Chertsey Tales Part Twenty

Chertsey Tales Part Twenty.

Fish, surprisingly, is off the ration, and this Saturday morning, we heard that they had some fish in Proctors up near St Peters Church. This sort of news goes round Chertsey like a whirlwind—so here I am at the top of the town, I can already smell the fish and chips before I turn the corner at Agnew Nicholson the chemist. Then I see the long queue going past Mr Gibbon’s, the butcher almost to the Church. It’s only twelve o’clock and the fish shop is not even open yet. There is a lot of chatter going on—not moaning or anything like that, more remembering things that had happened just a few months ago. I have always been a good listener; some would say I’m just nosey. It is quite surprising what ladies talk about though. 

The talking suddenly stops, I thought at first that we would soon be moving along. The lady in front of me started to shake, I could see her dress flapping, I thought she was having some sort of a fit.

Looking up I can see this little MG sports car that is waiting in the road next to the queue, in the passenger seat is an RAF officer, he is very young looking, I should think not much older than my brother Bernard. 

He turned to look directly at me, then I see why the ladies have gone quiet. One side of his face is perfectly normal while the other side is hardly recognisable as a face. The skin is distorted and very red, he has bandages around his neck and on his hands. 

Up to that moment I thought of the war as if it was exciting or even glamorous just like the films I saw in the Picture Palace. The sight of that young Airman has made it anything but.

The thought of eating fish and chips is the last thing I feel like doing. I leave the ladies still talking about the young Airman and go home. I will tell Mum that they had sold out, which would probably have been true, looking at the length of the queue.

      Wounded soldiers are now a regular sight, they are back from the early battles of the war. They are kitted out in Royal blue uniforms, with white shirts and red ties, some of them are just about able to walk, but still laughing and joking despite their wounds.

   St Peters Hospital, a military hospital, is about a mile away. This must have been a marathon for some of the men, but with the help of their mates and their spirit, they walked in and were met with lots of back slapping and hand shaking, every-one of them a hero to us.

The news reporter and the announcer’s seemed to give us good news first and then some bad news, like when an allied ship had been lost. The next morning my mum’s friend, Mrs Edwards, came round to tell us that her husband was on one of these ships. Everyone one was crying. Mrs Edwards just sat and stared at the floor; she said that the ship had sunk with ‘all hands’ meaning that there would be no survivors. She was the only one not crying, it was the first time that I had known of any family losing someone.

Later that week, a bomb fell near Chertsey bridge; it landed in the drive of a big house. In the lodge of this house was a family of evacuees. The mother gathered her three young daughters and fled. They had lived in London and had come to Chertsey for safety. They were re-housed in a small shop in Windsor Street next to the fish shop.  She said she felt safer there and thought that Chertsey bridge was always a target for the bombers. 

There seems no escaping fro this war.

Chertsey tales part Nineteen.

Chertsey Tales Part Nineteen.

I love sitting in our back garden on the kitchen steps, mum has sent me to buy a couple of pints of winkles from the man who sells seafood from his old pram, it has a lump of ice to keep them fresh. I not sure about hooking the winkle out of its shell with a pin and eating it, they look too much like snails. I prefer the orange ones that have no shell they taste of vinegar and have bits of sand in them that make them crunchy.

 We see the searchlights every night sweeping the skies for Gerry bombers, one is caught and other searchlights criss-cross on it and we see flashes of ack-ack, but there is no sound, the plane vanishes. Our neighbours who are also watching the show give a loud cheer. Then there is a dull rumble like distant thunder. Bernard says.

‘That was the bomb load exploding miles away, let’s hope it crashed in a field like the ones we had last week, and not in a town.’

We did have a couple of bombs falling next to the railway in Lyne fields, kids from all around Chertsey began the new hobby…shrapnel collecting, a bit like stamp collecting I suppose.

