School Days

Chapter III

 

Just after I arrived at South Leverton, Mr. J. bought a gosling, to fatten up for Christmas, using the large area in front of the toilet, as it's run, fencing it completely, with a gate either side of the run, to give access to the toilet, and the rest of the garden. The first gosling was snatched by a crow, so another was got, and that also disappeared, a third gosling came. This time, he, Mr. J, made a smaller pen, inside the larger one, totally enclosing the young goose with chicken wire, until it had grown too large for snatching.

As everyone in the house had allocated chores, I was put in charge of the goose, to feed it, clean it's pen, and make sure it had water etc. The goose and I got on well, although it allowed the family to go near it, I was the only one that it would allow to fuss it, like one could a dog, chuckling it under it's beak, stroking it, I could even give it a cuddle.  Most people are concerned about geese, as they are well known for being vicious, and that they could break a child's leg with just a blow from one of it's wings.

To get to the outside lavatory, you had to go through the goose's pen, and as I did my necessaries each day I would make a fuss of my feathered friend, who would often follow me into the lav, which was of brick built construction. Most mornings I would find some slug like creatures on the walls.  They were attracted to a whitish powder, Mr. J. said it was the salt coming out of the bricks. Anyway I did not like these slugs, and would point out each one to my pal, who would gobble them up.

The goose was getting fatter and fatter, and suddenly it was Christmas, and the goose, my friend, was killed, and cooked, and come dinnertime, was carved up, a piece placed on each plate,  together with various vegetables. There was a distinct pause in the start of eating, with all eyes on me. With some encouragement from Mr. J. for me to get stuck in to it. Once I had had the first mouthful of meat, the rest picked up their knives and forks. After a couple of mouthfuls, I was asked if it was ok, to which I said yes. Mr. J. said that as I had looked after the goose all the time, and the goose being a pet of mine, the family wondered if I would eat it, but after living in the country for so long, I had adopted their ways, and knew that animals were for eating.

Sometime after New year, the pig, which was Mr. Js. pet?, would be slaughtered, by the village butcher, I saw it happen, and will not repeat what I saw, but once the deed was done, some of it went to other village people, who also kept a pig. Once a pig was killed, it would be shared with other pig owners.  The keeper/owner having the lions share of the carcass.  Mrs. Johnson came into her own then, she cleaned, salted,  wrapped the legs in muslin, and hung them on hooks in the ceiling of their spacious kitchen. Pork pies were cooked,  sausages, using the cleaned out intestines, were made, lard was produced. The sides became bacon. I doubt if there was one part of the pig that was not used, unless it was the tail. I can still taste the thick, home cured bacon, and ham.

The sty was cleaned out well, and a new piglet came to live there. The story about pigs being filthy, is all wrong, it's the owners that keep a pig dirty. As every weekend the sty was cleaned out, and the pig bathed, until he was spotless.  With the sty clean, the smell from it was quite bearable for a couple of days, but as the week progressed, it became more niffier, especially in hot weather.

He, the pig, was next door to being human, as he seemed to know everything you said to it, cocking his head on one side as if listening to you.

Then of course there were the rabbits, which were bred for the same reason, food. When Mrs. J. was fed up with pork, a rabbit would go in the pot. The caring for them was mainly Mr. J's. chore, though most of us would feed them now and again with grasses we grabbed from the hedgerows.

One litter was born, and they were all deformed, Mr. J was,  naturally, annoyed about this, because he would have to kill them straight away, or as soon as they could leave their Mother. I asked him why they were born like that, and he told me it was a type of V. D. Evidently animals can catch it, the same as humans. I had learnt a bit more about the birds and the bees, since I left Ilford.  When you reflect on the Johnson's animals and garden, they were more or less, self sufficient. The pig, and rabbits, and the chickens that they kept in the orchard, plus all the vegetables, (I was introduced to asparagus, which they grew)apples, pears, plums, you name it, they grew it.

If it was known that a local bull was to service a cow, all the kids, boys and girls, who make their way to the farm,  hoping to watch the proceedings, only to be told to "Bugger off" by one of the farm hands.

