Roger Haines

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These are the memories of Roger Haines, who died on 11th March 2006 aged 70.

Typed up by Kevin, Sarah, and Nicholas. Edited and converted into DocBook SGML by Nicholas.

To my ancestors, family, friends, and descendants.

Table of Contents
1. Introduction
2. Grandparents
3. Parents
4. The War Years
5. A Wells Childhood
6. Jobs
7. The Car
8. Hull
9. First Proper Job
10. Housing
11. Wheels
12. Second Proper Job
13. Family Life
14. Property
15. Holidays
16. Walkies

Chapter 1. Introduction

I was born in Wells Cottage Hospital on 7th August 1935. I lived with my elder brother Derrick (born 14th December 1931) and parents Frederick William Haines (born 13th June 1901) and Dorothy Anne Haines, nee Stevens (born 22nd May 1901) at 4 West Street, Wells, until I went to Hull University in October 1953.

After graduation, I worked for six years in the aircraft industry, south of Manchester. I then lectured Mathematics at Portsmouth for thirty-two years, before retiring in 1993.

I met Betty Jones at Hull and we married on 16th August 1958. We have three children, Kevin, Sarah, and Nicholas, and six grandchildren, Ian, Tom, Leon, Fiona, Joe, and Esme.

Roger circa 1995.

Betty and I now live in Soberton, a village in rural Hampshire.

Chapter 2. Grandparents

Grandparents Haines

Grandparents Haines lived at 7 Alfred Street, Wells, with Auntie Ethel. Father had 2 sisters, Ethel (born 28th August 1904) who never married, always lived at home, and Nell (Ellen, born 4th October 1915). They attended the United Reformed Church in Union Street, were sober and industrious. Frederick William Haines (Senior, born Huntspill 24th May 1869) - Grandfather Haines - used to ride a bike. He had shingles in later life and lost the sight in one eye. He worked for John Snow, Coal & Timber (now Timber Importers). They occupied part of the station yard directly opposite our house in West Street. Two of the railway sidings were used for coal and I expect that timber (and builders materials - sand, shingle etc) came by rail to the siding, nearer to the river.

Grandfather was in charge of the timber yard; several large sheds, one of which had a circular saw. He was from the "old school" and would work all hours. Frequently we (and the whole neighbourhood) would hear the saw working in the evenings. During the war I believe Grandfather also managed the office which was directly opposite to our house (4 West Street) behind a six foot wall. Father used to enjoy making things; he built cupboards and shelves into No 4, having built a shed shortly after moving in in 1929 or 1930. I think that he bought much of the wood from Grandfather at Snows (certainly at the proper price, but possibly better than average quality!).

We didn't have a lot to do with Grandma and Granddad Haines, although they lived and worked close by. I suspect that a "plate was broken" in Mother and Father's early days. Mother (living in West Horrington, working for the World Stores in Wells) had lodgings at No 8 Alfred Street where she played the piano and used to have singsongs. Grandfather was quite small and slight; Grandmother (Matilda, born Glastonbury 24th November 1873) was tall and slim, she came from the Glastonbury Rices. I expect that she met Grandfather when he worked for Snows at Glastonbury (before their Wells yard opened). They married on 23rd August 1899. Grandmother always made us boys welcome and we called from time to time.

F. W. Haines senior, Wells.

Once Granddad had a load of logs delivered. Derrick and I had the job of moving and stacking half of them outside Grandma's back door and bringing the other half home in our hand truck (several trips). Unfortunately one of the wheels collapsed under the weight of the first or second load. Once on a nice day (I was about 6) Grandmother, Mother, Derrick and I went for a walk down the Glastonbury Road, left over the stile, to go up the hill, left and left again, back down Gatehouse Lane to Alfred Street. Unfortunately just after leaving the Glastonbury Road, Derrick and I were playing near the river, jumping from tussock to tussock. I fell in and got plastered with mud, so that was the end of that walk! When I was 12 or 13, I used to collect the Wells Journal every Thursday and take it to Grandmother (for 6d).

During the 1939-1945 war there were lots of allotments. Grandfather had one to the left of the Cold Store Road (Cold Stores built nation-wide at the start of the war). From time to time Father used to tend it. In about 1949, Father gave up his allotment in West Street (where the Post Office sorting office is now) for one on the right hand side of the Cold Store Road. So from time to time he and I would garden on both allotments and maybe call in to see Grandma and Grandfather. I think I may have been judged too young to go to Grandfather's funeral (died 31st December 1948) but old enough when Grandma died (15th May 1950).

From Rowdens Road, one road, Alfred Street, goes along the front of the houses to the laundry, and the second, Muriel Terrace along the back of the houses to Gatehouse Lane. The athletic field bordered Rowdens Road and Alfred Street. One of Father's jobs (when he was young) was to fetch and erect the grandstand which totally obliterated his view of the soccer and cricket! After the Second World War, Somerset Cricket Club had an annual three day fixture there. Cricket was popular, and Rowdens Road very busy. For Grandma's funeral, Somerset were playing there, the police suggested it would be quiet at lunch time, but in fact the cortege had to crawl through the lunch time cricket crowds.

Auntie Ethel lived at home. Most of her working life was in the laundry office. For some time during the war she worked as a book keeper at Creases (old fashioned grocers at the bottom of the High Street). In about 1944 we had a "collect waste paper for victory" campaign. I took this on and Auntie Ethel arranged for me to collect lots of heavy old ledgers from Creases. Auntie Nell married Cecil Dyer (born 27th January 1905) in 1940. Uncle Cecil worked at the cheese store on Glastonbury Road. They lived in Burcott Road and Cecil used to commute along West Street in a little Austin 7. On one occasion the level crossing closed as he was going through it! So the car ended up on the railway line after the gates had closed to let the trains through. Somehow it was extricated. I don't know how, but I guess it was an interesting minute or two. Son Eric was born on 18th April 1941. I used to play with him, Nell and Cecil used to play tennis, so there were old rackets and balls around, and a very snappy dog in the garden next door. In about 1952 they moved to Ash Grove, and in about 1965 to Wookey Hole Road. Nell and Cecil maintained close links with Grandma, Grandfather and Ethel, so after Grandma and Grandfather died, Nell and Cecil gave Ethel considerable support. Nell died on 1st December 1987 and Cecil on 13th April 1995. I used to call on Ethel after Nell died, I remember Ethel (still living in the family home, 7 Alfred Street) saying how much she missed Nell. Ethel moved to a retirement home in Meare (near Glastonbury) in about 1988, and died there (17th April 1990). Nell, her son Eric, and his daughter Catherine (three generations) all went to the Blue School.

Frederick William Haines (senior) and Matilda Haines nee Rice, 9th April 1928.

Grandparents Stevens

Edward (registered Edwin) Adolphus Stevens (born 25th July 1862) and Lucy Ellen Hill (born 13th October 1864), married 23rd December 1890. Edward bought Rock House from Mary Simmons in 1898 for £66. They lived for most of their married lives at West Horrington, from 1898 at Rock House. Edward had been to Canada, come home for a holiday in 1889 or 1890, leaving his cows in the care of a friend; met Lucy Ellen - a nurse at the asylum - and proposed. But she didn't want to cross the water, so they settled in Horrington (have we still got cows in Canada!!). Children (who lived): Arthur (born 16th March 1892), Eva (born 28th December 1897), Dorothy (born 22nd May 1900, my mother), Gilbert (born 6th June 1902), Hilda (born 30th October 1903), Edgar (born 13th February 1905), and Agnes (born 20th February 1907). Edgar died on the 19th July 1926, of peritonitis.

Edward A Stevens and Lucy E Stevens, June 3rd 1922.

Mother recounted how she was born in Wells when they lived behind the town hall buildings, her Father delivering beer etc for a brewery. But they soon returned to Horrington. I believe Granddad supervised the patients in the asylum whilst they tended the large kitchen gardens. Whilst Auntie Agnes had scarlet fever and was nursed at home, Granddad was sent stone-wall building around the asylum's reservoir! They regularly attended East Horrington Church (1.5 miles away). Arthur started school next to the church, but by the time Mother started, the new school was open on the Bath Road (still flourishing today). Arthur worked for the World Stores, Eva apprenticed dress making, Mother stayed on at school to become a teacher, but failed the exams (see her recollections).

Grandma and Granddad Stevens' Golden Wedding, 1940.

Back row: Norman Stevens, Bill Foot, Father, Mother, Evelyn Stevens, Arthur Stevens, Eva Bull, Walter Bull, Gilbert Stevens, Win Stevens.

Middle row: Agnes Foot, Trevor Foot, Grandma Stevens, Granddad Stevens, Roger, Hilda Hemmens.

Front row: Kathleen Stevens, Derrick, Jeanne Stevens, Roy Bull.

I cannot recollect the family photo being taken (Golden Wedding, 1940) when I was five. It must have been some party, with family coming from Cheltenham, Reading, Frome etc during the war. Some recollections start soon after. Playing in Horrington Wood I was stung by a wasp. Granddad came and burnt out the wasp nest. Shortly thereafter he could only walk slowly with the aid of sticks, so used to spend much of his time sitting in a large wooden chair near the fire and table or outside the front door. Rock House (still there) had a huge back garden. Occasionally Granddad would struggle up round the rocky path to it and watch as we picked currants, gooseberries, or pulled up some of the plentiful weeds (see Wells Journal, 1st October 1903).

The garden contained a couple of pig sties and a chicken house (which had been the lavatory when Mother was young). In the 1940's they had a chemical toilet in the outhouse near the front door. Granddad had made many improvements to the house, including a piped water supply and sink in the outhouse. Many of the other houses fetched water from a standpipe (opposite the chapel) and threw their waste water over the wall. With Mother, Derrick and I went to Horrington regularly on Saturday afternoons; grey painted buses from Wells market square, half past the hour; 2d adults, 1d children on the Bristol bus, walk down through the wood and up Horrington Hill, nice in summer, valley muddy, sometimes totally flooded in winter. 3d adults, 2d children on the Bath bus, and walk steeply up through the village. We used to get there about 3, bring in about 12 buckets of coal, then take Rover for a walk up over Horrington Hill to the puddle house or water cress beds or the crab apple tree, or hazel nut trees, or play in the stream. Tea at five-ish, then back to one of the main roads to catch the bus back to Wells at 7 o'clock. During the war, sometimes the bus was full and didn't stop, sometimes it never came, so we walked (the two or three miles). On one occasion we could hear the bus driver singing before the rattley old bus arrived. We rattled down the Bath Road, and on the outskirts of Wells, the bonnet fell off and punctured the petrol tank. Petrol everywhere, fortunately no explosion, but it certainly sobered up the driver!

Father rarely came to Horrington. On one occasion he took some tools to fix some brackets in the stone wall for a shelf for the Wireless!! It was quite a job, and somehow he broke and lost his silver watch chain which upset him. Uncle Gilbert, Auntie Win (Gilbert's wife) Jeanne and Kathleen (their daughters) lived next door to Grandma and Granddad, behind the chapel. I'm sure that they gave Grandma and Granddad a lot of help and support, especially as they became more frail. Uncle Gilbert kept hens and grew vegetables in "the Paddock" along Horrington Hill. It was away from the houses, and used to be raided by foxes. One Christmas I remember being there when the chickens were being killed (necks wrung) for Christmas dinners. Fowl was a rare luxury, only eaten at Christmas.

The view over the Somerset Levels from Rock House was fantastic! In about 1947 Wells rural district council decided to build about 12 council houses, with shop and post office. The end house ruined the view from Rock House. Since then, more houses have been built on both sides of the narrow road. Getting the coal in was important, for heating and cooking. One Saturday Mother didn't go to Horrington, but wanted Derrick and me to go. We caught the 2.30 Bristol bus, ran to Rock House, got the coal in, ran back to the Bristol Road in time to catch the 3ish bus back to Wells. Home for 3.30, but not very popular!

Grandma used to give us a pint or two of milk most weeks (it was rationed). On one occasion Derrick and I went and were given two jars of milk in a basket to bring home. One of them was dribbling in the bus (top loose) so we got off and walked home (fearful of arrest for ration breaking!!). Granddad used to like playing Draughts. In the early 1940's I guess he played just as I play with the Grandchildren now. Later he used to nod off and not know if he was playing black or white!

Edward and Lucy Stevens at Rock House, circa 1940.

In 1949-1950, Grandma's health deteriorated, Agnes, Eva, Hilda and Mother spent more time at Rock House. I remember meeting the bus in the market square after Grandma had died (12th August 1950), and Mother told me Granddad was coming to live with us. Our back (living) room became his bedroom, and the front room became our living room. I don't remember much about it but guess it wasn't an easy time for Mother and Father. We borrowed a wheelchair from the vicarage, and Derrick and I took Granddad for a walk one day. In the spring of 1951 Mother had a hysterectomy and before the operation Granddad was moved by ambulance to Auntie Agnes' in Frome. He died (9th May 1951) there whilst Mother was in hospital, and was buried with Grandma and Edgar (died 19th July 1926) in Horrington churchyard. After Grandma died, Granddad sold East View to Uncle Gilbert, and then Rock House was sold by auction at The Star in Wells.

Chapter 3. Parents


Frederick William Haines, born 13th June 1901, died 10th August 1983.

Here are two sets of Father's memories. See also the chapters on "The War Years" (especially the section on "Father's Work") and "A Wells Childhood".

Memories of Frederick William Haines the younger, December 1982 handwritten by himself

The memories of my school boy days. After recovering from double pneumonia, I attended the infants' school in John Street, Wells. Our teachers were Miss Gardener and Miss Lavington. It was about ½ mile from No. 7 Alfred Street, where I lived with my parents and sister, and we always came home to a midday meal.

I was moved to the boys' school later on, and teacher was Mr Mutter, and the head, Mr Gould. I well remember the patience of Mr Mutter compared with the "bash it into" them by Mr Gould. There were about six boys who attended school from Alfred Street and Rowden's Road, and if we were lucky enough to find a tennis ball, lost by someone playing in the Athletic Field (now the Mary Bignell Field), then we played football in the road going to and from school, no ball then we played marbles in the gutter.

Mr Gould used the cane sometimes, I suppose it helped to keep us under control. I managed to reach standard six before leaving when I was 13 years old. I used to prefer Composition, the other subjects I did because I had to. The last year we attended a woodwork class for an hour per week, under a Mr Taylor - I liked them.

The only recreation was an occasional visit to the Rec. for a game of football, and only the players went. Once a year we went up on Milton Hill for sports and a bun. The very small children were taken up in a horse drawn farm wagon. The Blue School played football quite often in the Athletic Field and us Central School boys envied them being able to do this. The groundsman would not allow us in there, but we did manage to creep in and watch the cricket, tennis, bowls etc.

In those days it was possible to look across this field from the bedroom window at my home, we also saw Wells sawmill in the Glastonbury Road burnt down, we could also see the farmers bring their churns of milk to the United Dairy, plenty of noise, as the churns were put in a lift to tip the milk into a tank and trickle down over the cooler, and the empty churn was returned with a bang.

Years later when I was driving for United Dairies, I had the job to collect a wood stand from Chard, which was erected in front of our house, blocking our view, but we did have a pleasant view at the rear of our house, across several fields to Park Woods and Dulcote Hill. The stream which ran between the road and the field was a great attraction, to catch minnows and loggerheads, but we spent most of our time in the field adjoining the stream. Farmer Wickham strolled around sometimes, he was not very strict, but we used to scamper back across the stream when he was around. Expect we got our feet wet, water seemed to attract me, I fell in the stream adjoining Sheldons, the pond across the field at the rear of my home, and in the stream at Cradle Bridge, in this case I took off my clothes and tried to dry them in the sun, it was a good place to pick primroses in the spring.

Mother, my sister Ethel and I used to go to Cradle Bridge and walk the five miles to visit her sister Mrs Parsons at Pilton, her husband was coachman, and Aunt Sue looked after the dairy, we had cream, but it did not seem to agree with me.

We had a very hot summer in 1911, Mother took Ethel and me to London by train to stay with Aunt Dolly at Clapham, Aunt Rox was cook to a Glastonbury family who had moved to Kensington, these people were on holiday, and we were pleased to go there and play with the toys etc, Eth and I used to walk to Clapham Common, but how we missed the fields.

We also had a yearly outing, sponsored by the Congregational Sunday School to Burnham on Sea, by train. It was interesting to see the ricks of peat drying alongside the railway, which was for household cooking/heating. Not a very pleasant day for Mother - it always gave her a headache. We had tea provided at the Puzzle Gardens. [I (Roger) remember similar St Cuthbert's Sunday School and Choir outings in 1943-1947: train Wells-Glastonbury/Burnham. The peat stacks in the fields were still there, all cut and stacked by hand. Must have been very heavy, hard, poorly-paid work.]

I had a weeks holiday with a cousin and his wife at Bridgwater. He was a cleaner on the S & D Locomotive section, and used to take me to the engine shed, and allowed me to push open the throttle and move the engine a short distance. They lived near a bridge crossing the main line, and interesting to stand on the bridge and watch the fast trains slip the last coach without stopping, someone in the coach stopped it at the platform.

I often went to stay with Aunt Rose and Grandma, at 30 Chilkwell St, Glastonbury, Grandma had trouble with her legs, and was confined to a chair, Granddad, a nursery man, passed away the year I was born 1901. There was a large garden, I tried to help with the digging but ended up pushing the fork through the toe of my boot. They also rented fields and garden on Bushy Coombe, between Bove Town and the Tor, to reach them we climbed Well House Lane. I spent many hours up there with Uncle Jim, and had the pleasant job of driving the horse and cart, there were cows to milk, but I did not do this. Aunt Rose did a milk round, carrying the can, and I often went with her.

We sometimes walked from Glastonbury to Stileway, which was about 4 miles to see Aunt Jemima, Uncle Joe and their three children. I also went there from Wells on Father's bike - about 20 miles, on one visit I was pushing the pram around the path at the front of the house with the two young children inside, and managed to overturn it and throw them out. We used to go to Glastonbury by train, no bus in those days, I took a return ticket at Wells, the ticket collector at Glastonbury took the return half, and the ticket collector at Polsham on the return trip made an awful fuss about it.

Now re my home and parents, I suppose we had problems, but I never remember having a hiding, Father worked long hours for John Snow, selling coal and timber, the timber was brought by boat to Highbridge, and rail to Wells. St Cuthberts and Wookey Hole paper-making plants required wooden boxes, to send their paper away, and generally it was an urgent order for Snows to cut the wood and make the boxes, and quite often it meant Father and Mr Curtis worked evenings to make the boxes, which were about 4ft square. We all went to chapel Sundays, Father sang tenor in the choir, and I moved the handle up and down to work the bellows for the organ. Weather permitting a walk around Ash Lane Sunday evening. Expect it was hard work for Mother, a coal fire in the living room and sitting room a boiler with a coal fire, paraffin . lamps and candles. I remember her perspiring when doing the washing by hand in two galvanised tubs. Father and Mother seemed to get along together, and keep fit, also my sister Ethel. They paid a Mr Purnell £1 per month rent for the terraced house until I went to work, when Father bought it.

We had an allotment to grow vegetables, my job being to do the weeding and pick up the potatoes, Mother grew some flowers and a row of sweet peas. Holidays and weekends I used to earn a few pence hauling coal in a small trolley to people in Rowdens Rd and Alfred St, another job was to collect a fitters tea in Rowden's road and take it to Sheldons, quite good, 2d per day.

I remember going to visit my grandmother (Mary Ann Rice, nee Chiswick) and Aunt Rose (Rosa Rice, her daughter) who was looking after her at 30 Chilkwell Street, Glastonbury. I was a boy at the time and my mother and I used to go by train or sometimes cadge a lift on the laundry van. My grandfather (George Rice) had been a market gardener, he never shaved himself, and he died at the barbers in Benedict Street shortly before I was born. He had a large garden at the rear of 30 Chilkwell Street, consisting of a kitchen garden and a nursery garden where he used to grow cuttings, young apple trees and shoots of the Glastonbury Thorn.

One day, playing in the garden with John Jones, we pulled all the variegated ivy off the outside privy. Aunt Rose was cross with us. Uncle Tim Rice (James, Rosa's brother) used to live opposite 30 Chilkwell Street, with his wife and 2 children. After Granddad died, Jim took over the garden. One day when I was helping him I pushed the garden fork through the toe of my boot but it didn't hurt me. Besides the garden, Uncle Jim looked after some cows and horses up Well House Lane, we used to ride up the hill in the horse and cart, the horse used to live in the stable at 30 Chilkwell Street. The horse, Bob, was a chestnut and on one occasion he brought us back to Wells in the cart. One hot day I sipped cider from Uncle Jim's cask until I became quite tipsy. On another occasion, John Jones and I thought we would help by cutting up mangles with a machine for cattle feed. We cut up a big heap, but Uncle Jim didn't need them!

Grandmother was an invalid who always used to sit in a chair by her fireside. Their bedroom used to run the depth of the house; Grandmother slept at the front, Aunt Rose at the back, and when I used to stay I used to sleep in a small bed under the eaves and window at the rear of the house. I well remember the smell of the ointment that Aunt Rose used to use on Grandmother's legs.

The cider room had been converted into a dairy for milk and cream. There was a separator which used to spin (by turning a handle), cream used to come out of one hole and skimmed milk from another. The milk used to come from the cows up Well House Lane and Aunt Rose had a milk round (pail and measure) around Chilkwell Street. The skimmed milk was used for pigs, kept in a pig-sty in the garden. After a pig had been killed I remember seeing them pour boiling water over it and use the brass candle sticks (which are now on the mantelpiece at Soberton) to scrape the hair off!!

Uncle Jack (John, Rosa's brother) was a policeman and he used to hang his old police uniforms at the top of the pear tree.

Water used to run in a gutter at the front of the house and I used to play around a "trap", which had been built to enable buckets to be filled. I fell in, in fact I made a habit of falling into water. I fell into the stream at the rear of Sheldon's, I fell into the river at Cradle bridge and took off my clothes to try to dry them before returning home; I fell into the pond at the rear of Alfred Street.

Uncle Jim used to do long distance running. His older son (George Rice) also used to run; he won the annual race around Glastonbury Tor and Wick, (and recently gave the prize to Glastonbury council).

Mother, Ethel and I used to walk from Glastonbury to Stileway (Meare), about 3 miles to see Aunt Jemima, Uncle Joe and their children, Emily, Tilley and George (Rood). One day Emily and Tilley were in a pram at the front of the house; I moved the pram and tipped them out into the garden. One day I rode my bicycle from Wells to Meare to see Aunt Jemima. When returning I rested my bicycle against the railings of the bridge at Glastonbury to light the paraffin lamp, but I dropped the matches in the river.