One boy at school was a bit of a boffin and was very keen on facts and figures. He seemed to know more than any other boy about what was going on anywhere that you could name, and some places that you couldn’t even say. His father was in the Merchant Navy and when he came home, he would tell his boy what was happening in other parts of the world. 

 Everyone in the country listened to the same news on the wireless, but he knew far more than we were aware of. I suppose if your father was in and out of the ports, he would have a lot to talk about, I wonder how much of this should have been secret though. We were being told ‘Careless talk costs lives’. He told us never to repeat any of it, but this is what he was doing all the time.

One of his stories was more like one of my ‘fanciable’ tales that my mum complained of. He said that up in the north of the country the Germans had dropped bags of white powder, and people were told to keep clear of them in case they were some sort of chemical. We never heard anything like that on the wireless, except for some silver paper ribbons that were being dropped. We were told these were to confuse our searchlights and anti-aircraft gunners, which was more believable. 

I think he knew more than the grown-ups; he kept it all written down in a book, he said the first bomb to fall in Surrey was a few weeks ago but did no damage. His pride and joy though, was a leaflet that the Germans were dropping, he kept it in an envelope because he said it was very rare and that he should not really have kept it.

The leaflets had to be collected by the Air Raid Wardens before they could be read by the civilians. They were German propaganda, telling the British people to listen to reason and surrender before they were all bombed out. He said that he kept the leaflet in a plain envelope because if a policeman found out that he had one, he would get into a lot of trouble.

On the other hand, he told us the fire wardens sold them as souvenirs, but he said they were allowed to do this as they used the money to pay for treats for London children. These leaflets, that are asking for the British to surrender ended up buying sweets for lots of children who would have some toffees to chew! This is a story I want to believe, but I still wonder.

Chertsey Tales Part Eighteen.

Chertsey Tales Part Eighteen.

Today is Easter Monday, I am trying to write part eighteen of my story, but nothing is forth coming. I sometimes find a walk in the park or in the woods reminds me of the happy days of my childhood.

This afternoon I decide on a visit to Alexandra Park in Whalley Range, a short taxi ride away. The park is similar in some ways to St Annes Hill in Chertsey… except it is totally flat. I visit the Pavilion Café and meet my young friend Alisha. She helps me with my stories, punctuation has always been a weak point of mine.

After a cup of coffee and a toastie, Alisha walks me to my waiting taxi. It is a typical Easter Monday, with clouds and drizzling rain. The clouds break and we see a low flying aeroplane. 

I have a idea for my story, my mind is racing as I am driven home.

The first five months of 1940 were just as happy as before, we have already had our first swim up Chertsey Bridge, although a bit on the chilly side. To most children the war hasn’t really affected their lives. 

We listen to the nine O’clock every night and hear of our ships being sunk by U-boats, but it was hard to imagine the terror of these things at my age…this was about to change.

I can’t remember the exact date of this story, but the low flying plane I saw today brings it back in the most incredible detail.

I was walking home with my brother Don; we had been to the Saturday morning pictures. As we neared Tommy Garretts shop opposite the Fire Station. (He, and his wife look so alike with their long white aprons and white hair) I think all the shop owners look the same.

They were both looking up and pointing at something over the Lodging House opposite, when they saw us, they shouted for us to run to the shelter in Barker Road. We got as far as the waste ground opposite Mrs Fuiges, and Don pushed me down on the grass verge and told me to pull my jersey over my head, as we have been told to do if there was an air raid.

I looked up and in a break in the clouds I saw my first enemy plane. I saw the German cross on the wings and the swastika on the tail. Then it all went quiet, a man told us to go to the shelter in case there were more bombers. It was then that I realised I had laid in some stinging nettles, Don found some Dock leaves and rubbed my legs with them, the pain just faded away. My brother knows everything.

Then the air raid siren started up, first a low grumble then winding up to such a noise it made my hair stand on end. It was a bit late, for no more bombers came over, we still ran all the way home.

The war had come to Chertsey, everyone had a different story. I think there were just three bombers, but some people said they saw many more…that’s Chertsey for you.

