Friday, February 19, 2010

Growing up in Wolverton - Part II

Sunday evening in those days comprised tea (salad or sandwiches and some home made cake) and later on having perhaps listened to something like Variety Bandbox or Tommy Handley in Itma we would have supper which often comprised a slab (and I use the word advisedly !) of Yorkshire pudding with HP or Daddies sauce (although I believe some people enjoyed it more with jam ! I remember from a fairly early age having a pretty big Meccano set in a large wooden box which my parents bought for me. It was something that I was quite addicted to and which inspired an initial interest in things mechanical (which later turned into an interest in all things electrical and then electronic). I was always anxious to visit the arcade in Northampton (a narrow row of shops just off the market square) where there was a shop which sold Meccano spares. Another popular place of pilgrimage was a small toy shop next to Woolworths in Newport Pagnell. It actually took quite a time to get me to Newport as that entailed travelling on Nobby Newport. Mum and Dad took me for what was to be my first train ride on “Nobby” and rather foolishly to my way of thinking today had made great efforts to enquire as to whether I thought I would be all right on the train. We stood ont he road side next to the old station and looked down upon “Nobby” puffing out smoke and steam and I just chickened out ! We made several more visits to the station before I actually made it onto the train and then I was sick ! I have often thought that this all sowed the seeds of doubt in my mind which led me to be afflicted by the quite severe travel sickness which has dogged me somewhat all my life !  I remember all too well the occasion when my sister Gene and her boyfriend Peter volunteered to take me to the zoo. Not long before we were due to go Pete’s dad offered to drive us all to Clacton for the day. I seem to recall being sick for the first time as we went through Bradwell. The whole day from there on was one nightmare blur. I guess it wasn’t exactly a bunch of roses for any of the others either !

In those days one of my main hobbies seemed to be upsetting my sister, it was the one thing I was good at. I recall that every time she brought a boyfriend home and they went into the front room and turned off the lights I would follow and sit there in the dark. At that age I wasn’t even aware of why they didn’t want me there ! I just knew that they didn’t and that was good enough for me – I just stuck it out in the dark despite all pleas for me to leave. (Pete has told me since that he couldn’t afford to bribe me) Why the hell they didn’t just throw me out I’ll never know !

Gene had several boy friends the first one of which was Ray McPherson who lived down Peel Road. I think he lasted quite a while but I don’t remember much about him. One that I remember was Ian Currie. Ian was the son of the local signwriter. In those days many of the large poster (particularly those for the local cinemas) were hand painted and Ian used to help hid dad to paint them. But the reason I really remember him was that he was the proud owner of a motorbike and I had never met anyone with a motorbike before ! My joy was complete when he gave me a pillion ride to Newport Pagnell at hair raising speeds (or so it seemed to me ). Mum and dad would have gone absolutely spare if they had found out ! The only other boyfriend I remember (apart of course, for Pete) was John. John was from Cranfield and brought Gene home from a dance one evening. Unfortunately he was cycling and his cycle lamp had packed up. Gene generously offered the loan of hers and off he pedalled into the sunset as they say never to be seen again !

Since mother was a good catholic I was expected to go to mass every Sunday, something which I have to say, I detested. It was Gene's job to take me and put up with my general bad behaviour !. Once, I actually went as far as to keep my cap on deliberately and sit well back in the pew so that she didn’t notice me. Of course the priest did and came and asked her to make sure that her little brother didn’t wear his cap in church.. She wqs less than happy about that as you can imagine. I actually reminded her of  that when I went to visit her in hospital in Spain during her last illness and ill though she was, she clearly remembered and grinned. It was the first thing that proved she had recognised me and was, sadly almost the last time I saw her. We tended not to have an annual holiday as I guess my parents couldn’t afford it, although they were never much for going out anyway.

I suppose in those days a lot of people didn’t have seaside holidays. Wolverton was probably a little unusual in this respect since most families had a least one member “inside” and they got quarter fares and free passes. I can very clearly remember the start of the annual works fortnight holiday. Streams of people with large cases surged down to the station. The more enterprising older children borrowed carts, wheelbarrows and prams (anything with wheels in fact) and touted for business carrying cases to the station. For most of the next two weeks Wolverton was practically a ghost town. At the end of each of the two weeks the large assembly of youthful “porters” reappeared at the station to top up their pocket money.

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