My mum Rene (Alice Irene Flitney née Harding) died in 1999. When my brother, sister and I went through her things we found an envelope full of old newspaper clippings and other bits and pieces. We looked through the papers and put the envelope away, but those yellowing pieces of paper keep whispering of half-forgotten times and places. Places like Butlers Cross, Stoke Mandeville, Aylesbury, West Wycombe, Little Kimble, Wendover, Ellesborough, Southcourt and Princes Risborough.

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

MURCOTT : Guest post by John Flitney

Front of cottage, circa 1970

I have no recollection of the date we left Lower Farm or how the move was achieved. We had visited Murcott previously but now we were going to live there and life would be much different. Dad had got a new job as maintenance engineer at Woodham Brick company, Mum would be busy in the house and caring for her father who was now bedridden. Richard was none too happy about the move as he had been doing very well at Aylesbury college, particularly at sport. During his last football match, with a talent scout watching, he had scored three goals. Impressive stuff that could perhaps have led to a career in the game. Now he would have to cycle two miles to Charlton on Ottmoor to catch a bus to Oxford to attend Cheney Technical College. As for me, I was eleven years old so would have had to change schools anyway. Now I could walk to the top of the lane and get the school bus to Hyfield Secondary Modern school in Bicester.

These two photos are from soon after Gran and Gramps moved in. The cowshed is behind the camera in the front view. The arch is over the well in the garden scene. The lady is Aunt Kay, George’s wife, with Nipper Grampie’s dog.

The biggest change was that there were now six of us in the house, spanning three generations. Granny and Grampy were both in their late seventies and Grampy’s health was none too good. He was confined to bed after some heart trouble. What was most disconcerting was that his bed was downstairs in the living room and us boys had to sit on the side of it to eat our meals. So the ‘Children should be seen but not heard’ rule was regularly enforced, particularly indoors. Also things (ornaments or the piano etc) were not to be played with. This was something new for Richard and me and I found it hard not to meddle with things. Especially in the ‘End Room'. (It was out of bounds really which made it even more imperative to find out what secrets it held.) This was the place that was kept for special occasions and had all the best furniture and most treasured possessions.

The piano was here and I am convinced the lid only ever squeaked when it was me lifting it. There was also a wicker bookcase, that seemed to creak whenever I looked at it, a tall glass fronted cabinet with exotic ivory ornaments and other delights all crying out to be touched and admired. For some reason they were all locked in.The table and piano top had potted ferns on them, the windows had net curtains across and the sills were crowded with Geraniums which made the room quite dark and mysterious. Adding to this mystique was the fact that most of the ornaments and bamboo wall hangings were what Uncle George had brought back from Hong Kong. He had served out there with the Royal Engineers for five years before the second world war. One of these was a three string Mandolin type instrument with a horse hair bow. Snag was I could never play it quietly and cat impressions were my forte. Trouble was we didn't have a cat at the time so Mum always caught me at it and I always got told off for ‘fiddling’ with it. The cupboard beside the fireplace was another source of treasure too. The fire itself was surrounded by an elegant fender with brass rails and padded lid box seats either side. Somehow the room always seemed very peaceful and quiet like it was just holding time in abeyance............just waiting...............remembering days past...............

Uncle George

Outside things would be different too. We now had neighbours just across the lane at the farm. Gran and Gramps had not got on very well with them in the past so we boys were warned to be careful and not upset them. Also we were now living in a village, albeit at one end of it and separated from the main part by small fields, yet it was only a short walk to the village hall. Murcott, a small village on the northern edge of Ottmoor in Oxfordshire. Ottmoor was/is a flat area of farm land prone to flooding in winter time. It was/is criss crossed with drainage ditches with lines of tall Poplar trees along the banks. At that time (1954) the Royal Air Force had a practice bombing range there. At night we could hear the jets approaching and a short while after a dull thud as the bombs landed. The village had no proper shop back then but an elderly fellow in a house close by the hall sold a few of the basics. I remember going into what was his front room and buying sweets over the counter he had there. There was a pub, The Nut Tree, and the landlord had a bloodhound, a huge dog with big floppy ears, big feet and big amounts of drooling saliva. If you took it for a walk it was like having a mobile shower beside you.

The Nut Tree (with nuts) mid 1960s

Our address now was The Cottage, Pigeon House Lane, Murcott, Nr. Islip, Oxon. The house stood a short way down a shared lane ( with the farm opposite ) off the village road which now is called Fencott Road. This lane became a farm track beyond the house and led to fields on Ottmoor. Built with thick stone walls and a thatch roof, the house front faced northeast and the one entrance was on the south western side. Also with the property were two grass meadows, one larger than the other which had a pond in it and a hollow that would fill with water in the winter. If this froze hard enough it was ideal for sliding on, certainly safer than the pond as the water was not so deep should the ice break and you went through. The moat I have mentioned was a silted up small lake which started at our gate and went the whole length of the big field between the hedge and the farm track. In summer it dried to sticky mud but was usually full during winter. Other buildings were a square stone wall barn with a dodgy roof, two corrugated iron sheds, one a cow shed (the horse had gone to be replaced by a Jersey cow) divided into two pens. One of which Dad used as a garage later. The other shed was nearer the house and was a wood store and workshop. On the left side of the house front was a small lean to shed where Grampy used to store his fruit and veg.

                                Frozen hollow                                               Garden winter '63

The Moat, full

Within the house there were six rooms in all, three up three down. The toilet was a bucket affair in a wooden shed some fifteen yards from the house. There was no mains electricity and only one cold water tap in the kitchen. Previously all the water had been pumped by hand from the well close by the entrance.

