Archive for the ‘childhood’ Category

Mr Punch at Swanage once more

August 24, 2016

On a recent visit to Swanage I took a six year old grandson. I had an excuse to visit and watch the Punch and Judy show.

The show, I feel, has been modernised a bit. Some little bits were quite clearly aimed at the adults. There were some political side swipes (and being Punch and Judy of course the swipes were real ones by Mr Punch and his stick) and also some innuendos which one has to hope were way beyond the little ones but which gained guffaws from the adults.

This year the Punch and Judy man is Professor J Burns. His site is where Punch and Judy shows have always been in Swanage – and they’ve had them for more than 100 years.

The plot was much as usual. Mr Punch was thoroughly bad to baby and was ticked off by a policeman who got sideswiped out of the way. Quite where the sausages came from I Wasn’t sure but they appeared and after some crosstalk and knockabout stuff, the crocodile ate them. At the end, our Professor proved that no real harm had come to anybody.


There’s Mr Punch with Joey the clown.


The shows main protagonists – Punch and Judy.


Punch, the croc and the sausages

I, for one, am delighted the old tradition keeps going. And at a pound a person it really is cheap entertainment these days.

Ifield – Then and Now

April 5, 2016

This was the street on which I was brought up. My family moved to a house well down this street when I was less than a year old. It was still the 1940s!

This postcard has been seen before on this blog. It was posted in 1921 and I believe changes had been made between then and my earliest memories.


Most notably, the left hand side of the road as we look at it had a pavement. But other than that this was the street I knew from my earliest times. The road is called Ifield Green. The one heading off to the right is called Langley Lane. I’d have known most of the people who lived in any house that can be seen in that photo.

Now I still have relatives who live along that street so I still visit it. They live in a house that wasn’t built in my early memories. I remember it being built. On one of my visits (actually back in 2009 I took this photo.

image003There often seems to be much more in the way of greenery – trees and shrubs these days. Houses that used to be visible are now hidden. There are now pavements on both sides. There’s an ugly concrete street lamp.

The large house on the left is clearly the same and there is still a hedge on the left around allotments.  Speed humps have been put in the road and whilst it might still look quite quiet it is actually a busy road. Down at the far end of the picture there is still the village shop. There is also a pub not far past the big house. What was open land, just past Langley Lane, now has a row of large detached houses. They are set back a little and are hidden by hedge and trees.

I can just make out the bus stop shelter which I recall being built. It is near the white van.

As a child I could play in the street but that changed in the mid 1950s when the New Town of Crawley was being built and particularly when Gatwick Airport was under construction. That major project led to what seemed like an endless stream of lorries carrying spoil away from the site trundling along our little road.

You can see more of my village street by clicking here.

The Vanguard

March 19, 2016

If you look up dictionary definitions of vanguard the word you’ll find used to explain it is leader. It might be military and mean the group of soldiers leading a charge or it might be a leader in terms of technical innovation.

It was a regular name for warships, notably a battleship launched in 1944.

When the Standard car company were launching a new post war model they wanted to use the Vanguard name. It took time to persuade the Navy that this would be OK and in 1947 the Standard Vanguard was launched. Some data for the car can tell us how much motor cars have moved on for the original Vanguard took 21½ seconds to accelerate from 0 to 60mph and managed just 22.9 miles per gallon of petrol.

But Meccano Limited thought the car well worth adding to its Dinky toy range of models and guess what? I have one.

Mine is a battered old wreck so won’t be fetching an auction price of £150 which it might if it was in mint condition with original box. My view is that my old Vanguard is happily worthless as far as money goes but liked by me because it dates back to childhood.


This, clearly, was originally a fawn coloured model. I think this may have been the most common of the range made under the Dinky name.


The small rear window indicates that this was modelled on the phase 1 version of the car made between 1947 and 52. I believe the model dates from after 1950.


Here’s the base plate – a rather rusty affair but the embossed writing is still readable.



Some childhood memories

February 16, 2016

As I write this I have just seen a couple of postcards for sale on Ebay which have brought back childhood memories. I have no intention of buying the cards so you won’t see them here. I can’t collect other folks family history.

One of the cards is addressed to Mrs H Reed of Alma Cottage in Ifield.