Mother, Ethel and I walked from Wells to Pilton (5 miles) to see Aunt Susie (Mother's sister) Parsons. Uncle was a coachman and he passed us in the coach without stopping (because his employers were in the coach). Aunt Susie looked after the dairy, Uncle looked after the horses; they had two sons, one a farrier who went to London and was in the Household Cavalry; the other a carpenter. There was always lots of cream to eat at Aunt Susie's, sometimes too much. One day Aunt Susie sent me and Era (her son) with a big basket of blackberries on our bikes to Wells. We upset them on the hill at Launchley.

How did I spend those half-pennies and pennies? There was an off license and shop situated at the end of Alfred Street, where I used to purchase sweets ½ d per packet. It was interesting to watch the twin cylinder Thornycroft lorry offloading barrels of beer from the Oakhill Brewery, very few lorries in those days. The General Post Office at Priory Road issued cards to encourage young people to save so, when I had a spare penny, I'd buy a stamp and stick it on the card, and when the card was full, the amount one shilling was credited on my bank book.

In those days there was a weighbridge on the road outside the post office where various vehicles were able to check their loads. John Snow also had one in the Station Yard.

Saturday afternoons I went to the Pictures at the hall in Priory Road, providing that I had the two pence, silent pictures then, us children were bundled together in the front seats, very noisy there. Miss Tate the wine merchants sister lived in one of the large stone houses in Priory Road, and, on my way to school I picked up her glasses. For doing this she gave me half a crown!

In those days prior to 1914 there was only a garden below the large stone houses on the east side, and a field and garden between Bull Lane (later renamed West Street) and Princes Road.

I joined the boy scouts around 1912, to meet weekly at the Territorial Hall in South Street, under Mr Wheeler, who was the son of a pawnbroker, with a shop opposite St Cuthberts Church in St Cuthbert Street, Wells. Some of it was interesting, except one dark evening, us boys were spread around the Park Woods to defend the Palace, each boy was on his own, with orders to remain still and keep quiet. OK, but the cows come sniffing around, just imagine me at 10 years old in a field in the dark with cows around, so I lit a match to frighten them off, which spoiled the whole thing, after which I gave up being a boy scout!!

F. W. Haines and D.A. Stevens, circa 1927.

Memories of Frederick William Haines as told to Roger Haines on 11th March 1983.

Prior to leaving school, in 1914, Mr Taylor used to teach us woodwork for an hour a week. The lessons were held in a large room, which was also used for cookery lessons, down a passage at the site of Stuckey's Bank in the High Street (where the Westminster Bank is now situated). I made a box complete with hinged lid, which I hung on the wall of my mother's kitchen as a salt container. Subsequently we used it as a string box in the cupboard under the stairs in West Street.

When I left school I went to work at the Post Office as a telegraph boy and took telegrams around to various people telling them to report for war duties. At the end of the week we were paid our wages which included 2d for cleaning the bicycle. Half of the bicycles were broken, so much of the time we had to walk to deliver the telegrams, so when asked if I had cleaned the bicycle I replied that I had been too busy rushing round with the telegrams to clean bikes.

Living near the laundry we heard they needed a van boy on the lorry so I applied for and got the job. They had one lorry and one horse van. Besides laundry they used to clean carpets, beating them with leather belts fastened onto a long bar, a dusty job. Occasionally the inside of the large (coal fired) boiler had to be cleaned out on a Sunday. They tried to get me to do it but I wouldn't climb inside the boiler.

I first drove the lorry when I was 13. There were two drivers who drove three days each; Harry Cook who later became Verger at St Cuthbert's, and Ern Thorn. Harry wouldn't let me drive, but one day when Ern came out of a house at Cranmore I was sitting in the driving seat and Ern said, "Go on Fred, see what you can do". I still remember what a funny sensation it was driving this lorry along the road. It was a "Mendip" with an Aster engine and chain drive, wooden wheels and solid tyres. It was built at Chewton Mendip, with a small windscreen with a big gap between windscreen and hood, and no doors. In bad weather I used to get in the back with the laundry to keep dry and warm. We used to work six days a week, 12 hours a day, starting between 7 and 8 am. Sometimes whilst the driver was making deliveries, I used to go to sleep in the back.

In the mornings we used to unload the dirty laundry, go home to breakfast, and then load up the day's deliveries after breakfast. At breakfast time Mother used to ask me to pop up to the World Stores. One day I was on my way to get some butter when Father stopped me in Rowdens Road and said we might have a little baby by the time I got home that evening. That day Nell was born, I well remember it was a complete surprise to me!

When I was 14 or 15 the two men were called up to go in the army, so they gave me the horse and van and got another man for the lorry. I used to like the mare (Kit) but she got a fistula on her shoulder, so they gave me another horse that I didn't like so much. The van was a well made light four-wheeled wagon, which ran easily, and we used to go to Wells, Glastonbury and Street, Wookey, Wookey Hole and Easton. I used to collect and deliver the laundry, collect the money and balance it all up. Some houses would have it all ready for me, others would have to collect the laundry together after I arrived. We had up to 50 calls to make on a round. Sometimes my mother would come out with me for the ride. On hot days when finishing I had to put the perspiring horse in the stable to cool down for half an hour before giving it water. One day I was in a café opposite C & J Clarks (Street) having my dinner and the horse had on his nosebag outside when one of John Snow's steam wagons passed. It frightened the horse, which ran off up the main road with me chasing it.

Eventually I found another job as mate on the Anglo American Oil Co lorry. The war was still on, I was probably 16. Previously the "Anglo" had delivered by horses and wagons they were always turned out in tip-top condition. The lorry had an ordinary lorry body on it with a tank and pipes running under the floor to the taps at the rear. We used to deliver paraffin; White Rose, Royal Daylight and Crown Diamond, drawing it off in 5 gallon measures. We also delivered petrol in 2 gallon cans to garages - there were no petrol pumps in those days. The petrol grades were Pratts No 1 (the best), Pratts No 2 and Taxibus. The crate on the back of the lorry would carry 20 or 30 cans. The earlier horse drawn wagons had racks on the sides for the cans.

The paraffin was delivered by railcar from Avonmouth, one of my jobs was to hand pump it into our tanks, 3000 or 5000 gallons from a railcar. The petrol came in (rail) trucks, in boxes of four, 2 gallon cans. We used to store the cans in a metal shed in the middle of gardens alongside the railway siding near the river at the bottom of Snow's Yard. Father had a garden there. To move the cans from the truck to the shed we used to use the lorry, exchanging empty cans for full ones.

Albert Moore drove the lorry, which was parked, in the garage near the end of Rowden's Road (next to the Athletic Field). We used to start work at 7.30. I was used to long hours on the laundry, so when we got back to the depot about 5 o'clock the first day I asked him where we were going to now. Albert replied, "Where are we going? We are going home!!"


Dorothy Anne Haines (nee Stevens) born 22nd May 1900, died 22nd April 1992.

One is probably too close to one's mother to be able to remember as much about her as one should. Mother did not go out to work so was always at home when I went to and came from school, including lunchtimes: school finished at 12:30 so I was home by 12:40; dinner (cooked) was on the table at 1:00 and I went back to school at 1:30, pretty well every school day from 1940 to 1953. Similarly breakfast happened at 8 a.m. and tea (invariably bread and butter, jam and cake) at about 5:15. Mother was strict; she used to keep a bamboo cane on the sideboard and occasionally gave Derrick and me a tap: not hard, not often. Mother was dependable, a bit like a well-worn pair of shoes or comfortable chair.

F. W. Haines and D.A. Stevens, circa 1927.

Here is a set of Mother's childhood memories. See also much of the chapters on "The War Years" and "A Wells Childhood".

Memories of Dorothy Ann Haines (nee Stevens) as told to Roger Haines, 28th January 1983

In Feb 1907, at Rock House, West Horrington, when I was six, there were six of us children; Arthur (14); Eva (10); myself; Gilbert (5), Hilda (3) and Edgar (1). The nurse came with a black bag so I stood at the bottom of the stairs and said she couldn't go upstairs with her bag because there were enough children in the house as it was. That was when Agnes was born. I can just remember Dad building the new staircase with the door, when he covered over the top of the old stone staircase I wondered how we were going to bed. I could not have been very old.

I remember starting piano lessons when I was 9. Eva and I used to walk to Wells (3 miles each way) for a music lesson.

I went to Horrington School, starting at the age of 3. We used to walk the ¾ mile each way and we came home for lunch. There used to be a school photo but I don't know where it has gone. When I had learnt to play the piano I used to play the hymns and the marching in to assembly music. One day the children missed out a verse of a hymn so I had to play the Amen a verse too soon. There used to be a "Britain's charity prize" and we used to walk to Wells to take the written and oral examination. One year I won the second prize (£2) and the following year first prize (£3). The money was put into John Bishop's Trustee Savings Bank.

Mother brought us up quite strictly. She was very skilled at needlework, having made the red and white quilt before she was married (so it must be about 100 years old now). She used to have to fetch our drinking water from the spring running out of the wall at the bottom of Horrington Hill. It was a good ¼ mile each way and we children used to help by each carrying a quart milk can. We used to catch the rainwater for washing and other household uses in a big tank in front of Rock House. I remember Father putting in a flagstone path and steps to the front gate. He also built the wash house and covered over the water tank, I can recall Bert Allen looking over the paddock wall whilst Father was building it. Piped water with a standpipe came to Horrington in about 1913.

We kept pigs and poultry in the paddock on Horrington Hill. One day I heard Dad talking to Mother about selling some young pigs. Two butchers came up from Wells with the intention of buying them. Mum and Dad were not at home so I took them along to where the pigs were kept and told them the price. They bought them and when Dad came home from work and heard about it he was very pleased; apparently he had hoped for the price I sold them at.

In later years, Dad bought a horse and trap. The horse was called Mendip, and he would "talk" to Dad in the mornings when Dad fed him etc. Before school we used to carry the food and water to feed the pigs and poultry in the paddock, letting out the hens and collecting the eggs. The food was mixed with hot water and we used to warm our hands whilst carrying it. We also used to pick primroses and violets on our way.

During the summer holidays we used to walk the 3 miles to Masbury Station, catch the train to Evercreech New Station, and walk the 1 ½ miles to Albion Lodge to stay with Grandmother who lived in a cottage built at the entrance to the drive to the farm. I was the only one of us who used to stay with Grandmother, I went there a good many times. Then my Aunty Beat married a farmer, Clifford Hodges, and they farmed at Thornhill, Batcombe. I used to stay with them and walk to Doulting to see Uncle's parents. Aunty Beat used to put the cream and butter down the well to keep it cool in hot weather (not submerged). One day she couldn't find me, and I was in the dairy trying to pat her butter into shape with the butter pats.

Eva became a dress makers apprentice with Holloway and Clares next to "The Eye" in Wells Market Place. At the time of the December Fair Eva came home one weekend with a sore throat, and feeling unwell on Sunday morning, went into Agnes' bed for a cuddle. On the Monday morning she needed a sickness certificate and Dr Smith diagnosed diphtheria! Mother turned the sitting room into a sick room for Eva and Agnes with a disinfected sheet hung outside the door. Even after Eva was better she had to stay in the sick room for a further fortnight until Agnes was also recovered. The Dr used to give Agnes injections, giving her 1d each time for being a good girl. While they were ill, Father couldn't continue working inside the Mental hospital so he was given the job of pointing the walls surrounding the hospital reservoir. The James boy in West Horrington also had diphtheria, and a Jacobs girl at Chilcot died of it. After Eva and Agnes had recovered a man came from Wells, sealed the door, window and chimney, and fumigated the room.

When I was 14 I passed the exams and became a Student Teacher. I used to help with the infants' classes and was paid 16/- a month. At the same time we pupil teachers used to have lessons ourselves from a very good schoolmaster at the school. However, he left and the new teacher said it wasn't his job to teach us so we failed our exams, Elsie Arthurs one year, Rose Farmer the next, and me in 1916. I had tried having lessons from a correspondence college in London but it hadn't helped much. Having failed I couldn't go to teacher training college so I looked for a job.

Arthur had started work as a grocer's apprentice in Wells; he worked for the World Stores (WS) and moved from branch to branch. In 1916 I started at the WS as a book keeper/shop assistant. In 1917 Arthur, who was married to Edi and had a son Leonard was manager of the WS at Shepton Mallet. He had to go in the army (he went to Italy) so I transferred to the Shepton branch and lived with Edi and Leonard. The WS were very strict on prices. One day Mr Fear, a Wells taxi driver, drove a WS inspector from Wells to Shepton in his taxi and was asked to fetch a list of groceries. I served him and filled in the prices but charged ¼ d too much on 2lb of sugar (4 ½ d instead of 4 ¼ d) so I was sacked on the spot and came back to Horrington.

Arthur came home in 1918. He became manager of the WS at Woodbridge, Suffolk, and he got me a job for the WS at Bournemouth. I didn't like Bournemouth, it seemed too relaxing and I had some horrible lodgings, so in 1921 I came home, transferring to the Wells WS as bookkeeper. We were open long hours, so during the winter I lodged in Wells, going home to Horrington Wednesday afternoons and from Saturday evening until Monday mornings. Ethel Haines worked at the WS and arranged for me to lodge with Mr and Mrs Holmes at 8 Alfred Street, which was next door to Ethel's home. The Holmes' had a piano and so did the Haines', so we used to visit each other's houses and that was how I met Fred.

Wedding of Frederick William Haines and Dorothy Ann Stevens, 9th April 1928.

Back row: Gilbert Stevens, ?, ?, George Road.

Front row: Ethel Haines, F. W. Haines (senior), Matilda Haines, F. W. Haines (junior), D. A. Stevens, Lucy Stevens, Hilda Stevens, Edward A Stevens.

Chapter 4. The War Years

Roger, 15th May 1942.

I can't remember anything before about 1940, the year after "The War" (the Second World War) started. I have no recollection of "The Day War Broke Out": hearsay has it that on 5th September 1939 or whenever, Derrick, aged 8, said to me, "Don't go out to play Roger, there is a war on". Little bits of memories come back but my childhood was not significantly affected by the War, although undoubtedly Mother was, with rationing/shortages and the blackout. Father with Pool petrol and "bridging".

I can't remember many air raid warnings and I think they were largely ignored in rural Somerset. Wells took some fire precautions, laying large pipes, from a pump house built by the moat, down the High Street and up Saddlers Street. And several long ladders were permanently placed against buildings such as The Star and The Swan. West Street had its own fire precautions; Father was involved in distributing stirrup pumps and hose pipes. I remember being with him when No 11 chose a stirrup pump, so Father had the hose pipe.


Rationing first - see ration books in museums - every person had a ration book with their name, and they were issued from the Town Hall every year, different colours for children. Every family registered with a grocer. Part of the book was tabulated with things like butter, margarine, tea, sugar, jam, eggs, bacon etc, listed down one side, and fifty two columns which the grocer could cross off when that week's ration was issued. Similarly at a butcher when one collected the meat and/or corned beef. Presumably the grocer and butcher sent off weekly or monthly numbers and had the appropriate amounts delivered. When national supplies of say butter were good the Ministry of Food increased the ration, when short, the ration was cut. I think there were separate pages for sweets, and several pages of "Points" for tinned fruit, dried fruit, puddings, cakes etc.

Dated sweet coupons would be cut out in sweet shops 2oz or 4 oz, ration perhaps 3/4 lb a month (less sometimes); they had to be used in the allotted month; whereas "Points" could be saved up for special occasions; birthdays and Christmas. We may have been short of sweets, butter, sugar etc, but NO ONE WENT HUNGRY because of rationing. Cigarettes, coal, alcohol etc were not formally rationed but most shopkeepers would share things out; "only one packet of cigarettes" "only two oranges". Bananas were non existent; for much of the war there was no petrol for private use; doctors and essential users had petrol but the bulk of it, brought into the UK at enormous cost in lives (tankers exploded when torpedoed), went for the war effort. Since very few working folk had cars, no petrol didn't affect them much.


The Blackout was introduced very early, and strictly enforced. No lights to be visible, so there were no street or shop window lights. The moon was the only outside light at night. Good when a clear night and full moon (good for bombing as well) black as the ace of spades when raining and no moon. House windows used black out curtains (black material, vast quantities were made) or solid shutters, hinged or put up and take down, or more substantial shutters which offered protection from bomb blasts. The back room downstairs at 4 West Street was our living room, but at some stage it was changed into our Shelter room. The table was replaced by a steel shelter table with a flat steel top, strong steel angle iron legs and frame onto which clipped strong steel mesh.

On the outside of the window Father fixed a big steel sheet from an advertising boarding. Fine for the blackout, never tested for blast thank goodness, good for drawing on with chalk, but the room was always blacked out, so no day light; I can't remember how long the steel blackout was up for. One day a friend and I went to Walkers (Priory Road Post Office) with half a crown, bought some chalks and ice creams (so it must have been very early in the War, no ice cream later) and spent a while chalking on the blackout. It transpired that the money had come from his mother's till (she kept a small shop) and I was sent to bed for the rest of the day. This was the only time I was ever sent to bed as punishment.

One evening Father was out and a neighbour knocked loudly and repeatedly because our outside lavatory light had been left on without the shutters being closed. Mother was very perturbed until she realised who was knocking and why, then she rectified the problem. No bonfires were allowed in case a smouldering heap flared up at night.

On one occasion (early evening) there was a big explosion; everything including the letterbox rattled. We all went into the shelter for some time. The next day we learnt that a German bomber had crashed at Coxley (two miles away); we cycled down; its remains were "guarded" by a policeman but we were able to bring a few little bits of "treasure" home. The German bombers used to drop lots of bits of tinfoil (to interfere with the new "radar") and we used to pick up lots of it.

In about 1942 a German bomber was transported to the athletic field and we could climb around it and sit in it; all part of a campaign to raise morale; get towns to "buy a bomber" or whatever, to help pay for the war effort. Metal garden railings were taken from nearly all the homes that had them and melted down for scrap - generally never to be replaced - a pity because some were ornate. I remember Betty's landlady in 1957 saying that in the war she had patriotically given her new aluminium saucepans towards an aeroplane. She tried to replace them with iron ones only to be told that "There is a war on so you can only have these aluminium ones".

Efforts were made to boost morale. One Sunday afternoon I happened to be near the Moat and watched various war games:- soldiers hiding in the fields - well camouflaged - invisible until they stood up; old vehicles were towed across the Park Fields and a field gun shot at and destroyed them. In the corner of Park Wood they erected a flag pole and fired at it from near the Moat, bringing it down with the 2nd or 3rd shot (or with a rope?). Defensively, in 1940/1941 a defensive line, 20 miles from the coast, was built very quickly, running (to my knowledge) from the North Wootton road half a mile east of Keward, across to Park Woods and up across the Bishops Fields: tank blocks (about a four-foot cuboid of concrete), a tank trap (a ditch ten feet deep and fifteen feet wide); and a blockhouse every four hundred yards. Those around Wells were destroyed in about 1946 but there are many still around, for instance near West Lane on Hayling and on the North Downs Way in Surrey.

The blockhouses around Wells were destroyed using explosives. Several friends and I helped the demolition experts by digging holes in the partially demolished blockhouses, planting the packs of explosives, retreating and then dodging big lumps of masonry flying through the air. Mother would have had kittens!

Father's Work

Father worked for Esso; they had a depot next to the railway, next to where Tincknells Agricultural Merchants (still there) have extended to. Shell had a depot next to the railway off Southover (still there and used now by Tincknells Fuels). Near the start of the war all oil companies merged to the "Pool", the Esso depot was closed and they all worked out of the Southover depot.

Towards the end of and after the war I used to enjoy going with Father in his lorry: "Unauthorised people must NOT be carried". If he had had a fairly quick morning load he would reload before coming home for dinner any time between 12:30 and 2:00; if I was on holiday I could then go with him for the afternoon load.

Petrol was "easy": it was loaded by an electric pump and off-loaded at garages by gravity. Tractor Vaporising Oil (TVO) and paraffin (for home heating in oil stoves) had to be pumped onto the lorries by hand (big semi-rotating pump with two handles for two men) and invariably it had to be pumped off at the farm (taken up high for gravity feed into tractor) or at the hardware merchants such as Brownings in Glastonbury. Some hardware shops had vans-full of hardware (and a paraffin tank): the outsides of them bristled with hardware: pots, pans, baths, dustbins, brushes, etc and they had regular rounds around the villages (before cars were an essential part of village life). Pumping was hard and boring; two hundred gallons from a full lorry tank to a low farm tank was OK but a thousand gallons to Brownings high level tank was hard and took hours; in the winter Father would be warm apart from his feet - frozen to the ground. In about 1950 they started to fit pumps onto existing lorry gear-boxes (must have been difficult). Instead of pumping for ages, the driver would then have to be very wide awake, TVO spilling out at ten gallons per minute makes quite a puddle! Once the technology and staff have caught up, it's quick and easy, and now spills are rare.

Before the war, fuel used to come to the depots by railcar; during the war maybe some did, but they operated a "Bridging System". Some of the drivers would start at 2:30 or 3:00 am, drive to Avonmouth, load in the docks, bring it back to Wells depot and then do a morning delivery. I believe that the other drivers would work "ordinary days", which may have included a daytime trip to Avonmouth if the railway had not delivered by railcar. The night drives in the winter were rough; no heaters of course, so all drivers and passengers froze (car heaters came in during the 1950s, in 1959 or 1961 we paid extra for heaters in our A35 vans), minimal vehicle lights: all headlights were totally covered except for a small horizontal slit (see war museums); the Pool lorries, and many other vehicles (including buses) were painted battleship grey, and, I suspect, poorly maintained. There was total blackout and often dense fog on Mendip so it was difficult. Father used to say how he would get one wheel each side of the dotted (central) white line and try to keep going (there wasn't much else about). Once he came upon a faint waving light belonging to a policeman standing in front of a dead horse.

Father's identity card picture, 1940.

An air-raid on Bristol and/or Avonmouth presented them with "Interesting Times". While a raid was on, the river's swing bridges were open for river traffic (and so closed for the roads). Thus they would be stationary with a thousand gallons of petrol while an air raid was going on above them. On one occasion Father had an argument with a fuel loader in Avonmouth Docks; he was going to make it up the next night but the man was killed in a raid after Father had driven off. On another occasion he was stopped coming out by the Docks Police (very strict in wartime: everyone was checked in and out and Identity Cards (some classes with photographs) had to be shown). The police asked him to take a Norwegian sea captain into Bristol during an air raid. Father, thinking of sea warfare said he didn't fancy the captain's job and the captain replied, "Neither I yours with this load of petrol."

Bristol and Avonmouth were extensively and frequently bombed, but none of the vital bridges were destroyed. Even in 1960 huge areas of central Bristol were still derelict apart from church spires and steeples.

See Father's diary, in a box at Soberton, for his account of the politics of the Pool Depot in wartime. They used to have Fire Watch duty, sleeping on camp beds at the depot; get up whenever the Air Raid siren sounded and fend off incendiaries and other bombs from on top of the fuel tanks. Never a problem in Wells, but when he was sent on relief to Weston-super-Mare the town was bombed, but the fuel depot was OK.