Entrance from garden. End room door is top left.

One entered the house into a passageway, to the right was the sitting room, always called the ‘End room’ and rarely used except for visitors. To the left a short way along was the door to the living/dining room. This had an old fashioned coal fired range in it that Mum would use for baking. There was always a kettle on the hob quietly singing to itself. A fascinating little sound that modern electric kettles never achieve.

The livingroom.

At the end of the passage and down a small step was the kitchen/pantry. It was divided into two by a wall but we considered it one room as there was no door into the pantry area. It had two windows, a small one facing the moat and a larger one with a view up the lane. For cooking Mum had the use of two paraffin stoves, a single and the other had two burners with a small oven between them. To regulate the heat she would turn the wicks up or down. There was also the oven in the living room for larger roasts and cakes. Mum managed to feed us six, plus guests on occasion, with this equipment for nine years.

Mum and the two stoves

Lighting came from paraffin lanterns that had tall glass chimneys, also for more portable lights, candles in enamelled candle-holders. Being trusted with carrying my own candle up to bed was a big responsibility. We had moved from a house with lots of room, a proper bathroom, hot and cold running water, electric cooking and lights to a place that boasted one cold tap and the luxury of a battery powered wireless. It wasn't until Dad got some compensation for injuries caused in a road accident that mains electric was brought to the house in nineteen sixty three. The neighbours had had it for years but Gramps had not trusted “these new fangled ideas”. The stairs went up from the living room and turned a hundred and eighty degrees to a small landing. From the top, turning right took you along a short passage to what I always thought was an enchanting room. It was over the kitchen, had two windows, one looking out over the farm track the other facing to the lane. The ceiling was angled at each side and, like in the kitchen below, the floor sloped toward the end wall. Straight ahead from the top of the stairs took you into the middle, and smallest room in the house, the bedroom Richard and I shared. It had a tiny little window that looked out over the garden. Mum and Dad had to pass through our room to get to theirs at the other end of the house.

As for the village it was spread along the Fencott road and it wasn't until opposite the church that there were any houses on both sides of it. Richard and I had our first venture that way when we were tasked to take the spare accumulator to be recharged. The wireless (radio nowadays) was battery powered by two batteries. One was the accumulator, a lead/acid affair in a clear class case with a carry handle. The second was a multi cell dry one that produced a hundred and forty four volts when new. The lead/acid one could be recharged and as I say Richard and I had to take it periodically to Mr. Crawford’s works at the far end of the village for this to be done.

So a new chapter in our lives had started with lots of changes and new restrictions and the prospect of new surroundings to explore. Unbeknown to me at that time a person was soon to move into the village who would have a great influence on my future.

To be continued.............

Previous episodes herehere, here and here  

Friday, 19 December 2014

The Flitney Family at home for Christmas

Sepia Saturday 259 : Families, meals, and Christmas.

This is one of my favourite photographs taken at Well Manor Farm Cottages (Well, Long Sutton, Hampshire, United Kingdom) in 1959. Dad (Denis Flitney) is looking directly at the camera which is a shame because the reflection from the flash has almost obscured his ‘celery moustache’. My sister Sue has a big smile on her face as she notices what he is up to, mum and brother Tony are both in on the joke while I'm trying to hide, which is my natural inclination when anyone points a camera in my direction.  My sister’s then boyfriend (soon to be husband) Bob Wood took the photo, he and dad were constantly larking around and a piece of celery above the top lip was always good for a laugh.

L to R Sue, Tony, Rene, Denis and me (Barbara) trying to hide.

It’s hard to miss the highly patterned and very fashionable (at the time) fiberglass curtains. Mum sent away for them after seeing an advert in the Daily Mirror - 100% glass, never need ironing, perfectly washable, no sun rot, fade resistant, fire safe, no stretch and no shrink.  What the advert failed to mention was the importance of putting on industrial-strength gloves before going anywhere near the pesky things! Glass fibres in fingertips hurt.

We all loved Lucy, but we were not so keen on fiberglass fingers.

I'm not sure what’s going on in this picture, but I can imagine Bob saying something like "hold it" and we did. Mum with her cup of tea, me with a Christmas cracker, brother Tony with a plate of bread and butter with a cracker on top, dad pretending to eat a mince pie, and Sue flirting with the photographer! According to the captions in the album, the photographs were all taken on the same day, but I feel sure they must have been different days over the Christmas holiday. Either that or we were in the habit of changing our clothes twice a day! 

In this photo, Bob has come out from behind the camera, and we've been joined by Kosset cat (named after the brand of carpets by the same name). Sue must have been about eighteen when these were taken so that would make me twelve. Those were the days when mum liked to ‘set’ my hair on pipe cleaners. I was supposed to end up looking like Shirley Temple, but nothing could be further from the truth.  The pipe cleaners had a soft fleecy outer layer over flexible wires, which felt fairly comfortable when I went to bed but by the morning were nothing short of torture, which might explain the bags under my eyes.

It’s now time for a short Christmas break. Thanks to everyone who takes the time to read my blog and to my sister Sue and cousin John for all their contributions. 

Best wishes for happiness at Christmas and in the coming year. 

