The Early Years
Contrary to popular belief, I was born AFTER the second world war: Some time after in fact, though I have to confess that the memories of the war were still apparent in the minds of many people. This was obvious when my friend and I, at the age of around 4 or 5, were running down the road with what to us seemed like a full sized swastika flag between us. We were stopped by a local police man who told us, in no uncertain terms, to dispose the flag straight away else he would be forced to report us and take us to our parents. In those days, we were scared of the police.
As a young boy, I got into the normal scrapes and scuffles: The occasional injury was inevitable (you may see a theme developing here) as was the subsequent trip to the doctor or hospital. We had to make our own fun in those days, with there being no real TV and certainly no computers, and as for phones, well I’m sorry but only posh people and factory owners had them.
War games was the favourite pastime and in in our area, one such game included stone fights where you would throw hand grenades (stones) at each other and see who could hit who. Well you guessed it, although I was able to count a number of direct hits on the enemy (normally one of my best friends), eventually I had to take a direct hit myself: Right on the top of the head by a massive piece of flint. Gone was all thoughts of bravado: that rock really hurt. So, it was off home I ran with blood pouring from the inevitable wound until by the time I reached the comfort of Mummy, my head and face was covered with blood. Off we went to the Vets, oops, sorry, I mean Doctors, who did some magic stuff and although I don’t know what the magic stuff was, I do know it ruddy well hurt but then it didn’t. I had an early night that night.
Next day however, back to stone fights.
As with all children, I and my sister (Corrinne) used to love pretending to be grown up and to try to replicate what our parents, aunties or uncles used to do. One day, I thought that I looked so cool with a knitting needle bent up at the end in my mouth as if I was smoking a pipe: My sister thought it was silly and hit the pipe. I ran for the comfort of Mummy and off we went to the doctors. The doctor suggested the hospital was the best option just to make sure I was OK. Fortunately I was so back home we came and the knitting needle come pipe was never to be seen again. I had an early night that night.
Like many pre-school boys, the urge to spread your wings and seek great adventures was always there and it was only a matter of time before my urges overcame my resistance. I really can’t remember what day of the week it was though I’m sure it was a week day. In any event, I was four years old and it was the de day that I decided now was the time for me to take matters into my own hands and find myself a good school. I knew we had schools near by but I didn’t know how to get to them. I was sure however that I would need to take a bus, though which bus to take was probably a mystery as well.
Anyway, Mummy was somewhere, I don’t know where, out of site, and on the kitchen table, next to the big copper that was boiling the washing (ah ha, it must have been a Monday) was Mummies Purse. ‘This is my chance’ I thought: I took some pennies out of the purse an snuck out the back door and made my way across the playing fields, now occupied by Havant Rugby Club, down to the big main road in Bedhampton. There I espied a Bus Stop. ‘Great’ I thought, ‘I can get a bus here for School’. So I sat down on the seat next to the Bus Stop and waited.
It was shortly after this that my plans were thwarted. Some old lady, actually, she was Mummy’s age so she was probably quite young really, recognised me from somewhere and instinctively knew that I shouldn’t be at the Bus Stop all on my own. She asked me what I was doing and I told her that I was waiting for the bus to take me to School. Now, as it transpired, the school was just around the corner from where I lived so there was no need for me to travel all this way to get a bus. ‘Obviously’, she must have thought, ‘this can’t be right’. So with thus, she took my hand and took me across to the butchers who also recognised me. Now I don’t know how the next bit came about but I do know that not long after this I was in a police car being taken back home and re-united with my Mummy: Who was no doubt a little embarrassed about the whole thing.
Still, I had my little adventure: I’d crossed the great plains of Bedhampton Playing fields; Made my way across ditches: Snuck past some houses and found the Bus Stop. Here I met a nice lady, a butcher, a police man and had ride in a police car. Phew what a day. I had an early night that night.
Where’s my Boat?
I don’t know why, or from whence it came, but for some reason I had a fascination with boats and the sea. I remember becoming the proud owner of a massive book on great sailing ships of the oceans. I loved it: I cherished it: I lost it. But, no worry, I had the most magnificent model sailing boat you could ever imagine. Thinking back, it probably wasn’t that great a boat, but at the time, it was the bees knees. Nevertheless, it was my boat and I loved it: I cherished it: I lost it.
It transpired that my dear little sister had allegedly swapped my boat for some drawing paper. Naturally, I wasn’t very happy about this so I told my teacher. Everything’s a bit hazy after that but I seem to remember watching my sister get a right telling off for what she did. It was great. I was so cheered by the days event. In fact I cheerily had an early night that night.
Fluffy The Cat
I’ll always remember dear old Fluffy. He was my first real friend and in those early years, we were inseparable. Which was a bit of a shame really as it transpired that I was highly allergic to cats, especially longhaired ones such as Fluffy was. So you can imagine my dismay when I learnt that Fluffy had left us and gone to seek out new friends and adventures in the local woods. Obviously, I was distraught and yet somehow I was able to reconcile myself to this news as I also knew that while I was allergic to him, I suspected that he might have been allergic to me which was why he had become so ill: I knew that at least in the woods, he would get better and hopefully make some new friends.
