Lookout World Here I Come

Chapter III


My maternal grandmother lived just up the road from us, but in a much larger house than ours, with 3 rooms down, not counting the cellar, and 4 rooms up, one of which was an attic bedroom. My uncles slept in this attic when they were boys,  and Mother would tell the tale of one particular Friday night. As usual, all the boys had had a bath, and once dressed in their night attire, were given a dose of brimstone and treacle, (the forerunner of sulphur tablets) and off they went to bed. Some time after, Granny ask my mother, to go up to their bedroom to get any dirty clothes that may be still up there. On entering their room, she was met by the most pungent of smells, causing her to immediately put her hand up to her nose, her action making the boys laugh, and once they did that, they lost all control of their stomach muscles, and broke wind even more, she grabbed up what she had come for,  and beat a hasty retreat out of the room, slamming the door behind her.

This particular room was the scene for a very awful nightmare I had, it was so vivid that I still recall it. In my dream I had gone up to the attic bedroom, and went inside, and once inside, the door slammed shut behind me. With the door  shut, I found that I could not open it, I was locked in. I turned to the window, this I couldn't open, I tried to attract someone's attention, but in vain. On turning around, I saw the biggest brown bear that I had ever seen. The animal didn't like me being there as he started to wave his vicious claws at me, getting nearer and nearer to me all the time, I turned to the door, and luckily it opened, I got out of the room, and slammed the door shut behind me, I flew down the stairs,  screaming my head off, and then I heard Mum's voice saying that it was alright, you're safe, you've had a bad dream. I never went into that bedroom again, until I was more or less grown up, in case that bear was there just waiting for me. (Now what would Freud think of that).

In Granny's back yard was the toilet, and somehow I managed to lock myself in, I called out, but no one heard me, louder and louder went my cries, but they were still unheeded, my yells turned into tears, and a neighbour of Granny's heard me, she informed Granny, who, after some fiddling with the catch on the door, managed to get me free, I never locked myself in again.

I was never Granny's favourite, that was my fault, I suppose, and it seems to have stemmed from the following incident. On one especial day, Mum had got an appointment with the dentist, and would not be home to give us our midday meal, so arranged it with Granny for us to go to hers, for it. We, Geof and I, sat down at Grannies table, and she had made some stew, with Norfolk dumplings, which was way down the bottom of my list of my favourite meals. We had eaten what had been put on our plates, and Granny asked if we would like some more, Geof said yes, but Roy said no, she asked me why I didn't want any more, and I told her that I didn't like her dumplings, and from that time on I wasn't flavour of the month with her, although my brother could do no wrong.

Granny eked out her state pension of 10 shillings a week (50 pence), by taking in 4 Scottish fishergirls, albeit for about 6 weeks, starting in November.


Scottish Fishergirls

The girls, I say that rather loosely, as they were aged between 16 and 60, were here, in Yarmouth, for the gutting of the herring, and their arrival coincided with the many drifters, and trawlers that came at that time to Yarmouth, from various Scottish ports, Oban,  Peterhead, and many, many, more destinations, as they, the fishermen were following the shoals of herring as they made their way south.

These 'girls' had the sole use of Grannies front room, and a couple of bedrooms, and also the use of the cooking facilities, so apart from when they paid their rent to Granny, we hardly saw them, as they tended to keep themselves to themselves, only speaking to us when they deemed it necessary.

As the boats didn't sail on Sunday, the girls would rest up, and in the evening, the minister from the Church of Scotland would come into the house, and the 4, plus him, would have a service, or prayer meeting. On one of these occasions,  whilst they were at their devotions, Granny fell down the stairs, landing with a thump outside the front room door, but no one came to her aid. The first chance that Granny had of talking to them, after her tumble, she asked if they had heard her fall, "we did", was their reply, "but we were at prayer, so didn't come out to see what had happened".


South Denes

Every morning, with the exception of the Sabbath, they would be picked up, just across the road, by an open topped lorry,  this would take them to work. Their workplace must have been the coldest spot in Yarmouth, on the South denes, a narrow strip of land, mid point between the sea, and the river,  completely flat, and quite close to the harbour, totally unsheltered from any cold winds that battered the coast in winter. They would stand at canvas roofed benches, similar to a market stall. Freshly caught herring would be tipped on to the benches. Placed at one end of the bench would be the open top of a barrel. The girls would pick up a fish, and with what seemed a twisting motion, using a sharp knife, insert it into the fish, remove it's gut, and throw the carcass into the barrel, on to a layer of salt. Once a layer of fish had gone in, salt would be placed on top, more fish, another layer of salt, and so on until the barrel was full. A man would then hammer on it's top, securely, and move it away, replacing it with another empty one. All the girls had their fingers bandaged, to protect them from the knife, and also to keep their fingers warm.


