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Don McDouall was bom in London...back in 1934.
His paternal ancestors can be traced back to the eighth century. To the part of Scotland
called ‘Dumfries and Gallloway.
He is.... One of the three surviving children of Grace and Edwin McDouall
Edwin McDouall went missing. Presumed drowned in 1937 ...Rumours were that in real he went to Spain during the time of that countries civil war.... And never returned.
At the outbreak of the Second World War. [September 1939] Don was separated from his
mother and two sisters.
He was evacuated to the village of East Hanney .. A village, then in Berkshire.
The lad was billeted with the Lyford Family.... Along with three other small boys.
Within a very short space of time, two of the boys returned to their homes.
About three years later the other lad living with he also returned to London.
At wars end . Don left the home of the Lyfords and was placed (in care)... In Pound-croft...the evacuees boys home in East Hanney
Sometime in October, of that same year 1945 Don was moved to another Boys home situated in the town of Bourne End. Bucks.
This home was closed down in early 1947....
Don then went back to live with the Lyford family in East Hanney.
In the very early part of 1952 the he immigrated to Australia.... Under the guardianship of
The Big Brother Movement.
Don has four children. Now all grownup.... He with his wife live in a tiny town, in Western Australia.
Both Don and his wife travelled a lot earlier in their lives. Having lived also in New Zealand [Christchurch] Indonesia [Banka Island].... And Fiji [Ba].
Just recently [in 1998 Don finally found his two lost sisters...Who he last saw at the outbreak of the Second World War.
To MY Old Friends
My friends! do you but remember?
When our hopes and our troubles were new.
In the years we spent wearing out 'Wellle-gogs'.
I found you unselfish and true
I have gathered these memoirs together
For the sake of our friendship... and you.
You may think for awhile! and with good reason
Though I hope.... With a kindly regret.
That I've left it full late in life's season
To show.... That I remember you yet.
I remember my friends.... I remember!
The lanes we followed are clear.
The jovial last days before Christmas.
The happy times of ...New year.
Long walks though the 'Cowslips' and 'Daisies.
Short sojourns to school ...and back.
Apple scrumpting.... Down near the water.
Those rides on a 'cart-horses 'back.
I can still fill the camaraderie that was with us.
And often the old stars will shine.
I remember the last times.... In the laneways.
When we sang.... For the sake of Lang Syne.
When our road lay divided before us
Your path to the future! And mine.
Through the frost winds.... That cut like whiplashes.
Through the hunched down wetness... of rain.
And in fancy times by the light of torch flashes.
We carolled.... To entertain.
I have followed your highlights... and ashes
Of your lives.... As we moved far apart.
You will find in these pages... our memories.
Just a trace of that.... Which was right
That side of our past...that we ought not to forget.
Remember! when the moon was so bright?.
And recognise sometimes.... The face of your friend
That friend who just dropped out of sight.
I send you these stories.... In place of the letters
The letters! .... I promised to write.
[W ith acknowledgement to my old m ate Henry Lawson]
All of us! Of a time that sometimes feels to me like yesterday— But in real is our lifetime
Must sometimes— Relate their thoughts and memories of a time that is so ‘alien ‘ to this new
generation of children.
We of the ‘40‘s were children that lived through a ‘strange1 part of recent history.
As children we were subjected to trauma and hardship...That those who now follow, could
never really understand.
For us there were no ‘councillors ‘ we had each other for consolation...There were very few
people one could turn to, in times of strife.
Yet we had such joyful times together, as we grew up.
Our lives were very fill and we enjoyed such simple pleasures.
I have felt for some years now—that 1 should write of my childhood, so that my children s
children can share our childhood
By passing on my memoirs to you and others like you. I hope your children will get joy from
reading about how things were in our distant childhood
I can only write of my own thoughts_My peers to whom I can relate to.-Are of necessity
taken from a rather narrow spectrum-.Thal selection are those of my own age group in the
There were many others—Many I can remember well, but cannot narrate just how ‘their‘
childhood- reflected mine.
This collection of memories might never have been put down on paper, without the contribu
tions sent to me from The Hanneyites' of that time long ago_I have endeavoured to en
twine their childhood memories with my own .
I can but apologise to any 1 may have forgotten about
So in true Australian idiom I Dip's me lid to you all.
Kath. [James] Watkins—Kath made possible the locating of a 1939 photograph of London evacuees.
And supplied a wealth of other very interesting material.
Doreen [Wright] Harris.Doreen supplied many of the photographs that helped the author
remember what the Hanneys looked Like.
Ann [Tarietr] Holland— Ann put me right on many of my very early recollections of Hanney life.
As did indirectly— her life time friend Stella Cox.
Muriel [Smith] Stevenson..Muriel back in the ‘post wars period was a teacher at Hanney school
A good idea of what West Hanney was like during the wartime was gleaned from her interesting letters.
Eileen Shepherd. Eileen is a lady from East Hanney who can remember me as a boy.. her letters were of great importance.
Marjorie [Borden] dark— Majorie is the only other ‘London evacuee" who made contact...
I never had the pleasure of knowing this lady when we were children—This is understandable as when l was five years old, Majoric was perhaps ten years old and she lived in west Hanney.
Her letters of West Hanney gave me much food for this book.
Micheal Laimble. ..Early in life we went to school together. Mike was the first to respond to my requests.
Mick Tarry...Mick has provided a wealth of information, bringing me up to date in a variety of ways.
Tony Booker...Tony like his lifetime friends Mick .Has gone out of his way to provide me with photographs and written information.
Doug Collett...I didn't grow up with Doug, but he was a workmate of mine, we were friends in the small period just before I left.... Doug supplied material on Grove...Grove aerodrome... and East Hanney.
Clive Spinage.... We were friends in my young teenage years.... We went fishing together. Clive opened up my memory bank...remembering things I had forgotten...He furnished me with literature that he himself wrote on the Hanneys and surrounding areas.... All very enlightening.
Special thanks to.
Norma Wishusion...who indirectly made my quest all worth while...Norma came up with a photo of herself with her sisters and yes. I was in it too.
Mrs Jenny Diment...Who was generous enough to publish my letter in the 'Hanney News'.
Alan Ure&Ron Ives... who was of great help in respect to the 'Homestead"
Last but not least...Thanks to the proprietors of The Black Horse'... for starting all o f this.
Don McDouall. 1.12.01
The two 'Hanney' villages... East and West Hanney are situated in the Vale o f the White
Horse. More or less halfway between the'ancient' market towns known as Abingdon and
In 1939 both villages were sleepy hamlets. That is, until misguided politicians started World war two.
So on the Friday before the war started ..It was a somewhat hot and tiring sort of day a train pulled into Wantage road railway station and after the steam and smoke subsided to som e
extent—it spewed a large group of strange looking children from the 'city' therefor Londonj... Later on they just called them 'Evacuee's' or'Londoners'...SomTIMES even 'Sodding' Londoners'!
Bewildered locals'watched as these 'foreigners' ...These som ewhat bedraggled unfam iliar
looking children, were slowly dispersed amongst them.
None realizing at the time, that it would be many days hence, before tranquillity would
come again to the 'peaceful' Hanney's.... If ever!
But lets start at the beginning! Where all 'stories'should begin.
"Oranges and Lemons"
Tolled the bells of St Clements.
"I owe you five farthings!" Said the bells of St Martins.
"When will you pay me?"
Pealed the bells of old Bailey.
"When I grow rich", said the bells of Shore-Ditch.
nPray when will that be."
Tolled the bells of Stepney.
"I'm sure I don't know!" quothed the great bell of Bow.
Here is the candle to light you to bed; here is the chopper to chop off your head.
The last ones dead.
The Legs ?.... a lady was above them all right, but they didn’t seem 'right somehow.
But you never could telL.with grownups!]
But her holding him tight, by his shirt collar was real enough, while two other groping
hands that seemed not to belong to anyone in particular, went about making sure that the
gas-mask'...That funny looking thing, that was squeezed into the square cardboard box
...That was hanging from his shoulders by a bit of‘itchy string rested on Donny’s rib-cage
...in such a way, so that it hurt.
Donny knew he had got on the train with Esther! Esther was his big sister, but now he
couldn’t find her anywhere. He had looked and even called her name many times, but re
ceived no response, other then some ‘shooshing from the lady with the ‘funny legs.
So by now Donny was pretty scared of all the hostile happenings and the strange people
around him. Then for no apparent reason the little lad started to cry.
But then again! Would it have been a coincidence...? That these tears were most likely
brought on by the ‘hypnotic sounds of the many‘ bawling infants around him?
Crying always made ‘Donny sleep, so he did just that.
When later he awoke it was to the harsh sounds of carriage doors flying open. Of people
yelling...Of dogs barking.... There was a lot of steam too and he had soot in one eye making
it itchy and from him rubbing it with his clenched up fist, it soon became painfully sore.
In no time at all, he found himself caught up in a throng of jostling kids. Each and everyone
seemed to tower over the top of him.
The lady who had the thick legs had told him to hang on tight to the brown paper parcel....
The sad looking parcel that contained all of Donny’s clothes, but the kid had let it slip to the
carriage floor whilst asleep. So now our hero stood empty handed, in the midst of a sad
'mess of‘Londoners'...Too hungry, and too worn out, even to cry anymore.
Donny had looked everywhere...but his big sister Esther was gone...!
A prim and rather pompous looking lady took Donny’s clenched up hand, which at once
made him start to cry all over again. The lady shooshed him. Then shook him, to no avail.
Then in desperation the disheartened ‘do-gooder shoved a ‘penny chocolate bar into the
truculent boys grubby little hand.
Donny grasped the ‘sweet, wondering what it was...It smelt good, so he started to ‘scoff‘it.
It tasted all right too, but he found it was a bit tough to chew.
The ‘magnanimous giver was not a bit impressed by Donny’s insatiable appetite.
And promptly let the boy know all about it.
“Oh! You stupid little ‘sod‘! Haven’t you seen a ‘chocolate bar before?"
Then having abused the kid with such cruel words, the self-important busybody attempted
to take the ‘soggy chocolate covered wrapper, away from Donny.
Instinct quickly took over... The little boy was quite use to others bigger then he, trying to
take his food away So he screamed.... Which startled the ‘chocolate bar bestower so much,
that she let go of the messy blue ‘Cadbury’s chocolate wrapper ...and the little ‘Londoner‘
quickly swallowed the ‘gooey mess right up.
Having been shoved and jostled off the platform. The disheveled Donny saw the car ...The
large car had no proper top like cars should have.
The boy had never been in a car and didn’t quite understand why there was so much fuss. Or
why there were such frantic efforts, on the part of a lot of‘red faced* [and at timesj scream
ing grownups. Who were all hell- bent in seizing the numerous* wailing* lads and then ‘stuff
ing‘ them all into the confines of the back seat area, of this odd looking grey car.
It took quite some time and one assumes a lot of effort, to get the ten or so, bowling * kids
onto...Or was it, adjacent to, the one back seat.
Donny finally found himself on the car floor .It rumbled a lot, when one was that much
closer to the road, and the dust from the scuffed carpet rose up in clouds, making him
So our reluctant hero sat there amongst many ‘strange legs. He sat frozen with fear as the
car continually lurched forward. Hanging grimly onto a strangely familiar ...‘stockinged'
leg, each time the “tortured gears were changed.
Donny never did get to see where that car took him!
The ‘Warden‘[most likely the old Mr. White was trying his very utmost to look dignified....
To look important...To at least look like he uxis in charge!
He halted the weary group of Londoners', slap-bang in front of the 'green' Iron Gate of the
There on the other side oj the road...Most likely gawking, at such an unjamiliar scene. Stood
Mr. and Mrs. Percy Painton. Along with their own little Gran daughter, who just happened
to be an early arrival evacuee.. Ann Holland had come to the country ‘ early...! Perhaps to
escape the rush.
Now she watched ..As all the others did...For sure Mrs. Monk was looking on. With Mrs.
Belcher, Mrs. Norris and Mrs. Harvey...The latter perhaps holding her cat "Satan".
Mrs. Godfrey stood a hit up the road, talking to Mrs. Waters and Mrs. Herman. All were
having a "gandcr...But trying to look like they were not really watching!
In the meantime the Warden ...Who was still trying valiantly, to appear to be in charge.
With the help of Mrs. Walker [one of the London school teachers ticked off the names and
particulars from the large cardboard list...The list that in turn both the "Warden and the
"teacher hoped, corresponded with the "smudged writing on the labels!
The labels that in turn hung as individual markers'around the necks of the four "londoners".... The four little boys who were about to he allocated ...Or could one say, to he billeted!
Or perhaps put in care.... With Mrs. lyford.
Ann was to overhear her Grandma, comment to no one in particular.... The words, that
have been a part of Ann’s memory for the last sixty years...
“Poor Mrs. Lyford! How will she be able to understand little boys! ?”
Well Ann! Granny Lyford never did understand little boys!
Somehow Donny found himself in this "alien" space .The low ceilinged room was the ‘kitchen
of the house Tamarisk".
Everything that was happening, was too much for him, it was all too unfamiliar.... He
wanted so much to go home...Even more so, he wanted his mum...
To make matters much worse, this "giant of a grownup was looking at him "hard"...She
scared him to death.
So he ran...In real there was no where to really run. So he ran under the table.
The ‘giants' quarry could see the front door was opcn...But another "grownup" blocked the
way...”Stop him, don’t let him get out!".
Donny quickly realized it was he the giant was referring to...lt was he who they were calling
out loud about.
The little boy saw the "sewing machine in the corner, between the two doors of the unfamil
iar kitchen...The" Singer' sewing machine! ...It was one of those, with a cast iron fancy
treadle frame. With the round leather belt, that looked much like a large shoelace, sitting in
the groove of the ‘glossy’ black pulley wheel.
Donny didn’t know what it was. He had never seen a sewing machine! But his instincts told
him it was a great place to hide, so he quickly scrambled between the treadle and the kitchen
He screwed himself up tightly...Into a very tight ball, and shut his eyes, hoping all his ap
prehensions, all this terrible nightmare..All his trepidation’s, would all disappear.
But it wasn’t to be.
Never before in the whole of his short life, had he had, to endure the pain and the mind-
numbingness that he now felt.
The "giant was intently poking him with a broom handle and it hurt terribly ...He felt so hor
Then, as he always did when he became so frightened, he messed himself ...He felt its
warmth as it "oozed" out of his belly and he just "froze" in terror.
The ‘grownups left him alone then and Donny lay they’re cold and shivering, watching the
sunlight play games ...On the wall paper pattern.
BEGINING OF LIFE WITH THE LYFORDS
In all, there were four little London kids left in the "care" of the giant..."Gran's lyford'
All four were boys!
Donny was by far the youngest...He was nearly five years old.
The kid wasn’t very big.... When standing up he found, even on "tippy toes", he couldn’t see
onto Gran's kitchen table. Even when sitting on a plumped up pillow that had been placed
on his chair, Donny could only just see his plate on the table.... But couldn't really see what
was on it. This fact often caused the plates contents to end up on the floor when the lad tried
to eat off it. Or worse still all over Donny ...and "Gran" was none too happy about that.
Going to the lavvy' became a nightmare for the boy. He was too small to keep his feet on the
ground, so he sort of toppled in back side first...Bucket toilets were rather unkind to small
kids who sort of fell in.
A London Evacuees Memoirs 1939"52
Grans was very annoyed, when her smallest charge who returned covered in others smelly excreta.
So our small 'hero' got off to a rather bad start.
Billy Foster* was one of Donny’s first, of many 'nemesis’s*.
of the four 'Londoners*. Billy was by far the eldest; he was a lot older then Donny.. .Perhaps nine years old at that time.
All four of them slept in one large double bed.
It didn't last wery long...Because feather mattresses and urine mixed, smelt awful. So when Billy and Danny were gone, Donny and Roy were quickly banished to sleep on a lumpy straw filled palliass. This poor example for a mattress, was placed on a rickety old iron bedstead, that often collapsed at the head end ...The bed was pushed up in the far comer the landing, next to the door of the Pink room.
Billy made the other boys life hell. . What with his incessant pinching and biting.
Thankfully for all concerned. Billy never stayed very long at Gran Lyfords... Perhaps two months at the most ...Then with a sigh of relief from Donny,perhaps the same from the other two boys he returned to the city to be with his mum.
‘Danny Mcarthy. Was six years old! ....The same age as Roy.
Danny just cried and cried...He was always crying! All one could remember of him, was his incessant howling.... His mum eventually came and took him home...Lucky Danny.
That left Roy Kemp and Donny.... Roy was a year older then Donny.
He was Chinese, or so everyone said...Most kids at school called him Chinky.
Roy wore those weird looking steel rimmed glasses.The glass frames looked like they were made from tightly coiled spring wire ...and most likely were.
Local village kids therefor added four eyes to chinky. But Donny liked him!
The early part of all of this new life style for Donny, for sure, would have lulled him into a sense of false security.
One could have likened those last summer days of 39 ...to... The calm before the storm. Ihere was this period however very short that started at the onset of the war ...But 'terminated
abruptly, with Donny's first Christmas away from his family ..In all, this lull, this soothing pause...Was of about eighteen weeks in duration.
Donny was absolutely amazed at seeing a real live fish for the first time, in its natural environment...
He had only seen gold fish alive before and they always lived in a glass bowl!.... And then one time a big dead fish lying in a shop window ...That looked at the time, a bit spooky..
Seeing frogs for the first time made the little boy laugh with much glee. He would spend hours
most days, trying to catch one and when he did, was too scared to hold it. As Donny later said:
“After I had got over my initial fear of frogs, I finally got the courage to pick them up. They wriggled a lot and felt cold and slippery, but I learnt how to hold them real tight, so they couldnt get away.... And watching toads' was ok too. But they seemed so much scarier with their wartlike appearance.
You didn’t see them that is the toads often in the water instead you could find them under certain largestones.
Other kids told me they could spit in your eye, and their spit made you so sick, that you eventually died!
I loved lying on my belly, on the warm stone flagging that formed the pathway right at the ditch. Lying there, gazing deep into the swirling sparkling waters of the bailing hole...and as my eyes would refocus to the gloom of that other world, there on the muddy bottom I could see these small bundles of sticks lurching along— Sticks that were alive! That were in real ‘Caddis grubs'.
I would spend many pleasant hours trying to catch the baby Sticklebacks or Tiddlers as the local kids called them. Using ones cupped hand; one could slowly get a hand under a tiny fish. It would swim in the palm of your hand and as you slowly brought your hand up, it would conyou into thinking you had captured it.
Then before you knew it.... It would suddenly dartaway! Up and over your fingers, and so very frustrated. You would start all over again...But often I was put off by the baby dragonfly s', such creatures would make me jump if one entered my cupped hands, because they looked so much like spiders and at that time I didn't care for spiders much.
Then there was the Blood Suckers. These multi green and black coloured creatures were always waving their heads around in the swift current. looking so much like countless babysnakes.... Leechesalways made me so afraid.
Gramps didn’t help much! He said
“They just might get into your earholes... and then would suck your brains out!”
There were the Water beetles...Or as we called them ...The boatmen and similar such water creatures. That skated along on the surface of the water in die ditches that ran down the side of the village road.
There were the Water spidersthat could dive beneath the water clutching a bubble of air. Then later you could watch them release the bubble into their underwater nest. This wonderful act was so, that much later on the spider could stay in its watery nest beneath the water, yet still be able to breathe.
There were... Most regretfully— The countless midges or gnats as us kids called them ...That bit your head incessantly. Making you scratch furiously.
I hated them, as all you could do was rub your head as they bit and gnawed your scalp. Gran's had cut all my hair off and Roys too.... That was because she said we were lousy.
So the gnats could easily bite you.
Often the Mosquitoes bit you on your arms and legs. These bites became very itchy, and for some unknown reason were called heat bumps?
At times the Mayflies were everywhere. Hovering just off the water and one could see them dipping their abdomens into the water. The beautiful blue dragonflies behaved, much like fairy helicopters.
Often as you lay there, you felt the rush of air as a Swallow, or a Swift darted close to your head in search of its dinner.
There were the tiny shrimp like creatures ...That changed their colour to red, when you left them to die on the hot pavement...
Yet they danced along in their own watery world, by doubling up, then straightening out again...
That was before you left them to die_On the hot pavement!
It was a wonderfully exciting feeling, in having a fishing net'! Perhaps it was one that a bigger kid had made, from an old discarded lace curtain. Such material was attached, within a circle of wire, to a stick.
And if you had money, you could buy proper little nets, with a bamboo handle, from 'Packers' shop.
Then came the excitement of having that ferocious little fish.. Aptly called'Sticklebacks. Or 'Redthroats' as the village kids called them..Jn jam-jars.
Have you ever seen a 'Sticklebacks nest? It’s like a small bird's nest only under the water. Later in life I often wondered if there are any other fish that make nests?”
Donny would spend countless happy hours each day, laying on his tummy. Staring down into the deep holes in the ditch.
The holes were scooped out, so people could fill a bucket, by dipping it into the ditch.
The holes were great to look into, from a boy’s point of view. As the small aquatic life would be out of the current so not get sucked into deep water .
there was one such hole in the ditch right near the front of grans house, along side Mrs Monks garden wall
,4 bu tiHHf i&xxi umler the large paving slab you laid down on, and you always looked under
and you needed to be careful when into catching things..Just in case the toad came out and had a go at you?
There was another water hole, just up the road, at the entrance to the last terraced house before Whites house . More or less opposite Mrs. Paintons house. But for some unknown reason, this bailing hole rarely had any fish in it.
There was another much deeper hole in the ditch down near the pub...Where water was got for the pigs Mr. Waters would complain bitterly to anyone who would listen. When other folks let 'soapsuds* into the ditch.
I use to watch Cliff , Heather’s big brother carry two buckets of water at a time,by hanging from the wooden yoke sitting on his shoulders.
Donny often tried tried — but found the chains too long, and anyhow the buckets when full, were too heavy.
The time had to come, and it did!
donny was so taken up by his newly found world, that he forgot completely just where he was So of course he over balanced and promptly fell head first in.
This luckily was the hole outside Gran's house. Not the one near the pub.
Well was there a commotion ...The kid spluttering and gasping for air. But instead inhaling the 'Soapy ditch water.
Finally he found his legs and after the initial shock, of the combination of exceedingly cold water . plus the ability of being unable to breathe... He exuded the waterfrom both his lungs and stomach. By letting go with a much-needed cry.
Gramps found him later, wet and dishevelled. Eventually soothing him by telling him that now he could never leave the village...
Such stories stemmed from the superstitious way of thinking, by the Hanney village folk.
In one way Gramps was so accurate...Yet in another way so very wrong in his prediction.
