The story, page three,

The story, Page 3, 11:,00, April 1934.

Outside, Mrs. Phillips, standing at her gate, drying her hands on her apron—today is every-one’s washday. Mrs. Hyde joins her, they stand and wonder, first a policeman now a doctor, what could be happening? They are soon joined by three or four more friends, all gathered around Ethel’s gate, with the same question, who could it be?

***********

Iris, now tells me, the moment she was told to go to see Miss Slaughter, the head mistress—it wouldn’t be the first time. I always seemed to be the one who was picked out.

“This time she was almost kind to me, Deirdre was sitting next the Bernard and Chrissy, all looking as if we were in big trouble.

“Miss Payne, Bernard’s teacher, was standing next to us, she told us that there had been an accident, and we all needed to go home.

The two teachers couldn’t bring themselves to tell these four lovely young children, all looking so innocent, the truth, that even they could not believe.

“We all started walking home hand in hand, the two teacher were talking quietly, as we neared Mr Garrett’s shop, I heard Miss Payne say something that terrified me, I said to Deirdre, It’s Dad.

“We all started running as fast as we could, the teacher’s calling for us to stop.

“As we were near our house, we saw this big crowd of people, some of them were crying, they were holding their hands out to stop us falling.

*********

The noise of children running helter-skelter down the road, was heard before they were seen.

Followed by Miss Slaughter, the head mistress and Miss Payne, trying to keep up.

Deirdre, Iris, Bernard and Chrissie, all holding hands to stop them selves stumbling, ran round the corner near Mrs Parker’s, calling for their Mum.

The friends, now more than ten, looked tearfully at each other, it must be Charlie.

Still just about holding hands, the children run through the outstretched arms of the neighbours,

all they want is their Mum.

As if to keep time with these events, St Peter’s rings eleven bells, It’s less than four hours since Ethel waved goodbye to Charlie.

The two teachers followed the children into the house, Miss Slaughter, a strict—some would say hard—woman, trying hard not cry, but never the less failing. The sight of six young children clamouring over their distraught mother is just too much for her.

Sgt Reynolds stood on the steps, he read out a short note.

“This morning our dear friend, Charlie.”

He paused for a moment, Mrs Salmon took the note and finished reading it.

“Mr Charles Luz Weguelin, from this address, passed away this morning, the cause of death is unknown.”

This was the moment Mrs Salmon knew what she had to do, she had seen it all before during the war, a family left without a father. Things had to be organised.

The family were without any money, their meagre savings were long gone—the reason Charlie cycled to work before he was well enough, after two weeks of ‘flu.

Without any further to-do, a jug of hot tea, some cake for the children, Mrs Mant, having a whip round, a few pennies here, soon a shilling or two.

The poor know how to look after poor.

 

 

The story page one, 10:am, April 1934,

April 1934, 75 Pyrcroft Road.

Ethel sighs, as she see’s his sandwiches on the dresser.

“Oh, Charlie! You’ll forget your head one day.” 

He has left in a hurry, after a bout of ‘flu, without a wage for the last two weeks, he needs to earn some money.  

Smiling, she puts his lunch in the larder, he will cycle back the mile or so at midday, she would hear the clatter of his bike against the fence, then see his sheepish grin as he passes the kitchen window.

The school bell rings, the children will be safely filing into school now.

But, there was another bell, the mournful bell of the grave yard, first a muffled tone then a full one, another ‘flu victim, one of many in recent weeks.  

She slowly did the sign of the cross—not a thing that she had ever done before, both she and Charlie had always been free of any religion. 

Pulling herself together, she grabbed the huge pile of washing from the table, today is washday, filling the copper tub that is built into the corner of the scullery, a handful of soda, a stir with the copper stick, then to light the fire. 

First some newspaper—but not before she sees the Head-line; ‘London hit by ‘flu epidemic’. She quickly puts a match to the paper and watches the head-line burn away. 

Working quickly now, as if to change the subject of her thoughts.

The crackle of the wood blazing under the large copper tub and the white bleached copper stick plunging up and down on the washing, all sounding like a machine, anything— anything, to cast away those thoughts of sadness. 

Now best of all, some bread on a long fork, toasting so quickly on the flaming wood, it burns. 

Three-year-old Donald and his little brother Alan, licking their lips at the thought of some dripping on toast. 

Ethel sits back in her favourite armchair, green velvet with lovely curved mahogany wood-work, a hand-me-down from Charlie’s family.

