Chapter Seven, My New Walk. February 1940.
I was around eight years old when I first saw myself in a full size mirror.
We had looking glasses, as they were called, but these were tiny, like a shaving mirror, only a little part of your reflection could be seen.
It came as a bit of a shock when I crossed the road at Bell Corner, I saw this rather odd figure reflected in the large glass door of Stott’s, a ladies’ outfitter’s.
As if the image wasn’t bad enough, it was further distorted by the gummed paper that was stuck on in a criss-cross pattern—every glass window had this paper stuck on to stop the glass shattering in the event of a bomb blast.
I stood in front of the door, dumbfounded, I of course recognised my face, but the rest of the body was completely alien to me.
I moved up and down and from side to side so that I could see the parts of the body that were otherwise hidden by the gummed paper.
I was fascinated at what was revealed, I had no idea that this is what other folk saw as I walked around Chertsey, I had a totally different image.
In my minds eye. I was this young Tarzan figure with just a loin cloth, loping through the undergrowth of Pyrcroft road, swinging from hanging vine to hanging vine, at one with nature and all the animals, even giving a Tarzan call now and again.
Now, instead, I was looking at this lanky, knock -kneed kid with grubby, short grey flannel trousers, that did nothing to enhance the total lack of any muscle on my legs.
While I taking all this in, with ever increasing dismay, I noticed out of the corner my eye, a pair of super sized ladies’ bloomers twitching in the main window.
Without moving my head, I managed to swivel my eyes to see what was causing these giant bloomers taking on a life of their own.
The reason for all this subterfuge was that my mum had told never to look in Miss Stott’s window as there were things on display that were not my eyes.
Actually, Dave Mawford and I had spent many a wet Sunday afternoon—it always rained on Sunday— trying to fathom out what on earth all the stuff that filled Miss Stott’s window could possibly be used for.
The Stott’s shop was owned by two sisters, the only one I ever saw was young Miss Stott— she well over eighty.
Suddenly the bloomers parted and in what seemed a completely unwarranted facial expression—as if she had just chewed a wasp—as my mum would say—I think the gist of what she was saying, was for me to move away from her door-way.
These few moments were to change my life, no more young Tarzan, instead I set my mind on self improvement, first of all my round shoulders and the nodding walk would have go, plus the knock knees, of course.
This was surprising easy to to do, I practiced my new walk at night so that I would not look stupid. After a while it became second nature, this became my natural gait, shoulders square, arms swinging, head held high and the most difficult bit, pushing my knees apart to stop them touching..
I would now proudly stride down the town with a feeling that I had changed my image.
Or so I thought.
I was returning from such a walk and was passing Pippernells Izzi’s ice cream parlour in Pyrcroft road, when I spotted Mrs. Mant. She was at her gate talking to a neighbour, they were both wearing identical pinafores and turbans, probably bought from Miss Stott’s—I vaguely wondered about their bloomers as well.
They were both standing with their arms folded, a fag hanging from their lips, I could see by the the jerky movements of the cigarettes that they were busy putting the world to rights.
I thought here was an opportunity to show off my new walk, I straightened up with arms swinging and attempted to push my knees apart as I strode towards them.
The trouble was that I had not yet perfected the knee thing, and this possibly caused me to walk in a rather odd way.
Grown-ups are not always aware that kids have very acute hearing, and as I neared the two ladies, I heard one say.
“Look, what’s coming down the road, that poor Mrs. Waglin, as if she doesn’t have enough to put up with”.
Mrs. Mant replied “Yes it’s such a shame, isn’t it, they say there is one in every family”.
They kept stock still as I passed, fags now just hanging motionless, only their eyes followed me as I passed.
Then there was a burst of laughter as they watched me stride up the road.
But I had the last laugh, my new walk made me keep my shoulders back and the stoop has gone. There is a slight problem though, I am now quite bandy.