Please visit Sepia Saturday for more holiday greetings.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Guest Post – My Sister Remembers – Part Six

As previously mentioned (here) apple picking season was the highlight of the year at Well Manor Farm, but cricket season came a close second.  Not that I liked cricket, but it was a good place to meet boys, especially when the lads from Lord Wandsworth College were playing. I met a lovely looking lad called Dai at one of the matches. We really liked each other, but as soon as his parents heard we were “walking out together" it came to a very abrupt halt with a letter from him telling me I was unsuitable.  Considering we had only known each other for about a month and had not even held hands, I felt that was a bit harsh!

Another of my school friends had a brother, Colin. He and I started “courting” and it wasn't long before he was visiting me at home once or twice a week. Colin loved playing cards and as this was my mum and dad's favourite leisure pursuit they all got on very well. He would arrive, play cards, eat supper and go home – just what a girl needed. Mum and Dad thought he was the bee's knees and within a very short time were thinking of getting us married off. I felt sure life must have more to offer and tried to let him down gently, but he would not go away. Violet (my friend from next door) and I spent some time plotting about how we could get rid of him. When he next arrived, we ambushed him (I am not proud of what happened next) and covered him in lipstick – all over his face and all over his clean white shirt. The poor lad was really upset about having to go home in that state, but it put an end to his visits. Mum and dad were curious to know what had happened so I told them he was fed up with playing cards!

Sue and Colin

Luckily, Colin's sister remained friends with me, and I started to go to the youth club in Long Sutton and to the Old-Time dance club with her, and her friend Margaret. Margaret’s boyfriend brought another lad with him one week. His name was Robin (known as Bob) Wood. Bob was six years older than me and had just come out of The Fleet Air Arm and was very handsome.    I really liked him, but I think he just saw me as a young girl. One night while we were at the dance club I tried to impress him with my flirtatious chat, but he sternly told me to “Shush” as he was trying to listen to the dance teacher – very firmly put in my place! Margaret and friends asked me to go to the Easter Dance with them in 1958, a couple of months before my sixteenth birthday, it was being held at the Drill Hall in Alton (the hall is no loner there). I cycled to Long Sutton, left my bicycle at my friend's house and carried on to Alton with them in Margaret's boyfriends car.  Bob was there when we arrived with a very smart young lady. I wore my mum’s one and only evening dress, which was years old but fitted me like a dream. It was short, black with a little stiff narrow belt and shot through with gold lurex. Halfway through the evening while on the way back to my chair I slipped and in an effort to save myself grabbed the back of  Bob's  lady friends chair, which resulted in her ending up on the floor, she was not amused, in fact, she was furious. Maybe it was just the nudge Bob needed because he asked me to dance and by the end of the evening we were getting on famously. Margaret's boyfriend offered me a lift home, so it was decided I would leave my bike at Long Sutton and collect it the next day.  In those days the rules were that I had to be in by 9pm, but on this occasion I had permission to be home at 10pm, but it was nearer eleven when we arrived. Dad heard the car pull up saw men in it and came out with his shotgun!!! (I laughed at this bit Sue – I can remember many occasions when dad greeted my boyfriends with a shotgun – it certainly sorted the men from the boys!)

Sue c1957

Dad had calmed down by the next morning and suggested I ask Bob home to tea on the Sunday. He was quite brave and came to tea, (best ham sandwiches and trifle as I remember). I then started going to East Worldham some Sundays to have tea with his family. His Dad, Jack Wood, had been the local blacksmith but was retired due to ill health. His mum, Hartie, worked part-time at the village school, she belonged to the Women’s Institute and was a staunch member of the congregation at St. Mary’s Church. It wasn’t long before Bob and I were meeting up each weekend and on Wednesday evenings. We spent many summer evenings just walking and talking. Later, Bob bought a motorbike, and we started going further from home. We often went into Basingstoke to the pictures and then to a café for poached eggs on toast and coffee, which I hated but as everyone else was drinking it I thought I was very grown up doing the same. At weekends in the summer we would go to Southsea or Hayling Island and delight in passing the queues of cars waiting to cross the bridge on to the Island. We also visited Bobs Aunt Olive and Uncle Bill in Fareham and loved listening to all Uncle Bill’s war stories. We would have a drink in the local pub, and Aunt Olive always served up a lovely old-fashioned tea when we got back. It was a nice gentle courtship with very few problems, and it was only on the odd occasion I would catch myself thinking “am I doing the right thing?”

Sue, Bob and Peggy c1958

I left school as soon as I could and got a job as an auxiliary nurse at Wimble Hill Hospital, Farnham. I would cycle off early in the mornings and head towards Farnham, in the spring the blossom was lovely and the views from the top road are well worth seeing. I loved the work, although it was exhausting and often quite upsetting. The patients all had what we now call senile dementia or Alzheimer's, but in those days it was all classed as “mental illness.”

Wimble Hill Hospital (Sue in centre)

The hospital had a large day room and bathrooms downstairs with two wards upstairs. The patients used to spend all day sitting in the day room with very little to do and very few visitors. One day I decided to play a tune on the old piano that sat in the corner and within minutes most of the patients were singing along. Some of the other nurses were annoyed, but the Sister was pleased and from then on it became a regular part of the day. Life was not easy for patients or staff in those days. I spent many hours helping to lift patients into the bath and into bed. One of the warnings we were given was that we must never enter the night dormitory on our own. But one evening I heard a patient crying and thought I would slip up and make sure she was all right – big mistake. I looked through the glass at the top of the door and as everyone seemed to be in bed I let myself in. Next minute a little old lady had a pair of stockings tight around my neck trying to strangle me, it was a good job I was young and strong and could push her away. I got into all sorts of bother over it and was given the job of cleaning patient denture's night and morning for weeks! I must have been good at my job though because  the Sister on my ward wanted me to do my nurse's training in Basingstoke, but  by now things were pretty serious with Bob and there was no way I was going to move into nurse's accommodation and risk seeing less of him…

 Sue (front row centre) and colleagues Wimble Hill hospital

Memories of Susan Poulter nee Flitney; Sue is my older sister (although she looks younger!)
Previous instalments herehereherehere and here

Friday, 5 December 2014

Holloway Sword Fight - The Family Connection

Continuing the story of my mum’s side of the family I wanted to see what I could find out about Auntie Gladys.  

