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.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Ibstone, Bucks & Well Manor Farm, Hampshire.

Sepia Saturday provides bloggers with an opportunity to share their history through the medium of photographs.

Today’s theme is; Motorbikes, pillions, uniforms, couriers, turbans, tents and towels;

I've had a largely unsuccessful rummage through the family albums in the hunt for uniforms, couriers, turbans, tents and towels.  Motorbikes proved a little easier, so that will be my theme for this my first foray into Sepia Saturday territory.

What can I say about this photograph? Only my dear old dad would pose on a motorbike while wearing a suit, tie and not so flat - flat cap! I hadn't realised how odd the term ‘flat cap’ sounded until I typed it. According to Wikipedia, there are numerous other names for the same type of headwear, names like Paddy cap, longshoreman’s cap, scally cap, Wigens cap, duffer cap, bicycle cap, cheese-cutter and bunnet!  

Regardless of what it’s called dad never left home without one. Interviews, hospital appointments, days out, working on the farm, his cap went with him. His ritual on leaving the house was always the same. He would recite the words “spectacles, t-------- (word removed for the sake of decency), watch and wallet" while patting the appropriate points on his body.  Thinking back it would have made more sense to replace spectacles with cap, but then it wouldn't have rhymed! 

Dad doing his best Norman Wisdom impression, note the cap is firmly in place although this time worn backwards. Dad was a huge fan of Norman Wisdom the "little man" in the ill-fitting suit and cloth cap. He always watched the programmes on TV and knew many of the songs and gags off by heart.

  Mum played the piano a lot when we were kids. This was one of her favourite songs.

Now it’s the turn of my brother Tony to model the bike! I have no idea what was going on with the car. It's on blocks and covered by a tarpaulin (does that count as a tent?) so I presume it was a work in progress. It looks to me as though Tony has something (oil?) on his hands, so perhaps he was helping to do the car up. Tony if you should read this maybe you could let me know what you remember.

Tony looks to be in his early twenties here, so I'm guessing it was taken at the end of the 1950s.  One thing I've noticed while looking through the photos is the number of times my family have their pictures taken while standing in front of windows and/or drainpipes!  

I don’t think mum ever rode pillion, but later she did own and ride a moped.  This bike looks very similar to the one in the first photograph apart from the registration number, but then I know nothing about motorbikes so it’s probably nothing like it at all...
Mum, dad and Peggy a dog of many varieties. 

For more exploits on wheels and other exciting things, please visit Sepia Saturday

Monday, 22 September 2014

Guest Post: As I recall - Some More by John Flitney

It is a beautiful summer day in nineteen forty-four and I'm racing around in my rompers or should that be romping along in my racers or perhaps nipping around in my........Well I imagine I would have been doing something like that as an eighteen month-ish baby.

Alas I only have a few vague memories of my infancy. Like seeing the sky full of aircraft, in pairs flying line astern, so I assume that was around the time of D-Day and the assault gliders being towed to France. Another time I was outside with Mum while she hung the washing out. I was only wearing shorts and sandals and very cleverly managed to fall backwards into a patch of nettles. A rash thing to do in the circumstances.

I remember the bungalow we lived in at Bovingdon. It had a corrugated iron roof and I loved to hear the sound of rain on it. It would send me to sleep quicker than anything at night. It’s a sound I love to this day. You can have too much rain at times though, like the night we had to leave the bungalow as it was in danger of being flooded. There had obviously been a storm and Richard (Best of brothers) tells me the run-off from the nearby airfield caused the problem. Water had been running down the lane outside for some hours. The dell behind the house was full and the water was still rising. Dad decided we best get out and up to the big house, where ever that was? So out we went, with me on Dad’s shoulders and at one point he was up to his waist in water. What happened after that or what damage was done at home I don’t know but at least we survived.

There are place names in my head that I have no recollection of at all. Like Chartridge, where Richard reckons I started school. “ I had to drag you there crying your eyes out because you didn’t want to go!” he tells me. (No mention of what he was like on his first few days I note.) Must admit we were a dapper duo dressed up for school. 