Chertsey Tales Part Seventeen.

Chertsey Tales Part Seventeen.

I had never seen Rosy in such a hurry, she normally moves very carefully but now she is all of a quiver, everything’s wobbling.

There had been a big rumpus in Goosepool—a group of houses nearby—around a small pond where several Italian families lived.

 She leaned forward, her eyes were gleaming and after taking a big drag on her Woodbine, she started. 

‘You know whatshisname, the tall good looking one..he sells ice cream from that old horse and cart, well his wife found him with a young girl in the Barker Road air-raid shelter’.

He told his wife that he was just showing her how to do the Fandango, that new dance’.

At this, even my mum leaned forward, in case she missed something.

Rosy went on, still with the gum talk but this time with more words, 

‘She didn’t believe him though and chased him all round Chertsey with a bread knife saying she was going to cut off his doodaa’.

They both started laughing at the thought of it all, Rosy said, 

‘Of course, It’s only a rumour, but you know how passionate they all are in Goosepool’.

My mum then said something that made them both laugh so loud I thought someone was going to explode.

 ‘It may only be a rumour’. she said, with tears running down her cheeks, ‘But it’s really just a Cock and Ball story’.

Off they went again, Rosy slapping her big thighs and rocking back in the old chair— no wonder it had lost some of its castors.

 I had never seen my mum laugh so much as that day.

Suddenly, mum was holding my old jersey up to me, and they were both working out what was the best way to make my ‘cozzy’. They cut the body and the sleeves to fit me and then stitched it all together in no time, they even stitched my brother Don’s Boys Brigade belt around the top as it was a bit loose around the waist. I tried it on, and it looked fine. The jersey sleeves were still a bit on the long side and nearly reached my knees but were a nice tight fit around my legs. Rosy said.

 ‘You will be the only one there with a cable stitched costume’. 

Off they went again, but I didn’t mind, I was out of the door like a Whippet.

I tried to run, but there was a large knob of wool from the neck of the jersey between my legs. After a while I managed to pull the knob up so that I could hold it in front of me.

At last I was at the river bank, I saw my mate Alex, with a very fancy ‘cozzy’ it even had his initials on the front. he gave me a wave and pointed at my ‘cozzy’. I suppose the knob of wool in the front did look a bit odd, but all I wanted to do was to jump in the water.

The river was full of swimmers and by that time very muddy, but lovely and cool, I had a good splash about, as I couldn’t swim properly.

The first time I noticed that something was amiss, was when the belt had somehow appeared around my chest, I reached down to find the top of the ‘cozzy’, and to put the belt back on, but there was nothing there, the water was so muddy I couldn’t see a thing.

The woollen ‘cozzy’ had started to unravel and had become twice the size, there were strands of wool floating near the surface, it looked like a jelly fish, I managed to gather enough of it to hold in front of me, so that I could leave the river and sort it all out, but as I left the waist deep water, the cozzy, was now floating around my knees.

 I moved back into the river and waded down to the banks where it was quieter. I found a gap in the rushes and climbed up the bank, there were just a pair of courting couples, so I thought they were too busy to notice me putting my ‘cozzy’ back together.

One of the girls looked up and saw me, it was my sister Iris, she started laughing. I must have been a funny sight, the ‘cozzy’ had grown so much that I could only keep some of it together, the rest was hanging by the tight jersey sleeves down my legs.

The two couples then started laughing even more. I started to cry, my sister came over and said.

 ‘Alan, we’re not laughing at you, we are laughing with you’.

‘But’. I said, ‘I’m not laughing Iris’.

She gathered my towel and clothes, and I got dressed and started for home, but before I left, I laid the ‘cozzy’ on the bank to dry in case someone else needed it.

As I passed the pavilion, I saw Alex Lees coming out of the river, he was looking a bit sheepish, his woollen ‘cozzy’ had also doubled in size and was hanging down to his knees, like a pair of old lady’s bloomers and full of water.

