A new beginning.

 

  1. A new beginning.

 

On Wednesday the 3rd of January, 2018, I finally sold my flat in Chichester and moved to London.

 

I am now living in Wood Green with my son Jamie, his wife Eddi and two young boys aged 6 and 5.

 

I am very pleased to be here, last year I joined two art groups and a writing group.

 

I find people in North London quite different from the folk in Chichester where the population is mainly white middle class.

 

In London, contrary to what I had been told to expect— when I decided to move here— everyone I have come across is very friendly.

 

I think this could be because North London is comprised of several quite small districts, almost like villages, even the names point to this; Wood Green, Palmers Green and so on.

 

In my ‘village’, near Alexandra Palace, the shop workers are all very friendly, more like my childhood home, Chertsey, a small town in Surrey

Last year I had my first taste of North London nightlife, when I was invited to a garden party in Archway, the garden was very small, with raised beds on all sides, leaving just enough space for a table and several chairs.

 

When we were all seated— about twenty of us— it was very cosy, the evening was still warm after one of the hottest days of the year, the food had to be passed round as it was not possible to move once we were sitting down.

The owner of the house, who was sitting next to me was rolling a cigarette with great care, I asked him what tobacco he was using, he looked at me for quite some time before he said with a little smile, that it was weed.

 

I remember people growing their own tobacco back in the 60’s, but I have never heard it called weed, and looking around the very well kept garden, I could see nothing resembling a tobacco plant or for that matter any weeds.

 

Trevor— he was Turkish with an English name, which was quite amusing— rolled another cigarette, he took a couple of deep puffs and passed it to the lady next to him, who did the same and so it went round the whole party, it missed me as I don’t smoke.

 

This went on all evening, Trevor kept making more and more cigarettes, it was like they were all chain smoking.

 

The evening was a great success, we were all chatting away like excited children, someone was playing a guitar and we all joined in some singing. Until the guitarist suddenly fell asleep.

 

In the small-enclosed garden with hardly a whisper of air, there was a cloud of very pleasant mist that hung over us, probably from the smoking that was going on.

 

After the party was over I drove back to Ally Pally. Although I only had one glass of wine all evening I felt as if I had drunk the whole bottle.

 

Dally, who lives with us, asked me what I had been up to, as I looked a bit green, when I told him about the party he nearly wet himself with laughter.

 

He said it was a good job I wasn’t stopped by the police as I was—as he said—high as a kite.

 

I like North London everyone is so friendly, I’m waiting for another of these party’s.

 

It’s so unlike Chichester.

 

 

Boat Building in Shepperton

  1. My third job in the three weeks after leaving school aged 14 and having had two accidents at work in the first two was my best job ever.

My mother told me to find a safer job. The labour exchange sent me to Shepperton, about 3 miles from home, to work at Kenneth M Gibb’s, a small boat-building firm on the Thames.

One look at the boats being built in the workshop is all I needed to think I had found my perfect job.

The shape of the hull of this sailing boat looked so exciting, even to me, who had never seen a boat out of water.

Mr. Gibb’s told me what my job was to be and that I would be paid 18 shillings and sixpence—95p— 47 hour week, Monday to Saturday.

My bus fare on the 237 red bus was tuppence—1p—each way, I gave my mother 15 shillings—75p—and kept the rest.

I saved two shillings a week in a tool club at the local ironmongers.

The craftsmen building the boats would never allow anyone else to use their tools, so I was only permitted to help them or to do the painting.

All the work was done with hand tools except for an electric drill, they had made most of their own planes and spoke shaves, and even some long drills made from various sized steel rods, which were given a cutting edge.

The standard of work was very high, similar to that of a cabinetmaker.

Several boats were being built, the biggest one was a 30 footer motor sailor called Freebooter, and my main job was helping who ever needed me.

Working on my own with the very expensive timber was out of the question, even if I did have any tools.

I was given the job of painting and varnishing, at first it was so boring, but after being able to see the result, I started taking great care to have the best possible finish.

The winter of 1946 was very severe, with continual power cuts, there were candles everywhere, it was my job to keep them burning, I even had to hold a candelabra with four candles for the more difficult work.

Mr. Gibb’s, wrote an article for an Australian sailing magazine with a drawing of me holding the candelabra.

The bad weather continued into 1947, Freebooter was almost finished apart from some interior work.

In the following March there was a sudden thaw, with heavy rain, the ground was frozen and could not absorb the large amount of water.