Domny had seen rats before. In fact he sort of grew up with rats, but he had never seen a mole
The boy was absolutely fascinated by that weird little mouse-like creature. Complimented with those funny looking front feet and an even funnier'looking nose.
It was rumored that you should never hold a mole in your closed hands. For to do so meant it just might burrow'straight into your body, and one would never know where it might come back out!
A big kid named Gerry Gilbert had the mole in a large square biscuit tin and he let Donny and Roy have a look—It didn't look very happy.
I can still hear that sad little creature to this very day ..scratching, trying to get out.
On Sundays Roy and I had to go to church over in West Hanney, we would, after sitting through the utterly boring service, go over to Mrs. Wiles place more or less opposite the church, and watch the monkey.
This tiny monkey had a small wooden house up on top of a pole. The animal was tethered to the pole by a dog chain, in such a way that it could go up and down the pole and also walk about at the bottom on the ground. If you got too close it went for you I personally cannot remember this animal wearing clothes, but a lady Majorie nee Barden.Clark. When she was a girl, can remember this monkey wearing 'little knitted garments.
Majorie lived with the 'Jim Dixes', who in turn lived nearBarretts workshop.
She was an evacuee! Hailing from Mitcham, in Survey.... But by 1942 had returned home. One time the monkey got Roys glasses and then took them to its house up the top of the pole. The following commotion culminated into a man appearing from out of the house .He eventually
made the monkey let go of them. Reluctantly it did, but not before it had pulled the spectacles in half.
Most times we would go on past the 'Plough'pub, instead of making for home.... Perhaps dally awhile at the 'pond', then on to the shop we called the funny shop'. It was the one inside
a black barn, with a thatched roof.
According to Mick ‘lipton ‘ Tarry...The proprietors were Mrs. Cheny and Em This unusual shop sold very interesting things that were laid out on straw and also on tables. Things like miniature animals made from glass and Bakerlite... My favorites were small elephants that came in many different sizes. If you had the money you could buy a series of elephants that stepped up in size. There were about eight of the ornaments in a set.
Such novelties were common at that time, so there must be many of them still in people’s possession.
Sometimes we made our way home past the Lamb pub and the school. But often we went the other way. Through the graveyard and across to Rolls lane. Then through Cotterals field.
I remember playing in the long ‘late summer grass, with its feathery heads...I remember so well the 'sweetness when you sucked on the stem, of the grass you had plucked from its roots,
I remember being there, amongst the thousands of nodding ‘Moon daises. ...That grew so abundantly in the meadow, that was alongside and yet behind the cottage on the comer....
Was its name ‘North end* cottage?.... And was the road called “Ebbs Lane?
Ah! Yes. Even now l can see those wondrously smiling daisies. That vied so long ago, with the long grasses and here and there, one could find the last of the papery Cornflowers!
Often embraced by the towering Dock. And each of those innumerable plants jostled its neighbors constantly..Just to reach the sun, and perhaps each one paused, just long enough.... To relish the very thought of being alive.
I remember so weli..Playing on the grass verge, opposite Gran‘s house. Playing those infant pastimes, on the strip of grass, often in shadow, beneath the lee of the Wattle woven fence. With Heather, who wore bib and brace overalls, when she was, but a small child and Alan was there! As was Norma.
And Norma’s little sister June,would help us look for four leaf clovers, amongst the barely grass... Whose seed heads, were so much like small arrows! We often used them as darts!
We would collect Dandelion clocks and tell the time by blowing the parachute seeds off the seed heads.
Sometimes I would show the other kids my hiding places, for my treasures‘. One great hiding
place, was under the metal door of the fire hydrant outlet...The one, just up on the bank,
and outside Mrs. Paintons house...Remember that little round iron door? Underneath was where all the red ants lived.
But those ‘bitter sweet* days, of our little boys last happy summer. Drifted unforgivingly into the bleak cold frosty days of that first cheerless ‘away from home winter and so the last few days of Donny’s happy childhood ...died with the leaves.. As they fell morosely one by one, from the trees.
*1 was always cold!
My knees always hurt. They hadnt before, but now they seemed continually to be covered in bandages. Bandages that stuck with grim determination to the scabs on my poor mutilated knees.
Gran Lyford. Or Granfor short.... I am sure took great delight in ripping the stuck bandages off my knees...Taking the scabs off, with out heeding my pleas.... My anguished cries only made her worse.
The village nurse was to me at the time, a most horrid person.
Just to see her frightened the veryday lights out of me.
Mrs. Nurse! As I was wont to call her...Was a very heavily built; no nonsense type of woman .Who wore a white nurses dress.... With what looked like a pillow case on her head.
In her own way this person made my life a constant hell.
as said I was absolutely terrified of her. [It has been suggested that the ladies name was a Mrs. Hayden]
If perchance, I had a note to go and see her from Gran, or a schoolteacher. I would have to walk to her house, that was situated in the neighboring village of West Hanney it was a journey of about one mile.
On my arrival [this would be after I couldn’t put it off any longer] I would be shaking with total dread of things to come.
The woman would hold me down, with her arm across my throat and so held, I would have to submit to her filling my eye sockets up with stinging eye-drops. To this day I don’t know why this was so.
Then with stinging eyes, I would stumble aroundfor awhile...Then literally feel my way back to Grans... the drops actually blinding me."
A happy event of Donny's infancy that can be recalled. Was a Christmas party that had been put on by a rich lady, for the London evacuees...? Thinking back it would have, to have been the Christmas of 1939.
Mrs. Flyn was the benefactor! (could be wrong with the name)
This kindly person owned a mansion of a house, that was directly opposite Grans house. [The house now is called Hazeldene]
The house was most likely, built from stone.... Or it may have been cement rendered brick? In any event it was the central feature of Grand gardens...l, well laid out, sweeping lawns. Were fenced off from passing inquisitive people. By a wattle'fence.... A woven hazel- wood fence, that in turn, faced the road.
The lawn between the house and Mrs. Paintons cottage, was a haven for an abundance of Crocus, Bluebells and white' Hyacinths in the springtime.... In the summertime, one saw masses of small daises. Looking much like snow upon the greeness of the grass. There were pear trees that hung over the fence. In the late summer .One could fight off the hostile wasps from the numerous windfalls that littered the grass verge.
In the back garden there were Gooseberry and Black currant bushes to raid in early autumn.
Mrs. Flyn threw this very lavish Christmas party for all the London kids that were in the village ...and perhaps village kids attended too.
By this time Donny had, had his birthday and was now five years old.... He, along with Roy, soon became violently sick from eating too many cream buns...The blanc-mange and jelly, they both gorged on. Wouldn't have helped.
There were crepe paper hats, on everyone’s head and crackers In everyone's hands. There was sherbert drinks and stodgy Christmas cake, with icing and marzipan like snow. Right on top of the large cake, was a glossy red Father Christmas, with a sleigh and reindeer... and a tiny pale green Christmas tree~.. Ihey played musical chairs and ring a ring a roses. They sang nursery rhymes...and most likely a few carols!
Mrs. Godfrey spent most of the time, wiping kids noses. While Mrs. Booker was kept very busy, cleaning up each child.... After all the vomiting that took place.
Then later on...Much nearer to Christmas. Mrs. Godfrey played the benevolent host to the evacuee kids, and all the children sat around the piano. Which Mrs. Godfreys daughter Dorothy played.
Sometime later...Christmas Eve came and Donny and Roy hung one of their socks up, near to the fireplace. Next morning Donny found in his sock. An orange, a square of mazipan,
Late in the year of 1939 there were so many Londoners now living in the two villages. That the local village school was not large enough to accommodate both them and the village kids. So the village hall known to everyone as The Hut, was commandeered guess by the educational powers that were and so, got used mainly as the infant’s school ..At least during the daytime. The Hut itself, was a long..Somewhat sad looking ...saggy baggy building...A timber frame was clad in grey weatherboards. Atop of these walls was a gabled corrugated iron roof. The whole building was up off the ground, sitting on wooden stumps, or piers. It was the only building that I can remember seeing, built this way in England.
A very drafty wooden floor completed its structure. The draft at times was sufficiently powerful enough to lift: the skirts of unsuspecting ladies as they passed by. There were splinters to be had as well, if one was silly enough to slide without any shoes on.
This same floor was stained a dark brown. Mainly I would say, from the tanning of countless applications of spent Tea-leaves. This ritual had something to do with ‘making ready the floor for Saturday night dances. There was a stage up one end the end nearest the laneway and a sort of kitchen, cum cloakroom down the other end. They called this section "the buffet.
In the buffet numerous cups of very weak tea were made, when the hut was used as a dance halt Or for ‘Whist drives
The same buffet area also passed itself off as the library, on Wednesday nights.... But this was much later on. Perhaps as late as 1944.
Adorning the wall opposite the door, were plaques commemorating the many past wars, dead heroes?
There was row upon neat rows of local men’s names; On one particular Grand looking memorial that had been fashioned from polished wood .The names were embossed in gold leaf... Sadly all were of those who had died in various battles of the War, To end, all wars. At the rear of the stage, some large, rusty looking swords hung on the far back walls, of the two tiny rooms. That was located on either side of the stage.... Perhaps these too, dated to another far off...Long forgotten. ~Letting of blood.
These tiny [very dusty] rooms also held tattered boxes, old suitcases and Tin trunks. These were stuffed with old clothes, yellowing papers and ancient Christmas decorations.
Heavy, dust laden curtains, hung by Grand looking brass curtain rings, from a massive iron curtain rod...The curtain screeched when being pulled back and forth.
Next to the stage. Just off to one side, was a large cast iron, pot bellied stove.
TO BE CONTINUED
Coke was burnt in this fireplace during the winter. Later.... Much later, it was a great place for adolescent boys to stand around. Trying to buck up enough courage to ask an equally adolescent girl .For a dance...Or at least, get her away from her gawking peers.
On the other side of the stage .In the wall facing the allotments, was a double door that was often opened in the summertime.
At the other end of the hall...On the same side, facing the one and only door.Was an open hearth fireplace that burnt coal, instead of coke. It was a place where kettles of water were heated, to brew the tea.
Also at this end.... Facing the stage [the buffet end of the room] was a colossal mirror, supported in turn, by a massive gilded timber frame... This mirror made the hall look much larger then it really was.... It was a great place to stand and stare...To make faces at yourself and others.
When the building was used as a school, a very long, but somewhat flimsy curtain divided the dance floor area crossways. These drapes hung about a foot off the floor. During school hours this curtain was in constant disarray.... From kids moving it back and forth...I think every kid that passed it, just had to touch.
As time crawled slowly by..As time tends to do, when you are young. I grew to love this school.
It was only in this one-roomed place of learning, lhat I was ever really warm in the wintertime.
Us smaller kids were taught to play various musical instruments.. Just simple ones.
I personally liked bashing the cymbals together. But can’t say I was real keen on tapping the triangle, which so often I found myself landed with.
We use to ‘sound off, with thunderous musical noises .To the tunes like. The teddy-bears picnic.
Sometimes it was ‘Knick knack, paddywack, give a dog a bone! Or Ten green bottles. Other times we would act out school plays ...They might be ‘nativity ‘plays! Or some play a teacher made up herself. Or one taught us, from out of a book.
One might get to be one, of the* three wise men‘, at Christmas time... Or perhaps even a nigger boy in an outlandish Empire day drama.
Yes!.... Sadly they used that political incorrect and derogative word for an African Negro. The blatantly racist nursery rhyme... Ten little nigger boys was taught to all young children....
But I am sure no child felt any malice towards those children who just happened to be bom with a different coloured skin.... In fact, at the time, none of us had seen another child with a skin differing to ours? Well I hadn’t!
Come to think of it .the ‘bogeyman was always portrayed as black.. As was the person who would come and get you! If you misbehaved...So I guess we were brainwashed like everyone else.
Sometimes we would get to dress up as some colonial ‘kid. From afar flung distant part of the British Empire.
It was around that same time, that I learnt the children’s nursery rhyme...Peas Pudding.... Along no doubt with numerous other inane nursery rhymes...
But I learnt it as...
Please 'pudding hot...please pudding cold...
Please pudding in the pot nine days old...
Some like it hot...some like it cold And some like it in the pot nine days old. '
Which not only sounds crazy... it was.
It was many years later that I realized the word was Peas not Please.
Donny played a lot of games at school, as a tiny nipper .He use to love the excitement of playing. What's the time Mr. Wolf? .... Following a larger kid. whilst within the company of his peers, he would'giggle his head off. Waiting for the wolf‘to say. “Dinnertime'”...
Then as the Wolf turned, he would start running for his very life So the wolf wouldn't get him.
Such games. Were most times, the highlights of his life?
Communal skipping was another great pastime, of both boys and girls.
Who could not remember... Salt? Mustard'. Vinegar. Pepper.
Such joyful pastimes, went to rhymes that were sang, as kids skipped...One I recall went like.
Vote, vote, vote for Alan Waters..Who's that knocking at the door? Here comes Roy, who wants a bit offun, and we don’t want Alan, anymore! ...And the kid skipping would make way for the incoming skipper...The girls would be for ever pulling up their bloomers As a leg slipped below their pinafores...and then, all the boys would chorus...I can see your knickers!
Spinning tops, was a game much favored and you could whip the top. Or whip yourfriend, who was giving you a hard time.
Another much played game of the very young children, was where the children stood in a circle with their hands behind their backs. One kid walked around outside the circle, holding a small parcel.
The Nursery rhyme much like the following was sang...
A tiscit, a tasciL.J’ve lost my little basket! Someone may have picked it up and put it in their pocket.
When the singers got to that particular part, the child carrying the parcel, put the parcel into another child's hands...Then both kids concerned would run in opposite directions.
The winner was the person who got back into the vacated spot in the circle.. And so on. In a way it was similar to playing ‘musical chairs! ‘...I remember playing that game amongst others, in Heather's house the ‘Black Horse‘... In the front room, alongside the Ladies Parlor.
Often one held hands with many other children and sang Ring a ring a roses, a pocket full ofposes. Then everyone fell down
Much giggling and somefighting was associated with games as Musical chairs.
There were card games like Snap. Then of course most kids collected something. There were those who had much thumbed wads of cigarette cards. Depicting famous cricketers or footballers...Other cards had pictures of butterflies, flowers, or perhaps fish in very bright colours.
Some kids had a collection of bird’s eggs, usually sitting in cotton wool. Or collected match boxes, or even cigarette packets.
There were very few boys who didn't have pockets full, of all manners of things. Ranging from a special conker, or a trusty ‘pea shooter .To a pen knife... and if you were really lucky you might even have a Jack knife!
In the summertime we played many y times in the long grass. Make believe must be a very strong driving force in the very young!
One time in the Blenium orchard behind where Jean Arthers and her brothers we came across Heather and Jean, skipping and dancing...Which was quite alright,except they didnt have any clothes on! Heather was about nine years old at the time.
We played mothers and fathers, doctors and nurses ..Such games often took place in the Air-raid shelter. That leaned on on Mrs. Godfrey’s garden wall.
This air-raid shelter was most likely built from sandbags .It was covered in soil, as the grass and weeds grew all over it. There was a doorway at each end..It was very dank and dark inside and used a lot by kids when playing.
(we must assume its demolition took place very soon after the war was over, as it was gone by early 1947).
On looking at a more recent photograph :The air-raid shelter was located on a small area of vacant land. Much where is a small building [perhaps a bus shelter?] is located. Between Mrs. Godfreys house and Hazel Hermans House the house behind the wooden building was not there.]
In the wintertime..If it had snowed. Roy and I would make giant snowballs, out on the undulatingpart of Whites field. this was achieved by rolling a small snowball over the snow covered grass, until it got big by picking up more snow and a lot of dead grass. Trouble, was when the ball got really big. it always fell in half.
At school l learnt to make useless things out of raffia... Like pot holders
plate mats, book markers.
I tried, without success to make fluffy balls.... The balls, girls were so apt in making. Such balls were fashioned from
cast off wool, threaded many times through the hole in a circle of cardboard. When the hole was full, you cut around the perimeter and "hey presto" you had a ball...Well the girls did.. All I ever had was numerous short pieces of wool.
Come to think of it.I use to always want...But never got, such trivial toys.
One time a girl did make me a small doll out of some dark blue knitting wool... I often wonder who she was!
I kept that tiny doll in a "Vesta"matchbox.... I use to put it on the windowsill at home...In the sun..So it would keep warm.
About that same time, an older girl gave me a tin (really lead) dwarf ..This small toy had one leg missing!
I must have been pretty young at the time, as I was always sucking it...It had this "sickly" sweet taste...(Lead acetate yummy)
So I was poisoning myself with a lead toy.
I learnt how to read and write. To do sums...To pray to "Jesus"who would make everything allright...If you prayed hard enough.
I was taught to use a pen. To join your written letters up...The pen, that you dipped in ink...That was in little china pots, that sat in a hole in the middle of the desk...The desk that you shared with another kid.
The ink made great big black blotches on your paper.... And clothes too if you weren’t careful
and if you dug the nib into the desk top , which I was often wont to do it crossed ...and would never write properly afterwards. If the ink remained wet, which it usually did You laid blotting paper on top of your wet writing ...and when you removed the blotter every thing on your paper was badly smudged.... So the teacher couldn’t read what you had written
at all! Which sometimes was best.
We were all taught how to pronounce our H learning by heart....
“Harry! —Hang your hat, on the hook...In the hall”.
I learnt how to knit and how to sew..I learnt to "knit one—pearl one". Using great big thick wooden needles. Older kids used thin steel needles.
I learnt to purse my lips and stick my tongue out, As I concentrated on "threading a needle". We cut pictures out of newspapers. With blunt, round ended scissors and stick the cut outs onto other pieces of thick paper ...Using a messy glue, made from flour.
We painted twigs and leaves for decorations.... And pressed flowers and leaves, in numerous books.
We would all sit around a large table and make rugs from other peoples discarded clothes. The clothes that had been cut into strips. These strips were in turn "impaled" upon a hession corn'sack...
Eventually after countless hours of impaling...The sack was covered in a many-coloured pattern.
After woulds you could tell other kids stories, about the clothes that you now walked on.
[Grans was always making rugs this way]
I learnt sums like long division. Or used my fingers for take a-ways and chanted the times table Parrot fashion... Still do...as seven sevens are forty-nine and seven eight’s are fifty- six.... And why may I ask, stop at twelve times twelve? And on and on.
I learnt hymns like.... “All things bright and beautiful”
To this day, that hymn instantly takes me back in time to my infancy. When all the things I saw, were indeed ...Bright and beautiful.
Or We plough the fields and scatter! ...This hymn always made me laugh, as the pause was after the word scatter.
We pored over the world atlas...Trying to remember all the countries that were then, coloured pink.
At the same time, we poured scorn on the Jerries and made fun of the Ities and didn't have a clue, who the Nips were?
All of us knew what a ‘Squander Bug looked like...and we could all draw the weirdo. Who was forever looking over the walL.With a caption beneath the drawing? Like Wot no potatoes!
In the early autumn mornings, we would go for long rambling walks, with a teacher and I would marvel at the toy helicopters as they whirled around.. As they left their ‘home* looking for a place to grow into another giant Sycamore tree.... This was all before any of us knew anything, about helicopters.
On real cold winter mornings, we all sat around the big glowing coke stove. Its cast iron top glowing dull red...Radiating waves of heat... Making your face all red and shiny.
We all drank our small one-third pint bottles of free milk!.... Well ‘free* to the Londoners...and would later cry my heart out when l had to go home....
[Free milk was free only to evacuees...Others had to pay tuppence halfpenny a week.]
By the New Year of 1940, there was a lot of child evacuees in both East and West Hanney. Most likely there was as many as twenty-five, perhaps even thirty!.... Perhaps even more? There were children, whose names some of us might remember.
Gwen, Cliff and Joan Rosier.. joun. Jenny and Heather Ackriod... Jean Macdonald... KeithBarrett...
[Although perhaps Keith was a local kid?] Peter Crook...Doug Hamblin...
Jack and Joan Luckett..Alf and Rosy Allen..Ann and Mike Holland...
Roy Kemp...Olive and Richard Macintosh... Beryl and Eileen Rice.... Olive and Hilda Mac.... Iris Sherboume.... Majorie Bardon...Rosie and Terry Bicknel..Billy Foley.... Danny Macarthur.
Amongst these children, were the three Wishusian sisters!
Norma was Donny’s age. June was about a year younger and Maureen was at a guess, about five years older then her sister, Norma.
The Wishusion sisters were much luckier then Donny, or for that matter Roy As they had not been split up. All three lived together.
The three girls were first billeted with a family that lived in the last thatched cottage, at the end of Wilkinson‘s‘ lane. Later I think they may have lived awhile in the house that stood between Shepherds shop garden and the orchard that terminated alongside where The Coxes lived near to the pond.
Roy’s sister Rose was billeted in the same street in Swindon, as Donny’s sister Esther. Swindon was eighteen miles away from East Hanney. But to these two little boys, it may as well have been a thousand miles.
It is hard to comprehend, all these years later. Why the wise men of London town. Deemed in their infinite wisdom. That it was best, to bust up families? ..As if, just being parted from your parents, wasn’t traumatic enough .For such small children.
But segregating boys and girls, irrespective of whether those in question were related.Seemed to be the guiding factor in child wefaring of that time.
Wilkinson s lane (now Snuggs lane) was a dead end. But quite wide, as you could have driven a car down it.
Today I guess it would be termed a cul-de-sac.
The lane had an orchard on the one side, but houses on the other. With a couple of farmyards,
interspersed between the last cottage and the houses in which, amongst others. John Wilkinson lived. At the far end, on the left, was a large house? Enclosed within a chain wire fence and a thick hedge. This dwelling, was where the lane ended abruptly, at a fenced in field .To gain access to the field, there was a built in stile, right alongside a very rickety wooden gate.
The field always seemed to contain black and white dairy cows that were forever coming and going... They were Franky Herman’s dairy cows.
In the summertime the field was abuzz with Blow4flies.... The green and blue varieties. Such pests abounded, due to the countless cow-pads adorning the meadow. Often making it quite difficult to walk through the long grass, without stepping in cowpoo.
Leteombe brook meandered lazily through this same meadow at the far end.
To the left. After climbing the stile, at the brooks edge was a footpath. This right of way eventually brought you out near the Iron Bridge.... And if one walked to the right, following the brook. Another footpath took you to the Lower mill.
A swimming enclosure made from corrugated iron, straddled the brook in this same field.(Found out recently That the builder was Mr Holmes)
It was never used for it rightful purpose, as the brook was extremely muddy right where the swimming enclosure had been built.
According to local gossip ...It had been erected sometime before the brook, became so very polluted. When ever that was. On the footpath side of the brook, a part of the enclosure was roofed in and had a wooden bench running the full length of the building.
