Chertsey conkers or chess

Chertsey conkers or chess?

So, I have read the first few pages of ‘How to succeed in chess openings’. it is a book for primary school kids—five and six year olds. It seems to me that children of today are expected, and are able to grasp anything that is given to them.

 It didn’t happen in my day! At least not to me. They say that everyone is good at something at some time in their life, my moment of glory, although very short lived, comes to my mind whenever I see a nice shiny conker, (my horizons have never been very high).

The conker trees in Mr Stanfords farm were pretty good, if you could throw a biggish stick high enough you could have a nice big conker. It would last quite a few conker tournaments.  That is before David Ralph from Pound Pond Road came into the play ground with his special conkers. It was said he used to soak them in vinegar to harden them, but this maybe just a rumour put about by his victims.

There was a rather spindly conker tree in ‘The Carpenters Arms Pub’ in Pyrcroft road.  It never produced any conkers though, until one year I found a lovely unopened conker on the pavement. I looked up and sure enough the tree was completely devoid of any more conkers

. My friend David Mawford who lived opposite the Carpenters, and he should know this. Told me that the reason the tree never never gave any conkers was because the men would come out of the pub and have a Pee against the tree.

 Now, without putting too fine a point on this, it is sufficient to say that this poor spindly  conker tree used this —shall we say vinegary substance to enhance the single conker that it ever produced.

I couldn’t  wait to challenge the Pound Pond Champion and his favourite conker, some said it was indestructible.  We squared up in front of the rest of the school, even Mr Thomas came out to see us, the tournament lasted all of five minutes.

He won of course, but at least I lasted longer than anyone else.

I think that chess is a bit like this, some you lose and some you lose.

2020, That was the year, that was.

2020, That was the year, that was!

I suppose it all started to go wrong when I dropped my tiny new hearing aid down the toilet, and now I v’e got  an itchy ear, perhaps I should have rinsed it first but I panicked.  It still works though, just a bit squelchy.

Then the lock down came along and I couldn’t have the cataract in my left eye replaced, and now everything looks yellow through that eye.

My aorta valve replacement has been postponed again so I can’t do very much at all.

The other day I fell off a chair and hurt my knee and my son had to lift me up. 

Then I see the heroic NHS workers on the news, exhausted, worn down by this bloody virus, and there they are still working flat out.

It puts it all very much in perspective.

A morbid and depressing post I’m afraid but it’s being so cheerful that keeps me going.

The Queen’s gambit.

The Queen’s Gambit.

Chess, I have always thought was for posh people, that is until I saw ‘The Queens Gambit’ on Netflix. It is a riveting film and I, like hundreds of other non chess playing people have had the urge to learn the game. More fool me!!! As if I haven’t got enough to do.

 I mentioned slightly hesitantly, my interest in this game to  my son Iain—I say hesitantly, because Iain is a book worm, I once mentioned corrugated iron in a quite normal conversation, he disappeared for a few moments and returned with a huge book all about corrugated iron. I ask you, who do you know that would have such a book and also be able to find it in minutes.

Sure enough the words had hardly left my lips and as if he had several chess books up his jumper he immediately gave me some starter books about openings. Middle game and the end game. The books are for primary school children—I thought that was being very cheeky of him, I’m 89 in a couple of weeks!

I don’t swear very often, but ‘bloody top me’ what have I done, I can’t make head and tail of any of it. I think I’ll stick to painting.

 But on the hand we have got another lockdown, and I wonder how many new Grandmasters are at the beginning of their careers. It’s an ill wind as they say.

        The unforgettable whatsname.

“ Ohh, you know Effie, she was in that film about a tram driver who dropped dead at the wheel’.

‘Was it a recent film”?

 “Nooww! It was an old film, her name is on the tip of my tongue, I will always remember her because of her eyes. They were very wide apart and she had one eye brow that was more arched than the other. It made her look as if she was not believing what was being said, even when nothing was being said—f you know what `i mean”.

“No not really, Rosy, but I can see why you would remember someone like that but I’m afraid I can’t help you. Did the tram crash by the way?”

“Tram, what tram?.

“The tram in the film, that the woman with the funny eyes and high eye brows that you are trying to remember was in”.

I am eight years old  and once again sitting in the kitchen listening to Mrs Salmon and my Mum.  I am trying to visualise this woman with the wonky eyes and the disbelieving look on her face. You would never forget someone like that, would you?

I have a feeling this is going to go on all morning and I leave them to it but I often wonder if they ever remembered who this unforgettable whatsname was.. 

The Headless Horseman.

Before the war, there were several abandoned houses in Chertsey. One in particular was known as the ‘Haunted House’, it was situated on the corner of Thorpe Road and St Anne’s Road—I believe it is now a restaurant.

Since Mr Wade told us a story about the house, I have always felt a cold shiver when ever I was nearby.

Apparently, a rich man had bought the derelict house as an investment. During the re-building a friend of Mr Wade’s, Taffy Jones, was digging a trench for the new drains when he came across the original cesspit. The wall of the pit collapsed into the trench and it had to be emptied.