This caused the biggest flood in living memory, ‘The Great Flood Of 1947’.

The boathouse that was the workshop was about six feet above ground, as in most years there was some flooding.

This time the flooded water came into the workshop to the depth of several inches.

Mr. Gibb’s decided to just push the boat out onto the flooded bank, and with a lot of pushing and shoving she was finally launched, with lots of cheering and clapping.

Luck was not on Mr. Gibb’s side that day; as soon as the cheering stopped we could hear a loud hissing noise, and through the portholes could be seen several fountains of muddy water.

Although great care had been taken to make sure the boat was watertight, the bolt holes for the lead keel—that sailing boats have—had been overlooked, about twenty of them.

The men jumped in to try to plug them but the boat sank very quickly. And all that could be seen was the top of the cabin.

Then the 237 bus could not pass the flooded roads so I was unable to go to work for a couple of weeks.

When I returned, Freebooter looked a sorry sight, all the stopping and caulking had been pushed out—boats are not intended to have water inside them.

The 1947 summer was a very hot one, I had job of cleaning the boat out and redoing the paintwork, this was lovely, I was out in the open, wearing just my swimming trunks, when it was too hot I had a swim.

In July, Freebooter was sailed down the Thames and round to the owner, Mr. Woodhead, in Lymington.

She looked magnificent, glossy black paintwork, vanished topside and red sails.

Sadly, I had to leave my job at the boathouse in1948, the bus fare had gone up to tuppence each way, and my mother thought I should work nearer to home.

Although Mr. Gibb’s was always on the verge of going broke, I heard, that in 1950, he backed the Grand National winner at high odds, the horse was called Freebooter.

 

 

 

Chertsey Bridge

Chertsey Bridge was another favourite play area for everyone.

It was first built with timber, in 14th century.

In 1780 it was rebuilt in white stone by local monumental mason, James Paine.

Mr. Paine, was a very particular craftsman, and would build any structure exactly to plan.

The design was for a five-arched bridge, which he completed on time and within the budget.

Unfortunately the bridge did not quite reach either bank.

As a result of this oversight, the roadway on both sides were several feet below the bridge roadway,

Monty Pythons, John Cleese, may have said “ Mr. Paine, you have built a very lovely bridge, I like it it a lot, I have nothing against your bridge, unfortunately, neither have the two banks.

This could be were the expression; a monumental disaster originated.

Two more dry arches were built, this time in brick, as can be seen today.

Before the start of the Second World War, the Bridge was a place for river steamers to berth, and in Dumsey Deep Meadow, several refreshment wagons would serve the passengers.

As children we would cross the bridge to the Middlesex side, and follow the towpath to the Bathing Pavilion, where the bank had been built up with stone to make it a safe place to swim

A Polio outbreak in the late 40s, which claimed many young lives in Chertsey, was blamed on the dirty water of the Thames.

Although the river is much cleaner now, it has never regained the popularity it once had.

St Ann’s Hill

The title of my blog “Made In Chertsey”; is, for the children who lived in the area, very true.

They had a wonderful playground, in the summer we would spend most of our time at Chertsey Bridge on the Thames, and in the winter St Ann’s hill was the place of choice.

Of these two areas St Ann’s was the best, it had all a child could wish for, summer or winter.

It was just a few hundred yards from our large group of council houses, and apart from being an amazing playground; it was also a source of firewood, wild fruit, nuts and mushrooms. Even some figs, scrumped from the big house, although they were never ripe.

There are traces of the Bronze Age, and it being used as a fort, also Roman occupation, plus the ruins of a chapel.

The Dingle is a horseshoe shaped grassed area that was, at one time a gravel pit, and this feature was landscaped by the wealthy owners during the 18th and 19th century, it had three ponds, a summerhouse, an ice house and a rustic bridge over the ponds.

Most of these are now gone, but there is still a wishing well which was reputed to have curative powers and several terraces with views towards what is now London Airport.

It was given to the people of Chertsey in 1927.

As I am writing this, memories of our time in the 1930s and 40s, come back as if they only happened a few years ago.

The wishing well may have had health benefits in times gone by, but in the years after the war, the activities of a group of boys hanging around it, all aged about 13 or 14 would have made it very unhealthy.

I’m not sure if this story is suitable for a blog, but it’s the sort of thing that boys get up to.

Teddy said he was going to have a wee in the well; this prompted a lot of shouting and teasing about his little willy.

