Ottershaw Park Drama

My dear friends, Alex and Sheila, are a very popular couple in the village of Ottershaw, they have a lovely bungalow with an immaculate garden overlooking the local park.

One day my wife, Ann and I popped in for a cup of tea, and Sheila talked about a problem with the lawn.

She told us how Alex had sorted it out.

A large tree in the park was casting shade over part of their garden; this was causing some of the lawn to be less than perfect.

Alex, she said, decided he would prune some of the offending branches to give the lawn time to recover.

Laughing, she said “You know what he is like, he even cut the branches into small logs and put them around the tree”.

Alex then added, “When I cut the branches off, the security light on the scout hut behind the tree now shone straight into our bedroom”.

“So I removed one of the lamps from the light”.

A week later, my wife Ann, again, called round for a cup of tea and an excited Sheila showed her a letter they had received from the Ottershaw Parks Committee Chairman.

The letter read as follows;

‘Last week our park was the scene of some depraved activity, a security light was removed so that members of some cult could carry out their evil rituals, a tree was vandalized and parts of the tree were formed in some sort of altar..

Fortunately, there was a camera as part of the security light and I enclose a photo of the person removing the light.

Although the photo is blurred someone may be able to recognize the man involved.

This follows the accident last week; When Mr. Thomas, the volunteer park warden, broke a leg after falling from the roof of the toilet block.

There had been some activity in the car park, including drunken behavior and some thing called dogging—apparently this does not involve animals.

Mr Thomas had taken a position on the roof of the toilet block, to better see and to photograph the activity of the group of people in some parked cars.

Mr. Thomas, a heavily built man, lost his balance and fell onto the roof of one of these cars.

He broke his hip and was unable to get down from the roof of the car.

The car was so damaged, that the doors could not be opened, this also caused the car alarm to sound and all the airbags inside to activate.

The fire brigade and ambulance were called and rescued Mr Thomas and the four-trapped occupants of the car.

 

They and Mr. Thomas were taken to St Peter’s hospital, all suffering from severe shock

 

 

Alex and Sheila soon realized the letter was a spoof that some rotter had sent them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My first girlfriend.

My first Girlfriend ???.

 

As a child I was very shy, during lessons at school I would not ask the teacher if I could go to the lavatory, sometimes with unintended consequences.

One day, in the carpentry class, I was looking anxiously at the clock around dinnertime for a chance to rush to the lav’.

Then, Mr. Woodhead—a good name for a woodwork teacher—picked me to sweep the floor of shavings and sawdust.

Normally I was never asked to do anything such as this—unlike my mate Alex—who, being clean and tidy seemed to be every teachers favourite, he was milk monitor, ink monitor— if there was a monitors monitor, he would be the one.

Mr. Woodhead and all the boys left the classroom, leaving me trying to sweep the floor with my legs crossed.

I could hold out no longer, and I wet myself.

I quickly swept all the shavings and dust over the spreading pool of piddle.

Just at that moment Mr. Woodhead came back into the classroom.

He looked at the pile shavings in the middle of the pool for quite a time, and then said, “Well done Alan, that’s the way to keep the dust down.”

Looking back at moment I now think he knew what I had done and being the nice teacher that he was, spared my shame.

 

Now, about my first girlfriend—she was more of friend who happened to be a girl—lived in New Haw, a bus ride away.

Actually I think she wanted to be more of a girl friend than just a friend, I say this because she would keep bumping into me accidently and touching me, and then there was the funny way she kept puckering her lips as if she was going to kiss someone.

I didn’t want any of that sort of stuff, I was only 15.

I had my Sunday dinner there for 9 months and I never kissed her, although there were times when I though it might be worth a try.

 

The ability I developed of being able to hold on for quite long periods before I had an accident, while I was at school, came in useful when I spent several hours with her.

I would arrive at her home around midday and leave at ten o’clock without having to ask for the lav’.

 

But, it became very urgent late in the evening, especially when we would fill the hot water bottles just before I left for home.

Fortunately, there was no lingering good night kisses, and I flew out of the house.

As soon as I was at the gate of the house, I pushed into the bushes and had the longest wee ever.

The night was cold and a great cloud of steam could be seen coming out of the beautifully trimmed privet hedge.

I sometimes wonder if any of the neighbours ever waited for this 10 o’clock Sunday night ritual.

The privet hedge never recovered.

 

 

 

A bit of do—to coin a phrase

A bit of a do, to coin a phrase.

 

In November 2017, one of my son Jamie’s friends bought some Bitcoin, a fairly new type of digital currency.

He had been told that he could have a better return on his savings than the low interest he was getting from his building society.

At first the returns seem to go up and down, but overall it was only slightly better than his previous building society savings account.

Then in December, one month later, his account balance more than doubled in just 24 hours, then in the next 24 hours the balance more than doubled again.

He now had twice the amount that he had started with in his ‘wallet’—a crypto term for account.

He then removed his original deposit back into his building society account, leaving the rest in Bitcoin, in effect he is now trading for free.

I should say now, that I am uneasy about this sort of easy money, like most people I have always worked for whatever money I have.

Apart from myself, my family were all gamblers, my brother in law owned a betting shop, my mother was a bookies runner—she collected bets from her friends and neighbours for him—then gambled with her commission.

One of my brothers lost his marriage because of his gambling,

Seeing all this, I thought gambling was not for me.

Like me, Jamie is not a gambler but after seeing his friends good fortune, he thought he would have a go, and put in the minimum amount, after 3 weeks his stake has hardly changed , but it was still better than his normal saving accounts.

His mistake being, he ‘followed the herd’ of optimistic ‘gamblers’—for gambling is what this is—and bought bitcoins at near their highest value.

The attraction of these accounts is that governments and the normal banks can’t interfere with them, the money you are risking is money that you have earned, unlike normal money men who invest some one else’s cash—until it’s all gone—usually, you are responsible for your own gain or loss.

In other words it is much the same as buying lottery tickets or doing the football pools, it is a pure gamble, you have as much chance of winning a big payout as swatting a gnat with a knitting needle in a darkened room, but it’s your choice.

Now, I think I would rather have a bit of excitement by chancing a few pounds, than allowing the normal banks to pay me about 1% for my savings, and then for them to lend that money to some one else for some ridiculous interest and then pay themselves a nice commission for doing so.

I am ashamed to say, greed has made me a gambler after all, I opened an account and deposited the minimum amount, luckily at a lower price than Jamie’s.

Then the ‘market’ price for bitcoin started to rise, and in a day without doing any work I ‘made’ 73 pounds.

There is a saying ‘That if something is too good to be true, it usually is’.

The next day my wallet contained less than my original deposit.

I have left any remaining money in the ‘wallet’ to see if this old adage is true.

It was quite exciting at first, a bit like trying to guess who Donald Trump is going to sack next.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.