One cold winter he was sent to Bodmin (in Cornwall) on relief; the first evening a fellow driver took him to some lodgings; after settling in Father went out and couldn't remember his way back. When paid the first week, Father bought a registered envelope and posted it to us at home, not knowing that he should get it signed for at a post office. Bodmin, surrounded by very steep hills. was rough: the pipes froze in his digs; the man of the house died and Father caught 'flu and a doctor sent him home.

After the war, the fuel companies "de-pooled", so Esso reopened their fuel depot and all the companies repainted the grey lorries with their bright liveries. Esso closed the Wells depot in about 1955 and for a year or so, Father parked his lorry in Wells but loaded in Avonmouth. In 1957 he retired from Esso and drove a fuel lorry for Tincknells (who had taken over the Shell depot) until he retired in 1967. In 1966 Mother and Father sold 4 West Street and moved to "Mendip", Hill Lea Gardens, Cheddar, where they lived contentedly until Father died in August 1983.

The Field

Behind the West Street houses was (and still is) the back entrance lane. Before the war, on the other side of the lane was a field, in part of which had been built the large Priory Garage. I guess that early on in the war the field and garage were requisitioned. A zig-zag trench was dug near the "New Road" by the Home Guard, then it rained and it filled with water. The entrance slopes were very muddy, slippery, and attractive to a 5-year-old. The order in which the following occurred is uncertain: some of the field was covered in clinker/hard core; some British Army men were around; two Nissen huts were built near the New Road; some Italian prisoners of war came (daily, not overnight). They were artistic and we could easily talk with them and they made us rings from brass or copper.

Gradually more of the field was covered in hard core/clinker. Behind the tax office was used as a coal store (after the war as well) and one day a lorry turning from West Street up into the "New Road" lost two or three hundredweight of coal; we "salvaged" (!!) two or three handtrucks full. The coal store was also used by the US army to make camouflage (maybe in 1943) - they would come in the morning and go off late afternoon - one day I found a ten shilling note after they had jumped on their lorry and left.

In 1943/1944 the ARP section behind the bus garage was taken over and the US lorries came and parked. As June 1944 approached everywhere was full of vehicles, great big US lorries, half tracks, troop carriers, Bren gun carriers. Not only behind West Street but in many other places: Father said how on top of Mendip to go to some farms he had to stop and show ID and the delivery order before going along lanes with military vehicles parked both sides. I don't know where the soldiers lived. During the days some would use the garage and occasionally give us chewing gum. We used to play around the parked lorries and on one occasion enjoyed sharing a tin of peaches found in a lorry cab (opening the tin was a problem). One day in early June 1944 we were given two young rabbits by a US Army man; he was not allowed to take them to France in or after the D-day landings; we called them Monty and Alexander after two British generals; Did Father make hutches for them? Hutches came from somewhere but we didn't look after them so I believe that Uncle Gilbert took them away.

We used to spend a lot of time messing about over in "the field". The army came and went; once when they were absent one of the Nissen huts was empty; we found some paint inside and tried painting it. Another time we were in our best clothes, tried painting something, got in a mess and were not very popular when we went home!

The Station Yard

The walnut tree in the Station Yard featured in our lives every September: hours spent throwing stones or metal bars to try to dislodge the nuts, breaking them open to eat the kernels. Railway parcels were collected/delivered by a horse and dray, sometimes by a three-wheeled "mechanical horse" and trailer. I was counting my treasure of walnuts when the three-wheeler came around and squashed half of them. Much later (about 1960) a young man was killed near the tree, possibly looking for walnuts on the siding whilst shunting was in progress. The railway trucks (coal or parcel), once moving, were silent and deadly; on another occasion whilst I was in bed with a cold, there was lots of shouting and the steam engine whistled: a coalman was clearing coal from the track after empty trucks had gone and a full truck was silently bearing down on him; fortunately he moved in time. Snow's had three coal delivery lorries, and Harvey's one; all the coal was shovelled, bagged, and weighed by hand (hundredweight bags): a slow and laborious job. I don't think coal was "rationed", rather it was shared out by the coal merchants. Derby Nuts were Mother's favourite coal; we used to keep an eye on the deliveries; easy for the coal man to miss count one bag out of ten.


We didn't travel much during the war. We had had a caravan holiday in Bowleaze Cove (near Weymouth) just before the war: vague memories of a car; trapping Derrick's finger in the door; not enough bedding so Father drove home to get some more; sandcastles; getting lost in the caravan site; maybe a trip to see a warship in Portland Harbour. During the war: one or two bus trips to Frome (Aunt Agnes, Uncle Bill, Trevor and later Ted; change buses in Shepton); once we went to Frome by train, changing at Witham; the return journey was terrible on a cold train with no lights, very late. One or two trips to Winscombe (Aunt Hilda, Uncle Bill; kept chickens, small bungalow with a very pretty garden overlooking the railway line - collected eggs; broke one in my pocket; Uncle Bill milking a few cows by hand; I tried and failed and waved to a passing troop train).

We used to catch the bus to Glastonbury, then walk steeply up through Bove Town to visit Aunt Rose (Father's aunt), who lived in a very old cottage until she was rehoused, and the cottage demolished, in the 1950s. I recollect the earth closet privy at the top of the garden, and playing ball on the large asbestos kitchen roof. If the ball got stuck, we were not allowed to go on the roof but Aunt Rose did (madness!). From a Victorian market garden background, it seemed poor and primitive to us, but Aunt Rose had a heart of gold.

Father, Roger, Mother, Derrick, Ilfracombe 1947.

In about 1946, holidays for the impoverished but victorious workers restarted. We had a week in a boarding-house near Weymouth (five days actually, I had a cough which delayed us going for two days; I got them frequently). Probably 1947 and 1948 saw us in a guest house in Ilfracombe (a nice hilly centre for Exmoor etc) and in about 1949 we stayed in a Penzance guest house and the friendly other guests taught me some card tricks and teased me to go fishing. One early morning I went to a fish shop, bought a herring for 1d, and brought it back at breakfast time. I had been fishing! The landlady cooked it and gave it to me for breakfast instead of egg, bacon and sausage. Travel for all these holidays was public transport.

Leonard and Norman

Leonard Stevens (Arthur's son) was in the Army from the start of the war; he and Betty, his beautiful wife, came to stay for a few days (not enough egg cups so Father made some more from blocks of wood using a variable bit). Leonard was an Officer and very smart. Taught me a "never to be forgotten" lesson tossing a coin for heads or tails! Great! He spent much of the war in Cairo - we have a photo of him reading a paper while floating in the Dead Sea. He died on the 12th November 1996; leaving Betty, daughter Margaritte and family.

Leonard's brother Norman joined the police force, then the Army. He took part in the D-day landings, and was seriously wounded six weeks later, evacuated to Cardiff hospital. Father and Uncle Gilbert went to see him there. He later married Glenis. Betty and I went to Normandy with them in 1994, for the fiftieth anniversary of the D-day landings. Glenis, a lovely Christian, died in August 2001, leaving Norman, Richard, Tim and families.

Chapter 5. A Wells Childhood

4 West Street

Back in about 1929 (before my or even Derrick's time) Father spoke to a Wells City Councillor about having one of the new council houses being built along Burcott Road. The Councillor told Father he would be better off buying a new house, so with the aid of loans from their parents, and a "mortgage" from a private lender through solicitors Harris and Harris, they bought 4 West Street. It was terraced: two reception rooms, three bedrooms, and an upstairs bathroom. Father was very industrious: he built the shed, made the head and foot of their bed and a dressing table (I believe Martin had them eventually), installed a lavatory in the brick built store, put a glass roof (called the "veranda") over the back and lavatory doors, etc, etc, besides cutting our hair, mending our shoes, tending an allotment and working a five-and-a-half day week, more when the farmers were busy. They had electricity installed in the early thirties and Father gradually extended it to the pantry, the lavatory, and the shed.

Roger, nine months.

I arrived on the 7th of August 1935 at the Wells Cottage Hospital, giving Mother a hard time and a prolapse which meant she was never very active: walks were a rarity, but I suppose looking after Father, Derrick, and me, without a hoover or a washing machine, was plenty anyway. Not many pre-1940 memories: playing marbles with Derrick on the lino; the house sloped down towards the front, not noticeable to humans but it was to the marbles. One day as I attempted to throw a heavy clock weight at Derrick I dropped it onto my foot. Ouch! I saw it in my garage today (1st of April 2003).

The front room was not used much but Father enjoyed singing and Mother played the piano so fairly often in winter they would put the paraffin heater on for an hour or so and then have a music session with Derrick and me singing too.

Heating the house: the back (living) room had a coal fire, Father kept a box of kindling in the shed, the coal scuttle would need filling (28 pounds) daily from the coal store - between the shed and the brick outhouse (loo). We were never short of coal during the war but sometimes the quality was lower than the usual "Derby Nuts". The kitchen was heated by a paraffin stove (which always had a pan of hot water on it). Cooking was by electricity (Jackson cooker), can't remember how cooking was done before the electric cooker. In the back (living) room alongside the fireplace Father had built a very good fitted unit, toy cupboards at the bottom, then drawers and glass-doored cupboard to the ceiling. The front room occasionally had a coal fire; sometimes we "lived" in the front room while the back room was decorated or had our shelter in it. No heat upstairs.

I can just remember a new mains radio coming into the living room, in 1939 or 1940. Before that I believe that the wireless used accummulators which were recharged at the bus garage. When did the TV come? I listened to the Stanley Matthews (1953) Cup Final on the radio, so I guess that our TV arrived late in 1953.

The bath used a "Geyser" gas fired water heater, which used to make funny noises. The water was scalding. The noises made by the Geyser on bath night and the lavatory cistern (high level) used to frighten me.

By scrimping and saving and having lodgers the mortgage was paid off by about 1943. Father brought the deeds home from Harris and Harris inside his overalls (so that our lodgers wouldn't know our business).

In 1965 Mother and Father sold number 4 to Mr and Mrs Thorne. They kindly entertained us at number 4 in March 2003; the house is in good order: the original roof (board and tile) has now been felted, Everest double-glazing throughout, gas central heating. Father's shed (1930) and the garage are still in use. Inside the structure is unchanged but not surprisingly redesigned. In the wide hall there is now a computer station (Mr Thorne reminded me that the house still slopes towards the front).


We always took the News Chronicle, had a good mains radio, maybe bought in 1939/1940, no TV until 1953 and no phone. For the West Street houses, Mrs Walsh (still lives at number 9) had a phone and she kindly used to run up and down with important messages. There were public red phone boxes and I remember using these phones to call Betty until 1956 or 1957. When, in 1958, we moved into our own house, it had a phone and soon most of the family was connected. What a difference in fifty years. Now everyone chatters on mobiles, many with text and pictures, for much of the time. Where will it end?

When I went to Hull in 1953, Father used to write a long letter to me every Sunday evening after church and Mother added to it on Monday before posting. I used to reply to them every Wednesday or Thursday evening. This continued, just about every week, until Father died in 1983. No doubt there are still some of the letters around. I tried to get a similar system going with the children but it wasn't sustainable and simply stopped. I wonder why, has the phone superseded the pen? Now (2000+) presumably email has overtaken the phone.

A Typical Week

A typical week went:

  • Monday - wash day. Before the washing machine this was a heavy job especially with Father's overalls which had to be scrubbed. There was a gas copper under the draining board next to the sink; whites boiled in it. A tin bath would be in the sink for ordinary hand washing, then it went to another cold bath with Reckitts "blue" in it, to be fed through the hand-operated mangle on the end of the kitchen table. Then pegged out on the lines in the back garden until dry, keeping a weather eye open. When dry it would be stowed in a wicker basket under the kitchen table for ironing. If it was a wet day, it would be hung from a six-foot clothes rack (made by Father) suspended from the kitchen ceiling on pulleys. If something needed doing in a hurry, or to air clothes after ironing, there was a wooden clothes "horse", a bit like an oversize fireguard, and the clothes would surround the fire: drying quickly but keeping the heat from the rest of the room. One day I sat on the mat to take off my shoes, knocked the clothes horse and something fell from it into the fire. Because of the washing, Monday dinner was mashed potatoes, veg and cold meat (remnants of the Sunday joint) and a pudding.

    Wash day and water heating changed when the Electrolux washing machine, with a powered wringer, arrived in about 1948. The gas copper was replaced by a Sadia water heater bringing with it hot taps at the sink, the bath, and a wash basin in the bath room. Wash day itself became much easier - filling the washing machine with a hose from the hot tap became, along with "pegging out", the harder parts of the day. The Electrolux washing machine served Mother and Father very well - I took it to the amenity tip in Axbridge when their Cheddar bungalow was sold in 1984.

  • Tuesday was ironing day: not as heavy as Monday. Ironing was done on two or three layers of blanket on the kitchen table. There was a good dinner: meat sliced from the Sunday joint before the cold meat was eaten on Monday. Always potatoes - usually boiled - frequently carrots, parsnips, swede or turnip, invariably greens: peas or runner beans in season, cabbage of some sort - spring cabbage in the summer (nice) savoy in the winter (not nice), broccoli (nice) and sprouts (OK).

  • On Wednesday before school I would cycle up to our registered (for rationing) butchers (in Queen's Street, run by Mr Tincknell, a neighbour) and get maybe some liver and/or breast of lamb (offal and breast of lamb were not rationed) and our corned beef ration (maybe 3d each, so 1/- worth for the four of us - quite a lot, maybe half a pound). We changed butcher in about 1948 to Campkins at the top of High Street.

  • On Thursday Mother would walk up to the grocery shop: Burtons in Broad Street in 1943 or 1944, changed to Spencers in Tucker Street (still there today) for a year or two, then to Cook's in St Cuthberts Street in 1948 or 1950. Rationing eased; fewer foods were rationed; butter and sugar finally finished in 1953 or 1954. Having ordered the groceries, they were delivered by a boy on a bicycle during the war; later by a van.

  • Friday was cleaning day; before the cylinder Vatric this included dry-mopping the lino under the beds and polishing the lino in the hall, living room, and kitchen.

  • Saturday morning was spent queueing for fresh fish at Mr Green's in Queen Street. He was away at the war until 1945, so the shop was run by his wife. Usually, after thirty to sixty minutes queueing, I could get four haddock cutlets; once or twice the boxes of fish simply did not arrive: sometimes the railway somewhere between Grimsby and Wells had been bombed!

  • Sundays were different. Often Father would bring us up a cup of tea in bed. Church choir for Father, Derrick, and me, while Mother roasted the joint. Church again for evensong. After the war, the choir included ladies, so all four of us were in the choir. In 2002, in the choir stalls, I talked to a man who was a chorister with me in the 1940s. He has been in the choir for sixty years.

Roger, Derrick, Mother, and Father in choir clothes, December 1948.


From about 1943 (I was eight) I very often had to "pop up to the shops" to get something. I would do this on my bike. Both Derrick's and my bike used to live under the veranda, and be locked in the shed at night. We spent a lot of time on our bikes and knew the roads around Wells very well. There were walnut trees at Burcott, North Wooton and up the East Horrington road, and a good conker tree in Stoberry Park; all visited on our bikes in season. By far the most convenient walnut tree was in the station yard directly opposite our house.

Roger, July 1948.

One day, cycling down the Glastonbury Road, Derrick and I were pulling and pushing each other with a stick; I came off and sprained my elbow and Derrick (the older one) got the blame. There was a builder's yard at the Priory Road end of the lane at the back of West Street. One winter it was very muddy; we rode our bikes through it a few times until I fell off! I tried to scrape the mud off in Father's shed but fear I made it worse.

The Blue School

I started school in 1940 at the Central School (Juniors), the entrance was from St Johns Street; the (Senior) girls school was between the Junior and the Senior boys with entrance from Priory Road opposite the Palace Cinema. I don't have many Junior School memories; in my first year we (sometimes) had a sleep after dinner (we used to go home for dinner). When the air raid siren went we ran home. I remember getting into trouble for not putting on my mac before running home in the rain.

At school, memories come back aged about 8 - we each had a cup and queued for 1/3 pint of milk every morning at playtime. I was good at sums - the nice teacher taught me how to do long multiplication. I was commended for a patriotic drawing of a British fighter shooting down a German bomber, and reprimanded for squashing another boy's thumb instead of listening to teacher. We had a school Christmas party in about 1943 with presents, I was given a book and embarrassed by not knowing how to pronounce Dick Whittington.

I passed the entrance exam for the Blue School in 1946, having gone from Infants to Juniors in about 1943 and been taught by Miss Harrington for one year and Mr Davis for two. Both good teachers; Mr Davis was a bit deaf, and strict, but every Friday afternoon he would read part of a book to us. One time he was part way through Lassie when the film came to the Palace Cinema. For a couple of days he read a lot of the book to us and then we saw the film.

Derrick and Roger at 4 West Street in Blue School caps and ties, 1947.

The Blue School was along Portway, Boys where the Little Theatre now is, the gym, woodwork and dining/music room is now called The White Building, and the Girls part was off Portway Avenue (interesting to read some of my contemporaries' recollections of The Blue in recent 2002 Wells Journals). The Boys building was old and cold; the urinals across the playground had no roof; the coat building was across the playground. The gym was modern and much better, as was the Girls building visited from time to time for Biology lessons and some sixth-form Maths.

Derrick went to the Blue School in 1943, joined the Chess Club and brought "chess" home to Mother and me. We had always played family games - draughts, whist, dominoes, etc. - chess became a favourite and we regularly went to Wells Chess Club for several years. Father didn't play, but I have the oak chess-board and box which he made. I've enjoyed a game of chess ever since, belonging to Havant and to Hayling Island Chess Clubs and having excellent lunch time games (I always lost) with a colleague in Portsmouth. Even now (2004) I look forward to a visit by anyone who can give me a good game.

At school we must have been a bit of a handful. In 1946/1947 our Form and History teacher Mr Morris had a nervous breakdown, and in 1949/1951 we made our lady Geography teacher's life a misery. The stronger-willed teachers - "Bot" Bottomley, "Hoot" Housden, and the Head "Corky" Sturman and some others - stood no nonsense, and some instant rough justice kept us in order and allowed us to learn.

I was generally near the top of the form; pretty good at most subjects but no good at French. Mastered the concept of "proof" in Form 2 (Miss Hallam).

Woodwork (Mr Hucker) was OK but I wasn't (and still am not) much good at it: rough work fine, precise carpentry poor. In Form 3 we had to make a mortice and tenon joint. I tried but it wasn't much good so I "borrowed" a good one (which had been given 18/20) and had it marked as mine (19/20). Other scallywags tried the same scam until someone blabbed: then there was trouble! Besides teaching woodwork, Mr Hucker did maintenance around the school in the holidays. Derrick (good at woodwork) helped him around 1945-1948 and I took over from Derrick for a year or so (1949-1950?). It kept me out of mischief in the holidays but it didn't sit very well with me being lazy/naughty in woodwork lessons.

School music lessons were also a lark. Poor Mr Jones - a Cathedral choirman - couldn't keep order. The piano was on a small stage in the Dining Hall and he couldn't play it and watch us at the same time! One special day, Somerset Education Committee sent a lady concert pianist to play to us. She came in a proper posh long gown and asked for the piano to be turned so we could watch her play. Regretfully the stage under the piano hadn't ever been cleaned, so she sat and played with her lovely dress amongst the rubbish from thousands of school dinners.

Music played a big part in Mother's and Father's lives and hence Derrick's and mine. We were in the Church choir from age seven until leaving home; two choir practices every week and two services every Sunday. Father was in the male voice choir and Mother was their pianist for many years. We learnt to play the piano and Derrick went on to play violin and the organ, and was organist at Horrington Church for a year or so. I never had my heart in it, used to upset Mrs Walsh the piano teacher (at number 9 West Street). I half-heartedly tried to learn the flute but soon gave it up.

Academically good (except at French), I jumped Form 4, going straight from 3 to 5, the O level year. This was not a good move: clearly I missed the things taught in year 4 so had gaps in background knowledge which caused difficulties in year 5. Example: which way does the magnetic field go around an electric wire, clockwise or anticlockwise? Mr Housden (Physics) got annoyed when I didn't know. He and I just didn't get on, so much so that when the Headmaster asked us individually what we were going to do after O level (three-quarters left aged 16), I said that I would be going into the sixth form on the Arts side.

Roger 1950, in Blue School tie with long trousers.

In 1950 the Labour government changed the examination system from "School Certificate" to "O levels", and one of their rules was "not to be taken until aged 16". Because I had jumped the 4th form I was too young in 1950 and so had to "waste" a year before taking the O levels (passed 5, failed French and History!). During that year I did some sixth-form Mathematics lessons and some fifth, and no doubt "wasted" time reading Leslie Charteris "The Saint" books (I read a lot). Also Hoot Housden retired and was replaced by a young Lancashire man, Keith Smith, so I was able to do Pure Maths, Applied Maths, and Physics in the sixth form. Besides our main subjects we all had to do English, Games, and Civics. I used to skip Gym and Games as often as I could get away with doing so. There was a chess club which was enjoyable, and usually I was champion!

In about 1949 Wells Tennis Club, in the athletic field, started a junior club. I enjoyed tennis and played several times a week until leaving home in 1953. Much later, I used to play with Kevin until he trounced me in about 1986.

Derrick left school with School Certificate in 1948 and became an apprentice at Sheldons, General Engineers in West Street. Five years' work, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. with one day release at Bristol College of Technology where he did well with ONC and HNC which lead to a place at Nottingham University in 1954. Mother (and Father) thought I could go on from school to University, but French was a problem: in those days universities required a second language, so I spent hours and hours with suis, es, est, sommes, etes, sont, etc, etc, and finally gained an O level pass in 1952 - thank you, Miss Richards (helpful French teacher).

I found studying Maths and Physics easier the second time around, so sixth form lessons were enjoyable and for "fun" I did hundreds of "trig identities" and integrals so in 1953 I did well at A and S levels. Also that year Somerset Education Committee took on board Labour government policy that all who could get into University would be given a "County Scholarship" to cover fees and living costs. Thus instead of the Blue School gaining just one or two scholarships, in 1953 there were six and off I went to Hull - why Hull? See Chapter 8.

Chapter 6. Jobs

From an early age Derrick and I were encouraged to help with the chores; I can't remember "learning" to wipe up, or to peg out/bring in the washing, or to put polish on and shine it on the lino, or to Hoover under the beds (the "Vatric" cylinder Hoover was in a box made by Father) but certainly I was involved in them by the age of 8 or 9. Around the age of 6 or 7 I remember going with Derrick to Batstones for a 4½d loaf (for years a large loaf was 4½d; a pint of milk was 4½d). When we got home Mother said she had given us half a crown (2/6) but we only had change from two shillings. We went back to Batstones but the shop assistant would not give us the sixpence (mixing up 2/- and 2/6 coins was fairly common). Certainly after Derrick went to work in 1948/1949 I became more heavily engaged in shopping on my bike and jobs around the house. I guess that in the early days I complained and tried to get out of the chores but with time I was "broken in" and ever since then chores have not been a chore for me.


