An earlier article in this esteemed publication, about the exploits of the heroic village football team, set me wondering as to what changes Jim Huntley, the goalkeeper, must have witnessed in the village since he was born here in 1943. It also set me thinking about the changes that I have seen take place in the relatively short time that I've been here.
Memory is a wonderful attribute but one can be absolutely sure that it is often perverse and that it always plays tricks. I reflected upon the time that we have lived in the village and found myself trying to focus on what were the major changes that have taken place. What 'progress' had been made over those years. I couldn't come up with a reasoned answer and so what follows is a random selection of a few of those changes that
I have witnessed...
Pubs:- When we arrived there were FIVE hostelries, The Bell, The Star, The Royal Oak, The Plough and The White Hart. Each had its own character and regular clientele. For example, I viewed The Bell as being up-market, sort of Triumph Spitfires and gin and tonic, whilst The Star was for the 'real' locals, crib, dominoes, darts and bitter. I patronised the Star. Memories of The Plough and The White Hart seem to focus upon, how shall I say, my perception of the eccentricities of their landlords, Beryl in The Plough and Mike in The White Hart. Although Ron in the Star could well be on that list.
'Real' locals:- Today, for sure, we have Charlie Belcher and one or two others, but three that I encountered from the time when I first came here were Gino, Bunt Murray and Wimmer Martin. Gino, I have no idea as to his surname, was Italian and had been captured during the Second World War and sent to this area to work on the farms. He married a lass in the village and thereby became a true 'local'. My initial contact with him was being introduced to his home brewed wine. FABULOUS Grand Cru. Some of it was palatable, a proportion was useful as embrocation and the remainder could be used as paint stripper or drain cleaner. Does anyone who dared taste Gino's wine have a different view? Only after his wife died did he contemplate revisiting his birth place and I well recall him asking me, and this is true, if I would help him draft a letter claiming his war pension from the Italian Government for the time that he had BEEN KEPT in England! Bunt Murray was the local 'bookies runner'. At this time gambling 'off course' was illegal and there was no such thing as a betting shop but inevitably illicit gambling went on. I don't know exactly how it worked but Bunt would cycle around the village, I suppose that he had a sort of set route, and would collect bets his clients wanted to be placed upon certain gee gees. Where he 'placed' those bets I have no idea. The next day he would retrace his route paying out any winnings and collecting the next round of bets. Now, Wimmer Martin, and here I am acutely aware that a number of Wimmer's descendants still live in the village. Wimmer, it became apparent to me, had been the, how shall I say, the Michael Shanly of the village in the 1930s. When we bought our little house I wanted to alter it and was guided to Wimmer, who lived opposite the Star, for advice as it was indeed he who had built the house originally. He was most helpful, pointing out amongst other things that the reinforcement of the lintel above the ground floor front right window was actually a redundant blade from an Allen Scythe! Wimmer had built numerous houses around the village. He had only one set of plans, the façade of his houses being exactly as a young child would draw a house. A 'box' with a roof with a chimney at each end, two upper windows, two lower windows and a central entrance door with a pitched roof over. Most of these facades, indeed like ours, have been changed over the years but just do look around and you will be amazed as to how many 'Wimmer' houses there are. Wimmer was also 'responsible' for the Martin's Hall and the, sadly now defunct, village swimming pool which adjoined it.
Drainage:- There were no sewers and every house had either a cesspool or a septic tank. The difference? Well, the cesspool was simply a 'tank' sunk into the garden which needed to be pumped out every so often whilst the septic tank was a basic form of sewage treatment plant. The sweet aroma of a cesspool being emptied lingers on in my memory. However, and sadly, our tomato crop has never been so plentiful or tasty since we went on to main drainage!
Shops:- Yes, we had village shops! My fallible memory again, but I think we had EIGHT village 'shops'. In WSL there was the Post Office, which embraced a general store, 'Rogers Stores' and, in Milley Road, Kentwood's Frozen Foods. In Shurlock Row we had the Post Office, the general store, the paper shop and, how could we ever forget, John King the butcher.
Woods Yard:- Who needed Homebase, B&Q or the like, we had WOODS! Woods Yard at West End was, I honestly believe, the best DIY business that I have ever visited. The stock that was carried was prodigious but, equally important, so was the knowledge/expertise of the staff. If you needed a widget/thingameebob or whatever and went to Woods then the staff would not only find you said object but would give you first class advice how to use/change/fix. Brilliant and sorely missed.
Motoring:- We also had two garages. Yes, they both remain but only one is now a 'real' garage and neither sell fuel. Of course there was also so, so much less traffic.
The School:- Why do I pick out the school in my memories? Unlike some of the earlier examples of my memories the school still remains and we should all be proud of what it achieves. Both of my children were educated there and I thought I would pitch in my assessment of what the essential traits of the school were way back then. The Headteacher was Miss Bosher. Tweed suit, brogue shoes, hair in bun and an emphasis on reading, 'riting and 'rithemetric, the essential three 'R's. How much broader the curriculum seems now.
The Church:- I am not, how shall I say, a 'churchgoer'. That being so how is it that one Peter Radley, the Vicar when we arrived in the village, left such an impression upon me? Answers in a sealed envelope please!
So, some random extracts from my memory of the time that I've been in the village. Do others see them as being incorrect, vague, biased or just nonsense? For those who have lived here far longer than I just what memories do you have and might like to share?
Thinks! Why was it the pubs came first in my list?