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, 23 May 2015

Guest Post - My Sister Remembers - The End - For Now!

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

I went to the pre-natal clinic in Hartley Wintney where I met other mums-to-be and at last made some friends. One particular friend, Doreen, lived on the side of the common in Hartley Wintney, we visited each other most days for a cup of tea and a chat, and I began to feel less cut off. The trouble was I was soon too big to get behind the wheel of a car, and it was some months after Paula Jane was born that I was brave enough to start driving again. We had an old wooden garage with no floor just two planks to park on. Bob found it easy but the first time I tried to get the car out I ran it off the planks – you can guess how popular I was!

Paula Jane was born on the 9th October 1966, and “Auntie” Pauline came to look after us.  It was an easy birth, and I was allowed home after 24 hours. Paula was a beautiful bonny baby, and it was lovely to get home so soon.  Pauline was wonderful she took the children out and managed very well with James, considering he screamed all night every night. She was so patient with him and played with him for hours on end while I looked after Paula and entertained all the family who came to view the fourth member of the Wood football team. Mum and dad were horrified when they heard I was pregnant again, but once they saw Paula they were as charmed by her as everyone else was. After Pauline went home Bob dealt with James in a very different way. First night James screamed and screamed and Bob and I both tried to pacify him. Well, it didn't work, but the short sharp slap across his bottom certainly did!

James continued to be a problem. He didn't want to eat, he didn't want to walk, and everything else was a battle. Paula, on the other hand, and thank goodness, was as placid as Michael and had a very sunny disposition. Times were hard and we really did have to survive on the bare essentials. I regret I have so few photos of James and Paula as babies – simply because it was too expensive to buy films and pay to get them developed. I had a photo of all four of them taken together at Hartley Wintney, but it was months before we could afford to go and collect it.

A day out at Frensham Pond

At least now that I could drive I could take all the children out in the summer. By this time we had swapped the van for a little car. I used to collect mum, and the six of us would go for a picnic at Frensham Pond or to the coast. Life was always a bit of a battle with four children and very little money, but we soldiered on. I was envious of Bob because he remembered lovely little stories about the kids, but I could only remember the nappies, tantrums and hard times without money. When the children were older, I used to ask Bob to tell me all the things they had said and done as youngsters as I felt I had missed so much.

Doreen always said she had no idea how James managed to stay alive as he drove everyone to distraction. He was a lovely looking lad with big blue eyes and curly blond hair, but knew exactly how to wind people up. He would sit in his high chair and spit his dinner everywhere, and he never slept. He had boundless energy and wanted to play all night. For a while Bob and I tried taking it in turns to play with him until after midnight, but it made no difference so it was back to a slap across the buttocks!

Paula was baptised at a lovely little church in Winchfield. We had to get special permission from the Rural Dean because the church had been unused for a very long time. It was a really lovely occasion, and once again all the family and friends came back to our house for tea and cake.

St. Mary's Church Winchfield

Bob worked long hours, and so I often went to Well to visit mum and dad where we knew we would get a very good tea. One afternoon as I was about to drive away the driver’s seat sunk through the floor of the car.  Dad gave me a tin lid to put under it to stop me ending up on the road while I drove home.

At about this time the kids decided they really wanted a pet, so we got a white cat and ended up naming her “Mum Cat” because like me, she kept getting pregnant. We let her keep one kitten “Ginger” and they were both with us for many years. All the other kittens were taken to the pet shop in Victoria Road, Aldershot until we saved up enough money to get Mum Cat “done”.

The children with "Mum Cat" left to right; Michael, James, Jackie (at back) and Paula.

Jackie was five years old when we were at Taplin’s Farm, and a decision had to be made about her education. She was very highly strung and had lots of habits like folding and unfolding blankets and rocking backwards and forwards for hours on end. She was always happy and knew lots of nursery rhymes and poems. It was decided she would start school at Hartley Wintney Infants on a part-time basis.  It was an absolute disaster. She was completely lost and panicky because I wasn’t there. In those days teachers didn’t get any extra help for children with (what we now call) learning difficulties. The third day was the hardest of all for Jackie; she panicked and in trying to get away bumped into and knocked over some children in the playground. When I arrived to collect her at the end of the day I was met by some of the parents who were furious at the behaviour of my “awful child”. The Head Mistress more or less told me not to darken her door again and went on to say, “there are special places for children like that”. I remember walking home with the children and crying my eyes out wondering what would happen next.

Well, what happened was she went to Compton Diagnostic Unit near Winchester and lived and was educated there until she was nine years old. She came home for weekends and holidays, and we visited her at school.  It really was a lovely place, and she was very happy there, things seemed to improve, and she didn't have as many seizures for a while. She enjoyed her lessons and liked the teachers, and we began to hope for better things.    