Thomas’s first wife Alice Laura Harding née Wesley died in 1939 and Thomas went on to marry Gladys in 1948. I was born in the same year so always assumed Gladys was my grandmother, although oddly we called her Auntie!

Back row left to right Auntie Gladys, Barbara Fisher nee Flitney, Rene Flitney nee Harding
Front Sue Poulter nee Flitney

From long ago conversations with mum I believe granddad originally employed Gladys as his housekeeper, after a while they became close and eventually married. Gladys was very sweet but also rather unworldly, and it was assumed granddad wanted to look after her. My sister remembered Gladys having a sister called Nora and that tiny piece of information helped tremendously when it came to tracking down the family. 

The wedding of Thomas Harding and Gladys Cizilinsky, the lady behind the bride and groom is Glady’s sister Leonora.

Gladys was born in 1913 two years after her sister Leonora.  Both girls were born in Hendon (an ancient parish in the county of Middlesex now forming part of Greater London) Their mother Edith Mahala Phillips was born in Camden Town in 1883 and in 1910, she married Ferdinand Czilinsky a carver on wood and ivory.  

Ferdinand’s father, Ferdinand Czilinsky the elder, settled the family in London. He was born In Mainz in 1835. As a young man he worked in Paris, where his first son, August, and his daughter Augusta were born. In London he and his wife Maria had another six children, including sons Emil Lorenz and Ferdinand junior (Gladys's father). By the time of the 1881 census, the family were living in Hoxton (London). Ferdinand senior made his living as a ‘carver in wood’ and fifteen-year-old August was also listed as a carver.  

Later, Emil and Ferdinand junior would also train as carvers in wood and ivory. It’s not clear if the family were employed as outworkers but that was often the case. In any case, the family were known to supply carved wooden and ivory handles in the form of animal heads that could be attached to either umbrellas or walking sticks. In 1930, a dozen Czlinsky’s assorted small walking stick heads cost around twenty shillings.  Amazing to think that one walking stick with a Czlinksy handle now sells for hundreds if not thousands of pounds.  

On the right; hazel walking stick with integral handle carved in the form of a Scottish terrier's head, c1920-40, almost certainly by a member of the Czilinsky family. The dogs head on the left is another example of their work.

In later years, Ferdinand senior lived at 6, Tytherton Road, Tufnell Park, with his son Ferdinand junior and possibly other members of his family. His eldest son August was married to Elizabeth and they and their five children were living at West Ham. Emil had also moved away but on New Year’s Eve (1902) he was at home with his father, and that was how he came to be involved in a dispute with the local authorities culminating in Ferdinand senior and his two sons appearing at the Old Bailey in February 1903.

Ferdinand Senior had already been in trouble with the law prior to his appearance at The Old Bailey as shown in this report from The London Evening News of October, 1985. 

Sued for rates, and pleads he was not liable because he was in prison. At the Clerkenwell County Court, yesterday, before Judge Meadows, Q. C., Ferdinand Czilinsky, a Pole with a strong native accent and described as a carver in wood and ivory, carrying on a business in Islington was sued for £1. 9s. 6d, a quarter’s rents.
Defendant: During that time I could not earn my living.
The Judge: What do you mean?
Defendant: "I vos vorking at the hardest labours for the most cruel sentence of ze magistrates! It VOS injustice, sob!"  (Loud laughter.)
The Judge: Then the country was providing for you, and your defence is that as you were all the time in prison, you are not liable even though your family continued to occupy the place?
As the defendant’s excitement increased when his honour gave judgement against him, he had to be removed from the witness box by the constable. Cizilinsky left shouting that he would appeal to the Queen and the House of Lords.  

His brushes with the law continued to escalate over the following years as this from the London North Mercury and Crouch End Observer of November 18th, 1899 attests; 

A Remarkable Defendant. 
At 6, Tytherton Road, Holloway, lives a remarkable old man named Ferdinand Czilinsky, whose name has frequently been before the Vestry for neglecting to provide certain sanitary improvements. Defendant has been before the Court several times and defied the Vestry in every way, threatening the sanitary officers if they entered his premises, and issuing literature alleging wrong-doing against the local authority. His latest effort in this line of defence has been the hanging of a sheet from his house on which were set forth that all might read the evil deeds and misdoings of the Vestry and its officials. The magistrate fined him £10 with 2s. (two shillings) costs 

Ten pounds and two shillings (in old money) was surely a huge sum to find when you consider a dozen walking stick handles were selling for approximately twenty shillings (£1.00).

The obvious ill feeling between the authorities and some members of the Czilinsky family came to a head in 1903.

