September 22nd Christmas 1944.

Christmas, 1944, I am just beginning to realise, that girls are different from boys, in lots of ways, especially, the older girls, like that Jean Hutchinson, in the top class. Today, we have the school Christmas party. My mum is doing her best to make me look respectable. She stands back to admire her handywork. But I can see on her face, that all is not well. Here I am, an eleven-year-old, nearly six-foot, 9 stone boy in short trousers, nothing seems to hang properly.
“Alan, do you have to stand like that?” I shuffle my feet, “I don’t know any other way mum.”
“Pull your shoulders back, and take your hands out of your pockets
I sigh, and to make things worse, Teddy Bolton is now at the door and looking really smart.
Then, right in front of him, mum spits on a hanky and gives my face a final wipe. I am so glad to get away to school.
Our lessons are much easier today, all the girls are admiring each other and giggling, I must say, that for the first time, I think girls are quite nice to look at.
The dinner bell goes’, and we all rush into the canteen to see what all the fuss is about.
We say Grace, and thank Mr. Denyer the grocer, and Fyson’s the butchers, for their kindness.
And a special word for Mrs. Edwards, and her American soldier friend, who works in the kitchen of the local US base. American army ham is lovely, even if it is on the black market.
I stare at my dinner, in disbelief, there is so much food, more than I have ever seen in one place, let alone on a plate! Ham, chicken, and is that a turkey leg? No, it turns out to be an overcooked sausage, but I can’t wait to get stuck in.
We are all boys on our table, and there is such a racket as we dive into our dinner.
Then, suddenly, it all goes’ quiet, I look up, to see what is going on.
And there she is, the lovely Jean Hutchinson, from the top class, arriving late, and bouncing down the hall like a film star, as if she has springs in her shoes.
She is wearing a fluffy woollen jumper, which seems to have something inside, it looks like a small rabbit, or possibly two. It’s hard not to look—but I just can’t help it. 
I now realise her nick-name, ‘Jersey Bounce Hutchinson’ is nothing to do with her love of Dixie-land music.
As she judders toward me, everything about her is moving so fast, I don’t know where to look first.
In front of me, is a plate with ham, chicken and Brussel sprouts. A dinner, the like of which, I had never seen before.
Now, there is a lump in my throat, and I can’t swallow, I have a mouthful of roast potato and a few peas, and I can’t even look down at my dinner, let alone eat it.
I wonder, is this what love is like?……………Ummm, I think I would rather have a nice dinner in that case!!!!

September 19th, a date to remember.

A Date to Remember.

Summer 1945, aged thirteen, I had just finished my delivery job for The Bargain Centre, in Guildford St.

Mr. Perring, the shop manager, had given me a pack of dates for working late, He also let me take the trade bike home.

I decided to go up to Chertsey Bridge, and have a swim, before going home.

I had no ‘Cozzy” so I jumped in the river away from the crowded banks.

As I was riding back along the towpath, I saw Sheila, a friend from Stepgate’s, so I just walked along with her.

Then we sat down on the river bank for a while chatting, then suddenly she said.

“I bet I can beat you at arm wrestling, I always win with my brother”.

Before I could say anything, she was bending my arm back and winning every time.

It was really too hot for all this and after a while we just lay back in the long grass.

Then she stood up and said.

“Phew, I’m so hot, I’m going in for another swim”.

Now, because I had come straight from work I had no swimming costume, but now what do I do.

“Come on then, I won’t look.” she said.

And then started to undress in front of me!!!!

She stood up and luckily she had a swimming costume on already.

I quickly ran in to the river, holding my bits so as not to embarrass her.

She was a better swimmer than I and could stay under water for ages, and I never knew where she would come up. It was like swimming with a mermaid. She nearly lifted me clear out of the water.

This was better than just swimming, I thought. Finally, we climbed out and lay down again in the long grass.

I’ve never been very good with girls, and couldn’t find anything to say.

Luckily, I remembered Mr. Perring giving me the dates.

“Would you like a date, Sheila?” I asked.