I knew Mrs Reed well in my childhood. She was a nice, kindly lady and her husband, Harry, was a lovely man. Harry was an avid gardener – as people were in those days. I’ll return to that. Mrs Reed never knew it but she was a leading member of a club we invented. It was the ‘Ifield Wobbly Cyclist Club’. I can picture her now, riding slowly on her old bike with her face always cheerful and smiling. But due mainly to lack of speed she never kept a straight course.

Her bike was something like this one.


I have memories of that curved strut and the little join between it and the straight strut. In my memory Mrs Reed had a handlebar mounted basket.

But returning to Harry Reed and his love of gardening. I actually have a hoe which belonged to him and here it is.


The head of the hoe has an unusual shape.


It is a plain triangle in shape.

Both Harry and my dad reckoned this was the best possible shape for a hoe but I reckon that was because Ifield was on heavy clay. Here, on light sandy soil we don’t find it so good and prefer a wing shaped hoe and they are hard to find at a sensible price. So Harry’s old how doesn’t get used which is a bit of a shame.

Amazingly, another postcard on Ebay brought to mind a very near neighbour of Harry’s and this was Amos Flint. Amos, born I now know in 1874 was amongst the oldest people I ever knew as a child. He’d have been 80 at the dawning of my memory. He was an old, bow legged chap who smoked a curving pipe and spoke with a wonderful local accent. Like Harry he was mad keen on gardening. He died in 1962.

He had obviously played boy’s cricket as a youngster. There was a tree on the Green which he said had been a good width for a wicket when he was a lad. Sadly Amos’s tree was blown down by that infamous 1987 storm – by that time it was a mature tree, far too big for a cricket wicket.

Happy memories!

Family history for the future

February 14, 2016

I am a lucky chap I am, and have lots of old family communications. They quite often appear on these pages. But these days, so much communication is transient and less than ephemeral. Texts and E-mails have no physical existence. The chances are that most of the communicating that goes on will never survive as future family history records.

Maybe my daughter is aware of this for she does make her son – now approaching six years old – write thankyou cards and here is the post-Christmas message we received.


Now that is charming and deserves to be kept for posterity. Charlie hasn’t dated this so we’ll put a date on the back of the card so that people in the future can know just how old Charlie was. His little sister, Eve is well under two so she can’t write a thankyou letter yet.

I say well done to Charlie for writing such a grand little letter and also to daughter who ensures it is done.

The news – 60 years ago

January 28, 2016

60 years ago! Where does the time go!

This is local news and concerns my then home village of Ifield and a children’s party in 1956.


I don’t recognise me in the photo but I dare say I was amongst the 92 children present.

The event was organised by Ifield Association and my dad was heavily involved with that. Ifield had been a small village community but it had become a part of Crawley New Town and my dad was keen to get the new arrivals involved in community life. This was obviously a part of that process.

Little Deerswood School, where the tea was held, had been the village school, but with the influx of new arrivals it wasn’t big enough and new schools were built. Little Deerswood became a special school and is now a nursing home.

We youngsters were already well integrated at school. My friends were a mixed bunch and some lived in old Ifield but most were incomers. I had many good friends who were Londoners but I recall a lad from Birmingham and a Scottish lad from Arbroath who were good mates of mine.

I suppose it was inevitable that many old Ifield people resented the arrival of the new, with houses (not to mention shops, schools and even churches) built on the formerly open land. For me, though, the New Town provided opportunities in both friendship and education. During my student days there was never a shortage of holiday work so by and large it served me well.

Having said that, I much prefer the rural area I now live in in Wiltshire.

Real Snow

January 19, 2016

When I first moved to Wiltshire back in 1970, snow fences were put up alongside some roads so that they were a bit protected from drifting snow. Even so, a blocked road, due to snowfall, was a common phenomenon. There are no snow fences these days. It is assumed that they are not needed.

The end of 2015 was phenomenally wet although Wiltshire got away lightly. And now we wonder will we get real snow, like we got in 1987.


This was my daughter, on the toboggan – a simple plastic affair – back then and what a glorious scene it was with, apparently, limitless snow and so much fun for youngsters to enjoy.

We can all accept that snow can be a dreadful nuisance, but many of us regret the passing of this old winter stalwart.  It was always possible to be reasonably prepared and if roads got blocked then we survived quite happily

On this occasion we didn’t need to. Our photo album dates this to February or March and says the snow really only lasted one day. If we get any this year let’s forget being adult and responsible. Let’s find a way to enjoy it. Wouldn’t it be lovely if my daughter’s children – the oldest still a bit younger than she was in 1987, could see and enjoy snow like this.

