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, 23 February 2015

Guest Post – My Sister Remembers – Part Eight

Bob and I began our married life at Number 5, Blanket Street, East Worldham, near Alton in Hampshire.  A beautiful old thatched house, which we rented from Gales Brewery, very picturesque, but with no running water and a lavi down the back garden. The front garden was surrounded by a stone wall with a little wooden gate in the middle. Going through the front door you entered a nice sized lounge with a huge inglenook fireplace and a large understairs cupboard where we found a lovely copper warming pan. Off the lounge was a small dining room. The stairs went up from the lounge to one large bedroom and one small one directly off that. All the walls and ceilings had large black beams, which I loved. I spent many happy hours making curtains for the pretty windows and making the house look as cosy as I could. At the back of the house was the scullery, which was just a room with a flagstone floor and a gas cooker. Someone gave us a kitchen cabinet with a drop-down front which we used as a work surface, it was also handy for storing food and china. It was at about this time Bob had a win on the football pools. I'm not sure of the actual amount he won, but I think it was about £180, which was a lot of money in 1961. We went to The Ideal Home Exhibition in London and bought new lino for the lounge, dining room and bedroom, a bedroom suite, a spin dryer and a radio – what luxury.   

Left to right; Marian, Pat Wood holding Simon and Hartie Wood.

There was an elderly gentleman living next door, a real character with a house full of treasures.  He gave us some small trinkets to help our home look lived in. He also gave me a carpet beater which I would use to give the rugs a good old smacking, a wonderful thing to do when I ran out of humour. The Blacksmith shop/forge was on the right of our house and Bob’s mum and dad lived in the house next to that. Behind their house was a yard with a washhouse in a block. It might sound romantic, but you should try doing your washing in the winter. The outside tap always froze up and I remember once boiling the last of the bucket of water to try to thaw it out. Bob didn't worry too much about it preferring to leave me to get on with it.  It's great when you are young and in love but I certainly wouldn't be happy doing it now!

The outside of the house has changed little over the years other than half the front garden has been taken for parking and the thatch that was old and black has been replaced. It is now a modern detached house with running water and bathrooms, how I wish I could afford to buy it, but at least I can say, “I lived there”.

The house as it looks now.

I adopted lots of cats at Blanket Street. They came from the farm but much preferred living with us. When the farmer found out where they were he wanted them back so Bob bought me a lovely little black-and-white kitten which we called Ally Cat.  I loved him to bits, but he was only a few months old when he got run over by a car, and I decided I wouldn't have any more cats.

Ally Cat at the front of the house

Not long after that we rescued a dog. He was living in a coal bunker at the back of the Three Horse Shoes Pub, and the landlord really didn't  want him. The poor thing barked and whined day and night and in the end we asked the landlord if we could have him, but he insisted we pay for him.  We scraped the money together and took this poor one-year-old bedraggled pedigree Golden Labrador, called Worldham Honey home. We renamed him Shandy after his early days in the pub. He lived with us for many years and died when we were living at Northbrook Farm, but he never recovered from his first year living in the dark. The first time I went out and left him at Blanket Street he chewed up all the cushions and ruined Bob’s model aircraft. He also stole food, even though we fed him well twice a day.  He once stole an egg and bacon pie I had just taken out of the oven, I put it on the pull-down flap of the cabinet, it must have been very hot when he dragged it down and ate it. If we let him off the lead he would run away and often be gone overnight. It was at about this time he went back to howling at night, and that was awful. We took him on the train to a dog show in Farnham, and he was as good as gold but one of the judges said his legs were too long to be a good show dog and if we wanted to stop him howling we should let him become a breed dog. Off he went a week or so later to spend the night with a lady dog, he came home the next day and was worse than ever, and it was something like five years later before he stopped howling at night. I am not sure how he lived so long!!

Thinking back I suppose I should have looked for work during those early months of our marriage, but I found it really hard just running the home.  Anyway, by June of the following year Jacqueline Denise was born. Jackie, as she became known when older, was named after her two Grandfathers – Jack and Denis. We knew a few months before she was due that she would be a breech baby. I went into Alton General Hospital where they tried to turn her, but it didn't work, and I was taken to Winchester Hospital by ambulance. It was hard for me as although the staff phoned Bob he was not able to leave work to be with me. Things were a lot different in those days and women just had to get on with it – no such thing as maternity leave for men back then. 

