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Made In Chertsey.

I am updating this blog, many posts have been edited several times. It will soon be written as Chapters, 1 and 2 etc.

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.

Today my son Iain.

Today, my son Iain, gave me a lovely compliment, he said.

‘Dad, you have a mind like a computer’.

I was so pleased, that at last someone had recognised my unique gift.

But my pleasure was rather short lived when he carried on by saying.

‘You can only think of one thing at a time, just like a computer but a bit slower’.

Actually, I didn’t want to say anything, but I knew this already, I have a one-track mind—not in a sexual way, I hasten to add, more like ‘Basic’

Most children think like this, my Grandson, Kian, is an expert in ‘basic’, every mealtime he will divide his dinner in small heaps. Then he would start his sub-routine.

Line 1. ‘if I eat that bit can I leave those two bits’

Line 2. ‘If I make the rest of the dinner look very small, can I have a ’Twizzle’’.

I have to admit that I can’t do two things at a time, my wife, Ann, always said.

‘Alan, you can’t walk and talk at the same time’.

Unfortunately, although she was joking—I think—now it is very true.

The time for change is coming.

I wonder what the people of the UK would like to change if they were asked to put their preferences in order of importance.

We probably have the best chance to bring about any change in the next few years

There are of course some very obvious changes, that most people would agree to.

In the UK, we are inclined to admire success in business, we give Knighthoods to people who have simply made a lot of money for themselves—sometimes at other peoples cost. We need successful businessmen of course, but perhaps we should judge their value to society against the value of a man who collects our rubbish or a lorry driver who delivers our food.

 Think how important these front-line workers are, we would be lost without them in a couple of weeks, but we don’t give them a second thought in normal times—and they are still out there today, risking their lives for us. 

In the not too distant past, the men who went down the coal mines, also risking their lives—with quite often inadequate safety equipment—every single day, were the heroes of the day.

Now, step forward today’s heroes, they too, are risking their lives every single day, and once again with inadequate safety equipment.

Top of the list must be the NHS workers—from the most experienced Doctor’s, to the cleaners and porters—who, just like those miners, who went down the pit’s years ago, they also know the risks to their lives, as the walk through the Hospital doors.

Its past the time for change, we have got to honour the right people.

You know it makes sense!

Just a few word’s.

I have always been aware of how a few words, repeated many times can have an effect out of all proportion to the actual meaning of the words.

If someone said ‘Get it done’ a few years ago, most people would say. ‘Get what done’. In 2019, some people still did not know what this slogan really meant. But this three-word slogan was like a ‘pin’ pricking a balloon of frustration, and we all know what happened next.

Not only did it release the frustration, but it also exposed the misleading promises, that were hidden within.

Then we had another balloon, this one was full of slogans that we all plainly understood; wash your hands, keep your distance, stay in-doors and so on.

But instead of using the ‘Get it done’ pin to flood our minds with the message inside, the balloon was let down slowly over a couple weeks, costing no-one knows how many more lives.

We can all make mistakes, but now to keep telling us that we have millions of pieces of medical kit, without telling us what this kit is—it could be just bandages—is misleading at best. 

Our Doctors are still telling us they don’t have enough person protection equipment. I know who I would rather believe.  

E Book, The story of Eric, April 12th 2020.

E Book,The Story of Eric, April 12th 2020.

Some of you may recognise this story I posted some time ago, which took place around 1940. There is a similarity with the fear of food shortages, that people were having a few weeks ago. There was no panic buying of course, no one could afford to do so. 

(I have also pinched an old Jewish joke and added to the end of the story, but the rest of the story is completely true).

Anyway, it took a different form of panic, because our rations were so meagre, pets such as cats and dogs were abandoned, as it was difficult to feed them.

It was common to see a poor dog roaming the streets looking for food and a friendly face.

One of these poor creatures, a little Jack Russell, adopted our home; he just sat on our doorstep until my mum let him in.

He had a little tag on his collar with the name ‘DICK’ on it.

Now, although we were a big family,  living in a poor area of Chertsey,  my mum tried to keep up her standards, this meant absolutely no swearing,  and to have something called ‘DICK’ roaming the house was just too much for her to bear.

In fact, any word that even sounded like a rude one would have a more proper alternative.

For instance,  we would not be allowed to say ‘FART” it would  instead be, ‘BLOWOFF’ or ’LET OFF ‘and such as that. Even now I am uneasy about saying this forbidden word.

We couldn’t even say,” I want to do a number two”,  mum would cut you short by wagging her finger and say,   “Ah– ah”.

From then on,  instead of saying ‘I want to do a number two’,  we would say “I want to do an Ah–ah”. It became very complicated.

So, ‘Dick’, our little Jack Russell was renamed ‘Eric’, it probably sounded the same to him anyway.

Besides these rules for naughty words,  my mother had a problem with tangling her word’s, she hardly ever remembered the our right name, in a family of six that could be quite confusing.

For instance, and for a reason I could never understand, I was called Trevor for weeks on end and then she would revert to my proper name, Alan—I later found out that we once had a cat called Trevor!

Eric was in a very poor condition and continually scratching himself.

We looked to see if he had fleas or something like that,  but all that could be seen was a bare patch where he had removed some fur from his belly.

Going to a vet was out of the question as it was a bus ride away in Addlestone,  but luckily our doctor was quite willing to give advice if needed, but could not actually treat the animal.

We put Eric in a shopping basket with an old jersey covering him to keep him warm and joined the queue outside Doctor Ward’s surgery.

No one in our road had a phone to make an appointment, so all you had to do was to take the chair nearest the door and as each person was seen, we moved along to the next chair until we were shown into the surgery.

