Chertsey Tales Part Twelve.
Although Christmas is over, it is still so cold, there is even ice on the inside of the windows. We all crowd around the fire in the kitchen, and if we are too close, we get chilblains and red marks on our legs. Mum lights the copper in the scullery, it hardly helps though. I feel sorry for anyone who can’t go wooding because coal and coke is hard to get.
Don has taken the gate down again, not to make the sledge again but because gates were being pinched for firewood.
At least we had a nice Christmas, mum said she put a silver thruppenny bit in the Christmas pudding, we were so careful looking for it, but no one found it. I think she was teasing us. We don’t do proper presents in our house, just little things like sweets and nuts. But I was lucky, Don gave me a special drawing pencil, he said it was for making very black marks, and Bernard gave me a sketchbook. I couldn’t give them anything back because I have no money. I will draw something for them.
It’s Saturday morning, I’m helping mum with the washing, at last, it’s a bit warmer and the ice has gone. Mrs Salmon has come round; she hasn’t been out for ages. She heaves through the door and drops into her chair with a thump. She makes a ‘Raspberry’ as mum calls them…there’s no swearing allowed in our house.
‘Better out than in” she says.
They both start laughing and mum says.
‘If you say so Rosy’.
They say the same things all the time when Rosy “lets off”,
‘Wherever you be let your air go free’.
Mum would say.
‘That’s a matter of opinion’.
I like seeing Rosy laughing, everything wobbles.
I try to change what they are talking about, I say.
‘At last, it’s a nice day for drying’.
They start laughing again.
I suppose it is a bit funny coming from a seven-year-old boy. But I do hang the washing out and we need a nice day. I like wash days, the smell of wood burning in the copper, and it’s lovely and warm when I come back in.
Now Mrs Salmon looks serious, she has heard about the man up the hill.
‘It never happened before, did it Effie’.
‘They say it’s the soldiers up Chobham Common’.
Mum looks over to me’.
‘Alan, put the kettle on love, let’s have a nice cup of tea’.
I can still hear mum while I’m in the scullery.
‘Mrs Snelgrove, up the Golden Grove told me she saw two men talking to some boys under that big tree outside, they are both important men who come into the pub every day.
Mrs Salmon leans forward, taking out her teeth…I notice she does this whenever there is something exciting to be spoken about. Usually, it is her with all the gossip. She is sitting right on the edge of the armchair. The chair is already very rocky, it only has three castors.
‘Who were they Effie, they should be locked up whoever they are’.
‘They can’t be named unless they are arrested for something’.
Mrs Salmon slumps back she looks disappointed, she sits back with another thump and slips her teeth back with a loud suck.
I wonder what would have happened to that old chair or for that matter her teeth, if I had told them I was one of those boys under that tree. The men were just talking about football, they had several football clubs that they formed in Chertsey. They were very good for Chertsey.