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Made In Chertsey

I’m eighty six, 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.

 

St Annes Hill, Chertsey.

St Annes Hill.

My first memory of ‘The Hill’, was in 1937, age five.

King George’s Coronation party in the Dingle. I was terrified by the Dragon strolling about in the St George and the Dragon play that was being performed.

All my other memories of ‘The Hill’ were of a wonderland, perfect for everyone, no matter their age.

Sledging and ‘wooding,’ in the winter. Bluebell-dell, in the spring, a denser carpet of Bluebells I have yet to see. Purple Rhododendrons it full colour where ever you looked in the summer. Blackberries, followed by Hazel nuts then the giant Chestnut trees in Chestnut Wood in the autumn.

The Dingle, a dream of a place for us kids. An old gravel pit dug into the side of the hill. With a stone built look-out at the top. Gradually landscaped by the previous owners. At the base, a level lawn with three Giant Redwoods. A large deep pond, and a long and overgrown one full of Dragon flies. A brick built domed ice-house now with seats instead of ice. And our favourite, a small pond with a Japanese style wooden bridge next to a summer house—all in good condition when I was a child.

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As is usual, when I write about something, another story is knocking at the door.

Such as.    A hot summer afternoon in 1943.

Sykey Balchin, Teddy Wade, Johnny Sewell, Teddy Bolton and his slightly older brother Billy; The Cowley Avenue Apaches.

Our enemies, Nancy and Pansy, two pesky girls who thought they could be in charge of everything we did. They had a sixth sense of where we were at any time.

We needed to go to the Dingle, but this meant passing Pansy’s house.

We decided to go one by one, so as not to be noticed.

It worked like a charm, no sign of the enemy.

Our headquarters; The summer house next to the little pond with the bridge.

Sykey decided he wanted a wee, and went over to the bridge—now you ladies probably don’t realise that boys of our age are very competitive, and being able pee the highest is a badge of honour that we all sought—especially being able to pee over the wall into the girl’s lavatory at Stepgates—plus the chance to see who had the biggest willie.

We were soon next to Sykey, with our trousers down waiting for Billy, who was having trouble with his buttons, there was lots of shouting and pointing at each other.

Then, it was if a switch had been thrown, it all went quiet when Billy joined us with his trousers round his ankles,——Sykey said .

“I’ve had enough of this game. I’m going up the lookout.

In silence, we all got dressed and trooped across the lawn.

Up on the lookout were those two pesky girls, Nancy and Pansy, shouting and waving their arms.

“Billy is the winner, we love Billy.”

With a big smile on his face, Billy was left doing up his buttons.

It was the first time ever that Billy had come first in his life.

 

I’m sure I’m not alone,

I’m sure I’m not alone, when sometimes I hear a couple of words spoken by someone just passing me by, that sets my mind on a train of thoughts which I can’t remove. Similar to the tune once heard that you can’t get rid of for days.

Two days ago, such a thing happened to me. I have been moved from one ward to another for the last few weeks, I had been promised to go home the next day. It seems as you start to get better, you are moved up a floor, I am now on the sixth floor, Cavell Ward.

As I entered the bay of five beds, I heard an old man chanting, nothing wrong with that of course, North London is Multi- cultural.

But it was the snatch of just two words, that started the train of thoughts that would dog me for the next couple of days, in the murmured outpourings of incoherent chanting, popped out lauderdale road, as clear as anyone could say, followed for the rest of day by more mumbling.

Only when he was sleeping, did it stop. Unfortunately, that was when my curiosity about lauderdaleroad was replaced by what I can only describe as a scene from ‘A night at the museum’.

The other three beds were occupied by old men who were obviously very ill, one that sounded like Alf Garnett‑my favourite TV character-. Another who only slept during the day and of course our happy chanter.

As soon as the lights went out one of them decided to go for a walk, this started a conversation with a nurse, who in herself was no shrinking violet. Mr ‘Garnett’ joined in, with very ‘Alf Garnett’ language.

This is going to be jolly, I thought, now we have three-way conversation.

Now that our happy chanter had competition, he felt he had to turn up the volume.

The remaining man, who up till now had been completely silent, tried to get out of bed, and unable to cope the nurse asked for back-up, there are now six voices trying to be heard.

As I pulled the covers over me, another word from our happy chanter came over loud and clear, ‘pelhamstreet ‘.

Now I’ll never get to sleep, but I remember the sun rising before I finally dozed off.

