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.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Guest Post - My Sister Remembers - Part Nine

A guest post by my sister Sue Poulter. See previous post here

Part of the deal at Wyck was that I had to work on the farm. One of my first jobs was helping the other women cut strings to use for training the hops. It was winter time and very cold, so I always put a hot-water bottle in the pram with Jackie, but it was hard to keep her warm and impossible to keep myself warm. When the snow came I asked the farm manager if we could have some heating in the barn, but his answer was a resounding no. The snow was so bad I had to pull the pram through snowdrifts to get to the barn. All the other women seemed happy to put up with it, but I downed tools one particularly bad day and said, “No heat, no work” and walked out. The other women chased after me and said that Bob would lose his job, but I won the day, and we had a heater installed in the barn soon after. It didn't make much difference though and the snow lasted until after Easter.

Sue and Jackie at Wyck

Once Bob started working in the hop gardens all his clothes and the house smelt of hops which I hated.  Following harassment from the farm manager, who thought I was ungrateful and should remember I was living in a tied cottage, Bob decided it was time to look for another job.  Mum and dad felt sorry for us, and dad asked Bob if he would like to become his Herdsman at Well Manor Farm.  We thought this would be fine, but it doesn't pay to live next door to your parents and certainly not to work for your father-in-law. Dad was not the easiest of people to work with and didn't have much patience with Bob. The hours were long, and the pay was poor and Bob ended up getting part time gardening work on his one day off a week. The house we lived in was very cold, and we only had a fire with a back boiler for heating the water, and coal was so expensive we had to sell some of our belongings to pay for it.  I loved the garden though and grew all our own vegetables. I remember a visit from granny who seeing me digging up potatoes gave Bob a really hard time, but he was working all hours and was always exhausted.

Bob and Jackie in the garden at Well

Mum and dad seemed to be fairly comfortably off at this time so when the grocery van came from Bentley Stores mum would buy loads of vegetables, fruit and "best ham" whilst Bob and I could only afford perhaps a loaf of bread. Funny when a mother seems to take delight in having more than her children.  I remember on one occasion she bought a new rug for the kitchen and asked if I wanted the old one. I was really pleased as we didn't have one, but when she brought it round she asked me to pay for it. I paid up but could have done with the money to put towards the outstanding electricity and other bills.

The Well at Well

The village had not changed since I was a teenager. There was an old water well in the middle, which I assume gave the place its name, and one pub called The Chequers, there were no buses and because Bob didn't drink there was nothing to do in the village. Jackie was a very bright baby. She read simple words and remembered every song and nursery rhyme we taught her, and of course I had plenty of time to spend with her. The highlight of my year was to go next door to watch the Royal Variety Performance on mum and dad’s television. I would wash, change and put my make-up on, as though I was going somewhere special. I started driving lessons as Bob thought it would be good for me to get out and about. The lessons had to stop when I found I was pregnant again and there was no chance of any spare money. This time the doctor kept more of an eye on me because of the problems when I was pregnant with Jackie. We couldn't afford all the food he suggested, but we had plenty of fresh vegetables and salad in the garden, so I lived on that. Probably the reason I regained my figure so quickly after the new baby was born.

Mum in the garden with Michael

Michael was born in the February of 1964 and Mum Wood looked after Jackie while I was in the hospital. His was a more straightforward birth, and he was a lovely placid baby with a mop of black hair. Everyone said he looked like a member of The Beatles, who were all the rage at the time. I was in the hospital for ten days and really looking forward to getting home to Jackie but when I did she had forgotten me and bonded with Mum Wood.  It was really upsetting but it only took a few days for her to get used to me again. Thank goodness Michael was such a good baby as not long after he was born Jackie suddenly became ill. She was two years old that summer, and it was then that she started screaming at night while rocking backwards and forwards and hitting her head against the wall. It was very distressing and nothing we did helped. The doctor suggested giving her junior aspirin, which also didn't help but she seemed better after a week or two and so with much relief we put it down to a virus. 

We managed to scrape up enough money for me to start my driving lessons again, and luckily I passed the test at my first attempt. We didn't know it at the time, but this was to prove a Godsend. 

