Chapter Seven, My New Walk. February 1940.

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.

Chapter Eight, Iris, More Memories.


Things Partly Remembered.

Chapter eight.

I am often told that I am good at recalling my childhood. I have no control of this. My memory is triggered by the slightest thing. Sometimes the memory is of the complete scene, with detail that really was not important enough to store in my memory. For instance, why would a boy of seven need to have remembered the price of soap! And why would an old man, not be able to remember a password? It’s a mystery! Sometimes, a smell or a few notes of a popular song of that time, more than eighty years ago, is enough to bring a memory to mind. The human brain is such an amazing thing. We are told that we only use about 25% of it. What other memories are hidden just under the surface, waiting for a trigger?

This brings me to my sister, Iris. I realised that when we were talking about the time just before and during the war. There were things that were sharp in her mind and scant in mine. I began by asking if she had any recall of the events that I have just a glimpse of. Surprisingly, most of the time she was able to fill in the lost detail.

The first thing I needed to know, was were on earth did we all sleep? I worked out that there were sometimes fourteen people living together and It was only a three bedroomed house! She winced and said.  “Because of all the evacuee’s coming to Chertsey, the first few days of the war starting were terrible, people were being placed where ever the council could put them. We had four of them, making eleven people sleeping in our house at one time. But just before the war, there were only seven of us; Fred was in and out of hospital and young David would be in a sanatorium for several more years. The three girls slept n the same bedroom and you three boys were in another, and mum was in the third room. When-ever Fred was sent home for a few weeks, he had to sleep alone in the kitchen”.

When the war started, I remembered Mrs O’Keefe and her son Dennis, and that they lived in the front room at first. Then she said something that I did have the slightest memory of. “We had two more evacuees’, brother’s from London, they only stayed for a couple of hours, there was nowhere for them to sleep. and then they went home. Things were so chaotic, people were coming and going all day”. My faint memory of that day, was that one of the boy’s name was George Turner, the same my uncle. And of mum being very concerned about them going back to London, as they were only in their teens. She went round to the council to tell them what these boys were going to do, but they couldn’t stop them.

I asked her about a young Irish woman and her little girl that stayed with us. “Yes, she wasn’t an evacuee, but was homeless and mother took her in, she and her daughter slept in mum’s room. She was only here for a couple of weeks and seemed to move from house to house. The poor woman was so desperate, most of the spare rooms were taken by all the evacuees. I think she ended up in the Lodging House, near Mr Garrett’s”.

I then asked her about our Grand-father, George Conrad. I have only the very slightest memory of him, but more of his bike, it had a very big basket on the front, like a ladies’ bike. Iris took a deep breath. “Well, I don’t think he was all there, he came over on his bike, dressed up like Sherlock Holmes, he had knee breeches on and ‘Deer Stalker’ hat. He could have been successful with his model making, he had several patents, and made beautiful model yachts. He and Dad had no love for each other, because of his other family in Shepperton. Even his brother, Walter, couldn’t stand him. They both inherited enough money to live on private means, but George simply frittered it all a way. Walter was quite successful, and used his inheritance to start up a firm making assembly tracks for factories’ s. He went to Australia, where he carried on with his firm”.

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.

August 23rd 15:30 Re-cycling.

August 23rd15:30…Re-cycling.

  Many years ago, re-cycling, would have been called ‘Make Do and Mend’.

Also, there was no such word as ‘Fly-Tipping’; there was nothing that a normal house-hold would want to throw away, we kept it, just in case it would come in useful one day.

  A tradesman, such as a carpenter or decorator, would take away all his surplus material, either back to his workshop, or to the local council-run dump, for a small charge.

  Now, dumps are very choosy about what they will take, they turn away tradesmen, who have to take the stuff to an expensive depot, miles away.

  A gap in the market appeared, a man and a van would roam the streets, and offer to take all your rubbish away for just a few pounds; problem solved, or rather moved, to a place like St Annes Hill, nice and quiet! 