This from The Echo, Thursday, January 15, 1903;

Holloway Sword Fight
At the Clerkenwell Police Court to-day Ferdinand Czilinsky (67) a carver, of 6, Tytherton-road, Tufnell-Park, was charged on remand with attempting to murder Police Constable Hyde, by stabbing him on the right hand. Ferdinand Czilinsky (23) and Emile Czilinsky (28), both ivory carvers, and sons of the older prisoner, were charged on remand with assaulting the police officer.
The report goes on to say;
The circumstances of the charge will be fresh in the minds of our readers. Police constable Hyde went to arrest the elder prisoner for non-payment of rates, and when the officer at length gained entrance to the room Ferdinand Czilinsky lunged at him with a sword, cutting his right thumb, afterwards saying he would have shot him if the officer had not been so quick.  P. C. Poole, said that Czilinsky senior was so violent, that he had to be carried downstairs. During the descent he repeated the threat to shoot the officers.

Ferdinand Czilinsky the elder was charged with feloniously wounding George Hyde with intent to murder, to do grievous bodily harm, and to disable with intent to resist apprehension. Ferdinand Czilinsky the younger and his brother Emil were charged with assaulting a constable in the execution of duty, obstruction and unlawful wounding. By the time the case came to court the charge against all three had changed to unlawful assault of a police officer in the execution of his duty.

The trial provides many interesting snippets about Ferdinand seniors working life and his rather quarrelsome nature. His counsel described him as ‘one of the most expert carvers in London’, and argued that much of the commotion on the night of 31st December 1902 was caused by the police tripping over boards of pear wood stacked in the hallway. In the ensuing melee Police constable Hyde also had an unhappy encounter with something he described as a rapier. This was probably one of the narrow blades typically used in sword sticks. The trial is well document online and for anyone with an interest in the details, the full account can be read here. (This is a full day’s court proceedings so be prepared to scroll through the pages to find the case.)

After the commotion of the trial, Ferdinand junior and Emil continued to work with their father until his death in 1907. His eldest son August had struck out by himself and at the time of the 1891 census, he was working on his own account as a carver in wood and ivory from his house in Mile End. By the time of the 1911 census two of his other sons, Alfred and Percy, were working alongside him as carvers in wood.

A lot has been written on the Internet and elsewhere about Ferdinand seniors irascible nature but for all that he was an incredibly talented man. This image of an automated cockatoo's head carved from ivory surely proves the point.

Ivory - an emotive subject.

London was the world’s busiest ivory market during the nineteenth century, as can be seen in this article from the Omaha Daily Bee of 9th July, 1899;

One of the most interesting warehouses at the London docks is that which contains ivory. Here the ivory is collected for the great sales by auction which take place quarterly. These constitute the largest ivory sales in the world, some ninety tons being sold at each sale at a rough aggregate of $500,000

These figures may seem large, but it should be remembered that the world’s annual consumption of ivory is estimated at something like 1,500,000 pounds, valued at $4,500,000 and to supply this amount 70,000 elephants must be killed. The consumption in Sheffield alone requires the annual slaughter of 22,000 animals….

The figures are truly shocking but possibly more upsetting is to realise that ivory poaching in Africa was still a massive problem in the 1970s and 1980s, and the trade was only banned in 1989.  The laws are confusing, but the basic premise now states it is legal to sell any carved ivory item if you can prove it was worked before 1947. Anything worked after that date is illegal to sell.  

I feel sure Ferdinand Cizilinsky the elder would have plenty to say on the subject of ivory, just as he did on so many other subjects.

Find my past,
The British Newspaper Archive,
Online archives at Christie's and Sotheby's auctions.
The proceedings of the Old Bailey
In good hands 250 years of craftsmanship by Katherine Prior ISBN 978-1-898565-09-3

Friday, 28 November 2014

Leaving Lower Farm, Pitchcott By John Flitney

View of village green Quainton, circa 1860, showing whipping post. 

So I had saved my feet from getting burnt but had to walk home with puddles in my wellies. Then when mum found out what had happened, I got my ears ‘burnt’ hearing how stupid I had been. By the time I dared to return to the scene of the crime the fire had burnt out and the ‘dragons’ had gone. The ash was cold.

Talking of cold, one winter while we were at Lower Farm it snowed several times and the snow remained between each fall so the countryside stayed white for several weeks. In places it had been blown into deep drifts. The stream-bed beside the road at the bottom of the big field was about five feet below the road level. The snow, where it had drifted, had filled in the ditch to the same height as the road. The water was still running and was coming out of, and running into white tunnels. It was quite a coincidence but at that time I just happened to be a famous Arctic explorer. Famed for hunting Polar bears in the wilds of Buckinghamshire. (Such imagination! Must have done a good job though, I haven’t heard reports of any sightings there since!) One morning I decided to find a really deep drift to dig myself an ice cave where I could hide and ambush the bears. Behind one of the sheds was a drift higher than me, so I was at it straight away. As I dug into it I noticed that the snow was in distinct layers, some separated by thin layers of ice. One was powdery, one had larger crystals of ice where it had perhaps thawed a little before freezing again and been covered by the next fall. Another layer was softer and made super snowballs, ideal for attacking those bears. The bottom layer was quite compacted by the weight of those above. So explorer and scientist too, never did finish the ice cave though. Funny how just getting cold hands, toes, ears and nose can put you off a good scheme. Hence the expression ‘getting cold feet’ perhaps?

I have mentioned the road at the bottom of the sixty-six acre field in front of the house, it was, and still is called Carters's Lane. It was a good adventure in spring time to take the dogs and search the dividing hedge between the two lower fields on the way to the pond near the lane. Once there check out the water for frog spawn or tadpoles then go on to the road and turn right.  Further along there were hedges both sides of the lane with large patches of wild Violets on the verges. I also remember for some distance along the lane, on either side grew huge majestic Elm trees whose branches formed a high arch above the road. Way up in the branches were dozens of Rook's nests and the noise the disturbed birds made was quite amazing. On the way home we would pick mum a posy of the sweet-smelling Violets.

