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.

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


  1. Barbara,
    That looks really great, thank you. Thank you also for your advice and expertise in putting it together.
    Here's to the next time........

    1. Hi John, I can’t wait for the next instalment. I'm loving reading about your early life. Thanks for taking the time to do this. Barbara.

  2. Well trying to comment again google keeps throwing me out today!
    Really enjoyed this John and lovely seeing all the old photo's of relatives. Did you live in Twigside at Ibstone after we moved in to Sonningfield?
    Well done Sister this is a great blog
    Love to you both

  3. Hi Sue, sorry about the problem with comments, I hope it's sorted now.
    Thanks for your kind words, I shall look forward to reading John's reply.
    Barbara xx

  4. Greetings Sue and Barbara, Twigside does ring a bell now you mention it. I can remember a large house, I think down in a valley, with barn to one side, The barn had huge black wooden doors. I remember being woken in the morning by the sound of a Field Marshall tractor passing under the bedroom window going to or from that barn. I would dash over to the window to watch it pass and count the smoke rings its exhaust created. Also I can recall woodland not far from the house and one time walking with Mum through the trees to take Dad some food when he was working in the fields beyond. I suppose, thinking about it now, the place was called Twigside because of its proximity to the woodland. I assume the picture of the 'dapper duo' was taken somewhere there. Does that sound anything like you remember of the place?
    Sleep well,

  5. Hi John and Barbara
    Yes that is the place and the geese used to chase me into the large barn. The doors were a foot or so off the ground and the damn things used to come under and "get me". Dad was always having to rescue me! We used to get woken up by horses pulling out tree trunks attached by large chains, that was in the days when woodland was managed properly!

  6. Hi Sue, I'm really enjoying all the memories from both you and John, keep them coming!

    John, I don't know where the 'photo of you and Richard was taken but it certainly looks like Twigside. We found the lane down when we were there in July but the new owners have erected a bollard so it was impossible to drive in with a car. We thought about walking but then decided there must be a new entry somewhere so set off to find it – with no luck. If we visit again I would like to walk down and take a look. I think the walk down would be very pleasant, not so sure about the walk back up again though!

  7. Oh how fun to ride along down memory lane with you! Wish I could remember stuff like that. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks Allyn, I know John will be thrilled you took the time to comment.

  8. Hello Allyn, I am so pleased you are enjoying the ride. It is a joy to write, and recall, the events while doing so.Thank you.


I really appreciate your comment. Thank you!
Barbara x

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