Posts Tagged ‘childhood’

Punch and Judy in 1980

February 8, 2016

I have shown Punch and Judy shows at Swanage a couple of times ion this blog. And here’s a third. This one dates back to 1980 which was still, just, the era of black and white photography, home processed.


My son would have been four at the time and I’m sure he was amongst the watchers. My daughter would have been there as well, but still unborn.

The shows follow a familiar format. But this looks quite remarkably similar to a colour photo I have shown before so I reckon both were taken on the same day. I used an Agfa rangefinder camera for black and white and, usually, Ilford HP4 film.

Of course, what is really good to report is that the politically incorrect, frightening and generally a tad nasty Punch and Judy shows still take place on Swanage Beach and long may they continue.


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.

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.


Skipping Sister

December 8, 2015

I’m looking back 60 years here – to 1955. We have a picture of my sister skipping on Ifield Green.


My sister died last year. She just made it to her three score years and ten.

Back in 1955 Ifield Green was unfenced from surrounding roads which, of course, were almost devoid of motorised traffic. It made a lovely playground for youngsters, offering the space a small cottage garden didn’t have. A young girl could skip across the field to her heart’s content. The green was common land. It belonged to its community.

These days the green is still there but has been suburbanised and organised – like so much of life for children.

People looking at the photo can hardly fail to notice the industrial building with the big chimney behind sister. Yes, it had been involved in rural industry for this was the steam powered corn mill in Ifield. Just behind this view of that mill there stood the remains of a roundhouse which had been at the bottom of a windmill and by this time the steam mill was joining it in a state of dereliction.

I recall feeling really quite sad when the chimney was demolished although it probably was unsafe. The steam engine mechanism was preserved and for many a year was on display in London’s Science Museum although I believe it may be in Germany now.

The building, though, was resurrected and became the headquarters of the local Nautical Training Corps. I have no idea what function it serves now.

I suspect, and indeed hope, all children think they lived through the golden age for childhood. I am 100% certain that I did. We regarded the world and our community as safe and secure, we were free spirits who could roam at will. We met and chatted with adults we knew. They weren’t a threat to us. Life was a happy and glorious adventure – full of fun and the love of a family.

My skipping sister just seems to catch that happy spirit.

Holmbush Forest – 1955

March 20, 2015

I have a photo today, taken by dad just about 60 years ago for it was at Easter in 1955. The photo was taken in Holmbush Forest. The forest is situated near Crawley, where we lived. Colgate is to the south and Faygate is near the northwest corner. These days the enormously busy A264 road skirts the northern edge. Part of the forest is now the Buchan Country Park.

Did I just say we lived in Crawley? It wasn’t true back then for we lived in the village of Ifield which was subsumed in Crawley as the New Town was built. I left Sussex years ago and have lived in Wiltshire for 44 years now.

But that’s a digression. Let’s look at the photo.


My dad never did stick to the rules. He’s taken this picture into the sun to give what I think is a very pleasing silhouette effect. The three people in the picture are, from the left, my sister, me and my brother with the forked stick.

My dad liked this picture and although it was taken at Easter it found use as a Christmas card.

I’m afraid the photo makes me a little melancholic. I am the only survivor of my childhood home – but at least I have happy memories in my head and a goodly stock of photos to look at from those happy and carefree days.

What a peach

February 14, 2015

My childhood home had a peach tree growing against a wall which faced more or less due south. My memory, probably false, is that we used to get a good crop of peaches off it. This is me gathering some in 1958.


That’s me up the Ladder with a little basket of peaches. I’m wearing my junior school tie. This was my third junior school. For various reasons I hadn’t much enjoyed my first two schools but number three found me happy and keen and proud to be a member of it. My brother, standing at the door behind me was older than me and I see he has the secondary school uniform on.

The ladder I am on had been home made by my dad. This was the first year in which he had experimented with colour slide film. I believe he had borrowed a camera from a teacher at the secondary school.