My recollecttion of the time at Lower Farm is full of happy memories, I don’t recall having any tedious daily chores to do. There were times, when Dad had sawn an old telegraph pole into short lengths, that Richard and me would spend ages chopping the logs into kindling. It was enjoyable work as the wood split so easily. With three dogs as company, and for a while a pig as well, while roaming the fields, sheds and barns to play in, mostly in summer time when the animals were out, trees to climb, bikes to ride. Life was idyllic for two boys. Then on rainy days we had toys indoors, a quarter size snooker table, a Meccano set and Dinky toys, then later an electric train set. Weekly we would look forward to the arrival of ‘The Eagle” comic. My favourite story in that was Dan Dare and his adventures in space. I think also, about that time, there was a programme on the wireless (radio, nowadays) A series of plays called ‘Journey into Space’ which was both exciting and at times scary, especially with the weird sound effects. There were Jet Morgan, the captain, Doc, Mitch, engineer and Lemmy, crewman. The later was played by Alfie Bass I believe. These, I think, started my liking for science fiction and I now have a small collection of favourite stories with Eric Frank Russell my first choice author.

Dad had got some solid wood models of aircraft and these intrigued Richard to the point where he started to build, from kits, flying models and it was always exciting to witness the maiden flights of these. There were also trips into Aylesbury for shopping, the usual groceries and clothes I expect but I don’t remember much of that just the pleasure and excitement of visiting the toy shop and being allowed to choose a new toy. Also back at the bus station we would go to the cafe and have a meal. My choice was always egg and chips. Other bus trips we took, on, I think Greenline coaches, were to Aunt Mary and Uncle Fred at Boxmoor a village near Hemel Hempstead. I liked Aunt Mary a lot and always enjoyed those visits and the pleasure of the watercress sandwiches she did for tea. (Later when I had my own transport I would go and visit her and Fred. Then years later, not long before she died, they surprised us by coming to see us here in Devon. Although she was then confined to a wheelchair she was still her usual cheerful self. A really special day.)

Aunt Mary and her Mum, Granny Flitney.

There must have been other outings from Pitchcott but how they were undertaken I cannot say as I have no idea if we owned a car at that time. Dad had started working for Bob Kirkland in his spare time. Bob was an engineer and had a place at Blackgrove. From there he would go out and fix all manner of machinery from farm tractors to industrial stone crushers or cement mixers to diggers and cranes. With the extra cash Dad may well have bought a car as I can recall visits to Ellesborough and Combehill, Butler’s Cross to see Aunt Margaret. Visit Great Aunt Flo or go to Holmergreen to see Mum’s friend, from her school days, Ivy Knowles.

Mum and Ivy, in later life

We even had outings to Bournemouth and to Brighton. On one of these visits, Bournemouth I believe, I got lost for about an hour. In fact it is the only thing I remember of either visit to the seaside. I had been allowed to go for a paddle and while enjoying myself had unwittingly moved along the shore line. So when I had had enough of the water and went straight up the beach, as Mum had instructed, I was in the wrong place with no familiar faces in sight. What I did next who knows, I must have turned the wrong way in my search as I was a good distance from where I started from when eventually Mum appeared. All I remember next is walking along the beach crying and a woman stopping me to ask the reason I was so upset. On explaining she suggested I sit down with her and wait for Mum to come along, “If you keep roaming about she’ll never find you”. Now whether that dear lady put the word out about having found a lost boy I don’t know but I shall be eternally grateful for her kindness and wisdom for not long after Mum came along. 

Me at the beach.

Also we went to Murcott to see Granny and Grampy Moore. One time I got to stay with them for a week and managed to get into trouble then as well. They kept a pony and had a very elegant four wheel cart too, as Grampy at one time, when they lived at Holmergreen, had delivered goods around the area. The buggy was well sprung, and I could sit on the seat and get it really rocking and bouncing along the dusty prairie trail at the head of the pioneers wagon train while the indians fired arrows at us all. (Well I’d seen the pictures in a book at home you see.) What really spoilt things was being betrayed by the sheet on the hayrick. Close by the rick was an apple tree with a branch laden with fruit within reach from the top of the rick. So one hot sunny day I climbed up, got myself an apple and settled down to eat it. Now me being in ‘wildwest’ mode at the time the height of my vantage point gave me good cover for shooting all manner of enemies. Now what I didn’t know at the time was that canvas sheets create a ‘bloom’ as they age. Unfortunately, this will attach itself to anything it makes contact with, especially young boys squirming about bumping off baddies. The storm broke when I got called in for tea and I realized I was green from head to foot. So no more ‘cowboys and indians’ or buggy riding.

Richard and John at Murcott

Overall my memories of life at Lower Farm are of happy and carefree times. Young enough not to be troubled by adult issues and old enough to have a good imagination and the freedom to be able to act out those dreams. Richard, I think being older, took life a little more seriously and maybe already had plans for what he wanted for his life in the future. We had very generous and loving parents. Things, obviously, were not so carefree for Mum and Dad. Dad had taken more work to earn a bit extra. Mum was becoming more and more concerned about her parents not being able to cope as they got older. Aunt Ada (Mum’s sister) had not married and lived with them until her death.