By 1940 this structure had been abandoned by adults. But children often used it, as a place to play.
Leteombe brook [l always knew it as ‘The Brook'] was badly fouled right throughout the war years.
And for many years after. There was no animal life at all living in the actual waters.
But some plant life somehow survived, in the form of a brownish waterweed that grew in some shallows. Reeds grew in other sections...
Certain species of waterfowl. Such as Moorhens, Dabchicks, along with the odd wild duck, frequented the brook. Then of course there were kingfishers, and in the summer sand martins built their nests, by tunneling into the clay banks. Such as the bank in Whites field.
But to my knowledge there were no fish... Or for that matter frogs or similar creatures in the often smelly discolored water.
But then again...Where did the Roach (could have been a Rudd) come from? That fish, one often saw in the Ditch.
I always assumed that the Ditch waters came from the brook.... But did it?
The reason for such an environmentally polluted body of water, was an unknown to me at the time.
The word pollution was also an unknown to me...and to most people who lived in East Hanney.
So the sick waters of Leteombe brook must have been known..Or perhaps, just stubbornly accepted by locals.
My attention has been drawn to *baptisms'. That took place in the brook, close by the Iron bridge.
The sect was evidently Nazzerene. I personally cannot recall having seen such rituals, but do have a vague collection of people talking about such things?
Both Donny and Roy attended a birthday party for one of the Wishusion girls in the aforementioned cottage. Where these three sisters lived.... At that time.
A photograph of a group of young evacuee's, has existed for over sixty years. It was taken in the late summertime of 1939 Just behind the cottage ...In Franky Herman's meadow.
It would have been near the (Christmas of 1939.)
After the party, all the kids went 'sliding'on the iced over floodwaters in the adjoining field. Donny got his feet soaking wet so was bawling from the cold.
The lady of the house .Who incidentally I remembered as a kind old soul, sat him down by the fire, in the kitchen and dried the boys very wet boots out.
An evacuee'kid that intrigued the very young Donny was a girl named Olive Macintosh.
She was some naughty child.
Olive was probably nine years old at the time and was therefor quite a lot older then Donny.She always gave the teachers at school a very hard time. Was always getting the ruler, or the slipper and very often was seen standing in the comer with a Dunces hat on. The girl had this very straight black hair. That was always cut in the 'pudding basin 'style. Olive invariably wore thick woolen navy blue bloomers... One leg of which always hung down below her ‘pinafore.Making her look like the famous Bisto kid.
It was this unusual look that endeared her to .The so easily impressed Donny...
Most of the evacuee kids in East Hanney were much older then me. So I never got to know any of them really well, except for one boy... Alfred Allen.
Alfred or ‘Alf'as we called him, was a lot older then Roy or I.
At a guess I would say he was twelve years old, when I was five.
He had his little sister living with him. Rose was her name, she was about my age.
Both of them were billeted with the 'Stevens'family.
the Stevens lived in a slate roofed bride cottage, about six houses up the street from where 'Grans' house is.
[Now known as Lay cottage]
Mr. Stevens to me was a grumpy old man.
When I was very young, I was a bit afraid of him. He uses to look at you in a hard sort of way, but he never really did anything.
Mr. Stevens was Gran's landlords gardenerl
The landlord was a Mr. White.He owned most of the houses in the part of the village that I lived in. Also many fields and orchards.
Mr. Whites own house by the way, was very Grand... With a large garden. An orchard,bams etc:
Was slap-bang in the middle of our part of East Hanney.
Mr. White was to me, another grumpy old man...I was apt to think all old men were grumpy.
All us little kids were afraid of him..allthough think of it, his grey headed wife, was kind old soul.”
During the years 1939-51, the villages of Hanney' were divided into two ‘distinct villages. East and West...There was a lot of rivalry between the two.... Especially with school kids. The throwing of tuft-etts of grass was a daily hazard..Woe betide any West Hanneykid found wandering around East Hanney after dark, or vice versa.... Yet there must have been an unwritten truce on Sundays, as East Hanney kids never had any trouble, going to church.
Donny was living in East Hanney.
East Hanney was four miles from the nearest town..This was the town where I always assumed King Alfred‘ burnt the ‘fabled cakes ...and got told off by the woman in the house .For being lazy! ...Therefor Wantage. But evidently Wantage is where the ‘great‘ king was born...the cake burning took place in Somerset!
The Great Westem‘railway station, called Wantage road railway station. Was about half a mile out of East Hanney [perhaps a bit more] towards the village of Grove.The railway station more or less being, in Grove. Alongside this station, on the East Hanney side, was a large pond? Water from this pond supplied the steam locomotives. the pond, was a great place to fish for Rudd...? And if you were lucky, for Pike.
[The village of Grove later, was to be the home of the Yankee wartime aerodrome.]
The actual station buildings were in the mam, on the Grove side of the line. Besides the Stationmasters office, there was the ticket office, the parcel depot where you went to get anything sent by passenger train. There was a waiting room, with fireplace and a smelly Ladies and Gentlemen toilets. The Wantage or Oxford buses conveyed passengers, to and from the station and there was a goods yard...Where goods trains were loaded and unloaded.
On the Hanney side of the railway lines ,was a waiting room and adorning the interior walls of this building were many posters, pertaining to the ‘prewar attributes, of places like.... Weston-super-mare...Taunton and Penzance.
At the time, I thought these places were on the other side of the world!
Stuck over many of these colourful pictures, were wartime slogans —Is your journey really necessary ?” “Talk costs lives!”— “Dig for Victory”— “Trespassers will be prosecuted!”—
“No spitting aloud!”.
I always became intrigued, by the ‘spelling of aloud.... Surely it should have been allowed? Yet people do spit often in a loud way—Dont you think?
The main road, running from Wantage to Oxford passed through the edge of the village of East Hanney .It then continued on to a town called Abingdon.
This ancient town was. World famous at the time. For *Morris‘ made... ‘MG* cars.
After the war, it was a common sight .To see, half built MG‘s, being driven through East Hanney.I guess they were being tested, before the bodies were fitted.
It was on this same stretch of road ..About 1950. That we saw the first of the Vangard cars. That to us then, looked the same in the front, as at the back.... Therefor the first of the so- called, modem look.
The better known city of Oxford, was a further four miles on. so this well-known city was eleven miles from where Donny and Roy lived.
When these two kids lived in East Hanney .The village was located in the shire of Berkshire. The village of East Hanney in the forties. Could boast of ...Two general stores. That sold just about everything. There was also a small shop opposite Mr. Stevens’s house owned by the Gilbert family, it sold sweets amongst other things.
‘Packers`general grocers was one.
This was a shop run by old Packer and his equally old and very deaf wife...
Shops in those days were so very different to modem day shops. If purchasing groceries from Packers shop...You first entered into a type of short passageway...With the counter to the left. The shopkeeper just took from the shelves and placed on the counter, items as you asked for them. Often reading from the list, you had presented to him.
Packer’s shop was located between Lays bakery and the church. The Packers were gone from the village by 1947 and the shop was then owned by the other shopkeepers... the Shepherd`s
Shepherds shop existed up to about 1946 .It was dosed when the Shepherds bought Packers shop... On entering. The Post Office counter was on your left, behind the window that was to the left of the doorway...The grocery counter was right in front as you entered. Shepherd‘s grocery shop ...cum Post office was owned by Mr. and Mrs. Hedly Shepherd. They had three daughters. There were two about Donnys age, Brenda and Hilda...Ena was a lot older.I think there was also a son?
The only daughter that were in Donny’s life, was Brenda Needles. Brenda was about his age ..A buxom girl with a mop of tight curly hair...Who later on, was the girlfriend of John Sayer at school.
Gilberts shop most likely was closed by mid 1940.lt was a tiny shop, that sold sweets etc: It had a bell on the door, that rang when you entered and when you left.(situated more or less opposite Lay house.)
[Nuttals shop in West Hanney had the same sort of bell.]
There were two bakeries in East Hanney_One was called ‘Carter’s Bakehouse. The owners also sold coal and paraffin.
Then there was Lays ‘bakery This bake-house was remembered, as seen to be run by two ‘biddys‘. They also sold paraffin that was used for domestic lighting and heating purposes.
All together there were three ‘public* houses in the village.
Nearby to where Donny was living was...The Black Horse. The ‘Waters family ran this pub.
There was Mum Waters who was extremely deaf...
I don’t think she could speak iether, as none of the kids around ever heard her say anything. There was Dad Waters .Who was immensely stout and had a mo much like Hitler’s! There were four Waters children...Heather and Alan .Who were the twins, and the same age as Donny.
An older brother Cliff...Better known as Spetter...Don`t ask me why? And there was also a much older sister called Gwen.
The twins were Donnys childhood friends, and remained so, right throughout the boy’s time in the village.
Adjacent to the village green. Situated right at the cross roads was a very old pub. With a long sloping roof, called The Plough.*.
Another very grumpy old man named Walcroft owned the ‘Plough.
This pub had a television set in the parlor that you could view... Around about 1950.It was the first TV set proper, that the writer ever saw?
One could buy draught cider in this public house. Long before one was old enough, to drink. Just out from the crossroads. On the main Oxford/Wantage road, going out towards Abingdon
Was the pub known as The Crown.... This public house was a large square looking brick building, set up high off the road.
Donny knew very little about this pub when he was young. But played a lot of bar billiards and darts as a young teenager in the Crown...”We drank Shandies and cider! I don’t think any of us were old enough to be in a pub?”
Along this same stretch of road, there had been at the beginning of the war A ‘Castrol* service station.
Donny remembered it well..As it was the only petrol bowser he can remember seeing during
the war.. Not that any petrol ever flowed while he was watching. It was closed down very early in 1940,
The most likely reason for such a closure is because you couldn’t buy petrol without the required coupons.... Private vehicles were few and far between during the war years. Situated astride the Letcombe brook were two, massively built ...Water driven mills. Each structure was built of brick Both mills being in East Hanney. But both had ceased being used as mills, long before the war itself had started.
Although Dandridges mill was used a bit like a factory during the war! There were rumors, that it was used in some clandestine fashion by wartime government.
Dandridges mill got its name from one of its owners...The building itself dates from the very early i8oo*s.
The Dandridges were related to the Lyfords. Or so Gran was always telling me.
The building itself stood some three stories high and was a mass of windows.... A part of it straddles Letcombe brook.
The other mill is referred to as Lower mill or West’s mill.... Again after one of its owners...Its interior was very gloomy as it had been partly burnt out in the early 1900‘s.
It too, was a very high building. Perhaps a story higher then Dandridges mill.... With many windows and doorways.
Early in the war years, milk was delivered house to house, from horse drawn milk carts. The customer supplied his or her own jug.... It was local milk, still warm from the cows.
Peggy Herman, [the first lady I ever saw with trousers on] use to deliver our milk.
Majorie [nee BardonJ Clark .Who incidentally was an original London evacuee and lived with the ~Dixes in West Hanney in 1940-42.
Majorie remembers getting their milk by way of the milk jug ...Via the milk chum that contained the days supply. It too was on a horse drawn cart.
Then much later on .Say by 1941, the milk came [but still by way of a horse floatj in glass bottles
.The bottled milk came from a milk factory, that was situated between Grove and Wantage.Us kids use to fight over who was going to help the milkman deliver milk.
Two of the bakery businesses sold paraffin. Bread and Paraffin seem now to be ‘strange‘ bedfellows, but evidently not then. This fuel was used mainly for lighting and to a certain extent for cooking purposes in most homes. It was delivered to the roadway outside your front door and you supplied your own containers. Such vessels were usually a one gallon tin with a handle. Attached were a spout, and a screw on lid.
One of the traders delivered the fuel by horse and cart. The other one had an old green van. This was most likely a ‘Bedford*
[Paraffin was rationed throughout the war.]
Most houses in East Hanney didn’t have electricity, and there was no gas.
The house "Tamarisk* was wired for electricity in early 1948.
It was about the same time that Auntie Doss acquired the latest in Paraffin stoves. This stove having an oven and circular wicks. the kerosene (parrafin) was held in a glass jar you turned upside down. Auntie Doss cooked many a fine meal on this stove, along with
nurmrous 'fans'and 'Sponge' cakes. TheStove sat along the wall near to the stairwell in the scullery.
It was a vast improvement to the old kitchen stove ,but all this was well after the war . All heating and cooking energy for the house came from rationed coal, supplemented by wood that was normally burnt in a stove referred to as a 'Kitchen Range'.
Such kitchen stoves were made of cast iron. The firebox was inlaid with firebricks..Some stoves had an oven on both sides of the firebox.
But Gran's had the oven on the left side only and you could remove the top hotplate off the firebox, so on winter evenings you had an open fire. It was at such times that the cinders were burnt. Cinders were the residues one obtained after sieving the coal ashes. The cinders augmented the shockingly inadequate coal ration.
Gran‘s old cat Harry met his ‘Waterloo in that particular oven. This cat as it got old, got into the habit of sleeping in the oven...You can guess the rest.
Groceries, bread, the coal, daily newspapers, milk, and the post, was all delivered to ones front door.
Or in Grans case it was the back door. Most foodstuffs were on the ration, so you needed a ration book as well as money when you went shopping.... Some food items were just not for sale, ration book or no ration book. Such as coffee! Note here that instant coffee had not been invented... Sub tropical fruits as oranges, sugar melons and bananas, one could only dream of. In fact the first banana Donny ever possessed was one that was given to him in 1946.....
The silly boy kept it for so long that it went rotten...No one told him to eat it!
Most so-called coffee that one could buy at that time was chicory syrup. Ihis oily looking black syrup came in a square shaped bottle.... Much like a sauce bottle.
For sweetening things saccharine tablets came in packets of a hundred tiny white pills. These tasted awful if you were stupid enough to suck one and were a very poor substitute for sugar.
Most Jam available was homemade and often pretty sour at that, as sugar was hard to get. Golden syrup was available, but most likely on the ration. It came in tins with a picture of ‘Bees' leaving the carcass of a sad looking 'dead' lion.... Well people said they were bees, but to Donny they looked more likeflies...Blowflies at that!
The caption said something like “Out of the strong comes the sweet" I often thought who ever thought this form of advertising up, must have had a weird sense of humor.
The main thing, food wise. That kids were interested in at the time was the weekly sweet ration. Going to the shop each week to get your ration of sweets, was a very important event.
Mars bars were available, as was liquorice sticks. There were lumps of stick jaw toffee. French Nougat.
That was just a hard to chew as the slab toffee. There were Chocolate pennies. Packets of Sugar cigarettes.
Countless varieties of boiled sweets, like black and white 'Bulls eyes...Multi coloured Gob stoppers' and the All day suckers.
Even such things as eggs were rationed. So most people in East Hanney had their own laying hens. These were normally fed on boiled up household scraps, often mixed with some 'bran' and 'pollard'.
During the war Mr. Shepherd delivered the Daily mirror, with the post ...six days a week. After the war Terry Flyn use to deliver our paper during the week and on Sunday mornings everyone went down to stand around outside the Plough pub and wait for the Sunday papers to arrive.
Such papers as The People and The News of the world. The latter paper carried all the 'gory' details of the past weeks, murders, rapes etc.
It bordered on Pornography and most thought it, as very risque for its time.
I would read all about, the terrible goings on, m places like London...Everyone would look at the maps depicting parts of the world, where the fighting was going on. These very exaggerated maps would have broad arrows, pointing like clutching fingers.... Over many were the word ‘Allies' ...The strange word 'Axis'!...On others.
You could look at the cartoons, depicting Hitler eating his carpet. Or Goring going crazy over what the Spitfires were doing to his beloved Luftwaffe.
You could turn to the comic strips and see what Jane was up to, in her scanty underwear
With her sausage dog sniffing about! Or How ‘Garth' was fairing in his own terrifying world. You could try to make something out of the results of the Football Pools! You could even check the Moon phases..so you could plant things at the Right time. Then very often Grampy would want to know Lighting up time for the following week—This was when you had to turn your bicycle rear light on...So you wouldn't run foul of Mr. Lucas.
On the back page were the picture advertisements. Whalebone corsets and Stays being much to the fore.
There was a plum coloured double-decker bus service to Wantage and also the other way to Oxford, via Abingdon. At least two of these buses each day. With a bus stop outside the Black Horse, if you were going to the station, Or Wantage. If you were going to Oxford then the bus stopped out the front ofTamarisk.
Virtually all people had the use of bicycles. These trusty machines came in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some like Donny’s first bike, were the very old... Called sit up and beg bikes with large 28 inch wheels. Some girls bikes had string type coverings over the back wheel and the chain was in a tin case, often with a basket up front, hanging off the handlebars.... Boys weren't keen to ride such girlish machines. You got into trouble with the real policeman Mr. Lucas if you were riding a bike without a light after dark. If you had a bright light during the war years, then the air-raid wardens would give you a fruity mouthful...”Put that light out!” was a common enough cry ...One heard it often, after dark...Even if you just opened your door.
Some boys were luckier then others ...Like Terry Flyn, who had a semi racing type bike. Others had to make do with the handlebars turned upside down and perhaps with no mudguards.... Such alterations were sure to make them go faster. Kids at school would ogle over racing wheels —and De'ralia'gears. A lighting dynamo that generated sufficient electricity to light up a bicycle lamp, that was powered by the side of the tyre. Was something to gloat about, and if you owned a bike lamp with amagnifying lens! Well you were very popular..As on sunny days you could start fires with the glass, or burn your friend's hand with it. Motorised vehicles were very few and far between, in the two villages. There was Mr. Whites grey tourer, the same car that Donny first traveled in. This was most likely a Standard tourer. Mr. Waters, the publican of The Black Horse had a 'Wolseley'. The same type of car as the Police used after the war. This large glossy black car was also the local hire car and Clifford use to drive it from about 1948. A bloke named Tarry... [most likely Cissy Tarry's brother he was a motor mechanic]Had a small workshop opposite Mrs. Godfreys house about 1943.... He had a motorbike. Any other vehicle being used in the village while the war was on was very unlikely. Although there was a three wheeled car, [perhaps a 'Morgan'] in West Hanney. The Shepherds...the shopkeepers, had a car. But I think that was after the war. The two teachers! Mrs. Hall and Mrs. Windsor came to school, in a small black Ford, during the war, they lived in Steventon.
An ancient Roman road, known locally as Rolls or Rose Lane divided the twin villages of Hanney, from each other. This laneway, was used by the school children to get to Cottrels field [the one behind the Causeway houses] to play sport. Just on the East Hanney side of this old road, which ran at right angles to the existing modern road, stood the Hanney school. This was a C of E... Church run school, called St James. There were arable fields on both sides of the East—West Hanney road, giving one a feeling of open space, before you came upon any West Hanney houses. Attending church happenings and learning from scripture lessons, was a major part of the curriculum of this very churchy school. The vicar [the reverent Wheeler] came and taught a lesson at least once a week.... Some kids were of a different nomination, so were therefor excused. The Village Hall, commonly referred to as The Hut, was also in East Hanney .As was the Hanney brook. [Letcombe brook]
The village of West Hanney could boast of a fine old church.. Surrounded by a very antiquated graveyard. This burial ground was unkempt at most times. It was full of ancient gravestones. Stone tombs, wrought and cast iron railings. There was also Yew trees and masses of Ivy everywhere. Many stained glass windows allowed the light to penetrate to most parts of the church, everywhere inside were inscriptions to the long gone dead. There was also the remains of people buried inside the church Under the floor!... Which didn’t go down too well with little boys. Unfortunately a silly looking... Tower top. spoiled this Grand old building West Hanney had two public houses...Known as the The Lamb and The Plough . The village also had an Off License. Besides the Off license shop, run by the Edwards family [which was set up off the right hand side of the road, if one was travelling from the Green] There were three other shops in West Hanney. One being in a barn.... With a thatched roof. This quaint shop sold ornaments amongst other things.... Such as miniature animals ...as for example there were elephants. Roy and Donny were always there on Sunday mornings. Gran Lyfords relatives would give the boys a few coppers now and then. But they were expected to buy presents with this money for Granny. So all they ever saw for their money was some tiny animal made from glass, or such [usually as said, they were elephants] sitting in a glass cabinet, in the front room of Gran Lyfords house. Gran at times was none too pleased when she finally gained possession of these figurines. As often the two boys would play a lot of games with their meagre gifts before they got home. This normally involved water and mud.
Mrs. Cheny along with Mr. Wise were evidently the proprietors of the barn shop! Another shop was the one close by to the church. Sweets and cigarettes, amongst other things, were sold in this very dimly lit store. It was known as Nuttals and was situated on the left boundary, when facing the church front gate. Another shop was also the West Hanney posting office...The Treble family were the shopkeepers. It was from the same Mr. Treble that Gran bought her coal from.
The crossroads passed for West Hanney‘s Village Green. More or less, in the center of the ‘Green', stood one of those ancient stone butter' crosses. The green was a triangular patch of scrubby grassland...Bounded by roadways, with houses surrounding it on all sides. The village laid claim to the only local sports fields for both Hanneys. For games such as football and cricket. This sports field was not public land; it belonged to private landowners. You gained access to it, Via the lane that left the road alongside the Off license.
Donny knew his way around East Hanney. much better then its twin sister West Hanney. Ihe general layout of East Hanney was much like ...(This is if you were starting off from Gran's house.) Gran's house was called Tamarisk. I guess such an exotic house name, was in someway associated with the Tamarisk tree! In the back garden near to the neighbors fence, was a small spindly Tamarisk tree.... Growing as a part of the fence line.... That separated the garden, from the adjoining Mrs. Monks garden.
The house itself was probably built around 1840. Making it about one hundred years old at the time the war was on and Donny was living there. It is/or was A rectangular double storied house.... And a rather ugly dwelling at that. It was mainly built of dark red and brown bricks. Some bricks, having been adorned with a mauvy glaze. The building was topped off with a lichen covered, grey slate roof. Which in turn, at times, seemed to be dotted all over with chimney pots. Some of which did not seem to Donny. to be connected in anyway. To any of the known rooms— fireplaces. These stark towers of somber brick. Were topped off. with dull orange ceramic chimney pots... Some of which were deemed to be perched, at distinctly crazy angles.... To a small boy like Donny.... Those chimneys! Just had to be homes ...To a multitude of Ghouls. Goblins or similar nasties. The house Tamarisk faced on to the road. In a line with the neighboring terraced houses. Its main feature, were four boldly square Multi -paned windows, that broke up the plainess of the front wall.... Each pane of glass, vacantly staring out onto the road. These same windows all through the war years, had strips of yellowing paper stuck to them, from the inside? In what could be described as Scottish flag style. Making them very difficult to clean. Such paper was deemed a necessary evil at the time, to combat the chances of flying glass causing untold damage to life and limb, in the event of a Jerry bomb blast. In the center of the much windowed wall.... Just above the door porch. Was a blind bricked in window aperture ...This ugly piece ofbrick work in turn? Gazed sightlessly out onto the East-West Hanney road. The road that is now referred to. as Main street. Donny use to worry about this window.... That wasn’t!.... Thinking perhaps that there was a sealed up room behind it.... Where bogey men lived! In real of course .The blank window is the wall, between the two upper front rooms. The frontdoor of the house was of a somewhat fancy design. Having stained glass in greens ...Or was it browns? In the top section...When the sun was setting .It would shine through this glass. given multi-patterned hues to the floor tiles, that lined the passageway. The wall nearest to the neighboring pub the Black Horse it was always covered in ivy. It also had one of those wrought iron 'S's' up in the right hand comer Used to hold the walls to-gether Gramps kept the Ivy trimmed around the eaves and the one solitary side window. This was achieved when Gramps borrowed a big ladder from MrWaters..