It was a short while later that Bob began to have health problems. During the war, when he was six or seven, he was run over by a tank at the top of Worldham Hill (probably playing “chicken”or some such game) and spent many months in hospitals undergoing plastic surgery to his arm. Now all these years later a growth appeared on his arm. The doctor decided the growth would have to be removed and although the operation was a success, it made us appreciate each other more and reminded us just how short life can be. Bob always wore long-sleeved shirts even in the summer months but after more plastic surgery, he was happy to have his arm on show.  Jackie had continued to be a concern and on one of the doctor's visits to Bob, I asked him to take a look at her.  She had put on a lot of weight, and her face was often flushed. I thought it might be indigestion, but the doctor felt it could be epilepsy. My dad said it would be best to forget about it as she would be fine when she got older. Not an easy thing to do when you are worried about so many things.


I found out I was pregnant again when Michael was eight months old. I must say I wasn't very pleased as I felt two children were enough. Bob, however, was over the moon saying he would get his football team yet! As I've said previously Michael was a lovely baby, very easy to feed and always happy to sleep. He was baptised at Long Sutton Church on a very warm day when I was already seven months pregnant. After the service, all the family and friends came back to our house for tea. It was a nice day, but I was quite pleased when everyone went home.  When I went into labour with James Matthew in July 1965, Jacqueline and Michael went to stay with their Auntie Pat and Uncle Mike in Alton, where they had a lovely time playing with their cousins. I think coming home to a crying baby must have been a bit of a shock for them. Although they had a lovely time in Alton it was a shame they could not stay at home with Grandma and Granddad Flitney living next door, but they made it quite clear that as I was having the children it was my responsibility to find someone to look after them as they were not going to!

Sue holding Michael and mum holding hands with Jackie

Not long after James was born Bob started getting attention from a very attractive young lady in the village. Her car always (conveniently for her) broke down outside our house when Bob was at home for lunch. He would leave his lunch and go out to check she and her car were all right. After a few months of this I went to see her and told her just what I would do if she didn't leave him alone.  I can be quite a scary person when angry, and she backed off. I felt almost sorry for Bob as I’m sure he was quite innocent as to what she was up to, but I was having none of it.  Soon after this he decided it was time for a move, especially as relations between him and dad were becoming very strained.

After a few interviews he secured a job at Taplins Farm, between Hartley Wintney and Winchfield. The farm has now gone the way of many others and is an Industrial Estate. But when we lived there it was a rural area with beautiful views. We had a detached house with a conservatory on the side, and a lovely playroom for the children. When we first moved in the children had some bad tummy upsets and Michael often had sore throats and had to have his tonsils removed. Jackie also became unwell again and began to have “vacant” spells. The doctor suggested we take her to see a paediatrician in Reading. Bob couldn't get time off for the appointment so I drove myself and Jackie there. The consultant was most unsympathetic and after carrying out some tests said, “Well you know Jacqueline was starved of oxygen at birth and is brain damaged, which has resulted in Epilepsy." He started her on a course of anticonvulsant drugs and told me to come back in three months.  I was absolutely astounded, as although we had both had a bad time during her birth, not one person had mentioned her being starved of oxygen. The consultant assumed I knew all about it, but things were so very different in those days, and the patient was seldom told the complete story.  Now it was up to me to drive home from Reading and break the news to Bob...

To be continued 


  1. Hello Sue,
    At times reading that I thought 'I can't finish this'. My! what a time you had and such awful treatment from, not only the doctors, but your parents too. I am shocked about them as they were always so generous and kind whenever I visited.
    What courage you must have to have faced such trials.

    1. Thank you John. I think the attitude was "You made your bed, etc.," I am glad they were generous and kind to you. Right up until my dad died he would always insist I made a mistake marrying Bob and mum never told me she loved me until a couple of hours before she died. I just think I was a disappointment to them. Life can be hard but it just makes us stronger.

  2. That is so sad Sue, but I just think times were different back then. We are all so much better at saying “I love you” but mum and dad were from a different generation. What a shame we can’t go back and make it right.
    PS you know I love you to bits don’t you??

    1. Thank you sister and I love you too. Yes as you say things were so different and attitudes were quite Victorian in some ways way back then. It makes me smile now when I see young people greeting each other in the street with a hug. Mind you it could be why everyone seems to have colds now-a-days!!

  3. What a beautiful story of human spirit. I hope you ladies attempt to compile these blog posts into a book at some point.

    1. Hi Brandy, we haven’t really thought that far ahead, but it’s sweet of you to say. The problem is neither of us are particularly good at writing although we do feel we have a story to tell.

    2. Hi Brandy, Just wish I was clever enough! Thank you for your kind comment.


I really appreciate your comment. Thank you!
Barbara x

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