I mentioned that Mr. J kept bees, and occasionally he would have to take a swarm that was attached to a tree, to do this, he would roll up his sleeves of his shirt, tightly, so that a bee could not get any further up his arm, put on an old felt hat, that had a netting fixed to its brim, the netting then hanging over his shoulders. He would then place a wide basket beneath the swarm, on the ground, produce a pair of hand held bellows, set fire to a piece of oily rag, and once it had started to smoke, puff the smoke on to the swarm. They, the bees, would slowly drop into the basket, and once they were all in the container, he would take them back to their hive, tipping up the basket, and coaxing them back into their home, talking to them all the while in a quiet voice. His arms would be covered by the insects, and once the majority were in the hive, he would gently brush them of his arms and clothing, put the top back on the hive, and that was that.

Knowing that I was scared of bees, he asked me to give him a hand, but what he meant was for me to stand and watch the proceedings, telling me that if one did land on me, to let it stay, and not to attempt to knock it off, as that would lead to me being stung. This was easier said than done, and when one did come on to me, I found it's company to be very nerve racking, but as they were made dosy by the smoke, they seemed less threatening.

Some years prior to my arrival, the queen bee had settled on Mrs. J. and the rest of the bees from that hive had followed her, creating a swarm. She, Mrs. J, was stung a great number of times, necessitating a stay in hospital, nearly losing her life.

Knick knock night, and we were out in force to cause trouble with the householders, as we had done at home, i.e., knocking on doors and running away. On the main road that ran through the village there lived a family, man woman, and one child. He, the father, was a warder at the criminally insane prison at Rampton, and he was not, nor his wife, not even his son,  likeable people, even to the locals. So we came across the house, knocked on the door, and heard movement in the house as if someone was going to answer it, but she, the wife, was wise to our endeavors, and got her son to make noises, whilst she went upstairs, quietly opened a bedroom window, and emptied a bucket of water over us, most of us getting splashed, but not getting the soaking she wanted us to have. We left her alone,  but later we decided to return, keeping an eye on her upstairs window, only to find that her husband was home now, and waiting for us. "I'll thump you, you buggers when I catch you" we all took to our heels, taking different escape routes, but he caught up with one of us, and he gave his prisoner a few thumps, though he wasn't aware of who he was hitting, except he said that it was one of the big lads, and definitely an evacuee. The very next day, he paid a visit to where Alan was staying, accusing him of being one of the "gang", Alan had been in bed with a cold, so it was not him. It was next door to where Jimmy lived, but Jimmy hadn't got any bruises, then it was my turn, but I hadn't got any signs either, It had to be definitely an evacuee, as none of the local lads would do such a thing. was his comment. If he had looked further he would have discovered one of the village boys who was finding it painful to walk for a few days after the incident.

Jimmy and Alan were in the church choir, and I decided to join them, I think the pay was about the same as at St.  James's. The choir master was a woman, who didn't seem to like kids, and was forever telling them off, either for being a few minutes late for choir practice, or walking noisily in the church. The slightest thing would annoy her, so it was no surprise that when one of the village lads was quite late one evening, through no fault of his own, she told him to leave the choir, and church, and that he would not be accepted back into the choir. I, too, had had my fair share of her tongue, as had some of the others, So, I stood up and told her "If he goes, I go", "Then you can join him" she said, Jimmy and Alan, followed suit, so all 4 of us left. the church. Mrs. J.  noticed the following Sunday that I, and the others were not sitting in the choir stalls and asked me the reason why, I told her about how the woman had treated the banned boy, and I think Mrs. J. had sympathy for us, as the Choir master was not everyone's cup of tea.

Not long after this, we, Alan, Jim, and I, met the vicar, who asked us to go back as our voices were being missed. We told him of our little fracas with the woman. He said that she was under a lot of stress, and that she, too, would like us to return to the fold. So the three of us, and the boy who had been dismissed, rejoined, the lady in question not saying a word.