Aged about 13 I heard of an after-school job at Georges (large shoe shop at top of Broad Street). On Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday I would get there at about 4, clean the 8 or so large shop windows, and go to the Post Office with several boxes of shoes. About once a week I'd cycle to the Somerset and Devon station with a large box of shoes for repair. Saturday mornings and afternoons were similar. Saturday afternoons (and other times as required) I'd scrub the entrance areas and wash and chamois the wall tiles. I've always been a bit absent-minded. On Fridays I used to take several pounds to the Post Office to buy National Insurance stamps for the shop's staff. One Friday I found several pounds at the Post Office, handed it in and rushed around to find if anyone had lost it, only to find that it was "my" money for the NI stamps. Fairly frequently, dog mess and similar would be unpleasant to clean up but it was a good job and the ten shillings per week made me feel very rich.

At school Charlie Chivers (Maths) ran a savings scheme and most of the ten shillings a week went into that. After about a year I had about twenty pounds, enough for a good bike with hub dynamo and three speeds. As I was about to withdraw my savings to buy the bike, Charlie had a blackout, knocked his head and was off work for some time. Mother and Father lent me the twenty pounds until I could withdraw it from the scheme. I gave up the job in 1950 or early 1951, a few months before O levels. It was a good job.

The Tax Office

Aged 16 (Summer 1951) and again the following year, I worked full-time for most of the holidays as a Temporary Junior Clerk in the HMIT offices on Priory Road. Just boring work entering figures in ledgers or looking out of the window at the field where we used to play. Mind you, once the army had taken it over in about 1941 it never returned to grass: hardcore, clinker, then in the late 40s they built DSS or National Insurance or Labour Exchange Offices. One day we found a ten shilling Postal Order in the remains of a bonfire - it was a bit singed but the Post Office clerk cashed it!

The Tax Office was boring and the pay poor but I was able to get the feel of office work and do some French revision for that important O level in quiet moments.

The Post Office

For the Christmas holiday (or Vacation from University) I worked until Christmas Day for the Post Office in the market place, sorting and delivering mail. Again, the pay was very poor, and based on age (a thirty year old Army Sergeant earned twice as much as I did) but the practical out-and-about work was more to my taste than ledgers in offices. The franking machine would feed through letters into a collecting box. One day the sergeant sent about 500 letters through without the collector being in place, and they went everywhere. I see in the Wells Journal a long-running debate on the future of the sorting office; I wouldn't be surprised if some of the letters are still there! On another occasion I held up the last train to Bristol for about thirty minutes. The mail was taken to the station for the last train and one evening just before Christmas I found a label which appeared to have come off of one of the many mail bags. An unlabelled bag was a heinous crime so about four of us rushed down to the station and unloaded and then reloaded all of the bags. We didn't find an unlabelled one but we got an hour's overtime! One day delivering mail I found I was posting registered letters into people's letterboxes just like Christmas cards. This was wrong so I took them back; the supervisor had forgotten to ask me to sign for and get signatures for them. Christmas morning 1953 I was delivering mail up Milton Lane and finished, overlooking the quarry, as dawn was breaking.

Roger in bus conductor uniform, August 1954.

On the Buses

Summer vacations 1954 and 1955 I was "on the buses". After a few days training (which I didn't do very well) I became a Bus Conductor: very enjoyable and with more-or-less adult pay. The bus depot was next to the Tax Office (about two minutes walk from West Street). In July and August the huge numbers of blue-collar workers went to the seaside. Nearly all my conducting was Wells - Weston-super-Mare. Typically I would start at 6:57, go to Westbury and back to Wells for 7:30 (blue-collar workers), then to Cheddar and back for 8:30 (white-collar workers), then to Weston (cup of tea there), leaving Weston at 10:00 for Cheddar (two shillings return) and Wells (3/6 return). Crowds of people, I never liked leaving them behind but sometimes there was no choice. One driver came around to the back and said "Twelve standing, and no more," and he wouldn't go until some got off.

We would leave Wells at 11:30 for the second round trip, finishing at 2:30 unless there was some overtime going. Change was always a problem on Sundays and Mondays; Tuesdays and Wednesdays were OK; Thursdays and Fridays there were masses of 1d, 3d, 6d, and 1/- coins.

I liked being "on the buses". One had to learn to write on the Master Sheet as the bus was going along. This "Sheet" was very important: a record of how many on the bus, and your money bag had to agree with the Sheet's expected "takings" - generally no problem. Inspectors could board the bus anywhere and check passengers' tickets against the Sheet. One of the Wells Inspectors, "Shadow", lived and kept pigs near Bleadney and he inspected the Wells-Wedmore bus (past his house) several times every day.

Doing the Master Sheet standing on the rear platform of a double-decker going to Shepton Mallet, we hit a bump and the Sheet flew away into a ditch and river. We failed to retrieve it, and made the bus very late, but they accepted my apologies with no trouble.

1955, my second year bus conducting, proved financially very good. One day early on, the bus stopped in a narrow part of Draycott (the Cheddar Valley road was, and is still, appallingly narrow). After a moment I heard the driver shout out so I looked out of the back of the bus and wrote down the number of the car which had just scraped past us. The Depot Inspector was most impressed and, knowing that I wanted some overtime, he put me down for as much as possible, working seven days a week for up to twelve hours a day. With home being two minutes away I could get from bed to a bus or vice versa in about ten minutes. If one worked one's rest day one got overtime and a day in lieu, and if one's rest day was August Bank Holiday Monday, one got treble time. Now, with part-time staff in the supermarkets etc it's simply £5 or less per hour day or night, high days and holidays.

Chapter 7. The Car

Learning in the Lorry

Father never took a driving test, he learned on the road starting aged 13! See his memoirs in chapter 3. He applied for and was given a licence. He was an excellent driver and when I used to go in the lorry with him he encouraged my understanding. By the time I was fourteen or so I would be helping by hopping down and opening and closing farm gates (many of the deliveries were 200 gallons of TVO to farms). Sometimes Father would let me drive along the farm track. Steering wasn't too bad (but I cut one or two corners and scraped mudguards against walls) but it took me some time and crunches before I could change down with the "gate" gearbox (no synchromesh). The farmers' TVO tanks were always in an out-of-the-way corner, high enough for gravity feed into the tractor tank, and surrounded by a morass of mud and dung. Father driving, he would reverse (using outside mirrors) to exactly the best place to get out and offload. As high as possible (to make the hand pumping as easy as possible), as near as possible (to avoid dragging pipes through the mire) and as dry as possible (for working with the pipes and pump). In his box, at Soberton, is still his book of all the names of farmers and farms.

On one of my early driving lessons (in a Bedford with a squared-off front) I drove along a track into a farm yard and Father said "pull up to the house window". I did so but then froze, while the window got closer and closer! How to stop it? Make the wrong foot move and we are through the farmhouse window! Father reacted by pulling on the hand brake, thank goodness!

By about 1949 petrol supplies had eased and the Pool was divided up into the separate companies again. I remember how bright the lorries' colours were after ten years of all being grey.

One Saturday morning I was in the lorry ("no unauthorized passengers") with Father and he mentioned that one of the front brakes was grabbing. Coming down a narrow lane towards North Wootton he said, "I will show you how the brake grabs." He braked, the steering wheel spun violently (beyond control), the lorry went up the bank and it rolled over, completely blocking the lane. It was a gentle roll, we weren't hurt, and we clambered out up through the passenger door. It had rolled through about 135 degrees, and TVO was trickling out of the top of the tanks. Father went off to find a phone and I (the unauthorized passenger) walked home. Later I cycled out with some sandwiches for him. The very heavy recovery lorry came from Avonmouth and pulled Father's lorry upright, and he was able to drive it back to Wells. When questioned about the incident he (fortunately) was able to point to the maintenance form on which he had reported the grabbing brake, a week previously.

A Hired Car

After the war, we had a week's holiday in Weymouth and two separate weeks at Ilfracombe, where the scenery was to my liking. People started buying cars (there were long waiting lists). One year (1950?) we hired a car from Minchings (New Street Garage - now new flats). After repairing two punctures we reached Gloucester about 9 p.m., where we met up with Uncle Arthur and Aunt Evelyn (who had been waiting patiently for hours) and followed them to 11 Cliffdene Avenue, Cheltenham, where we spent the night before going on to Colwyn Bay to our boarding house. We had a good six days around North Wales: Snowdon (up by train, walked down with Father), Anglesea, Beaumaris Castle, Carmarthen Castle, etc. etc.

The Car

By 1952 the time had come and JOL7, a secondhand Austin Devon (or Somerset) was purchased. See Father's car book for a detailed history: every service, every mile of the car. It was the apple of Father's eye; Mother rode around like the Queen, visiting relatives, and it brought us all wider horizons and lots of pleasure. Father spent hours teaching Derrick and me to drive. I passed my test around Easter 1953 and Derrick shortly afterwards. It took Mother longer (maybe her 3rd attempt) but it really brought a new dimension into our lives. Fairly soon after passing my test I took the Entrance Scholarship Exam for Hull University (and others). Hull invited me, and another Blue School boy, for interview and Father let me take the car! About 240 miles each way on totally strange roads - no motorways or bypasses. I didn't get the scholarship, the other boy did.

JOL 7, Milton Clevedon, October 1954.

Derrick, going one day a week to Bristol College of Technology, was able to use the car: warm, dry, and quicker than the bus and walking. For all of us it let us get out and about: picnics on Mendip, trips to watch motorcycle scrambling, etc. The car book in Father's box, at Soberton, will list them all.

The Garage

For the first winter the car was parked in Priory Garage (between West Street and the Tax Office). In 1953 we built the garage in the back garden of number 4. Father borrowed a hand truck in order to shift the surplus soil from foundations etc over to the allotment. With Derrick I pushed one barrow load over, and found Rowden's Road (which had always seemed flat) to be a testing hill. Father loaded up the truck and set out while I was out; when I came home and heard what he had done I followed in his tracks and found him stuck in Rowden's Road. With two of us it pushed OK. The garage (a first-class job) was finished in 1953 (and still looks good in 2003).

Father kept JOL 7 with lots of tender loving care until December 1962 or January 1963 (see the car book in his box); changing to a Riley, registration 74 SYB, on-the-road price £680, in the middle of the snowiest winter of our lives. The snow and cold came on 25 December 1962 and huge drifts, with narrow corridors cut through them were still common at Easter 1963. The Riley served Mother and Father well until Father died (August 1983), it went to Anthony Foot who may well still have it.

Chapter 8. Hull

Schools develop links with universities; at school there was never talk of Oxbridge or London. One lad went into medicine, but the majority aimed towards teaching and engineering. Bristol was a possibility, but it was a bit close to home. Hull sounded good - several boys had recently gone there; all their students were in Halls of Residence, which sounded nicer than "digs" and at Christmas 1952 or Easter 1953 I had talked with Monty Gilday - a friend who had gone to Hull - and his girlfriend Jackie.

Roger departing for Hull, October 1954.

So Hull it was. My Pure Maths, Applied Maths and Physics marks were good, Somerset gave me a scholarship, Hull gave me a place and off I went by the seven a.m. train on 5 October 1953. Change in Bristol, change in Sheffield, reach Hull about five p.m.; bus to Cottingham, walk up to Camp Hall. Camp was an old army camp - 70 or 80 huts around a perimeter track, bath houses and dining halls in the middle.

Roger at Camp Hall.

Each hut had 4 or 5 study bedrooms, no insulation, electric fires for heat - clock controlled, off from 11 p.m. till 7:30 a.m. When the heat was off, the rooms were the same temperature as the outside, and Hull is cold! The walks to and from the dining halls were dark, very cold and very wet. Lectures started after a few days, there were only twelve students doing "Special Maths" and we only had twelve hours of lectures a week but we always had homework and things to do. The problem was, finding the time to do it! Getting to and from the University, cups of coffee and lunch in the Students Union, maybe try to work in the library or go back to Camp to try to work till evening meal-time then go out or write letters or listen to the radio till bedtime. I never went to the local pub or Camp Bar (but many did) and didn't join many societies except Chess Club and of course Maths Soc who had the occasional lecturer - usually incomprehensible. I used to enjoy a game of chess, having done well with it at school (Championship Medal in Betty's yellow sewing box).

The 12 hours of lectures were hard (notes still around somewhere). Hard probably because we only wrote things once and unless you did lots of private study the next lecture and the next, building on, meant it "flowed over one". Most of the lecturers were good and clear. The recommended text books were learned but not as helpful as today's "Student Texts".

Every Saturday night there was a dance at the Students' Union and I guess it was in October 1954 near the start of my second year, that I first asked Betty Jones for a dance. She was a year above me (the same as Monty and Jackie) and we got on pretty well and spent more and more time together. All the Saturday night dances and walks and bike rides in the surrounding countryside. Betty and most of the girl students lived at Thwaite Hall - posh and brick built with gardens, lawns, tennis courts and a lake. The doors of the Halls of Residence were locked at 11:15 or half an hour after the dance at the Union finished (it was a half hour walk). These rules were more or less applied at the proper Halls (so bedrooms on the ground floor were popular!) but Camp was a forty acre field with a road along one side and no official doors to lock. One could have a guest for an official tea (on a tray) on Sunday but otherwise there were no men in the ladies hall and vice versa. Girls still became pregnant and were promptly sent down (in disgrace). How things have changed!

One winter's day in 1955, Betty had a heavy cold and the doctor told her to stay in Thwaite. In fact, she caught a bus down to the Union and met me. When it was time for a bus back I gave her a lift to the bus stop on the cross bar of my bike. But, her coat caught in the front wheel which stopped, and we went over the handlebars and landed in a heap. Betty's cheek became embedded with gravel, the scars of which are still visible today!

I went to Betty's home (Barnsley) a few times in 1954/1955/1956. Certainly for Betty's twenty-first (30 May 1955) we were at Hoyland Common and, with Betty's mother we went up into Wharncliffe Crags for a picnic: immediately afterwards, Betty's finals started. Hull was a University College and took London University External exams (The Gold Standard). The first and second year exams were internal to Hull (do badly and you are out); the only exams which counted towards the Degree were the eight three-hour exams taken in four days at the end of Year 3. Betty was expected to get a First Class Honours degree and had been invited to stay on to study for a Higher Degree. In the event she (and Monty and Jackie) got Upper Seconds, written 2(i). She decided to go to work for The Blackburn Aircraft Co. at Brough and live at the YWCA in Hull. At Blackburns Betty was stressing the tail of the Buccaneer, inverting 32x32 matrices (which took several days; now a desktop does it at the press of a button.) In March 1956 they sent her on a computing course to Cambridge (the only computer in the country). During 1954-1955 a new posh hall was built adjacent to Camp; and in November 1955 I moved into Feren's Hall, warm luxury. (We revisited in about 1974 and didn't recognise the place).

Betty's graduation.

In 1955 Hull University was granted its Charter and then could award its own degrees. The maths Prof expected us all to change from the London to the Hull final exams. The other students did but not me; in spite of annoying him I decided to take both sets of exams; I was awarded a Lower Second - 2(ii) - by Hull but a 2(i) by London. (One of the Hull lecturers told me how difficult the examiners' meeting had been - Hull (awarded first) did not want to risk appearing to set a lower standard than London). From my point of view, getting the London External 2(i) degree was super. Remember the London External degrees were and still are very highly regarded. Subsequently, when mentioning qualifications, I tended to omit the Hull 2(ii) altogether.

Roger's graduation.

Chapter 9. First Proper Job

During my final year at Hull I had job interviews (if men went to work for Defence Firms they were exempt from National Service). At one interview I said I fancied combining Maths Theory with Practical Work, so testing models in wind tunnels looked interesting. By luck the interviewer was Head of Wind Tunnels at Avros (Manchester), he gave me a job and after my twenty-first birthday at home I started work in Avros Wind Tunnels at Woodford Aerodrome, south of Manchester; with digs in Bramhall. Betty, happy with work on the Buccaneer at Blackburns (Brough) moved across the country to more mundane Flight Testing at Avros (Woodford) with digs in Cheadle Hulme. Cheadle Hulme to Bramhall was about four dark and wet miles on my bike at night. I used to cycle it with an umbrella up until one night I hit a large pothole and then I, bike, and brolly ended up in a very uncomfortable heap.

At Woodford Aerodrome the Wind Tunnel Department and Flight Test were the far side of the Aerodrome (from the road) and on many a morning and evening we had a wet and windy ten minute bike ride across the Aerodrome, sometimes stopping at traffic lights halfway across when a Vulcan Bomber or Shackleton Reconnaissance plane took off or landed.

In the Wind Tunnel Dept they were building a Supersonic Blow Down Wind Tunnel and I became involved in assorted calculations using a desktop calculator (full of cogs, sounded like a sewing machine working). Six or eight weeks after starting work Avros looked for someone to go on a nine month Wind Tunnel course under the auspices of NATO near Brussels. They chose me so off I went, on half pay, expenses paid, to Belgium, leaving Betty not enjoying the mundane work in Flight Test at Woodford.

Belgium and the Wind Tunnel course was OK, I came back to Avros at Christmas and Easter and Betty came over to Belgium for a fortnight in June and we saw the sights, Brussels, Waterloo, Ghent, Bruges etc. A highlight of the course was meeting and shaking Von Karman's hand (famous for his Aerodynamics and Vortex Sheets!). I came back to England with a beard, in time for Derrick's wedding to Cynthia Fossey at Croscombe and then back up north to Avros, digs and then a bedsit in Cheadle Hulme and the bike rides to and from work. Betty tired of Flight Testing (after the stimulating work at Blackburns) so she applied for and was appointed as a Mathematics Teacher at Cheadle Girls School. The school was just across the road from her digs, and she started teaching in September 1957.

Roger and Betty, Bruges, 1957.

I returned to Avros in August 1957 with a Diploma from the Von Karman Institute, the Supersonic Tunnel was still not complete (it was a big job) so I cut my teeth working on and writing reports for the Low Speed Wind Tunnel; (the first report was on the pressure distribution over the parachute hatch cover of the Vulcan. Much of the work at Avros was "Defence" - the 1950s were during "the Cold War" and the nations in NATO were all building up their defences in the face of the perceived threat from the Communist Block. (And I believe the countries to the east of the Iron Curtain were doing the same thing for the same reason). At Avros much of the development work was on the Vulcan bomber with the Blue Steel missile it was designed to carry to near its target, send the missile on its way while the Vulcan turned round and beat a hasty retreat. I'm thankful to be able to write that neither the Vulcan nor Blue Steel were ever used, except for one Vulcan which flew from the UK to the Falkland Islands in 1982, dropped some conventional bombs on the runway and then returned to the UK (a sixteen thousand mile non-stop round trip).

Roger and Betty, circa 1960.

Besides the Low Speed Tunnel there was the Transonic Tunnel, powered by two jet engines; a frighteningly noisy brute. At one stage I could have become involved with it but I didn't like these two jet engines roaring away just the other side of the control room wall. At some stage I developed a strain gauged "sting" balance for Blue Steel tests in the Low Speed Tunnel. A sting balance, stuck up the back end of the missile doesn't interfere with the flow as much as a wing-mounted balance system. Any balance system has to be strong enough to take the weight and aerodynamic loads imposed, but sensitive enough to record relatively small changes in load as the incidence (or whatever) changes. The sideways forces due to yaw were quite small so my design was quite "weak" in yaw. Imagine my horror one day when passing the Low Speed Tunnel I saw the missile mounted on its side so that these weak strips in the balance were supporting the whole of the heavy wooden missile! It didn't break, thank goodness: if it had, my name would have been mud in the Drawing Office and the Model Shop where highly skilled carpenters and metalworkers made the beautiful models and strain gauge balances.

Betty, Mother, and Father, Bramhall Hall, 1959.

I suppose the Supersonic Blow Down Tunnel became operational in 1958. Basically there were two compressors which blew dry air into a huge sphere until it was at 100 pounds per square inch. Then we would hydraulically open a large valve, releasing the high pressure air into a settling pressure vessel and on through a narrow nozzle, after which the flow expanded supersonically, passed the model and out and up into the atmosphere. A sphere full would last for twenty to thirty seconds during which hydraulics raised the model into the flow; put it through an incidence range and then lowered it to below the tunnel floor (it had to be out of the starting and stopping shockwave system which would have blown it away). A team of about six of us ran the tunnel, testing Blue Steel and other supersonic models over a range of Mach numbers.

Early on it became clear that a run could only be successful if about fifty separate things were all working correctly so we used to tick them off one at a time on a check sheet before pressing the start button, after which it all happened automatically. In about 1959 the very good chief designer of the supersonic tunnel was promoted and I became Section Leader. From 1956 to 1959 I was "weekly staff" and had to clock on and off each day, starting wage was £12.50 a week or £650 p.a. (about the same as Father was earning as an Esso Lorry Driver). By 1959 my pay had crept up to about £900 p.a.; promotion put it up to £1100 p.a., lunch in the senior staff dining room, and use of the senior staff toilet!

Much of the supersonic tunnel work involved measuring forces with strain gauge balance output fed onto rolling paper graphs and onto punched tape which went to Avros' huge new computer in a lead lined room for computation. The results were graph plotted (by hand) for report writing. When we were measuring pressures on models, the pressures were very low (1 or 2 psi absolute) and we used mercury manometers and leak tested the system using mercury U tubes (inhaling mercury vapour, we weren't aware of the health scares!!!). The work was varied and interesting, very practical at times, very theoretical at others; most of the work was "Defence" but in the Low Speed Tunnel they tested the Avro 748 medium size two-engined turbo prop passenger plane. 748s called Avro Andovers were "the Queen's Flight" for Royalty for several years. It was used on less popular routes; in the 1970s it was on Channel Islands to Portsmouth for some time until one day two slid off the grass runway landing at Portsmouth; one ending up on the Eastern Road (no one hurt).

Also in the Supersonic Tunnel in 1960/1961 we tested various canard wings. In the late 1950s the Government asked for Supersonic Passenger plane designs from British Aerospace and from Hawker Siddley (of which Avros was a part). The canard shapes were part of the Hawker Siddley design study. In due course the contract went to British Aerospace and resulted in the Concord. Besides not particularly liking the "Defence" work, I didn't like the "stop, go" nature of some of the contracts. The "go" part was OK, sometimes starting work at 6 a.m. or working until 10 p.m., (in the early days the overtime pay was welcome, later when salaried one would take time off in lieu). On one occasion, after working Saturday and Sunday, on the Monday morning a colleague said "I see you've been cancelled, Roger," and there we were, cancelled in Monday morning's paper. Since 1957, Betty, teaching, had been getting home earlier and had longer holidays, so I applied for lecturing jobs; was called for interview and appointed Maths Lecturer at Portsmouth College of Technology in 1962.

