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About the Author

Marilyn Swann grew up in Bexleyheath on the south-east edge of

Greater London mostly during WWII.
She attended Woolwich Polytechnic School of Art but family
conditions (and exams) put Art College out of the question.
A full time job in commercial art had to support her real job of
A discerning public bas bought some of her works, but not enough
for her to paint full time. This had to wait until her retirement at the
end of the twentieth century.
She now lives with her tortoise-shell cat in Gloucestershire.


To every Artist everywhere

Mar i l yn Swann


Copyright Marilyn Swann

The right of Marilyn Swann to be identified as author of this work
has been asserted by her in accordance with section 77 and 78 of the
Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced,
stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any
means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or
otherwise, without the prior permission of the publishers.

Any person who commits any unauthorized act in relation to this
publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for

A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British

ISBN 978 14963 464 9

First Published (2014)
Austin Macauley Publishers Ltd.
25 Canada Square
Canary Wharf
E14 5LB

Printed and bound in Great Britain


Prologue 13
1 My Progenitors: The Whiddettss / The Swannss 19
2 Dont You Know Theres A War On? 35
3 Want of Youth 50
4 I Remember Bananas 57
5 Break A Leg 73
6 Sports and Pastimes 81
7 Sex 89
8 To Be Or Not To Be 97
9 Every Pictures Tells A Story (quote GMa G) 109
10 Food For The Soul 122
11 Light Fantastic 131
12 Work 157
13 Its A Poor Heart That Neer Rejoices (quote GMa G) 167
14 I Go Dutch 175
15 Blighty 185
16 Once More Into The Breach 198
17 Compensations 214
18 Golden Age 226
19 Silver: A Cats Life 236
20 Horses, Horses, Horses 253
21 To Rus And Back 268
22 Hell Said The Duchess, Waving Her Wooden Leg (Quote
GMa G) 284
Epilogue 288

Pr ol ogue

It is now the 1980s. Ive been around since 1932. Theyve been
eventful years, what with one thing and another!
This begins in 1988; My Mother HH (Hilda Helena) has flip-
flopped back to her bed with early-morning cup of tea cat
Samba is scowling blackly at the world concentrating on
digesting her breakfast Ive had the big heave-ho from work
(they call it early retirement) Perhaps Id better start writing
my book but, how to start?
This book has been gestating for some time. Notes scrawled
during breaks at work in the middle of the night at meal
times whenever a memory occurred! Mostly scribbled in the
train among the jabbing elbows, seat-room shuffling bottoms and
encroaching thighs of the great South London commuter public.
Second-hand typewriter squats, dark grey, accusing. Taking
up far too much space on my (one, redundant, wood) desk top.
My everyday memories clamour for immortality; together with
the familys accumulated stories, legends, tales and recollections.
The memories that silt up in your mind, from babyhood on!
I, myself, artist/painter, female, am the final result of the
union between two very different types of Southern England
families. The Ws and the Ss.
While my bucolic, God-fearing paternal forebears doggedly
plodded the rural south, minding cows, butlering and
housekeeping for the gentry, the Ws were shopkeeping, hat-
making and teaching. (Great-grandparents ran a plate glass
business in North London; Uncle Bill taught art in a special
school for boys; Aunt Nell was a headmistress and taught art and
handicrafts; Uncle Steve owned a farm and a butchers shop in
mid-Kent.) Highly charged, tempestuous people they were
forever churning over past wrongs, weeping over hurtful things
said, discussing passionately actions and dissecting motives and
intentions! However widely scattered, tied together with webs of
invisible bonds.