Aunt Ada

After this Mum would occasionally cycle the twenty plus miles to Murcott to see how they were. These visits became more frequent as Grampies health deteriorated and he became bedridden. Gran was finding it increasingly hard to cope so Mum would stay for days at a time. Eventually Mum, Dad and Grannie agreed that as the house was big enough we should move there so that Mum could care for her parents full time. So sometime in 1954 that is what we did.

The Cottage, Pidgeon House Lane, Murcott

To be continued...........

Previous episodes here, here and here  

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Guest Post - My Sister Remembers - Part Five

Memories of Susan Poulter nee Flitney; Sue is my older sister (although she looks younger!)
Previous instalments herehere, here and here 

After a while dad found a job At Well Manor Farm in Hampshire. Mum hadn't seen the house and knew nothing at all about the farm. Dad took the job on the understanding that we would be moving into a new (as yet unbuilt) cottage.  We were told we would be staying at a place called No Man's Land while the cottage was built. When we arrived, someone was already living at No Man's Land, it was evening, and we and our furniture had nowhere to go. Dad managed to contact his employer who at that time was staying at a hotel in London prior to moving his wife and family to the farm. There was nothing else for it, the owner and his family ended up staying in London for an extra few months while we moved into The Manor House! I had totally forgotten or shut out memories of living at the Manor, I often had what I thought were dreams about it, but my sister Barbara assures me it actually happened.
Sue how could you forget? It was luxury compared to what we were used to - masses of bedrooms and a big old staircase that always reminded me of Gone with the wind. Not to mention the tennis court in the garden and the two giant tortoises a previous owner of the manor left in the grounds!
The back garden No Man's Lane
There used to be apple and pear orchards beyond the fence.

No Man's Land consisted of two semi-detached house on the edge of the village and, as far as mum was concerned, the village was miles from anywhere. Mum was also horrified to find the cottage had no electricity. Us kids found it a bit of a novelty (until it came to doing our homework with the very little light the gas mantels gave out) I remember mum and dad having awful rows at this time and once mum put a saucepan through the TV. It was really a grim time for us kids, especially Barbara, who was quite young and very frightened by it all. Our neighbours were Hampshire "born and bred” and one day when I saw them, they said “Hello Mush” to me – how rude and uncouth I thought, but it seems that was not the case at all, it was quite an affectionate and civil greeting.

Again, I had to go to an all girls’ school, Basingstoke High School for Girls, and it was just like going back to High Wycombe – how I hated it!!

Basingstoke High School for Girls (now Costello Technical College, Crossborough Hill, Basingstoke. 

This time it was even worse as mum and dad couldn't afford to get me the proper uniform, so I had to go in the uniform from Aylesbury until some second-hand clothes could be found for me. The girls there did not like my Buckinghamshire dialect, and I was teased unmercifully. I was allowed to go on one school holiday to the Lake District but there was no money for walking boots, so I slipped and slid around the Lakes (including climbing Hellvelyn) in slip on shoes. I don’t think dad ever got over the fact the Rebecca West didn't change her mind about the pigs. I think he always thought she would ask him back and our fortunes would change, but it was not to be.

Life was very stressful at Well for quite some time. Mum always hated No Man's Land, while dad loved the remoteness of it all.  He would take her to Alton, Farnham or Odiham shopping once a week, but there were no buses unless you walked or cycled to Long Sutton or Odiham, and then you could get to Basingstoke.

The buses were few and far between, and I used to arrive slightly late for assembly in the morning and was usually very late home.  I joined the hockey team, but if I wanted to play a match, I would have to cycle to Odiham in the morning as the bus back to Long Sutton left too early. Dad would never pick me up so it meant a cycle ride of four to five miles each way. Barbara went to school at Odiham and either dad or his boss’s wife would take her. Tony had already left school and worked on the farm with Dad. Long Sutton was about two miles away, and that was our nearest shop so mum did a lot of walking in those days! I imagine she was very lonely as it really was a small village. She and dad used to row all the time and she threatened to take her own life a couple of times.

The new cottages were eventually built and that made life a little easier. The Collins family moved into the one next door, and their daughter Violet became my friend and ally. The cottage was closer to the centre of the village and had electric light and gas for cooking. There was also a lovely big area for a garden and mum and dad set to and laid it all out with flowers and vegetables and for a while life seemed happier.

Dad working in the garden at Well

Well Manor Cottages – the garden was mum's pride and joy.  

The basic problem of no social life for mum was still there though. At the time, we didn't have much sympathy for her as she always seemed to be in black moods; I can just imagine now what it must have been like for her.  She came from a large family of Londoners who were very sociable; she used to go to the ballrooms in London as a teenager and had a good old time.  As far as I can remember from mum’s tales of “the good old days” she was working “in service” for a Harley Street doctor and met dad when he delivered milk to the house. They courted, and she fell in love. Dad was a really nice-looking  young man but, once married to a farm worker, her social life almost came to an end. It was forty years before she went out for dinner in a restaurant. Tony and his wife Eva, Barbara and Terry, and myself and Bob along with all the children, took mum and dad to Lakeside at Frimley for their 40th wedding anniversary. I don’t think dad even wanted to go to that really. 

The one good thing for me about school at Basingstoke was that I met my friend Fran. She lived at Odiham and would bring her pony up to the farm. I also had a friend in the village, Mrs. Biddlecombe, who owned an old grey pony called Nobby. He used to pull a milk cart but had been retired. Anyway, Mrs. B knew I was horse mad and let me borrow him and Fran and I would ride for hours – again I only had a rope halter for Nobby. I used to follow the hunt using just the rope halter and Nobby would fly over the biggest jumps with the best of ‘em. Looking back I expect I was frowned on quite heavily, but I didn’t care. I only gave up following the hunt the day I was in at the kill and the Master of the hunt gave me the blooded paw of the fox – poor fox.