I enjoyed singing in the choir, especially on the occasions,  such as Christmas, and Harvest Festival, where, although the country was suffering food rationing, the church would be filled, not only with people, I doubt if there was an empty pew, particularly during Evensong, but with all the produce that local farmers had grown, apples, pears, potatoes, etc. The altar steps would be lined with sheaves of corn, even the aisles were cluttered, making it difficult to walk down them whilst we sung the processional hymn. The whole picture was to give thanks for God's gift to us. The hymns were particularly uplifting, and arousing, making us sing our hearts out,  we had an occasional run in with the village bobby,  especially over being suspected of scrumping, but he never had any proof. He did, however catch me and Jimmy cycling down the road, Jimmy was sitting on my crossbar, whilst I was doing the pedaling. Out from behind a bush the man sprung out,  stopping us, and telling us that we were breaking the law, by having more than one on a bike, and that he was keeping an eye on the pair of us, and he would take a more serious view if he was to catch us again. Finally sending us on our way,  with a very large flea in our ear, and a quick flip of his cape on our backs, after getting from us a promise that we would not repeat the offence. So we made doubly sure that he was not around when we decided on breaking the rules again.

I had developed a wart on the knuckle of my right hand, which was a bit of a nuisance to me, often catching it on brambles when picking berries, or cleaning my bike, it being knocked by the wheel spokes. This came to a head, whilst I was rolling a steel hoop along the road, the edge of the hoop caught the wart, and nearly cut it off. The wound bled freely, and it had to be bandaged by Mr. J. He told me then that I ought to have the wart 'charmed' off. I had already tried all the old wives tales, such as rubbing on the white sap from a certain plant,  tying a piece of horse hair tight around it, the hair intended to cut through the growth, plus various other things, to no avail. I had nothing to lose, except the wart, so I told my foster father that I was interested. 'Right then,  Roy, first of all steal a bit of raw meat, then bury it where no feet will tread'. Stealing the meat was easy, I cut a small piece off the Sunday joint, that Mrs. J. had left on the kitchen table, but where on earth could I bury it, I walked around the garden, carrying this piece of meat with me,  scratching my head, until I got to the gooseberry bushes.  Pulling my cheap version of a scouts knife out of my pocket,  (every boy had a knife), I dug a shallow hole in the soil next to the root of the bush, pushed the meat in the hole,  replaced the soil, and then I played the waiting game. Waiting, and watching the wart. First of all, nearly all the time, then occasionally looking at it, then I lost interest, and looked at it only when I knocked it.

In the early days when I had started the magic working, I would ask Mr. J. when it would go, only getting a "Give it time Roy, give it time" reply, a month went past, and I still got the 'give it time' routine, eventually I forgot all about it,  waking up one morning to suddenly find that it had disappeared. Mind you it was 3 years later, when I was 16. So much for the power of charms, or had someone stolen the meat,  or again, had someone put a foot in the wrong place, thus breaking the spell?

Winter in South Leverton, at least the winter that we had during my stay in the village, brought snow, quite deep snow,  which meant that we could do some sledging, but we needed a sledge. Scrounging wood, and nails off Mr. J. we, Jimmy, Alan, and I, set too, the finished article was a bit rough, and didn't slide very well, until we nailed some steel on to the bottom of the runners, then 'borrowed' some beeswax, liberally coating the steels, and that did the trick, now to find the best slope, which happened to be in a field, which was not too far distant. It had a sunken pond at the bottom end of the slope, adding a bit of risk to our sport, although the pond was covered in ice, it wasn't really that thick to withstand the combined weight of boy and sledge dropping on it from about 2 feet. The art of steering was the use of either foot digging into the snow, at the right time. All the village kids were taking it in turn to do their runs, girls as well as boys. One girl, through not using her shoes as brakes, ended up in freezing water. She yelled, and cried her head off, we quickly got her out, although she was in no fear of drowning,  as the pond was just inches deep, and rushed her to her home,  half an hour later she was back for more, having completely changed her clothes. This time she was more fortunate.