Then there is Ibstone where I believe Uncle Dennis and Dad worked on the same farm. Which I assume was Mr. Andrew’s place. Mum said that Barbara and I often played together. As we were the two youngest of the families I presume that happened when we were living close by. Wonder what we got up to as there were no bouncy castles or the like in those days.

Taken at Ibstone, front row Sue, Barbara and friend, Back row me, Tony and Richard

Coleshill is another place I'm not sure of. Its possible Gran Flit lived there and we used to go visit her. 

So as I say I have few memories of my early years and not many photos to put a time or place to. If you can add anything or correct what I have said it would be much appreciated.

By the year of nineteen forty-nine we had moved to Lower Farm, Pitchcott, a place about five miles northwest of Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire. Dad had got a job working for Mr. Horace Leonard who owned or rented the farm at Pitchcott. He also had a farm at Marsh Gibbon where he lived. During busy times Dad would travel to Marsh Gibbon to help on the farm there. Then when things were ready for harvest etc Mr Leonard and his son(s) and a Mr Frank Stokes would come to Pitchcott daily until the work was finished. Mr. Leonard being elderly would come into the house and help Mum prepare the meals for everyone.

The house was a huge place which at one time had been used as a hostel, for whom or by who I don’t know. But that would explain why the bathroom had, if memory serves me right, four baths, four toilets and six wash basins. There were five bedrooms, a front and back staircase, two large rooms downstairs at the front, a large kitchen with adjoining larder and scullery. There was an electric cooker as well as a large coal fired range. The bathroom, as mentioned, and a large coal fired boiler down five steps in a room to the left of the back door. Outside at the back was a small yard with two brick built sheds in the corners. One was used to store firewood and coal. The other had a large under fired copper boiler for doing laundry with a big wringer alongside. The walled garden was great fun as it had a wide, hard surface path all round it that was ideal for bike races.
The front entrance was quite grand with slate covered steps going up to the door which was surround by a wrought iron porch. Box hedges lined the path leading to it with lawns on either side of that. 

 Posing on the steps are, front row left to right, Richard, cousin David, me, 
David's mum Aunt Doll. Middle row Uncle Jack, mum's brother, Doll's husband, Aunt Ada, mums sister, Mum. Back row, Dad, Granny Moore and Grampy Moore. It was taken by Uncle George, mums eldest brother. The occasion was Gran and Gramp's Golden Wedding anniversary in nineteen-fifty. 

Richard and I would hold Oddiedod races on those steps. Oddiedods was our name for snails. We would collect snails from around the garden, take them to the steps, having already marked out a start and finish line on the top one, place an oddiedod each at the start line. Then cheer and shout like punters at the Grand National to urge on our 'steeds'. Slow but amusing sport!   Years later I saw a council worker quite angrily sweep a snail into a busy road. When I asked why he had done that he replied “ I was fed up with it. Darn thing had been following me all day!”

The farm buildings were an ideal playground for us boys too. Especially during the summer when the stock were out. In one of them Dad had rigged a couple of swings which we used frequently. A large open fronted barn out in the rick yard held all the machinery. It had an earth floor which had quite a deep covering of fine dust over it . I did some quite serious farming in there with my Dinky toys. We had two dogs when we moved there, it became three with the arrival of Mimi, who was a rough-haired Whippet. Whose arrival I shall explain a little later. Whisky was a black and white, could have been white and black (I get so confused these days) Spaniel, Suki was a cairn type and the oldest and noisiest.

The four fields, the biggest said to be of sixty-six acres, of the farm formed a square and the buildings and house were where the corners met in the middle. Three of the fields had ponds in them which as you can image intrigued young boys. A stream ran along beside the bottom road (Carters Lane) and was well worth building dams in. We had three dogs to go rabbiting with when the mood took us. One year we had a pig with us too. Whisky had a very strong maternal instinct and one year she ‘mothered’ a runt piglet. The previous year she had found some baby hedgehogs and brought then home to nurse. Fortunately she had got their mum too so Dad was able to take them back outside confident that they would survive. So two boys, three dogs, one very yappy, and a pig hunting rabbits. Unsuccessfully.........I can’t think why?