This brings back happy childhood memories and then that little sadness creeps in. I am still not used to the idea that I am now the only survivor from that happy home.

Paddling my own canoe

December 6, 2014

Back in the 1950s (and onwards) my family used to visit the loveliest of men. He was called Dick Wood and he lived at Leigh (formerly Lyghe) near Tonbridge in Kent. Back then Dick and his first Wife, Edie, lived peacefully in a council house in the village. Dick was a council worker. He made sure all was well at the village sewage works. It may sound like a job for someone of more limited academic ability but Dick was broadly read and had a huge fund of knowledge. He was a lovely chap. I hardly remember Edie who died when I was young but Dick remains a man I often think about. He really was a super human being.

Not only that, he had a canoe and here’s a picture by my dad of me paddling it. It was 1952 so I’d have been aged 3.


But this, I have to say is a work of fiction, created by my dad in pre photoshop days. Here is the reality.


Yes the canoe is on stands in Dick’s garden.

Sadly Dick and Edie never had children of their own although they always maintained an interest in the evacuee who had stayed with them. I think they quite enjoyed our family.

At Cenarth

April 23, 2014

Back in 1983 – 31 years ago – we hired a little wooden chalet near Cenarth in south west wales for a week. It was, we recall, absurdly cheap and we rather relied on good weather to keep us tolerably warm. Our children would have been about 6 and 3 at the time.

Here’s the three year old sitting in the bridge at Cenarth.


Those (for there was one at each arch end) holes were tailor made for enjoying by a little one. The older one could enjoy the rocks in the river Teifi and we could all enjoy watching the water rushing downhill as it made its way towards Cardigan and the sea.

But here we’ll have a human story – one that brings a smile to us now, all those years on.

We were in the little chalet. The children were in bed, but not asleep when this sentence was heard through the paper thin walls as older child deemed it time to educate the younger one.

‘Strange things will happen to you when you are a teenager.’

We listened agog for what would come next.  It seemed that our older child was aware that a pause would build up the tension. Eventually it came.

‘You’ll wear black leather clothes and dye your hair purple.’

In the event, I’m not sure either ever happened!

I wonder what little gems our grandchildren will pass on to their parents.

Mud Pies

April 16, 2014

Back in my early childhood money was pretty tight and post war austerity was in full swing. Enjoying life meant making use of whatever was available. We lived in a place where the subsoil was thick, oolery gloopery clay. Now that clay was a perfect plaything for a small boy. With that clay you could be a bit of a potter. My parents always said I was making mud pies. And here I am, back in 1952, mixing some clay with water in an old jam jar.


No doubt I had plans to mould a little dish out of the clay – not unlike early pots that were moulded into shape by hand. But as a mere child of pre-school age I had no access to adequate firing techniques. All I could do was leave my items in the sun to dry out a bit. And at that point they crumbled away, returning to the clay from which they had been made.

But I persisted, enjoying the process of producing that smooth slippery clay – and no doubt getting filthy in the process.

And that would have meant more clothes for mum to hand-wash, for luxuries like washing machines were well in the future back then.

The Long Man

February 17, 2014

Wilmington in East Sussex was not so far from where my family camped. We probably didn’t visit it often for it was quite a cycle ride which was how we got around in those pre-car days. The attraction was ‘The Long Man’.

This giant was nominally the outline of a huge man produced by removing the turf from the hillside and leaving the bare chalk, white in colour, visible underneath. If memory serves me correctly, the Wilmington giant, which was just the outline of a man, had been ‘improved’. I think it was made of white painted bricks,

We loved visiting it and could marvel at the fact that we could all sit – there were five of us – in the Long man’s foot and have a picnic. We athletic youngsters could also run races around him. It was a long way and on a steep downland slope.

On one occasion, my brother modelled himself on the Long Man behind him.


The year was 1957 so my brother was ten years old at the time.

The Long Man was older, but possibly not truly ancient. It may date from the 16th century. He is about 230 feet tall.