The next day I was told I should really stay another night, but I declined.

This morning, after a good nights sleep in my own bed, I woke to the sound our boys going to school.

Some time ago I bought two yards of material, I now use as a throw on my bed. It had a road map of London printed on it, I was just browsing over the names of the roads printed on it and there was Lauderdale Road, and after a few minutes I found Pelham Street.

I think our happy chanter was probably not religious at all, but a retired London Taxi Driver rehearsing ‘The Knowledge’, which I’m sure he never need again.

He certainly took me round the longest way though.

 

 

The Story Part Four.

The story part four.

Deirdre, Charlie’s darling, tall, slim, with black wavy hair, always his favourite. A sensitive child, this day will scar her for the rest of her life.

Iris, so different from her sister, tough and always ready for anything, now a little girl crying for her dad.

The moment is broken, St peter’s bell strikes a single note, one o’clock, less than six hours since that ‘cheerio’ and the ring of Charlie’s bicycle bell.

Then, another bell, again, the muffled sound from the Cemetery, saying goodbye to some poor soul.

Ethel looks at the old alarm clock on the dresser, already five minutes slow, soon, it too will try to ring its bell for the hour. Next to it a neat packet of sandwiches, never to be eaten.

Doctor Ward, his duty done drives away, followed by Sgt Reynolds on his tall bike.

The circle of friends around Ethel’s garden gate, now moving back in ones and twos to their own homes, still wondering at the wickedness of nature.

Mrs. Rees, recently fleeing from the valleys of Wales, and her husband Dai, a Welsh miner, now in a valley in Surrey, safe from the pit tragedy that claimed so many lives. They remember scenes such as these, groups of wives huddled around the pit head, hoping to see someone, anyone, emerge from that smoke filled pit.

There’s Mrs. Salmon at her gate, with the same ladies that always seem to gather together when some one is in need. The last few years of the depression and the lack of jobs, have taught them how best to cope.

Money, as always, is the key. Ethel’s savings, small as they were, are soon gone.

No work no money, the reason for Charlie to ride those few miles, before he was fit.

Mrs. Parker, has a quick ‘whip-round’, a penny here, a penny there, soon a few shillings. Then some food and a jug of tea, everyone eager to help.

Poor people know what it’s like to be poor.

 

 

 

 

The Story Part Three.

The Story Part Three.

 

Bernard, bewildered, clutching his sisters hand, as they dodged between the outstretched arms of the growing group of neighbours.

Four children, crashing through the front door into their mother’s arms.

All legs, arms, tears and kisses.

But for them the cruellest truth was yet to unfold.

The school teacher’s, still not able to believe what they had been told. Could not bring them-selves to see these lovely children dissolve in front of them.

There had been an accident, they said.

Rosy Salmon—a natural rock for all around to cling to in the bad times. Stands on the doorstep with the Sergeant by her side, he, looking down at so many anxious faces, for a moment cannot find his words.

“I’m very sorry to tell you all of a terrible accident, our friend Charlie.”

He pauses as he reads the statement in his hand.

“Mr. Charles Luz Weguelin, of 75 Pyrcroft Road, Chertsey, Surrey, died on Woburn Hill, Addlestone, at a quarter-past eight this morning.”

He rocked back on his heels into the doorway.

Mrs. Salmon took the note from his hand and completed the statement.

“Mr. Weguelin died of a massive heart attack, cause unknown, it is thought he must have died immediately.”

A low murmur and then sobbing from the stunned crowd, they always knew it would be thus, but hope is a straw always worth clinging to.

Deidre, twelve years old, heard these words, first by the policeman and then by Mrs. Salmon.

Her father, her lovely father.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Made in Chertsey. PartTwo.

Made in Chertsey. The Story.  Part Two.

Rosy, for once was the listener, now leaning over her friend’s chair, holding her hand, the tears falling freely from her eyes.

She had known that hollow feeling, just a moment when all your hopes and dreams were swept away.

That young policeman, PC Reynolds—now the sergeant—handing her that dreadful telegram.

Doctor Ward, sitting in front of Ethel, ready to support her, as he stumbled on his words.

“Ethel, there’s been an accident.”

He looked up at Rosy, as if for help, trying to find the words to soften the blow, but only three words could he find.

“Charlie has died.”

“I’m very sorry my dear, he would not have suffered, it would have been so sudden.”

A deep breath, and then silence, as she tried to understand those three little words.

Young Donald, with the sense that a child of four has, knowing when to find shelter in a storm, climbed up closer till their faces touched.

