As I may have mentioned before in between moves from country to country as a child, there were times when my family stayed a few months in England while things were being organised. I have vivid memories of one such period. I wasn’t quite 3 years old ,my mother was heavily pregnant with my youngest brother. I haven’t a memory of my middle brother but I know he wasn’t more than a few months old. So it was 1958-59 late Autumn early winter.
We were staying a few weeks at my father’s mother. I have strong memories of her back garden. It was in two sections.The front part was a piece of lawn and the washing lines. Then there was a small brick wall, only a few bricks high. The rear garden was behind this retaining wall. There was a row of gooseberry bushes. Then a narrow concrete path which led to an Anderson shelter, which was the tool shed and potato store.One corner in the garden had a compost heap and a rhubarb shrub. A wire chicken cage and run , also an upturned box which was the home of two small white ducks.( Ducks were Christmas lunch) The ducks would scratch around for worms and slugs and all sorts of goodies in the garden , keeping the pests down. Then there was the vegetable bed, always one long trench left dug in which compost not quite fully rotted lay.Just in front of that was the pea and bean canes. I was forever pulling up the baby carrots and getting spanked for it. I don’t know but it seemed like fun at the time. The garden was enclosed by a fence which a hedge grew through. There was berries in the hedge which I used to pick and eat but I can’t remember what they were, probably poisonous which would explain a lot of things . A wooden back gate led to a lane where the bins were kept and too the garage . There used to be an enamel bin on the gate marked Swill this was collected by the swill man and fed to pigs . I know it was marked swill because years later it was still there , no longer used but still hanging rusted and holed the next time I returned. When I was older it seemed such a small place ,but then in those days it felt like a huge and a wild place.
The war was a recent memory for the adults, there was still rationing for certain goods. I remember the eggs with the little lion printed on them. Wagon wheels, chocolate covering a biscuit base with marsh mellow filling. The milky bar kid wore a cowboy hat and glasses. All the clothes were thick and heavy , dark and functional. The TV was a small little glass screen in a huge wooden box and used to hum when switched on. The picture was grainy and the sound very distant. I used to spend what seemed like hours watching the little dot get smaller and darker for what seemed like hours, till with an audible plink it was gone. I can remember I was always in caudroy dungarees , bib and braces always done up and I had a hat which was fastened under the chin and had a peak brim,also little rubber boots. Sugar puffs were the rage for kids at the time and I remember the little train that decorated the cereal box, puffing Billy.If enough box lids were collected and sent in you got a little rubber toy. I had one, though I don’t think I ever had the puffs. I think that ,as was usual in those days ,it was from coupon exchange which all families were involved in back then. If some one wanted something they swapped coupons till they had what they wanted. I can remember my parents collecting cigarette coupons which they got a radio with but that was later. What I do really remember was the little bottles of fresh cows milk. Ice cold and with an inch of yellow cream on top, that was always what I didn’t get. The cream was for either home made butter or used for making cakes and was collected till there was sufficient for the need. I also remember the tea bags after use being hung out to dry, they were used several times each brew getting progressively weaker. I hated tea from early child hood. I can remember my mum going to the butcher with a little book where she was allowed with the necessary coupon and some cash to purchase meat. I got hold of one of the books once when I was alone and cut the pages up into stars and bits. I got a hell of a hiding and had many tears shed about it. But my favourite of all treats was my daily Farley’s Rusk.You couldn’t get them overseas for some reason,eventually years later I had some again and they tasted awful.
I was always up to something and I don’t think any escaped prisoner of war was more dedicated at escaping than me. I had a tricycle which was tiny and I used to get it out of the garden and I was gone. Down to the train tracks ,watching the trains. Clouds of steam and smoke, the rattle of the train as it flew pass. The bitter smell of the ash and soot, with the train stoker or driver yelling at me to stay away from the line. I never did, but used to chase as fast as I could on my little bike. Must of scared the pants of any adult in the vicinity, but I was a child and fear wasn’t part of life yet.
I remember the rag and bone man who would turn up once a month or so. The time between visits I forget but what I do remember was that for a few old clothes or a broken pot or two or several glass bottles a child or adult could pick a small item in exchange. I still have a yoyo which I have never learned to use properly from back then. Minus the string, it is a memory that I will keep , my kids wanted it once but I have so little left from those days. Memories, the more you remember back the more that comes to the fore. Just writing this I can remember the faces from then but not the names. Like pictures from an old forgotten album , who were these people and what were they in my life ?