 I didn’t feel so bad now. 

Chertsey Tales Part Sixteen.

It’s our summer holidays and it’s already very hot this morning, I am waiting for my mum to come home from work. She cleans for Mrs. Snelgrove at the Golden Grove— about ten minutes away. Mum has promised to make me a swimming costume out of an old jersey. I had laid it out on the kitchen table with the needles and thread, ready for a quick job. Then I could go swimming at Chertsey Bridge, all my mates had already gone up to the bathing pavilion. 

Now that we are in a war seaside holidays are not possible, because the coastal beaches are closed and barricaded to prevent the enemy landing. The swimming pavilion is always crowded on a day such as this, you would never think there was a war on.  At last, I heard our garden gate open and my Mum coming down the path—I knew it was mum because she was the only one ever to use the gate, she is very superstitious.

“Ooh” she said as she saw me waiting at the door, “Put the kettle on love, and let’s have a nice cup of tea, there’s nothing like a cuppa to cool you down when it is so hot “.

 “How could that be”. I asked, she just looked at me and sighed. I have noticed she does a lot of sighing whenever I am talking to her.

She took off her turban—a sort of headscarf that most of the ladies are wearing. A lot of local women work in the tank factory at Chobham. They all must wear these turbans when using the machinery there. She pushes her hair forward over her face and then back with a good shake, so that her hair tumbled onto her shoulders. Even at the age of seven I could see my mum was a lovely lady.

I put the kettle on, and even before it had boiled, there was a knock at the door, it was Mums best friend.

 “You must have smelled the teapot Rosy”.

My heart sank, I’ll never have my cozzy made now. Rosy had very rosy cheeks, as shiny as an apple that I had just rubbed on my jersey. Everyone seemed to have a nickname in our area, some were cruel, like ‘Hoppy Wells’, who had lost a leg in the Great War, and others were just funny like ‘Porky Turner’ or ‘Chalky White’.

Rosy always sat on the only armchair we had, and as she sat into it, usually with a thump, a cloud of dust would rise, for a moment it seemed as if she had vanished from view. No such luck, for when the dust had settled, she was still there. I liked Rosy, she called in most days for a chat with Mum, always with a bag of apples or some vegetables, these were called ‘specks’, they had bad bits on them, that had to be cut off, but then they were fine. Her son Jimboy had a green-grocer’s shop, so we hardly ever had to buy fruit or veg. This time, Rosy had brought a fruit cake that she had just cooked.

“Here you are Ethel, I know you will like this one its full of fruit and it’s still warm”.

I made the tea and poured it out as quickly as I could, hoping Rosy would leave soon, but she had heard some gossip and was longing to tell mum about it. I just sat back and listened —or should I say read their lips—as they were using gum talk. My sister Chrissy had told me that when grown-ups want to say something in front of the children, they would move their lips without saying the word, gum talk she called it.

Of course, the grownups had not realised that we could easily understand everything, as long as you kept looking. Rosy was very easy to read as she had the habit of raising her eyebrows, folding, and unfolding her arms and lifting her bosom while leaning back or forward in the chair. Especially when she had something juicy to say.

This was a tale that she could hardly wait to tell mum about, a rumour was going round the town, and everyone was talking about it. She started the story in the usual gum talk way, but every now and then she forgot I was there and spoke normally. Leaning forward, and taking a long puff from her Woodbine cigarette, she began to tell her story. This sounded like a very long one, I would never have a swim today at this rate.

Chertsey Tales Part Fifteen.

Chertsey Tales Part Fifteen.

The Royal visit.

Chertsey is full of surprises you never know what is going to happen next. Here we are in Wadies garden. It is full of kids, chickens, rabbit hutches and even two pig sties. Whenever there were too many kids milling around, we would jump over Dummies stream into the open ground between Wadies garden and those of Frithwald Road. This is where we have a nice camp. It is really just a hole in the ground with a bit of corrugated iron as a roof, but we think it’s lovely, we are away from prying eyes. We had pinched some potatoes from Wadies Mum and were cooking them in a tin with some water from the stream. The water looks a bit muddy, but Wadie said it will give the spuds some flavour, I’m not too sure about that but he knows all about these things.

