We used to play in the yard (except on Market day) or we were allowed to go down into the carpenters shop. I wish I could show you a picture though as its hard to describe the long benches wood shavings all around odd lengths of wood off cuts a hand mortising machine and such a lovely smell of wood. If workmen were in there although they were kindly people they would soon tell us if we were in the way, or they might give you a brush and tell you to apply some knotting or primer etc to window frames or whatever. If there was a funeral and they were making a coffin you would be expected to hold, support, or help polish the Elm not as an instruction mind, but as a junior associate so to speak. And of course the coffin had to have all the joints etc on the inside coated/sealed with hot pitch that had been melted on the blacksmiths fire. I was encouraged to lay in a coffin with a lid on just to see what it was like but in a very kindly way. It was a sort of initiation in a way.
Looking out of the windows in the carpenter’s shop it was a sheer drop down to the garden below perhaps 30/40 feet as you see we lived on a hill so the house was one level and wanting a relatively flat garden that had to be lying below.
The uneven stone steps beside the carpenters shop led down to the Timber shed. Herbert and I used to go into the timber shed climb right onto the top timbers and slide all along to the end and there was opening in the end wall to allow long timbers to be stored and it was close to the wall that was alongside the pavement so as people walked down, from our hiding place we used to throw baby pears we took of the trees and they never knew where they came from.
Continuing down the garden path past the timber shed we got to the garden where at one time I had my own little area where I grew Marigolds. Auntie loved Sweet Peas so there were always some and I would often go down the garden to pick some for her. At the end of the garden was the orchard. Beauty of bath was my favorite variety. Beyond that was a pig sty with 2 pigs that Herbert and I, to my shame, used to throw apple windfalls at. Of course with rationing a lot of people had their own pigs, hens etc. There was a well in the garden in like a small cavern with slate shelves in that had been used to keep things cool, I never knew of the well to run dry. Uncle was an expert at growing Chrysanthemums and he had several cups he had won
I have not mentioned Ronnie Channon as I know he went back to London and I have no memories of him at all.
I used to see my sister of course, and Mum & Dad used to get railway warrants to come and visit us when they stayed in a B & B café, not often as they were limited to how many times they were allowed to.
When the men put in their time sheets us lads did as well putting down odd jobs we had done or picked flowers for Auntie or just up the road was Aunties sister and her husband
Who had a fruit/veg/ cigarettes/flower shop and we might go up there for well anything perhaps to spend our “wages” that we queued up for it was normally a three penny bit. Remember this was nearly 70 years ago.
Leslie & Gwen used to make wreaths and sometimes we would go out with Les to the woods to gather the moss he used.
If Uncle or any of the men were going out into the country to see a job or whatever I might be able to go in either the Bedford or he also had a Hillman car and out one day we visited Freddie Knight at his farm where he lived with hi mother in an old farmhouse where she used to cook in ovens in the wall of the chimney. She would fill the ovens with hot ashes then remove them and out in whatever it was to be cooked and she always had a big plate of delicious scones to put in front of you with Cream & Jam of course. They had a windmill and he showed me how it worked by actually starting it so you could see and hear the rackety old wooden gears that drove the mill stones. He also asked if I had ever seen a baby cow, well of course I never had, not in Clapham. Se we went into a barn and there nearly as big as me was this calf. I stroked it and Freddie said put your fingers in its mouth, WHAT! I remember it will bite them off I said but eventually he got me to do it so the calf suckled my fingers. That was the farm Uncle drove us to when Mushrooms were available.
If you are beginning to get the idea that this was idyllic then you are so right, but this was the ride to a fall unfortunately. More later.
At times Uncle, Herbert and I played cricket in the yard with the wicket drawn on the small offices door. Balls were struck everywhere and sometimes smashed windows in the outhouses etc then uncle would go around measuring them up and cut the glass to fit while Herbert and I made brave attempts to fit the glass on the puttied frames. Evenings and weekends I could play in the carpenter’s shop “making” whatever I felt like but making sure to steer away from any work in progress. Just outside the backdoor was a granite horse trough and it was just right for me to float my boat creations. LOL