I shall follow an august example, and indicate my
philosophical musings. Readers may care to skip them the first
time round, and use the second (if any) perusal of these pages, to
savour and inwardly digest.
*Everyone IS an island. Individual experience seeps into the
mind. Sinks in, nourishes, sheds off, drains through distils and
deposits; vaporises to form an element of mixed, accumulated
memories. The result is a mix of the individuals discoveries and
experiences blended with what they are taught. All the received
information is absorbed through the senses and each individual
have their own rules on what to retain and what to discard. A
mish-mash of the official, the personal, the family history,
traditions and experiments not always correctly remembered or
interpreted all strained through one human mind; this book is
an exploration of my own element.
The notes for this bit were written on New Years Day 1986.
The annual concert from Vienna playing on the radio. Not
precisely my taste in music, but it serves to drown out some of
the so-called popular music blasting through the party wall of our
terrace house. Its a monotonous thump! Thump! Thump! With a
voice of a tone-deaf youth wailing above it. People actually spend
their money on this totally unoriginal stuff and play it at
maximum sound level. Can they belong to the same (human) race
as I? If they do, I dont! The sounds are deliberately produced to
offend a normal ear, and the result used to cock-a-snook at
authority. The adolescent has always needed to rebel; with its
twin needs to be unlike the establishment but identical with its
peers, the new young. It has always been thus. As soon as they
have worked off the growing itch, destroying as much of the
achievements of society as they can conveniently lay hands on,
they tamely join in to continue the status quo! The trouble is
that nowadays many dont seem to grow out of it, the mature
adults continue their revolting attitudes. If this could improve
society, Id be all for it but Im afraid their values are wrong!
Gone are the days of the housewife carolling at her work and the
delivery man whistling a jaunty tune theyll both have ghetto
blasters, and music, like everything else, is for the benefit of big
business only.

How many words make a book? Starting at the top, I counted
a Nancy Mitford chapter. About 350 words to a page, 13 pages to
a chapter, 21 chapters to a book. Ive done around 1,044 words
only 94,506 to go and I intended this to be a big book! The
illustrations are important, of course, and should pad it out quite a
lot. Have I got enough notes? Anyway, enough of this freestyle, I
must begin to actually use my notes! But where to start?
At the beginning, said Lewis Carol but he, of all people,
must have known there is no beginning! Or rather, there are many
beginnings. Lots of early memories jostle for first. One of my
first is of being lifted by my father to look over the back fence of
our dark garden to see The Crystal Palace burning.
I can remember looking up through an oxygen tent at my
mother and father. HH says I must have been too young to
remember this, but I do! Another related hospital memory is of
helping nurses to roll bandages but this really was a lot later.
Some of my memories become confused with dreams. I
seldom fully remember dreams (not like HH who will tell you in
graphic detail, every morning of her nights adventures) mine
are usually of being late for something, or of missing something
an exam or an appointment. There used to be recurring dreams
and continuing dreams. I never could really remember them, but I
knew theyd happened before. Then there was that young man
standing in a dim and shadowy street, the only colour being his
bright red hair!
These beginnings can have started long ago and will go on. I
carry the family tradition of being subject to tuberculosis. My
grandfather (my real grandfather, not my grandmothers second
husband) was a TB subject, which may have explained why he
was like that
, as she expressed it, meaning sexy; confiding to me during
her last illness, when we had our only times alone together. This
was on one of my visits to give Eileen a break from nursing.
Grandads amorous nature came as a shock to his young bride
after their Gretna Green marriage. It would be a shock to an
undomesticated type of girl at that time! It would mean that she
was embarking on a life of baby production line! One, or a miss,
every year from menstruation to menopause or death,

whichever came first! A masculine dominated medical profession
didnt feel this was anything for the subject to complain of. One
of her surviving sons died of TB as well. From the other side of
the family, my father, CW (Charles William) had many
compulsory holidays in sanatoria and, if Id had children, I would
have passed on this doubtful gift to posterity, I suppose!
My final rail journey notebook begins with a holiday on the
Gower peninsula, soon after the death of CW (who lived to be
over eighty in spite of having only one half-lung in working
It was a rainbow autumn. The one-storey hotel hugged the
side of a hill, and the windows looked out on a perfect view;
small winding roads, dotted with little white houses, lined by
ragged hedges, straggled among tall, swelling hills skirted with
odd-shaped, many coloured fields and crowned with rocky,
shrubby cairns. A smudgy sea-cliff horizon of misty promontory
emphasised where sea and sky merged. It was a horse-riding
Morgan, the goat, patrolled the paddock. Keeping an
autocratic eye on everything, from guests to cats, ponies and
stable girls, chickens to visitors.
The stables stood out woodenly against the golden autumn
hillside. The view from the dining room mesmerised the
landlady, who you would think had seen enough of it, but who
would stand and gaze and gaze as much as any new guest. I also
could not tear myself away from it even when invited to join a
group of pleasant fellow guests at another table.
I was feeling depressed, and in pain from a trigger finger
condition. My confidence in riding had been recently shaken by a
nasty fall, so I walked and sketched most of the holiday. Those
fantastic hills were irresistible to an artist, though not ideal to
walk on, owing to the loose tumbled rocks crowning each one.
The tracks that wound around the hills, under the rainbows,
discovered new and ever more unbelievable scenes at every step;
clear air, open skies, and staring sheep accompanied these walks.
One morning, it was me staring at the sheep! During an after-
breakfast commune with nature from the hotel steps, I heard a
pattering noise coming along from behind the hedges of the road.