St Peters Church bell chimes, it’s already ten O’clock. 

Through the kitchen window, she sees Mrs. Salmon, as usual she’s coming around for a chat and a cup of tea.  

Rosy Salmon is a very large lady, her full face always blushed with the effort of just being so big. Her name, Rosy, is well chosen.   

They settle down for their tea, and the local gossip. 

Of course, the subject is ‘flu, the very thing Ethel is trying to avoid. 

Then the sound of a bicycle banging against the fence, it must be Charlie. 

She quickly put the kettle back on the hob.  

Rosy leans back to see who it is at this time of the day. 

For once her cheeks lose their blush. 

The story, page 2, 10:45 am, April 1934.

The story, Page 2. 10:45 am, April 1934.

Rosy sees Sgt Reynolds at the front door looking very serious. She hears a car door slam. Dr Dudley Ward is at the garden gate.

Rosy looks again at the tea leaves she has been reading in her cup—it’s always bad luck for someone—but she hopes today, it’s not this house.

She knows though, a policeman and a doctor calling at the same time can only mean one thing, an accident.

Ethel, not knowing what is unfolding at the front door, smiles as she thinks it is Charlie coming home for his sandwiches, she picks up the youngest child, looking a bit confused, why is Charlie at the front door, when he always uses the back door.

She opens the door, looking at the two sad faced men, Dr Ward, the family doctor; She knows him very well, he has delivered all of her six children—apart from Alan, a difficult birth performed in Woking

She thinks. ’Why are they here instead of Charlie.’ They look at each other for what seems an age.

Dr Ward takes the child from her and they step in-doors, still without a word.

Rosy stands up for Ethel to take her seat, young Donald climbs onto his mother’s lap, it’s as if he senses something is wrong.

The doctor takes Ethel’s hand, stumbling, trying to find the words that must be said.

Ethel is the first to speak.

“It’s Bernard, isn’t it? I should have kept at home, he was a bit pale, but he insisted he wanted to go to school, what have I done Rosy, what have I done?”

The Doctor, quickly now needing to put her mind at rest, at least about her children, said.

“Ethel, all your children are safely at school, but I have some very bad news for you.”

She looks at him, trying to make sense of his words and at the same time not wanting to know.

The Doctor takes some pills from his bag, knowing that there is no medicine that will dull the pain of what he is about to tell young woman, just thirty-five and with six children all born within the last twelve years.

He said with a tremor in his voice.

“Ethel there’s been an accident.”

Rosy, for once with nothing to say, and tears falling from her cheeks, fearing what he will say next.

He is finding it hard to say the words but finally blurts them out.

“Ethel, your Charlie is dead.”

Sgt Reynolds, hardened to to hearing the saddest of stories, finds this just too much bear, he lifts baby Alan and walks into the scullery, with smoke and steam drifting across the room from the copper.

The Doctor carried on.

“Charlie would have not suffered; it would have so sudden.”

Meanwhile another drama was unfolding at Stepgates, the older children have been told simply that there has been an accident, nothing more.

 

The story part six.

The story part six.

Iris and I are now comparing our memories, it’s funny how one can remember every moment of a day together and for the other, it’s as if it didn’t happen at all.

Iris sits back in her chair, holding up the empty bottle with a little sigh.

“I have to say that although I never really liked Fred, he did bring us all back together, that is, until I and Deidre went into service for a lady in Weybridge.”

“Bernard, was working at the Airscrew factory and is at least earning his keep.”

“With Fred and Bernard’s wage, and mum’s various jobs, things were working out.”

*********************

We both remembered the September the 3rd, 1939 though.

I told Iris my version.

               “I was walking home from school, with my friend Teddy Bolton, when we saw a crowd of women all talking excitedly, Teddy took one look at the crowd and said.

                                      “That looks like trouble, lets go round Sykey’s house.”

               That’s the sort of life Teddy had, always avoiding grown-ups. I don’t know why we were running. We hadn’t done anything wrong—but you never know with Teddy.

            At the top of Sykey’s road was another crowd.

 Realising it was not Teddy that they were after, we joined the crowd.

            Sykey came up and told us that there was a war on with Germany again.

  His dad told him it would all be over in a couple months, maybe even before Christmas.”

Iris began her story, she opened another bottle, it’s going to be a long one.

“I had to leave Mrs. Bainbridge, and work in the Vickers factory in London Street, men and women all together, it was such a change, but I loved it.