Filled Barrels

The barrels would be trundled to an area where they were stored until there were a sufficient amount to fill a ship's hold, as they were destined for either Russia, or Poland, and would be the return cargo for a ship that had brought timber into the port. The barrels, laid on their sides, would be piled up in a form of a pyramid, which made excellent climbing for us kids, and we would, when the 'mountain' was not being watched, attempt to scale it. Though, this escapade, would have hidden dangers, apart from being seen, as each barrel had a bung hammered into its side, and muggins caught his foot on one, loosening it sufficiently to allow the now fermented fish juices, in a gaseous state, to blow the bung completely out, allowing a stream of the fishy liquid to shoot up,  luckily, most of the liquid shot away from me, and I got just a drop, enough of it though to make me smell terribly. When I returned home, Mother's nose twitched as soon as I entered the house, and when I told her what had happened, she made me change my clothes, and have a good wash down, whilst she tried to clean my, fortunately for me, play clothes,

It was difficult to understand the girls dialect, Geof was known as joffra, whereas I was still Roy, but as the years went by, we were able to comprehend them better. I think that with talking to them it may have helped me understand fellow Scottish servicemen, when I was in the Air force, without too many "What did you say Jock" ?.

Granny did, at one time, have an old aunt, by the name of Hannah, staying with her, but it wasn't for long. I believe she was a spinster, who for some reason had become homeless. This was rather surprising, as she was reputed to be well heeled.

Aunt Hannah was quite deaf, and the hearing aid of the day was in the shape of a long rubber? pipe, one end was able to fit in her ear, the other was in the shape of a funnel. To hold a conversation, she would put the small end to her ear, and you would then speak, a bit louder than normal, into the funnel.

Geof and I were quite taken by this, and we would chat to her, via this contraption, but even if we spoke loud, she still had difficulty hearing us, and we gave up in the end. She was a bit of a hypochondriac, and was always suffering from one thing or another. Her doctor was frequently called for, who would listen to her problem of the day, and give her some medicine, he finding her a profitable source of income,  as all doctors charged for their services then, no NHS.

For some reason he wasn't able to call on her one time, and our doctor was called in to see her. Now Dr. Blake was a retired army doctor, and did not have the patience to deal with those who were not genuine. He examined her, read up the previous doctor's notes, and found that her usual medic had prescribed a placebo, Dr. Blake told her that there was nothing wrong with her, as the medicine she had been given previously was just coloured, sweetened water. Aunt Hannah ordered him out of the house. Just after that she moved to another relatives house in Gorleston, and we never saw her again. 

We spent most of our Christmas's at Granny's, as Dad was often at sea at this time of the year. On Christmas eve,  Mum, Geof, and I, would walk up to hers, loaded up with food and drink, and changes of clothes, and stay there until the day after Boxing day. Prior to this time, both Geof, and I would be on our best behaviour, we weren't mugs, and felt that being good would reflect in our presents, or so we were led to believe. 

As it was the time of the year when everyone gave presents,  we needed cash ourselves, and to augment our pocket money, we would run errands for neighbours, and pray for snow, so that we could earn a ha'penny or two, sweeping it away. I remember one Christmas day giving Granny a bottle of toilet water, and telling her what it cost me. For this I was duly admonished by Mother, and told that it wasn't the done thing to give a present and inform the recipient of the price.

Every year, Geof and I would club together to buy Mum some "Evening in Paris" perfume, although it would be known as scent, to us, then, It was always in the same sized bottle, only the wrapping, or presentation case changed. One year in a moulded blue bakelite case shaped as a tortoise, another year, same shade of blue, an Eiffel tower.

Dad always got either a new pipe, or a tobacco pouch, or even tobacco, always something to do with smoking. As for us, we had various gifts, I would get a Japhet and Happy annual from Aunt Daisy and Uncle Tom, games, and or, a musical instrument, 

like a toy banjo, accordion, an xylophone. One year Geof had a toy violin, which drove everyone up the wall, another year we both got a watch, which Mum purchased from Marks and Spencers, each costing 5 shillings(27 and a half new pence), and the Christmas of 1938 I received a wind up car, that when it hit an obstruction, it went into reverse. To stop or start it, you blew on it's roof, this was a state of the art vehicle, and made by Schuco of Germany. Sadly to say that although this car survived the war, it was lost when the sea floods hit Yarmouth in 1953, all I have left is the winding key.

