A SELF HISTORY CHAPTER 5

A series of weekly published chapters by Ken The Pen written in a humerous and informative style. 

A SELF HISTORY CHAPTER 4

ADVENTURES AND ANTICS IN LEYTONI GET TO MEET  SOME RELATIVES To continue readig this chapter, click the image above.

A SELF HISTORY CHAPTER 5

GOODBYE LEYTON – HELLO PONDHILL. OUT OF THE FARMLAND AND INTO THE HEATH LANDS. To continue readig this chapter, click the image above.

A SELF HISTORY CHAPTER 6

HOLLANDWOOD MY COUNTRYSIDE EDUCATION. HISTORY MEETS LITERATURE

GOODBYE LEYTON  –  HELLO PONDHILL

Our delayed departure from London was because my mother had another baby late in 1946, Johnny was born in November so we had to hang on over the winter. One of the things that I can still remember from this time was that I was encouraged to join the “Life Boys” and felt very proud because we wore a uniform and used to go marching and visit places like the fire station. We also had meetings and sometimes would have feasts which were very welcome especially because it was around the end of the Second World War and any food was a bonus, I think it was partly intended to encourage the older boys to join the military, but of course I was nowhere near old enough to have joined at that time and I went because it was something exciting to do. I don’t remember much about it though or even why I went or what we did apart from some gymnastics; it would only happen until something else came along to change our lives and then I would soon forget the “Life Boys”. We finally left Leyton and then London altogether, on a long bus ride that took forever and, when we stopped we got off the bus where a tractor and trailer picked us up with all our luggage, before carrying us along a winding road to a place aptly named Pondhill,  because we had moved to a house on the top of a hill, by the side of a pond.  We lived at 3 Pondhill Cottages, West Flexford Farm in Wanborough, Surrey, next door to 2 Pondhill Cottages which was the only other house within about two miles of us, so I wondered what had happened to house number 1.  On our way up the hill on the tractor we passed a farm house with a huge barn and a big yard where there were lots of chickens and ducks as well as massive birds which I learned later, were turkeys. This is where my father had chosen to work and he would have to walk up and then down the hill every day; as I was to find out later so would I. This was where I really began my education about the meaning of countryside, we had a huge garden which was filled with snowdrops, primroses, violets and daffodils in the spring then nature’s own constant fruitshop, bearing raspberries, gooseberries, blackberries  and blackcurrants in the early autumn,  and then damsons,  greengages,  pears,  plums and apples, in the garden; hazelnuts by the thousand and chestnuts in the woods. It was almost like having our own fruit shop, except that everything came free. It was here too that I saw my first frogs and toads, rabbits, jays and jackdaws, magpies and robins, swifts and swallows. There I saw my first country dogs, that were actually foxes and lizards on the rockery. Hedgehogs that I’d never seen the likes of and hares that looked like rabbits to me; but the oddest creatures I had ever seen, were the bats that only flew at night. Because they never flew in the daytime I had never seen one properly, until one day my dad found a dead one on his way home and brought it back to show us, it looked like a little mouse with wings!  Another bird that I loved to see, but which only flew at night, was the owl, my dad took me down to the farm at the bottom of the hill one night and we sat under the barn until he touched my arm and pointed up, and I saw my first owl coming in from a hunt. It was the biggest bird I had ever seen apart from ducks and geese and swans and turkeys; but I couldn’t puzzle out why it hunted at night, how could it see anything in the dark? Later I found out that there weren’t just owls, there were  different owls, barn owls and tawny owls and long eared owls and short eared owls, and the same applied to other types of birds, like finches and tits and sparrows and thrushes, and the list went on.  