This was the same day that we saw the row from one of the houses in Frithwald Road with lots of shouting and swearing, it was family row. Family rows were a common sight in our part of Chertsey and would often take place outside in the road. Kids would gather and watch the fun; this one was extra special.

Out of the bedroom window came a chair then a mattress followed by all sorts of things. We quickly jumped back over the stream and up into the hollow tree stump in Wadies garden for a better view. There must have been six or seven of us up there, it’s a wonder we didn’t fall out. But it was worth the risk as the row went on all afternoon.

In the garden below I heard my brother Bernard asking for me, he had come around to tell me that we had important visitors. With all the noise going on I couldn’t really hear what he was shouting, but it sounded like the King’s sister had come for tea. Before I could ask what was going on, he just got on his bike and left me to walk home in some sort of shock. Did he say The Kings Sister?

My Mum was standing at the scullery door looking a bit mad, she whispered something which I couldn’t understand then gave me a clip round the ear and started washing my face with a cold wet flannel before pushing me into the kitchen.

All the family were sitting at the tea table, there were lots of sandwiches and cakes, it looked like Christmas had come early. They were all looking very smart and at the top were two people in uniform. The lady had a hat with gold trimmings, like a crown almost, was this the Kings sister I asked myself?

 I didn’t know what to do, so I just gave her a nice low bow, like I have seen people do for the King. This made Iris start to giggle.

Then Mum said.

“Sit down Alan and stop being silly, say hello to your auntie Tina and uncle Alfred, they have come all the way up from Hastings”.  

Then the penny dropped, it wasn’t the Kings sister at all, it was my mum’s sister from Hastings—an easy mistake to make as it sounded like that to me when I was up the tree.

 She and her husband were officers in the Salvation Army and had been visiting a local Chapel In Addlestone.

They all kept looking at me and I thought they were waiting for me to say something.

I’m only seven, so, I said in my most posh voice.

‘May we start?’

And everyone started laughing, even my aunt and uncle.

It seems that what-ever I do is wrong, I wished I was back in Teddy’s garden eating the rest of those lovely potatoes and watching the show in Frithwald road.

Chertsey Tales Part Fourteen.

                                   Chertsey Tales Part Fourteen.

  I moved to Manchester just over a year ago. I find my new neighbours very friendly, but my Surrey accent causes a lot of amusement, they tease me all the time.

They find it funny that I say things like ’barth’ and ‘glarss’ instead of bath or glass. They also think there is little or no poverty in leafy Surrey. So, I must be posh. 

It’s not true of course. We were as poor as poor can be, as the following story will show. 

My father died in 1934, leaving my mum with six young children, I was the youngest just aged two. This story is of a day in 1940. I now have a stepfather, Fred, and a new brother and sister. A test has shown that he has TB. I remember the day the doctor called very well.

I am sitting on our front door step and watch him coming up the path. He is a short man in striped trousers, he wears a black jacket and a tie that’s looks like a butterfly (His hair looks as if it is glued on) I follow him indoors. 

Mum is the local midwife; as such they know each other well.

 ‘Good morning, Ethel. I have some more results from the hospital. Sit down my dear I need to tell you something’.

Mum, looking worried sits on the edge of the big armchair. 

 ‘Is it Fred’, doctor?  

 ‘No, it’s not Fred, he is being well looked after.’

He asks my brother Donald to fetch Mrs Salmon. She is our neighbour. He told me to put the kettle on… He’s a bit bossy, just because he’s got shiny shoes!

I have never seen such a posh man and I’m watching his every move as we wait for Mrs Salmon. He keeps sniffing, as if trying to work out what was cooking.  Our house always smelled like something was cooking—even if it wasn’t. 