Whatever we had, an equal amount was spent, by Mum, on us, to the penny, something I try religiously to do with my sons.

Mother, as a child, had piano lessons, and once she started work, she bought her own instrument, which was placed in Granny's front room. She was evidently a good pupil, as she became quite a passable player. It was mainly at these Christmas's, at her Mothers, that she tickled the ivories. The piano should have been at Camden place, but unfortunately,  there was insufficient room. This piano, later on, became a bone of contention, between daughter and mother, but that's another story.

On Christmas nights, some of our Aunts and Uncles, together with their offspring, would turn up for a party. Normally starting off with sandwiches, and salad, followed by home made cakes, jellies and trifles. Once the food was consumed, the table was cleared, and we would have games, like 'Postman's Knock',. ‘Pass the parcel', 'Musical chairs', until one or the other child fell out with another, possibly getting overexcited, so the games would stop. Mum would then get on the piano stool, and start to play, the 'pop songs' of her day, and one that sticks in my mind was "She's a lassie from Lancashire, she's a lassie that I love dear, none could be rarer, or fairer than Sarah, my lassy from Lancashire". Once she had finished her repertoire, the bedtime drinks would be given to the children, to quieten us down, though whilst the party was going on, out would come the home made wine, "You must try a drop of my beetroot, it's just like port, or try my orange, my potato, etc". If we were lucky and our parents were 'soft' touches, or even our Uncles and Aunts were, we would maybe get a taste of whatever was going the rounds, this would then get us more excited, and cause more tempers to flare, especially if one parent was more indulgent than another's. But overall, the parties were a success.

On one particular year, Dad was home, and Mum asked him to fetch something from Camden Place, he decided to take me with him. After finding whatever we went for, I asked him for a drink, and rather than turning on the tap, for water, he looked around to see if there was any lemonade. Opening a cupboard door he discovered some bottles marked "orange". He was not aware that this was her first time of making this drink,  which was orange wine, as he was not privy to this, he thought it would be non alcoholic, pouring me out a glass full, which I duly consumed.

On our way back to Granny's I started to wander all over the pavement, but he thought I was acting like the kid I was. On our arrival, at 157, I was now looking very flushed, and Mum asked Dad if I had noticed how flushed I looked, "no", was his reply, "well he does not look very well, maybe he is coming down with something", "he seemed alright in the house, in fact he asked for a drink, and I gave him some of your orangeade",  "That wasn't orangeade but orange wine, I had just put down" "Well, he only had a glass full". "Right" says Mum, "he's drunk", and after a few words about Dad's lack of wisdom for giving me the drink, I was packed off to bed, and did what all drunks do, I slept it off, awaking the next morning feeling terrible, but after breakfast, and as the day progressed, I gradually returned to being my normal self.

The next day, after Christmas day, Boxing day, was as is usual,  a bit of an anti climax, so you visited friends houses to see what they had found in their stocking the previous morning.  Naturally, Alan Waters did the best, as he had not only a father in work, but also his live in Aunt, and two, by this time, working sisters, so he was inundated with presents,  mainly Corgi or Dinky replicas of the modern cars of the day. Initially, when you saw what he had received, you would have a touch of envy, until you played with them, and soon the green eyed monster would disappear.

Every child, more or less, wished for snow, so that snowmen could be built, you could have snowball fights, particularly against the girls, as they couldn't make, let alone throw, a good snowball, and also the opportunity to earn cash, by clearing the snow from paths in front of peoples doors. If you did manage to get the odd copper, it would be spent on an ice cream cornet, from Vettesse's on Regent Road.

Home made sledges would come out, and we would take it in turns to pull each other along, as Yarmouth is on flat ground, there were few places where you could actually use a sledge on a slope.

I cannot remember much about the school holidays in winter,  except for our walks along the frozen beach, making it seem as firm as a tarmac road, dodging if we could the seagulls screaming overhead, hoping that we were not in their bombsights. If we wanted to play 'skimmers', you would have to use your knife, to free the stones from the sand, the same knife that had a corkscrew, 2 blades, a glass cutter, a tin opener, and a sharp steel pointed tool that was for getting stones out of horses hoofs, I never tried doing that, as I was not keen on getting too close to the big animals.

