The Day Before…..

The day before.

Rushing home from school, up Barker road, across the fields then under the arch bridging the little brook.

Ten, twenty or even more, girls and boys, all wanting to be the first in the hunt for shrapnel.

A rumour had spread around the school that another bomb had fallen in Lyne fields, next to the railway

If this was so, it would be third bomb in this quite small meadow, in the last few weeks.

Collecting these pieces of jagged steel, was more popular than collecting cardboard milk-tops, or even fag-cards.

The first place to look, we had found, was in the trees nearby, a pen-knife, if you were lucky enough to have one, soon found the smaller bits just beneath the bark.

The older boys had ‘sheath knives’, standard issue if you were a Boy Scout. It was they who could dig out the larger lumps, some as big as your hand.

The excited shout of a find would cause a surge of kids to the spot, but the clever ones kept quite—it was just like the gold rush.

As children, we were yet to realise that these ‘trophies’ were raining down on people or even going right through them.

We had seen the red glow in the sky toward London during the ‘Blitz’. To us it was just another show. The war was exciting.

Double summer-time meant long evenings, darkness fell around eleven o’clock, these two hours extra was to allow farmers to work later in the fields

Around ten o’clock, I would climb into my bed under the dresser and listen to the news and war reports from the front. The announcer, usually Allvar Lidell, would lower his voice when coming to bad news. “Five of our aircraft are missing.” We would all go quiet. Mrs. O’Keefe would make a sign of the cross.

I lay there thinking of Bernard in the army, will he come home safely. My eyes looking at the wood-work joints under the dresser, joins my father made years ago.

In the next 24 hours, that excitement would change to panic, no more running to be the first for trophies. It would now be the race to the shelters. The now familiar drone of the German airplane engines—so different from the Rolls Royce Merlin of our fighter planes, soon grabbed our attention.

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Mr. and Mrs. Wade.

madeinchertsey.com               Mr. and Mrs. Wade.          annwegu@hotmail.com

 

With mum losing our new baby, David far away in a home for children and Fred, in and out of hospital, things were still far from happy.

With the money from Iris and Mrs. O’Keefe, we were just able to buy our full ration.       Other families, although with more money, could not use it to buy extra food—unless they used the black market.

Saturday afternoon. Don, although not really old enough, was out on his delivery job, he earned twelve shillings a week—five pounds a week was a normal wage for a man.

Mum was resting in the armchair, Mrs. Salmon had said that I should always be near mum, in case she needed some-thing. I was building a model of a Catalina flying boat—this was the most beautiful airplane the American’s ever made—in my opinion.

My bench was a little corner of the Morrison Shelter, wood dust and shavings everywhere. It didn’t seem to matter though.

Mum sat up and said.

“Alan, there’s some-one at the front door, just as I was getting to sleep as well.”

 

She had been asleep all afternoon.

 

I followed her to the door, only the Doctor would use it. Not some more bad news I thought. Or may-be it was Fred being brought back for a few days again—he has to sleep alone in his own room whenever he comes home.

 

Standing at the door, with a smile that seemed to go from ear to ear. Was Mr. Wade, He was holding up a sandbag—nowadays I would have thought. ‘WTF’.

Behind him was Mrs. Wade and their two boys, Teddy and Harold.

We all just stood there looking at one and other, for what seemed ages.

Mum was thinking she was having a bad dream. ‘Are the Wades moving in with us? God, Perish the thought!’

Mrs. Wade took the sand-bag from her husband and handed it mum.” Here you are ‘Effie’ a nice chicken for you and a few eggs, Don’t tell anyone or we will all be in trouble.

 

Once again, the wonderful Wade family, were doing what they were good at.

Just being good.

Every-one trooped in to the kitchen, mum was trying to tidy up as she went. Even at my age I thought that was very funny, having lived the Wade’s house for a fort-night.

I didn’t have to wait to be told, to put the kettle on, it had become second nature.

 

This Saturday afternoon would be a turning point, mum could not stop smiling, for her, it was the best medicine ever, prescribed by caring, loving people.

 

I think of myself as being very lucky to have known them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Friday Coffee Morning.

I was invited to a coffee morning at St Peters Church in Chertsey by my friends Alex and Sheila a couple of years ago.

This was the first time for me, so I was looking forward to meeting a couple of old friends who go there every week, none of us are normal church goers but it was a nice thing for the church to do for the local pensioners.

All of us had worked in the local factories and were all a bit deaf from the riveting and general noise that you always have in those places.

I was sitting opposite Alex and next to him was Dennis, who was very deaf, he was in a long conversation with Patrick, who was also very deaf.

Alex and I were listening to this with increased anxiety as they were talking about totally different subjects.

Neither of us wanted to embarrass them by pointing this out, so we just let them carry on, at the same time trying not to catch the others eye, as the conversation was getting deeper and deeper out of control and I know Alex would start giggling.

 

It went something like this.

“ What do you get up to these days Pat”?

 

“Most days about six, but we have a rest on Sunday”.

 

“That’s alright for you young ones, we stopped all that sort of stuff years ago”.