 He rests his hand on the kitchen table…it’s a Morrison shelter really. His fingers are pink with shiny nails; His fingertips feel the sticky surface and he snatches them back as if it is hot. The table is covered with ‘lino’. The stuff my friends have on their floors. We have it as a tablecloth. It can get a bit tacky after a while.

He glances up to the hissing gas mantle. The noise means they it needs to be changed. We have electric ‘globes’ but they are dim compared with the gas mantle. Another thing, the gas meter takes pennies, and the electric meter needs shillings, so gas it has to be.  

 The fly paper is next to catch his eye. The sticky bits are already completely covered. Flies from Mr Stanford’s farm next door, can invade our home in troops quite safely.

Mrs Salmon is a big lady. She heaves through the scullery door. I watch her take aim at the armchair. She always falls into it rather than sitting on it. The chair puffs out a little cloud of dust. She takes a deep breath.

‘Now then doctor what’s all the fuss about, is it Fred?’

The doctor puts his spectacles on—they have no rims to hold the glass in!  He pulls himself up and looks as if he is going to make a speech.

‘No, it’s young David. He is under weight, and we need to build him up. He must go to a home for a while where he will have special treatment.’

Rosy (Mrs Salmon) sits up and almost shouts.                                                                       

‘Thank God for that, I thought it was something serious. There you are Effie, there’s nothing to worry about, he will be home before you know it.’

 The doctor went to the kitchen sink to wash his hands, then suddenly seemed to change his mind… I don’t blame him it’s full of washing up bits and pieces. He doesn’t drink his tea either—he seems in a terrible hurry to leave our house.

 Mrs. Salmon picks up mum’s teacup and reads the tea leaves.

 ‘Look at that Effie, everything is going to be alright.’

 Alright, it was not! My little brother had TB as well as Fred.

Looking forward several years, my stepfather was in and out of hospital. He was treated at home because the hospitals were now full of war wounded.

 In 1944, I and my sister Sylvia were sent to an Open-air School for fragile children. We were kept there until Fred died six months later, to protect us I suppose. 

I was 12 years old when I came home, and what with the poor education during the war and being in hospital from time to time, I could hardly read or write. David was kept in hospital for several more years and only learned to read when he was a man. 

A posh family we were not, even if we did say ‘barth’ or ‘glarss’!

Chertsey Tales Part Thirteen.

Chertsey Tales Part Thirteen. 

My birthday came and went without much ado, that’s the trouble with a January birthday, but I don’t worry about this, so many people didn’t even have a nice Christmas like we did. Anyway, I hear mum crying about things, poor Fred is back in hospital, he has TB. He comes home when the hospital is crowded and has to sleep away from everybody on the sofa.

I heard mum talking to Rosy about money, if it wasn’t for Mrs Wade and Rosy giving us something to eat during the Christmas holiday, I think we would have been very hungry. We younger ones have school dinners now that we are back at school.

Young David, who is only three years old is not very well, something else for mum to worry about. Iris will soon help us though, she works for a family in Weybridge, but she will have to leave it and work in a factory in Chertsey. The factory is in London Street opposite Drill Hall Road. She will be making fuel tanks for Spitfires.

At school today we had a scare, it was in the morning playtime. There was a lot of aeroplanes flying over, they made a lot of noise, but we couldn’t see them because of the clouds. Miss Hutt told us to go to the shelters across the road in the playing fields. She said just walk quickly, no running, but as soon as one started, we all ran as fast as we could. It was very scary.

Miss Hutt made us start singing, to hide the noise I suppose. It was so loud in the shelter it made my ears ring for ages. The aeroplanes turned out to be ours, they were all flying to airfields for the Air force after being built at Vickers in Weybridge. 

Me and Donald help Arthur and Teddy Wade to collect pig swill for Mr Wades pigs, he cooks it up in a big oil drum on top of a fire. It smells terrible, I’m so glad I’m not a pig! They seem to love it, and we love warming ourselves next to the drum, it’s worth holding your nose for a while.