At the bottom of the pit they found lots of rubbish including some bones—human bones! That was bad enough but—there was no head. The news of the grisly find soon went around Chertsey, could it be ‘The Headless Horseman’?

This quirky old town had its fair share of ghost stories, and one story that is still told today is of ‘The Headless Horseman’?  A ghost that is seen riding down ‘The Old Coach Road’ in the middle of the night, and anyone who sees it will have some very bad luck.

Sure enough bad luck visited the rich man, almost as soon as the discovery of the bones he lost his fortune. He fled, leaving many unpaid bills, and the house was abandoned.

Now, here I am aged ten in the garden of the Haunted House, and against my better judgment, I have been persuaded by Teddy Wade and little Johnny Sewell, to scrump some apples that we could see in the back garden. they were cookers called Blenheim’s, but quite alright to eat.

Next to the apple tree, was a complete wooden staircase, Teddy said, the staircase was removed during the re-building to make the house  single-story, as the rich mans wife was disabled, but the house was never finished

 While we were sitting on these stairs eating the rather sour apples, Johnny said.

“Listen, I can hear someone talking”.

We stopped munching and sat absolutely still, I was ready to run for it, I can tell you. I’d  had a funny feeling ever-since we climbed over the fence.

The voice sounded like a very old man counting money or something, and it was coming from the old house! I have never been the bravest of boys, but this was making my teeth really chatter, Johnny said .

“Be quiet, Wegsy, it’s coming from that window” 

The trouble now was, that we had to walk along the path right next to the window to get out.

 As we moved nearer the house the counting got louder, and we saw that a window was open, the counting suddenly stopped, and on the window-sill was a new packet of ‘Players’ cigarettes and a box of Bryant and Mays matches.

I have never been so frightened in my life, I remembered Mr Wades story, this house really is haunted. First the counting now this new packet of cigarette’s just sitting there.

 But not so my two mates, they grabbed the fags with great alacrity, quickly lighting up and were soon puffing away and laughing at their good fortune.

Johnny, while he was enjoying his fag, looked at the ‘Players’ cigarette packet and started laughing.

 Printed on the packet was the slogan.

‘It’s the Tobacco that counts’

I know it’s an old joke but what would Christmas be without a Ghost Story!?

Chertsey, a shopping Mecca.

Chertsey a shopping Mecca.

The title of this little piece may surprise a lot of people, but in the late 1940’s—I don’t like saying “during or after the war ” because it makes me sound old. So, let us say it is August 1946.

 I’m fourteen and I’ve finally left school, and already I’ve had two jobs and am now on my third one. I have money in my pocket to spend as I wish—seven shillings! I feel like a millionaire.

It is Saturday afternoon, I am fighting my way through the crowds up Guildford street, there are so many people out shopping that I have to walk on the road—I kid you not!

Our little town was the best place for miles to do your shopping, we had a real choice of very good shops. Ethel Taylor and her lovely flower and green-crocers shop nest to Bushes Deli where you could but the best ham in town. Woolworths, Boots, Bon Marche The International, and wonderful bakers, and butchers, even a motorbike shop! People would descend upon Chertsey, from places like Staines and Woking.

There was just one thing missing from this wonderland of consumerism, there was a terrible shortage of pub’s—a little joke!

The men have been de-mobbed and have mostly come home, there are plenty of jobs and they had money to spend, new shops started appearing, who remembers when Denny’s came to town with their fancy bread and cakes, soft roll’s overflowing with cream—artificial cream yes— but they looked amazing, and the slices of Angel cake that melted in your mouth.

No longer did we have blended chocolate—a blend of milk and plain chocolate, now it was Cadburys Dairy milk chocolate, even the bread is white instead of a sort of Khaki colour.

This shopping explosion seemed to be here for ever, but I left Chertsey to join the Royal Air Force for my National Service and was away in Egypt for three years. I returned to find that other towns had got their act together and Chertsey now had some stiff competition and never quite recovered. Despite being developed as a commercial centre, some of the old shops still survive, but nowadays you never have to walk in the road because of the crowds.  

Chertsey lingo. 08/12/2020.

Chertsey ‘lingo’

As a child I loved listening to grown-ups talking, I suppose some would say I was just a nosy kid, they would probably be right. Our kitchen was a good hunting ground for this little hobby of mine. There was always someone around with a bit of gossip about that Mrs so-and-so up the top of the town—that is the posh bit of Chertsey and things seemed to be going on all the time up there.

I noticed when-ever the subject was a bit naughty it would either be said behind a hand or with ‘gum-talk’—moving the lips without uttering a word, a sort of mute button. Another thing they would do is not say the proper word, it was all ‘thingy-me-bob’ his ‘whatsit’ or some such thing. It took me quite a while to be understand what the hell they were talking about. Then there were the ‘sayings’ such as, ‘There’s no smoke without fire’ or ‘She is all curtains and no knickers’, there seemed to be a competition to see who could come up with the most fitting expression.

I don’t know if it was the urgency of being at war, but also in Chertsey every sentence seemed to be shortened to just three or four words, and the one that I remember most of all was ‘Just in case’, we were told to ‘Carry our gas masks at all times—just in case’, or ‘Don’t talk to strangers—just in case’, these three words would be added to anything!