It was not unlike musical chairs,  but  without any music.

Doctor ward smiled as he saw my mum, he had been our doctor for ages and had delivered most of our family. My mum had also been an unofficial midwife to most of our neighbours, along with Mrs Wade.

I held the shopping basket up so that the doctor could see Eric, but he didn’t look in it.

“Hello Ethel, what can I do for you today”.

“Doctor, could you look at my little Jack Russell, it has a nasty itch”

Now the doctor was well aware of my mum’s aversion to rude words, and also mixing up her words.

I saw him look at her intently, trying to work out what on earth she was talking about, then he smiled as the penny dropped..

“Your little Jack Russell’, yes of course Ethel, I know just what you mean”.

( Joke coming)

Still smiling, he took a jar of ointment from his cabinet and said,  “Here we are Ethel, just rub this on your ‘Little Jack Russell’  twice a day and don’t ride your bike for fortnight”.

E Book, The Black Cherry Fair. 2019. April 11th 2020.

One of my favourite stories was about a wonderful day that I spent in Chertsey, just last year.

The Black Cherry Fair. 2019.

I lived in Chertsey from 1932 till 1959; but had never been to the Famous Black Cherry Fair.

I hopped on a train and stayed with my best friends, Alex and Sheila Lees, in their beautiful home in Ottershaw. I was excited to see them again as we now live far apart.

As usual we talked all about our yesterdays, and I told them that at last I had won something on the lottery, the first time since it started.

I have always loved our quirky little town, but this was something special, the work that must have gone into organising everything was so worth it. We sometimes forget, that it’s always the same little group of enthusiasts, giving up their spare time to make this happen.

Thankyou, everyone one, you made my day, and for all those crowds enjoying this special day.

We toured all around the places I remember, The Abbey Barn where I was first told to get lost by my future wife Ann. I met her again a year later at an Airscrew Dance, Alex had taken her there and been buying her Rum and Ribena all night, and as soon as his back was turned I asked her for the last waltz, not only did she say yes to that, but also agreed to go to The Regal Cinema, in Walton the next day! 

We walked round the Abbey to the sad little bridge over the Abbey river with the floating water lilies, looking for all the world like a Monet painting. Then Willow Walk, where Benny Beech was always willing to sell you a cotter pin for your bike, even though it was a Sunday. He had an enormous heap of nuts, bolts and anything to do with bikes on his bench, a lovely man. 

There is no doubt that the place has changed, but at the top of the town, it can be seen what Chertsey used to be like when I was a child.

I remember being treated to my dinner in a café opposite the town hall, when I helped Bobby Salmon, with his horse and cart, to do his green grocery round in 1946; the dinner was delicious, sausage, egg and chips cost him one shilling! The sausage’s had real skins and the sausage meat inside would come out at each end and be lovely and crunchy, or even burnt—you don’t get that now, more’s the pity.

Now it was my turn to do the treating, I thought I would treat Alex and Sheila to a nice dinner.

Since my Lottery win, I felt in a very rare generous mood, we thought we would try the Thai Café in Windsor street, it was delicious.

Now, my meal in 1946 cost a shilling, and although the Thai meal very reasonable, I soon realised that my winnings of £2:90 did not go very far.

E Book, Fairness, April 10th 2020.

Children have always put fairness, or treating someone fairly as most important, you often hear them shout, ‘That’s not fair’ or such as that.

It was even very desirable to have a fair complexion or fair hair, even blond.

 David Ralph, who lived opposite Pound Pond, was such a boy, he was fair skinned and had blond hair, we all liked David—he was also amazingly good at marbles.

In school, owning marbles was like having money, it was currency, you could ‘swap’ them for anything, fag cards and milk tops, and even sweets.

On this day his pockets were heavy with marbles, he had beaten everyone, and now he had run out of boys to play with, and they had all drifted away.

Children have an easy remedy for this, it is called ‘scrambles’, our David shouted ‘scrambles’ and threw his marbles in the air. The playground was soon a heaving mass of children gathering as many marbles as they could, soon the games were in full flow again.

He was only ten, but he already knew, that to children, sharing was better than simply keeping.

Then we all grew up, and a new slogan crept in.

‘All’s fair in love and war’

E Book, madeinchertsey,Money, April 10th 2020.

July 1944. The first day of my first job, a delivery boy for ‘The Bargain Centre’ in Guildford street.

The boy who I was succeeding was showing me the ‘ropes’, he was on the delivery bike and I was walking along next to him. As we passed Tommy Garrett’s, I found a roll of pound notes held together with an elastic band.

My friend took the notes from me and said we should hand them in to the police station. He told me to wait outside to look after the bike and the boxes of groceries while he handed the money in. When he came out, he gave me half a crown, saying it was a reward that the Police Sergeant had given us for being honest.

At the age of twelve, I was not the worldliest child, but I felt uneasy about this, it was the first time I had seen so much money—nine pounds.

Without casting doubt on my friend’s story, I have often thought of the thrill he must have felt, holding, what amounted to two weeks wages for a working man. The temptation for him to keep it must have been overwhelming. 

On our way to the Police Station, we tried to think of any-one locally, who was so rich. My friend said it was most likely the winnings of a gambler—a ‘bookie’ had an office in the ‘Lodging House’ nearby.

Maybe, if he did keep the money, he may have thought, that as it was not the amount of money that could honestly be earned at that time, it would not be missed.

He told me not to say anything to anybody.

 I gave ‘My reward’ to my mother, saying I had found it, she didn’t believe me and gave me a clip round the ear, she quickly put it in her pocket though.

Looking back on this little story, I realise why I have never become a billionaire.