.Donny would hold the ladder while Gramps went aloft and cut the Ivy with a large knife_When Gramps was away, or not looking. Donny would climb up onto the roof. He found the world was indeed a different place when seen from a rooftop. A large cast brass knocker sat squarely in the center of the front door. Just below the glassed portion. It was too high up for a little kid to reach. This knocker resembled a horse’s head as much as anything else. But looked somewhat like a grotesque nose, to kids like Donny. It gave the door a certain amount of Being alive realism . Helped no doubt by the smirking.... Brassy slit of a letterbox mouth! That was directly underneath. Donny could never, ever remember anything! Being put through this letterbox slit. All these attributes gave the house a somewhat quirky looking face Therefor to Donny the house must have been alive! The boy often thought the dwelling watched him! Like when he wasn’t looking! If he turned quickly, Donny was sure he caught the house looking at him He uses to think the house Tamarisk didn’t like him.... And so it snitched on him, to Gran. The lower section of the door was paneled. It had been varnished a most unhealthy green colour. Then again! It could have been a poisonous Lead Arsenate based paint! ...Not varnish! I guess one will never know. A very brief, brick paved path, lead away from the front door, to a much painted wrought iron gate.... That was set tightly, in rust stained hinges. These orange stained gate hangers in turn, formed a part of the wrought iron fence.... That sat, somehow most awkwardly, atop two low somewhat crumbly brick walls.
Each wall ended in a brick column...One at each end. Its quite possible that the gate and railings were of cast iron, not wrought..Or a combination of both! The column nearest the driveway, had a loose top. Making it a great place to hide things in. A short low wall. With a rounded mortared top! Went from this column, back to the front wall. People use to like to lean on this front wall, a lot in the summertime.... Moss grew abundantly over the inside of the brickwork As it did where-ever it could, within the confines of the house frontage. Gran‘s was always going on ..As to what she would do to anyone removing these wrought iron front pieces ..As early in the war years, there was much talk that they...With everybody elses Iron fences were being commandeered for the war effort. Perhaps to end up as bombs! The word Tamarisk...Was embossed onto an oblong sheet of brass plate. That in turn, was copper riveted to the gate... Donny spent countless Tedious hours rubbing this plate with Brasso.
On either side of the front pathway, were two small scrawny lawn squares...Where the grass vied with the moss ...for right of way. Cutting this grass with hedge clippers.... Sometimes with a Hook Was one of the chores allocated to the two boys in the summer-time..Donny remembers it, as a good way to get blisters! One side of the house was hard up‘ against terraced‘ brick houses of about the same vintage. These five cottages, in turn at the far end .Came close to the high walls ,of Whites mansion,I think there were five houses in all The nearest house to Tamarisk had a variety of tenants during the war. One family were Irish But Donny never got to know any of them. Mrs. Norris lived in one house and Mrs. Belcher lived in another, One house second from the end nearest Whites house always had a large bed of Pansies out the front. The house right at the end, was the home of Ann Holland’s family for awhile!
At the back of these houses were their back gardens. With a row of tenant sheds. Leaning against the far wall. It was in one of these sheds that Donny and Roy got their haircut, about every two months. Hair was cut in the basin bowl style by Mr Norris-Or was it Mr. Belcher? I do know it cost sixpence for the two haircuts and the scissors and shears used-needed sharpening!
Kids could just squeeze up between Tamarisk and the house next door...That’s if you were game! But none ever really accomplished this.... As, if you got stuck in between the two houses. Then you would have to stay there! Or so Gramps told Donny. A smelly gutter ran between the two houses.... Back to the front ditch. This stone gutter was in the Tamarisk garden. It usually contained a collection of very dead worms and slugs. The front ditch ...This was the ditch that ran in front of all the houses on Donny’s side of the street. Went underground just in front of the brick column nearest to the terraced houses. It came back into the open, just to the left of the driveway belonging to Tamarisk. The long pipe that conveyed the ditch-water was a great place to trap the odd Roach,could have been a Rudd? The same fish that you sometimes saw swimming in the ditch. Us kids would chase the Roach into the pipe. Then put a bucket into the hole.... Having trapped the poor fish, we would then poke long sticks that were tied together, down from the other end. Sometimes one was lucky and you caught a fish about four inches long!
The Whites very large house...[We called it a mansion! ] Had substantial looking front gardens. With a driveway at the side. Finally terminating at the boundary of a laneway. The lane was commonly referred to as The Footpath. This extremely narrow laneway .Was a short cut from the East West Hanney road in front of Whites mansion, to the main Wantage/Oxford road. One could only traverse this laneway in solitary file. It had thick...but neatly trimmed hedges on both sides. The lane was a wonderful place for bird nesting, as the hedges on either side were home to many kinds of birds. One bird that nested there every year was the Hedge sparrow. There were always Blackbird and Thrushes nests, sometimes a Robins!.... And it was usually possible to find a Wren’s nest in the heavy Ivy, near to Mr. Stevens’s garden. There was a large tree near to Stevens’s cottage within the hedgegrow, that lent at an acute angle...The trunk of this tree was a great place to watch the bird.... Us kids called Tree creepers Travel along the bark...Looking for insects. Stevens’s house was a cottage surrounded with a dense hedge. This was Whites gardeners’ house. Where the Stevens lived ...and where Alfy and his sister Rose, were billeted. The Stevens abode was the last house on that particular side of the road in the village. The other side of Gran's house had a wide, but somewhat short pathway alongside. This path gave access to the rear end of Tamarisk The said driveway was about seven feet wide and was walled in on both sides .On the opposite side to the house it was by a dry stone walL.This wall served the purpose of encasing Mrs Monks vegie garden, which was built up above the road level. Behind which grew the odd Marigold...Often intermingled with bronze coloured Chrysanthemums. But the ground here in the main was starve by the Hawthorn hedge that formed the fence.
The Wash-house door was crudely made from unplaned planks,which was always painted green. It gave one access directly into the washhouse. If one was standing facing this ‘back-door...On ones left. Up against the wash-house window as an ancient wooden and very mossy rainwater butt. This container always had a host of mosquito wrigglers in it, during the summer months and was usually a green block of ice, for much of the wintertime. The rainwater butt had been made, the same way as beer barrels were! It most likely, had been a beer barrel in an earlier life. The butt was where Donny and Roy usually obtained the water to wash their hair with...this was once a week. The reason was! The village water supply came from a water-bore that was evidently too hard. ‘For washing ones hair. This waterbore, complete with an American pattern windmill .Was situated just beyond the back of the school grounds. It supplied water to all the village houses. The water itself, looked much like milk .The colour it was assumed, came from the chalk rock the waterbore had been drilled in. Between the aforementioned water- butt and the back garden proper was the coal shed. Attached to the side of this shed, was the grownups lavatory. All such structures were a part of the main Tamarisk‘ building and all were constructed of brick. With either concrete, or dirt floors. The house in the wintertime was always damp and cold. The back garden had a narrow concrete path that split the garden in half length ways. This path started alongside the lavatory. Then passed through the garden, terminating abruptly at the foot of a high brick wall, that was joined to Mrs. Monk’s house. This wall ran the entire length of all the back yards next door. Stopping at Mr. White’s house.. A wire cable clothesline! That was tied between two posts. Sagged the full length of the pathway. Near to the back wall, the clothes-line post was a willow stake, that had put down roots and as such...had grown into a fine tree...That Gramps kept pollarded each winter. The clothesline itself, when in use .Was held up by two wooden clothes props. When not in use .It was the perch for the many... house Sparrows and at times. The many Starlings. About one third of the garden, on the right hand side of the pathway was taken up by. First the boys sack covered toilet and a straggly shrub of the Budleah type. That flowered profusely in the springtime, attracting some very pretty butterflies in the spring and early summertime. A small, well-made chicken run was hard against Mrs. Norris`s fence...behind the coal shed. The crudely constructed boys dunny had been fashioned from a framework of secondhand timber that was covered over with worn out ‘ sacks. A warped plank of splintered yellow deal, sitting on two loose piers of used house bricks, formed the lavatory seat.... A discarded coalscuttle, Was the bucket? There was no roof to this structure. So the place was mighty uncomfortable when it rained. [The two boys weren’t allowed to use the main toilet.] This "makeshift"convenience backed onto the grownup toilet.
Behind this most unsightly conglomeration of rubbish, was a long, but somewhat narrow chook house. That had an enclosed chicken run made from wire netting .The boundary fence consisted of a very thorny, rambling rose, that flowered only sporadically. [On the other side of this briar, was the neighbor’s chicken runj At the far end of the chicken run was a very healthy looking! Hazel- nut tree. This very "bushy" tree, in turn shielded the ash heap...The ash-heap! That contained all the excreta from both toilets and was the reason for the trees luxuriant growth. The toilet buckets were emptied into a heap of spent coal ashes, each Saturday morning. This smelly heap was removed once every year. By carting, it via a wheelbarrow to the roadside. Then it was taken away in a dung cart—Normally pulled by two horses. Behind the dung heap, was the wood lot Here Grampy kept the willow logs for the fires and it was where the faggots!.... Made of willow and fruit tree prunnings were stored.... Then later used as kindling wood.
The garden in question, was about four feet above the height of the said pathway. It was this wall that Donny use to hide his few personal possessions in ...In the crevices that abounded along the entire length. The wall towered over Donny, when he was little Its numerous gaps and crevices were home to many small creatures. Including vast quantities of snails and some big scary spiders. In the summertime Marigolds and Wallflowers grew in abundance from out the sides of this ancient stone wall., Along with straggly Dandelions ...and in the moist base. Grew the odd pocket of for-get-me-nots. The pathway which ran the length of the main part of Tamarisk stopped where the outer wall of the kitchen terminated— It was paved in places, with bricks. In other parts with cracked stone flags.... Very spindly weeds somehow survived there in the gloom. Growing occasionally in between the stones and bricks. The driveway ended at what was a rectangular flowerbed, in the early part of the war years? That sometimes had flowers such as Pansies, or perhaps Cosmos growing. But by the wars end, it very often was just a bare plot of earth.
Then off to your right a sunken concrete path stopped abruptly, at the washhouse door. To the left side of the main path, stood a low wooden garden seat.... Made from a hollow log. This area later was to become the home for Donny’s rabbits. His two ferrets! Countless tame mice! White rats by the dozens and numerous golden Hamsters. On the other side of the garden-path, up the far end .Was the completely inadequate vegetable garden. It could only grow plants in the summertime, as the next door houses over shadowed the garden patch in such a way, that the area was always shaded in the wintertime. Then there was the years of coal ashes that had been dumped there...souring the ground...So most of the time it was a pretty sad looking veggie patch! But along the far wall, each year.... Grew a clump of lily of the valley‘...That Gran was always going on about! Further along, under Mrs. monks window, grew the Christmas rose the flowers of the Christmas rose looking much like squashed beetroot.... Not pretty at all. Here in this same patch of garden, in the summertime, Donny spent many hours dropping squishy green cabbage caterpillars, into a tin of salty water. ....As he picked them one by one, off the long suffering cabbages. But tomatoes and Scarlet runner beans grew well closer to the house..
On Mrs. monks fence grew the Tamarisk And close by to this spindly tree, was an even spindlier clump of bamboo. Some distance furthers along. Near to the neighbor’s chicken run, was a large Sage bush? With some Mint that grew rampantly, from out of a bottomless wash tub ...as its companion. It was the Sage That was used constantly, as a part of the stuffing that went into Mr. Waters dressed chickens.and the all important orange blossom bush! Grew close by. The very same bush that supplied the flowers for Auntie Joyce’s wedding!
The runner beans came up on their own, at the end of every spring[You didn’t have to keep planting them] All Gramps did each year, was deposit a couple of wheel barrows of pig dung, along the row in the springtime, and rebuild the trellis work, that the beans climbed, during the summertime. Vast amounts of runner beans were consumed during the summer and autumn period. Those beans not used fresh, were sliced up by the two kids and salted down. This was achieved by packing the beans in jam-jars with extensive amounts of cooking salt. Apples too were sliced and cored. Then saturated in salt! Then hung on long strings to dry out. Both foods needed a lot of soaking before you could eat them and the salt made your hands very sore
. Gran always made a lot of Black berry and apple jam! Plum jam, was another of her favorites? Along with Sloe jelly. Her attempts at wine making met with success in varying ways. Her Parsnip wine was apt to be very strong. Her Elderberry wine tasted like paraffin! But in every case, Donny and Roy spent hours picking the required fruits.
The house Tamarisk as mentioned before]. ..Was owned by the old Mr. White.... The old part was added, when the Whites name came up, as Mr. White’s son lived close by.... right at the crossroads and was usually referred to, as the Young Mr. White! Gran‘s rented her house from the old Mr White...For ten shillings and sixpence a week. Old man White came to the house every Monday morning, at eight am sharp. To collect the money.... And after laboriously counting the ten separate shillings and the six separate pennies...He would laboriously sign the rent book.
Tamarisk had four rooms downstairs. Plus the washhouse and the passageway leading from the front door to the kitchen. I guess the stairwell could be included! As there was room for storage and the odd piece of furniture. This area around the base of the staircase... [Which was referred to always as the stairwell Had a tiled floor.... As did the passage. The two front rooms were also tiled. The stairs! Which were fashioned from highly polished timber had a dark red carpet in the center. Held at each step with brass carpet rods. A wooden banister followed the stairs upward to the landing...Terminating at the wall near the door to Grans bedroom. The staircase rose up to a large landing. This was the very same landing where both, Donny and Roy slept Right throughout the period of the war. There was a cupboard beneath the stairs that held numerous items of household junk. None of which saw the light of day very often. Upstairs, there were three bedrooms .Two of them faced the road! The other one looked out on to the back garden. The two rooms at the front of the house had names! There was The blue room...The room was not only painted in pastel blues. But the bed and Furniture coverings were also blue. This was the room where visitors were accommodated...It was the room closest to the nearby terraced houses.
The other front room was referred to as the pink room ! For much the same reasons, as the ‘blue‘ room was noted for. This bedroom was Gran‘s Lyfords, daughters room. The bedroom room at the rear of the house.... Was Gran s and Gramps room. When standing on the landing! One could just see out of the window that was at the foot of the stairs. But all one could see.... Were the walls and roofs, of the nearby dwellings?
Gran‘s room contained a large double bed. Complete with a lumpy Goose feather mattress! That made you sneeze when you attempted to turn it.... Brass knobs, with porcelain inserts were a part of the black painted headsteads. A large timber chest stood along the wall, at the foot of the bed. Its contents always remained a mystery to Donny. On the odd occasion Roy and Donny would peer inside.... There were many items of ancient clothing, but one object stood out ...It was, what seemed to be a very wide belt, made from what appeared to be squares of carpet material...each square having a different design! ... Perhaps a reader can shed light, as to what it was? An even larger black painted cupboard. Stood just inside the door, to ones right. This cupboard was always kept locked up! ..And contained foodstuff's, that Gran‘s didn‘t want the two London kids to partake of. What the mean old Gran s didn’t know! Was that Roy and Donny knew where she kept, the one and only key ..so when Grans was busy playing cards downstairs, with her other card playing cronies...Which was a common pastime of hers. Roy would keep doggo While Donny raided the cupboard...To pinch such things as raisins, sultanas and the like. Sometimes there was cube sugar and Horlicks powder to be had. Then there was the Brandy bottle! [For medicinal purposes only] that each boy sipped from ...and then topped up.... With water afterwards! [Gran‘s never work up to that one!] So with these goodies .The two boys would hasten back to their own bed nd have a small feast.
The ‘iron framed bed, was pushed hard up under the slanting ceiling. It was a very dismal unlit area indeed. At the foot of the bed was an alcove, that led into a very small, dingy room. With a very small window at the far end. [If you looked quickly up at this small window, from the back garden...You could see a face there.... a kids face! ... Or so both little boys could anyway!] One gained access to this tiny room, by way of a curtained doorway ...From inside Grans room! . When Gran was not around. Donny would pluck up the courage to peer into this depressingly, cobwebbed closet. Hoping! To glimpse, what ever nasties lived there.
But fear usually overcome curiosity. Making the boy flee too much sunnier places. Down-stairs there were two so-called front rooms ...Each with a solitary window, facing the road.
These two rooms were separated by the Passage way. One room was called The little room.... For obvious reasons and the other room, was named The long room. Again the reason was obvious. Both rooms were very well furnished. They each had a tiled floor..That in many parts was overlaid with multi patterned Persian type carpets.
There were upholstered horsehair sofa‘s. With glossy intricately carved backs. Numerous timbers framed,glass cabinets, containing assorted and most likely expensive/ crockery and glassware, stood in many of the comers. There were some very interesting ornaments in these display cabinets that were mainly in the form of small birds ...and animals made of various materials. Such as glass, ivory and the various metals.... And so on.
Some fine pictures hung on the walls. Along with countless old framed photographs .Of stem looking mustachioed men! Alongside some very plain...angry looking women. It was in these rooms one could find ash-trays and such. Made by American servicemen, from mutilated American and British coins. Often soldered together, in quite clever ways. There were flower vases made from spent Incendiary bombs! Even a first war Mills bomb!...That uncle Cal use to always say was still alive. But as Donny often said.... When he was young—“Ive watched it a lot, but it never moves!” The Long room also contained, a large, elaborately carved, dining table. Also a handsome gramophone that had a fretwork polished cabinet ...
That you were always winding up! There were two large bookcases of very old books. Most of these were in reference to horses. Such books were most likely veterinary reference books. A few of the other works were novels. There was one very large book that contained many gruesome photographs of the Boer war. There were also books on many other animals. This small library, could have been the root source, of where Donny obtained a book, that he swapped for a tortoise! With a friend of his! About 1948? Clive.... [Who now is known as Dr Clive Spinage}.... Still possesses the very same book. There were ornate mirrors that hung over fine looking mantelpieces. Atop of the mantle piece were mantle clocks...That never told the right time. Polished steel or brass fenders surrounded the open fireplace grates. On each hearth stood perhaps as many as three... Very sophisticated fireplace tidys...Each tidy consisting as a set. There would be ..A poker,A shovel. A set of tongs, perhaps two differing hands brushes. All mounted on a highly decorative stand. Then alongside were highly polished.... Coal and log boxes. Very fancy oil lamps stood on most available spaces...Some of these Donny never saw alight. The long room also had another window besides the front window. This window looked out onto Mrs. Monk's garden, towards the Black Horse. Roy or Donny was never allowed in these two rooms, except to clean and dust them, about once a week...Except perhaps at Christmas time.
But Donny would hurry along with the dusting and sweeping, when he was there. So he had enough time to peruse the contents of most of the books. By the time the boy was eight... perhaps going on nine years old, he was an avid reader of anything he could get his hands on... He just loved reading! The room the two boys lived in most of their time .Was just referred to, as the kitchen. The kitchen wasn't very big! It contained a cast iron kitchen range that sat inside the chimney place. With a brick shelf on either side. The stove was surrounded at its base, by a low fender of polished steel. Donny uses to blacklead the stove every morning before going to school, and used emery cloth to shine the fender‘...It was one of his never-ending chores. The kitchen centerpiece consisted of a clumsy looking heavy table. Fashioned from ‘ yellow deal. A gaggle‘ of six upright, crudely made wooden chairs. Surrounded the equally crude table at all times. There were two grand-father type simply carved wooden chairs. That was placed permanently on either side of the fireplace. One was Gran's, the other Gramps.... Both had knitted padding on the seats...Gran's also had a padded quilted back. To one side of the stove...behind Gran's chair There was a built in cupboard. Referred to always as the Pantry that held the entire foodstuff used for day to day living. On the other side of the stove.... Behind Grampy's chair .Was a small hideaway Much like a tiny room. That lead into the chimney place. Here in this alcove, the sides of bacon and the legs of ham were hung up in the smoke of the fire. Many beetles lived here and they would invade the legs of Ham and the sides of bacon.... Boring small holes, right throughout the meat.
A heavy, smoke stained curtain covered this arbors entrance from view. It also helped to keep much of the acrid coal smoke, from entering the kitchen. In front of the curtain, sat a tiny old kapok stuffed sofa. This cloth covered sofa, squatted on very short legs directly under the one and only window.... This was the window that looked out onto the back garden. Underneath this tired old sofa lived everybody’s shoes.... Including many odd...therefor discarded shoes. The sofa head was behind grampy's chair. It was Donny’s favorite place, as he could get up in the comer behind Grampy near the fire of an evening. Thus keeping out of Gran's way, and at the same time get to be warm. A wooden shelf ...Very dark in colour from countless years of smoke, served as the mantle-piece. It was where items such as Vesta matches were kept and the ever-ready candle stubs. Just above it, to the left was a pipe rack. The smoke blackened rack, held perhaps as many as ten, finely carved tobacco pipes. Some had animal heads [Gramps was an avid pipe smoker] At the foot of the sofa, stood a heavy looking chest of draws. This chest was where Grans kept things like Sunday best tablecloths and in the bottom draws her Wedding dress! On the top of the chest sat the large wooden cased wireless . Complete with its batteries in a separate case and its two trailing insulated wires...One of which went outside, via a hole in the comer of the window, to a copper rod, that was buried in the ground. This particular wire was called the earth. The other wire too went outside, via another hole. But then trailed upwards, along the eaves, then onto the tallest chimney.