 

“On holiday though, we rise early every day”.

 

“No wonder Angie always looks so happy, don’t tell Judy otherwise she will get me down the doctors tomorrow”.

 

“My old Rover keeps me busy as well, I’ve spent nearly a week fitting new brake pads”.

 

“ I know that can be very painful for them, what sort of dog is it”.

 

Alex suddenly stood up and said, ”I need the loo”

I quickly followed him.

 

Father’s

Father’s,

Homework for Haringey Literary Live.

 

As I had three fathers, you would think that I would have plenty to write about.

In truth, this is hard to do.

Charles Luz Weguelin is my biological father, he died in nineteen thirty-four when I was two year’s old, and of course I have no memories’ of him.

What I do have is other people’s memories’, but these are sometimes hard to believe.

For instance, I have been told he was privately educated and came from a reasonably wealthy family.

I have only two photos’ of him, one at the age of fourteen as a builder’s labourer on the Wentworth Estate in Sunningdale, and another a year later as a sheet metal worker at the Airscrew Propeller factory in Weybridge, a job he kept until he died at the age of thirty-four.

These are not the sorts of job for a little rich boy.

I can’t even describe him as an adult, as I have no other photos of him.

I am told he was a clock maker/repairer in his spare time, a carpenter making most of his own furniture and generally clever with his hand’s.

There are several examples of this work still about, so this is true.

 

Fred Barker, joined mum and our family of 6 kid’s, in nineteen thirty-seven.

I always regarded him as my father; yet never called him Dad, it was always just Fred.

It was Fred, who did all the things dad’s do, I wish I had given him credit for this, in the short time we had him with us—just seven years.

He taught me how to play the ‘clappers’, the ‘spoons’ and the mouth organ; he could play a tune on a carpenter’s wood saw by bending and tapping it.

He spent a lot of time with my brother Don and me, teaching us how to cook—mostly chips and pancakes.

None of these skills remain with me now, although Don always was a fine cook, especially with the barbecue.

 

In nineteen forty-seven, mum married Albert Stacy.

Our family had now shrunk to four children and mum; Albert’s family was also four plus Albert.

Within a year, with marriages coming one after another, the family now totaled six; It was a larger house so we seemed to have more room.

Albert, or ‘Pop’ as he was called, was a very quiet man, I never quite got to know him, but he seemed to keep us all fed and clothed, and was an excellent gardener.

Albert died in nineteen sixtynine.

 

My mother was always the strong one; from the early days she had to be both mother and father.

My brother Don, just fourteen month’s older than I, was the nearest to a father, he seemed to know what to do in every situation from a very early age.

He carried this role for the rest of his life, being the main man in our family.

Mothers

Class work for Haringey Literary Live, 28/04/2018

 

Subject: Mothers.

 

Most mornings you would find my mum scanning the Daily Herald and the Mirror.

Not for her the headlines on the front pages or the stories of banking scandals, or the obituaries of famous people.

No, mum was focusing all her attention on the back pages, where the likes of Bouverie or Newsboy were holding forth on which horse would win the two thirty at Ascot or Alexandra Palace.

Such was her immersion in the written word of these racing guru’s that no one would dare to interrupt her.

It was like she actually believed that the horses these tipsters were putting forward as likely winners were going to give her a good return on her sixpence each way five horse accumulator, (total outlay one shilling).

I’m not sure how this bet works but I think it is something like this, a sixpence is placed on the first horse to finish in the first three, if it is successful, the winnings are placed on the second horse and so on to the next horse, if one of the horses fails to finish in the first three, the bet is lost.

This is how bookmakers or turf accountants as my brother in law called himself, make all their money.

Mum never gambled with the house keeping or anything like that, she was a bookies runner for Gordon— the turf accountant—, she would earn commission for the bets she collected from our neighbours.

The amazing thing is, she once won with this sort of bet, probably about five pounds.

It was not about the winning but the taking part, she might have said.

She was never upset if she lost, but she liked to tell us all if only that horse at Ascot had finished, she would be in the money.

Unlike some of our family, I never had the betting bug.

I would take and collect the bets my mum had collected and realised it was nearly always a one-way trip.

 

My Teenage Years, Haringey Literature Live. 01/02/2018.

Homework for Thursday 1st February. 2018 Haringey Literary Live.

 

My teenage years.

 

  1. I am now in my teen years.

The war has ended and with it the daily excitement of the latest news from the front.

At school I have just been moved up a stream from M2 to T3, after losing nearly a year of education while in hospital and in a home for frail boys.

There are three streams in our school, C for the bright kids, T for the not so bright and M for the rest of us.

I leave school at 14 and look for my first real job, although I had been working as a delivery boy since I was 12, for a wage, in today’s money, of 45p.

I gave my mother 35p and kept the rest, I spent this on model aircraft kits and Pippernell Izzi’s lovely ice cream.

In the first month I had three jobs, the first one lasted only one day, I cut the top of my finger off on an unguarded circular saw, in the next job, the bandage on this finger caught up in a drill press, luckily it was loose and I managed to pull it off, before I was pulled into the machine.