On Mr. Cuckson's farm there was a much bigger pond, again, not very deep, and it was on here that I first tried to ice skate. I had tried roller skating, and found it a painful experience, as I couldn't keep my balance, so it was with a little apprehension that I put on the skates by the side of the pond, and once on my feet, I was helped across the ice by Mavis, until I seemed to manage without her support, staying upright at least until I ran into the edge of the pond,  finding that although I could get from A to B, I would not be in the Olympics.

Haymaking, and a chance to make some money, we would be employed to gather in the crop. First of all the hay was cut,  then put into piles to allow it to dry, and after a given period we would go back to the fields, and pick up, then throw, the hay onto a cart, using a pitchfork, a twin pronged

tool, the prongs, about 10 inches long and slightly curved,  with points on the business end, attached to a wooden handle,  about 6 foot long. This was a dangerous tool in the wrong, or clumsy hands, and could cause a very nasty wound.

A little later on in the year we would help to gather in the corn, given us a bit more cash. This would be cut, and threshed by a huge machine, which would separate the corn from the chaff, the corn being then shot into canvas sacks, which once filled would be removed, and replaced with an empty one. the remaining straw would be tied in bundles, and deposited onto the ground behind the machine. This machine we would follow,  and using a pitchfork, toss the sheaves, by sticking the fork into them, lift them well above our heads, and place them on top of a wagon. Someone would be on the wagon to receive the straw, and stack it neatly. We, as schoolkids, had never had it so good, there we were, in the sunshine, doing healthy manual work, and being paid for something we enjoyed.

As the machine started on the very edge of the field, going completely around the area in ever decreasing circles,  finishing up in the centre.

Whilst the wheat had been growing, various animals,  particularly rabbits, had made the field their homes, and as the machine went around, it was disturbing their habitat,  causing them to move further into the field to escape predators. Several of the men attending the threshing had got a dog, and, or gun with them, just waiting for the inevitable.  All of a sudden a shout would go up, and the dogs would be off. The men intent in catching their dinner. The number of rabbits caught either by the dogs, or the good shooting of those with guns, meant not only meat for that day, but as this threshing carried on for several days, it meant rabbit meat every day, or so it seemed, I was half expecting to grow long ears, or at best my nose to start twitching, and have a passion for lettuce. This eating of rabbit also applied to haymaking time, so twice a year the pork we normally had, was replaced by our friendly bunny. The garden shed would be full of the stretched out skins of these animals, being dried,  before being sold, who to, I'm not aware, but I know that fur coats, (Coney), and gloves would be made out of them. All I was aware of was that they  disappeared one day, and Mrs. J. had a new dress, or shoes with the proceeds.

The one job that I disliked, even though we got paid for doing it, was currant picking, whether black, white, or red. For the amount of time involved, the pay was poor, working out about a penny for each 2 pound collected, and there's a lot of currants in 2 pounds, and of course the fruit was not sweet, so you hardly ate one, and it was also backbreaking,  whereas, strawberry picking was different, although this too, was backbreaking. As kids you were lucky to get this job, the farmer would have used adult labour, if it was available, knowing that the youngsters would eat more than they put into the baskets.

Come potato picking time, and this corresponded with half term from school, we would be employed doing just that,  together with some of the women from the village. Now this was really backbreaking work, but the pay was could, 4 shillings a day, so we would suffer the pain.

Mrs. J. would pack us out with sandwiches, and a bottle of cold tea for our midday break, this we normally had, sitting in the hedgerow, until one day it rained, when 4 or 5 of us sat under one of the horse drawn carts, eating our food. the horse, a male, decided that he wanted a pee, so let down his 'hosepipe' and passed his water. This came out at such a force that it well and truly splashed the boy sitting nearest to the horse. The lad was incensed with being sprayed, and picked up a potato, and slung it at the horse's appendage. The horse reared up, and ran down the field, pulling the cart behind him. We counted our blessings, as if the horse had turned,  before starting his gallop, we would have been run over by the wheels. Again, someone was looking after me.