Chapter 10. Housing

In late 1957, Betty was in good digs and I had a bedsit in Cheadle Hulme. My landlady Mrs Hall, aged about 90, gave us the china cabinet (now in the lounge at Soberton) for a wedding present. Her husband had given it to her as a wedding present in about 1900. We had saved and decided that, with a mortgage we could buy a house up to £2000. We found one, 10 Stalmine Avenue, Heald Green, for £2050, and spent hours deciding that we should buy it (that extra £50 seemed such a lot). A nice three bedroom post-war semi in a quiet cul-de-sac. I moved in in June 1958 and Betty, after we married on 16th August 1958. Colleagues at work left a lavatory with flowers in it for our return from honeymoon (Scarborough) on Saturday 23rd but we went on to Filey for a few days so the neighbours had the benefit of the flowers! There was an open fire in the lounge; coal and then Sunbright coke; fitted electric fires in other rooms, a small coke-fired water boiler in the kitchen. We revisited Stalmine Avenue in about 1998, still a pleasant, quiet cul-de-sac and the house, although modernised, was still very nice. Shortly after moving in, we got Mischief - a black female cat.

10 Stalmine Avenue, 1958.

Spring 1962 - a new job in Portsmouth. After getting the job at lunchtime we collected Estate Agents' particulars. At five o'clock, as we were about to leave, we drove past, stopped, talked to the agent and put down a deposit on half-built 18 Highfield Close, Waterlooville; a new job and a new house within about six hours. We then went over to Somerset for Martin's Christening. One of his God Parents (he had been a student with Derrick) was a solicitor and he agreed to act for us in the purchase.

18 Highfield Close was a 3 bed detached with a cloakroom downstairs and attached garage. When we asked them to put in central heating; they said, "You don't need it down here in Hampshire," but a coke boiler and radiators were put in and a coke store built behind the garage, total cost around £4000. The winter of 1962/1963 was arctic, from about Christmas to Easter. We were in Somerset and Yorkshire from the 24th to 30th of December; when we arrived home the house was COLD; we lit the lounge fire and electric fires but the pipes in the loft stayed frozen. Finally we lit the boiler; as the water warmed, long cylinders of ice came out of the loft pipes into the tank. It took 24 hours for the house to reach normal temperatures and for Mischief to thaw out; then we were as warm as toast. Within 2 or 3 years everyone else had installed central heating.

Highfield Close, Waterlooville, 1962.

We adopted Kevin in 1965 and moved to 8 North Shore Road, Hayling Island in 1966. I think we sold 18 Highfield Close for about £4500 and bought 8 North Shore Road for £6100. It had four bedrooms, a dining room and lounge (no fire place), full central heating and a large garden. There was no through traffic on Hayling and North Shore Road is still a cul-de-sac remote from the sea-front "flesh-pots".

We sold Highfield Close before 8 North Shore Road was completed so we rented a nice-looking house at the top of North Shore Road (number 58?). It had Warm Air Heating, which was hopelessly inadequate. I used the room over the garage as a study and it was bitterly cold. Kevin, aged 2, found the warm air grills made nice post boxes; he posted several "crowns" (5 shilling pieces - only minted for special occasions). I tried and tried to get them out but the sharp nails and edges inside the duct defeated me (expect they are still there now!).

In 1970, after completing my PhD, we built Extension X1, two nice rooms; a large playroom/guest bedroom and a library/piano-room. I did the labouring and semi-skilled work myself and used recommended Hayling tradesmen for the skilled jobs. As I was fixing a wall plate (the main flat roof support) I remember Kevin "helping" by hiding the spanner. When I tried to install the radiators, the gas cylinder was leaking so, when I lit the burner the fire spread in pools around the floor and I had to hop smartly from one non-burning area to another and another.

8 North Shore Road, 1987.

In 1978, after renovating 13 Shaftesbury Road (see Properties), we decided to build X2 onto 8 North Shore Road. This pushed the back of the ground floor out about 10 feet into the back garden, and putting toilet and washbasin into the guest bedroom of X1. X2 enlarged the kitchen into a kitchen/breakfast room, enlarged the dining room and the lounge but somehow to me it never seemed the success of X1.

Throughout my memory, house prices have always kept ahead of inflation, sometimes they rose too quickly and had to be reined back for a year or two, resulting in "negative equity" but for us £6100 in 1966, plus say £5000 on extensions, sold for £100,000 in 1987. For some time we had been looking for a country cottage with roses around the door. One day in 1986, Betty was on a course and I happened upon the Towers; I told Betty about it and we looked it over one snowy winter's day. The high ceilings and lovely open fire sold it to us and we bought it for £75,000 and spent a further few thousand on secondary glazing and loft insulation, expecting to be very cold. In fact with the 21 inch thick walls, secondary glazing and loft insulation, oil central heating and a lovely log fire we have been lovely and warm. The one and a half acres of lawn, the trees, some small flower and soft fruit beds are fine as are the neighbours and village life.

Being leaseholders is no problem since the freehold is owned by the residents, one director for each house and they share the little jobs and get contractors in for big jobs like the roof. Our lawns with swing, sand pit and room for cricket and football are great for the grandchildren and the village activities, the village hall (SVH), the Church, the Culture Vultures and Wives Group give us entertainment and culture. I served as church treasurer for seven years, until 2002. Driving off of Hayling every morning used to be slow for Betty and me: one road, often a milk float, sometimes an accident. From Soberton, Betty to Havant and me to Portsmouth was quick and easy (apart from Portsmouth itself) until we retired in about 1993.

Roger gardening, 1988.

We had our 40th Wedding Anniversary at Soberton Village Hall in 1998, inviting family and many friends, dancing to a live band who played all our old dance tunes.

Chapter 11. Wheels

As a child and teenager, bikes were the means of everyday local transport; and Hull was flat (like Holland) so bikes were the norm there too. At Avros, cycling across the airfield against the wind and rain was no joke so in 1957 I first tried a petrol engine driving a large cog sitting on top of the rear wheel (it shredded tyres and soon broke) and then a Cyclemaster mounted in the centre of the rear wheel - a better job and more reliable. Reliability deteriorated as a result of my maintenance! I took my motorcycle test on the Cyclemaster (33 cc) in Stockport, in the dark, in the rain. It wasn't running very well so much of the "round the houses" courses was pedalled. I passed!! (and the licence allows me to drive a 1500 cc motorcycle).

One day going home (to Heald Green) from Woodford the petrol tap fell apart, allowing the petrol to trickle out onto the road. At moments such as that one doesn't know what to do first; so I set off homewards as fast as possible and nearly got there before it ran out completely. Shortly after that we purchased a Lambretta scooter which served us well; daily for work, trips to Betty's parents (Barnsley) and mine (Wells) and even to Spain in 1959.

In late 1959 we got our first new A35 van. Luxury indeed: it even had a heater (an extra) but the screen washer was a squeezy bottle of water held out of the side window. Seat belts were not standard, so with the aid of a colleague at work I fitted a pair in the van one lunchtime, bolting into the door pillars and the transmission tunnel. At home time the van would not move! The bolts were jammed hard against the prop shaft. In 1961 we swapped it for another new A35 van, and these vans took us around: sleeping in the back of them in Scotland and the Lake District.

I started to teach Betty to drive. It went OK, until turning right at a very busy and narrow road junction an approaching double-decker came too close, so Betty pulled a bit to her left, into the path of a lorry, coming up the inside lane! That finished those driving lessons!

The second van had an annoying leak: when it rained, water dripped steadily onto one's right ankle and there was no way one could operate the throttle with a dry ankle. Well remembered when I/we came from Manchester to Wells for John Gilday's Christening. I'm proud to be his Godfather, but why did it rain all the way in both directions?

Roger with van, 1962.

I well remember the Manchester smogs! In Hull occasionally a fog bank would roll in from the North Sea: it was white and clean. Around Manchester the smog was a greenish yellow and opaque! On the Lambretta one could creep around from the faint glimmer of one street light to the next. In the van, behind a windscreen, it was nigh-on impossible to proceed even on known roads. The introduction of Smokeless Zones and smokeless fuels and, much later, ample supplies of natural gas, more-or-less eliminated smogs. Good.

In 1962 when we moved to Portsmouth, Mischief came in the van with us. Every two or three hours we would encourage her to go walkies (on a lead) but she would not "perform" for us. The house in Waterlooville was more or less ready but the paperwork wasn't so we spent a night in a Southsea hotel, leaving Mischief in the van. I can't remember how long it took for the smell to dissipate.

That 1962/1963 winter in Waterlooville was arctic. I would put the van in the garage at night but in the morning I had to cut half an inch off the bottom of the garage doors before I could open them: the concrete drive lifted with the cold. I had to do that on two or three mornings. Another time, having backed out, the van stuck in a drift. I got out and pushed it, leaving it in gear to help. Of course, it went off up the road - thankfully into another drift!

A car full of children, September 1972.

Later that winter we were in Hoyland Common and I was filling a slot machine outside Betty's Parents' shop. I admired a Consul Cortina which pulled up; the driver was a car salesman, he gave us a good price for the van and we were the proud owners of a Ford Cortina estate car. That one did us for about six years; I remember Kevin sleeping on top of all our baggage in the back. Not nowadays, since estate car rear doors have flown open and deposited children in the road. Betty passed her driving test in it, helped partly by me and partly by a bag of cement in the boot.

We moved to West Hayling and sometimes I cycled to the ferry to Portsmouth and the Poly in about 45 minutes (five miles). Driving around took about the same time (fifteen miles). On the bicycle the wind was always against me, both going and coming, so in about 1967 I bought a moped and fitted a screen and leg shields. They slowed me down but kept me warm and dry, serving well for several years.

By about 1970 I guess I was getting tired of the journey across the ferry, or bus to Havant and train to Portsmouth, and Betty was back at work part time so we invested in a second-hand Mini. Fine but just occasionally when asking it to start it was completely dead! After a year or so we sold it and later bought a second-hand Austin Allegro; that did us well as the second car but the boot used to collect gallons of water. When it sloshed onto the electric petrol pump the car stopped, sometimes in the middle of busy rush hour Portsmouth. I drilled holes in the boot floor; they drained it but got blocked with leaves. I guess we sold it in 1981.

In about 1975 we bought another Cortina estate (blue) and in about 1980 (when Kevin was learning to drive) we got a gold Cortina saloon. Kevin and I went to watch Pompey and then collected the new car from opposite Fratton Park. Problem: where is the choke? Answer, after about twenty minutes: it's an automatic one. Kevin drove it home.

One of my ambitions was to teach Kevin, Sarah, and Nicholas to drive, as Father had taught me. Kevin did OK in the Cortina saloon, passing first time in Portsmouth in 1980, and after graduating from Swansea University in 1985 he purchased a Renault 4 from Stocker's in West Town. It did well (although hardly cutting a dash). Sarah passed in 1985 and Nicholas at Chichester in 1986, having previously given a Portsmouth examiner a bit of a fright! I can claim partial credit for them passing, although they drove Betty around a lot and doubtless other people as well.

Shortly after buying the saloon, as second car we had a yellow Ford Escort (an ex-hire car) until about 1984. That did well; during the 1983/1984 winter, after Father died, every fortnight it took me to Cheddar on Thursday and back to Hayling on Saturday. During that winter Derrick and I visited Mother on alternating weekends until the spring of 1984, when she moved to Gorseways, near us on Hayling Island. As an ex-hire car it had been well used but also well serviced, but later in 1984 it developed a fault. It would not idle when hot, a bit tricky in Portsmouth rush hours. Various experts looked at it but it was only after we had agreed to sell it that the fault - a hole in a rubber diaphragm in the carburetor - was diagnosed.

We replaced the Escort with a Fiesta, the first of many. It did very well, Betty drove it a lot, and in 1987 we drove it to Derrick and Maureen's flat in Spain. Later on, when Betty drove it to Cambridge to see Nicholas (in his first year there), it wouldn't start. This must have been about when we moved to Soberton. Cambridge's Ford main agent fixed it but it was leaking oil; they brought us down a "demonstrator" Fiesta and took ours back to refix. That demonstrator went over a hundred miles per hour (on the clock): for me a first! The refixed Fiesta still leaked oil so we sold it to a dealer and got another and then another; when they were getting up to a hundred thousand miles we passed one on to Nicholas and one to Kevin.

Kevin took his to Szolnok in mid-Hungary in 1991, shortly after the Iron Curtain came down. Life there was a bit basic; their only cars were Trabants and Ladas, so maintenance of the Fiesta was limited but it did fine and after returning to Groningen in 1992 they continued to use it.

Sarah has had several old cars which tended to "die" on her; she had Nicholas's Fiesta when he went to Pittsburgh in 1991 (I wonder what happened to that) and in about 1989/1990 she took on the Cortina saloon (where did that go?). About that time Betty purchased her Metro. It served her well for work and us for local trips, and even went to Groningen once. Betty stopped driving it in 1999. We still used it locally but gradually it developed faults and maybe relied on our friendly MoT man to view one or two of them sympathetically.

In 1993 our letting-to-students business was expanding so I got a Sierra estate, on about 40,000 miles. Two trips each year to Groningen, and one to Italy with Jackie (lovely roads, a hundred m.p.h. for mile after mile) meant that by about 1999 it was up to 110,000 miles (and still going very well), and I bought my life's dream - a Volvo estate - passing the Sierra to Sarah who started long-distance work for Card Geotechnics. To date (2002) the Sierra is up to 199,000 miles, has had one or two minor bumps but is still going very well: can't be bad.

The Volvo, a lovely heavy weight, rolled us around England and Ireland and across to Holland but servicing and repairs were more expensive than with the Fords. By Spring 2002 our letting-to-students business had reduced to 10% (of its 1995 peak), and our health meant that trips to bring loads of logs back from the wood looked less probable than in earlier years so I went wild and bought a new Fiesta (what else?!) with things like air conditioning, CD player, and heated front windscreen, sold the Volvo to a good home and gave the Metro to our friendly MoT garage.

Wheels/cars have taken up much too much space in these memoirs; in part I suppose that shows their importance in the later part of the 20th century.

Chapter 12. Second Proper Job

In August 1962 I said goodbye to Avros, and Betty goodbye to Cheadle Hulme Grammar School for Girls and we moved to 18 Highfield Close, Waterlooville. On our trips down to see how the house was progressing, Betty had had job interviews, so on the first of September she started at Oak Park, a low-achieving school on Leigh Park, and I went into the City of Portsmouth College of Technology (COPCOT) Maths Department, situated in the back of the Victorian Prudential buildings ("the Pru'").

Not much seemed to happen in the Maths department in vacations, but gradually the tables and syllabi evolved and of course as new boy I had 24 hours lecturing a week (it was 27 before I mentioned it to the Head of Department).

That first term we were busy. I don't think that Betty had discipline problems; she has the ability to choose just a few quiet words which immediately re-establish who is in charge (I should know!). However, she was the new girl so was given the weakest classes. This meant that her undoubted academic skills were not being used, so when a Maths job came up at the nearby Havant Grammar School, it suited Oak Park and the Grammar School fine to "move her across". There she stayed when it became Havant Sixth Form college in about 1980, retiring in about 1994 having persuaded hundreds of Leigh Parkers that they could and should go on to University. She still (in 2002) gets Christmas cards and telephone calls from appreciative ex-students.

Back to the Maths department of COPCOT in the Pru. At the start of term I was particularly lucky that many of my first classes were weak first year engineers. Betty, after several years teaching just that sort of topic at Cheadle, was able to write lots of notes for me with little trouble. So the notes were taken care of. Over the years I gradually changed them of course, but that folder of notes is still around. Believing that Maths can only be learned by doing, I used to set homework to all the classes every week until I retired. The only way I could cope with the marking was to do it the day I collected it (except Friday and Saturday; then Sunday evening was hard); sometimes "the day I collected it" went on after midnight.

I was fortunate to share a study in the Pru with excellent colleagues (some of whom went on to higher posts at Portsmouth). After Avros (8:36 a.m. to 5:04 p.m.), the freedom at the COT was very pleasant: some days lunch in the Catering Department Training Restaurant would last over one hour; some days I could wander around Commercial Road shops for an hour; sometimes take sarnies to Southsea front (free parking then). This was before the badly blitzed centre of Portsmouth was cleared and rebuilt. For years we were able to park opposite the Pru on extensive bombed sites, and eat lunches in The Denmead, a small and homely cafe in a partly-bombed building, and see and smell the totters' horses and carts stabled in amongst the rubble. Horses had a role in urban society until surprisingly late. On Hayling Island, Billy pulled a coal cart until at least the late 1960s. In 1977, in Shaftesbury Road, Southsea, a rag-and-bone man with pony and cart broken up and took away an old boiler from Number 13.

Five roads met in front of the Guildhall and all the traffic was controlled by a traditional policeman with big bushy moustache. It must have remained unchanged for years, even after we moved to Hayling and had one, two, or even three children. One day I was due home by 1:30 (maybe for a clinic appointment for the children). Leaving my bomb site parking spot, the policeman stopped me and everything else for about half-an-hour while the Queen leisurely left the Guildhall, shook hands by the score, got in her Rolls and went on her way. That half hour made me more of a "Royalty of the People" person, where, as in Holland, they ride around on bikes and interfere much less with ordinary folk's plans.

The COP/COT interface was not easy. The City Council Education Committee thought we were a school with very expensive tastes, but the Principal finally got them sorted out. Then central government said Colleges of Technology were County responsibility, so we became Hampshire County Council's College of Technology, then a Polytechnic, then Portsmouth University. The names changed but the job remained much the same.

In 1962 the degree work was all University of London External ("the Gold Standard"). The small classes - Mathematicians, Chemists, Engineers, Pharmacists - and students who had not progressed to University in the usual way so for many of them Portsmouth was the second (or last) chance. Also the lecturers were 100% on the side of the students, virtually all the lecturers sweated blood to get the students to do as well as possible. I can remember engineering students coming to Highfield Close on Whit Monday, before their exams on the Tuesday. It was good. The HND, lower level work in Engineering, was more internally moderated and marked so the lecturers weren't on the same side as the students to the same extent.

Gradually through the 1960s and 1970s the BSc London External was replaced by Council for National Academic Awards (CNAA) Portsmouth degrees, so the top sharp edge blunted and the number of students in the classes increased. 12 in 1962 became 24 in 1972, 48 in 1982 and, in Engineering Systems, 200 in 1992.

In the 1960s staff were encouraged to do and publish research (to raise us from a COT to a Poly to a University). In about 1965 I embarked on a PhD, part-time, in Aeronautical Engineering at Southampton University. This was on top of my lecturing load, which was at its greatest from October to March. So every April I eased off on the lecturing and picked up the supersonic boundary layer work. It was two-pronged: half practical, in the Aero Lab at Portsmouth Mechanical Engineering Department, half theoretical. Mech Eng gave me lots of practical help but for the theory I was on my own. Every April the Americans at NASA had published another mountain of references for me to struggle through. Poor Betty, Kevin, and maybe Sarah: they were without me for many hours whilst I battled.

By spring of 1969 or 1970 I realised it was now or never so I set out a work schedule from April to the 24th of December, worked my socks off and took it to the binders on about the 23rd of December (still making corrections with stamp edging on the train going up). Betty did lots of the work - see all the beautiful graphs etc in the report (in the bookcase with the encyclopedias). The report was typed on "oil skins" and "roneod": 1970 was just before photocopiers.

In about the November, with my supervisor, the Southampton professor gave me a four-hour grilling, and I believe decided it was up to the standard (although I lost some of his pertinent suggestions behind a lounge radiator and didn't find them until decorating the lounge years later). The viva with the external examiner in the February or March was quite a relaxed affair; quite a pleasure for me because he was an author of the Wind Tunnel Technician's "bible", which I had used for years at Avro's.

It was very hard work, some high points (which turned out not to be so high), many low points (which often proved better than they first appeared), but seeing "Dr" was nice. Some people stick with the title until they die, but I only used it at the Poly/Uni and dropped it on retirement (except for my driving licence, where I wondered if it just might help; so far it hasn't). Keep it up, Kevin.

During the last few years of BSc London External (Maths) I believe my reputation for helping lame dogs over stiles (and my PhD) meant that for several years (1967-1977) I was battling with the Gold Standard questions in Mathematical Methods and in Applied Maths. Year after year, good fun, and good for maybe ten students each year getting over stiles, sometimes well, which they otherwise would not have done.

About 1972/1973 I unwisely decided to dabble in Poly politics, got elected as a staff representative on Academic Council, and found myself out of my depth. I could fume at the things the Heads of departments and numerous Deans etc said; usually biting my tongue but just once or twice I spoke very unwisely and became known as "that chap from the Maths department". The Head of Maths had me at the top of his "Promotion to Principal Lecturer" list for years; he used to tell me how every year the other Heads would say "not him," and he would say "yes," and in the vote no one from Maths gained promotion until most of the older Heads had retired, then the jam unblocked (about 1978). Sarah, remember to bite your tongue.

After the Gold Standard had gone and the "bums on seats" culture crept in, the job changed; one had to try to keep the standard up but a major consideration was not to have more than 10-15% drop out (altogether) every year, and of course the students knew this. In the final year of, say, the Maths course, one still tried to reach some of the peaks but it was always tempered by the knowledge that they more-or-less had to pass. Many of the science and engineering degree courses were "sandwich", four-year degree courses with one year (or two six-months) spent in industry. Students who had done a year in industry were much better motivated and matured, and if 30-50% of a final year class had done so they were still a pleasure to teach.

Roger circa 1985.

With my leanings towards engineering, I supervised Maths for Engineers at Portsmouth for about eighteen years, and when in about 1989 the Deans decided that the Engineers would teach (and pay for) their own Maths, I became a Maths lecturer in the Systems Engineering Department - same job, same "bums on seats" rules.

Each cohort of about 200 Systems Engineering students had a manager and in about 1992 I accepted the post of second year manager. A bad move: besides the lecturing etc I had become a manager! Daily, weekly, monthly, all year I was trying to undo knots and find answers to impossible questions - tossing and turning all night and still battling with the impossible in the morning - frequently trivial problems which would not go away. For months I said, "After the July exam board I will have two months totally free of it," but no: even then, students and their parents kept up the pressure. Since 1985 (my fiftieth birthday) there had been retirement "trawls" with some "added years" of pension, and after one particularly trying day in August 1993 I was in the garden at Soberton and a beautiful idea hit me: retire. And I did, then, continuing for three years half-time - a joy: still the Maths, the students, the colleagues, but time to do the work properly and no admin!

After starting at COPCOT in 1962 I had bought in about two and a half years worth of pension from my time at Avros. Hampshire County Council added five years (to encourage "expensive" older staff to go), so my pension was (2.5 + 31 + 5)/80 of final year pay (about £32K), or about £15K gross. Couldn't be bad! Also it was cost of living index linked, so no problems with inflation. (Like state pensions, it used to be average wage index linked but that was just too good and was stopped in the Thatcher years).