On this day I came home from school and there were the ladies all having a cup of tea, as I walked in the kitchen the talking stopped abruptly, and my mother gave me a clip around the ear—this was not any sort of punishment, more affectionate you could say, she always did it, almost like a greeting. If ever I asked what was that for, she would say…………. ‘Just in case’.

Chertsey evacuee’s.


We are now evacuee’s fleeing from Chertsey, to the safety of Addlestone! Walking into the town pushing a pram with bags on top and two young children hanging on, we must have looked like those people we saw in the Picture Palace fleeing from the Germans. I had never been so far away from Chertsey, only three miles, but it seemed to go on for ever.

I can’t remember where I slept last night, apart from the fact that I didn’t sleep! We had stayed round Mrs Wade’s house, there were six boys under the Morrison Shelter all fighting for a bit of the blankets. I could see my Mother sitting near the fire with a big blanket around her shoulders, I couldn’t hear what was being said but her face told me everything, she was very sad.

In Addlestone, Gran’s  house was very old, she and Grand dad, had lived there for years, it stood next to a little stream and we had to cross a rickety old bridge into her back garden. It was so nice to see My Gran—I have never seen her before. She didn’t look very pleased to see us though, and for a moment I thought she wasn’t going to let us in, she just stood in the doorway looking surprised. Perhaps she didn’t know we had been bombed out, but then, how could she? It had only happened a few hours ago, and no one had a telephone.

A few weeks later are all back home at number 75. Mum is still unwell and fast asleep under the shelter, Mrs O’Keefe comes in and says.

“There’s that factory hooter, it’s seven o’clock already. “Huh. Just look at your mum’s clock though, it’s a wonder it works at all, no bell, no glass and it’s never right”. I glance at the clock, it says nine minutes past seven, and I say to her.

“Well, Mrs’O’, it was knocked about a bit in the bombing, and now it loses twelve minutes a day. So, mum sets it twelve minutes fast, so that we are never late”.

She looks over her thick glasses and sighs. “But luvvy, during the day, I never know what the real time is. Look, the seven o’clock hooter has just gone,  but that silly clock says it’s nearly ten past”.

This time I sigh.  “Yeah, I know that, but all you have do, is knock a half minute off the twelve minutes that have been added, at every hour”.

She gives me one of her looks.

“Would you like me to explain? Mrs.’O'”.

“Ooh, I wish you wouldn’t Alan”.

Not to be put off I say ……..   “Do you see what’s happened? It started twelve minutes fast, but, has lost over three minutes since then. Half a minute per hour”.

Turning her back on me, she says “When I get the copper burning, we’ll have some toast, shall we? I’m gasping for a cup of tea”.

She puts some bread against the flames, until it’s almost burning.

She puts the hot toast on a plate, “Alan, there’s no butter, luv, only dripping. Do you still want some?”

I think she may have lost interest in clocks, because when I ask her. “Do you want me to write it down for you?”

She shrugs her shoulders and says.“No, I don’t Alan, and to tell you the truth, I’m past caring”.

Putting her hands over her face she says. “Bloody top me! No wonder every-one’s late in this house, if they have to do that all the time”.

“Well, you said, you never know the right time, this is how you do it. If my sister is just leaving for work, she just leave’s twenty minutes early”.

I can see I’m losing her interest, she is looking up at the ceiling. I think she is wishing she is some where else. “But, what’s the point of doing all that stuff if she leaves early anyway?”

“I like doing things like that, it’s interesting”.

She looks at me again and sighs, then leans forward on to the table, looking down at the floor and says.

“Do you know Alan? I really think I’m safer back in London”.

The old clock is not the only thing that has changed since the bomb, I’ve got a twitch, a sort of wink.

Mrs. O’Keefe is now sitting in front of the roaring copper fire, reading the tea-leaves in her cup, she shakes her head, bad news again I suppose, then she turns the wireless on.

“Thank god that blooming hooters stopped, now I can listen to the wireless, it’s got such a lovely tone, it’s a shame your dad couldn’t finish the cabinet, Bernard might though, when he’s back home”.

I go into the scullery to look in the little mirror to see if my twitch is still there.

“Alan! Just be careful, this copper’s very hot, it’ll scorch your trousers, then you’ll smell just like that dirty old army coat you’re so fond of”.

“Don says, the buttons must never be polished, shiny buttons makes targets for snipers………….. I wonder what regiment the soldier was in, and where he is now?”

She doesn’t answer.

“Oh bugger, the wireless is dying, just when I was listening to Anne Shelton. Now Alan, there is something you can do, just take the accumulator down to Mr. Hyde, he only charges tuppence. The poor man, he’s got such a bad habit, jerks his head all over the place”.

She pulls me away from the looking glass and says. “For god’s sake, come away from that looking glass. Pulling all those faces, one day you will stay like it, or even end up like poor Mr. Hyde”.

Mrs. O’Keefe said nothing about my wink,  I think she thought it better not to mention it.