Sue and friends in the garden at Well

I occasionally stayed in Basingstoke after school to go to the pictures with another friend, Megan. Her family were members of The Salvation Army who made me very welcome and were happy to take me home at the end of the evening. It was strange visiting people in a town house, who seemed to have plenty of money and whose table always groaned with food. Megan’s mum and dad were very independent and seemed to enjoy each other’s company, but would come and go as they pleased. Much different from our home, where if mum went out too often on her own dad would not speak to her for days on end.


The highlight of the year at Well Manor Farm was apple-picking season. In those days they still had fairly large orchards, although these were all pulled out at a later date, and it was all hands on deck once the apples were ripe.  There were Russets, Cox’s, Discovery, Blenheims and James Grieve, there may have been others whose names I can't remember – really lovely old English apples. We spent days picking the apples and packing them into boxes ready to go off to the wholesalers. I remember Peggy, our Jack Russell Terrier in the packing sheds “ratting”, dad would often have to pull huge rats off her ears or tail. She always seemed to have chunks out of her body, but it couldn't have done her too much damage as she lived to a grand old age. We would get enough apples to store for the winter for our own use, and apples have never tasted the same since those days.

Thanks to the blacksmith who visited the farm, I was able to get a weekend job at Pococks riding stables in Wrecclesham. I would be up before dawn, cycle to Wrecclesham to get the horses ready to go out to the hunt. I would delight in cleaning the tack, and eventually I was allowed to ride in gymkhanas, which was great fun. I had some second-hand jodhpurs and a waterproof riding coat and thought I was the bee’s knees.

High Street, Odiham c1950s.

Later on I got a Saturday job at Dickers Grocers in Odiham. This was the place where I really started to learn what “growing up” was all about.  In Well I had no friends older than me but the girls I worked with at the shop seemed very sophisticated. I had never used make up so the girls showed me how to use it and how to make more of my hair. They chatted about their romances and exciting outings with boys to rock and roll concerts, and it was like entering another world. The best part of the job was getting my pay packet at the end of the week and being able to save for things I wanted. I remember buying my first pair of court shoes and mum and dad being horrified as they had one-inch heels...

Memories of Susan Poulter nee Flitney; Sue is my older sister (although she looks younger!)
Previous instalments hereherehere and here 

To be continued... 

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Sepia Saturday; Love means never getting your feet wet!

I can't resist sharing these postcards for this week's Sepia Saturday. They just seem to suit the theme of couples, clinches, crossings and hitching a ride.  I originally shared them on my book and postcard blog but that was back in 2012, so I'm hoping most of you won't have seen them before.   

The cards were produced by Raphael Tuck as part of their “Oilette” series. As I understand it “Oilette” is a trade name used to describe cards reproduced from original paintings.

The cards were posted in December 1904 and January 1905. These and another set also sent to 'Maudie' have been in my collection for a number of years. I purchased them from an auction so sadly there is no history attached to them.  All I know is that Miss Maudie Anscombe was living at an address in Hove, Sussex at the time and that Charlie was obviously very fond of her.  

Once on board the lugger, and the girl is mine.

Dear Maudie,

I know this set of cards will suit you. I went to see your Darling **Lewis Waller in His Majesty's servant yesterday. 
Love Charlie

**Lewis Waller played the part of Geoffrey Mohun in His Majesty's servant written By Sarah Barnwell.

Photograph of Lewis Waller as Geoffrey Mohun here

The Lass that loves a sailor.

Dear Maudie, 

Did it feel grand, then at being able to crow over ones learned relation? Don't say you did not! I hope your pink dress is finished and that your green dress suits you and that your friends like your blue dress and that your yellow dress is not too thin for the cold weather and that your purple dress will be ready in time for the ball. (I hope you appreciate my delicate cynicism!) 
Much love, Charlie
The course of true love never did run smooth.
Dear Maudie, 

Your irregularity is simply disgraceful!!! 
I'm in the eighth heaven of delight. Bert has a cold; Aunt May has a cold; Vera has a cold; Metcalf has a cold; the driver of the G.M.C has a cold, and I have not! Metcalf and I are busy thinking out grand Xmas decorations so you'd better dodge along again and help us. 
Much love, Charlie.

Two is Company.
Dear Maudie,

Below is own interesting programme on Wednesday last;
2.15pm arrived Waterloo. 2.25 Coliseum - House full. 2.30 Prince of Wales House Full (this continues with a list of other theatres also displaying house full signs). 3.00 stop for refreshments. 4.00 attended evensong at St. Paul's. 4.35 left St. Paul's at beginning of sermon. 4.40 tea at A.B.C shop 5.30 arrived at Drury Lane theatre, outside. 7.00 Drury Lane, inside.
Remainder of day is oblivion owing to exhaustion. Only just recovered.
Much love, Charlie.

The old, old story.

Dear Maudie, 

Are you deceased or diseased? 
Please relive my anxiety at once, as it is preying on my mind. Shan't tell you any news, as I don't wish to waste my time on a corpse. 
Much love, Charlie.

The harvest moon.

Dear Maudie,

Thanks for relieving my anxiety. 
I have had a ferocious cold this week - hence the lateness. You had better come and say farewell to the Clarke's as they are departing Tues or Wed. Lamentations going on all around. 
Much love, Charlie.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday number 254

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