She smiled and looked a bit coy.

“Yes, I would like that, Alan, when do you think”.

“Well,………………………. now” I said.

Then, as I started to undo the dates, she looked at me, with what I can only say was a very hard look.

“Alan Waglin” she said, still looking at me as if I had said a bad word.

“You are unbelievable and no, I wouldn’t want one of your blooming dates”.

And she started to get dressed in a very animated way.

Her mood, which a few moments ago was gay and abandoned had now turned quite grumpy.

She stomped off, leaving me just standing there like Lemon.

I am now eighty-seven, and after all these years, I still can’t understand what went wrong,

I thought everybody liked dates.

September 17th 11:00 Throw us out your mouldy coppers.

September 17th11:00………..Throw us out your mouldy coppers.

 The other day while sorting my stuff out, when I moved to Manchester, I found a bag of old coins.

As I looked through them, I realise some are more valuable than they were originally, this is because of the silver content in shillings and florins etc, also a silver dollar and a Roman coin, all very exciting!

 There are lots of old copper coins as well, some looked very old and dirty, even mouldy.

And there was the trigger for my memory, ‘mouldy coppers’!

 Chertsey was a favourite short cut for coaches returning to London from the Ascot Races—we are talking about a time before the war.

All the kids knew when these coaches, full of either happy, lucky winners, or the unlucky ones, but most of them a bit tiddly.

The children would stand near the ‘Haunted House’—now a restaurant— at the top of Chelsey Green, where the coaches had to slow down and we would shout.

“Throw us out your mouldy coppers”

It was obviously a sort of tradition for both the regular Ascot race goers, and the Chertsey children, because they actually did throw lots of coppers out.

I had no chance of catching anything, of course, but I remember how exciting it was when we saw a coach coming down Thorpe Road, and all the kids, taking up the vantage points, and shouting so loud, it could be heard by the race goers before they turned the corner.

I wonder if anyone is still around that can remember this.

If you were lucky enough to catch a couple of pennies, it would be down to ‘Pipp’s for an ice cream, well worth the wait and good for a sore throat. 

September 16th 17:30. Escape to a story.

September 16th !7:30  Escape to a story.

After causing mayhem on Chertsey Chatter, yesterday, I thought I should quickly tell a story.

It is 1947, a nice sunny day. I am walking across the level crossings, on my way to the ‘rec, when I met the very lovely Diana Symonds.

She lives next to the Gas Works, and was coming out of the path that runs along the railway.

I am 15, and Diana, is one of our crowd of teen-agers who hang about up the rec.

Normally, she would be with a couple of other girls, like her friend Elsie Lemmin.

But as there was just the two of us, and I think she would rather be some where else, the conversation soon dried up.

Now, I should explain, since we were bombed out in Pyrcroft Road, I developed some nervous habits, such as an uncontrolled wink when I am under stress, also I have a habit of counting everything, such as stairs and railings.

I tried to think very hard of something interesting to say, and I could feel a bit of winking coming on, so I said. “Diana, do you know there are 280 paving slabs between The Bell and the Station Hotel”?

 She stopped walking and just looked at me for what seemed ages, and then said. “Oh dear, I think I’ve left the gas on”. And then turned around and ran back up the path that runs along the Railway.

 Later, whenever we met up the ‘rec’ with the rest of the gang, I never managed to catch her eye.

September 14th 10:27 Forest Gump?

September 14th 10:27 Forest Gump?

In June !950. I joined the Royal Air Force.

 The day before, I met a young girl in Staines, she said she would write to me while I was away.

 To my surprise she did, not only that, but she sent me some rock cakes that she had made specially for me.

  Now, as I have said before, I have never been very good with girls, and this was something new to me, I had never received or written any letters before, let alone one to a girl.

So, as I have always done when I find myself in trouble, I resorted to humour, I wrote back and thanked her for the lovely cakes, and said, jokingly, that they were just like real rocks.

 I never heard from her again.

Such is the mystery of girls!

Fortunately, I was posted to Egypt, and never spoke to another girl for three years.