   Fly-Tipping had arrived!

The five-pence charge on plastic bags is a huge success, that small charge has made us think twice about using one.

   Perhaps it would have been better to place that charge earlier in the manufacturing process.

  Ok, a cucumber will rot a few days earlier without a plastic rapper, but then it will be added to the kitchen compost bin instead of the house-hold rubbish, complete with its plastic overcoat.

  We all know it is hard to change our ways, but we have very little time before it all becomes unmanageable

  It’s all very well for me, a retired man with plenty of time on my hands, to do all these things.

  But, I know there are lots of busy people, who do find the time to sort their recycling, I am full of praise for them.  

  An easy way to start—which just needs a change to your shopping habits—is to encourage the return of the milk-man, he won’t come on his own, unless enough of us do it.

  Two plastic ‘bottles’ a day, produces over 700 of them a year per house-hold! I know they are recyclable, but only into more plastic, whereas, a glass bottle is collected by the milk-man and re-used again and again.

It also gives some-one the opportunity to start their own business.

  What’s not to like?

  By the way, we are lucky enough to have a milkman, he calls four times a week. 

August 22nd 10 pm The crime wave..

August 22rd 10 pm…The crime wave..

I see posts from our group complaining about the increasing level of bad behaviour in the Chertsey area, but I think, any town, the size of Chertsey, would certainly have some very nasty people living in it.

But, not so long ago, before the internet, the knowledge of their wrong doing was only known about by the people affected and their neighbours—in other words people living a mile away would probably never be aware of it.

Now with the blessing of our social media, the news of a stone thrown through a window, is instantly shared to thousands of people, thus creating an in image of a lawless town.

Of course, I am not condoning these anti-social idiots, I am just saying it has always happened, we just did not always know about it.

In the 1940’s, the little area surrounding Pyrcroft Road, provided Mrs. Salmon and my mother, with enough gossip to push a steam roller.

As a child I would listen, or rather watch, the two of them exchanging the latest scandal, it was never meant for my ears of course

When I say I watched them talking, I mean they would move their lips without uttering a sound; my brother Don called it ‘Gum talk’, we could easily read their lips after a while, so it was all quite pointless.

I found these stories very exciting, there was the man in Barker Road who had a gun, I don’t think he ever used it though, another, was of a young girl about sixteen, who had given birth to a little girl, apparently, the father could have been any one of her own family!

Then there was the ‘Black Market’ during the war, most things could be had if you could afford it.

I was once asked to deliver a suitcase full of Army blankets to a man in Staines Lane, I was paid a shilling! I suppose it made me a partner in crime—I was only eight!

So, rest content in your beds tonight, the chances of it happening to you has hardly changed—but just to be on the safe side, keep one eye and an ear open at all times.

Just saying.

August 22nd 01:00 From Plonkers to Conkers.

August 22nd01:00 From Plonkers to Conkers.

Enough about plonkers, lets talk about the conker.

Today, in Alexandra Park—donated to Manchester by a local industrialist in Victorian times— which is just across the road from our house, there is wonderful avenue of huge specimen trees: Limes, Oaks, Sweet Chestnuts, and best of all in my opinion, the ‘Conker tree’.

 From early spring to early autumn, it delivers pleasure; who remembers, in school having a sticky bud in a jar of water, changing colour before opening into leaf?

 Then, that lovely sweet smell of the white or pink blossom on the tree, almost before winter has passed.

 The velvety leaves, followed by the shiny brown conker in it’s shell; which brings me back to my walk in the park today, there were dozens of them, every one would be a prize for a child to pick up.

Playing conkers, was one of our delights as children, throwing sticks up into the tree to have that beauty that was just out of reach; the best trees in Chertsey, were in Mr Stanfords farm, next to the Pyrcroft House little stream. He never worried us while we climbed his fence and into his fields, as long as we didn’t scare his cows.

The most dangerous part of playing conkers—although some killjoys wanted to ban it—was pushing a meat skewer in the conker to thread the string.