We had a little dog sitting on our step, he wouldn’t go away just kept whining. Mum made the mistake of giving him a bone, and he came indoors. He was little so didn’t need much to eat so we kept him.  A lot of dogs were just let go because people couldn’t feed them. 

He had a tag on his collar with his name on, ‘Dick’ in big letters. There was no chance of mum having an animal roaming about our house with that sort of name, so we took the tag off and started calling him ‘Eric’. He seemed to understand it straight away, animals are clever like that, especially if food is on offer.

At the bottom of Mr Wades Garden is Dummies stream, which goes all the way down to the Bourne. On the other side of the stream is a patch of waste ground, where we have a camp, it’s a hole in the ground with a bit of corrugated iron on top. We go over and have little fire to keep warm, sometimes we even cook something, if we can pinch it. Mostly it’s chestnuts or potatoes.

Today there was a big row in one of the houses in Frithwald road on the other side of this ground. First there was a lot of shouting then things were coming out of the top windows. We had the best view; it was so funny even Mrs Wade came down to watch. We all forgot about the war for a while.

Chertsey Tales Part Twelve.

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”,

Sometimes it’s.

‘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.

Chertsey Tales Part Eleven.

Chertsey Tales Part Eleven.

The ladies that I heard moaning about the shortage of everything in Denyers, are not alone. Mum is worried about how we are to manage at Christmas, but it turns out alright after all.

 Mr Wade brought round a chicken. He was hiding it in a sack, telling us not to let anyone know. I think he would be in trouble otherwise. I remember mum plucking the feathers and taking out ‘the gizzards’ it took her a long time. It was the first time that I had ever tasted chicken. 

With Mrs O’Keefe and Denis, there were eleven of us plus a young man who has just joined up. He was Freddie Alder a Handicraft boy and he had nowhere to go, so mum let him stay. It was such a jolly Christmas; Mrs O’Keefe knew so many songs and had a very loud voice.  

On Christmas day even though it is very cold, and as soon as we finished dinner, the children all went up the hill for a giant hide and seek, there are dozens of kids taking part, it was lovely, you would never know there is a war on.

Winter had come gently at first, but January was bitterly cold. It was said to be the coldest for years. Ruxbury Hill was still like a long ribbon of ice, a good sledge could slide well past the Grange and almost to Stanford’s farm. 

There were snow-ball fights in the playing field next to our school gardens. Your hands were first of all freezing cold, then after a bit of snowballing, they were as warm as toast. Pound pond and our slides in the fields were frozen for ages. On the wireless they called it an ‘Ice Storm’. It started to rain and at first this was frozen as soon as it touched the ground. 

 I’m helping Don to put our front gate back together. 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. It’s a waste of time and money though. Most of the front gardens have no fences as the wire was taken for the war effort. We all just cut across the grass, except mum, she always goes through the gate—she says it’s unlucky not to. 

Ann Stanford’s granny lives in the farmhouse along Pyrcroft Road. She was a bit mean to 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 have some, but she didn’t. Next time I’ll keep them, they were not even in her garden.

This morning, Mrs. Salmon is in our kitchen having a cup of tea as usual. They are talking about a British submarine that has been sunk, but luckily all the crew were rescued by the German ship that had made them sink. Mrs Salmon said that sailors would always rescue the enemy if they were in danger of drowning. If only war was like this, with no one being killed.

They are listening to the wireless, it’s a new programme really meant for the forces. I think it’s called ‘The Forces Programme’, the music is very nice. Mrs Salmon is singing along with the singer. I’m surprised how nicely she can sing, just as good as the lady on the wireless. Now that rationing is on, I keep looking to see if she gets any smaller, but no, she still just about fits our armchair. She’s quite a big lady, and 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.

 Talking about lavatory’s, there is something wrong with ours, it keeps playing up. You have to pull the chain twice to make it flush, first a gentle pull and a quick one, 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.