During my three wind-down pro-rata years, I shared an old terrapin hut with several colleagues, also retiring. It was very pleasant although the huts were terrible. They were built in about 1955 to last twenty years. There were buckets to catch water from the leaking roof. One day the ceiling collapsed. After a few days we borrowed a broom and dustily swept it out, only then thinking of asbestos (see memos kept in my briefcase).

The Books

Through the 1970s and 1980s, Stroud's Engineering Mathematics book was the first year engineering students' bible. I wrote to Macmillan two or three times during the 1980s asking if I could help with a similar second year book for which there was a crying need. Stroud produced one in about 1990 but it wasn't that good.

In about 1984, a Macmillan editor came to see me about an A level revision aid. This of course was exactly Betty's bread and butter, so we duly produced "Work Out Pure Mathematics A Level" in 1986 - a book in their "Work Out Series", greatly admired in W H Smith's (Truro) by Aunt Ivy and in W H Smith's (Durham) by Aunt Lily! This book sold 44,000 copies.

We followed it with "Work Out Applied Mathematics A Level" (not such a popular title - 25,000 copies) and in 1996 with "Work Out Mathematics A Level" (by that time, A levels and the revision guide market had changed - sold 3,000). After each book I would say "Never again!", but Betty was a glutton for punishment. A publisher's typical circuit would be:

  • Betty produces an immaculate hand-written version;

  • Publishers say "This will have to be typed.";

  • We sweat blood typing derivatives and integrals, etc;

  • Publisher's typesetter totally messes up the setting;

  • We have a crisis meeting, and are asked "Why wasn't the typesetter given the immaculate handwritten version?!"

and we went around this tortuous circuit three times!

Chapter 13. Family Life

Before Children

Roger and Betty's wedding.

Started very conventionally (Victorianly: Betty was always the boss) with our wedding at St Peter's, Hoyland Common, on the 16th of August 1958. Quite a good turn-out of my relatives from Somerset (an eight-hour car journey then; four now). The reception was upstairs in the Working Men's Club; no car was ordered to take us to Sheffield Station, so George kindly took us in his builder's pickup, complete with tools etc - thank you, George. I believe that Cynthia Haines was pregnant, so Heather was there but not actually participating. Cynthia Horner (from Hull) and Jackie and Monty Gilday (from Hull and Wells) were there (we still have Jackie and Monty's wedding present, a coffee percolator).

After Scarborough and Whitby we were "new brooms" in 10 Stalmine Avenue, so spent time changing it to taste: redecorating (a room took a weekend, from Friday teatime to Monday evening), gardening (nice lawns and roses; Manchester clay is two hundred feet deep), painting the exterior wood, etc. We also used to find time for day-long walks around the Cheshire and Derbyshire hills, and still have the one-inch Ordnance Survey maps with some of the walks marked on. On occasional nice Saturday afternoons I remember feeling a bit cross at washing out the smelly dustbin (never had to do that in digs!) but we got around, especially after getting the Lambretta and then the A35 vans. There was lots to see and do around Manchester: Lyme Hall, Bramhall Hall, theatres, concerts, also (once the wheels were mobilised) the Lakes, Scotland, etc. We would visit Somerset and Yorkshire every four or five weeks.

Betty introduced me to blood doning in about 1956 and we continued with it regularly until health reasons made us stop in the late 1990s, by which time between us we had donated nearly a hundred units of blood.

Kevin Arrives

We had Mischief (black with white dot under chin), but after moving to Waterlooville in 1962 Betty's clock caught up with mine. However, a couple of miscarriages were as near as we got to children so we made one of the best moves we ever made and contacted Dr Barnardo's, in 1963/1964 I suppose. The first interview, in the original Dr Barnardo's building in the industrial East End of London was professional and good, as were subsequent visits they paid to Waterlooville. In January 1965 we visited a foster carer in Southall in the morning, and again in the afternoon, and brought 14-month-old Kevin home in the evening. We tried to ring Dr Barnardo's several times in the afternoon but the housing estate's pay phones were all out-of-order. Our family had started.

Kevin with football, 1965.

Those first few days, as with any child, were a steep learning curve. Kevin had been used to several other small foster children; Dr Barnardo's were anxious that we had slightly short-circuited their rules ("must see with a Dr Barnardo's representative before taking Baby home") but they came and were very good and professional, and, of course, we had never cared for a baby before! It went fine. Kevin firstly crawling after a ball on our lounge carpet and, within a couple of months, taking first strides (on a lane in Purbrook), a first kick, and then football, football, everywhere, all the time. The back garden was great for it and all friends, neighbours, and relatives were great.

Kevin, 1965.

Kevin has the legal adoption papers; presumably it happened later in 1965.

Betty must have gone to short part-time hours in January. I don't think that she stopped teaching altogether but she may have done so. I remember that Kevin and I used to walk to Waterlooville park on Sunday mornings to give Betty a lie in. I also remember his second birthday with lots of young friends. It was close to bonfire night so they all had sparklers to enjoy. The green Cortina estate came before Kevin, so luggage and baby carrying to Somerset and Yorkshire was easy (it was a long way to Yorkshire, so we used to travel at Kevin's bedtime). We moved to North Shore Road in 1966, and at about Easter 1966 when Grandma and Granddad Haines came to see us Kevin was ever so proud to tell them that "Mummy has a baby in her tummy". Sarah was on the way!

Kevin and Mischief, 1965.

Sarah Arrives

Somehow one always accepts that grown-ups and the people one knows are different and have different personalities, but I had never expected it to be so noticeable in tiny children. Not nice/nasty, dark/fair, or tall/short, but different reactions to the same events, different likes, different dislikes. A good job we aren't all the same!

Sarah arrived early on the 19th of September 1966. A neighbour came in while Kevin slept and I took Betty to St Mary's Hospital. Father's were "in the way" then, so I came home. The police had a road block on the Eastern Road: "where have you been, where are you going?" So I told him with pride! Sarah arrived at 6ish, so while I went to work as usual (that was normal), Kevin was able to go around and tell all his young friends that morning. Both Highfield Close in Waterlooville and North Shore Road on Hayling had a thriving child population. I guess Betty and Sarah were home in a day or two. It was Betty's first experience of breast-feeding. When topics such as this were broached in the nursery, Sister Benwell very firmly showed fathers the door.

Since Kevin had three Christian names (we gave him "Jonothan") we had to give three to Sarah, and subsequently to Nicholas. Betty had one but Sheila two; I only had one but Derrick two, so we both knew that they had to have the same number.

I can't remember how much teaching (if any) Betty did with Kevin and Sarah at home. Certainly I always encouraged her to do some (there's more to life than feeding babies and changing nappies). As the years rolled, the North Shore Road parent/child minding group flourished, but I'm not sure when it started. Also of course there were the child clinics etc, but I think Betty kept her foot in the door at Havant all the time. The North Shore Road gardens were large and we made the back garden child-friendly. Around the big lawn I built a six-inch cricket boundary wall and we had robust slides, swings, sand-pits, bicycles etc, and of course the sun always shone.

Nicholas Arrives

Twenty-one months after Sarah, Nicholas arrived, on 10th June 1968. Again, a totally different personality; how many different personalities can there be? Betty waited until after coffee on a Saturday to tell us that baby was on the way, so we all trooped into St Mary's with her. The rest of us came home and I believe that Nicholas came that afternoon and both of them were home by the next evening. Nicholas was placid, like me, like my Father, like his Father. Early recollections are few: give him a piece of bread and he would spend hours moulding it into all his orifices.

There were a few things which he disliked. One was having his fingernails cut, so I tried to do it while he was asleep. Unfortunately he woke when I cut one too short and drew blood. Nicholas says he has done exactly the same with Joe! We used to go to the New Forest, and he always objected vocally to "the Noisy Things" (cattle grids) but generally he was, and still is, very easy going.

Nicholas' Christening. Back row: Derrick, Mother, Beryl, Joan Bowden, Cecil Bowden, Ethel Haines, Nell Dyer, Cecil Dyer.

Middle row: Betty, Ruth Bowden, Father (holding Nicholas), Betty's Mother (holding Sarah), George, Betty's Father, Sheila.

Front row children: Jonathan Banks, Martin, Kevin, Heather, Jackie, Greg.

Kevin and Nicholas, 1968.

Young Children

Betty was an excellent cook (as expected from Yorkshire) and she fed us well and kept us and the house in excellent order. Remember I was finishing my Thesis when Nicholas was one year old! We had lots of pleasant countryside, seascape, and beach walks on Hayling: the disused railway line then and still now; the East Winner, then and now when the tide is safe, etc. etc.; and the sand-dunes for castles and ball runways. The sea was nearly always cold so whilst playing in pools and puddles was fun, rarely was the sea warm enough to swim.

Sarah and Nicholas occasionally had asthmatic spasms, usually at night, and the first two or three were very frightening: getting the doctors in the small night hours and taking them to St Mary's Hospital for several days. One of the doctors said "get rid of fur and feathers," so Mischief went to our friendly neighbours in Waterlooville and all the feather pillows were changed to man-made. I think these things helped but they have always been a bit "chesty". When Sarah became keen on horses (aged ten or so) she showed lots of symptoms: puffy face, runny eyes, etc. Kevin never suffered in that way; as a baby he had stomach problems but other than being football crazy he has been pretty fit.

Sarah, Nicholas, Kevin, front garden, September 1968.

When Sarah was not very old, at meals she used to keep food she disliked in her cheeks (for subsequent disposal). I used to gently poke her cheek to get her to eat it, until one day she dissolved into floods of tears. It wasn't food causing the bulge; she had mumps.

Besides looking after us all so well, Betty kept her foot in the Hampshire teaching door and marked "O" level scripts (or was it "A" levels?) for London for years, even just after Nicholas was born, although it upset the milk bar, and hence Betty and Nicholas, for a few days. Once there was a rail strike on the day of the exam board in London so I drove us all up. Dropping Betty off by a taxi rank wasn't too bad, but then we all wanted the loo, and it was pouring with rain, and Sarah had been sick, so it was difficult until we could park somewhere near a loo to unload. Funny what one remembers! We met Betty after lunch and the sun came out for us all!

Once North Shore Road's childminding club was running it helped a lot. About six mums and twelve kids took it in turns; one mum cooked and another did this or that one day a week, and all the children joined in. We had about 50 children's jigsaws and every Thursday evening I would sort out the heap of jigsaw pieces. It meant Betty could teach several half-days a week.

Sarah and Nicholas, 1970.

Then of course when Nicholas was about four and a half and able to read well - thanks to excellent teaching by Kevin and Sarah - he went off to Mill Rythe Infants, following in Kevin and Sarah's footsteps, and Betty could just about go back full-time. Also at that time Anne Charlton came two or three times a week to do most of the housework (she was a treasure) so that burden was lifted.

Kevin was always ready for school first. Invariably I would take them and Derek Charlton in the green Cortina, getting them to add up approaching car number-plates, and then multiply them - I was cruel! As the green Cortina aged the starter occasionally jammed - I remember lying under it in slush, freeing it with a spanner, in the middle of the dual carriageway at Mill Rythe, after dropping the children off.


Children growing: Kevin 6 to 11, Sarah 4 to 9, Nicholas 2 to 7. Betty 36 to 41, myself 35 to 40. The children's memories should now be fresher, clearer, sharper and different to mine. Health was pretty good for everyone, except perhaps Betty's Mum and Dad which was deteriorating. School for Kevin, Sarah, and Nicholas went well: Kevin mad on soccer, Sarah on animals, Nicholas on books.

Sarah, September 1972.

When did the first rabbits come? After Mischief had gone and we ascertained that rabbits were no threat. Blackie (Kevin's), Snowie (Sarah's) and, later, for Nicholas, Guinea - a huge black and white rabbit. Three hutches used to move around the back lawn. I used to move them (a bit heavy for the kids); Kevin (never late) used to feed them; Sarah used to nurse Snowie; and Nicholas - did he read to them? I wouldn't be surprised. At school his teacher was very concerned that at playtime he would sit and read whilst the other thirty children built a castle around him. During this time Mill Rythe school parents built a swimming pool and with a rota of parental supervision most of the Hayling Island children swam: certainly our three; one day I had to sit there while Sarah did a kilometre or a mile!

Guinea's litter 1975 (Snowy 2, Guinea 2, Bimbo, Pipkin, and Fiver)

In about 1975 I took Kevin and twelve of Mill Rythe football team to watch an evening England match at Wembley. Going up by train, and the game, went very well, but after the game the crowds delayed us getting back to Waterloo for the last train. Fortunately we made it, but I still wake up in a cold sweat: what would I have done with thirteen 11-year-olds if we had missed it?

Home life was busy: two full-time jobs, three busy children with friends, parties, school activities, pets, and all the chores of course. I also did my best to get Kevin, Sarah, and Nicholas to do their share of the chores, starting with drying cutlery, then crocks (six spoons equals one plate, etc) then a rota between them, with swaps when necessary. I am sure that Betty and I, and maybe Kevin and Moniek, and Nicholas and Emm, get on so well because between us we are more than happy to do 105% of the chores. Couples who between them are only happy doing up to 95% are on a slippery slope. No doubt Kevin, Sarah, and Nicholas have radically different views and I'm happy with that!

As children, Betty and I had been encouraged to gather blackberries for our mothers to make pies, jam, and jelly. On Hayling, every year we picked loads, helped by the children, and we have continued to do so at Soberton, cooking and straining the berries and making "bramble jelly" with the juice - lovely.

Sarah, Nicholas, Kevin; Filey 1972.

All families have tiffs, which hopefully blow over. Since leaving Hull, after each tiff with Betty, I would reflect that Monty and Jackie wouldn't ever have had a row about whatever it was. Whenever we saw them they were always very happy. But some time in the early 1970s, Monty left Jackie with two lads to bring up. Fortunately she was, and is, very capable, and managed superbly. We used to go to see them in Wells, or they came to Hayling, or meet to have picnics. I well recollect a phone call from Jackie, asking "Should we move to a larger house and mortgage?" I said "Yes," and they moved to a nice house with rendered walls. Since then I have painted those white outside walls several times; maybe I should have said "Don't move." (Jackie, I am sorry that I am unable to come and paint the walls any more).


Kevin, circa 1975.

Children growing: Kevin 11 to 16, now at Hayling School, in the year's school soccer team and also Hayling Boys Club, so I had to become secretary and often linesman. I didn't have much interest in the football but lots of interest in Kevin and his friends, rejoicing in their successes and sad when they felt cheated. One day, Kevin (always a Leeds fanatic) told me I had to have a team. I chose "The one Heighway plays for," (he had a degree and so I felt was a good role model). Kevin said, "Right, you are Liverpool," and Liverpool I have been ever since. (25 years later, Heighway now runs Liverpool's Football Academy).

Betty, 1977, Hill Lea Gardens, Cheddar.

Roger, 1977, Hill Lea Gardens, Cheddar.

Football even when visiting Grandma and Granddad Haines!

Sarah got into horses aged about 11, so again we showed an interest. Sarah, do you remember taking Shandy to a show (cancelled) in Rowlands Castle? Shandy went very slowly, but as soon as we turned and were homeward bound he trotted/cantered. How many Sunday lunchtimes did I "just hold Shandy for a minute" on the front lawn while you ate some lunch (and Shandy peed all over the front lawn and me!)?

Nicholas (books) had read Mill Rythe school by about 1975 so after debate he went to Portsmouth Grammar Juniors from 1976 to 1979, our only venture into private education. It was an education in itself, but more for Nicholas to write about than me. In 1979 decisions were again needed (the only time I lost sleep over the children) and we en famille decided he should come back from the private Portsmouth Grammar School to the local state Hayling School, in the same year as Sarah but in a different class.

Nicholas, Sarah, Kevin, off to school, 1979.

Around 1978 the south-east Hampshire junior/secondary school changeover went from 11 to 12. Sarah was already the oldest in her year and that extra year in junior school would have been much better employed in the secondary school. We tried to get her accelerated but "bums on seats" operated there, as well as in higher education, so she partially wasted a year and once "switched off" it is so difficult to switch back on!

Shaftesbury Road

With research behind me, disenchanted with Poly Politics, Betty back in a full-time routine and children all with developed interests, we looked for another interest in about 1975 - a country cottage! We looked at a few in rural Hampshire, children in tow, but affordable ones (£4000-£7000) needed much work. We were already very busy and wanted play, not work, and couldn't afford major capital works. We kept mulling it over and in early 1976 the penny dropped: our country cottage in rural Hampshire with roses around the door evolved into "a student let", and after a few false starts, 13 Shaftesbury Road was bought in mid-1976 - we were tycoons!

For about £9500 we had a lovely Victorian semi-detached villa in Southsea: four floors, the middle two of which were pleasantly habitable. The top floor was water-tight but bare joists and boards, and the basement was a wreck, albeit large, with a loo and a garden and back door. Betty said, "they won't accept £9.5," but they did and we borrowed from the bank. By October we had about seven students in good accommodation and the overdraft gradually came down. I am glad that Betty's mother was able to visit it and enjoy a meal or two there before she died unexpectedly in the winter of 1976/1977.

1977 saw major upgrades of the attics and garden flat at 13 Shaftesbury Road; much DIY including a damp proof course (built in 1870 it had a cavity wall), getting central heating installed, decorating - lovely high ceilings; beautifully relaxing when eating sarnies or drinking coffee. Each lunch hour I could go there, chop out four bricks, clean the cavity, unroll the damp proof course, and re-lay the bricks. Every day for three months equals about ninety feet of dry wall. Of course there were missed bits which haunted me and no doubt still haunt the present owners. By October 1977 we were full - about twelve students, all in excellent centrally-heated accommodation at reasonable rents. I well recollect the Hong Kong students being amazed at a Maths Senior Lecturer going around to do mundane building works at lunch times and after lectures. In summer 1977, the Fleet lit up for the Queen's Silver Jubilee, and with Betty Father we were able to walk down from 13 Shaftesbury Road to see it on the Solent.

Having spent 1976 and 1977 sweating in Shaftesbury Road, Betty said it was North Shore Road's turn, so in 1978 we pushed 8 North Shore Road out at the back (see chapter 10) and I suppose during and after 1979 we let the dust settle a bit, but every term time Wednesday, 5 p.m. was rent collecting and fixing things in 13 Shaftesbury Road. The three or four hundred students, with about three exceptions, were good but we gave them a good deal and knowing that I was around every week helped avoid extreme activities.

The dust was settling a bit, but every vacation and especially in the summers there was considerable maintenance and decoration to do, and of course we were all getting older.

In about 1978 there were two cats being fed by our Shaftesbury Road students: one at the front door, the other at the back. When the back-door students left, I brought one home where it led a strict spartan existence for about 24 hours. Then gradually "Orrie" gained our affection and we his. He was a wonderful member of our family for about ten years.

Every spring the accounts were required by HMIT and after two or three years I asked an accountant friend to do them for me. He was useless, lost all the paperwork and never submitted accounts or replies to HMIT. After about three years I was summoned before a Tax Inspector! I was very worried but the Inspector was great and between us we cobbled together a fair agreement as to how much tax was owing. This was in early December, and as a token of my relief and my appreciation I tried to give him a bottle of sherry but he firmly refused it so on my way to work one morning I handed the wrapped bottle into the HMIT receptionist for their Christmas party. Two hours later I was called out from my lecture: "Had I left something at the HMIT offices this morning?" "Yes," I replied, "A bottle of sherry." "Good," they said. This suspicious package had caused the whole HMIT office to be evacuated into the snow for two hours!

The 1980s

Kevin went on and got his "O" levels in 1979 and his school soccer colours of which I was very proud. Not one of the biggest or fastest players, he had developed "lurking" or "poaching" skills which, in the penalty areas, meant he was well placed to "collect the empties" and tuck them away.

At Havant Sixth Form College he did English, Politics, and History and, of course, passed his driving test. During early 1981 he drove the 1100 to Swansea and Lancaster to see university campuses, liked Swansea (a nice place), broke down (the usual water problem) coming down from a scruffier Lancaster, so chose Swansea, duly got his required results and I took him over to Swansea one pouring wet day in October 1981. It was so wet and dark around Swansea that, having unloaded him, I got behind a London-bound coach and stayed there until crossing the (old) Severn bridge back to England.

Kevin circa 1981.

In 1983 Sarah and Nicholas took their "O" levels and went on to Havant. Nicholas kept his nose into books of all sorts whereas Sarah was very much out doors, and about then she decided to leave home and live in assorted accommodation, and life styles. I guess it's much better for Sarah to write about this in her own way and time rather than for me to do so. I can't remember when Sarah passed her driving test, although I remember being there so I suppose I played a part in some of the training.

In the 1980s, Betty and I were drinking lots of coffee, too much perhaps, so in 1985 Nicholas and I did a deal. I reduced to two cups a day provided he did past Cambridge entrance questions. I remember doing 70 along the M4 to see Kevin in Wales while explaining to him the dynamics of rolling and sliding. I don't suppose that reducing the coffee did much for me, but the rolling and sliding might have helped Nicholas.

1986 saw Nicholas, with good 'A' levels, going to Clare College, Cambridge to read Mathematics, graduating in 1989. Bringing him home from Clare College one vacation the Fiesta was full: Betty was in the front, Nicholas in the back, both enveloped in possessions. As I slammed the boot down, Nicholas' duvet came up through the sunshine roof. Sarah, with son Ian, left higher education until the 1990s when she went to Portsmouth University and graduated in Engineering in 1997. All three of them read for a further year or so; Kevin in Cardiff did TEFL, Nicholas at Cambridge studied Computer Science (his first love), and Sarah did Environmental Engineering at Portsmouth. Great! We are ever so proud of them all. In the early 1900s both Betty's Father and mine started work aged 13. In the 1950s, Betty and I started aged 21. In the 1990s Kevin, Sarah, and Nicholas started later. Where will it end?

Roger and Betty, silver wedding, 1983.

Having retired to Cheddar in 1966 - a lovely bungalow, "Mendip" in Hill Lea Gardens - Mother and Father went on for years and years. Cynthia (Derrick's wife) died 20th January 1968, leaving Derrick with Heather (aged 8) and Martin (aged 6). Heather and Martin spent a lot of their childhood with Mother and Father at Mendip, and over the fence in the park, and with Jeanne and Mervyn. Mother was never particularly active but holding her own very well, Father with very few illnesses until one day in August 1983, when having planted his spring cabbage seed after lunch he had died by tea time. Later Aunty Win, a wise old lady (Jeanne's mother) said quietly to me, "He earned that." It was a shock for us all, especially after so many "good" retirement years. We had planned a Silver Wedding party at the Blue Bowl in Chew Stoke for August 16th; instead we had Father's cremation service in Bristol. Mother stayed on in Cheddar for about nine months, with Derrick and me visiting alternate weekends through the winter. Then in Spring 1984 she moved to Gorseways on Hayling Island, and "Mendip" was sold.