On Rippon Tor

January 8, 2016

Back in 1961 a trip down to Devon was a totally new experience for me. Up until then I had not ventured outside the south east of England. All my fellow bloggers who write about ‘the only way is travel’ may be horrified and alarmed by this. How could anyone be a fully rounded human without travel and new experiences? That seems to be the line on many a blog. Now I’m not averse to travel and it can broaden minds and experiences. But so, too, can staying put and learning about places in detail. Being as open minded as possible is what matters to me.

image002 This is me and my sister. We are on Rippon Tor on Dartmoor. There is a photograph fault at bottom left.

Let’s deal with us first. Many folks will remember a photo of Prince Charles and his first wife looking in opposite directions and looking glum. This instant snap was used as an indicator of a failing relationship. Well, my sister and I clearly have turned our backs on one another and, at that time, I don’t think we did get on all that well together. She regarded me as a silly little boy. I regarded her as just silly. But clearly we are both occupied with geology. And we got on well when we both grew up!

This was my first experience of igneous rocks. My life in the south east had limited me to sedimentary rocks only. Here we had granite, full of sparkly crystals. It had to be explored.

My dad had travelled – World War 2 had seen to that although he never actually left the UK. But I believe this was the first time he had got close and personal with granite. I know he was captivated too.

Almost inevitably I fell in love with Dartmoor and still visit quite often, albeit often only to drive across when heading to or from Cornwall

My own children had a much younger experience of the moor than I had.


That was in 1982.

And Dartmoor again in 2010.


Pooh Sticks

December 20, 2015

A A Milne gave a name to one of the great pastimes for kids of all ages. I don’t imagine he invented the idea of dropping sticks in a stream on one side of the bridge and then going to the other side to see which stick emerged first. I dare say youngsters played such games long before Christopher Robin and Friends played this game and called it Pooh Sticks.

The idea is so utterly simple yet it mixes a large dose of luck, with a little skill in selecting a likely stick and the best drop zone for it.

And here are two adult ladies about to drop their Pooh Sticks into a stream.


It has to be said the game is best played at a bridge without a road, particularly if children are involved for once they have launched their sticks they will charge across the bridge with no thought to traffic.

I’m afraid history has not recorded the winner of this game which was played in 2008.

According to Jennings

December 19, 2015

People of my age in the UK may well remember Jennings stories on the wireless. I suppose it was during the 1950s that my brother and I were delighted when a new set of Jennings adventures came on ‘Children’s’ Hour’ on the BBC Home Service.

The stories were based on books by Anthony Buckeridge and concerned the escapades of young Jennings and his slightly more hapless friend Darbishire as they coped with life at a minor private school called Linbury Court Preparatory School.

It was odd we loved these stories as much as we did, for as mere state school pupils it was way outside our experience. Let’s face it, Jennings and co were boarders, living away from home and looked after by headmaster Mr Pemberton Oakes (a minor character in the tales) and the rather explosive Mr Wilkins, the kindly Mr Carter and the inevitable matron.

Jennings was a perfectly decent young lad with not an ounce of malice in him. But he always had wizard schemes which were doomed to throw up some unforeseen snag and land him, Darbishire and maybe other lads in trouble. For me, as a kid, Anthony Buckeridge had created believable characters who managed to have a good time. I loved those stories.

My reminder, these days, is one Jennings book that I acquired at a jumble sale. ‘According to Jennings’ was first published in 1954.


The book has a few line drawing illustrations and here’s Jennings with his head stuck in a glass dome. Don’t ask!


My favourite tale from the wireless happens to be in this book. This is the one in which Jennings has heard Mr Wilkins talking about leaving on Friday. Jennings persuades all his friends to club together and they buy an alarm clock as a leaving present for ‘Old Wilkie’ and somehow they rake up enough for an alarm clock. This proceeds to go off in a lesson in which Mr Wilkins is reciting a Tennyson poem – Ring out Wild Bells.

I recall brother and I laughing ourselves stupid when we heard it on the radio.

Mr Wilkins confiscated the clock – and he wasn’t leaving anyway – just having a weekend away! Good old Mr Carter sorted things out. But not before quite a few of the Wilkins catchphrase of ‘I—I—Corwumph!

There are happy childhood memories for me in this dusty old book!