This wire was referred to as the arial. The wireless [radioj had a fretworked front with Bakerlite knobs, with a small light so you could see which station you were tuned into ...The words His masters voice stood out in gold lettering.... Just under the picture of the dog listening to the gramophone. The two separate batteries powered the machine. There was a large and heavy multi -cell dry battery. That looked like it was made up of many Torch batteries ...This battery lasted about three months. The other source of power was a so-called wet battery or accumulator. The case of which was made from glass.... Attached to the top was a metal carrying handle. This so-called wet battery would power the wireless for about a week, then it would have to be recharged. Tony Booker`s father had the village battery charger, in his garden shed and Donny, or Roy would take the flat battery to him every Friday after school.... He charged sixpence for the recharge. The bigger... dry battery when flat, was thrown away! Such batteries cost a lot of money! Therefor the wireless was only turned on about four hours, each night, most times. Popular radio programs at the time. Were shows like Ttma...? Or the dinnertime show called Workers Playtime. And Old mother Riley Personalities like Arthur Askey, Petula Clark, George Formby, and Sandy Powell. Grade Fields, Vera Lyn. Were much to the fore...? Then later came radio shows like Paul Temple. Hancocks half-hour!.... After the war all lads scurried home to listen to Dick Barton‘ special agent.
In the comer, behind the wireless. There was ...tucked in between the wall and the scullery door..A Grandmother clock that hung on the wall. This quite large clock had Roman numerals on its white enameled face and two keyholes. You opened a door in the dull black case, to get access to the insides. The door in the lower part was made of glass.... With a country scene painted thereon. Gramps would wind this clock up every Sunday night. It was a weekly ritual! It fascinated Donny and at the time was a highlight, of his young life. The boy learnt to tell the time on this clock...Grampy taught him. A large iron key was inserted into the keyholes in the clock face.... When wound, the mechanism lifted two lead weights. This cylinder shaped weights hung on slender brass chains. They stored the energy... that drove the clock. In the far comer of the living room. Between the two doors, was Donny’s first refuge from grownups...the sewing" machine It was a "Singer"!No one could ever recall it having being used as a machine to sew with. It had a cast iron treadle and frame. That in itself was very ornate. With a round leather, drive belt ...The word "Singer" was emblazoned in gold lettering admidst some very ornate artwork across the black enameled surface of the actual ma-chine...Donny knew every feature of this sewing machine, as he was always cleaning and dusting it. Against the wall, that was opposite the only window in the kitchen.
[The window that looked out onto the back garden} Was a Kitchen dresser This piece of furniture had been fashioned from planks of unplaned timber. That still had all the saw marks on its varnished surfaces .It had been varnished with a very dark brown paint.... That in the summertime was still sticky...The whole thing was most likely homemade. The dresser was home for all the crockery and cutlery that was used daily. The top two shelves held the "willow pattern " dinner set. That Gran was very proud of. It was never actually used ...It was there, just for ornamental reasons. As was the ungainly Tea-pot that had been made to look like a badly arranged ..."bunch of Lavender. The dresser base was a cupboard...standing directly on the dirt floor. The cupboard itself had no floor, and was just as poorly made as the rest of the piece. This cupboard gave room for storage, of all the pots and pans Gran‘s used. Up on the very top shelf Sat the three Tureens. That was only put into use on Christmas day. A very unusual aspect of the house "Tamarisk", at that time .Was that the kitchen and scullery floors were dirt floors. At times very uneven. Over which, "coir" matting was laid. This matting usually was damp to wet. ..most of the time. In front of the fire-fender stretched a homemade rug. That kept the two Lyfords feet warm in the winter. The ceiling in the kitchen was very low ....Perhaps only about six and a half feet from the floor. With an even lower sooty beam, holding it all up At the foot of the stairs, stood a round stone box. This extremely heavy receptacle was where the bread was kept, and also the milk, in the summertime. Nearby and facing the stairs.
Stood a tall, but somewhat narrow Grandfather clock. With a painted rural scene on its face. To the boys this somber looking timepiece, was unusual .In that it always told the same time,It didn’t work after it fell on its face, after a bomb blast. All the lighting within the house, during the war and up to about 1948 .Was by way of paraffin lamps and candles. Until about 1943,all the house lamps were of the single flat wick type. With glass fuel receptacles. Some being very lavishly decorated. Later "Aladin" mantle type lamps became available.
These lamps had circular wicks and mantles that sat over the wicks in small metal frames. Such lamps were far superior to the earlier type. They were not to be confused with the pressure type, most common in much later times. To move around the house after dark. Candles in candlesticks were used...Or you just felt your way.
Each morning .The lamp ‘glasses had to be cleaned.... The wicks trimmed and the paraffin replenished. The other room downstairs,situated between the washhouse and the kitchen Was referred to as the scullery. It was a exceedingly small room its only window opened out onto the neighbour’s garden. Normally this window was always tightly shut. The windowsill proper, was home to a "monkey tail" plant that grew in an earthenware pot...that sat in an old crazed saucer. To Donny this dejected looking plant. Always looked like it was about to die! Or perhaps just coming back to life! The pot itself had seashells glued all over it...
Many of which had seen better days, and were all crumbling away. This small room contained an enormous cupboard its size dominating the room. Most of it was behind the door leading out into the wash-house. The cupboard Granny`s food stash like dried egg powder,home made jams and preserved vegies. A serving type hatch much like a small window, in fact it had glass panes opened out onto the stairway...But was always blocked up and never used. In the center of the room was a narrow table that Donny and Roy always ate their meals at, when Gran‘s had her visitors.
It was also the place that Donny was so often banished to ...When he wouldn’t eat his vegetables. Donny hated cooked vegetables!.... All of them, except potatoes. His pet hates were boiled...or even worse baked, sickly sweet parsnip, Mushy marrow,Smelly Brussels sprouts! Yucky turnip and swede____All these horrors would make him gag‘just to smell them cooking.... And to eat them.... Was just not on. If he tried ...he would just vomit the lot back up. Grans would hold Donny down and force handfuls of mushy marrow. Or lumps of sickly parsnip, into the boys mouth. Donny would retch and choke on this mess of food. Causing some of it to go the wrong way.... Some even coming back out from the kids nostrils.
Donny may have been small And for sure at the time he may have been very afraid of Grans‘ But he was also very stubborn .So much so, that even after many hidings ...the boy would still not eat his vegetables and to make things a lot worse for our hero__There was a lot of other food; he just would not eat either! Even though he was always hungry ...and most likely at times starving! There were terrible things... like ‘Yorkshire pudding...Or fatty meat...fishsoup.... Pigs heads! Their trotters...chitlings...brawn...and perhaps worst of all ...tripe. Plus so many cooked vegetables...that one lost count! Such as..boiled onions, carrots, cabbage and celery. The list went on and on, it was endless! Yet Donny loved nearly all those vegetables raw! He loved fried onions and he liked dripping and would drink a whole bottle of vinegar...if he got the chance.
Unfortunately for the boy nearly all the food Gran served up .Was a food, the boy didn’t like. So Donny would be banished to sit alone, in the cold, at the table, in the scullery. He would sit there for many hours at a time. Shivering in the light of a solitary candle flame. With a big plate of cold mushy marrow in front of him.If it wasn‘t marrow... then for sure something else he detested.... Donny had tried eating this horrid food., He had tried filling his pockets up with it... to hide it! But always got found out ...and the cat wouldn’t eat it either! So he would just sit there and wait ...until it was bedtime.
Sometimes... he would make things out of the mush. But if Grans caught him he got another belting ...and to make things even worse! Roy loved this mushy food! He would pick out the lumps of fatty meat in preference to the lean bits...He ate the slimy looking chitlings with gusto... As Donny very often thought...”Its enough to make you sick”. But Roy wasn’t a snitch He meant well. He just never did anything to make Grans really angry...Not like poor little Donny. So Gran‘s and Donny were always at war over food.
The same scullery table was also used to support the trough. That’s when Gran‘s salted the pig down. The washhouse that adjoined the scullery, was where the one and only tap, was located. This brightly polished faucet was on a stalk of galvanized pipe. That in turn, lent at an awkward angle over a stone sink. Next to the sink, below the window, was a low lino covered1 trestle table. The table during most of the week, supported the two very important Primus stoves .One of these stoves, was a roara... It got its name from the type of burner fitted. [A roara burner, made a harsh roaring sound when alight Whereas an ordinary Primus just hissed]....
Besides the two stoves, there was just sufficient room up near the sink, to put all the washing up on... to drain. On the other side of the sink, there was sufficient room for a narrow set of shelves to exist. These shelves held such things as... the shoe cleaning brushes. The packet of[always wet} ‘Vim‘, the ‘rusty‘ steel wool Then on the top shelf was the jam-jar that held all the bits of worn out soap. Beside it, one could also find the dishcloth and a scrubbing brush. At the far end of the table ..Just where the back door, backed onto it... when it was open. Sat an ancient mangle Or wringer As some called it. Such were the mechanics of this antiquated machine that neither boy was able to turn it on their own.
Come Mondays...The table held two huge, galvanized wash tubs...One was to scrub the washing in and the other one to rinse and ‘blue' the clothes in. These immense metal tubs, for the rest of the week hung alongside the tin bath. On the opposite Wash-house' wall. Alongside these hanging tubs was another kitchen dresser ...covered in Oil cloth. That was home to many worn out pots and pans and other kitchen utensils. Beneath the bottom half, was where one could find the Paraffin can...The Metho bottle. And the Primus prickers, Along with the Primus spanners.... Or keys As they were called. These were needed to service the stoves. On the same side of the wash-house'....
But in the corner near the door, that led into the coalhouse.Was the copper. This much used washing aid, was fuelled with coal, when boiling up the washing. The copper bowl sat in a square made up of brick walls, with the fireplace to one side. The same receptacle was used to heat up the water for the kid’s weekly‘ bath. But at that time they were only allowed to burn waste paper and cardboard...No wood or coal was available for a kids bath. To light the copper on Monday mornings. One would take a shovel full of hot coals from the kitchen fire and place these hot ashes in the copper fireplace. On the children’s bath night .It was spent matches and bits of torn up newspaper that had to warm the water. Just behind the washhouse was the coal shed. This shed was still a part of the main building. It had two doors...One of which gave access from the washhouse. The coal man . When delivering the coal ration. Dumped the sack of coal, over a small galvanized iron wall, at the front of the shed .
Potatoes and onions were also kept in the coal shed. The potatoes were stored in wooden barrels. The onions were in an overhead wire netting hammock like shelf. Two bushel size barrels held the Corn and the Pollard chicken food. Then on the other side of the coal was grampy's tools. Along with paint tins that were all dried up and jam-jars that held paint brushes, with fused bristles. The toilet was joined onto the side of the coal shed. It was built of brick, with a tiled gabled roof. The door was painted green.
An aperture in the brickwork high up on the back wall, served as the window. The toilet itself was made much like a metal can, with a wooden seat and lid. Inside stood a heavy metal bucket...that was most times full. The floor was red ruddled every Saturday morning. This chore usually fell to Donny.
Two semi -detached stone houses that were set well back off the road separated Grans house from the neighboring pub.... The Black Horse Mrs. Monk lived in one and in the early forties, the two London teachers Mrs. Walker and Miss Smith lodged them too. The public houses, called
The Black Horse, was built facing the road. But set back a bit, from the pavement. All the buildings that were a part of it, were on a large area of land, that contained amongst other things A pig farm, a chicken farm they had a lot black and white speckled chooks, called Plymouth Rocks. An orchard and a large garden area where the Waters family always grew crops of onions...up near the road Opposite Gran's house was a grey looking large house, built of stone.Perhaps cement rendered brick? Or even rammed earth? Its front covered in the creeper, whose leaves were multi reds in the autumn.... Mrs. Flyn owned this house, [The same lady who threw the earlier Christmas party.]
The house was set in a Grand looking garden...that had pear trees growing all in a row. These hung over the high wattle fences down near Mrs. Paintons cottage. The road bound the house grounds.... By Berry lane... by Whites Bramely orchard and Mrs. Paintons house and terminated opposite the Black Horse pub.... Right alongside the old barn, at the entrance to the Berry lane. In springtime Blue Bells, Daffodils, and Crocus grew in profusion on the lawns. At other times, the lawns were a mass of Daises.
Also opposite The Black Horse( was the entrance to a footpath that gave one access to quite a few houses, also the brook, the allotments the Hut, the school And to the village of West Hanney. This was all accomplished without one having to follow the road.. .It was therefor a short cut. The footpath was known as The little lane...or to others as Berry Lane. The name was something of a misnomer...as the lane was wide enough at the beginning to drive a car up and whats more was longer then the Big lane.
On the comer of this lane [where it met with the road, right opposite the pub,] stood a very old And already tumbling down in 1940 ...thatched roofed, wooden barn. To Roy and Donny it was just The barn… Of interest here many years later … there has been conjecture as to who owns the ground the small barn sat on ? This sorry looking building most times, contained amongst other things. Musty hay and many big rats. An old man who lived supposedly owned it. He was referred to as Grumpy Herman. The barn was the little boys refuge from the cold and rain.... And was also the refuge of the many rats, mice and stray cats.... And at times a large white barn owl.
Further along the main village road of East Hanney.... [If one was travelling away from the pub towards the cross roads and the village green ] Were houses that were mainly very old most had thatched roofs? On the right side of the road was a terrace of about six such houses, set back off the road by quite a distance. All were thatched and all were most likely four or five hundred years old. The houses were constructed of roughly hewn timber built into frames that had been filled in with a mortar of what looked like clay and stones. This had been bound together with straw. A plaque was attached to one of the walls it read.... Yea Olde Housen. The Arthur family Jean, John and David lived in the house nearest to the pub__Cissy Tarry lived in another.
Between these houses and the ‘Black Horse‘ was a short row of very tall Poplar trees... that swayed tremendously in the wind, and was home to thousands of Starlings at nighttime. Alongside these trees were heaps of broken bricks, that had once been a house or houses? A driveway lead from the road to the Blenheim orchard that was behind Ye olde Housen Back at the road were two small sheds that was used for repairs to motor vehicles. The garage was used at night times a lot about 1942-44 The mechanic use to stutter! Most likely Cissy Tarry's brother?] A stone wall separated the road from the gardens of Yea Olde Housen A couple of Prunus trees grew just inside the wall. Further along the road, were the cottages.In the gardens of which a Snowball tree and a Greengage tree grew.
A few yards past these old houses was the chapel. This was a Methodist chapel. Donny went to Sunday school here, quite willingly. Because every now and then, those good souls who ran the chapel, had what was called a Bun fight...It was like a party And you would get a lot to eat...That was providing you had sufficient stars in your attendance book. To one side of the chapel, there was a long and at times deep pond. This very weedy pond always had a lot of frogs in it... so a lot of frogspwn was there too. If one was lucky you might get to see the odd small Roach' [a type of small fish as well in this muddy water- way this could have been a Rudd The same pond also contained a large type of shellfish! That was prized possessions ...If you could be so lucky as to dredge one up. Possibly a pond Mussel? Moorhens nested each spring on this stretch of water and the village kids spent hours trying to get to their Nests. But the water was deep ...and the mud even deeper. So it was rare that anyone ever achieved an egg. The pond was home to hundreds of Sticklebacks...and thousands of very fat tadpoles in early summer.
Sometimes on hot summer days, you might be lucky to see a swimming Grass snake ...or even a Viper! The pond stretched from the road back to nearly the main Oxford Wantage road. Here at the far end, it was referred to as the Ovens. Opposite the pond ...On the other side of the road, between Franky Herman’s orchard and two old cottages, was the entrance to the Big Lane.
This lane had cast iron pipes standing vertically across its entrance as a barrier to stop vehicles being driven up it. The pipes were open at the top and most years a small breed of bird called a Tom-Tit would build their nests at the bottom of these pipes.Donny had a very traumatic experience. One time he put his arm down the long pipe to get to the Tom tits eggs and got his elbow stuck fast. Being very frightened Donny thought that he was never going to get his arm out again! Then along came a man who got the silly boy’s arm out by pouring oil down around his elbow.... Much to the detriment of the eggs... these railings were a great place for kids to congregate. Beyond the pond, there was on your left Franky Herman’s orchard. With the two large Walnut trees in the comer!
Then about two-thirds along the orchards length was a small thatched cottage on ones left. This very old cottage was home to an Irish family... the Brennan during the war. More or less opposite stood a stone built.... Somewhat grim looking house.For a time I think this was home for the Wishusion sisters. Not forgetting Malt house where the Coxes lived. This dwelling was situated sort of behind a section of the pond.... The pond followed the road for a short distance after the chapel.
A bit further on there was a bend to the right in the road At this bend Wilkinsons lane went off to the left.... Whereas on the right hand side of the road stood Shepherd's shop, which was also the post office. Just before Wilkinsons lane, on the left was a row of cottages... set back off the road. In which the brothers Midwinter lived ...as children. A few yards further down the road ...on the left. One came to the East Hanney ‘church.... Or to give it its rightful name ...the church of St James the lesser. This house of worship ,built about 1870 was a rather ugly, barn looking building, made from stone. With a dull grey slate roof. There was some large Yew trees growing in the front yard. A low brick wall marked the front boundary, but the church had no grave yard.. Just an unkempt area of tall grass that surrounded it.
All through Donnys life in East Hanney, this church seemed unused and was always unkempt...Grans daughter Joyce, was married in this church in 1944. In later years the wall was an important meeting place for young teenagers. A short cut paved lane ran between high stone walls. That shielded the church and Packers grocery shop.... Terminating near where Peggy Herman lived and where the immense 'Elm' tree grew. A Maypole stood in earlier years on the grassed area just to the left of where the laneway stopped.
Next door to Packers was one of the villages bakehouses... ‘Lays' ...the one where Roy would hang down off the roof and steal a small loaf of bread from where the owner had sat the loaves to cool off...While Donny caused a diversion by dragging a stick along the iron railings...the noise making the bakers really angry. On the other side of this backhouse and its yard, was a small park like garden with a tombstone in its midst. This garden was enclosed within a wrought iron fence and faced the Horse Chestnut trees that grew in the center of where the five roads met...[Ho\mes Memorial GardenJ. A circular wrought iron seat encircled each Horse Chestnut tree. So in real you could sit in the middle of where all five roads met. One of these five‘ roads was of course the one just described. Now main St. To the left was the road that meandered for about one mile and then eventually came back onto the main Abingdon Wantage road.
Points of interest on this particular road were as... The biggest ‘Elm'tree the writer has ever seen... grew just off from the village crossroads. It was held together with large iron chains and was the home to countless generations of Jackdaws. [It died from ‘Dutch elm disease" about the late seventies.] I can never remember any kid climbing this huge tree...If anyone did. then I would like to hear from him...or her! The row of cottages that faced the tree.... Was where children like Don and Tony Hamilton— Barry Herman—Ken Church lived during the war? These cottages faced on to a small grassed area where kids played football and cricket. The Oak tree with its iron round fence acted as the wicket or a goal post....
And it was where the fair" was set up once a year! The main attraction at this small fair was the "swing" boats...It was where foolish American servicemen and local larrikins, would scare all the girls and themselves and I guess many onlookers too when they made attempts to make the "boats" go right over the cross bar! Such bravado was egged on by the watching crowd. These idiotic young men would stand up in their attempts to loop the loop.... Much to the delight of small boys.
The Home farm was further down the road. It was where Grampy worked after the war had ceased. The Watkins family lived just past where Peggy Herman's family lived. Mr. Watkins was a farmer. His two sons were twins, Brian and Ron; they were a little older then Donny. But their sister Kath, was much the same age. [It was Brian who "messed" about with some live ammunition when he was small and lost a few fingers for his trouble]
Then more or less opposite the Watkins...lived the Stevensons. Victor worked at one time with Gramps. He also grew tomato and cabbage plants for public sale . Vic's daughter was Diana, who was just a few months older then Donny and attended the same school. You could also get to one of the obsolete Water mills by taking this circuitous road. By going straight on, instead of turning to ones right.
This was Tarry town. The mill was called ‘West's ‘ ...or the Lower mill The other village bakehouse was on the corner...where the road turned right. This was Carters bakery And at the far end ...just before where the road finally came back to the main Ox-ford/Wantage road ...was the policeman’s house... It may have been a police station in as much that you went their, if you wanted to see a policeman? During the war and just after it, the policeman was Constable Lucas
The villages had just the one constable and he got around on a bike. Directly opposite the first road referred to. Was Steventon Road. This was the only road in the village that to my knowledge had a name. During the war. Steventon" road eventually ended up at Steventon /which was a village about four miles away. But while the road was still a part of East Hanney, it gave travelers access to many farms that were scattered along its path...two of which Grampy had at one time worked on. On the left hand side of Steventon road were the only houses that were on this road while it was still within the East Hanney village boundaries.
These dwellings consisted of three or was it four? duplex houses and one bungalow house. All were constructed from bright red brick. These houses were quite new...most likely built in the early thirties.... and owned by Barretts the builders. Of particular interest for the time, was the one solitary single storied building? The bungalow. Bungalows were rare in the villages of Hanney The Spinage family lived in the bungalow. The Doreen Harris family lived in one of the houses and in another lived two boys both older then Donny.... Mervin and Raymond. Reynolds. Early in the forties some evacuee children were billeted here too...Girls with names as Beryl, Eileen Rice!... Olive and Hilda Mac! There were only two other bungalows in the village...The one Mrs. Prior lived in..Which was in a cul-de-sac ...that was a spur off the Little Lane. There was another bungalow opposite where Colin Herman lived in the forties! Hidden behind a thick hedge. Terry Flyn ...a boy who lived in the village after the war ...and perhaps during. Also lived in what may have been a timber bungalow that was situated in an orchard! ...On the left as you entered Wilkinson's lane. It may also have been a ‘converted shed
Opposite these houses on Steventon road was the farm Grampy worked on after the war was over. This farm had a large Dutch barn that had been built close to the roadside. Further up the road was the wildpear tree ...that Donny and Roy raided every year. It was hoped that this tree, was the same tree mentioned in “A Vale Ramble” by ‘the “Vale Man.” The Wild or ‘Choke' pear tree Pyrus Pyraster believed to be one of England's rarest of trees... But sadly it isn't the tree in the book ....It is another much younger...But still a good enough reason, sufficient on its own ...To leave this area alone for future generations. The other tree was ‘killed* to widen a road!
Then beyond the pear tree one finally came to the Canal Bridge. The bridge allowed the road to cross a disused canal.... That was always referred to as The Canal... It's known now as the Berks and Wilts. This old canal was a very interesting place...On the right hand side of the bridge ...if you walked along the canal which was dry and all overgrown, you would come to the old locks. The gates of these locks were all crumbling away...even in the forties.
On the left side of the canal bridge...perhaps two hundred yards from the roadway, there was a deep pool. This pool was one of the very few places in this stretch of canal that retained water. On a summers day Donny would lay belly down in the grass at the edge of the small pool and watch newts' going about their busy lives...on the sandy bottom. It was the only place that the lad knew of around East Hanney where you could find 'newts'.
