Chertsey Tales Part four.
Donald Balchin was with his dad (they have the same nickname, ‘Siki’ after a famous boxer). They are with his Granny, Mrs Jenkins, she lives in Barker Road, we often go round her house, she makes lovely cakes.
His dad says the war will be over very soon and nothing at all to worry about. His friend Hoppy Wells says that we should always worry when the ‘Hun’ starts to wave his sword. He should know, he lost a leg in France, where he got his nickname, I suppose.
I run back down to our house, it feels very strange, there are groups of ladies standing everywhere but no men… of course, they are still at work. I can’t help noticing how all our mums are wearing the same sort of flowered apron, like some sort of uniform…ready for the nasty Hun should he dare to venture anywhere near Cowley Avenue, maybe.
Mrs Salmon is in the middle of the crowd; she is the centre of anything in our little area. She sees me and wags her finger. I think she knows about the fire in Standfords fields, Mrs Salmon knows everything that goes on.
‘We all know what you ‘ve been up to, don’t we young man?’
‘Mind you it was a proper job, with all that coal.’
She starts laughing, but mum was shaking her head and giving me a bad look. I’ll get a good hiding later, I bet.
I knew we shouldn’t have done it; I didn’t know the whole field would catch light though.
Like everything it was Thunders idea, but I was happy to help him. He said it will a bit of fun. He came round with an old pram full of firewood and newspaper. I pinched some coal from my house…just a few bits to keep the fire going, he said.
We found an old willow tree that was nearly dead, and we made the fire inside the hollow trunk. It soon started blazing, then we ran back to his house. I helped him up on to the big electric box thing outside his house so that he would have a good view of what would happen.
We could see the smoke billowing up and then we heard the fire engine coming, ringing it’s bell very loud. I felt a bit sick and went home leaving Thunder laughing his head off.
My mum gave me a clip round the ear, she knew I had something to do with it, otherwise I would be with all the other kids watching the fireman putting out the fire which had spread to nearby trees and the field.
Mum was right about Thunder though, he was into mischief all the time, nothing very bad but it was always in the local paper.
Mrs Edwards from number 71 joins the crowd outside Mrs Salmons house, she’s very upset. Mr Edwards is in the Royal Navy and somewhere at sea.
I don’t like seeing grown-ups crying, I hope he will be alright.
Everyone is talking about what we will have to do, there will be a blackout, all the young men will have to join the army. There may be rationing and things like that.
At first, I thought it might be exciting, but now I’m not so sure!