In the meantime, life was becoming more difficult for Bob at Taplin’s Farm. His boss became increasingly demanding and often did strange things. In the middle of one harvest, when the weather was beautiful, he called all the men out of the fields and Bob out of the milking parlour and insisted they spend the day cutting down stinging nettles.  He would not allow them to stop for a cup of tea or lunch, and the cows didn’t get milked until after 9 pm that night.  His wife tried to intervene, but he would have none of it and told her to get indoors and mind her own business.   Bob stuck it out for three more years before deciding it was time to start looking around again. It was only later we learnt his boss had been ill for many years and eventually died from a brain haemorrhage.        

Our next move was to Northbrook Farm just outside Bentley. Bob was taken on as Herd Manager, a job he came to love. Our new home was a Gothic style semi-detached three bedroomed house. Two of the bedrooms were upstairs, and the third which the boys shared was down. Bob worked from 4.30 am until 11.30 am and then had two and a half hours for his lunch break and went back for afternoon milking and any other jobs connected with the cattle. He finished work when he could but with animals that could be at any time of the night. He looked after a herd of Friesian cattle and was responsible for keeping the books and increasing the milk yield.

Bob and cows at Northbrook Farm

I became friends with the house keeper and her daughter at Northbrook House. They lived in a really nice flat above the stable block; you can just see it in the following picture (below the clock tower). They had a pretty walled garden, and it was lovely to visit them and sit there with a cup of tea in the summer. It was such a treat to have nice people to visit and to visit me. 

Northbrook House

Money was not so tight now as I had a cleaning job, and Bob was getting a regular bonus on his milk production, so we were able to buy a better car. We started entertaining a little in the evenings. I would cook a nice dinner, and we had the occasional bottle of wine. Life was not all honey. It was still hard work with the children and even more so when Jackie came home for the school holidays.  She contracted German measles whilst at school and was really very ill. Her seizures got worse and the drugs no longer controlled them. Sometimes,  she would have up to ten seizures in one day.  

By now, both Michael and James were at school, and Jackie had moved to Lingfield Hospital School (now the National Centre for Epilepsy) in Surrey.  It was a very large school. She lived in one of a row of houses with approximately eight pupils plus staff.  It was like a village with its own very good school, hospital, church, restaurant and various other facilities. It was a much longer journey for us, and I often had to do the drive on a Sunday as Bob would be working. It was now time to change the car again so we bought an Austin Cambridge, which was much larger. The kids and I would go off on the journey to Lingfield, which was always a bit of an adventure. Once there we collected Jackie and off we would go to find a café for a cup of tea. I remember once we set off and got stuck in floods and had to get someone with a tractor to pull us out and dry the plugs before we could set off again. I was a bit nervous after that and used to stay around Lingfield more.  

Jackie, Michael and James at Northbrook

After we had been at Northbrook for a few years the farm manager and his family moved, and we were offered their old house. Once again, it was in the Gothic style with a very nice front garden with roses and clematis climbing over the walls and the porch.  I knew the house very well having cleaned it for a few years and was excited to move in.  It had a large kitchen with a walk in larder, a downstairs toilet and a store cupboard. After we moved in we discovered the larder flooded after heavy rain and if we had snow we had to shovel it out of the loft! We had a dining room and a large lounge, three bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs. Our new home was just behind our old one so on moving day we put the furniture on a tractor and trailer and shifted it about a hundred yards.  We had a garage with room for Guinea-pig cages and a shed for the dog to live in when we were out, and another shed for chickens. We bought the chickens with the idea that we would have eggs and when they stopped laying we would eat them - some hope! The chicken laid very few eggs and were all given proper burials in the woods when they died of old age!  We wanted a bigger vegetable garden and the owner of the farm said we could have part of the field behind the house. Once we cleared it of stones (really good work for the kids!) we could grow everything we needed, including fruit bushes and trees and always had plenty to share around with others on the farm and our relatives.

The rest of my story is as yet unwritten. I have it in mind to continue with it, but it may have to wait for a year or two as my life is still as hectic as ever. That’s all for now, Sue Poulter nee Flitney  


  1. Dear Sue, Farmers are certainly a rare, as in odd, breed and you definitely had your share. I found this and the rest of your story fascinating to read and couldn't help comparing the farmers with those that I worked for. Not much has changed.
    So there is to be a pause in your story, I hope you can find the time to continue it as I am keen to hear more.

  2. Wow, I think real stories like this will always pull an audience but coupled with the pictures, it just makes everything more real! Thanks for sharing and hopefully you get time to write the rest soon.


  3. Thank you so much and I am sure I will continue one day. Retirement is supposed to give us more time but I seem to be busier than ever and we are house hunting at the moment. Thank you Barbara for putting this all together so well for me. x

    1. The pleasure is entirely mine Sue. I hope you find time to continue your story one of these days. xxx

    2. I will certainly have a go if my memory will stretch back that far!! Trouble is some sad bits are hard to think about, let alone write about.

    3. i love yout story mum please find the time and the strength to continue it xxxxxx

    4. Perhaps if we ever find somewhere to live I will carry on xxx


I really appreciate your comment. Thank you!
Barbara x

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