Chapter Ten, Winter Holidays.

The perfect sledge

  The snow has all gone, no more sledging down Ruxbury Hill, I’m helping Don to put our front gate back together. Every council house has one of these gates, they are made of oak, this winter a lot of people chopped them up for firewood as it was so cold, mum said they will be in trouble when the council find out. The council will always put a new one in though, but mum says it’s a waste of time and money. Most of the front gardens have no fences as the wire was taken for the war effort, so we all just cut across the grass—except mum, she always goes through the gate, she says it’s unlucky not to. 

The garden gate is perfect for a sledge, all you have to do is knock it all loose with a hammer, and then take the two long end bits with the rounded tops for the runners and the rest for the seat. It’s a bit heavy but very strong, we all do it—unless it’s wanted for firewood that is— then when the snows gone, you just put it all back together, or at least Don does.

Ann Stanford, who is in the same class as me, looks like a fairy with her clean clothes and curly hair. And her friend, Jeanette Lessware who is another posh girl, both have nice sledges, Ann’s sledge is made of yellow shiny wood with a red leather seat, and the other one is made from metal tubing, like bikes are made of, this is the fastest one of all the sledges up the Hill.

Ann Stanford lives in the farmhouse, her mum was a bit mean with me last week, I collected some eggs that her chickens had laid in the hedge outside her house. They were hidden in the snow. I took them round to her, thinking she might let me keep some, but she didn’t. Next time I’ll keep them, they were not even in her garden.

 I leave Don to finish the gate, I need to warm up indoors.

 Mrs. Salmon is having a cup of tea in our kitchen as usual, now that rationing is on, I keep looking to see if she gets any smaller, but no, she still just about fits our old green armchair. She’s a very big lady, when she tries to get out of the chair, mum has to help her. I wonder how she manages to get off the lavatory, there’s no one there to help her then. I try not to think about it, but it keeps coming back. There is something wrong with our lavatory, it keeps playing up, you must pull the chain twice to make it flush, sometimes it never works at all. Don says,

 “What you have to do is make out you are not going to pull the chain, then do it suddenly, to catch it out”. 

That never works for me though, so I just ask Don to do it, it always works for him, he’s very good at that sort of thing. Don comes in, he looks frozen, but he has put the gate back on its hinges, Mum will be pleased.

The perfect holiday.

Fred was too old to be called up so he was able to keep our family well fed, and because our family was larger than many others, our rations added together meant we could have a proper Sunday dinner. A small family of two or three would find it very hard to make a reasonable meal, the rations per head were so small, with one egg and only two ounces of butter each per week, I don’t know how they managed to do a Sunday dinner.

 Mum was pregnant with her eighth child but this time there were complications and she had to go into hospital and of course Fred was finding it hard to manage. Don and I were ‘Farmed out’ to Mrs. Wade until Mum was allowed home. Being ‘Farmed out’ was the most perfect way to describe this, their home was very much like a farm, they had chickens, ducks, rabbits and even two pigs, although it was just a council house. We were living there for a couple of weeks, it was heaven, everything was so easy going. No more stepping over the freshly ‘Stoned’ doorstep or wiping your feet before we went indoors, in the Wades house it would be completely pointless with all these animals roaming about.

 I had always been a bit afraid of Mrs. Wade, she wore a dusty, black beret pulled tightly over her head with little tufts of hair escaping from under it, but after a few hours I was very much at home, she was a very kind and gentle woman, and was always singing. For the two or three weeks we were staying there, we had to go home to have a bath. There was no hot water upstairs and it would have to be carried up in buckets, and with so many people in the Wade’s house it would have taken hours to fit everyone in.

Mrs. Wade was a very good cook, and because she had new laid eggs every day, she made some lovely cakes. Sometimes we had chicken or rabbit pie, but the pigs had to be taken to the butchers and the meat was then sent to ‘The Pig Club’ to be shared out to the rest of the town. This was run from the police station and anyone who collected food scraps for the pigs were allowed some bacon or a small joint of pork.

Although the Wades were looked down on with their rather Hill Billy life by some of our sniffy neighbours, these same people were very quick to take any spare eggs that they were offered completely free in a basket on the garden gate.

The two or three weeks I spent with Teddy Wades family were the best holidays that I have ever had.

Author: madeinchertsey

Born in 1932, this is a collection of stories of my childhood growing up in Chertsey, and some stories of my later life.

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