Then perhaps another quarter of a mile further along the road towards Steventon, set back off the road on the right was Barrett's farm. This was the farm where Grampy worked when Donny was a very young kid. About another quarter mile on.. .On ones right was the Depot. Commonly referred to as The Huts, or The Camp after the war. Coming back nearer to East Hanney. 'Coxes farm was on the left, just after one passed the grounds of'Poundcroft'[Poundcroft was used as a home for evacuee boys during the war
The road...that was the main Wantage Oxford road led to the local railway station...[Wantage road station, owned by GWR} and would eventually take you first to Grove. Then on to the town of Wantage. From East Hanney this road had no houses anywhere along its length ...that is while the road was still in the village.... Except for one lone farmhouse that was set back off the road on ones right. But this dwelling was close up to the railway line, much nearer to the station.
But the same lonely road did give one access to the lane-way, known locally as 'Old Man's Lane' [Also known as ‘Butterfly` lanej that led one to the railway cuttings...These cuttings were the ponds that were so great for fishing.... And moorhen nesting. These so-called cuttings were the aftermath of the railway embankment construction and were always full of water. Most held fish such as carp! Then there were Tench and masses of Sticklebacks.
Tne other road ...[on going back to the crossroadsj eventually took you close by a village called Garford. Then onto the town of Abingdon... and then a few miles further on, to Oxford. The road crossed the river ‘Ock'at nearby Garford. The river here, was very pretty. The odd trout could be seen off the bridge ...to the right. Whereas in the meadow on the left, one could fish all day for minnows and the odd roach. While one was still within the confines of East Hanney village, the road accessed the pub called The Plough this public house faced out onto the village green.... Right at the village crossroads. Then further around the bend on the same road ...on the left-hand side, was a large mansion. Where Miss Andrewartha. Lived. Next to this large house was the public house, known as the Crown lnn.
On the right side of this road, was the large white 'children’s prison. That was aptlu named The Pound. [In real this is 'Pound Croft] This very Grand looking house was painted glaringly white. It was the place where Donny was sent to, at wars end ...and he found out then, that it was a kids home —Not a prison! As he had been led to believe for all the war years. Between the Plough and Poundcrqft was the cottage where a Mr. Cox lived...Who just happened to be the gardener at Poundcrqft during the war. His daughter’s name was Stella. Opposite the Coxes cottage was a thatched cottage, where the Wishusion sisters lived afterthe war. Further along the road towards Abingdon ,on ones right was 'Bedwell's builders yard. [I think Mick Tarry worked for Bedwells when he left school!] Nearby was a large building surrounded by a macadamized yard it is not known to the writer what this building contained, but it was much like a large warehouse. But according to Doug Collett, it was storage, for a furniture company!
Maurice Drapers family lived in a bungalow [so there was another bungalow a little further along. Then there was Booths garage. Which was closed in the period 1940-50. If you walked up the Little lane from its beginning ...That beginning was opposite The Black Horse. There were the dwellings where Mrs. Godfrey and 'Grumpy'Herman lived...The latter most likely was Hazel and Trevors Granddad! These two houses were situated on your right as you entered the lane. Between the two dwellings was an empty [very smallj house that faced the old barn. This cottage in the summertime, was a mass of rambling Nasturtiums... That grew in abundance, all over the front.... Even up on the thatched roof. Entwined with the bright reds and greens of the rampant plant, were the white bells of the Morning Glory vine. ...It was a great place to find caterpillars! Then a little further on ...on ones right, one came to Trevor and Hazel Herman‘s family orchard.
This old orchard grew right alongside the side of the lane, until you came to a fork in the pathway. On the left [from the back of Mrs. Flyn's garden, was an apple orchard that belonged to old Mr. White. [Gran‘s landlord] and contained mainly Brambly cooking apples. Mr Waters...the publican of the ‘Black Horse* often bought all the fruit in this orchard. On reaching the fork in the lane. The lane turned towards the right leaving just a spur that ran straight ahead..The lane itself had now narrowed somewhat.
At the spur were two semi -detached brick houses on your right...In one lived the Booker family. Tony [Grace] Booker was around the same age as Donny. Whereas his sister Dawn ..was perhaps a couple of years younger. During the early part of the war, the Booker's had evacuees billeted with them. According to Tony’s recollections there was the two Bicknells Rosie and Terry! And another boy Reggie Later on they had twin girls billeted with them. So one could safely say the Booker family did their bit for the war effort. The continuation of Whites orchard was the main feature on your left and Mrs Prior’s bungalow was directly in front of you. If you continued on. You entered Whites field, by climbing a stile, that was in the fence, that veered off to the left. By following the footpath you could come out into the laneway adjacent to Dr Baileys house....Now called the Mulberries. Or you could turn right and follow the footpath across to the old stone bridge!.... The bridge that let you cross Letcombe brook without getting yourfeet wet! But to get out of the field you needed to get over the fence next to the Hut there was no stile, but close to the Hut was a large tree stump, by climbing this you could get over the fence without becoming entangled in the barbed wire. Coming back to the bend, where the lane had narrowed somewhat. There was a very shady section of the lane.... With trees on both sides. This part of the lane Donny...
When he was very young, use to think was a cathedral...Like the ones he had read about!.... This was especially so, in the summertime. By following this section of the lane for about fifty yards you would come to another house, where a boy who was older then Donny lived ...with his even older sister. His name was Colin Herman. Opposite this dwelling was another bungalow, hidden behind a very thick hedge. The residents of this house... were never really known to the author. [But were the owners of the chicken eggs that the boy stole, one time]
At Colin's garden fence, the lane made a somewhat sharp right angle turn to the right. Where there were some cast iron vertical pipes, a barrier to vehicles The lane was now only a narrow footpath hemmed in by a high hedge on one side, that consisted of a mixture of Hawthorn, Elder, blackberry and dog rose briars—And a farm type fence on the other side. It was in this part of Berry lane that one could be assured of finding the first Celandines...and the first Violets,when Springtime arrived... and always a wealth of Lords and Ladies grew abundantly beneath the hedge on ones right. Some Elm trees on the right side in Hazel Herman’s hedgerow were always the nesting place of wood pigeons. These baby pigeons.... [This was when Donny was much older...after the war!] The boy would tie to their nest by a leg. Then when they were grown, he sold them to Mrs. Monk next door...This lady made Pigeon pie from these unfortunate baby birds.
The lane then twisted and turned until it met the Big lane at the Iron Bridge.... This was the footbridge that gave pedestrians, access over the brook. At the bridge, the Big lane continued on back, in a straight line between Franky Herman’s orchard and Hermans meadow... Finally coming out on to the main East Hanney road —opposite the chapel. The Big lane was not pretty... like the Little* lane was. There was a bridge over the brook where the two lanes became one,being of metal construction, It was a pedestrian bridge only. The metal of which this bridge was most likely built from I presume to have been cast iron .because it didn't rust! ...It had a perforated floor with railings that were high up the sides, to stop kids falling into the water.... It was always referred to as the Iron bridge. Evidently at an earlier time, there was a ratchet type turnstile; to stop all whom passed by, other then pedestrians. But the author cannot recall such a device!
The two lanes having now become one at the bridge continued on. Passing through allotments that were all on the right side of the pathway. There was a hedged in field on the other side Whites field! The same meadow that contained the old stone bridge ...that also contained numerous, very old apple trees. The lane finally petered out, as it came to the road that took you from East to West Hanney. Still in the lane but near to the road...was The Hut. Which was both the Hanney*s village hall and for a time in the early war years ..school rooms By continuing to walk down the road towards Went Hanney, there would be more allotmentson ones right. These were set up higher then the road and screened from the road by a hedge, consisting mainly of Sloe bushes. This hedge continued until you came to the school garden..then the school mistresses garden.... Then the playground and then—the school itself. The school boundary was.... Or is Rolls/Rose lane. Once you crossed the old Roman road I guess you were in West Hanney. [So the school is just inside East Hanney.} On the left hand side of the road leading from The Hut and continuing right up to Roll's Lane... Set up higher then the road are a line of semi -detached council houses.... Perhaps as many as eighteen to twenty in all.. All of them two storied_All made of brick with cement 'stucco'rendering. [This row of houses is now known as the causeway] That is how this village of East Hanney. Which was Donnys home as a young child some fifty odd years ago... is etched into his memory forever. The author last saw the Hanney villages in January 1952
Alfy Allen was a lot older then me. He and his sister Rosy lived with the Stevens! In the house just the other side of the short cut to the main road. Called simply the Foot Path.... Mr. Stevens, was Mr. White’s gardener? Alfy was very clever. He could make beaut models of warships— And airplanes, from timber, plasticine and cardboard. He manufactured such things as rings and crucifixes...out of the shattered perspex. That came from crashed airplane windows ..Alfy was always making something! Whats more.... He had time to play with the younger kids!
As youngsters we had two main play areas in our part of the village.. One favorite place was up against the high wall of Whites house. Where the fir tree still grows This play area was adjacent to the footings of a brick wall... that had a wide ledge as its base. The ledge was quite wide To the extent, kids could comfortably stand on it. The ditch that ran the full length of the road.... Ran beneath this overhanging ledge. The wall, which was the fence of Whites mansion,faced a derelict vacant block of land, on the other side of the road. That once had accommodated a house. Or perhaps even houses! Such a vacant space, was a great place for us kids to play, as there were large piles of bricks just about everywhere. A group of gooseberry bushes ...That in season gave us at first.. Small and very sour goos-gogs. Then later on...bigfat sweet goos gogs... Grew near to the roadside.... More or less adjacent to Mrs. Harvey’s garden.
Mrs. Harvey owned a large Tabby Tom Cat ...called Satan This cat just about annoyed everyone. It uses to make Gran see red, every time it backed up to her garden plants and urinated in large squirts. At the back of this vacant piece of land, there was an apple and pear orchard. / [Whites Bramley orchard] So it was very easy to help yourself, to apples or to pears, when such fruit was in season. In one comer of the abandoned land, was a small hill made from ashes ...The left overs from countless bygone coal fires. This hillock was right at the back.... Near to Mrs. Paintons garden. The hill itself was all-important, in many of our games. Such as— I`m the long of the castle*! and so on.. Out of the top of the hillock grew an elderly clump of Elderberry bushes. These bushes supplied the local children with pea-shooters, and the berries came in handy for ammunition. It was here ...on this uninhabited lot, that us London kids played our hundreds, of make believe games. So many lets pretend—house was built Many an imaginary air-raid took place.... And many a copycat battle was fought! With kids using the building materials ...that had been abandoned by our elders,
A game, that was commonly played many times .Was where-First you picked sides for the game that was called attackers and defenders. The defenders would build, little make- believe houses...perhaps a fantasy bridge. Or even a castle from the countless heaps of rejected bricks... Then! The attackers would bombard these structures with a set amount of bricks..the bricks were the make-believe bombs. So every allied battle...that we had heard about... and every air-raid any of us may have experienced! Was re-fought in this game.On that land... that once had been some-one’s home. It was on this same wasteland, that I learnt very quickly. That stinging nettles did indeed sting And made you so itchy, that you scratched the raised groups of red spots, for a long, long time. But you could run your hand backwards over a *bunch of them... and you didn’t get stung at all.... Which to me as a little boy was indeed magic! I learnt at the same time. That dead nettles didn’t sting at all... No matter how much you handled them. But at the same time they were alive and you could tell which nettle was which... by the difference in the colour and shape of the flowers and leaves of each of the two so vey different nettles. I also learnt that if you plucked a Dock leaf and you spat spittle all over it.... And then you rubbed the leaf hard onto a stinging nettle rash... The sting of the rash would go away.... Eventually.
I became educated the hard way. Not to suck too much on the pea shooter ...that I had made from the wild parsley stalk or the Elderberry branch ...Or was it the Hemlock plant? Because if you did, your mouth would swell up and go numb. The Elderberries that you pulled off the bush ...that hung there like small black grapes. Were the same berries that you stuffed into your mouth, to shoot at your enemy, through your peashooter! These berries did some very uncomfortable things to your tongue and made your jaws ache something awful.
If it was raining ...Or it was very cold. Then we would all lean on the old brick wall, standing on the ledge. Being extra careful that we didn’t fall into the cold water. So in doing so we were sheltering under the large fir tree. This fine old tree hung over the wall, from the garden on the other side. When sheltering here Alfy [as we called him] would make up, on the spur of the moment, some of the weirdest games imaginable. Or he would spend long periods, telling us smaller kid’s very funny stories. Alfy taught us funny.... And sometimes, very crude ditty’s like_ Tommy Hart... let a fart! The fart went rolling down the street and knocked a copper off his feet... the copper blew his old tin whistle and blew the fart far off to Bristol!---- And so on. Then there was the classis ryhme "Icea raca...chica raca...chee chi chan.chica loram... bomba Ioram...bellebe can. Agday tuday icca catta tuday...Iyna pipe...china pipes. Chinese chore" This was according to Alfy.-"Good morning!” in Chinese. Alfy taught us songs like. " Under the spreading chestnut tree where old Hitler said to me "If you want to be a twerp like me! Then join the sodding ARP". "Whistle while you work.Hitler made a shirt. Goring wore it! Churchill tore it!Wasn't he a twerp?" "Ten Green bottles,Hanging on the wall." I learnt all of... Knick knack paddy whack, give a dog a bone... This old man went rolling home. The hit songs of the day that we all learnt by heart, went like... "Run rabbit, run rabbit, run, run, run... Here comes the farmer with his gun, gun, gun... He'll get by without his rabbit pie, So run rabbit run rabbit, run, run, run." Or how about... "Hey! Little hen, when, when, when, will you lay me an egg for my tea. Get into your nest, do you're little best, I will do the rest, if you do your best." Or. Kiss me goodnight sergeant major, tuck me in my little wooden bed, We all love you sergeant major, especially when you show a bit of leg. Dot forgets to call me in the morning and bring me up a nice hot cup of tea, cor blimey. Kiss me goodnight sergeant major, sergeant major be a mother to me." Sometimes grownups would tell us to shut up as we gave them our version of "Bless 'em all, bless 'em all, The long the short and the tall, Bless all the sergeants and they're blinking sons And bless all the corporals and they're blinking mums" And so on...and when we sang and laughed like this, I was so very happy.
The other place that we used as a play area was called The laneway This was really a short, but wide drive- way, that led to one of Mr. Whites fields, from off the road. The Bramley orchard that also backed on to our other play area, bound it on one side. On the other side were the outer walls of a big brick house. Or it could be said it was more of a mansion then a house! This was the residence of a Dr Bailey. The doctor was already an old man in the early forties. He had been or was, a professor of Latin. Or was it theology?.... At Oxford. There were two ladies living in the house...both, it was assumed were the doctors daughters! The house had round marble pillars at the front door,well they looked like they were fashioned from marble, but most likely were not.... And two weeping mulberry trees stood guarding the front gate. One either side of the front entrance. Beneath the two trees was white, loose gravel that was stained dull black from all the mulberries that fell upon it. A white fence made from timber separated the front garden from the pavement. In the laneway the house walls held frosted windows, that were high up the wall.... And at the far end, two very large wooden doors, gave one access to the spacious rear gardens. The place usually reeked of boiled cabbage.
All the kids raided the Mulberry trees. Getting covered in Mulberry stain.~every summer. In this sheltered laneway us four Londoners played many games ...Perhaps other kids played there too.
This was the same lane, where Ann Holland, took her mothers cigarettes...that she had pinched. With much coughing and a great deal of spluttering, Ann lit up! But the wayward girl never noticed one of Dr Bailey's female kin watching her intently from a window. So when the door suddenly opened Ann who was standing near the side porch...got such a fright, that she reckons the pleasures of tobacco_She never aspired to. Not then... Or ever. I can't recall when Alfy and his sister left the village, but at a guess I would say they were both gone back to their own home in London, by early 1942.
It would have been around 1941. That some British and Canadian soldiers bivouacked in Whites field. This was the field, close by to the Hut.... The brook ran through it! The soldiers dug deep trenches, quite close to the brook and all the local kids had great fun watching them setting up their tents and gun emplacements. Others camped, along with their two tanks .On the triangle of East Hanney green, right opposite the Plough pub.... Underneath the Conker tree. A large camouflage net was draped over the two tanks.... And one soldier gave Donny some tinned beans on a piece of bread. In Whites field they had two huge searchlights. The beams of which, danced across the sky at night. All of this war gear, they surrounded with walls, made of sandbags.... And Donny was always getting in their way!
It was around about this time that the 'Great game' in the village was born...Or thought up by some big kid. Such big kids remained a mystery to little kids, like Donny. This game went on for many days, perhaps weeks? Before the schoolteachers and the local policeman broke it all up. I would say, it was inspired by the aforesaid army activity in Whites field. But wouldn't know for sure. To be apart of this game you had to be a boy of course...'Girls'! As any 'boy' of that era could have told you ...Couldn't be soldiers. You also had to have a bicycle wheel. It was a great craze at the time. Every boy... and many girls too had a bowling hoop.... Many just had a bike wheel rim. The great game was called attackers and defenders ...It involved a mass of children, all of whom had a bicycle wheel to bowl along. About the winter of 1941 things weren't too good around our way....
The local village folk had quite a number of scares. The Jerries had been unloading a fair few bombs in the area around the surrounding villages, for quite sometime.Trying to hit the aerodrome! [So grownups said.] This aerodrome was situated near the village of Grove. Or perhaps they were overshooting London! Which was sixty-five miles away... Or confusing Hanney villages with Bristol? ...I heard Grans say in a muffled whispery voice, to Mrs. Monk, over the garden wall. But whatever the reason, there was for sure, a certain amount of discomfort. What with the ever increasing, near misses ...in and around the Hanney's. One cold morning.It was wintertime^ there was one almighty thud. This was about five o'clock in the morning. The bed that Roy and I were fast asleep in went up in the air and then crashed back down again. Causing us two kids to get to be, pretty frightened. Roy said.... “It was probably the end of the world” Roy knew things like that...His dad told him a lot of things. All the crockery fell off the dresser in the kitchen. This made Gran's pretty angry, so she gave both of us a few verbal cuffs as we picked up the broken cups, saucers and plates.... And to make matters a lot worse the Grandfather clock that stood at the bottom of the stairs, fell face down in the passageway... [It never worked again to my knowledge and for always afterwards ...told the same time.] Evidently all this mayhem was caused by the impact of a large bomb detonating. The bomb had landed very close to the village. It was most likely a landmine. Landmines had the nasty habit of going off at a later time. This was usually when everybody had got over the original air raid.
Bob Lyford (gramps to me) a nice man. He was very friendly to both Donny and Roy...But he could not read or write. Not even write his own name— Not that that worried Donny any. He was a very quiet person too. He never ever got angry and always worked very hard. I think everyone who knew him; thought he was ok.I know Donny liked him. This real Gentleman had a wonderful rapport with animals. He never hurt anything. He never hit a horse or got angry with one. If a horse was playing up a bit, Gramps would whisper something to it and the horse would behave itself.
Bob Lyford was very well known and respected for his work with horses. In all the time Donny lived with Gramps. the man never to Donny's knowledge ever had a bath! He uses to have a wash though. Every night when he came home from the day's work, he would open the neck of his collarless shirt and make a lot of snorting sounds as he splahed his ears and neck in the soapy water. This entire act taking place in an enameled wash bowl. Donny would sometimes copy him. when he too washed...But grans would give the boy a clout if she caught him doing it. Gramps was a laborer on a farm ...and was known, as what was then termed as a Fog-ger'... Meaning that he worked with horses and cattle. This somewhat elderly man, was always Donnys 'champion'.Without his ongoing protection, life would have been really grim for this little London kid.
Gramps and Gran had three children of their own. All grown up before the war had started. Joyce was the pretty Lyford daughter.... And she always had boyfriends. Joyce was in the A.T.S.for the first three years or so of the war...The girl never took much notice of Donny or Roy and never gave either boy any trouble. Gramps doted on her and would cycle with her all the way back to her army barracks at Didcot. After Joyce had been home at Tamarisk on leave. Auntie Joyce had a boyfriend' in the very early part of the war, who was in the Navy. The sailor came and saw her a few times, when he was on leave ...They both use to sit on the front garden wall! ...Making Cows eyes! At each other. The sailors uniform Intrigued the very young Donny Donny hated not having a collar on his shirt and he uses to say to hmself. That he wouldn't be joining any bloomin navy... Not with a collar like that! Later on Auntie Joyce had a boyfriend who was a captain in the army. He courted her on a motorbike. Henry Miller was his name. He came from Leeds— And had a Batman Who use to ride in the sidecar when Henry came'a-courting. It was sometime in 1944 that they got married.... In the East Hanney church. [After the war they lived up in Yorkshire.] Dorothy [or ‘auntie Doss as I called her ] was the Lyfords other daughter, Dorothy was also in the A.T.S1 This was the women’s army. People use to say...She was the spitting image of Gran! When Gran was younger. Auntie Doss had been a cook in some big house before the war in Bracknell ...and was a cook in the army too. . Donny never saw Aunt Doss with a boyfriend.
Gran‘s son was uncle Cal. He was a lot older then his sisters. Uncle Cal was married. He had a daughter... and lived in Swindon. Before the war he had something to do with airplanes! There was a photo of him standing in flying gear alongside a biplane..the photo was in the Long room. The airplane was most likely a Tiger Moth.
Our toilet facilities were really something! The main toilet was a small brick dunny adjoining the coal shed, which in turn backed on to the washhouse. The toilet had a red ruddled floor...It was a bucket toilet! That according to my memory was always brimfull...So much so, that the buckets contents touched your bum If you were stupid enough to sit on the seat. Behind this toilet was the toilet that Roy and I used. Our toilet was made from some hessian sacks that had been draped haphazardly, over a rickety wooden frame. This contraption was open at the top to the elements and was a very uncomfortable place to be.... If and when, it was raining. A length of unplaned timber, sitting on unsteady house bricks, formed the toilet seat. The bucket was an old coal scuttle. But in all, it was a better place to do your ‘poo... Then the other place. Toilet paper in both toilets was always non-existent... Ripped squares of newspaper sufficed instead. Such paper was usually soggy wet, when required. As it was in the open as well.