“OK” he said. “Lets see what you lot have got.”

With that we all dropped our trousers amid lots of pointing and laughter.

Teddy’s brother, Billy, who was a bit slow in every thing he did, eventually undid his trousers.

The laughter stopped instantly as we saw what was before us.

Tony said, “ I’m fed up with this game lets all go up the lookout”

We all pulled up our trousers in total silence and left poor Billy still struggling with his buttons.

I think it was the first time Billy had ever been the winner of anything.

My day at the police station

Another story I wish I did not have to tell,  but if I’m making notes for a scrap book, it has to be included.

August, 2007,

Here I am in Camberley police station following a phone call I had made earlier, it was about an incident at my home in Lightwater. The desk sergeant is dealing with an elderly lady, who is reporting that her cat is missing. At first, he is quite polite and understanding, but as she is going into great detail about her wonderful pet, I could see he was losing his cool.

I thought my incident would have the same effect on him, I started to regret making the phone call. Then he peered over his glasses and he called my  name.

“Mr Wegwoin”. He said—no one can pronounce my name for some reason—I sat down in front of his desk, and without looking up he asked.”Have I got the name right sir”.

“Near enough , I always know it’s me when some one stumbles over it” I said.

“I  have to have the name right sir, how do you spell it?”.

This is a good start I thought, this is not going well.

Still not looking up he asked me what was the reason for my visit. “I phoned you this afternoon about the incident at my home in Lightwater”.

” And what sort of incident was that?”. — Probably  hoping it did not involve cats— . “It’s about my wife’s car, you said I should come in ask for you personally”

He put the pen down and looked at me—and probably for the first time that day— he had a smile on his face as he remembered my phone call.

“Yes that’s right Mr Weg———”. His voice trailing away. ” Just tell me in your own words exactly what happened today”.

Before I could say any thing, he said “Would you mind if a couple of my young PC’s could sit in, it would be a good training exercise , should they ever come across” —he hesitated for a moment while trying to find the right words—”Such a thing in future”.

The two PC’s came over—one looked about 12 years old— , I started to explain the situation with my wife, “My wife Ann, had just come out of hospital after having her 5th hip replacement”. The 12 year old looked over for a moment I could see him imagining a woman with 5 legs.

“My wife was in her new electric invalid chair, reading her ‘Guardian’.  The chair is not quite set up properly and it is inclined to eject her in the standing position too quickly, so  I always stand inn front of her just in case.

The sergeant looked up and twirled his finger at me to get to the point.

“Ann said that she just read that the cost of the MOT was going up soon, and she told me that her car must be due for the test. Her car had not been used for nearly a year, so we decided  it needed a good clean before it was in the workshop “.

He gave another of his looks, but I thought he had told me to say it in my own words, and that is what I am doing.

“I opened all the doors as it smelled a bit,  put on a Don Williams CD, and then went into the garage to find the cleaning stuff”.

” I heard some car doors shutting and thought it was Colin, my neighbour , he alway slammed the doors of his car”. Then I heard a car start up and I knew it was Ann’s car because Saab’s have a noisy starter motor”.

“I walked round to the car only to see it slowly reversing up the drive, I could see the driver and he gave a bit of a nod.  I thought it must be Mac , our mechanic, or one of his brothers—they all look alike in that family”.

” Our drive is about 50 metres long and quite narrow, so I walked along with car and told him that one of the stop lights is not working. He nodded again, then I guided him out into our road , which can be very busy. He gave a couple of toots and drove off. I picked up all cleaning stuff and went indoors to make a cup of tea”.

I said to Ann, ” I didn’t know you had booked the MOT, they have picked it up already”.

” There was no reply, I looked over at Ann, she slowly put her paper down and was just looking at me—I knew something was amiss—she had the same look on her face , when a few years earlier, I had told her that I had buried our old Ford van in the garden”.

” Thats when I rang you,  sergeant, because I thought  my car had been stolen”.

The sergeant leaned back in his chair and said to the now grinning PC’s.  ” You see” he said  ” That could only happen in Lightwater” then turning to me he said, “The insurance will not pay out sir , because you left the keys in the ignition”.

 

They did though, three months later the car was returned in better condition than before— and with a quiet starter motor—  I just had to pay the £250 excess.

On the other hand they refused to insure us the following year.

 

My Parents

My parents were Ethel Emily Weguelin ‘nee Turner’ and Charles Bernard Luz Weguelin.

Both born at the turn of the century and married around 1920.