I also learned about nesting birds and finding out which birds built their nests in which places, and how big or small the eggs were and what the nests were made from, clever birds that made their eggs look like other eggs and laying them in other nests, so that other birds would do the work of feeding them. There were nests in the bushes and in the reeds and on the ground and in the trees, but even more exciting to me there were slithering snakes! Yes London had been an exciting place, but suddenly, everywhere we looked, an entirely new world seemed to be opening up before us. Pondhill had really opened our eyes, or certainly mine, to the adventure of living in the countryside. Usually my father would be collected in the morning by a tractor and we children could ride down the hill to the farm if we liked, of course we had to then make our own way back up the hill, which was exhausting. During the harvesting season,the combine harvesters collected the corn,   after which all the stalks were cut, then baled into sheaves for the coming winter so we went into the fields to help collect the sheaves or the bales which were stacked as high as a coach on top of the haycarts. Before the last layer of bales were put on, we children were lifted and climbed up onto the top of the bales and then the last stack of bales were thrown up to us with pitchforks,  then we dragged them around the top to create the last layer. The workmen then got aboard the tractor or the tailgate of the haycart and we set off down the hill to the farm, with we children precariously balanced on the swaying load.  We could reach out, and touch the branches of the highest trees as we passed under them, while winding our way down the hill and revelling in the danger. On the way down the hill, we saw cows and sheep in the fields, and one huge field that was covered in leaves, but no animals; we would go there later and work till we ached, but that seemed ages away. When we reached the farmyard we drove in and up to the huge barn where we were helped down, which was an adventure in itself; you had to sit on the edge and then just slide down off the side and one of the men would catch you, or sometimes not! Inside the barn we reversed the process, the bales were carefully stacked by the workmen and then as the pile grew higher, we children and one workman would climb up onto the top of the bales and then more would be hoisted up to us as we pushed them into place until they were almost up to the roof.  The next exciting but scary part was getting back down again, it was scramble and slither, slide down as best we could until someone grabbed us to safety. Our time at Pondhill was exciting and carefree, I have no recollection of ever going to school while I was there, though my sister did; but I did have a host of accidents there, especially broken arms, falling from trees or when we played on the bales in the barn or on the haystacks when we shouldn’t. My main job seemed to be to walk from our house down the dusty winding roads on my own, to whatever field my father was working in, and carrying some sandwiches and a flask of tea to him. I hated this task partly because I had to walk back up the long hill home, but also because I would sometimes drop the flask and then when I got to my father he would get furious because I had broken the glass inside, so that the tea was wasted and he had nothing to drink. I knew that he would hit me, so was frightened even on my way to meet him. There were only a few children around where we lived, one next door, a couple who lived at the bottom of the hill and one who lived in the farmhouse, I spent much of my time with just my mother. I missed all of my London friends and even thought of running away, though I don’t know where or how, I just remember sneaking out of our house and then going along the road until I came to a field and sitting there thinking of where I could go. The choice was taken out of my hands, with the changing of that season.  The huge field on the way down the hill that I had mentioned was actually a potato field and when the crop was ready all the workers and their families were called upon to collect the potatoes. A tractor and plough or harrow , was used to unearth the potatoes which needed packing into sacks, which is where we came in. Because the men were doing other work on the farm the task of potato gathering  had to be done by the wives and children, which was a normal part of life on the farm in those days.  The work was hard and hurt your back because you were bending and stretching all the time and taking potatoes to the sack and then going back for more. Each family had their own sacks so the farm manager could see how hard you were working and you got paid for how many sacks you filled by the end of the day. Some families had three or four children while my mother had only two big enough to work so we had to work harder and still didn’t gather as much, so we actually worked more but got paid less! We hated the work and my mother was upset because we weren’t earning enough, there were times when life could be so cruel. My mother and father had arguments, Babs and I weren’t happy any more and also my mother had two year old Trevor and the new baby Johnny, to take care of as well as Babs and I, so my parents decided that now was the time to move, despite the fruit and the animals and the fun of the hayrides, Pondhill had finally lost its magic.