The noise increased, and then resolved itself into a flock of sheep
pouring in through the gateway, to swirl round the empty car park
and sweep out again, heading in the general direction of Swansea.
Stunned, I gazed at the gateway as a harassed looking black-
and-white sheep dog skidded to a stop and stood gazing around,
panting and bothered. It looked at me. They went that way, I
said, pointing, and off went the flustered, furry guardian in hot
That reminds me of another pattering. HH and I were doing
our usual annual visit to see the Abbey Wood wild daffodils.
Now, of course, most of them have been stolen, but then, it was
wonderful to see the wooded slopes covered with wild blooms so
near London.
As a student at Woolwich Polytechnic in the 1950s, Id
sometimes take the long bus route past the Abbey when it
wasnt one! It was just a few lines of stone standing on the bare
hillside. Then they did some digging and low and behold an
Abbey! No roof or doors, but definitely an Abbey! Bases of
pillars, rooms with windows, a chapel and cloisters. Theres a
nice little tea-place up there and, in spring, wed park the car
under the trees and walk along the low-fenced walks, through
coppices, looking at carpets of yellow flowers sprinkled with
stars of white wood sorrel. Have a leisurely cup of tea or an ice-
cream, clamber round the Abbey walls, gaze across the Thames
valley and wander the switch-back paths in the daffodils, back to
the car.
Thats where we heard the pattering. It sounded like a little
cataract, but there are no streams and no mountains. The sound
came from above. We looked up, and there were a crowd of
squirrels all tearing pell-mell down and round and round the
trunk of a tree. The sound was the tapping of their toes on the tree
bark. When their headlong dash reached the lower branches, they
all scattered into other neighbouring trees.
Another adventure with squirrels happened at the London
Zoo. This one was scampering distractedly backwards and
forwards across its enclosure netting. I couldnt bear its agitation,
so put my hand through the mesh to stop its frantic rush. It
grabbed my finger and bit it! Theyve got long sharp front teeth

that sink in deep and make you bleed a lot so the wound gets a
good wash; the creature whisked into its bedroom, somewhat
mollified, I hope.
Another squirrel tale happened at Eastbourne. The animals
were burrowing round in the fallen leaves peering and
searching into hollows and among the tree roots. One angry little
face surfaced beside my foot. I offered my closed fingers to it. It
took a finger and thumb in each of its tiny hands, leaned its entire
weight (about six ounces) against them, prised them open, gave a
snort of disgust at my empty hand and returned to its burrowing.
Yet another squirrel tale: After a lot of local tree felling, there
was a refugee in the Close. It had been treed up a telegraph
pole by a hunting cat. Other cats adopted a temporary truce and
sat around gazing up at the fugitive. I chased them away; and
eventually got the message through to the mystified squirrel, who
descended and headed for the safety of the back gardens.
Back to my Welsh holiday. I had one ride-out during my
holiday. We rode the winding lane to the sea, past winter-deserted
caravans. The vans pleasantly sited, each on a turfy, sandy knoll
among stocky seashore shrubs. The beach was too rocky for a
gallop and the wind and the rain of sea-mist whipped up frothy
spray from the manes of sea-horse waves and spattered our
horses manes and our faces with cold, sharp droplets.
I seem to have started my book, so here goes

My Pr o g e ni t o r s : The Whi dde t t s s / The
S wa n ns s

One of my grandfathers was a Butcher the other
was a Baker. My father made some wooden
candlesticks (and I pottery ones).