Often I would be with Jimmy Love, and we would wander along to the Harbours mouth, then make our way back home, where Mum would grab my cheeks, saying that they were so rosy she could warm her hands on them. Which confirms my belief that the east coast is the healthiest coast in the U. K. especially when you feel the wind biting you, the tang of God's good fresh air, hearing the sound of the waves breaking as they reach the shore. That's the reason why I like to keep going back to my home town.

I mentioned earlier about me being cajoled into going to town with Mother on Saturday afternoons. In the mornings, when I was a bit older, I would go to the children's matinee at the Regal cinema. This cost tuppence, and started at 10 o'clock. At 9. 45 you would join what seemed like thousands of other kids outside the cinema, waiting for the doors to open, pay your money and rush in to get the best seats, which were under the balcony. If you were unlucky to sit on the ground floor in front of the balcony, you could suffer the indignity of being showered with peanut shells, occasionally, even some liquid,  which you hoped was either water or lemonade, although on one occasion a boy was caught by an usherette peeing over the side, he was forcibly ejected. The films seen were often a cowboy, such as Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, with his wife, Dale Evans, she would be booed when she was seen, maybe Tom Mix, another cowboy 'goodie', but whoever it was and the hero was in danger from a baddy, creeping up behind him, we would all yell out for him to 'look behind you'.

Then would come what we had all been waiting for, the latest episode of Flash Gordon, and his fight with Ming, the evil emperor. Between the 2, sometimes 3 films, would be the organ rising up in front of the now silent screen, and we would all sing to words shown on the screen, the Saturday morning cinema song, then a few more songs, then it would descend into the bowels of the cinema.

There was also another cinema, the Plaza, known locally as the bug house, which had an even rougher audience. This cinema had various charges for it's Saturday morning shows, depending on what was required by the local hospital, as it supported that. One day it would be, either tuppence or an egg,  another, threeha'pence and a potato. All the produce, and profits, going to help feed those who were in need of hospital treatment, and were without the necessary insurance cover to give them, not only medical, or surgical help, but food as well.

The Plaza would show more sinister films, like "The clutching hand" though this would be followed by numerous shorts, The 3 stooges, Mickey mouse, the odd action packed film, sword fencing, cowboys and indians, etc.

That what had just been seen on the screen would be emulated outside after the cinema had closed it's doors, often leading to fights between rival gangs, though these would be short lived, as there was always a copper outside to ensure that the peace was kept. Of course those were the days when everyone had respect for the man in blue.

It would be about 1937 when Dad and Mum decided to cover over the back yard, employing our next door neighbour, Mr. Dye to do the work. The yard was walled up to a height of about 6 feet, so Mr. Dye raised this by another foot, by a glazed frame, then covered the lot over with more glazing, virtually giving us another room. Out went the mangle, in came a much easier to use, rubber rollered one, which, when not in use, folded up into a table. Next door to this stood a new electric stove, which took pride of place. This stove would mean no more coal fires, except in the winter, and that would be just for warming the house. An electric kettle came next, this was hired from the local electricity board, and never went back, as it now stands on a small trivet in No. 4's living room.  A few rag mats down, and the yard was now habitable.

I've mentioned a bit about my Mother, so I had better put in a piece about Dad. He was born in 1891, the third son of William, my paternal grandfather. Dad had seven brothers and sisters, before his mother died. Grandfather then had to hire a housekeeper, to look after him, his house and his children.  A widow applied for the position, she came with a daughter,  and before long, Grandad married her, and another 8 children were born. There were, according to the family bible, two years between births, so by the time the youngest was born, the eldest would have been 32. and long married with families of their own.

Naturally, money was always short, Grandad only being a farm labourer, which wouldn't have paid much. Once the children were old enough to work, they left school, or were taken away from school, when some form of harvesting labour was needed on the local farms. When they did this, Grandad would not only get their earnings coming in, but would not have to fork out the cost of 6 pence, per school child, towards their education. Dad was in the church choir, and evidently had a good voice,  so much so, that the lady in the 'big house' noticed him, and had words with his father about her paying for him to go to London for voice training, but Grandfather turned her down, as he could not afford to lose any cash that Dad could earn.

At 11 years of age, Dad started his seagoing career, as a barge boy on one of the boats that carried grain from the cornfields of his area to London, where it would be used for brewing beer, the journey would start from Mistley quay, to the port of London, via the North sea, fortunately he hadn't got too far to walk to work.

When the first world war broke out, he was called up, and served his time on minesweepers. Once the war had finished, he was, like thousands of others, out of work, and found he could get employment only by joining the Trinity service. This organisation provided lightships, lighthouses, marker buoys,  etc. and was responsible for blowing up partly submerged ships, in fact anything that created a hazard to sea going ships, was protected by the Trinity service.