Rosy, looking through the still open front door, saw Mrs. Phillips standing at her garden gate from across the road. Drying her hands on her apron—today is everyone’s wash-day, she is joined by Mrs. Hyde, they stand and wonder.

First a policeman, followed by the doctor, it could only be one thing.

Soon there are three or four friends now gathering around Ethel’s front garden, all with the same question in their eyes, who could it be? Surely not young Bernard.

The noise of children running helter-skelter down the road, was heard before they were seen, with the headmistress, Miss Slaughter and Miss Payne trying to keep up.

Dierdre, Iris, Bernard and Christine, all holding hands, to stop them-selves stumbling, ran around the corner, calling for their mum.

The friends and neighbours, now more than ten in number, tearfully looked at each other, it must be Charlie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Made in Chertsey. The story begins, 1934.

Ethel felt a slight shiver, as she saw the neat pack of sandwiches on the dresser.

Charlie, her husband had left for work in a hurry.

Without a wage for the last two weeks, because of a long bout of ‘flu, he needed to earn some money.

Influenza, a disease that had laid low all the family, and for that matter, most of the country for the last few weeks, now seemed to have moved on.

She smiled, as she put his lunch on the cool marble slab in the larder. He will cycle back the mile or so at midday, she would hear the clatter of his bike against the fence, then see his sheepish grin as he passes the kitchen window—this is not the first time, and probably not the last.

Just above baby Donald’s noisy play as he tease’s his little brother—so close in age are they, as to be almost twins—she could hear the school bell, the four older children will be safely filing into school now, she thought.

 

But then, there was another bell, the mournful bell of the grave yard, first a muffled tone then a full one. Another funeral, another ‘flu victim, one of many in recent weeks.

She paused for a moment, poor Mrs. Thompson, and that young man in Cowley Avenue, just a street away, and more still up the top of the town.

Another shiver, more intense this time, as she thought how easily it could have been them. She slowly did the sign of the cross—not a thing that she had ever done before, both she and Charlie had always been free of any religion.

Pulling herself together, she grabbed the huge pile of washing from the table. Today is washday. She fills the copper tub that is built into the corner of the scullery, with buckets of water, a handful of soda, a quick stir with the copper stick, then to light the fire.

First some newspaper—but not before she sees the Head-line—500 ‘flu deaths in London—she quickly piles on some wood and puts a match to the paper and watches the head-line burn away.

Working quickly now, as if to change the subject of her thoughts. First in, will go the white sheets and towels, then the coloureds followed by Charlies work clothes.

The crackle of the wood blazing under the large copper tub and the white bleached copper stick plunging up and down on the washing, all sounding like a machine, anything— anything, to cast away those thoughts of sadness.

Now best of all, some bread on a long fork, toasting so quickly on the flaming wood, it burns.

The boy’s licking their lips at the thought of some dripping on toast.

Ethel sits back in her favourite armchair, green velvet with lovely curved mahogany wood-work, a hand-me-down from Charlies family, as was the huge picture of ‘The Charge of the Light brigade’-family legend has it, that a member of our family was there on that day.

On the dresser, next to the sandwiches, was the green alarm clock, a wedding present from her sister Tina, she winds it up and sets it right to St Peters Church bell, it’s already ten O’clock.

Looking around the kitchen, seeing the dust that had laid there for these last few weeks. With the early springtime sunlight streaming through the window, highlighting the steam and smoke from the copper as it drifted slowly across the room. She thinks of spring cleaning—not today though, perhaps next week.

 

 

Through the kitchen window, she sees Mrs. Salmon, as usual she’s carrying a cake, and coming around for a chat and a cup of tea.

They have been friends since they each moved in to their newly built council homes, just two doors apart, taking turns to make the tea and a cake every morning.

Rosy Salmon was a very large lady, her full face always blushed with the effort of just being so big, her name, Rosy, was well chosen. A kinder lady you would be hard pressed to find.

She came through the door with a huff and a puff, with one thought on her mind, to sit in that lovely green chair—the so-called Rosies chair.

Ethel stood up to put the kettle on.

“There’s a nice seedy cake for you Ethel.”

They settle down for their tea, and the local gossip.

Of course, the subject is the very thing Ethel was trying to avoid, there had been another poor soul taken from their family, an old lady from Ruxbury hill, but not a person known to them.