All the bedrooms were furnished with chamber-pots ...or Po‘s as we called them. One of the earliest refrains I learnt ...Went like this... Oh Flo you’ve been and broke the PO! Now you’ll have to do it on the floor. Heres my old hat do it in that ...and Don‘t is so dirty anymore [Gramps taught me that, one time when I was sitting on his knee...I would have been very young] Both of us boys were allocated chores that had to be done daily .Others on specific days of the week. Emptying Po‘s was one such chore. Us kids piddled in tin or enamel chamber-pots.... That was, once we had gone to bed, for the night. The grownups used large china chamber-pots to urinate in. Each ‘PO‘ had a large single handle...Much like a giant cup. Flowers with cupids and naked girls adorned such articles. These chamber- pots were heavy empty...But when full of urine I could scarcely pick one up...let alone carry such an article. Walking down a flight of stairs. Opening and closing doors...P1us the stench of ammonia drifting up ones nostrils made it nigh impossible for me to carry such heavy objects with out spilling much of the contents. Many a time .The pee would slosh over the sides onto my legs ..At times filling my boots. At holiday times, when Gran‘s had visitors I would have to carry as many as six of these huge Po`s brimful with urine, from the bedrooms, down the stairs and out of the house. Then empty them onto the veggie garden. I would then have to wash each PO out and dry it. Then trundle the lot back upstairs and put the chamber pots back under the beds. Eventually following up my trails of spilt urine, with a bucket and wash cloth.
Other chores that had to be done on a daily basis. Were tasks, such as feeding the chooks? The chooks got wheat [or corn as it was calledj in the mornings. But in the afternoon I would boil up all the left over food scraps...plus such refuse as potato peelings, in an old saucepan. Then added to this mess while it was still hot was bran and pollard. This was fed to the chooks while still piping hot. It uses to smell pretty good! [If no one were looking I would eat it too..., as I was always hungry.] Roy and I theoretically, had one bath a week! On Friday nights us two kids would fill the copper in the wash house with water. Then by burning waste cardboard and paper, bit, by bit .We would slowly heat the water up...This might take up to two hours. We never got any help from an adult. The warm waterit was never really hot was then bucketed from the copper, into a galvanized tin bath. That had been put on the floor of the washhouse. In this tin bath we both washed ourselves. If it was at all cold, or there had not been enough waste paper to make the water warm. Then neither of us would undress and get into cold water... So on those days, we didn’t have a bath at all We wore no underclothes in those times! Our trousers were probably washed once a month! So hygiene was not a very high priority... In real we must have smelt something awful.. As for those in charge of our welfare...Well! What can one say.
On Saturday mornings, as there was no school, there would be extra chores for both of us. Mine was...such as having to ruddle the toilet floor..Scrub the front steps... Clean the kitchen window and muck the chook shed out. [Roy had similar tasks.]” Very often both boys would raid the rubbish bins for something to eat, going to school. Or a favorite pastime of mine was to steal condemned food from Mr. Waters pig farm! The pig farm would receive lorry loads of food that was all stamped.... Not fit for human consumption. Usually it was food such as bread... which was very stale. With black mould growing all over it. But quite a lot of the foodstuff's were condemmed tinned food— Such as condensed milk.
A favorite food of Roys and mine was.... I would steal a packet of cough sweets...This was when the shopkeeper wasn‘t looking. These ‘cough drops were not on the sweet ration, so you didn’t need any sweet coupons. But then again.if you stole them didn’t need money either.. Roy would climb up on to the baker’s roof (Lays Bakery) and lower himself head first down, to where the bread sat cooling on a long shelf... And pinch a small round loaf. We would push the cough sweets into the loaf one by one.... All over it. The loaf would be hot! So its heat would melt the sweets ...They would therefor soak into the bread. We would then scurry back to Herman’s old barn...With the hot— sweet filled loaf ...and have a feast. My most vivid memories of this era of my life...Was being always hungry.
School.... Donny loved school. It was where he could go to get in out of the cold and keep warm...Where he could get away from Gran. School for Donny at the beginning of his young life was in the local village hall. The building was called the Hut. The Hut stood at the end of the lane.... Where the lane met the road that led to West Hanney. It faced Whites field. Which in turn faced the council houses that were built in a line. That ran right up to ...The real school. The Hut was surrounded by garden allotments on three of its four sides. Allotments were a group of gardens. That were all together, in one common area ...Where people who had little garden area at their own homes, grew most of their vegetables. These were, the very same gardens Roy and Donny raided for food in the wintertime... It was mostly ice covered Savoy cabbages and frozen Brussels sprouts that they stole. But one could at times find a carrot... Even in the midst of winter. Or a left over onion..Sometimes even a potatoe... that had been missed at harvest tim
Near the front of the Hut was a small patch of stony ground, that the London kids made into a garden in the springtime of ig40.The city kids grew flowers in this tiny square of land.... It was adjacent to the front end of the Hut.... Nearest to the laneway. They carried water all the way from the brook in buckets and watering‘ cans. Which was most likely a good three ....to be continued
hundred yards away. Just to keep the flowers alive. It was in the same area, where Donny was taught fire drill . Using buckets, painted red and brass stirrup pumps, with India rubber red hoses! The kids doused make believe ‘incendiary* bombs and fought imaginary fires up against the wooden wall of the Hut. They all practiced wearing their gas masks.
These would fog up from the Childs breath.. So they had to take them off, to see where they were going. Us kids practiced air -raid drill ...Where one would get under the flimsy school desk when the whistle was blown frantically .By a very red faced school teacher... and we were all told not to look out the windows.With their Scottish flag crosses of stuck on paper. In case of the flying glass! ...Which might just cut your head off. Later for a while at least When the real air-raid siren went off, we all had to done our gasmasks. Which you carried with you all the time. In a cardboard box.... Attached by a bit of string, over your shoulder. Then traipse outside and stand in the playground. Just so the Germans could see you ...and us being kids. Then the Germans wouldn’t kill you!... Well you hoped not! In the wintertime. Long pointed icicles hung from the Huts roof gutters. We would break these cold glassy daggers off ...To suck, like iollies...they always tasted somewhat metallic. The free milk was delivered to the school, by way of a pony drawn, milk cart. That always smelt of milk. The milk came in, small glass bottles. With cardboard tops, that had a place to put in a straw! But we never had any ‘straws... Very often the milk in winter would be frozen solid. Us kids would put the crates of milk bottles near to the fire, to thaw out...Sometimes too near. If so, then the heat from the stove would break the bottles..spilling milk everywhere. Most of the children, who attended school in the Hut . Were the very young evacuees. Both of our teachers were London teachers I remember each of them very well. There was Mrs. Walker! This teacher was an oldish woman. With a pronounced bent back. And used a walking stick. Then there was Miss Smith!... Who was young? Perhaps in her early twenties and I thought of her, as very pretty. I liked going to school I think Mainly because Miss Smith was there... Kids made fun of Mrs. Walker by chanting the ditty [out of her earshot mind you] 'Our teacher has a bunion... A face likes a pickled onion ... A nose likes a squashed tomato... With legs like matchsticks. ' It must have been about 1943 that I started to go to school in the real school. The first classroom I became acquainted with was the room behind the main room. The one nearest to the boys toilet. I was being taught in this classroom, when three of us boys won a scholarship to go to Wantage Grammar School. Mike Lamble. George Lamble and myself. Of the three, only Mike got to go... George and I stayed. By about this time. Children who never went home for dinner. Could buy a hot dinner at school. The food came, in round Hot boxes. I personally never got a meal this way. But there must have been many children, who did. You could also buy meat pies ...That’s if you had some money. Readers can sort of date the period ...If you knew the age of a little girl called Marlene. A boy somewhat older then myself... Bob Dandridge. Had an elder sister, who was the mother of the little girl The girl’s name was possibly very rare for that time..My having some recall of this. Might be connected to the wartime song ...Lily Marlane? The boys toilets were very primitive, by today`s standards. There were about five, brick bucket closets. Standing in a row.Behind each, was an opening through which the bucket could be serviced. In front of these cubicles was the urinal Consisting of a pitch covered brick wall .The wall was about four feet high. With an open gutter at its base ...and a timbered wall above at a height of perhaps six feet. There was no tap. or running water! ...The stench of Phenol /carbolic acid overcame the other odious smells. One of the more unusual aspects of this offensive place was the vast amount of prestige One might obtain This was, when us boys were very young from being the boy, who could urinate over the front wall. Its other great attribute to my school days, was the fact that the ablution block was always the "goal"for every football game we ever played. I would guess that it was the winter of 1943. Those all us kid were saddened by the death of one of us. The day Edna Goddard died!.... That day, was indeed a sad one for us all. I remember the shock one felt. In knowing of her sudden deaths.I remember standing near the school wall. Feeling utterly devastated.... As her cortege passed by. Heather’s father owned the pub. Next door to where I lived. This little girl, was my dearest...Childhood friend! When we were very young Heather’s father grew onions! He also had many pigs And literally hundreds of chickens and ducks. Mr.Waters that was his name. Was a very big man .He was baldy headed and had a mustache...Much like the one Hitler had...It was one of those narrow ones, that sat straight under the wearers nose. But the thing that I never really got use to, was the mans very large, protruding, stomach. It was immense and his trousers, which were exceedingly large,fitted very tight across the vast expanse of his belly. Mr Waters never seemed to notice me! I can’t ever recall him actually speaking to me.... And while we were all young, I never heard him get really angry with Heather, or Alan. In fact. Come to think of it.... I think Arthur Waters, was a nice bloke! Mr.Waters kept these huge pigs. In sty’s made of concrete and corrugated iron.... And all the pigs were fed on a boiled up mess of slops. They made a terrible din at feeding time, and even, a mightier noise. When the castration of the male piglets, took place. The pig’s food was boiled up every day. In a series, of large, outside army type, coppers. Donny uses to help, if he could. Mainly, because you could keep warm, while you filled and emptied these large vessels .Of steaming, pig food. But both boys would get a belting from Gran‘s ...If they went home, smelling of pigs. Behind, but to the side of the pig-stys .Was a large vegetable patch.... And behind that garden, was an apple and plum orchard. With a very large walnut tree in the far comer.... Near to the bee-hives. In the summertime, the pigs would be let loose to forage in this orchard. Ploughing it all up, with their snouts, and getting stung by the irate wasps .Who were hell bent, on gorging themselves on.The Orange Pippins. Directly behind the orchard..in fact still in it was Mr. Tollit`s, two rows, of wooden beehives. Donny rarely went near them ..As you nearly always got stung ...if you did. In the summertime you couldn’t hear anything in this orchard. But the 'buzz ', of honeybees. School nature study lessons, were often a feature connected to these bees. Behind the line of beehives, was a wide laneway ...That terminated nearby to a large pond.... A pond that was deep...But contained nearly all mud. This pond, was the same pond That was located, near the Chapel. The other end of the laneway led out, onto, the main Wantage Oxford road. This laneway and the adjacent pond were called The Ovens Donny never did find out why. At a guess I would say the laneway was Common land at the time. Because, gypsies use to camp there a lot ...and no one tried, moving them on. These gypsies lived in well made wooden caravans. That were painted and carved. Each had big wooden wheels and a curved roof. Many of them had a chimney pot, poking up at the rear. The caravans were always pulled, by two, or more ponies...With a pack of dogs following. Gypsies, at the time. Made a living out of mending household pots and pans. Or making clothes-pegs and washing baskets, from the abundant 'Willow'...That was around. Much kitchenware of that period was made from enameled iron. Holes were patched and handles repaired. Sharpening knives on a grindstone was achieved by pedaling a weird looking contraption That was much like riding a bike. Scissors were sharpened this way too! The women and the gypsy kids were kept busy making and selling the baskets.... And wooden clothes pegs, The menfolk made a living.... It was said. From stealing farmers cattle and selling the same beasts back to the owners! Donny use to envy the gypsy kids, as they were always laughing and seemed very happy with their lot. But by far ...The most frightening visions, to us young 'uns. " Donny said. Was the stories told .Of the abduction of young children!... It was said ...In hoarse whispers. That They. Kept the girls and raised them as their own children ...But the boys were not so lucky. As after They had fattened them up...They' ate them. Roy and I, use to creep up on gypsies, when they were camped in the 'ovens'. Just to see what they did. We were very afraid at such times.... As the men, wore large earrings and had long hair ..And to us small kids.... They all looked very fierce. The village women feared them too! ...It was said ...That you should never turn a gypsy away, unless you bought something off them first. There was many, a hair raising tale .Of the dire happenings of people, who had offended, a gypsy On looking back...I think. Donny thought very early in his life, that he was somehow different, to other kids in the village. For a start ...He use to always be...falling in love. [Perhaps others can recollect doing so too? ...When they were very young.] This 'feeling'. Was very real to Donny and it went on far. into his early teens. There was nothing sexual, about this intense wave of feeling, that the kid experienced. Outwardly there was nothing to see.... Except Donny’s acute shyness, if his'intended' happened to look his way. But mentally the boy got the pain akin— To a tight feeling, in his guts and throat. He would fight, with other boys. Whom he thought were getting a bit too close, to the girl he happened to be infatuated with. All Donny ever wanted out of these fantasies .Was for the girl or woman..as the case may have been, to take some notice of him. This all took place remember, when Donny was as young as perhaps seven years old. I think Miss Smith the London school teacher was my very first love.Donny said. He went on to say. I never knew Miss Smiths Christian name! But I had quite a few fights over her, with other boys. Then later on, I went through a lovesick stage of being obsessed with the filmstar ‘Diana Durbin‘. She was the leading lady in a film with of all people...The idiot Arthur Askey. It was one of the very few films I saw during the war. The film was screened in the Hut ...and I remember Heather paid the nine pence, for me to go in. This beautiful film star sent me crazy .For quite sometime.... And I had nightmares about Arthur Askey. I spent hours just thinking of this lady film star. The film had something to do with a Lighthouse? The most vivid of these ‘puppy love crushes, that Donny experienced. Took place probably about late 1941 Along side Dandridges mill ..Just on the other side of a laneway leading to Cotterel's meadow, were two semi-detached brick houses.... Set back off the road. These cottages were situated just down stream of the mill. Opposite the area of the watercourse access.... Set aside for horses to drink at. It has been suggested that this water access could have dated, to a time before there was a common village water scheme. A London evacuee was billeted in one of these cottages. The evacuee was a girl, of perhaps thirteen years of age.... When Donny would have been seven or eight years old. The girl's name the author has long forgotten. For an unknown reason the name 'Goldie Goldstien' comes to mind,So let's call this little girl Goldie. It has been suggested that the girl's name might have been Maltilda Lapworth? To Donny, Goldie was absolutely the most beautiful creature he had ever seen. For starters, her hair was very long.... And wavy_It was also his favorite colour The colourof marigolds! The little boy now an elderly man] always remembered her best... wearing a shiny, green dress. That young girl ...Never knew, just what she meant ...to this small boy. He would follow her to school at a discreet distance of course and then after school was over he would follow her back home again... This took place every school day. Donny spent hour upon hour as near to her house as possible. Waiting to catch just a glimpse of her. He would cry with rage when he saw her talking to another boy. One such boy that gave the young Donny many such hours of anguish. Was a lad, a lot older then himself. This boy was probably fourteen years old at the time and was the son of the people Goldie lodged with...or was billeted with. All the other village kids called the lad Snowy. That was because his hair was snow white. His eyes were pink like a white rabbit and he also had very pink skin...Snowy in fact was an albino. Snowy wore very thick bi-foccd glasses. These spectacles had lenses that were so thick; you couldn't see his eyes behind them. Which probably lead to the rumor amongst young lads. That he took his eyes out... To go to bed! Snowy, often walked to school with Goldie...Each time breaking Donny's heart... Snowy If he is still with us? Could of course tell us Goldies real name. [Head shrinkers no doubt can give a good explanation for this form of puppy love that this lonely small boy experienced.] At about this time, I also went through a stage of'caring'for small animals. Living with Gran's'. Meant I could have no pets, at all. I loved cats ..And kittens were very easy to obtain. So I would get a stray ...Or someone would give me a kitten and I would keep it in Grampys allotment shed. [I kept another kitten, in a shed down the lane, past the house, where Black Annie lived] The allotment shed was always locked. But that was no problem ...as a cat could easily get in and out, from under the door. So it was common for me, to be looking after, some scrawny kitten. Taking it what food I could scrounge. I got it milk from school, by draining all the empty milk bottles into a jam-jar, after everyone else had gone home. That way ...Often ending up with a jar full, of milk. I can remember having three kittens at different times of my young life. Gramps of course, knew about these tiny strays. But never let on to his wife. Turning a blind eye when he opened his shed. Sometimes saying..."Wonder whose kitten this is?” There was, in the village of East Hanney .Two disused mills. When these mills had been in operative mode. They had been driven by huge wooden water wheels. Both of these massive brick buildings, straddled Letcombe brook. The water from the brook was first stored in a large reservoir.Often called the Mill-Pond Then, by way of a controlled sluice way, the water ran down a very steep spillway...falling with a constant velocity, on to the wheel. This falling water, in turn caused the wheel to revolve. Thereby powering the mill. The spent water, then disappearing under the main building and came out through a viaduct ...Or perhaps better described.... As a culvert. On re-immerging, the water would be in a very turbulent state ...In many cases forming large whirlpools. The swirling waters would then pass under the Road Bridge. Having done so, they would have lost much of their urgency. One of these mills was called...Dandridges mill. The name Dandridge was written in large black letters. All over the front of the building. The other mill1... Which was further down stream ..and which incidentally, was covered in ivy. Never had a name that the writer can recollect.... This is Lower or West's* mill. One time all of us kids got.... One hell, of a scare! We often played at weekend's At the back of Dandridges Mill. Behind the mill was a long reservoir. We called it the pond. It would have been the reservoir; built to hold a lot of water, to feed the spillway. When the mill was in use. But in the early forties, none of the mills waterways worked anymore. But the mill building itself was used as a factory, during the war? It produced I think hacksaw blades...Some say it was a ‘Hush, Hush‘ wartime thing! I can remember that one winter. This millpond actually froze right over..on this particular winter's day, us kids were playing out on the frozen pond. [None of us at the time ...could swim!] While we were playing .The ice covering the water cracked and some of us fell in. I remember getting very wet and very cold as I found my way home. Grown-ups always chased us away from this dangerous place .The school teachers were always telling us not to play there...But of course that didn't stop us. Mike Holland came to live with his Grandparents_The Paingtons Mikes Grandparents lived in a thatched cottage. More or less, opposite Gran*s house. Their house was also adjacent to the vacant lot, where we often played. Mike was probably a year younger then I. But his sister Anne was a lot older. All I can remember of Mike’s sister was that she was very tall! I thought she was a giants daughter, when I first saw her. That would have been when I was just five years old. Ann came to live with her Grand parents just before the outbreak of war.... Some time in 1939. Whereas Mike arrived in East Hanney perhaps in 1941.... After his home disappeared during the Blitz. Mike must have left East Hanney with Ann about 1944! But later on Ann returned, as she was living in the village as late as 1947 Of interest to the reader... Ann now lives in America. She has remained a dose friend all these years. With her childhood friend Stella Cox. Mike now lives in Bristol They were Londoners Just like Roy and me ...and Mikes dad was a policeman in London.... I think. Mikes Grandmother [Mrs. Painton} was at the time, a very old women...Who according to Ann, liked her daily bottle of Stout. Mrs. Painton was most likely, well into her seventies at the time_And it became very obvious at that time. That she didn’t take kindly to her Grandson, playing with the likes of Roy, or me. Mr.Painton use to wear a "special"policeman’s uniform .He rode a bike to work ...and most likely, worked at the "Depot". Even at that tender age. I knew they were all much better off, then Roy or me. They always had toys and sweets ...and I never saw Mike without socks. Except in the summertime. Mike even had "gloves" to wear when it was cold... Something I never had when I was young. What I liked most about Mike, was that he wasn’t a bit selfish. He would always share things and very often would give you his toys to keep. The fact that Gran's always made us take them back... didn’t mean much at the time. The three of us played a lot together! But then again, you never saw Mike or his sister on really cold days. Ann was a lot older then us three .So she didn’t play much in our circle...But I thought her pretty. But Roy had told me she was a giants daughter! So I most likely, was scared of her. Looking back, I guess Mike was a pretty 'gullible' little boy! I use to trade with him. On really cold days I would catch a Stickleback [that’s a tiny freshwater fish] And leave it in a jam-jar of water, on the stone wall, all night. Next morning the water in the jar would be a block of ice. With just a small amount of water right in the middle .In which the tiny fish would be swimming around and around. The water having frozen ... would cause the jar to break. Then by carefully breaking the jar some more. You ended up with a lump of ice!.... With a live fish inside. Mike seemed to be wry interested in these sorts of things... and would trade his sweets .For what we all called ..cold fish. For some unknown reason .Roy wasn’t into this sort of thing. He was older then me...But I was always the leader. Roy, most times. Was very submissive ...even to me. I was always hitting him, making him cry. He got on reasonably well with Grans... and very well with aunt Doss. Simply because he always did their bidding. Come to think of it. Roy was a soulful little boy...who rarely smiled I cannot recall ever hearing him laugh! ...That in its self is very sad. I use to have to threaten him with violence, all the time. Just to stop him telling Gran’s what I might have done...Or indeed ...did. He was always snitching on other lads and me.... I was always fighting with him! I soon learnt ,not to let Roy know my secrets. But he was my soulmate, in our many mutual times of strife. Mike wasn’t allowed by his gran to go very far away from home. Whereas Roy and I could go anywhere...nobody cared a damm about us two. I use to entice Mike into wanting to come with us. By promising all manner of adventures. One time we went rabbiting ....Or perhaps we were looking for Hedge-hogs It was a fair way away ....up near the old canal There was a wild pear tree ,it grew in the hedgerow about halfway along the Steventon road. This old pear tree, Roy and I would raid. Around about late October. That was when the small fruit were edible... Even this late in the year, they were still extremely astringent.
But not as sour as our other food source,that we partook of on these forays—Which was Sloes.
[You have to eat Sloes to realize just how sour they are... But they evidently do make a good wine.]
This particular day, us three boys were hunting rabbits_We didn’t catch any rabbits. But
did find a hibernating hedgehog.Perhaps it was the first hedgehog Mike had ever seen ?
We feasted on the Sloes and ate a lot of the wild pears.
My guts were like Roys...Meaning we were very use to eating raw vegetables and very sour fruit.
But the same could not be said for poor Mike! He very soon got the belly-ache....Then had a bad attack of the runs.
By the time we got him back home to his Grandma, he smelt awful ...and was covered in his own excreta.
So Mike wasn’t allowed out with us two after that...For a very long time.
Another pastime I remember that involved Mike, was in retrospect not a very nice thing for children to do.
Every autumn the Swallows would gather together in vast flocks, just prior to flying away, to a much warmer place then England was in the winter.
In the street, outside our houses.The telephone lines would be a great mass of Swallows All sitting on the wires,making a lot of noise....ready to fly away .To a warmer place.
This was the time us kids,brought out our catapults and we would shoot many stones into the defenseless masses of swallows.With dire results ....as you couldn’t really miss.