He was to be stationed at Yarmouth, and that is where fate took a hand, when he met my mother, Miss Ethel Marion Dye, the result you are well aware of.  His first job on board a lightship was as a lampcleaner, the lamp being at the top of a tall mast, access to this was via a rope ladder, which had to be climbed, carrying his cleaning materials, gain entry into the actual glass faced round cubicle, clean the mirrors, trim the wick, for it was a paraffin lamp, fill up it's tank with fuel, and retrace his steps.

Can you imagine climbing that type of ladder, whilst gale force winds were battering the ship. Often the top of the mast would have sea water sprayed over it, when one moment you are laying over the water, clinging on for dear life, and nearly close enough to touch the sea, then the mast swinging up and over about 120 degrees to the other side of the ship, til you could nearly touch water that side, and this whilst you are carrying cleaning materials with you.

After some time doing this chore, he was promoted to lamplighter, this meant climbing up the same ladder, but with a box of matches. this would meant 2 visits to the top per day, one to light it, another to extinguish it.  A lightship had no means of propulsion, and had to be towed to it's position, huge anchors dropped over the side to hold the boat in place, and then left there, the crew being relieved after a six week stint, back home for shore duties for a fortnight then back aboard for another 6 weeks.

The ship was equipped with 3 warning devices, a cannon,  rockets, and a fog horn. The gun was fired when a ship was travelling towards a hazard, to tell the captain to change his course. If the first shot was ignored and the boat continued it's passage, the gun was fired again, if this too was ignored, and the boat was really going to get into difficulties, the gun was fired a third time. Once the boat had gone past the point of no return, and run either aground,  or onto a sandbank, the rockets would be fired off, into the sky, this was to tell other ships in the area that a boat was in trouble, and ask them to come to it's assistance.

The fog horn was, as it's name implies, sounded only when visibility was very bad, i.e., in dense fog, mainly to protect the lightship, and to get passing ships to reduce their speed, as they were sailing extremely close to a dangerous area.

Just off the coast at Yarmouth, about 3 miles out, was a lightship, and whenever we heard the cannon go off, and we were not at school, we would dash to the beach to see what was going on. Once the third bang was heard, we would see the lifeboat put to sea. This would stand by, close to the ship in danger, ready to take off any unfortunates.

I suppose the worst thing to hear, was the fog horn, wailing away like a banshee, giving out a noise that put the fear of God into all those ashore, with families at sea. Mum also got a bit agitated, as it was known for a lightship to be rammed by another boat, in very foggy conditions.

Once during his service, and just before he was to be relieved, strong gale force winds sprang up, that delayed the Reculver, (Relief ship's name)from putting to sea from Yarmouth. This boat would take out the new crew for the lightship, and bring back to shore Dad and his fellows, who had done their allotted stint on board. All the crew took their own food aboard, which would be sufficient enough for the duration of their stay at sea, which by this time in Dad's life was a month. But the north sea was plagued with gale force winds, these very winds delaying the Reculver from putting to sea, and their relief. Their food eventually ran out, and this itself was a cause of concern, although their biggest worry was that the lightship was being blown, despite it's heavy anchors,  towards the sands that they were protecting other ships from.

The food all consumed, they had to start emptying the pig swill bin that was kept on board. (During the war all citizens saved their unwanted food, such as stale bread, cabbage leaves, etc. which were then collected by a local farmer to feed his pigs, and ships were no exception to the rule). The crew found what they could of stale bread,  which by this time was showing signs of mould, and very hard. They washed it well, cleaned it up as best they could,  then reheated it, to make it edible. Just as they had emptied the bin of anything that could be retrieved, the gale abated,  and the Reculver put to sea.

During this time, either Geof, me, or Mother would go to the Trinity House offices for news, though as soon as we approached the base, we could see if the Reculver was still there, or not, as the boat had quite a tall mast that could be seen from just outside our house.

As Dad progressed up the ranks, as it were, more money came into the house, and when he became master, or skipper, the new radio arrived, the one on which we could hear him send his messages to Mum, and his 2 sons. This did help her, and gave her a bit more peace of mind.

It was also about this time when Granny had her rent increased sufficiently enough to make it impossible for her to stay in it. Which was sad, as she had raised all her family in that house, and all her memories were tied up in it. So Dad and Mum, and no doubt, a building society, bought 157 Blackfriars Road, on the condition that she paid Dad rent, the same as she had been paying.