At home, tape had to be stuck on any glass windows or doors, and black out curtains fitted so that no light could be seen from outside.

Old Mr. Mills, was made an Air Raid Warden, he would patrol our area at night and if he saw so much as a chink of light he would be knocking at the door. Anyone ignoring his warnings would be summonsed, and face a fine.

Farmers and factory workers, stayed in their jobs. Any other men between 18 and 41 were called up to the armed services. Most young men were eager to volunteer.

Women joined the WVS—Women’s Voluntary Service, and took jobs in all sorts of trades, even driving buses and lorries. Girls, 17 and over joined The Land Army to help the farmers.”

She took another drop of Sherry and wiped a tear from her eye as it all came back.

“Iris do you remember you and Joe, taking me to the pictures.

“The film was ‘Boys Town’ with Micky Rooney, the queue for the early show is over 2 hundred yards long all the way round Bell Corner to the car park.”

“When we came out, another queue was waiting, even longer than before, it was very dark, no street lights now. Can you remember how quiet the crowd going home were, just a murmur, we had seen a silent Pathe Gazette film about Barcelona that was bombed by the German air force, many were killed.”

“I think we all thought the town could have been Chertsey. Is this what will happen to us soon?”

Iris said. “No, I can’t remember any of that.”

I think she was too much in love with Joe to think of anything else.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The story part five.

         Iris, now that the saddest few hours of her life have been told, went on with Ethel’s earlier life.

    “Alan, you probably don’t know this. Mum, as a beautiful young girl, had an affair with a soldier and had a child, she was sixteen. The child was adopted.

               She worked in Bleriot’s factory in Addlestone, next to Lang’s Propeller Works, where she met Charlie. 

     Two years later they married.

        Charlie’s father, George, objected to the marriage, because of Ethel’s love child.

             Yet, George, had cheated on his own wife and four children, by living with another woman in the next village and having another four children, illegitimate of course.

            George for the first few months, became a regular visitor, and helped when he could, but keeping two families afloat, he was not able to help that much. Plus, the inheritance he had been living on for the last forty years had come to an end, he now had to work for his living.

  The poor man, in just twelve years he had lost three young sons’; First Stanhope, aged twenty-nine, then Christopher, aged nineteen, and Charlie, aged thirty-five.

       For our Mum the next few months were not without some problems, although the living arrangements for the children are working fine, she becomes depressed.

      Deirdre, before she lost her Dad was a lively girl, now she hardly speaks, she will never be the same again.

         All the rest of us accepted our lot, as children have to in these circumstances.

     Don and you were now living away from home permanently with Mrs. Salmon, unaware of the trauma around you.

       We were very lucky to have been a ‘good cause’ for a rich lady. Miss Chase, who lived in ‘The Grange’, at the end of our road. She kept an eye on us, and the larder full. We were often taken for a ride in her Roll Royce shooting brake.

       Deirdre was now working at a woollens shop, and helping with the cost of things, and life carried on from day to day.

     We took in a lodger, Fred Barker, he came down from Yorkshire, his money really helped and at last things started looking up, until the ‘Poor-aid’ ladies found out about Fred, and stopped the little payments they had been making.”

    Iris made a face and said.

  “I never liked Fred, he was too familiar with mum.”

  In this she was quite right, they became a couple, and I saw Mum laughing again.

        Fred had thick very curly hair, with black and grey bits in it and very blue eyes.

            He must have been some man to have taken on a broken family of six young kids. He became my father, I suppose, although I never called him Dad, it was always Fred or his nick-name, Yorkie. He was a brilliant cook, and knew lots of tricks, I loved him.

        From now on I was remembering some of the things that Iris was telling me about. 

      I can remember the excitement in December 1937, when my Mum gave birth to David

    Iris sits back with her glass of Co-op Special Sherry, It’s her third one, it seems to have no effect on her. But what can you expect for six pounds a bottle?

               She looks over her spectacle’s at me and gives a little shrug.

 It all starts to go wrong again, Alan, your poor mother, it seems she is plagued by bad luck.”

        

    

     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

St Annes Hill, Chertsey.

St Annes Hill.

My first memory of ‘The Hill’, was in 1937, age five.

King George’s Coronation party in the Dingle. I was terrified by the Dragon strolling about in the St George and the Dragon play that was being performed.

All my other memories of ‘The Hill’ were of a wonderland, perfect for everyone, no matter their age.