We went to school in Quainton. Richard and I would walk, later cycle to the cross roads at Blackgrove and then share a taxi to the school with the Jones girls who lived on another farm nearby. Molly was about my age, I liked Molly! Her sister was older and so not my type at all. As Richard was two years ahead of me he was in the senior class. I was in the infants who shared a playground with the older girls during breaks. This left me, a shy young lad, prey to the older girls. They had a serious game of “house” going on. No! not bingo this involved pretending to be parents and running a home. They had marked out on the ground with stones, elaborate floor plans of houses. Quite a little terrace of them along one perimeter fence of the playground. The girl who decided to be ‘mum’ to me was undoubtedly the biggest girl in school so I had little choice in the matter. We the chosen ‘little ones’ ( there were other unfortunates) had to sit or whatever, certainly do as we were told...or else! Heaven help you if you stepped over a wall rather than use the door!!

The infants teacher was Mrs. Wooton and boy could she look fierce when cross. She would storm up the aisle between the desks, her face screwed up in a scowl, mouth tight shut with her tongue pushing her bottom lip out. Grab the offenders hand and rap them across the knuckles with a ruler. Ouch! Once was enough!..... so I was told. Mr Laws took the senior class. He was alright, mostly, and became good friends with Mum and Dad, they corresponded for many years after we left. I say mostly because one week it all went wrong for me, Richard had left by now and was attending college in Aylesbury, I had graduated to Mr Law’s class. That particular week I was up for punishment seven times. (I'm not boasting nor proud of the fact ) It was not all my fault I was framed on at least the last two occasions but due to my previous convictions I got caned again. Corporal punishment? Ha! I had enough stripes to at least make sergeant!

What did I learn from it? Right from wrong and above all discipline. Something that is seriously lacking in todays society.

Now back to how we got Mimi. After school finished in the afternoon we had to wait about half an hour before the taxi came to take us back to Blackgrove. Once a year a traveling fair would pitch up on the village green at Quainton. When this occurred we would nip along for a quick look round. So one Thursday I'm having a nose around and come across a cardboard box outside one of the amusements with some puppies in it. Chalked on the side of the box were the words “Free to a good home” I fell in love with the fluffy brown and white one and being a good boy for once, decided to ask Mum and Dad as soon as I got home if we could have it. “ No we can’t really afford another dog and besides the other two may not take to it!” they said. So, anyway, Friday afternoon I'm back there checking the cardboard box for my little pal. Well you know what they are like. Those sad little eyes, the pleading little whines, the nervously wagging tail. Then the soft warm kisses on your cheek. Who could refuse and besides, I'm sure Whisky would just adore a little puppy! So I take pup home confident it can work the same magic with Mum and Dad. Oh dear! “First thing tomorrow you will take that back young man!” To be called young man by Dad meant seriously displeased.

It seems that first thing Saturday mornings is much earlier for fairground folk than it is for young schoolboys! The fair had moved on. Back home again and although Mum and Dad were very cross at the time they accepted her and she became a much loved pet. Mimi, in her prime was fast enough to catch and trip Hares. Never actually killing one as they were up and gone again before she had turned. It was very exciting to watch.

Now piglets I don’t mind, they are cute and quite amusing to watch. As for stubborn old sows, no thank you! One time a sow had got out into one of the fields and had been having a great time turning up the ground looking for food. Dad came to the house to get Mum and us boys to help get the pig back in the yard. After at least two laps of the field we had finally got it almost through the gate. Just at that moment the dogs came to help. Now this wasn’t our rabbiting pig and it didn’t like dogs so it turned and ran.......straight toward me. Well what would you have done? I froze, stood there with my legs apart and yelled. Petrified! Little miss piggy took no notice whatsoever, ran straight between my legs and carried me off down the field. Undignified! Suddenly the beast stopped, I carried on and fell flat on my back and lay there staring at the double barrel snout of a podgy panting porcine, it’s foam flecked mouth wide open like its about to eat me. I yelled again. Terrified!. The swine ( I use that word with feeling ) grunted something derisive in return and just wandered off. When my elders had picked themselves up, dried their tears and finally controlled their laughing they kindly came to see if I was all right.