One of the tales Mum told us, and only because Dad was reticent about talking to us about his life at sea, was about the time that all the crew members were playing cards in the galley one night. When one of the crew members decided to go to the head, (toilet), he had been gone a while, and because of the dangers that do lurk on board a ship, one of the others went to find him. The poor chap had made his way down a companionway to get to the deck below, but had slipped,  trapping his leg between the rungs and the bulkhead. The searcher raised the alarm, and they all rushed off to extricate the man, then carried him into the galley. They laid him on the table, and discovered that not only had he broken his leg, the bone had also punctured the flesh. Dad immediately unlocked the medicine cabinet, and got out the brandy, that was kept on board for purely medicinal purposes.  Gave the injured man a good glass full, then had a swig himself. Once the brandy had started to work, and the chap was easier, Dad got on to the ship to shore radio, for help. He was passed over to talk to a first aid man who told him how to treat, and splint, the leg. He was told that a pinnace, complete with a doctor, would be soon on it's way to the lightship. So Dad did his best, after giving another generous helping of brandy to the man, and another swig for himself, and set too, following the instructions given by the shore base, to bandage, and splint the wound. Meanwhile, on shore, the Trinity House doctor had been called, and safely put into the pinnace. As soon as the boat started to ride the swell, the doctor was sick, and carried on being sick. When the small boat arrived at the lightship, the medic was too ill to attempt to transfer to the ship, so with the aid of a breeches buoy, the lightship crew strapped the injured man into it's harness, and lowered him to the doctor. The pinnace then left. As soon as it reached land, he was taken to hospital, Dad got a commendation for his treatment of the injured man,  and the doctor was struck off the Trinity house list of medical men, ensuring that only doctors with sea going experience would be used in future.

In his early days with the Trinity, Dad spent more time at sea than he did on shore, and found time hanging heavy on his hands, so he started making toys and furniture, using wood that had been salvaged from the sea, when seen floating past the ship. Bedside cupboards, small chests of drawers, he even made a rocking horse, using stranded rope for it's mane, and tail. Someone in the passage was envious enough of our horse to disfigure it by cutting off it's mane.

Once he brought home a lighthouse money box, which when you put a coin in the slot, a mechanical motor, provided that it was wound up, would set of a flashing light, operated by a battery. I had this in my possession until our move to Blackham Road, when it was smashed during transit.

But that didn't keep him occupied enough, and I suppose he ran out of wooden things to make, so when he was on shore leave, he found up all his old clothes, and other peoples as well, and took them back to sea. He cut all the clothes up into strips, 3 inches long by 1 inch wide, and with the help of a pointed tool, like a marling spike, pushed the strands through a sack material, and looped, or tied them, to the sacking.

Depending on the colour of the material, he would make the mat, for that was the end result, with some form of pattern. The finished article would eventually grace one of our floors, or a relatives floor.

These mats would be finished off by stitching a lighter sacking material on the back.

Then he decided to make rope mats which were suitable as door mats, these were made on a frame of wood, using rope,  which being on board ship, he could always find a plentiful supply of. One of the mats remain and is now in the garage.  Actually he was making these, in the back bedroom, that became my mothers kitchen, until he died.

He graduated from his rag mats, to making up a better class mat, or carpet. This was supplied in kit form, from a firm called Reddycut. The kit came complete with a small mesh backing, and sufficient strands of pre cut lengths. of thick,  twisted wool strips, together with a special tool, with which he would thread the wool strips though the mesh, twist and tie it at the back, and bring the end through to the front.  The backing had been marked out with a pattern, which he would work to. The finished product would be either used on our front room, or bedroom floor. He made these for others as well, charging only for the materials bought.

During hot summer weather, often he would go for a swim, with other crew members, and occasionally take a ball with them.  Sometimes they would be joined by some porpoises, who they would throw the ball to, such as you would to a dog, and they, the fish, would nudge it with their noses, back to them. 

Often the porpoises would come up close and make contact with the swimmers, nuzzling up to them, and seeming to enjoy a chuckle under the chin, again, again, much like a dog. Whether they thought the men were fellow fish, or was it because they liked the company of humans ?