Sledging and ‘wooding,’ in the winter. Bluebell-dell, in the spring, a denser carpet of Bluebells I have yet to see. Purple Rhododendrons it full colour where ever you looked in the summer. Blackberries, followed by Hazel nuts then the giant Chestnut trees in Chestnut Wood in the autumn.

The Dingle, a dream of a place for us kids. An old gravel pit dug into the side of the hill. With a stone built look-out at the top. Gradually landscaped by the previous owners. At the base, a level lawn with three Giant Redwoods. A large deep pond, and a long and overgrown one full of Dragon flies. A brick built domed ice-house now with seats instead of ice. And our favourite, a small pond with a Japanese style wooden bridge next to a summer house—all in good condition when I was a child.

**********

As is usual, when I write about something, another story is knocking at the door.

Such as.    A hot summer afternoon in 1943.

Sykey Balchin, Teddy Wade, Johnny Sewell, Teddy Bolton and his slightly older brother Billy; The Cowley Avenue Apaches.

Our enemies, Nancy and Pansy, two pesky girls who thought they could be in charge of everything we did. They had a sixth sense of where we were at any time.

We needed to go to the Dingle, but this meant passing Pansy’s house.

We decided to go one by one, so as not to be noticed.

It worked like a charm, no sign of the enemy.

Our headquarters; The summer house next to the little pond with the bridge.

Sykey decided he wanted a wee, and went over to the bridge—now you ladies probably don’t realise that boys of our age are very competitive, and being able pee the highest is a badge of honour that we all sought—especially being able to pee over the wall into the girl’s lavatory at Stepgates—plus the chance to see who had the biggest willie.

We were soon next to Sykey, with our trousers down waiting for Billy, who was having trouble with his buttons, there was lots of shouting and pointing at each other.

Then, it was if a switch had been thrown, it all went quiet when Billy joined us with his trousers round his ankles,——Sykey said .

“I’ve had enough of this game. I’m going up the lookout.

In silence, we all got dressed and trooped across the lawn.

Up on the lookout were those two pesky girls, Nancy and Pansy, shouting and waving their arms.

“Billy is the winner, we love Billy.”

With a big smile on his face, Billy was left doing up his buttons.

It was the first time ever that Billy had come first in his life.

 

I’m sure I’m not alone,

I’m sure I’m not alone, when sometimes I hear a couple of words spoken by someone just passing me by, that sets my mind on a train of thoughts which I can’t remove. Similar to the tune once heard that you can’t get rid of for days.

Two days ago, such a thing happened to me. I have been moved from one ward to another for the last few weeks, I had been promised to go home the next day. It seems as you start to get better, you are moved up a floor, I am now on the sixth floor, Cavell Ward.

As I entered the bay of five beds, I heard an old man chanting, nothing wrong with that of course, North London is Multi- cultural.

But it was the snatch of just two words, that started the train of thoughts that would dog me for the next couple of days, in the murmured outpourings of incoherent chanting, popped out lauderdale road, as clear as anyone could say, followed for the rest of day by more mumbling.

Only when he was sleeping, did it stop. Unfortunately, that was when my curiosity about lauderdaleroad was replaced by what I can only describe as a scene from ‘A night at the museum’.

The other three beds were occupied by old men who were obviously very ill, one that sounded like Alf Garnett‑my favourite TV character-. Another who only slept during the day and of course our happy chanter.

As soon as the lights went out one of them decided to go for a walk, this started a conversation with a nurse, who in herself was no shrinking violet. Mr ‘Garnett’ joined in, with very ‘Alf Garnett’ language.

This is going to be jolly, I thought, now we have three-way conversation.

Now that our happy chanter had competition, he felt he had to turn up the volume.

The remaining man, who up till now had been completely silent, tried to get out of bed, and unable to cope the nurse asked for back-up, there are now six voices trying to be heard.

As I pulled the covers over me, another word from our happy chanter came over loud and clear, ‘pelhamstreet ‘.

Now I’ll never get to sleep, but I remember the sun rising before I finally dozed off.

The next day I was told I should really stay another night, but I declined.

This morning, after a good nights sleep in my own bed, I woke to the sound our boys going to school.

Some time ago I bought two yards of material, I now use as a throw on my bed. It had a road map of London printed on it, I was just browsing over the names of the roads printed on it and there was Lauderdale Road, and after a few minutes I found Pelham Street.

I think our happy chanter was probably not religious at all, but a retired London Taxi Driver rehearsing ‘The Knowledge’, which I’m sure he never need again.

He certainly took me round the longest way though.