To be continued........

If you would like to read part one, please click on the following link: As I recall by John Flitney

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Perfectly suited

The very first post on this blog - A wreath of orange blossoms - raised an interesting question. I was asked if the pink and blue two-piece worn by mum (Rene Flitney) was an all over floral pattern, or a blue suit with a pink blouse. I’m not sure I can properly answer that as there are no photographs (as far as I know), but I thought it would be fun to try. 

Mum and dad were married in 1938 when, according to the University of Brighton, the desirable look for women was still slim, but more womanly and sophisticated than in the previous decade. This body shape was created through longer skirts cut on the bias and by an indented waistline and rounded bosom. This increased exposure of the body was due to sportswear’s influence on new styles, including the ‘halter-neck’ credited to the French couturier Madeleine Vionnet, which exposed arms and back.

According to the Victoria and Albert Museum;  Following the crash of 1929 and the Great Depression, new, more down-to-earth attitudes forced on the world offered great scope for a new simplicity. In Britain, fashion became more eclectic but also more feminine and graceful and, by 1930, the 'boyish' look had disappeared.  

Typical day wear for women consisted of a two-piece suit with sleek, fitted jacket and matching skirt or dress.  Floral designs dominated, but geometric forms were also much in evidence.

Rene Flitney aged 18
This is the only photograph I have of mum as a young woman. I'm guessing it was taken in 1935, around the time of her eighteenth birthday.

Rene Flitney 1938
This photo shows a more mature woman and the bashful look of a few years before has gone. I'm guessing it was taken around the time of the wedding in 1938.  

Considering the two photographs above, I think it fair to say a sleek fitted jacket with a matching skirt or dress in a printed fabric would have suited her very well.  

I rather like the dress and matching bolero on the right and according to one fashion critic speaking in May 1938 - boleros are being worn to refurbish or dress up last year’s ensemble. Mum, on the other hand, may well have preferred the smarter option on the left.

While looking around the Internet for inspiration I also came across this image that matches the pink and blue theme perfectly but would mum have worn it?  I'm pretty sure she would have hated the hat and bag, but the dress and jacket are quite pretty.

So what else might have influenced the bride to be in 1938?

Source Family life in Britain 1900-1950. ISBN 0316730343

When King George V died in January 1936, the romance between his eldest son, Edward, Prince of Wales, later to become Edward VIII, and the American divorcee Wallis Simpson, whom he had first met in June 1931, was well-known in Royal circles. When he succeeded to the throne, the young and popular King had to choose between his lover and the crown. The major political parties and the Church of England made it clear that marrying a divorcee was out of the question. The cabinet presented the young King with an ultimatum: give up Mrs. Simpson or renounce the crown. He would choose the latter.

For the 36-year-old Duchess of York, it was an earth-shattering event which propelled her from relative obscurity to become Queen Empress, reigning, with her husband, over 600 million subjects. The new King, George VI and his Queen were crowned at Westminster Abbey on 12 May 1937. Wallis and Edward married on the 3rd June 1937. Source BBC News

Queen Elizabeth (The Queen Mother) in 1938                    Wallis and Edward in 1937

Looking at the photographs of Queen Elizabeth and Wallis Simpson, I can’t help but wonder if mum would have chosen something far plainer than the floral affairs so far considered. Would any of these have suited?

Or this?

I don't think any of the above is quite right - but this, on the other hand, is! It’s a pink and blue, slim but womanly two-piece in the longer style, which would have looked good on Queen Elizabeth, Wallis Simpson and Rene Flitney.  Perfect…

If anyone happens to have a photograph of the actual going-away outfit, please share. I would love to compare my idea of the perfect suit to the one chosen by mum.  Comments are always welcome, so go on what do you think?  

