Haringey Literary Live, June 16th,2018.
I have now begun to string all my little stories together, in story of a Chertsey Boy.
Here is the first draft, written in the third person for now.
To be born a boy in England in the early 1930’s, was a blessing.
He would have avoided the horror of the Great War and will be too young to fight in the Second World War.
To be born in leafy Surrey in the same decade, was an even greater blessing.
If Kent is the ‘The garden of England’, with orchards of apples, and fruit of all kinds.
Surrey is the front garden, largely, with trees and shrubs, often, there for no other purpose than for their beauty and form.
His birth place, Chertsey, an old curfew town in the Thames Valley, is just twenty miles away from London, a place, with all the opportunity’s that a capital city offers, it is a city waiting with open arms for anyone with a reasonable education to take this opportunity to prosper.
On the other hand, someone with all these blessings, needs a family that would allow them to take this wonderful advantage.
That’s where our Chertsey boy meets an almost impossible barrier, poverty.
Plus the lack of adequate schooling and, most importantly, ambition—a desire to move on from his lot as factory fodder–content, like his father and brother, to continue in the way that seems laid out for them.
He is the youngest of six children, three sisters and two brothers, the eldest sister is just thirteen.
The family are virtually destitute, their father is dead, at the age of thirty-four, he died on his way to work.
He, after a bout of ‘flu had been unable to work for over a week, had set off for the two-mile cycle ride to his workplace at the ‘Airscrew propeller factory’, before he was fit enough to do so.
The journey includes ‘Woburn Hill’, quite a steep hill, climbing this proved too much for his weakened body, he suffered a massive heart attack and died where he fell.
That morning, when the three older children had just left for school, and our boys mother was preparing for the day, a day just like any other.
A knock on the door was to change that day, a day, that would be like no other.
There was Doctor Ward and beside him, PC Reynolds, the local Bobby—both well known to Mrs. Wegs, standing ashen faced in the doorway.
The first thought of a mother, who, less than half an hour ago, had seen her three children off to school, was of some accident to one of those children.
“Your children are safely at school” Doctor Ward said quickly.
“Let us sit down, Mrs. Wegs, but I do have some very bad news for you”.
For a moment, the relief she felt for the children being safe at school was now about to be shattered.
She looked in disbelief, as the kindly Doctor—who had delivered most of her children— was saying something that she could never have imagined, that her husband was dead.
Meanwhile, the three children, who had just arrived at school, were being comforted by the distressed teachers, who were at a loss to know what to do.
Mr. Fosters taxi arrived at the home, with Mrs. Salmon and the three young children, unable to understand what they had been told, all they wanted, was for someone to say it was not true.
Now, a scene that Doctor Ward and PC Reynolds, both hardened by the recent Great War, will hopefully never see again, or at least very rarely.
A mother in total shock and her six children clinging to her, as only children can, in a flood of tears, on the floor.
Although 1934 was a year when the country was recovering from the depression and things were improving, with plenty of work for all— this work was vital for any family to exist, leave alone a family with six young children.
Also, if someone could not earn a wage, because of illness, there would be no money for even the most basic needs— savings, such as they were, would soon be used up.
Hence, the poor father’s dilemma, to go to work not fully recovered, or see his family go hungry, the choice was not for him to make, fate had already made it for him.
Our little boy was two years old, when he lost his father, there was a risk that the family would quickly be separated by the authorities— how could a mother possibly bring up this family alone— three of the children were under school age and at home all day, thus, preventing her from earning enough money to survive, the others were at school and too young to work.
One advantage the family did have—one that some wealthier families did not— was the closeness of neighbours, the kind of neighbours, more usually found living in an industrial area— something that is not known of in the heart of Surrey.
The families here had similar problems, illness and therefore the loss of income, was just a part of life.
Once the shocking news of a neighbour, a young woman of thirty-four, losing her husband and being left with six young, bewildered children, had filtered around the nearby group of homes, everyone that could help did so, unstintingly.
Some came with a cooked meal that they could ill afford, children brought their favourite toy or teddy, others with whatever they thought could help, and of course, Mrs. Salmon, the greatest friend a person could have, never more-so than now.
There she was, a wonderfully plump lady who had the kindest of natures, and in the good times before the tragedy, was ever-ready with the latest gossip and an apple or two for the children— her son owned a green-grocers.
She was to become the general in charge of the group of helpers, these ordinary people ever-willing to do what was needed to prevent what could be a disaster, the disaster of a family being broken up and taken away from the safety of a small town.