I was in hospital for three weeks before Jackie was born. It was a forceps delivery and I was not allowed to hold her for a few days and was quite unwell myself. When we took her home ten days later we were told she should be left in her cot as much as possible as she had had a difficult time. Mum and dad picked us up from Winchester hospital and Jackie was in her carrycot. Mum wanted to carry her indoors, but Bob said she should be left in her carrycot and at that mum got very annoyed and she and dad went home.  I didn't hear anything from them for weeks, and it was very hurtful. We didn't have a phone and mobiles were unheard of in those days so we didn't sort it out properly for ages. It was very difficult looking after Jackie in the old house, she was not an easy baby, and would not suck from a bottle and I didn't want to breast feed. She would cry and cry all night and I thought I would go mad. I also thought I was a really bad mum as she so got on my nerves and I had no help from anyone. Eventually, the local nurse suggested I put a needle through the teat of her bottle so that I could just pour the milk gently into her mouth and it did make life much better. 

Tony and Eva Flitney (Eva holding Jackie), Denis and Rene Flitney and Barbara at the front.

Jacqueline was baptised at St. Mary’s Church, East Worldham. Pam and Norman’s son, Andrew was born in August and so we had a double christening. It was another really lovely sunny day, and although we couldn't afford many new clothes, Bob bought me a blue and white check suit, which looked very smart for the occasion. I found a beautiful christening gown in an antique shop which fitted Jackie perfectly. 

St. Mary’s Church, East Worldham

Sue, Bob and Jackie

We realised it would be difficult to get through another winter at Blanket Street, and as we were unable to get a Council House Bob decided to look for a job with a cottage. He got a job on a hop farm at Wyck, which is a few miles from Alton and close to Binstead. We moved into a semi-detached house with an indoor toilet, bathroom, a lovely garden and gorgeous views over the Hanger, which spreads all the way to Selborne.  Summer time at Wyck was idyllic and Pat Wood, and Pam Kirk would often walk over with Simon and Andrew and the babies would crawl about in the garden. Mum Wood was a very good mum-in-law she always arrived with food parcels and sometimes the corned beef or bread and jam she gave us was the only food we had for the last few days of the week. She also spent a lot of time knitting clothes for the babies and Jackie always wore what she knitted. Money was so short then that a social life was out of the question, but long walks with Shandy always made me feel better. It must have been hard for Bob but he always seemed content with his life.

My 21st birthday was spent at Wyck. I didn't have a party but Pat and Mike came for a visit and gave me a gift of a round dressing table stool with a furry cover. I really loved it, and it was in constant use for more than thirty years. Mum and dad gave me a dressing table set which has only just fallen apart and mum and dad Wood gave me a pretty powder compact. Bob bought me my best present ever – a sewing machine, which was passed on to Paula when it was about thirty years old.

One really sad thing happened while we were living there. Jack Wood (Bob’s father) died; it was a difficult time for Hartie and all the family. He was unwell for a long time, and it’s thought some of the problems with his lungs originated from the First World War.  He was a Blacksmith all his working life and even shod horses during the war.  He was a very well respected person in East Worldham, and some of his work remains in the church to this day.

Some of the item's in East Worldham Church made by Jack Wood

To be continued... 


  1. Hi Sue, My but you had it tough starting married life. A fascinating account and so well told. I just hope things got better for you later and look forward to your next instalment.

  2. Hi there, It did not seem so bad in those days, amazing how you cope when young. Now I need mod cons and all home comforts.
    Thank you for doing all the hard work with the blog Barbara

    1. The hard work was all yours Sue, both with writing the story and living it! By the time I got married things had moved on (thank goodness) although Terry didn’t get any paternity leave, so I was pretty much on my own. Very different now. xx

  3. Love hearing all your stories Mum and love the photos -keep them com
    ming xxxxxx

  4. Fascinating to read about your life when you were first married Sue. Although we never had an outdoor privy some of our accommodation was pretty basic. We never had a lot of money, but we were happy and things haven't changed. I don't think paternity leave had been considered back then and like you and Barbara I was on my own most of the time. I wouldn't change things though as being with the children 24/7 was a very special time.

  5. Thanks Paula and Liz, Will have to start writing some more soon before the old grey matter dries up completely. I feel sorry for modern mums, it must be hard juggling work and family life.


I really appreciate your comment. Thank you!
Barbara x

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