Monday, 8 September 2014

Guest Post; My Sister Remembers - Part Two

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

I remember going up to London with mum and Tony during the last few months of the Second World War. Mum’s family lived in Harrow on the Hill and during one visit there was an air raid and we all had to get under the dining room table, luckily no bombs came near.  I also remember going to a concert at the Royal Albert Hall, but we had to leave and go to an air-raid shelter.

Grandad Harding and Gladys Harding
Grandad Harding (mum's dad) and his second wife Gladys

My sister, Barbara Anne, was born when I was six years old - the result, according to mum, of dad drinking too much potato wine! Mum, who had been able to go out more as Tony and I were both at school, was very unhappy about having another baby and would only speak to dad through my brother or me. I think mum managed to make it clear to my sister all through her early and teen years that she was not really wanted. Dad used to spoil her rotten to compensate I think.

 Mum (Rene Flitney) with Barbara Anne - taken at Ibstone in 1948.

Dad had an office in the bungalow where he did the farm accounts for Mr. and Mrs. Andrews, he always seemed to be working in the evenings. This caused all sorts of problems for mum and dad, and I remember them arguing quite a lot. Dad would promise to take us out, but then the car would break down, and he would spend most of the day fixing it. This led to mum throwing tantrums (and saucepans) and very often threatening to commit suicide.  At some point during all of this my dad had an affair, and the marriage was really under threat. Working-class people didn’t get divorced in those days, and I remember granny Daisy coming and sorting it all out and my dad having to behave himself. He started taking mum to the village whist drive once a month and for a time, they seemed much happier together. He used to get good bonuses from Mrs. Andrews, and he also had a win on the football pools which enabled him to buy a newer car and a television. We were the first working-class family in the village to have TV and some of the Canadian troops who were based at Ibstone Common used to come around in the evenings to watch the ice hockey.

Denis Flitney, Tony Flitney, Sue Flitney, Rene Flitney nee Harding
Denis, Tony, Sue and Rene Flitney taken at The Bekonscot model village, Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire.

Christmas was always special. Dad would take me to High Wycombe on Christmas Eve to get the presents. The sweet shops were magical places in those days.  We would buy sugar mice and Edinburgh rock. One Christmas I had a beautiful green velvet dress, but would really have preferred the blue one that was bought for my sister!

We seemed to have plenty of friends in the village; we always had our birthday parties in the garden. They were lovely little affairs, with sandwiches, jelly, blancmange and home-made birthday cake. We played pass the parcel, musical chairs and hide an’ seek – none of the paraphernalia that parents feel they need to provide today. Mind you, much as today, there would usually be a fall out between at least two of the guests. Presents were not expected in those days, and if you did get any, they would be very small – marbles or pencils were favourites. We didn’t have the toys that children have today; dad built us all bikes from odd bits. 

Sue, Barbara and birthday cake in the garden at Sonningfield Bungalow.

I remember Rebecca West asking what I would like for Christmas one year, I asked for a dolls pram.  She bought me one, which I expect was a jolly expensive one.  I am sure I would love it now, but at the time I was horrified as it was made of wood, about nine inches high and very brightly painted. I must have made quite a fuss because mum and dad managed to save up and buy me a “proper” pram for my Birthday, but I didn't forgive Rebecca West for many years!

Rebecca West (Mrs. Andrews) - further information from Wikipedia

When dad got a summer bonus, we would all have new clothes and go off to Cornwall for a caravan holiday.  I hated the journey down; we would set off at about 2am and travel all night. I remember on one occasion mum being really ill with asthma when we were in the middle of Bodmin Moor. In my memory, it was always very hot and one year we all got really badly sun burnt and had a few nights without sleep. Another year the weather was so good we all wanted to stay on longer. Dad phoned Rebecca West and she said that of course we must stay, and she sent some money to a bank in the nearby town. Dad didn't have to pay it back so she really must have held him in high regard.  

Susan Flitney Barbara Flitney Tony Flitney
The sun always seemed to shine! Susan, Barbara & Tony with Peggy.