We did pick up the odd bad habit from the village lads, as no doubt, they did from us, one of them was summer snowball fights, but instead of using real snow, we made do with horse muck, well dried horse muck, well, most of the time it was dry. We, the evacuees, wouldn't start these fights, they were often caused through jealousy of us 'townies' because the village girls were more attracted to us, than to them, and all the 'outsiders' had a girl friend, (If I knew then what I know now).

Across the road from the Johnsons was a small farm owned and run by Mr. Cuckson, his wife and two daughters, Margaret,  the oldest, and locum organist at church, and Mavis, my age, who often paired up with me. In their orchard was an old car,  that, although it had seen better days, was still rather luxurious. It would be in this car that we would spend some time, not just the two of us, but with another couple,  sometimes as many as 6 of us would get in the car. It would be here that we would talk about the war, and plan any escapades. There would be Jimmy, sometimes Alan, and I, with 3 village girls, Mavis being one of them, the six of us just talking, and often pretending that we were all 'Malcolm Campbells' the racing driver. (Don't forget, to sit in a car, to most of us was a new experience, apart from Mavis, the owner's daughter, and we relished every opportunity to do it). 

During the winter, I would enjoy walking through the virgin snow, across fields, finding only the footprints of rabbits,  foxes, and birds. Discovering the odd patch of animals blood,  where a fox had caught a rabbit. Charlie, my foster brother,  would accompany me on the ramble"s, pointing out that a footprint would be of a crow, or wild duck, and where an animal had paused to listen for it's hunter, or prey, showing me rabbit warrens, normally unseen, but highlighted by the snow. His speech being visible in the cold air, he explained that moss only grew on the north side of trees, so that one couldn't get lost in a forest, and other little snippets of country lore, which I've remembered. Since then I've found that moss does only grow on one side of a tree, but never had a compass with me to prove it. (Actually I've seen moss on all sides of a tree, but only very rarely).

Christmas day arrived, and this was my first one without any toys, whether Mum thought I was to old for toys, or there were none in the shops, I don't know, as most of what I was given as presents were clothes, a new pair of trousers, shirt,  socks, gloves, maybe a packet of sweets. Presents were exchanged, a little something to my foster parents, some sweets for Charlie and Margaret, The actual day, after the opening of presents, was followed by breakfast,  and then church, and after church, the dinner of the year,  which included my friend, the goose. Then lazing in the afternoon, maybe playing 'snakes and ladders ''Ludo' or listening to the radio, until teatime. After this meal, the evening visit to church, then more of what we had been doing in the afternoon, before retiring to bed. Definitely not one of the most exciting days of my life.

Mum came up for a few days, well before Christmas, stopping with us at Meetinghouse lane, bringing me up a suit. On the Sunday evening I wore it for the first time for my visit to church, me going to the choir, whereas Mum went with Mrs. J. After the service, they waited for me to shed my cassock and surplice, then I joined them outside the church, and stood there with my hands in my pockets, whilst Mrs. J. introduced Mum to other ladies of the village. One of my fellow choir boys came dashing down the path, caught my arm in such a fashion that the force ripped the pocket of my brand new suit. This caused Mum much annoyance, reminding me that not only did clothes cost good money, but they were also rationed, and that I had used up my yearly allocation of clothing coupons. and if I hadn't been standing there in such a slovenly manner, i.e., with my hands in my pockets, the accident would not have happened. Of course, if I had been wearing my patched trousers, it would never have happened, which, I suppose, is sods law.

During her stay, Mother had asked the choirmistress if we could take my cassock and surplice over to Retford, so that I could pose for a photograph in a studio, the 'dragon' at first refused, then gave way, and the result is in one of the albums kept in the house. As your Mother says whenever she sees it, "Butter wouldn't melt in your mouth, you little angel".

Mother was very nervous of the goose, who used to hiss at her whenever she approached it, so everytime she wanted to use the toilet, I had to accompany her, me waiting outside until she had done whatever, then escort her back to the house.

As I've mentioned, most of the evacuees had a village girl friend, and I was no exception, and all of us had now got the birds and bees thing sussed. We had also learnt that if ever it was known by older brothers about any form of relationship with their sister, that could be considered 'naughty', you would get beaten up by one of them.