My maternal grandmother Gatiss (formerly Whiddett, nee
Bishop) was at teacher training college when she met Grandpa
W. Her father was too jealous of his girls to let them have
boyfriends let alone husbands. So they ran away to Gretna
Green. The small detail of qualifying exams didnt seem to her to
matter at the time, but she had ample years to regret her
permanent low paid status after her husbands death when she
had to bring up a family of six children alone. The man shortage
caused by the 1914 to 1918 war made immediate remarriage
difficult, especially as she wanted all the children off her hands
All but one of her sisters managed to get married, in spite of
their father! Always a splendidly turned-out family, especially as
regards hats.

My Progenitors: The Ss

My paternal grandmother, on the other hand, had to acquire her
own education by doing domestic work in a school, and learning
by sitting on the edge of the teachers rostrum during lessons. Her
mother was housekeeper in the same household as her father was
butler. Family tradition has it that he had a cleft palate and
ferocious methods of family discipline which included hanging
the children up by their thumbs as a punishment. Grandma
unconsciously wrung her hands as she spoke of it.
Dad was born half way up East Hill in Dartford, Kent (he
died half way down West Hill, but this was a moot point as he
was registered dead on arrival. Though we visited him all

propped up on a high bed with tubes and drips, his arm
continually lifted and fell and, though his eyes were closed, he
turned his head at the sound of my voice. The family at that time
lived in a house at the top of a ten foot high set of winding steps
that culminated in a pocket handkerchief sized plot of grass in
front of the house door. It is one of a terrace tucked in beside the
churchyard at the edge of the hundred foot high cliff that
overlooks Dartford:

In Dartford there are some very funny people
They bury their head
Higher than the highest church steeple
[From the parish magazine]

The road that winds down past this yard to the High Street
must have been horrific, especially in winter, for the old horse-
drawn traffic. Its pretty chilling now, curving downwards
between blank brick walls that tower up to a leaf fringed skyline.
It was this hill that began Aunt Olives final decline, with a fall
on the icy path, terribly bruising her leg and putting her in bed for
a week. Finally she was to have a fall while alone in the house.
With a broken hip she couldnt attract help and lay for many
hours, before being rescued and taken to hospital, where she
eventually died.
During CWs infancy, the family moved to the top of the hill
to number 131. Olive said she remembered this new number in
terms of the Holy Trinity one in three and three in one (with my
unrivalled talent in the arithmetic department Id have
remembered 313). Dad and eldest sister Laura eventually married
and moved out, but Grandma, Grandpa and Olive spent the rest of
their lives in 131. Olives fianc, was killed in the 1914/18 war
and she never found another.
They say grandfather was a baker but, by the time I knew
him, he was a porter (what would now be called a security man)
for Halls Engineering. They made lifts and many a firm rose and
fell by their good grace; Ive seen the name on lifts in many
office blocks. Olive spent all her working life at that firm, rising
to be manageress of the Accounts Department and CW did his

apprenticeship there. He was a carpenter and did most jobs in the
woodwork line, including cabinet making, joining, pattern
making, etc.
Halls has a ghost. I tried to interest them in a painting I did
from an old group photo (see illustration) and they invited HH
and I to their clubhouse for a drink. Afterwards, they took us
round the rooms. In one I felt a sudden enveloping chill and was
later told that this had been a favourite room of Ann of Cleeves,
after her disposal by Henry.
Ls husband survived the war and spent the rest of his life
driving oil tankers. Their first home was in that curious, flat, oil
pervaded area of South Essex by the Thames, and then they
moved to the Wirral and bought up a son and daughter, J and C.
Dads schooling began on the other side of the ten foot high
wall behind the giant rhubarb at the bottom of the garden. Before
he or his sisters were allowed to go to school in the mornings,
they had to furnish concrete proof of digestive regularity in the
draughty outside loo. Their mother inspected the evidence before
the children were allowed to leave the house. Regularity bowed
to regularity. I cant imagine them trying to explain to a teacher if
they were late for school!
Many of their classmates hair were covered in nits and they
would often watch creatures crawl about on the head of the child
in front of them in class, and the children who had no shoes were
greatly despised.
CW interrupted his early working life for the First World
War. He volunteered while under age and joined the Kings
Royal Rifle Corps (that word corp, corpse always strikes me as
so appropriate and ironic, as none of them really believe they
might become corpses, until they get into the front line and then
its a bit too late).
He reached the trenches in 1916, worked mostly with the
sappers of the regiment and reached the dizzy heights of Acting
Lance Corporal (unpaid) (in our family of course unpaid)!
They marched across France from Ypres (Wipers) to
Germany five abreast, which meant the middle man walked in the
central gutter (but that was the way the British army marched)!
He never went abroad again and, after his description of a