But even there, I seemed to be the odd one out, all the other blokes were getting lots of letters and food parcels, of Penquin biscuits, and such like, I had just a letter from my mother now and again, no biscuits, not even a Mars bar!

 Then, surprise! surprise! I had a large parcel from my sister Iris.

 As was usual when some lucky Airman had a parcel from home, we all gathered round to share the goodies.

 I tore open the neatly wrapped parcel to gasps of amazement, as a large packet of ‘OMO’ washing powder emerged.

As I have mentioned before, I never seemed to get on with girls, now the boys are shunning me! 

Forest Gump, eat your heart out!

September 10th 01:00 Holding my breath.

September 10th 01:00. Holding my breath.

  The last few weeks have taken my breath away! 

Now we can all relax, or can we, perhaps I should continue to hold my breath, but it’s a bit like drowning.

They say, that when someone is going down for the third time, his life flashes past him.

 This could be true, it’s now past one o’clock, and here I am, back in 1942.

I hate school, I’d rather be up St Annes Hill. 

Eastworth Road, is so blooming long, kids are running past me, jumping up to glimpse the clock over the Convent fence.

I know it’s already too late, I’ve just heard the bell! but, I too, give a little jump to see the time, yes the big hand is still not quite there.

 On my side of the road, a lovely horse is standing next to the hedge, I give him a couple of strokes, plenty of time yet.

I think he belongs to the house opposite the Convent, where a poor boy has something called St Vitus Dance, he can’t stop fidgeting.

I had better slow down a bit, and pick some of the lovely, fresh Hawthorn leaves in the hedge of the Handicrafts School. 

There is something I have never been able to fathom, we call the leaves ‘bread and cheese’, and we eat them as if they are sweets!!

Actually, they are nice to eat, a sort of comfort food, before I meet Miss Slaughter.

There she will be, standing at the gate, swishing her skinny cane, another two on each hand I expect.

She does this for our own good, she says, but I think she rather likes to see a few tardy children running down Freeprae Road—or in my case strolling.

I meet Johnny Jones, he lives right next the school, in the Fairground, he hates school too.

They say, Corporal punishment is a way of making a child do as they are told, like doing things at the right time, getting to school early, and such like.

 It never did me any good, here I am, 77 years later, and it’s nearly two o’clock, I should be asleep by now.

August 26th

  August 26

  It is surprising, that the memory, which is so good at of reminding us of something best forgotten, can also hide something that should be a delight to remember.

  I have such a memory.

My friend, Roger Field, just mentioned the cardboard milk-tops, from Stanford’s Farm, that we used to play with at school.

   Suddenly, as if by some prime-evil process, a series of memories, came in to my mind.

  The memory, that Roger triggered, was ‘Balaclava’s.

 All the ‘crazes’ that swept the playground, like marbles or cheap model gliders, arrived as if by magic, one child would show off his new play-thing, and we all wanted one, almost like a seasonal thing—I suspect now, that all the local shops would stock up these things on a regular basis, just waiting for the flood of kids.

  The ‘Balaclava’.

 Every winter someone would start wearing one of these, but for some reason we were never so lucky. 

  Then, Norman Jefferies, a boy who lived at the town end of Abbey Road, came to school wearing the most magnificent ‘Balaclava’, he looked like a Norman Knight, every body wanted one.

  I asked my mum, if I could have one, she said, Deirdre, my sister, would knit one, but I wanted it now, not after the winters gone. 

Mrs. Salmon, who was sitting in the old green armchair at the time, came up with a quick fix, she said.

   “Alan, why don’t you just pull your jersey over your head and just look through the neck”?

Although, I had my misgivings about about this, I did as she suggested.

   Today, the memory of that afternoon, that has been hidden for the last seventy odd years, came agonisingly back in the greatest detail.

The sight of my mother and Mrs. Salmon, going into convulsions of laughter, as I posed in my new ‘Balaclava’, was a good thing to forget for all these years.

  I knew, in my heart, it was not the style I wanted to take school, but I don’t think they should have laughed for quite so long.