Being property tycoons, when houses, such as "Mendip" at Cheddar, were sold, some of the nicer, better, family heirlooms were retained. In particular with "Mendip", this of course had been the family's home furniture for over fifty years (not the structure but the contents) so we were loath to part with many of the loved items. Many came from Cheddar down to Hayling; Mother of course having as much to move as she could fit into her Gorseways flat (two bedrooms, very nice, but small). We in North Shore Road had the piano (for Sarah) and assorted other items, as indeed did Derrick. Later, when, after a fall, Mother moved from Gorseways to Chay Bassa Rest Home we again had to choose, and Derrick hired (I believe) a Transit and took Father and Mother's bed and dressing table (that Father had made) for Martin who at approximately that time was becoming established with Sylvie (in fact we had a good weekend trip to central France, in autumn 1988, to participate in Martin and Sylvie's wedding and feast).

We have some good photos of the family assembled for Mother's 90th birthday lunch on Hayling in 1990. She died 22nd April 1992. Betty and I were told of her death by the stationmaster in Vienna.

Mother and Agnes, May 1990.

Mother's 90th Birthday. Back row: Martin, Sylvie, Moniek (holding Tom), Sarah, Nicholas, Betty, Roger, Heather, Kevin, Derrick, Maureen, Hazel, Trevor.

Middle row: Bill, Mother, Agnes, Mrs Deards.

Front row: Ian, Iain, Helen, Sarah.


All through our adult lives, Betty and I have been industrious, sometimes I would have a thirty minute nap, sometimes Betty would sit and read or do a crossword puzzle but my overall rear view is one of industry (that's not to say unpleasant work; we were fortunate to enjoy our jobs and multitudinous activities which filled our days and evenings). In particular, every term-time evening, Betty would mark students' homework from about seven p.m. until bed-time. This industry eased off after 1993 and the academic work ceased in 1996. Since moving to Soberton in 1987 we were busy with village activities: Soberton Village Hall Committee, Soberton and Newtown Culture Vultures, Soberton Books, St Peter's Church, etc, and we continued to travel (chapter 15) and I was able to do more long walks (chapter 16) whilst Betty took some holidays on the Mediterranean with Sarah, Ian, and Fiona. Another little side-line of Betty's was to write stories for the grandchildren. There must be a dozen or so of them in a folder and on disk.

Betty's "gray matter" started to deteriorate in the mid-1990s. Imperceptibly at first, but by 1998 sufficiently worrying for Sarah and me to see the doctor. With tests, drug trials, etc, the deterioration may have been slowed but it continues. For myself, as we moved towards 2000 I slowed down, seeking less rather than more physical things to do, and since Betty needed more attention the industry of earlier years was replaced by more pottering around the house. Lovely "Orrie" was laid to rest in the orchard in 1989. A year or so later we adopted Rosie and Carob from next door. Rosie a petite, timid, indoor, ginger pedigree; Carob her daughter, big, muscular, always out and about, bringing in small animals. As Church Treasurer, after the Fete I would have about £3500 in the house from Saturday until Monday. I used to secrete the notes upstairs but leave the surprisingly heavy coin bags on the dining room table. During one such Saturday night there was such a commotion! Half awake, I thought that a burglar, after the Fete cash, had first found the whisky and was then having great difficulty with the coin bags! When wide awake, I realized that Carob was chasing a shrew around the bedroom. Carob died in the road but Rosie continues to give us much love and pleasure.

In November 1999 Joe was diagnosed with leukaemia. With the help of Addenbrookes hospital, Joe, Nicholas, Emm and Esme battled and were victorious. Treatment finished in January 2003 and his doctors now pronounce him "fit as a fiddle", although monthly checkups continue.

The Third Millennium

With Kevin, Sarah, and families we enjoyed the Millennium celebrations: an evening service at St Peter's, planting a Yew tree in the churchyard, a beacon on the green and then Auld Lang Syne at Soberton Village Hall.

Our Millennium walk, Winchester to Canterbury (chapter 16), was good. I felt a need to keep Betty in sight but the year 2000 was good to us. Sarah was travelling vast distances in the Sierra. Once or twice a week I would get to their house before her 6 a.m. start and at 8:30 I would walk up to the Infants School with Fiona, embarrassing her by walking right around the long worm painted in the playground! This and all our other activities continued through 2001, albeit somewhat curtailed by Betty's worsening dementia. I lost her twice, once walking between Bishop's Waltham and Swanmore and once in the Lowry Centre in Salford. Very worrying. Since then Betty hasn't been out unaccompanied and now she largely sits, dozing and watching TV, nursing Rosie who is a great comfort. I think Betty is pretty fit physically.

Enter 2002! In the Spring after about six years of study, Jackie gained a first in English Literature. She received her degree in Portsmouth Guildhall, watched by most of her family and by us: a lovely day. I was still active, cutting up logs, laying (small) paving slabs, etc. Around Easter time my back started creaking and groaning, and as the summer progressed it became increasingly painful. In the summer, Sarah changed jobs to work for Portsmouth City Council, making her (and my) life considerably easier. Just as well. After many visits to the doctor and physiotherapist, I saw a specialist in September who said Myeloma (cancer!). He organised chemotherapy (VAD/Dex) for me. Sarah organised Sue and Colin to live in and care for us; and then in November I was hospitalized with pneumonia. Sarah organised a stair lift and other aids for my homecoming. Thank You, Sarah!

December 2002 and January 2003 were an unpleasant blur. Colin and Sue looked after us well, our extended family (Kevin+++, Nicholas+++, Sheila and George) came and gave Colin and Sue well-earned breaks, as did friend Jackie.

As the days lengthened in 2003 I improved, gained weight and strength, stopped the morphine pain patches (they were good) and in February drove the car for the first time in six months. Throughout the winter, writing these Memories was a great help. Day after day, for many hours at a stretch, I was well away reliving happy healthy times; I recommend it to anyone who is laid up. The nurses in the cancer outpatients ward and Wickham's district nurses were superb: unfailingly considerate, efficient, and cheerful. Other parts of the NHS seem to be rather the worse for wear - a bit like me!

By mid 2003 I was on a plateau (a bit like remission) and friend Jackie was able to take us to the London Eye, to Cefn Mynog, to Yorkshire and to Groningen. Thank You, Jackie!

One day, taking the down escalator at Asda, Jackie went first with the trolley, I followed, but Betty released my hand and froze at the top. Picture the scene: a rather slow old man, me, trying to struggle back up the down escalator to where Betty, and now several other people, were standing.

Physically weak (and being afraid of breaking weakened bones) I'm not very active but mentally the "mad ideas" keep coming. One such idea is my Gordon Brown (the current Chancellor of the Exchequer) game - to avoid (legally) paying inheritance tax, currently 40%. We have bought Commercial Woodlands in Somerset and Wales, and more recently some AIM shares all of which are exempt from inheritance tax, if I live for two years. All these investments cost: woodland improvements, replanting trees, shares losing money, but we have the inheritance tax 40% to play with! Jackie kindly took me to see the Welsh forests twice in 2004 and we have been to Pink Wood in Somerset several times; they are very pleasant places and give me lots of pleasure with plenty to think about. On several occasions we combined our Pink Wood visits with stays at Jackie's, renewing old friendships with people and places.

In 2003 Emm started as a research associate for the Wellcome Foundation, based in Manchester. She contacted the UK's leading myeloma specialists and in May 2004 my treatment transferred from Winchester to Southampton. During the winter of 2003/04 the myeloma was returning so, at Southampton, it was necessary to hit it again, this time with radiotherapy (ten days) and thalidomide. After seven months of thalidomide they gave me high-dose chemotherapy and my stem cells transplanted in February 2005. After the expected tiresome three months I was getting stronger when Jackie died suddenly in early May. We miss her a lot. My expected better quality of life lasted for two months before the myeloma was back aggressively in August. The doctors are currently controlling it but only have a limited array of drugs available.

Over Christmas 2004 we saw Jackie and all the children and grandchildren here at Soberton, and it was lovely watching them playing monopoly and chess.

Further afield, brother-in-law George was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in Sheffield in July 2005. The only 'link' between George and myself is that we both married Jones girls! George caught pneumonia at the end of August and has now (October) been struggling in hospital for two months.

At 4 Soberton Towers we plod on, Betty, Rosie and I, sitting, sleeping and watching television, or listening to and singing hymns, which Betty recalls. Colin and Sue left in March 2005, being replaced by Christie Care ladies Sue and then Lynn, both of whom have been excellent, as have carers Janet, Margaret, Sally, and Val, who give the full-timers a break. Betty's dementia gradually gains ground; now (October 2005) conversation and many other functions are difficult, and she has a bad back. We sit a lot, outside if it is warm, now in the lounge as Autumn comes on.

Chapter 14. Property


Father and his family, sober and industrious, were not gamblers; In Mother's family one or two might have had a small flutter; this mix explains why since about 1965 I have dabbled in stocks and shares. Not large amounts but enough to give an interest in the Business Pages of the paper. No fortunes made or lost.

I've always liked going to auctions, both for goods and for property. I think it is the "thrill" of holding one's breath just before the hammer comes down, invariably not bidding, let alone buying, but knowing that by the twitch of an eyebrow or flutter of a finger one could buy "whatever". Back in the 1970s I bought the chair which sits with the desk, at a Nesbitt's furniture auction in Southsea, and one day, after a silver auction in Winchester I came home with some silver. Easy: silver was £2 per ounce; the weights of items were in the catalogue, so a 20-ounce tray was worth £40. I would keep my hand up until about £32, knowing it was worth more than that as scrap, and some of the pieces were nice to look at and to handle as well. We used some of the dishes and trays in the 1970s and 1980s, but I guess we got tired of cleaning them and so they were gradually packed away: up in the loft now I guess, and listed in a small green notebook. Some of the very worn/tatty spoons and forks I sold when, in the 1980s, silver went wild (up to £8 or more per ounce) and we bought a black-and-white portable TV.

The property auctions in Southsea were, and are, more exciting, with fewer lots - fifteen or so - but much more valuable (thousands instead of tens of pounds) so if you kept your hand up for too long you were committed to megabucks, with 10% payable at the auction! Besides selling freehold and leasehold houses and flats, they also sold "freeholds" where a developer had built leasehold flats and each leasehold had to pay say £20 or £30 per year to the freeholder. In 1985 I kept my hand up for too long and bought some freeholds in Portsmouth (Copnor Road / Stubbington Avenue) and on Hayling (Barton Court). Roy Pine, of Miller's of Hayling, manages them for me and I guess they yield about 10% (with built-in increases every 20 years or so) - can't be bad! I also "accidentally" bought the freehold of 21 Shaftesbury Road, but that was a roughish structure so Roy Pine sold it on to a builder for me. Freeholds are good for small builders to control: within reason they can do as many "repairs" as they like, and charge what they like - the tenants are obliged to pay. Recent legislation has made selling freeholds much more complicated.

In 1986 Sarah announced that "a happy event" (Ian) was on the way so we helped to provide a roof over baby's head, 17 Fulmer Walk in Cowplain, and a year or two later, 20 Radnor Road in Cardiff for Kevin, Moniek and Tom (1988), and a year or two later still (1990) 285 Mill Road in Cambridge for Nicholas, although there was no imminent patter of tiny feet.

Sarah, Ian, and later (1994) Fiona stayed in Fulmer Walk for the best part of ten years. On the 22nd of July 1989, Sarah married: I walked her from the Towers to St Peters and she rode to her reception at Soberton Village Hall on a Harley Davidson.

Kevin, Moniek, and Tom moved to Szolnok (Hungary) after about three years in Cardiff and let Radnor Road for two or three years before selling. They returned to Groningen in 1992 and Leon was born on the 5th of February 1994.

Nicholas went to Pittsburgh for a year before returning to live in Mill Road with Emm, and later Joe (1995) and Esme (1999), until moving in 2001.

Interestingly, none of the children's houses, or our own, were bought or sold at auction.

With my limited DIY skills having been honed on North Shore Road and Shaftesbury Road, I came in handy doing assorted jobs on the children's houses, all of which appreciated some TLC. We had kept an eye on property prices since 1955 or so and all of our observations indicated that property was as good an investment as Mr Average could hope to make. Occasionally political interferences would affect the market for a year or so but the trend was consistently upwards, faster than inflation.

Clearly the late 1980s was a busy time for the family on the property front and it didn't stop! Maybe with all three children working (or at least, nominally, "off our hands"!) and with Betty and me both having climbed the education pay scales, we had a bob or two to spare so I was able to keep my hand up a little longer at the auctions.

Sarah's wedding, 22nd July 1989.

Deep within my genes are some roots with soil on them. Back in the 1960s and 1970s I can remember looking at "forgotten trifles" of land which needed TLC. Simplistic analysis concluded that animals required much (daily) attention (one or two "brushes" I had with Shandy's misadventures excluded animals from my field of vision). How about arable land? Contractors to plough, to sow, to combine; easy, or is it? Getting a central heating contractor or builder to turn up on time was very difficult - how much more frustrating would it be when the birds were feasting on the corn and rain was forecast? How about a wood? Yes. Trees/woods can manage without daily, weekly (quarterly? longer??) maintenance. Also they are environmentally good and, because they attract no or minimal subsidies, they are (relatively) cheap.

In 1984 there was a wood and paddocks for sale by auction; I went to buy the wood but ended up buying a pretty three acre paddock. We called it "Eleven Oaks" but after the storm of 1987 it was "Nine and a half oaks" - one large oak had been twisted off just as one would twist off a carrot top. Green oak is weak in torsion, seasoned oak very strong.

The great storm of October 1987 is well-chronicled; we fortunately missed most of the damage at the Towers, at Fulmer Walk (Sarah), and at Gorseways (Mother), where a huge conifer totally flattened a parked Citroen but its hydro/aero suspension raised the tree (a few inches at a time). Road travel after dark was very hazardous due to felled trees everywhere. Shaftesbury Road had a problem in that the whole roof of number 15 came across the side paths and slid down the side of number 13, leaving it as clean as a whistle - no soil pipes or any protuberances left. Fortunately they could still use the downstairs loo!

So my first attempt at purchasing a wood failed. The paddock is fine; after a year or two letting it to a young lady with horses, we settled for a farmer who rents the two adjoining fields for grazing; he pays some rent, keeps it tidy, and I enjoy chatting to him about farming problems for an hour or so each Easter.

Around 1985, government privatisation of "the Family Silver" was in full swing. The Forestry Commission were told to sell off lots of the National Woodlands, so after the great storm of 1987, Forestry Managers were selling off lots of small and medium sized woodlands which had been extensively damaged by the storm. During 1988 we looked at a fair number of woods, in Sussex, Hampshire, Dorset, Wiltshire, Somerset, and several in Wales. In the spring of 1989 I found Cefn Mynog. After so many disappointments, Cefn Mynog seemed just right: spring flowers, rabbits, surrounded by fields and woods (so no fly tipping). Woods are sold in a different manner from houses. Woodland particulars usually give a Guide Price (which may or may not be the Guide Price). Prospective purchasers are invited to submit "sealed bids" which are opened at a predetermined time, and of course the vendors are not bound to accept the highest, or any other, bid. All in all it's not a clear cut process; one simply decides how much one wants the wood, pops one's offer into the post, and crosses one's fingers. Anyway, that time, two of my bids were successful! (after perhaps ten or twelve unsuccessful ones). I looked again at the other wood, preferred Cefn Mynog, and so became its proud owner.

Being A Landlord

Property auctions in Portsmouth continued to interest/excite me. Get the catalogue, drive around to see the outside of the property, then maybe get the keys and look around inside (not so good for the vendors, strangers getting keys and looking around: some of the houses lost Victorian fireplaces and such like). Decide, if interested, on what the place is worth, and smartly lower my hand when the bidding reached 80% of my estimate. In November 1992 I bought 76 Ernest Road, a two bedroom centrally-heated ground floor flat which had been done up in the mid-1980s' boom. Originally "The White Horse" public house, the freeholder had long since disappeared (so no ground rent to pay, but insure it myself). I find it difficult to imagine that we have had it for ten years; having furnished it, got it "Gas Safety Certificated", annually we have had consistently good quiet tenants, so it must have been a Good Buy. We had a new combi water heater fitted about seven years ago and every couple of years we have to get the Vaillant expert to fix it, like more recent models of cars, the Vaillant combi's have control/computer boards, each of which costs about £180 when you take it out of its box whether or not it is the one which needs changing.

So after November 1992 we were letting 13 Shaftesbury Road (eight bedrooms) and 76 Ernest Road (two bedrooms) to students. Business was good and when I retired in August 1993 I decided to invest my retirement lump sum in property. I looked around both in estate agents and auctions. I really wanted several bedrooms sufficiently close to the university to join their rental scheme, whereby the university rented the whole property from an owner and sublet to students. In theory the owner (me) couldn't lose but we had a very difficult job getting a £500 telephone bill, run up by students living in 13 Shaftesbury Road under this scheme, paid. The university upset me by doing their best not to pay it; I was unhappy at the way they treated me (as landlord) so in about 1997 I withdrew 13 Shaftesbury Road from the university scheme: a Bad Move on my part.

Back to 1993/1994: after seeing assorted properties, I bought 284 Laburnum Grove - a terraced house, three bedrooms, upstairs bathroom, for £44,000. Laburnum Grove, between North End and Copnor, is a nice part of Portsea Island, made "infamous" by its "lavatory houses", faced with white glazed bricks (hence "lavatory") surplus to need when the Blackwall Tunnel (or similar) was constructed in London. An attractive house which had become run down, so we spent six months (central heating, new bath/shower, decorating, etc) before letting it, with four bedrooms, to the university scheme in October 1994, although it was too far from the university really. The university rented it for two or three years but then they had a change of student letting staff and decided that Laburnum Grove was too far from the main campus so no longer rented it from me.

By autumn 1996 I had totally retired (stopped full-time in 1993 and part-time in 1996) but the properties were keeping me amused: 13 Shaftesbury Road (eight large bedrooms), 76 Ernest Road (two bedrooms), 284 Laburnum Grove (four bedrooms), all needing TLC, but our formula - let to students, give them a fair deal and they will be fair to you - seemed to work well, so in December 1996 we bought 48 St Paul's Road for £37,300, a four bedroom maisonette (so the total was now 18 bedrooms) within a stone's throw of the university library, and put in central heating. It is a lovely maisonette, large double-glazed rooms, quiet, etc. But it is ex-council, so Portsmouth City Council is the freeholder of the whole block and so whatever PCC deemed to be necessary works were done, regardless of their necessity or cost. In my calculations I reckoned that the fourth bedroom would "take care of" the landlord's costs. Regrettably it didn't work out: the fourth bedroom paid the anticipated costs - grass cutting, caretaking, etc, but PCC found lots of other ways of spending money. One security door (they were good) was vandalised in one of their blocks of maisonettes, so all the security doors in all their blocks were changed to vandal-proof ones - was it £16,000 per door, so each flat/maisonette was £4,000? Council tenants didn't have to pay it; all the council housing had a maintenance fund (supported by central government) but of course private leaseholders had to pay their full share. There were several/many examples of unnecessary spending by PCC while we owned 48 St Paul's Road, and we sold it in July 2000 for £66,500. A pity: it was a nice maisonette.

Back in 1997 I had withdrawn 13 Shaftesbury Road from the university scheme. At the time I was annoyed with the university and number 13 was eminently lettable - large rooms, good condition, close to the university and night life - so no apparent problem. But within months Big Brother, in the shape of Portsmouth City Council multi-tenanted property, raised its ugly head. Property in Multiple Occupation, outside the university scheme, had to be inspected and had to fulfill assorted requirements. Needless to say, number 13 "failed": the rule which annoyed me was that for six tenants (in the main house) there had to be a communal lounge of (I believe) 18 square metres. Number 13 failed by about 0.4 square metres, and although the individual rooms were huge they didn't count. And the little Hitler who was setting about enforcing the regulations was a Rambler! Rather than fight the stupid regulations or find ways around them, we sold 13 Shaftesbury Road in 1998 for £100,000. A pity. We had owned number 13 for 21 years; it had provided good accommodation for over two hundred students, some of whom still send us Christmas cards.

particulars for 13 Shaftesbury Road when sold in 1998.

In 1997, 284 Laburnum Grove being remote from the university, we gave it to an agent who let it to a young lady with two babies. She wasn't very good with money, and used to miss the rent about one month in six, but was full of promises to pay. In 2001 she asked to be evicted, believing that Portsmouth City Council would then rehouse her. We went through the due processes, although in fact she did a runner a few days before the court case. The court granted us possession, the house was left in a poor state, altogether the tenant cost us about £2500, but in her 2.5 years tenancy the housing market boomed, prices rising by perhaps 30%, so after I spent about six months tidying it up it fetched just over £100,000 in May 2002, so again it had been a good investment. One could reason that we ought to have hung onto them all, with property values rising steeply, but since about 1996/1997, although we were both retired, it has become progressively harder to do the jobs; jobs which years ago would have been done straight away have taken longer and longer, many not getting done at all. I guess we slow down substantially between the ages of 55 and 65 (and more, subsequently). See later thoughts, maybe written by Kevin, Sarah, or Nicholas.

The Wood

I bought the wood at Cefn Mynog in the spring of 1989 - about seven acres of larch and six awaiting replanting after the great storm of 1987. I soon found how mentally refreshing hard physical labour could be. The old caravan I bought was fine for me - with a bed, cooker, lavatory and sink, and for the first year or so it was popular with various relatives; I'm not sure why they only came once or twice; to me the wood was, and still is, a lovely place.

In the early years a typical annual cycle would be:

  • January to March: cold and dark and wet. Maybe get to the caravan late on a Tuesday evening after two long and difficult days at the university. Flop into caravan and bed. Wake around daybreak; change into lots of very old heavy-duty clothes and stoke up with coffee, several Weetabix, etc. If not raining too hard and ground not frozen, cut channels through windblown wilderness, drag out branches and trunks worth keeping for firewood, plant mixed 80 centimetre broadleaves with spiral guards and bamboo supports (the first year I had a contractor to help for one day to show me how to do it). Considerable pleasure derived from using Father's spade to do the planting. Coffee at elevenish, and later a substantial lunch from tins. If/when the rain got too hard, or after lunch, have a sleep. Load up the car, then continue clearing and planting until dusk. Home about 8, unload logs etc, sleep like a log, then bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for Thursday and Friday university problems.

  • April to June. Get to wood at dusk. Spend much of morning wandering around talking to my young trees, clearing debris from around them. Continue with cutting channels through the windblown areas.