crowded troopship full of unaccustomed travellers fighting for the
port-holes, Im not surprised. He told the usual stories of the mud,
lice, rats, cold, wet, noise and he mentioned the stink of
repeatedly explosion-disinterred and reburied bodies. When
asked if hed been wounded, he said he had been killed four
times. I know he was hurt in the leg and spent some time on
Blighty leave after trench fever in the isolation hospital in, what
was then, the outskirts of Dartford. Incidentally, in the same
hospital that Olive was later to die of Parkinsons disease. I
believe that CWs illness was actually his first brush with TB.
When I was between the ages of five and ten, CW sometimes
took me to Sunday tea at 131, on his day off from work. All
spruced up, hair flattened with Brylcreem, wearing his best
flannel trousers and sports jacket. He had a disconcerting habit of
peering sideways at you as you walked beside him, checking your
sartorial condition; being totally non-fashion-conscious, this had
a very lowering effect on my spirits. Wed walk to the clock
tower to catch the trolley bus to Dartford church; from the stark
council estate atmosphere of our own street to the mellow yellow
brick villas and terraces of the old town polite surroundings,
peopled by neat, dressed-in-Sunday-best, with clean hankie, and
prayer book clutched in scrubbed palm or gloved hand
summoned by church bell clamour from morning - front doors
back to Sunday roast kids to Sunday school while mother
washes up and father dozes in arm or deckchair till tea.
CW and I would walk up the hill from the church. (Never
trust a church clock, my father said!) At 131 hed ring the
clamorous front door bell, that worked with an enormous wing
nut, which would be answered by Grandma to the sound of soft
Oh dear, Ive nothing to give you for tea if only Id
known... while the spirit of the house welcomed and drew you
in, past the front doors coloured glass panel, through the dimly-
lit hallway past the stiffly formal hardly-ever-used front parlour
to the living/dining room full of dark warm wood furniture
dark tessellated red velour table cloth; Olives shrouded treadle
sewing machine in the corner by the window and Grandad in
waistcoat and watch chain in his fireside armchair (he once gave

me a half-crown, so huge it was, it completely covered my palm,
hard and shining bright). They used to tease him about his Kaiser
moustache silky white, with a very faint yellow tobacco stain.
The crisp, white table cloth with the white lace-edge would
be spread over the table and the nothing to give you would
appear. Thin bread and butter, home-made jam in its pot inside a
silver holder, with a matching spoon to scoop out a portion to put
on the side of your plate (my usual habit of balancing a slice of
bread, butter and jam poised over up-spread finger tips and thumb
was politely suppressed in homage to the delicate bone china).
Eggshell thin matching tea cups, sugar bowl, jug and tea pot.
There would be thinly sliced ham, salad-stuff from the garden,
crumbly rich fruit cake, crisp syrup-flavoured flap-jacks,
miraculous Victoria sponges firm and light, sandwiched with a
thin layer of butter and jam between the two golden sections
(when they were young the children used to vie with each other to
take the cake out to the pantry after tea to steal another slice).
Theres a knock on the door. Probably Tim, someone says,
hide the cake!
Tim was a lifelong friend of Os, as her parents were lifelong
friends of her, Os parents. I never knew her real name, she was
nicknamed after Tiny Tim because she was small and had a
permanent limp. She outlived all the Dartford crowd. She rode a
heavy, upright old-fashioned bicycle literally to her dying day,
being killed by a heavy lorry! A short time before she died, she
asked me to visit her we had no relations left in Dartford by
then and had completely lost touch. She gave me her complete
works of Shakespeare, Falstaff edition.
After tea, with everything cleared away, the white table cloth
gathered together and ritually shaken outside the back door to get
rid of the crumbs. The cakes restored to their homes in their
heavily decorated, solid biscuit tins, all-over decorated with
abstract designs and flowers and scenes, and as opulently scented
inside as their rich, delicious contents. Then another ritual: a look
at the garden conducted by a suitably proudly bashful grandad.
Down one step from the dining room, through the heavy, looped
back, fringed velvet curtain, into the stone flagged kitchen with
its ochre coloured stoneware sink under the huge brass tap