My paternal grandfather was a likeable old man, and when Dad had some shore leave, and we were on school holidays, we would go and visit him, and other relatives that lived in and around Mistley. Our journey would be by bus, Grey green coach,  which we would pick up near my grannies. As well as the  suitcases, Mum would carry a bucket, and damp flannel, as Geof was always sick on these long bus journeys. If he was ill, it would sometimes trigger me off, and I too, would be forced to use the bucket. The bucket was one we would normally use on the beach. Mum tried various 'remedies' often to no affect,  although glucose sweets did sometimes help, and we would arrive at Ipswich, without resorting to the receptacle.

At Ipswich, we would change buses to get to Grandad's home, in the village of Mistley. This bus, more or less, dropping us outside his house.  Geof and I were both fascinated by the pump that was situated outside, in a communal area, that was shared by the 4 houses, which were in a terrace. Though the houses had this common water supply, they each had separate back gardens. All the water used in the houses whether it be for washing or cooking was supplied by this one pump. Each house had it's own toilet, that was situated at the bottom of the small garden, and though they were the flush variety, there was no piped water to them, so a large bucket of water was kept inside the little room, and whoever used it up, had to refill and replace it.

Can you imagine bath night, having to fill up large containers from the outside pump, especially in the depth of winter, then having to follow the same procedure as Mum did at 12 Camden, but not just for 2 kids, but many, many, more.

It was normally summer time that we stayed there, and whether it was because I was the youngest, or that I looked an Osborne, whereas Geof features took after Mum's side of the family, I don't know, but Grandad seemed to make more of a fuss of me than he did of Geof, and often sat me on his knee,  telling me tales of life many years ago, I don't recall my brother getting the same treatment.

Grandad overruled Mum one day, in my favour, over some broad beans. At dinner that particular day, we had had meat, and vegetables, including broad beans, and at the end of the meal, there were quite a few beans left. Come teatime, Grandad asked me what I would like for my tea, and I said some more beans, to which Mother replied "No you won't Roy, you had your share at dinner time" but Grandad said that I was a growing boy, and needed to eat well, and it wouldn't do me any harm,  Ethel. She was a bit put out, but Grandad had made a decision.

Whilst there, we would visit most of Dad's brothers or sisters that lived locally, and one I recall was Uncle Len, he lived at Little Bromley, about 4 miles away, with his wife, and our cousins Kathleen, and John. My uncle kept the village shop, and the post office, and was thought to be well off. We thought so too, as he picked us up one day, when we went to visit him, with a pony and trap. Once seated inside, we felt like royalty, being driven along sedately, hearing the clip clop of the horse's feet as we traveled towards his home, (Kathleen later married Roy Sqirrel, and her brother John was a fighter pilot during the war).

We did see many others, and were made extremely welcome, at each one. I suppose it was that Dad was the favourite brother, of all the family, and they always turned to my father, whenever they needed help and, or, advice, rather than to Uncle Len, or Grandad. But then, my Dad was special, tis a pity that I didn't realise that until it was too late. Dad would take us over the fields, telling us what he would have done there in his youth, viz potato, or fruit picking,  scrumping, etc. If the hedge was too high for us to see over,  he would pick us up, and put us on his shoulders, so that we could see. Often he would snap off a bit of hawthorn, and put it between his lips, using it as a thirst quencher, before arriving at a distant pub, where he and Mum would have a beverage. Geof and I having a lemonade, sitting outside enjoying the sunshine,  (It never rained when I was young).

Sometimes we would go up to London, to see other relatives,  possibly staying with an Aunt in Barking, an Uncle in Hampstead, another relation in Maidenhead, or Slough. Dad seemed to have family all over London. It would be during one of these visits that we would go to the Regents Park Zoo, or Westminister Abbey, St. Pauls, Madame Tausauds waxworks.

Our only means of travel those days was public transport, and we would sit upstairs, travelling all over the capital by omnibus.  Geof saved all the bus tickets, and we did accumulate quite a lot, which after our holiday, and Dad was back at sea, he made a box for. They were still about, in the same box, until we cleared my Mothers house, in 1978, but they then got lost.

At our Uncles in Hampstead we found one of his rooms completely devoted to canaries. His hobby was breeding them,  and in his living room, wherever there was a flat surface you would find trophies that he had won at competitions, plus numerous canteens of cutlery. He was employed as a postman,  and had a peculiar alarm clock, where the alarm mechanism was controlled by a never ending chain. This was mounted on a wall, well away from his bed, forcing him to get out to silence it. He was never late for work.

When we stayed at an aunt's in Barking, Geof and I would go down to the bottom of her garden that was fenced off from the railway line, to watch the trains go by. We would wave to the passengers on the train, with them often waving back. We would wonder where all these people were going to, and make up imaginary destinations, such as them being en route to India, Brazil, America, and were they spies, or gun runners.