We had a village shop in Ibstone and next door to the shop was a hall where we went to the “pictures” which were actually lantern shows. It was a real event and walking home by torch light was really exciting. 

To be continued....

Monday, 1 September 2014

Guest Post; As I Recall by John Flitney

Arthur Denis Flitney, Denis Flitney, Owen Flitney, Daisy Flitney

Barbara Fisher (nee Flitney) is one of my cousins. She, along with her husband Terry are the founders of this blog about our Flitney family history. For this I am most grateful, (a) because they have revealed historical facts about our Grandad I was unaware of, and (b) for being given the opportunity to contribute to this record. I also am grateful to cousin Alan Smith for a copy of his earlier research into the history of the Flitneys. I must also thank Elizabeth, my wife, for her invaluable help with computer stuff. 
My contribution to this story will be limited to my recollections of family life and my personal journey through life, proudly bearing the surname Flitney. 

 Mum and Dad were married at the registry office in Amersham, Buckinghamshire on the 25th September 1939. The groom, Owen Arthur Flitney was 25 years old, living at 46 Micklefield road, High Wycombe and working then as a bus conductor. The bride was Madge Edith Moore, 23 years old and working as a domestic servant at Horley Rough, Prestwood, Great Missenden. The ceremony was witnessed by Daisy C Flitney, the grooms mother and Winifred J Baines a friend of the bride. Those details are taken from their marriage certificate. 

Just Married

Owen Arthur Flitney and Madge Edith Flitney nee Moore

It is possible that the wedding was rather a subdued occasion as the country was at war again with Germany. Plus the fact that Madge’s father did not altogether approve of Owen as a potential son-in-law. Yet in time he proved his worth by agreeing to move the family to Murcott in 1954 so that Madge could care full time for her ailing parents. 
I do not know when Mum and Dad first met but Mum was working as housekeeper to Mr. and Mrs Mase when she and Dad were courting. The Mase’s often entertained society folk at their home. On big occasions, when there were several guests for dinner, Dad would be asked to act as butler for the evening. This obviously strengthened the bond between him and Madge leading eventually to him asking for her hand in marriage. She accepted, but alas was denied a white wedding as Mr. and Mrs Moore had “hoped for somebody better!” for their daughter. What Dad had been doing to create such suspicions we will never know. 
They were very strict and proper, her father was a huge man who had been a policeman in London. Her mother, although quite small in stature, nevertheless still ruled the household. (Mum told me that the only parental advice she ever got from her mother was “If ever a man does anything to you you don’t like tell your brother!” Brother at the time was a very fit Sergeant Major in the Royal Engineers). Mrs. Mase was very supportive toward Mum, especially about the wedding, even to the extent of loaning her a very expensive dress for the ceremony. They remained lifelong friends. 
The only other pictures of the day I have, show Mum and Dad together with Gran. Daisy, (on the right) and, I presume, Mrs Baines and her daughters. Then the one of the boys doing what boys do best at such occasions. 

Owen and Madge Flitney and family

So now it is four years five months later and Madge and Owen are living at 6 Lawn Hill, Edgecott, a small rural hamlet in Buckinghamshire. Owen is now a farm labourer. On this particular day Mum was labouring also, giving birth to me. The date is 20th February 1943 and I make a start in life. 

                            Dad at work                                      Proud father - Richard or me?

Apparently I was born at a very early age therefore it was quite some time before I started recording things as memories. Either I wasn’t very good at it or nothing really memorable happened until I was about four years old. (I was told later in life that I was born with a lot of curly white hair. A colour I have reverted to now but without the quantity). Also, something I’m glad I don’t remember. I developed a serious case of eczema and had to be covered with a purple ointment. I do recall becoming aware that I was a second child, so I had made a tentative start at maths already. Also, that I was named John Arthur Flitney. My brother Richard Owen had been around for just over two years when I came along and he is still older than me. We must have got on reasonably well as children as we are still on speaking terms. He now lives in Penarth,Wales, with his wife Veronica. Whereas I and my wife Elizabeth reside in Cyst St.George, Devon. 

To be continued...
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