perched high on the cold water pipe; scrubbed wood table and big
always-cool walk-in pantry with one tiny high-up window. Out
through the back door and along the stone-paved passageway
between the next door fence and the coal bunker and outside
lavatory with high diamond-shaped little ventilation holes.
Completely covering the one-storey outhouse section was a
magnificent cotoneaster shiny tiny dark green leaves, dotted
with small clumps of creamy blossom in spring and smothered in
orange berries in winter. A flagged access path to the neighbours
on the other side ran across the back of the house and a hedge-
and-fence with picket gate protected the garden proper. First a
narrow brick path led past a little lawn damply hedged in with
rose trees, sparrow grass, chrysanthemums, lily of the valley,
London pride and annuals, and a trellised rose bush on the
creosoted potting shed; then a narrow cinder path took over,
leading to the giant rhubarb jungle, past neat rows spanning the
dark, fine, powdery earth plot. Rows of carrots, onions, salad
stuff, beans, peas, potatoes, pinks and sweet peas. The garden
was about four yards wide and thirty yards long; with a long
wooden hut next door where they bred cairn terriers.
Grandmas watchtower was at the upstairs front window
when she could no longer rush around. A solid, little, well
rounded figure usually in navy blue silk dress with little white
dots. She always had a pleasant expression on her softly wrinkled
face, and was always a little breathless she still shared in
community life from her upstairs window hung with heavy,
scratchy, creamy, lacy linen curtains. She would wave to
acquaintances and beckon friends in for a cup of tea, out of the
busy street outside. The chair she sat in was mahogany, heavily
carved with a small upholstered panel in the back and a sprung
upholstered seat. It now stands in my living room.
They were gentle, quiet Church of England people. But they
had their rebels against somnolent suburban conformity; as well
as great grandpa, there was an aunt who moved to Devon in order
to live with her new man without benefit of clergy and without
losing her pension, which she felt she had thoroughly earned for
the rest of her life. It was an unusual and brave thing to do in
those days.

My Progenitors: The Ws

The first husband of Miss Bishop was my grandfather (Joseph)
W. He was a butcher and the lived on the isle of sheep (Sheppey)
she was a tiny birdlike creature who didnt appear to be strong
enough for any normal life but she had a baby or a miss every
year of her first marriage. She was subject to bronchitis but lived
well into her eighties.
Josephs business was to supply the ships in Queensborough
Harbour. There was a long shed in the yard behind their family
home shop in the High Street. Sheep went in at one end of the
shed, and joints of meat came out the other!
Business meetings were, of course, conducted aboard ship;
convivial affairs in the captains cabins, from which the usually
abstemious Joseph would weave his happy way home.
After the silting up of the harbour, the butchers shop became
a sweet shop with a seasonal side-line in Christmas toys. This
bazaar was set up in a big, three-windowed room upstairs. Long
after her official departure for bed, HH would be sitting in one of
the big window seats reading the Christmas stock of story books
by the light of the street lamps. HH adored her father Come
on, Toby, hed say.
The children all helped themselves from the big jar of
raspberry drops on the end of the counter on their way in and out
of the house; and a cupboard in the boys bedroom was found to
be full of empty condensed milk tins! I wonder how much profit
the shop showed?
During the 1914/18 war, there was another side line. The
Christmas room was converted into a teashop for the young
soldiers and airmen camped nearby. They were bored and not
very well housed or fed, so the place was always thronged (an
early unofficial NAAFI I suppose). A queue of young men would
form and pass cups of tea back to the tables. Later, food was sold
as well and the children would get up early to help serve. They
worked out their early crushes and bouts of hero-worship on these
romantic strangers. Some became friends, Teddy for instance