The sound of a bicycle clattering against the fence, first startled, and then delighted Ethel, it must be Charlie, perhaps the ‘flu has closed the propeller factory, and all the workers had been sent home.

She quickly put the kettle back on the hob as she went to the back door.

“It’s the front door, Effie.”

Mrs. Salmon leant back to see who it was at this time of the day.

For once her cheeks lost their blush.

It was a few years ago now, that a young PC  Reynolds had knocked at her front door, with a telegram, saying that her husband was missing, believed dead.

Gathering young Alan up, Ethel opened the front door.

With the bright sun making his hat badge sparkle as he removed his helmet, stood a sad faced Sgt Reynolds.

Stepping down from his car behind him was Dr Dudley Ward.

Dr Ward, our local doctor and Sgt. Reynolds, sat at the table, probably thinking they had seen the last of moments such as this, when having to tell a young mother some terrible news. When just a few years ago, during the war it was a weekly task

Ethel, now looking from one man to the other, with their sad drawn faces, why were they here in front of her?     It must be the children, had they not left for school, all holding hands less than an hour ago?

Sensing her fear, Dr Ward—who knew her well, and had delivered most of her children—held her hand and quietly said.

“Ethel, the children are safely at school, but I have some very bad news for you, It’s Charlie.”

She felt a flush of heat go through her body, now looking intently at the doctor, needing to know what could possibly have happened, and at the same time not wanting to know.

Sgt Reynolds, a big man, now with tears in his eyes, turns away, lifting young Alan from his mother’s arms and walks slowly into the garden. Here is a woman, just thirty-four, with six children, the eldest just twelve and a child of two, with everything to look forward to, it was all too much for him.

Dr Ward took some pills from his bag, knowing no amount of medicine will ever be enough to dull the pain, of what he was about to tell this poor young woman.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Going through the motions.

October 1943. Although, it is now about three years since we were bombed out, the shock of it all, has affected me in some unexpected ways.

The most obvious one was, when ever I am under the slightest stress I winked.

As you can imagine, this leads to quite a few misunderstandings, for example, when the very voluptuous sports teacher, Miss James, was telling me off for being late, my rogue winky eye went into over-drive.

She was not amused, and gave me 100 lines of ‘Familiarity breeds Contempt’.

I have realised, since bringing these long forgotten stories to mind, that the bomb that fell that night, left me with an odd condition. Something similar to epilepsy.

When I was under higher stress, I would know, within minutes, what would follow.

First I would be aware of a rather odd smell, not unlike Walnuts, after that, I knew it would be followed by a fuzzy image of what looked like an Indian Chief in full headdress.

I also had an unstoppable urge to seek a lavatory—not always successfully.

My life became—where ever I was—one, of always looking for a lavatory or some bushes.            I managed to survive for the next three or four years that I had this problem.

Then this happened.

On my way home from school on a very hot day in August, so hot that the tar on the road was melting.

I was passing Miss Stott’s ladies outfitters, at Bell Corner, when she suddenly appeared in front of me—Miss Stott had only recently had cause to dislike me, but that’s another story.

Instantly, I had the smell of Walnuts, quickly followed by Geronimo—we are now on first name terms— the Indian Chief.

I knew I had to find a lav’ quickly, but I was still 200 yards from home.

First I tried walking in slow motion, sliding my shoes along the pavement, as if I was doing a very slow Waltz. But I soon realised I would run out of time.

I then started to run, but woe is me, I got as far as Mr Garretts little shop, before disaster struck, and I quickly hid behind a telegraph pole—on of the few advantages of being extremely skinny, is that I could do this without being seen—or so I thought.

Along came my brother Don, riding his delivery bike, in the large front basket sat his friend, Syky Balchin, shouting for all of Chertsey to hear.

“Ha Ha Ha, Look Don, your brothers done it in trousers again.”

Old Mr Garrett, looked over to see what it was all about, and seeing my dilemma, he brought over some paper, so that I could sort myself out.

‘Trevor” he said—he’s been talking to my mum—. “if you stand in front of the telegraph pole, the sun will dry the rest of it off, and then you can can just peel it off.”

After a couple hours, it really had dried, but it wouldn’t peel off.

I am only eleven but I am quickly losing the will to live.

I decided to run for it, but only one leg was operational, so I galloped the 200 yards home, with one leg trailing.

Mum was in the kitchen, and gave me one of her looks, then she spotted something on my shoe, before she could say anything, I said.

“A dog dunnit.”

Judging by the clip round the ear that she gave me, I don’t really think she believed me.