cried, it is all too much for her.

The story page eleven, 1940.

The story page eleven, 1940.

Here I am aged eight moaning about the necessities of life.

***********

Who ever heard of a vegetable like a swede, being cooked and then flavoured with banana?

at school, that’s what we had for pudding. Banana fritters without any banana.

What’s the world coming to?

The war really is getting serious. Sweets are vanishing from the shops.

My mate Teddy Wade, from Cowley Avenue, gave me some nice sweets yesterday, they were in a little round tin, they are called ‘Zubes’.

He said he bought them from the chemists in Guildford Street, near the Station.

“They have lots of this sort of thing, they’re called cough sweets, so as well as tasting nice they are good for you.”

Teddy is the sort of boy who knows a thing or two, he then carried on.

“If you know where to look, you can get anything. In old Mrs. Froud’s shop, you know, next to the ‘The Bell’ pub, she’s got sweets in the back room. They are a bit old and sticky and will soon be all gone, so if you want some, go now.”

I left it too late, Mrs. Froud’s shop had been cleaned out, all that was left was little square tins of ‘Nippits’. These are tiny bits of liquorice, meant for people who smoke, to clean their breath. Not meant for kids at all, but they were better than nothing, and lasted along time.

Whenever there was a mention of somewhere with a sweets delivery, kids from all over the town would fill the shop.

It was becoming a serious problem, even ‘Woolworths’ were selling fake bananas that were really just large dried bean skins, and sticks of thin wood flavoured with aniseed or liquorice—I think they were roots of something or other. Theses had to be sucked to get any flavour from them, then they became stringy.

Today at dinner time, Miss Slaughter, our head mistress, told us what to do if the siren went off while we were eating our dinner.

“It’s never good to rush your dinner, but what we must do now, instead of putting your knife and fork down between mouthfuls, keep them in your hand, ready for the next forkful. Then we will all be finished more quickly.”

I looked at Tony Rees, he pointed at his empty plate.

Like me, he had finished his dinner as soon as he had sat down, our knife and fork never left our hands once we got started.

Miss Slaughter—well named as far as I was concerned, she was very handy with the stick—then stood on the platform holding a bag of Horlicks tablets (little squares of compressed Horlicks in paper wrappers).

“All line up here in alphabetical order, there is one tablet for each of you.”

I am never very lucky with this sort of thing, and sure enough, me and my mate, Laury Zubiana, —who was of course at the end of the queue— went without.

 

Such is life.