OUT OF THE FARMLAND AND INTO THE HEATH LANDS

My father had gone away for a couple of days and when he got back we piled all our furniture into a lorry and set off again, this time it was to two houses behind a high hedge along a narrow country road with a high bank on the other side, we had arrived in Burgh Heath. There was to be trouble ahead!  Our house, Number 1 Reach Rest was the first as you approached and had no front door, you had to go around the side of the house to the back to get in, and the road, named Common Lane, was actually an old and muddy track rather than a road. There was no electricity so we had paraffin lamps in the downstairs rooms and a candle to light us to bed, there were marble topped wash stands which my mother had to fill with hot water brought up from downstairs  to wash, for there were no taps upstairs. The inevitable happened, I went sleepwalking off the end of my bed one night, landing on the marble wash stand, another broken collarbone! I just loved adventures so if they weren’t there I created them! Babs and I explored the surrounding countryside, we also went bird nesting and started our joint collection of bird’s eggs, my father took me hunting with his shotgun and we laid rabbit traps in the fields, one  rabbit  could feed our family and we grew carrots, cabbage, peas and potatoes in the garden. In the summer we grew cucumbers, beetroot, onions, shallots and celery,  and sometimes my dad shot a pheasant or a partridge, so we were partly fed off the land and so much more than we had  been at Pondhill. My sister and I went to the primary school at the end of our road and made a few friends that  lived in between us and the school, so they used to often come and play with us during the summer and at weekends. Unfortunately our neighbours were not very friendly so that one day, when we were all just  playing outside, I was hiding up near the top of the bank across from our house when our next door neighbour’s son who was older and bigger than us, hit me on the head with a brick so I had to go to hospital, but all that happened was that a policeman came and told the boy off. When he had gone, the boy called over the fence that he was going to get me, but he never actually did. My biggest outstanding memory of the primary school was having to stand in a queue with all the other children then each of us being made to stand naked in turn, on a trestle table while we were painted with pink coloured calamine lotion (for poison oak, poison ivy and chicken pox) from a bottle! My next idea was to have a head to head with Coco Chanel, so I started making perfume  by crushing hips and haws mixed in with rose petals but the idea never really worked out, even though we tried selling samples to ladies along our road. Life went smoothly for a while and then one day after the holidays my sister and I were on our way to school when we called to collect a couple of friends and before we got to school we came across a parked army lorry, so for fun we climbed into the back and laid down to hide. Unfortunately the driver suddenly got in and started driving down the road and we went for miles before he stopped. Before he started off again we all jumped out and ran away, but we didn’t know where we were, so we started off back across a common. We spent some time climbing trees and pinching apples from a garden, then we went back onto the common and decided to start a little fire to roast the apples. The fire went out of control and started to spread so we ran to get help from the nearest houses, the fire engine had to be called out, our names were taken and we were driven back to our school, which by now was closed for the day.  Babs and I dropped off our friends then made our way home, ready with a list of things that we had supposedly done at school, we went around to the back of our house where a man stood waiting with my mother. He spoke just a few words and my head just filled with terror, he simply said  “I am The School Board Man. You are both in trouble!”  My sister loyally sprang to my defence by saying  “It was all Micky’s fault, he made us go, and he made us all climb in the lorry, and he pinched some apples, and he started the fire too!”  That was when I realised that there really is nothing like sisterly love! A couple of weeks went by and my sister went to school, but I was not allowed to go back and then I was told that I was going to a private school that my grandparents were going to pay for. I could hardly even remember them, though I knew I had visited them when we had lived in London, but anyway all was arranged so off I went to a school in the country, the first intervention by my grandparents, but I don’t remember what the school was called, or even where it was. I think I was then about eight years old. What I can remember is that the School was on the top of a hill with a winding road that went around and around it until you reached the top. There was a lovely matron there who told us stories in her room before we went to bed each night and that there were three teachers, some canteen staff, gardeners and people to make our beds and clean and help dress us. Every Saturday we went down the hill then through a little forest by the side of a stream, until we came to a shop where we were given about sixpence to buy what we liked before heading back. The ladies that took us on these walks, told us that the forest was haunted, and that the sand by the side of the stream was quicksand,  so we should never go near it, or we would sink and might never be seen again. I think we were all sceptical about that, but I also know that none of us ever put it to the test! My mother came to see me whenever she could, but it was never a certainty until she arrived. I know that she always cried and hugged me when she first arrived and that she always cried again as she was leaving. Her favourite flowers were always Lilly of the Valley and several years later she told me that it was because whenever she came to see me, she had would see great swathes of them on the sides of the road as she walked up the winding hill toward the school and then again as she left.  I think maybe the school was difficult  to get to, but it would also have been an extra expense for my parents to visit me, although my grandparents actually covered the cost of all of the school fees. Burgh Heath hadn’t been a very good choice of country living, the rather nasty neighbours, my crossed swords with the School Board man, our heathland escapade and then my being separated from my family again, even though it was to get a better education were all important factors. We had only lived there for one year, but when I returned home it was to find that my family had moved yet again, this time to a place called Hollandwood.  

                                                                                                                                    

CONTINUING READING A SELF HISTORY CHAPTER 6

HOLLANDWOOD MY COUNTRYSIDE EDUCATION. HISTORY MEETS LITERATURE.

Comming soon!

CONTINUING READING A SELF HISTORY CHAPTER 7

REPERCUSSIONS AND CATCH UP. LURGASHALL LAND OF ADVENTURE 
Comming soon!

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