The playground then became a battlefield, with always some boy claiming his conker had shattered at least a hundred others, never to be proved of course.

Science played its part; several ways of making the conker a champion was tried, among them, boiling in vinegar! It didn’t work, I tried it!

But the easiest way to win was simply to use last year’s conker, they were like a rock. But ruled out as cheating—we were all so fair as children.

I wonder if kids play conkers today? they are surely missing out if they don’t!

August 21 st 16:00 Careful what you wish for, part two.

August 21st 16:00 Careful what you wish for part 2.

Since the referendum in 2016, I have, like many others, been literally forced into taking more interest in politics.

I have followed with disbelief, how our politicians, of every colour, twist and turn from one day to the next.

A year or two ago, we saw statements made by these people—who we trust with our nations wellbeing— promoting the only way forward is to go down this particular path to prosperity.

Now, some of them are saying the complete opposite.  

At eighty-seven, and reasonably with-it, you would think, wouldn’t you, that I would be able to understand what on earth they are up to.

I’m afraid it beats me!

Why would the Conservative party, risk losing the Union of our nation, and even the very party they belong to—let alone the Irish troubles returning—to take us into, what they freely admit, is a very uncertain future, for decades to come.

And why would the Labour party want to leave an organisation that has improved our worker’s rights, let alone our human rights? All now threatened by the same people who want us to work till we are seventy-five—in some areas of the UK, we will not reach that age.

Fortunately, there is a move afoot, that if the Politicians really want to find out what, we, the people want—now that we have been given the facts of what is in store for us.

 They will bury their differences and unite, it doesn’t matter who will be the temporary prime minister, just do it! 

And show us, for once, that you put the interests of this lovely United Kingdom, before any of your vested interests, what-ever colour they are.        

August 18th 23:00 Careful what you wish for.

August 18th23:00    Careful what you wish for.

        I am old enough to remember, the whisper going around town, of some bacon in ‘Denyers’, a local grocer, and of the queue of ladies, that quickly formed outside, hoping to have a few rashers, before Mr Denyer would say “That’s all folks, it’s all gone”.

Of course it will all be different when we leave the EU; the ladies will be sitting in their cars in a queue outside the overflowing ‘Tesco’ car park, now full of other shoppers sitting in cars, who have driven there from miles around, just because someone said there was some bacon in stock.

That all depends, of course, on whether they were able to find some petrol to drive there in the first place.

OK, that’s a bit fanciful. It wouldn’t be like this……………..would it?

 The truth is no one knows!

August 17th 2019, 01:30….If I was a rich man.

August 17th2019, 01:30…..If I was a rich man.

I have found, the quickest way of losing a friend, is to paint their portrait.

Another good way is to discuss politics.

But, in todays world it is impossible to avoid.

The thing is—and it is only my opinion—the politicians we have in our once proud little country, are like puppets, controlled by a few ‘newspapers’.

The owners of these papers, are only interested in preserving the wealth of the country, in the hands of a few people.

 These same people, have no interest in the wealth and well being of the rest of us.

Once upon a time, our little group of islands, really was Great Britain, we punched above our weight.

There are moments, of course, not to be proud of what we did, but we gave the world many of the better standards that the rest of the the world take for granted now. 

Now these ‘buccaneers’ are willing to break us apart, for one very good reason.

They are terrified of having to pay their share of the taxes that we ordinary people have no choice but to do.

So scared are they, of having to do this, they are quite happy to forego the very generous subsidies they receive from the EU— just for owning great swathes of land in our country.

It was not always like this, some very wealthy manufacturers, ploughed some of their profits—admittedly from the poor working conditions that were normal at that time—into model towns with wonderful parks and such like, solely for their workers.

In my home town of Chertsey, a wonderful park—St Annes Hill—was given to the people of the town to enjoy.

Can you imagine any, any, employer doing that now?

So, don’t blame the politicians that we have at the moment, they know not what they do.