The stupid part of all this shocking carnage,was no grownup or older kids .Ever tried to stop us.
Or for that matter,tell us it was the wrong thing to do... To us kids, it was just a game.
But probably the funniest tale that may have concerned Mike. Goes somewhat like this...
It was summertime and we were playing on the vacant lot.
[It most likely ,was the summer school holidays.]
One of the kids mums, or Grans Always gave the boy, a large bottle of Sherbert Lemon-ade...To quench his thirst.
This lemonade drink,the boy would always share with us other kids.
There was this other kid.. A stranger to the rest of us He was always trying to muscle in, on our games. The boy was a lot olderand bigger. Then the rest of us.
This big kid,work up very quickly... to the boy having the lemonade...and every day he would bully the hapless lemonade owner, into giving the bottle of drink, to him..
On snatching the bottle from the other boys reluctant grip he would quickly guzzle the bottles contents. Leaving none for its owner and worse still..none for the rest of us.
But this particular day ,we played a rather dirty trick on him.
[1 cant remember whose idea it was...but it worked.]
We first obtained a bottle ,that was the same type, as the lemonade bottle.
It was one of those bottles that had a wired hinge That was connected to a replaceable stopper.
Into this bogus lemonade bottle ,all of us kids peed. Until there was a good half a bottle of urine.
We topped the pee up then, with some real lemonade .Then one of us on cue, strutted around making out to be drinking, from the bottle .Time past...then along came the swaggering bully.. We pretended to fight him off_to keep him away, from the boy with his bottle.
L can see it now.... We had all fought the bully for perhaps ten minutes. Then he finally wrested the bottle from our grasp.
The bully stood puffing and panting...Completely winded from the exertions of the fight.
He put the bottle to his mouth and guzzled about half the bottles contents down before he realized it tasted ..somehow different! The rest of us couldn’t hide our mirth any longer ....and started to howl with laughter.
Even then the stupid bully took another swig. Then he suddenly realized what he was drinking..
[I have always remembered the bottles owner as Mike?]
Sometimes us kids went to sail our self made toy boats in the field near the graveyard.
We didn’t call it a cemetery?...It was always the churchyard ...or the graveyard.
Near the church-yard. Was a field that always had sheets of shallow water flooding it, in the winter.
It was an ideal setting for sailing our boats.
[This is the field that backed onto the rear of the Graveyard—There was a wrought iron fence that ran alongside the footpath .That traversed from Rolls lane ...to the Graveyard]
Such boats were usually made from a bit of an old paling fence.With a six inch nail stuck in the middle as the mast ...and completed with a crudely cutout cardboard sail.
The wind would blow the boats, briskly from one side of the flood waters,to the other.
Then we would race around the water, to the other-side ,to retrieve them and then race back and start all over again.
In the same field was a power-line...that use to sing and hum.... Making us kids, think it was alive!
When we got tired of sailing our boats, we would throw stones at the large mauve glass insulators!
The churchyard was chock-full with gravestones...and many stone tombs. Over which glossy, dark green ivy, grew in abundance
Some of these gravestones and most of the tombs were hundreds of years old! ..And some of the words that had been carved into the stone. Were spelt in such a way, that you couldn’t make out what the words meant. Many of the tombs had been pushed over, by the growth of large Yew trees... and lay at crazy angles.
Us kids always assumed that there were dead people inside these stone boxes.
Very often ...If the sun was shining at the right angle.You could look through a crack in a tomb and see someone!... Which would scare us all silly! ...Well we thought, we could see someone.
It was on such an occasion, that we were all so sure ...we could see a yellowing shroud in the confines of a particular grim looking tomb.... After much deliberation ...and daring each other, we got the courage up to push a stick through the crack.
No doubt there was much exertion.... And no doubt A lot of sweating took place! Finally we retrieved the shroud! That turned out... to be some decaying newspaper.
Roy and I were never allowed to stay in Gran‘s* house, after we had done our days work.
On weekends. Or holidays, we could not go home again, until it was five PM.
We always knew the hour. Because everybody went home from work at around that time.
In the winter it was dark before five o’clock! This meant we would just hang around shivering... and would huddle together for warmth, waiting for Grampy to come home. It was then with him, we could go in and get out of the cold. So deep wintertime was pretty grim for Roy and I.
Opposite the The Black Horse was a very ancient, thatched roofed barn. This was where old man Herman often kept hay for his milking cows.
The old bam was minus its door. But was my only refuge from the elements, on those cold winter days.
Into this old ramshackle of a shed, Roy and me, would take our raw vegetables ...and any other scrounged food scraps that we had come by.... And after snuggling down into the hay, to keep warm .We would then eat what we had foraged!... That was after we had shared it out, of course!
Sometimes when it was really cold The pub owners the Waters family would let us into their warm front room. ...To be with their kids.
As mentioned before.... My best friend at that time was Heather.
Alan! Was Heather's twin brother ...They were two days younger then I. This little girl was advanced in ‘worldly wisdom far beyond her tender years, at that time. She looked after me like a little mother.
I use to really like being allowed in her house. To be warm and play with her and her brothers toys.
Heather and Alan had a Rupert book!... A Rupert book was like a hardbound comic.
I spent many happy hours reading this book and looking at the pictures. Heather also had a book that had the tale in it called Half chick. This was the story of the wierd baby chicken that thought the sky had fell down...Or something like that
The fairytale "chick".... Just had one of everything!.... For some unknown reason, I have never forgotten that story.
Mrs. Booker Tony and Dawns motherj was another lady who sometimes allowed us in her house to keep warm. With her children. Usually it was the shed we played in!
Mrs. Bookers two kids were pretty lucky! They had their own play house, full of toys ...and a beaut rocking horse. With a real hair mane and tai! ..Ijust loved that rocking horse!
They also had a big box of comics.... And I would spend all day, reading about the exploits of. Desperate Dan and the Indian rubber man ...and the like!
Then there was old Mrs. Prior..Mrs. Prior lived on her own, in her bungalow. Her garden backed onto Whites field.
This kind old lady would come out of her house, on those real bleak days.... And walk down to Herman’s barn ...Or on other occasions walk through her back garden to the big hollow log__That was up near her back fence. With a parcel of bread and jam ...That was always wrapped up in newspaper. Sometimes the jam was spread all over the newspaper ...and both of us hungry kids, would eat the newspaper too.
I was very jealous at times of Roy. He seemed then, to be much luckier, then ever I was. Aunt Doss liked him a lot more then me.... Grans seemed to tolerate him.
His mum wrote to him, maybe once a fortnight. In such letters there was always a postal note .For maybe three shillings, for his birthday! Or for Christmas! ...Or sometimes. For no apparent reason.
Grans always confiscated such monies..So Roy never saw anything, for his mum’s generosity.
His mum called him...”Her little bit of cake!”
Roy’s dad was in the army. He uses to come and see him in East Hanney, when he was home on leave.
Roy’s dad was always in his army uniform .On such occasions he wore a smart looking cap. Much like a captains cap ...But he was only a corporal.
Mr. Kemp had a Lee Enfield rifle with him on such visits...and a helmet on top of his backpack.
He very often came to see Roy during school-time! Then Roy would go out with him, for the rest of the day.... And I would cry tears of jealousy, for hours and hours afterwards.
One day I was put on a train by Miss Smith the schoolteacher.
I went to Swindon. Which was eighteen miles down the railway track.
My big sister Esther met me! But I didn’t know her anymore. I had forgotten all about her. But I thought later she was wonderful!This was most likely about 1941
Esther worked in what I thought to be a theatre. Well I assumed that at the timej My sister dressed up.... And danced, with a lot of other grown up girls.
She had beautiful golden hair and was always smiling. Esther lived with a Mrs. Miller in Pinehurst.
The Miller family lived in Linden ave, Pinehurst.
Mrs. Miller was a kind lady and was very nice to me for all of my stay.
I remember being so contented there but I also remember Mr. Miller frightened me! ...He
looked a lot like Hitler But then again, he never harmed me. I guess I was there for a school holiday period.
I remember so very well, lying in a cosy warm bed. Listening to pigeons cooing up on the roof ...and many cockerels crowing their heads off, in the far distance. Just before it was daylight.
I remember the house, was in a line of identical houses!... And I couldn't tell which, was which.
I remember being in what, I later assumed to be a theatre. Where there were many women all getting dressed or undressed!.... They were all very nice to me and they were all very 'pretty'!
[This memory seems to have been distorted by something else? As in real, it has no basis.]
I can sort of remember, the air-aid siren wailing close by. Hurrying to the air-raid shelter.The ground shaking, with deafening noises!.... I remember being very frightened. Then one night I went to sleep with some other kids in the Morrison shelter On a mattress. The shelter in question was used as the kitchen table. I work up later and a lady with a hat on With a big feather in it Picked me up and started to kiss me all over..Making me feel somewhat inadequate.... And most likely a trifle embarrassed.
It was my mum!...Or so I was told. But I had forgotten what my mother looked like... Then she was gone.
I remember there was other people in the Millers house. There were other children And a lady feeding a baby! The baby suckling its mother fascinated me.
Sometime a little later ...My dreams shattered again.
They put me on the train.... And I cried and cried.... Later the guard read my label And put me off at Wantage rd station ...and I walked back to my life with Gran's
Nothing had changed at Gran's since Donny had been away. Very quickly his old life threw its dark mantle back over him. Esther and all that was around her ...Slowly became a dream to him.
Donny was always coughing now.... It was wintertime again.
It was sometime in November 1941, that Grans took in two lodgers. The front room was let to a man and his teen-age daughter...The man and girl were foreigners'.
They were Spanish to be precise and most likely were refugees from the Spanish civil war. The daughter went to the local Hanney School! ...Her name was Isobelle, or something akin to that.
She was probable about thirteen years old back there in 1941.
Isobelle had masses of very long black curly hair.
Donny, or Roy, never really got to know her.
But Donny remembered her well ...he use to admire her, as Isobelle didn’t like Gran's, and made no attempt to hide her dislike.
Donny thought Isobelle very brave and idolized her...But on her part, I Don't think she knew either of the little boys existed.
The Spanish man was a dead ringer. For the‘funny' man... Arthur Askey.
He was very amicable to both Donny and Roy.
He was a gifted artist! Excelling at painting miniature landscapes.
One such painting— In watercolor. Depicted the old houses. Known as ...Ye Olde Housen.
It hung in a tiny frame, on the wall in the passageway, leading to the front door of Grans house. It was alongside a glass case. That held two stuffed. kingfishers.... Sitting on a 'dead' branch!
Talking of pictures!Us two kids didn’t sleep in a bedroom at Gran's.
We slept on the landing...at the top of the stairs.
Our old double bed was pushed up tight against the wall..... Under the low slanting ceiling.
At the foot of the bed was a dimly lit even on a sunny day gloomy space. That was covered over with a heavy dark looking curtain. This small space held much terror, for Roy and me. It was always so dark and sinister!
Behind it, was a very small room, with a very tiny window?
[Both boys rarely saw into this room. It was full of cobwebs and they both thought it was where, Gran hid the people she killed!]
It was where the 'bogey'men lived, with the 'trolls'! You could see them, when you walked up the stairs at night... They followed you up the stairs! They were forever trying to blow the candle out.
On reaching the bed, Roy and I would argue as to who was going to look under the bed.
We were terrified of what might be there and would hurriedly try to beat the other one into bed ...and once in bed we would hide under the bedclothes.... Shivering with fright! Then argue. Who was going to blow the candle out.
The times I was game enough to look under the bed, always had me scared witless.
As in, the flickering dull yellow candle light,one could see long bits of grey fluff hanging
down from the bed. That looked very much like the beards of hostile monsters
and down near where the curtain hung nearly to the floor...Was a monster pair of feet...in
To make matters much worse for Roy and me. There near the top of the stairs...
Hanging on the wall,far out of our reach. Over the stairwell, were two very old pictures, behind glass. In dark wooden frames.
One of which,was a large, black framed picture .Of a most ungodly looking man.
With huge... bare, muscular legs.
The man was standing, dressed in what looked like a sheet. Amidst a great mess of refuse and mud. In which large pigs;Forever wallowed.
Underneath, this most horrid of pictures. Was written.....The prodigal son regrets.
Along side this most odious of pictures. Was another large frame, enclosing a mystifying poem... It read in gothic lettering.
I use to cry because I had no shoes—
Until I met a man who had no feet .
As a little boy I would worry all the time in bed afterwards. What it would to have no feet.
There were two churches in the twin villages of Hanney.
One of which was in the village of West Hanney.
It was at the time a ver old church I suppose it still is?
In Donnys childhood. This ancient building, was in a state of .. about to fall down.There was a church tower. That one presumed once had battlements. Much like a castle!( a photo does exist showing that west Hanney church tower did originally have castle like battlements on top.)
But now, had a shabby corrugated iron roof, on the top instead... Making it all look rather qualid.... And to put it mildly A trifle silly. This unsightly roof, could have been allied to a early bomb blast? But perhaps was like that at the outbreak of war]
Inside the porch of the church, there was on either side of the heavy wooden door. Two ‘Roman" or ‘Saxon* coffins. That had been hewn out of stone very long time ago.
As a last resting place. They must have been very uncomfortable for the occupants.... But then I don`t suppose comfort matters much.... When you are dead!
The church had a main altar ...It was a large stone thing, with steps leading up to it.
Then to the right side, if you were facing the altar was what we called the knave.
Perhaps in real, it was the Chancel? Or the Chapel?
The area was much like another room off to the side of the main hall It had another altar that was surrounded on two sides similar to the main altar by large stained glass windows. Down off the main altar steps. That was at the time, covered in dark red carpet,was a highly polished handrail ...fence type thing... Made most likely of brass.
It was here people knelt to receive communion on Sundays, and it was where one stood ...If you were about to be married.
Towards the back of the church. Just past the entrance main door .Was a large stone font. A massive pipe organ was off to one side...Sort of opposite to the knave.
Then down the back of the church. Just off the main hall, was a small room,where the choirboys changed their clothes. This area was enclosed with dark timbered walls. Most likely plywood?
The organ player at the time was a very old man. Who looked remarkably much like a gnome!
In fact Donny thought he was, just such a creature.
This old man had long grey hair, that fell onto his shoulders. Which was very unusual for the times. As there were few men around at that time, with long hair.
The gentleman's name was Aubrey. Taunton. Eaton. Deceased July 1944 Others can remember Mr. Eaton wearing a Blazer and a Straw-Boater hat.
As a point of interest Aubrey was the West Hanney organist for some 42 yrs.... So he started to play that organ way back.
I can't rememberjust how I came to be the organ pumper? But I held this dubious layman’s position for quite a while.
To be the organ -pumper. One sat in a small alcove, that was set back into the massive stone wall... to one side of the actual organ.
Along the wall inside the alcove was a long wooden lever. There was a wooden bench. Padded mind you! That one sat on ...and in another frame that was attached to the opposite wall was a bead that moved horizontally along a metal rod.
There were two marks on the rod! It was highly desirable, to keep the wooden bead somewhere between these two marks. Which represented the maximum and the minimum air pressure, obtained by working the bellows.
Pumping the handle manually worked these bellows. That in turn pressurized the air. This air entered the organ pipes and therefor made the music possible, by issuing at certain controlled volumes and velocities.... No doubt through carefully calculated orifices!
I quite liked the job of pumping the organ. No pay of course! But at least one didn’t have to
put up with the boring hymns;Or even worse. The inane prayers!... The sermons were something again.
Sadly for me...and the organ player.... And I suppose the congregation. It didn't take me very long to work out the unfortunate results of.First! Not pumping enough air.... Or. Secondly the hilarious results of overpumping too much air.
My favorite prank was,during a prayer I would slowly keep pumping and the bead
would move up past the maximum ...Then when the organist brought his hands down on the keys! There was this one aall mighty noise. I probably got the sack, for my poor performance. But have this nagging feeling...That I was egged on by the old organist... I do know! His eyes would twinkle a lot... after the stunned silence of such an act, on my part.
Roy and I were always sent to church on Sundays. First in the morning. Then again in the evening.
In the afternoon we had to go to Sunday school... I hated church.
Perhaps. Because we didn’t have any good Sunday best clothes ...Or perhaps. Because we were not really wanted..We were always regulated to a pew, right at the back...Therefor banishedfrom the main congregation.
I didn’t mind Sunday school at all. As a woman taught us the scriptures...and we would get to draw things of a biblical nature. Like Jacob climbing his ladder! Or the birds, bringing the people bread in their beaks.
Evening church, was a terrifying experience for us two kids. Especially during the winter evenings.
As the church was only lit up by oil lamps.... And down our end of the long building. Flickering candles were used.
It would be very cold and extremely drafty...The wind would make those horrible sighing sounds ...That just had to be dead people! Calling to us.
To make matters worse.... People had long ago been buried under the stone floor, that we stood on. We knew this to be fact! As their names and when they died, was carved into the stone floor. Or were on brass plates.
You can well imagine, the absolute unholy terror of two small boys. Sitting alone in the gloom. With their feet on someone who had been buried...Say three hundred years before! Any rustling noises that could be attributed to cats.... Or even rats and bats!.... Would have us both crouched tightly together, on the wooden pew. With our feet up on the seat and our hearts in our mouths. Waiting for god knows what...To grab us.
The East Hanney church seemed to be shut most of the time.
It was quite a new building compared to the one in West Hanney.
Most likely it was built about 1870.lt had no graveyard and seemed to be used mainly for weddings and the oddchristening.
Both Hanney churches had the same vicar. Or one could say. The two villages shared the one Church of England vicar.
This could have been the reason .Why most of the churching was in the old church, as the vicarage was opposite the West Hanney church.
The only means of transport at the time, for the village vicar Was a bicycle.
The vicar himself. To Donny anyway Was something straight out of a Dickens novel?
He was a tall and very thin. A somewhat gaunt looking man.... And was exceedingly bald. Having just a ring of black hair around the sides of his head, with his ears sticking out like Dumbo the flying elephant.
The vicar always wore a dull dirty black cassock, that hung about one foot off the ground. A pair of bicycle clips gathered his trousers at his ankles.
Homers boss in the cartoon The Simpson’s‘...was the spitting image of him.
I can still see this apparition!... Pedaling furiously on a ...Sit up and beg bike. With his cassock flying in the wind..Like some terrible spectre. From ones worst nightmare.
His black bowler hat would be pulled down onto his ears ...and if you saw him coming You would run for you’re very life!
Donny first became aware of the Vicar, when the man of the cloth taught classes, at which Roy and Donny attended .The classes where both boys were being taught the Catechism. These lessons were to get the two Londoners. Ready for ...Of all things! ...Confirmation.
It was also, around this period of his early life. That Donny learnt to chant the Lords prayer ...In rather a parrot fashion way.... And as usual the boy had things...Not quite the right way.
It was many years later, that Donny realized that the words. The pail and the gorywere really ...The power and the glory!
For many years the boy had wondered what a bucketful of gore... Had to do with God? [Donny would have been about seven years old at the time.]
The Vicar. Finally got around to asking, the two little boys if they had been christened?
It was a rather stupid question; perhaps ambiguous would be a better word. To ask of small children.... How would a seven year-old child, who was separated from his family ...know the answer to a question like that? Of course Donny didn’t know the answer...Nor did Roy.
It was then. That this vicar told the two little kids. “That if they hadn’t been baptized? Then neither one could attend the lessons on Confirmation.
The sadly misguided vicar then went on to say. That no matter how good the two children might be. They could never go to heaven .... And when they died Neither could be buried with everybody else in a graveyard. Furthermore— Both Donny and Roy were sure to burn in hell! ...For eternity.
Well! You can imagine the results...The two kids were utterly terrified.
Both boys had heard rumors! Of such a place.
Their imaginations ran riot.... They could easily visualize— The last resting-place of those poor unfortunates who were not Christened! At the time of their death.
Donny felt all goose pimply As Roy spelt out, what happened to people like ...Newborn babies...Or those who had committed suicide ...Or vagabonds... Or tramps and gypsies ...Then there were those whom nobody cared about...and of course there were the Jews. Donny worried about the latter for many years considering Jesus...was a Jew!
Sometime later on... Perhaps a year had elapsed.
Donny was told by Grans to join the church choir.
Roy was already what they called an altar boy. He was also, one of a group of young boys that formed the choir...This group; Donny was made to join.It was crazy.... the kid couldn’t sing a note in key.
All the choir members wore those silly black and white cassocks. Then later Donny became an altar boy like Roy. This meant him wearing a dark red This could have been purple and white cassock... and having to stay back after the service, to put things away. After everybody else had gone home...None of which appealed to the Londoner.
The man from Spain and his daughter Isobelle left the village of East Hanney...Never to be seen again.
They were replaced very quickly, by a very mean old man, who hailed from Faringdon .Who in turn, became Gran‘s lodger.
His name escapes the writer. But what is known .Is that he didn’t work ...and every Saturday morning he was seen to alight, onto the ten o’clock double decker bus that went to Oxford ...To the public bathes!
This was an expected requirement, as there was no bath at Grans place.
The new lodger detested both boys and would quickly strike either one, with his walking stick, if one or the other boy got to close.
He was the first person Donny ever saw... Put jam ...on his potatoes!
Most food at the time was on the ration. Donny or Roy. Never saw sugar, or cheese, or butter, or even marge! But this mean old man, use to have it all ...His own rations set out in front of himself on the table...at each meal time.
[A monthly ration of cheese worked out to about a half inch square per day and that’s how this bloke ate it.]
As part of the two boys daily chores. They were expected to clean this mans room, each day. Then empty his "po" and the "commode"... If he had used ft...which he often did Then make his bed.
The lodger had many things of interest on his dressing table.
Many of these objects were of great appeal, to small boys, like Donny.
One particular item, of which both kids coveted in a very big way, was small; silver handled pen knife.
To Donny, this small knifes .Was something marvelous! He would pick it up and open it every time that he was in the mans room.
Roy I know, was just as keen on the knife as I was..So we stole it...
We played with the knife all the next day. Taking turns to cut things with it. ...Then because we couldn’t take it home with us ...we buried it!... In Mr. Whites field.... Just behind Mrs. Prior’s back fence.
We dug up a square of turf and put the knife, wrapped up in newspaper. Under it.
Probably a week passed by! We had sort of forgotten, all about the knife... When suddenly. Out of the blue! A very irate, belt-wielding Grans confronted us.
She beat both Roy and I into confessing, that we had taken the knife.
Then to make things real bad for us. Grans told our schoolteachers what we had done.
Miss Smith scolded us both and asks us where the knife was?
So then we had to go and get it.
Well! ...Try as we might. But we couldn’tfind the blasted thing. We spent all that day looking ... But no knife.
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