VD was known about, and lurid pictures were painted of the results of catching it. Hadn't I seen with mine own eyes what had happened to the young rabbits, so we were all well aware of it. The other reason was possibly because us all being churchgoers, there was also the fact that if anyone blew their nose, everyone in the village would know about it, and of course we all knew about how to get a girl pregnant, but completely ignorant about contraception.

We had also witnessed the births of calves, lambs, rabbits and the distress caused to the natural mother, when the young was born dead, I've even seen a farmer with tears in his eyes,  when his favourite cow, and most farmers seemed to take more to one animal than another, had lost it's baby. Though it wasn't only births that we saw, towards the end of the year, pigs would be slaughtered, something I will always remember, though I only saw it the once, but I had rather not think about it.

When a calf is born the mother cow produces a very rich milk to feed it's young on, this is called beastings milk. Every day Mrs. J would go across the road to Mr.  Cuckson's farm for fresh milk, which she would carry in a large jug. If a calf had been born, and the calf had had it's fill, Mr Cuckson would ask her, Mrs. J. if she would like some of the cow's surplus, which she often had. as the milk was so rich and creamy, and with this milk she would make a custard that was truly out of this world.

My speech started taking on a Nottinghamshire dialect, and I would talk about me'sen, not myself, and 'not it', rather than wouldn't it, which would cause me problems when I returned to Yarmouth. Mrs. Johnson had a brother, who kept a farm a few miles bus ride away, and we all had an invite to go to tea one Sunday afternoon. It was the first time that I had met relatives of my foster parents, so come the day, we all duly caught the bus, with the exception of Mr. J.

On arrival, the family made me, a stranger, welcome, and after some tea and cakes, the farmer asked me if I had ever been over a farm, and would I like to look around his, I jumped at the chance, if only to get away from the grown up company's chatter. As we went our walkabout, he told me all about life on a farm, how hard it was, and asked what I was going to do when I left school, all the usual things an adult says to a young boy. He pointed out the various implements, such as the harrows, rakes, his tractor, and the smelliest place of all, the crewe yard, (Animals toilet) and we ended the tour at the milking shed, the farm hand was sitting upon his stool,  pulling and squirting away into a bucket, I was asked if I'd like to try my hand, but refused, and stood at the back of the cow, about half way from the cow's tail and the shed wall,  maybe 8 foot away. Fortunately, for some reason or other, I suddenly dropped what I had been carrying, possibly a piece of paper, and as I bent down to pick it up, the cows tail went up in the air, and broke wind, and in the wind was a dollop,  which shot over my head, and splattered on the wall behind me, if I hadn't been bending, I would have caught it full in the face, possibly giving me a lasting tan.

Mrs. J, s brother, and the milker laughed their heads off, and although it took me a few seconds to get over the fact of a near miss, I too, saw the funny side. The farmer said that I had had enough excitement for one day, and took me back to the house, where he related what had happened, causing the ladies much amusement.

Coming home from school one afternoon on my own, (Charlie had gone off with a friend), I discovered a bough, had fallen off the plum tree, that was just outside the front door. The weight of the fruit, and the trees age, plus strong winds, had done the damage. Now my favourite fruit must be plums, and this bough was absolutely loaded with delicious ripe ones, I couldn't resist the temptation, and ate them as fast as I could pull them, craftily throwing the stones into the underside of nearby plants. Eventually I had my fill, which was just about a minute before my foster mother appeared on the scene, I thought that I had better 'come clean' and admitted to her that I had had a couple or three, though I'm quite certain she knew better, because for tea that night we had bread, butter, and plums.