I slept in a single bed there, as did Geof, and on my first night I fell out of mine, a distance of about 18 inches. When we got up the next morning, Dad was reading his newspaper, and he mentioned to Mum about an article in the paper about a man who had fallen out of bed, which was only 6 inches off the floor, and he had died. I told Mum what had happened to me during the night, and she said that I must have a guardian angel looking after me, and the man didn't. I have used the help of my angel many times over the years, since, I do hope that he's always there for me in the future. On one holiday, we spent a couple of days with an Aunt, and Uncle, who had a son called Lawrence, about our age, and on this particular day, we sat down at the table for our meal,  (dinner, midday)and though we tucked into it, Lawrence refused to eat all that was put before him. His Mother tried to reason with him, to clear his plate, but he steadfastly refused. Finding that whatever she said, fell on deaf ears, she promised him that she would then warm it up for his tea.

Come teatime, she prepared a salad for us, but in front of her son she put the remains of his dinner, he still refused to eat it, and so was sent off to bed, leaving Geof and I, without a playmate.

This incident gave us both food for thought, as Mother had often used the same threats to get us to eat our greens, etc,  but had never followed it through, and giving us our normal tea. Whether or not my Aunt didn't want to lose face in front of my parents, I don't know. After that episode we looked on our Mother in a different light.

We went then to Aunt Daisy's, and Uncle Tom's, and their daughter Pamela. Now Aunt Daisy was considered to be an oddity by the rest of the Osborne's, she had become a vegetarian, which in those days was on a parallel with being an inmate in a mental institution. Her husband was a gardener at Kew, and as a manual worker required something with a bit of meat (excuse the pun) in it, and as her now present company were all meat eaters, our meals contained it, though I do not recall if she eat the same as us.

After any meal at hers, she would get all the 3 of us, Geof,  Pamela, and me, to sit together on her settee, and give us each a sweet, getting us to promise that we would not move until the sweet had gone, explaining to us that it was good practice to rest after each meal, to allow us to thoroughly digest our food.

Our next port of call would be to one of Mother's relations,  her brother, Uncle Ted, and Aunt Vi, with a son and daughter much older than us. Uncle Ted kept a corner shop, which sold everything, from apples to aprons, sweets to sweeping brushes,  but, in particular, ice cream, which he made himself, on the premises, daily. There were, in those days, no fridge's, or freezers, allowing you to keep ice cream overnight, for him to sell it another day. Every morning, to earn our keep, as it were, Uncle Ted would get us to turn the handle of the churn, after he had put the necessary ingredients in a container, packed it round with ice that he had delivered. Promising us, as payment for our labours, that if there were any ice cream left over at the end of the day, Geof and I could have it. Naturally we hoped for inclement weather, but as I've said before, it never rained when I was young, and the sun was always on his side.  Though at the end of the day, there was always a little bit left, for us to have. Sometimes we would have a struggle to finish it all.

Uncle Ted was adept at twisting, and bending old gramophone records that were, at the time, made out of processed shellac,  and when warmed, could be bent into various shapes, allowing him to make ashtrays, fans, crinolines, aeroplanes, etc. but like early Henry Ford cars, all his sculpture was black, unless he used the label that was stuck on. He would display his better creations on the mantleshelf, for all to see.

At night, when the shop was shut, and we had eaten our meal,  the 4 adults would have a walk to the local pub, Uncle Ted getting his daughter to child sit. Now she was a bit more generous with his sale goods, and would go into the shop, and get us a couple of sweets, she also introduced me to popcorn,  which I immediately liked. The trouble was that they didn't like me, or rather the sugar, and the occasional hard lump they often had, didn't like my teeth, this resulted in me getting a raging toothache, leading to it being extracted. 

This really put me off popcorn for a long time, as I associated popcorn with a visit to the dentist.

The main topic of conversation between the adults was the possible outcome of war with Germany, as this was the summer of 1939, early August. The Prime minister, Neville Chamberlain,  had, for the first time, gone to see Hitler, to get his promise about "NO war at this time".

I had been brought up on comic book heroes such as Rockfist Rogan, Biggles, etc. We had the Empire, with millions and millions of fighting men, from Australia, New Zealand, Canada,  South Africa, and many more countries, that we could rely on to send troops to our aid.

Hitler would be daft to take us on. It was these sentiments that made us think that we would be the knights in shining armour, and that the scourge of Hitler would be driven from the earth.

If ever we went to War. 


School Days




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