My mum told me to get a safer job, “What about a postman?” she asked, this sounded pretty good to me, as I would have a company bike.

Instead I decided to try for a job working in a boat-building firm on the Thames, I loved it, I stayed for two years.

I reluctantly left this job because the bus fare went from 2p a day to 4p, and as I only earned 95p a week I couldn’t afford it.

Girl friends were no problem for me, I just didn’t have one.

Our bunch of boys thought it would be disloyal to break away and start to go out with a girl.

Apart from the job on the Thames, it was the most boring few years of my life. I had several other dead-end jobs until I was eighteen, I was then called up for National Service.

National Service changed my life, amazingly I was chosen for the Royal Air Force, normally only boys from grammar or private schools seem to be lucky enough to join the RAF.

I received a travel warrant to go to Euston to have my medical examination. Although I lived only 20 miles away, I had never been to London..

I arrived at Waterloo station and looked for a sign saying Euston, with so many people rushing about, I didn’t like to ask the way, after about half an hour I gave up and went home.

A week later I tried again, this time I found Euston, it was miles away, I hadn’t realised London was so big.

The medical was very strange; I joined a queue of young men, completely naked with our hands in front of us hiding our bits, we were being examined by a group of doctors and nurses, I felt very uncomfortable.

I was afraid I would fail the medical, because for the last two years I had been weight training to try and gain some muscle; I had overdone this and had a rupture in my groin.

When I came to the ‘coughdoctor’ who was checking our ‘nether regions’, I tensed my stomach muscles and when he asked me to cough he didn’t notice my hernia.

He then asked me to urinate in a little bottle, but as usual nothing happened, when, eventually it did start to flow, it wouldn’t stop. “Just finish it in the bucket” he said, but the bucket was already full, and unable to hold back, I caused a flood.

I can still see the look he gave me as he sort of danced around the pool spreading towards him.

They still let me join though.

Then we queued for our inoculations, still completely naked, all still with our hands in front of us so that we didn’t embarrass the young nurses, giving these ‘jabs’ as we called them, It was like a production line; first a nurse wiped your arm with an alcohol swab. At this point some of the chap’s fainted, even before a needle had even touched them.

Here they were, the pick of the nation’s youth, now with their manhood fully exposed and legs ‘akimbo’, felled by a young woman with a bit of cotton wool.

It was not a pretty sight.

After a drink of water I soon recovered though.

When I told my friends I was joining the RAF they told me to keep a lookout for ‘queers’— as gay’s were called then.

In the next room, now fully clothed, the chap filling the forms with our hair colour and other features, was sitting in front of me. He looked very closely at my face and said “Umm, you have nice little scar on your top lip” he then entered this on the form, he next leaned forward even closer and looked into my eyes, remembering my friends advice, I moved away quickly, I thought he was going to kiss me, “ Sorry”. He said, “I’ve got to put down the colour of your eyes, let me see now, I think they are a rather nice dark hazel”.

I’m glad my mates weren’t watching. I now think he was just winding me up.

My pay was £1:40 all found, I had never had so much money to spend, I volunteered to have £1 sent home to my mum every week, as many of the other recruits did. Then we were told if we signed on for three years instead of two years, we would double our pay to £2:80; I did this and sent my mum £2 a week.

Still only eighteen, I was posted to the Suez Canal Zone in Egypt, we were taken across the North Sea to Holland, and then through Europe by various trains to Trieste. Lastly by an old ship to Egypt, the whole trip took two weeks, just like an expensive cruise.

In just six months I had gone from not knowing where London was, to sailing down the Adriatic and the Mediterranean, and then seeing the Pyramids in Egypt.

The camps along the canal were mainly tents in the desert. I was pleased that there were no girls to complicate things, which I welcomed. But it soon became obvious that the warning about ‘queers’ was very real.

It was a criminal offence to be open about this, but we soon knew who they were, being ultra smart and always wearing their uniforms, I made a point of wearing ‘civvies’ when ever I could and being scruffy, as if anyone would fancy me.

In fact some of them became my best friends, I felt sorry for the constant teasing they had to put up with in those days.

One these mates was L,C, Jones, on the pay parade, it was always amusing to hear him called ‘Elsie’ Jones by the paymaster.

My job was a driver/mechanic, the driving test for the roads of Egypt, consisted of driving a small lorry for about a mile, I had never driven one of these but passed, it was impossible to fail.

I soon learned that the British armed forces treated Egypt and it’s population as second class and we could do as we pleased.

No wonder they hated us. They eventually chucked us out.

 

My first journey was to Port Said in a small convoy, the lorry I was given to drive was a 10 tonner plus a 5 ton trailer, I was terrified, I had never even seen one of these before, let alone drive one.

In 1952, I left my teens, it ended up being the most exciting time of my life, from a slow boring start to doing things I never thought possible.

I stayed in Egypt for a total of two and a half years, I loved it, swimming in the Great Bitter Lakes every day of the year, it was just one long holiday.

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.

 

 

 

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.