I had to eat them all, if only to save face, but I would have preferred something non fruity. Mrs. Johnson had that look on her face of 'I'll teach him a lesson he'll not forget, in a hurry', With tea over, I went to meet my mates, and on the way there I had the most awful feeling in my stomach, which caused me to take to my heels, hoping I would make Alan's lavatory before it was to late, good fortune was on my side, and I made it with less than a split second to spare, I'll not go into details,  but I certainly learnt another lesson that day, if it was only about gluttony.  Whilst I was there I kept a scrapbook, cutting out head lines and pictures from the newspapers, and the odd cartoon, one of the cartoons showed Stalin, the Russian leader, smoking a pipe, with the caption below telling all, that you can trust a man who smoked a pipe(I wonder if that was the impression I gave when I smoked one).

Every day, in the papers, there would be a map showing the position of the enemy forces compared to the Allies, how many men, the number of tanks, and showing who had retreated and how far.

Many experts were used, giving their opinions on how the war should be fought. There was also a report of an attempted invasion on the South East coast, which when the enemy got close to shore, the sea was set alight, by oil being sprayed out of pipes, and that the Germans lost 50, 000 men.  Often the bombing raids would be mentioned, stating that an East coast town was bombed, though, for strategic reasons, the town's name would never be mentioned, although they would state that 30 people ?, lost their lives. When East coast was mentioned, naturally I thought it was my home town, yet there's dozens of towns on that coast. When reading this news, my thoughts would go to Mum, and Geof, and I would look forward to a letter from her.

Alan was keen on fishing and often he would spend time by the brook, or beck as it was called, that ran through the village. Jim and I went with him once, and he caught a good sized eel, which he killed, then started to skin, both Jim and I had seen enough, and left him to do his own thing.

When we lived in Camden Place, Alan was very, very, fat, in fact his mother could not buy trousers to fit him, and had to wear a pair of his father's cut down to size. The doctor, according to Mrs. Waters, said that he had a sleeping gland, whatever that was. Then, of course, we parted company, and I lost sight of him for a couple of years. When we met again, in South Leverton, he had lost his fat, and shot up, to be quite tall, evidently his sleeping gland had woken up. Whereas I was always inclined to be fat, or as I like to think, pleasantly plump. At school I was often referred to as Fatty Arbuckle, or Jumbo, or just plain fatty, these remarks hurt me, and often would cause me to cry, which would encourage more nasty remarks made to me, a kind of vicious circle. Until I realised that this was a cross I had to bear, and learnt that I should not show that the names were hurting me, even if they did cause me pain inside, and so tried to develop a thick skin, which has helped me over the years. Not that remarks don't hurt, but never to show, what was, my Achilles heel. Both Alan and Jim, as I mentioned before got their education in a good school in Retford, and often they would talk about their school work, such as Algebra, Logarithms, etc, putting my education at the local parochial school in a poor light, as I could only give quotations from the Bible, or tell what tree had what kind of leaf. (I had a lot of catching up to do later in life).

My time in the country was running out, and I was counting the days towards my 14th birthday, as I should imagine, so were the Johnsons. The days were getting longer, the lambs were being born, and everything was turning from death to life, with the new leaves on the trees, and the fields taking on their summer coat of green. Suddenly it was Easter, and my birthday, Mum came up a couple of days before, to take me back to Yarmouth. I paid my last visit to school, my last visit to the church, and my choir singing. I said my farewells to the rest of the village boys and girls, and we left South Leverton,  I did have the odd pang of regret about leaving the village, as I had made so many friends, including those born there, but this was compensated by the fact that I was leaving school, and entering into the adult life of work.

Bus to Retford, train to Yarmouth, and home, to be met on our arrival by Geof, who once he had heard me speak, which was now with a broad Nottinghamshire accent, he immediately took the mickey out of me, my Achilles heel let me down, and I started to cry. Mum told Geof off, and after that first time, if he did extract it again, it was never in front of her, but it was a few weeks before he would accept my dialect back in the house.

So now to find a job, I applied for work as a shop assistant/general dogsbody, at Fieldings in the Market Row. Fieldings sold bicycles, radios, household electrical equipment, such as irons, torches batteries, etc.

I saw Mr.  Tooke, the manager of the shop, and though Mother accompanied me, I was interviewed on my own. and on the 22nd April 1942 I started my working life

Only 51 years to retirement !

 

My First Taste Of Work

 

 

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