  • July to September. Bracken. Every year during June I would think that my efforts the previous year had broken the back of the ferns but whatever I tried it didn't. Suddenly in July it was up everywhere, overwhelming my young trees. Every daylight minute spent cutting bracken, more or less drawing even by early September (maybe 80% of the young trees cleared, most of them three or four times). In September I would leave the bracken - it was going brown and the spores may have been harmful.

  • October to December. Dark. Re-bamboo the young trees and spirals which had been felled (chiefly by the bracken). Clear paths of brambles etc by strimmer. Continue with cutting channels and planting in the windblown and other dead areas.

As the wood years passed so the activities changed. The windblown areas were largely replanted. For the first two or three years of planting I had followed the contractor's instruction of heeling the spiral guard well down to reduce the risk of mice attacking the tender roots. Regrettably this meant that the bottoms of the guards dug into the growing roots and in many cases damaged them so for a year or so I went from tree to tree doing my best to hook out the bottoms of the guards (having changed to 3-4 inch diameter clear plastic tubes which substantially improved growth inside the guard, but also encouraged ants and other nests and damage). As the trees gradually strengthened and outgrew the bracken, so the brambles then took over: a different and easier job with loppers and gloves. In about 1997 I cleared brambles and rubbish from two or three areas, planning for the young broadleaves to become trees above grassy areas. Regrettably the grey squirrels had different ideas: they stripped the bark from all these lovely cleared-area trees. Heartbreaking. Since then I have waged war against the grey squirrels, without much success.

Besides work, work, work, over in the wood there were those lovely afternoons when I was too tired or it was too hot to work. Then I would select a spot, a bit like Rosie does, find a groundsheet, blanket, and pillow, and lay back in the gently dappled sun and shade and let the world go by. Very pleasant.

Regrettably, foot and mouth disease struck Britain in 2001. Although foot and mouth was around Abergavenny it never came to the fields adjoining the wood, so in theory it might have been OK to drive across them. But it never came to Soberton and no way did I want to risk spreading it from one to the other so, as far as the car went, the wood was a no-go area. Traipsing across the neighbouring woodland to the wood was hard, rough work, and of course it meant leaving the car, loaded with tools etc, parked rather vulnerably, so I didn't do it many times. So during 2001 the brambles, bracken, and squirrels had it largely to itself.

Back in 1997/1998 I had set on a local forester to thin the larch, and between then and 2001 two to three cubic metres of larch arrived at the high point roadside, but regrettably never moved from there. In the spring of 2002 I went to the wood a time or two, but the first time the caravan had been vandalized and the second time it had been burnt: totally destroyed and rubbish scattered, and my back was playing up so there was nothing I could do to tidy it (even if I had desired to).

Chapter 15. Holidays

In 1959, the Lambretta took us via Lydd - Le Touquet (air bridge) south to Biarritz in Spain, and back to Cherbourg - Southampton (air bridge). Quite a jaunt by scooter, and not without incident - half shaft grease used to render the rear brake unservicable; I stripped a spark plug thread; we sat snugly under plastic macs in a huge storm near the Spanish border until we found that Betty's mac had a hole in it; and on the Cherbourg - Southampton flight they broke the windshield so we had a very draughty ride up to Heald Green. There wasn't a light in the garage at Heald Green so I used to roll up the dining-room carpet and do the scooter maintenance in the dining room.

The A35 vans, warmer, drier, and faster, allowed us to carry more and about that time firstly the Preston, then the Lancaster bypasses opened (the first bits of the M6), so the Lake District and Scotland were reachable. We used to go, and by tipping the front seats forward we would make room to sleep in the back of the van, placing some of the non-perishables outside. One Easter morning in Scotland it was still dark when we woke, so we went back to sleep. Again, it was dark when we woke. There were several inches of snow on all the windows. Another time, above Loch Lomond, it was such a cold night that it was very difficult to break the ice on the water and milk to heat it on the primus for our first drinks.

1960 saw us going by train to Rimini with Sheila and George: about thirty hours each way but with the couchettes in the sleep position the time passed easily enough, apart from when Betty gave Sheila some cointreau instead of water.

In 1961 we took a van to Bordighera, on the Italian/French border, stopping at Swiss lakes going and coming home. There's no record of a holiday in 1962: maybe bringing Mischief from Cheshire to Hampshire was sufficient; certainly there was plenty to do at Highfield Close, and lots of walks in Hampshire and West Sussex to explore.

In 1963 we bought a frame tent from one of my colleagues and we went camping in France - weather mixed; we got quite adept at putting up and taking down the tent in the rain. It's great when you unfold a sodden tent and it dries in the hot sun before your eyes. Again, we made it to the Med: camped on mosquito-laden salt marshes and held onto the frame for dear life as the Mistral tried to blow the tent, and us, away.

At some time we camped in the Manifold valley in Derbyshire, a lovely spot. It might have been spring 1963 or 1964; the farmer of the valley, recollecting the cold winter of 1962-1963, said that he was haymaking before his main farm supply water pipe thawed.

In 1964, the Dr Barnardo's lady interviewed us while we packed the estate car to go camping and walking around Totland Bay on the Isle of Wight.

By 1966 we were expecting Sarah, so we went to Minehead Butlins where Kevin had a lovely time while Betty took it quiet. At indoor bowls, Kevin found that the jack was just the right weight to hurl across all six lanes. Putting was easy: a hole in one every time if you simply carry your ball and put it in the hole. For roundabouts: wake up the attendant, climb into a seat, and reawaken the attendant when you wished to get off.

For the next few years: Lyme Regis, Rye, Tolpuddle, Wareham, Troutbeck, all to child-friendly farms, with animals or similar, and not too bothered about child problems (e.g. sick in the middle of the busy dining room).

Through these childhood years we spent lots of holiday time wandering around Hayling: the railway track, beachlands, sand dunes, etc., and inland on Butser Hill and Queen Elizabeth Forest, which was gradually being opened up to the public. 1971 saw us at Filey Butlins: not so free and easy as Minehead had been in 1966. At that time the green car's starter motor was playing up and I had a bad back from time to time.

In 1972 and 1973 we went to High Snab, on Robinson in the Lake District. The first time it was very good (sunny, I suppose) and the children could play in the becks. A library book, "Little Black Sambo", floated off downstream; I struggled after it but fortunately Betty ran along the bank until she could retrieve it. It dried and Hayling Library took it back as normal. I guess that Nicholas was reading it while we played - he was always doing that: any time not spent reading was a waste of time for him. The sheep-dog at the farm gave my achilles tendon a playful nip one day; even now, thirty years on, I will never turn my back on a sheep-dog. The return visit to High Snab was not so successful (maybe it rained) but we still did lots of sightseeing, climbed Cat Bells, and - nearly forgot - at Ambleside. I followed Kevin and Nicholas followed me across some rocks, of course Nicholas slipped into the water and needed a change of clothes. But the only clothes we had were Sarah's, so Nicholas dressed as a girl for the rest of the day, and we got some very funny looks in the Gents!

The years passed and we all grew older, especially the children. In 1974 we went to Dawlish Warren. Kevin took a very healthy interest in football so when we spent a week in Brighton (1975) we had to go to the Goldstone Ground (can't remember who the Seagulls were playing). It was probably about 1975 that the long distance path walking seeds were sown. North of Brighton there is the "Devil's Dyke" and long-distance footpath signs.

In 1976 we took Robert Shepherd camping on the Cherbourg peninsula. It was memorable for several reasons: we hired a lot of camping equipment from Townsend Thorensen (now part of P&O), and having filled the car up at home with four children and all our home-based essentials we then had to load on a further car-load at Portsmouth docks! Fortunately we planned to camp fairly near Cherbourg, but we really looked like overloaded tinkers driving through France to the campsite. It was a nice site next to the sea, so Nicholas had no trouble finding sand-dunes to sit and read in - and leave the book behind! Our tent looked out towards the Channel Islands with their light-houses - very pretty, especially in the wee small hours when, every night, the children would be escorted to the toilet block one after another. Robert found a hand grenade, I made him put it down and by the time the civil gendarmarie arrived the tide had come in and covered it - I wonder if they ever came back for it? 1976 must have been a busy year: while we were in France we completed the purchase of 13 Shaftesbury Road. Earlier that summer while we were picnicking with Jackie, John, and David near Winchester, Southampton won the F.A. Cup. In September we went to Bournemouth to watch the last game in the John Player Series: Hampshire versus Yorkshire, while at Taunton, Somerset were also playing to win. I can't remember who won but it was a right good afternoon!

1977 - busy with Shaftesbury Road, but not too busy for an Isle of Wight caravan holiday with Janice, a friend of Sarah's. I had been told that one could walk around under Culver Cliff at low tide, so we tried it but even with the children all able to swim, it steadily became more dangerous as we progressed until even I saw sense and we turned back, thank goodness.

1978 saw us self-catering in North Wales for Easter; we wandered around Caernarvon, Beaumaris - where the children ran around on top of the roof without handrails - and other places of interest; but the high point was us all climbing up and down Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales (from the sunnier west side - the east was deep in ice and snow). I am still very pleased and proud that we did this en famille; the fact that the oven failed to switch on to cook a chicken for our well-earned tea didn't matter at all! I believe that was the holiday when Betty and the children finished Grandma and Granddad Haines' Golden Wedding tapestry picture which we delivered to them on our way back to Hayling Island.

Mother and Father's Golden Wedding, 1978.

Back row: Derrick, Heather, Martin, Betty, Roger.

Middle row: Father and Mother.

Front row: Kevin, Sarah, Nicholas.

Father and Mother at their Golden Wedding in 1978.

1980 saw us all in Scotland. We had a "hotel package": two nights in Inverness, three in Fort William, and three in Oban. We all enjoyed the sights. My outstanding memory is of our bedroom in Inverness: looking out over the river Ness, complete with fly fishermen - quite beautiful; with porridge and kippers for breakfast! We travelled down the Great Glen: Urquhart Castle, but no Nessie. We attempted Ben Nevis, but the weather was not on our side. On down to Oban, with its ferries, and beautiful island jewels set in an emerald sea; the Bridge Over The Atlantic, and martini glasses. We left Oban at 10 a.m. and were home on Hayling Island in time for "Match of the Day" at 10 p.m.

In 1981 we spent three days in Paris and Versailles and a week on the western coast of France, at l'Aiguillon sur Mer - a French coastal resort for the French, including a smelly hotel pool and very French food. Education called in 1982: Kevin was too old to come with us, but we shared ten days between West and East (communist) Germany. The East was very interesting. At Oberhof I played chess with a leading German actor, in Honecker's private lounge, after which Betty discussed with him various ways of acting "the Moor", aided by several glasses of wine. We also saw the Weimar observatory, and spent a sombre half day at Buchenwald. On the way back through the border controls, I practised "Ich nicht sprechen Deutsch" in earnest, looking down a gun barrel.

1983 was a Holiday Fellowship holiday in Whitby (Roger, Betty, and Nicholas). I suspect that we had a bit of a Silver Wedding get together with Sheila and George on our way up to Whitby where we had a pleasant week walking around the North Riding, finding mice carved on church pews, etc. Father died on August 10th so, instead of having our Silver Wedding bun fight for the Somerset folk on August 16th, we had Father's funeral service at Bristol crematorium.

In 1984, with Sarah and Nicholas we went via Lytham St Annes (for John Gilday's wedding) to Dent and wandered around the Dales. One day we were at a very high railway station when a steam train arrived, puffing and panting. Out jumped about 500 enthusiasts, photographing the taking on of water, back on they jumped and off it went, leaving the Dales as quiet and peaceful as (nearly) always.

1986 we stayed at a gite in mid France, near the Lascaux cave paintings, with Sarah and Nicholas. The gite was OK. The letting company also had a chateau in rather worse repair not too far away, where we were invited for lawn sports such as archery. The en-suite bathrooms at the chateau were literally "en suite", separated from the rest of the room by a curtain. On the lawn, the arrows from the archery landed amongst the pitch-and-putters.

In 1987 we drove to Derrick and Maureen's flat in Calpe. In 1988 we visited Shrewsbury with Jackie and Nicholas. We had been thinking of buying a gite in France for some time and in 1987 Betty and Sheila went to France in Betty's new Metro with orders to buy a gite. They didn't and neither did we when, with Jackie, we rented a gite in Brittany in the spring of 1990. Sitting in a restaurant one evening we talked with an English couple who were doing up one they had bought. Being aware that we were never short of a job at home (or at Shaftesbury Road) I realized that intensive labour in France was not what we needed so I put the idea of a gite out to grass.

Moniek, Betty, Tom, and Roger; Hungary, 1992.

My Christmas letters starting in 1990 remind me of our 1990s holidays. August 1990 saw us on the Pembrokeshire coastal path and 1991 in County Durham with Jackie, Aunt Lily, and Ian. Easter 1992 was different: with the help of a very good British Rail clerk in Portsmouth, we Inter-railed across Europe to see Kevin, Moniek and Tom in Hungary. Brussels, Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, to Budapest, returning via Vienna, where we learned of Mother's death, to Ostend. We slept (?) on couchettes for four nights, with neighbours from assorted Central European nationalities. In 1993 we flew to Pittsburgh to see Nicholas and Emm. We saw the sights: Niagara; the Welland Canal with specially-built 130,000 ton ocean-going boats squeezing through locks with inches to spare; State College; Gettysburg; Washington DC, etc. 1994 saw us on Vlieland - a Dutch island - and then in Normandy with Norman and Glenis for the fiftieth anniversary of the D-day landings.

Niagara, 1993.

In 1995 we were in Portugal with Sheila and George, and 1996 in Scotland with Riet and Pieter, and this time I climbed Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Scotland. I can't find the Christmas 1997 letter, but we went to Paris and then to Pisa, Florence and Siena, in the Sierra with Jackie sharing the driving (it was a long way).

We popped over to Bergen for a week in the mid 1990s and saw the midnight sun (good), Norway in a Nutshell (super), and, best of all, a red squirrel.

In 1998 we went to the Holy Land with Jackie; this must be counted as very special: walking, praying, boating, as Jesus had done.

1999 was busy. Betty's uncle Arthur's grave on the Somme with Sheila and George, a canal boat with Jackie, and Ireland (the Blarney Stone!) in September with Sheila, George, and Jackie.

Betty on canal boat, 1999.

2000 was Portugal, and the Winchester to Canterbury walk (see below). 2001 was Kent with Sheila, George, Nicholas, Esme, floods, and foot and mouth. In 2001, two cubic metres of water flowed along Hambledon's main road every second for months.

Reading the Christmas letters reminds me that besides holidays, we made many visits to Groningen, to Yorkshire, and to Wells. Wells Carnivals are frequently mentioned; have you ever seen anyone's eyes out on stalks? I have! In about 1990 Tom came to Wells for the Carnival, and when he saw the first spectacular float, his eyes came out on stalks. If you haven't seen a mid-Somerset November carnival then you should.

Chapter 16. Walkies

We have always enjoyed walking. While at Hull I can recollect going for walks in the hinterland of Cottingham: undulating and more interesting than east of Hull which was very flat, like Holland. In Cheshire, Betty's landlady had a friendly old dog, Bobbie, and he would walk us for miles. Once we were scooterized, the Peak District was within easy reach. We still have the one-inch Peak District tourist map with (I believe) some of our walks marked on it. On one occasion we parked the scooter at Alderley Edge (a beauty spot) and unwisely left our two nice new helmets fastened to it. When we returned the helmets had gone but we tracked them down to some nearby caves where a policeman took the names and addresses of a couple of lads. In due course they were up before the Juvenile Magistrate; the "innocent" one was found guilty, the "guilty" one got off, and we were made to feel the real criminals for leaving temptation in their way. Does that explain why I have done my best to keep out of the law courts ever since?

Betty, Sarah, Kevin, Nicholas; Snowdon, 1978.

After walking up and down Snowdon in 1978 the children were clearly walkers, so I guess that around 1980 we started to tackle long distance paths, the handiest of which was the South Downs Way. I guess like all that we have done, it took us lots of "bites", mostly in the summer of 1981. I remember some of them, such as on the "tops" like Chanctonbury Ring and Devil's Dyke, and a section we did with Sheila and George, on a hot day, the never to be forgotten "Seven Sisters". Betty, Nicholas, and I walked the whole path. Kevin had passed his driving test and was revising for exams, so that sometimes he would drop us off and wait for us eight or ten miles further on, using the time to revise. That happened near Lewes: the Headingley Ashes test match was on and Kevin met us with the news that Botham was busy winning it for England almost single-handed (Australia 401/9 declared. England all out 174 - Botham 50. England follow on 356 - Botham 149 not out - giving a 121 run lead. Then Australia were dismissed for 111 - Willis taking 8 for 43).

Having cut our teeth on the South Downs Way (which at that time finished at Queen Elizabeth Forest), we started on the Wayfarers: from Inkpen Beacon near Newbury to Emsworth. I well remember one day on the Wayfarers. We took our car and parked by a pub and phone box (probably on the outskirts of Whitchurch). We rang for a taxi, had a cup of coffee, put our boots on, and got in the taxi when it came. I gave the driver directions and explained that we were walkers. Every mile or so he wanted to stop and let us get out, especially when he went out of radio range from his base. When he finally dropped us, about 12 miles from where he picked us up, he was astonished that anyone would, or could, walk so far. We were quite happy to cross the A34 and set off up over Watership Down.

Pervading all the Long Distance Path days (hundreds of days) is "How to get there?" The aim is always to leave a car, coffee, dry footwear, etc, where one wishes to finish that day's walking; and then by hook or by crook to get to where one wishes to start. If you leave the car at the start then at the end of the day, tired, thirsty, etc, one has the problem of getting back to the car. As a simple rule of thumb: if one starts walking towards the car before midday, one has done quite well, because of the vagaries of various public transport services, taxis, thumbing, etc, all of which served a turn.

Between 1985 and 1987 we spent some time, with some children, on the Cornish coastal path. We had a week at Fowey with Nicholas and Sarah, a week with Betty's Aunt Ivy and Uncle Percy at Newlynn East, and a week with Chris and Denise Hartley.

During the 1980s the National Long Distance Paths blossomed - it seemed that every year another three or four LDPs opened. We were doing our bit, I suppose: ten or twelve miles on maybe five to ten days a year, but this was clearly not keeping up with the mileage being opened each year. After Father died and Mother moved to Gorseways I had a little more time: time when the schools (and hence Betty) were still very busy, but the Polytechnics (and hence me) were winding down. Thus, on one or two weeks a year I was able to say "I'm going walkies," and set off, usually in a car, with several changes of pants, socks, boots, etc. Dates are woolly but in the Offa's Dyke book I find various dates between 1985 and 1992 inclusive. Invariably on Offa's Dyke I walked north, so I guess 1985 was around Chepstow, Monmouth, and Pandy (near Abergavenny) and seven years later I limped down to the sands of Prestatyn. A gardener there asked me how long it had taken and laughed when I said "about seven years" - he was used to people saying ten or eleven days.

Also in the 1980s I must have done the Ridgeway, from Avebury to Ivinghoe Beacon near Aylesbury, and the Ridgeway extension westwards from Avebury down through Devizes (Moonrakers), Westbury, etc to Hardy's Monument on the coastal path in Dorset. I have somehow connected the Ridgeway extension to Soberton, almost certainly via Winchester and Salisbury but I'm afraid the details are woolly at the moment (somewhere at Soberton is a large Daily Telegraph map of the UK with the route marked on). Various fragments of these walks stand out (besides the splendid views and glorious solitude on Salisbury Plain). I remember horizontal ice needles blowing into my face near Avebury (the next day I walked with the wind behind me); talking to a friendly farmer when lost, remarking that we must be in Dorset because of the scenery, and he said no: everyone thought it was Dorset but actually we were still in Wiltshire. Parts of Offa's Dyke were especially nice: the aqueduct near Llangollen, and the walk over the top from Pandy to Hay Bluff and down to Hay on Wye (one needs a good day for that one). One Easter, probably 1988, I spent a few days in the Lake District and managed to climb Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in England.

In 1992 or 1993 I joined up the Ridgeway to Offa's Dyke by walking along the Kennet and Avon canal (Devizes to Bath) then north-west to get around Bristol and onto the (old) Severn Bridge and hence to Chepstow. A noisier-than-usual walk because of traffic, especially on the bridge, which shakes frighteningly all the time.

Meanwhile, from the comfort of his armchair and the nineteenth hole, George was asking me when was I going to start on "the big one," i.e. the Pennine Way. In 1989 we rented a house in Gayle near Hawes, with Sheila and George, Moniek and Tom (who was aged one). While there, Nicholas and I did the section from Cam End to Keld (22 miles - not in one go, and sometimes accompanied by Tom in pyjamas and a mac!) so that got us off to a good start. Having finished Offa's Dyke in 1992 it was time to "go for it". I finished it in 1999, with some detours and some shortcuts. This table shows the sections as I walked them, with page references to my copies of the National Trail Guides "Pennine Way South" (PYS) and "Pennine Way North" (PYN), by Tony Hopkins.

Table of Pennine Way walks.

Month From To Distance
July 1989

Cam End
SD 802805
page 108, PYS

NY 896011
page 121, PYS

22 miles
August 1990

NY 933214
page 33, PYN

High Force
NY 863294
page 39, PYN

11 miles
July 1995

NY 716463
page 71, PYN

NY 838833
page 111, PYN

42 miles
October 1995

SK 123860
page 23, PYS

SK 068991
page 33, PYS

15 miles
May 1996

SK 068991
page 35, PYS

Bleak Hey Nook
SE 019095
page 46, PYS

11 miles
September 1996

NY 838833
page 117, PYN

Kirk Yetholm
NT 826283
page 154, PYN

40 miles
September 1997

Bleak Hey Nook
SE 019095
page 46, PYS

Cam End
SD 802805
page 108, PYS

68 miles
December 1998

NY 893009
page 126, PYS

NY 995135
page 133, PYS

12 miles
June 1999

NY 989136
page 27, PYN

NY 930215
page 33, PYN

18 miles
June 1999

High Force
NY 863295
page 39, PYN

NY 716463
page 71, PYN

18 miles

Having finished "the big one" in June 1999, I still had to join it up to Offa's Dyke somehow - I did this later in 1999 by walking across the Cheshire plain, from the Llangollen aqueduct, along lanes and canal banks past Nantwich, Jodrell Bank, Bollington, and on to Edale - finished! I had walked from the English Channel to Scotland.

For the Millennium itself, Betty and I decided on the Pilgrim's Way, from Winchester to Canterbury. There were "organised" walks, using minibuses and such like, but we settled on the usual twelve miles per day with the car to take us home to Rosie each evening. It went very well and we reached Canterbury in time for Evensong one August afternoon. Most of the route followed the North Downs Way: it was just as well that we finished before the blackberries were ripe - it is very difficult to get Betty past a ripe blackberry bush. Plans to continue the pilgrimage from Winchester via Portsmouth and Cherbourg to Mont St Michel had to be shelved when foot and mouth disease hit the UK in 2001.