I feel I should explain a little more: fill in the gaps so to speak.
I don’t really know how long Fluffy and I had been together but it can’t have been long as I think I was still running around in khaki shorts; only the bigger boys wore long trousers in those days. Fluffy was everything to me, a sort of living noo noo / comfort blanket. During those long winter nights, Fluffy would curl up on my lap and keep me warm (central heating and electric blankets was science fiction in those days) and his constant purring was always a comfort to me and helped me fall asleep. So often however, I would wake in the night fighting for breath where Fluffy had decided he wanted to snuggle closer. It would appear that Asthma and cats do not make good bed fellows (something that took me over 30 years to accept).
As Intimated, I never really knew how old Fluffy was, but I do know he seemed to have been around for as long as I could remember, so I guess that was forever in little persons speak. Anyway,at some point in his life, he developed some of of illness and his fur was missing where there was now a horrible wound that Fluffy kept licking. Daddy said he would take Fluffy to the animal doctor to see if he could make him better but he wouldn’t let me come with him. He said it was not a nice place to go as there was all sorts of scary animals and I wouldn’t Like it at all. so off went Daddy and Fluffy.
Later that day, Daddy returned and said that the animal doctor had looked at him and thought he might be able to do something for him but we should try putting some cream on his wound for a few days first then he would have another look.
Every day, I put this cream on Fluffy. Fluffy didn’t like the cream: Fluffy made such a fuss: Fluffy scratched me. But, I knew that we had to do this to make him better so I kept putting the cream on. I knew that if Fluffy was to get better then I just had to do it even if Fluffy did moan at me, and scratch me, I knew I had to do it. After a week, there was no progress: In fact, the wound seemed worse. Daddy was going to have to take Fluffy back to the animal doctor. He said he would take Fluffy while I was at school.
At the end of school, I rushed home to see how Fluffy was doing, only to be met by a glum faced Mummy and Daddy. Daddy said he was really really sorry but as he was getting out of the car to go into the vets, Fluffy somehow managed to escape from the car and run into the woods. I was somehow consoled by the knowledge that Fluffy was probaly with lots of cat friends now and I was sure thatFluffye would be happy there. Nevertheless, I was so upset that couldn’t setlle to watch telly (yes, we did have telly in those days, but it didn’t start until early evening) or even eat my tea. So, I had an early night that night.
I think we all know what really happened to Fluffy, don’t we…
As a child, Christmas was of course a wondrous time. Becoming excited during the run up to Christmas that Santa will actually visit me in the night and leave me presents as a reward for being a good little boy all year. As we grew older, the excitement remained but inevitably, the magic wained but still the presents came. On Christmas Day, we (Corrinne, Ian and I) would open our presents, select our favourites (not necessarily our own) and commence with the destruction, or consumption, of all before us. I remember fondly my first Tonka Truck that was the size of me: this proved almost indestructible but I do believe I succeeded in the end. I remember such games as the Magic Robot (the robot was rotated to a particular question and then lifted from the question area and placed in the centre of the answer area where it automatically rotates to the correct answer). It was utter magic though not for long. We soon worked out how it worked and started to substitute our own questions and answers. I don’t know why but those two presents (Tonka Truck & Magic Robot) were the most memorable for me. Except for one. Of course we had ample supplies of sweets and chocolate to scoff though this was kind of controlled by Mummy and Daddy.
I do seem to remember one Christmas however, when we woke up early on Christmas Day and shouted down to Mummy and Daddy to ask if we could come down to see if Santa had been. We were told that we would have to wait a bit as Santa had made a mess which needed to be cleaned and then Mummy and Daddy had to eat a specie Breakfast the Santa had left to say sorry. Every now and then, it seemed like every half an hour but I suspect it was only minutes in total, we told we could come down one more step. This was repeated until eventually we reached to bottom and were allowed into the living room. On reflection, I now know they were just trying to enjoy a peaceful breakfast while they could.
Then, one Christmas, it was a cold Christmas with a very heavy frost outside, my Father (I was 14 by now) told me come with him in the car to Uncle Bills though he didn’t actually say why. Uncle Bill lived about 8-miles away so the journey did’t take too long and were soon inside having a nice hot cup of chocolate and mince pies. I was then taken out into the garage and there before me was a beautiful Falcon Black Diamond Racing Bike, and yes, you guessed, it was all mine. There was however a catch. I had to ride it home. Now I had come, and had been allowed to come, dressed for a car ride with just a shirt and jumper as defence against the cold. I certainly didn’t have any gloves but I didn’t care. I had my new bike with drop handlebars, butterfly wheel nuts and a double clanger which gave me 10 gears. With absolute glee, I hugged Dad and Uncle Bill, said my goodbyes and set off on the 8-mile ride back home. I have no idea how long it took I just know that most of the ride was a blur, initially with excitement but soon replaced with bitter coldness and fingers that were so painful it was difficult to change gear or even brake. But, eventually I got home, close to tears with pain and with joy. Dad of course was home already and thought it was all very funny. I didn’t care how funny it was: I didn’t care how cold I was: I didn’t care that my fingers were almost dropping off: I didn’t care that snot and tears had frozen around my face. All I cared about was my new bike.
That night, I didn’t go to bed early.