The Luz part of my fathers surname is a bit of a mystery , some of the family are named as such, and others are just plain Weguelin.

It seemed to start when one of the Wegelin’s in Germany, married  Jacobina Lutz.

From then on Luz Wegelin was used, this was then changed to Luz Weguelin when two brothers arrived in England around 1720—I believe they were Huguenots chased out of France in a religious dispute with the King—they settled in Spitalgates in London.

The mystery of the Luz part of the name continued when my  brother Bernard was the only one of us who was named Luz Weguelin, but I’m not sure if his two daughters, Tina and Fiona, carried the same name.

My father, worked as a metal worker at the Airscrew propeller factory, he made the copper tips that were fitted to the edge of the propellers.

Although he died at an early age, he earned extra money by repairing clocks and making items of furniture, I believe a medicine chest and a plant table are still in the family.

I think the mahogany timber for these were salvaged from the Airscrew.

My mother came from Addlestone in Surrey and worked in the  Bleriot aircraft factory there as a machinist.

They had three boys and three girls, all born within eleven years.

When my mother was widowed in 1934, our friends and neighbours gathered round and supported us, in an effort to stop us being split up and placed in a home.

My mother, with all this help managed to keep us together, it must have been a great struggle.

Then along came Fred Barker to the rescue, he worked for the local council as a painter and decorator, and the two of them become, what is now called common law man and wife.

This was the perfect solution, we had a steady wage coming in and life was looking good again.

Fred was already married but the marriage broke down, he was unable to have a divorce as his  wife would not grant it.

I regarded him as my father, although we all called him Fred, he was such a funny man, he could play a tune on ‘clappers’ or spoons, and even a wood saw.

A favourite trick of his was to ask me to pull his finger, he would then ‘let off’ very loudly—we were not allowed to swear in our house, even now I am uneasy about writing the word ‘fart’.

We certainly knew how to have fun in our house.

He would then say”better out than in”. I thought that was a matter of opinion.

This trick of his has had a lasting effect on me, to this date I am reluctant to shake any ones hand.

He was a great cook, his speciality was what he called scallops, these were thinly sliced potatoes, pre cooked, dipped in batter and then fried, we loved them

They had, first David and then Sylvia to add to the family.

Sadly he became ill with TB and ironically three of the youngest children were in put in to care homes, as TB was very contagious, David was also infected with the disease and spent several more years in a sanatorium in Essex.

Fred died in 1944, mother was on her own again, she carried on with her cleaning jobs, and also earned money as a bookies runner—collecting betting slips and having a bet herself with the commission—, she was also the local mid wife.

She lived in Chertsey for the rest of her life.  My brother David looked after her for several years when she suffered from dementia. He did a magnificent job of it too, he had do everything for her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Grandparents.

Like most families, ours was quite a mix.

The Weguelin family originated from Germany.

The earliest member that I have found—with a lot of help from Kitty Weguelin, now sadly passed away— Was Michael Wegelin, born 1512 in Germany the name changed to Weguelin a long time ago.

I will start with a couple of generations ago, with Grand fathers.

My mother’s parents were named Turner, we lived with them after our house was bombed out early in the war, and they were very strict and proper, every thing had to be just so—quite a change from our home in Chertsey.

Harry Turner was a sports trainer at various local schools.

They had a big family; the boys were all good sportsmen, playing football at quite a high level at Walton and Weybridge football club.

Ronald Turner, specialized in athletics, mainly track walking.

He even carried the Olympic Torch through Chertsey in the 1948 Olympics, we were all so proud to see his picture in the ‘Surrey Herald’, our local newspaper.

He was a very popular man in Chertsey and a great supporter of Chertsey Town Football Club.

 

My father’s parents were completely the opposite.

George Conrad, had a very nice upbringing, with quite wealthy parents, he didn’t need to work until well into his 40’s.

This life style was abruptly cut short when he was disinherited and had to seek work to support his family.

Or I should say his two families; our George was a bit of a boy to say the least.

He was legally married to my Grandmother and had 4 children.

 

He was also the father of another 4 children with his paramour, Septima, who lived in the next village, Chobham about two miles away.

When his father, a military man and quite religious found all this out he cut him off.

Poor old George, he was a very clever man and he was an excellent model maker— when he had the time that is—he had several patents granted for model boat cleats and such like.

Unfortunately, he was not able to defend these because of his sudden change of circumstances.

One of these cleats is still a standard part of model sailing boats.