gave Lily a big teddy bear and HH a beautifully illustrated book
of fairy stories.
In those days domestic help was very cheap and there was
usually a girl to help in the house and an old washerwoman was
employed whose homespun philosophy once impelled her to
advise that one should not bring back remedies of the past. Very
perspicacious of her to put her finger on the main mental
characteristic of the family. The ones I later got to know all
tended to allow past experiences spoil their present pleasures!
Clever girls were expected to make their own clothes (but by
that time there were cheap clothes available, so at least they were
not expected to make their brothers clothes too). HHs friend,
Dorry, had rich parents so she could afford the best cloth at two
shillings and sixpence a yard and she always made three dresses
for each summer pale blue, pale yellow and pale green. HH got
stuff at sixpence a yard. Dorrys family had a tennis court and a
HH was having tea at a nearby relatives house when her aunt
casually mentioned the need for a few extra shillings for a
shopping expedition. Uncle slapped down his newspaper with the
exclamation, My God! Lally, HH leaped up and rushed
home in tears! Another teatime visit experience of hers involved
her brother bursting in to order her home to get his tea!
One winter the house caught fire. A beam above the fireplace
had apparently been smouldering quietly for months before
bursting into flames and setting the building ablaze. In all the
kerfuffle, the younger children were asleep upstairs forgotten,
when HH, eight years old, went upstairs and got them out, totally
unnoticed! The neighbours put the fire out before the fire engine
arrived but, according to the local press, the blaze was brought
under control by the tact and promptitude of the local brigade.
The children were all too young for military service in the
1914/18 war, but they all caught the flu in the epidemic that was
one of its aftermaths; and when they all came to, found that
Joseph senior had died.
Lily senior could not take over the butchery side of the
business and, owing to the lack of manpower, many men in the
teaching profession having being butchered in the war, she got a

job as a teacher in spite of her interrupted college studies, and
became the breadwinner to all seven of them in the family. They
moved to Dumurg Avenue, next to the little school, and the
children began the difficult experience of being taught, amongst
other children, by their own mother.
One of the pupils was reprimanded concerning personal
hygiene; its mother pointed out that the child came to school ...
to be learned, not to be smelled! Another child left a
neighbouring house every day to the shrill sound of his mothers
voice calling, Have you got your bevour, Cecil. (Bevour was a
local term for lunch.)
HH remembers sitting in school, watching the livestock crawl
around the long dark hair of the child in front. One pair of pretty
twins had the last laugh, after needing the attentions of Nitty
Norah, the visiting school nurse. Their shorn hair grew again
beautifully curly, making them even prettier.
Dumurg Avenue, in spite of its grand name, was an unmade
road with one row of terraced houses. It ended abruptly at farm
fields and, in summer, the family could pop over the fence and
picnic in sight of home.
One unqualified teachers salary must have been
uncomfortably stretched to keep seven people, but the children
never understood the difficulties and always resented the abrupt
way they were turned out into the world of wage-earners! The
two boys went to work at the local pottery, which probably
seemed a better place than the chemical works that scented the
Queensborough air, but it couldnt have done Harolds tendency
towards TB much good. The disease was a certain killer in those
days (it still was when, decades later, I was discovered to have a
scar on my lung!) and Harold lived long enough to join the police
force before succumbing. Young Joseph, the artistic one, died
very young in a lunatic asylum. HH and Lily had an exaggerated
fear of madness with Lily worrying about it on her deathbed,
and HH displaying a terror of going near the local mental
hospital; they were both very individual, almost eccentric, but in
no-way mad. HH remembered being taken to see young Joseph.
Lying in bed, he gazed at them with big brown eyes, begging to
be allowed to come home the mental condition was possibly a

result of a fall from a tree when he was very young. He, Harold
and the eldest girl, Lily, were the big ones and were never out of
some sort of scrape climbing on the roofs for shrapnel during
air raids, rowing the boat out into the estuary (Lily once got
herself stranded by the tide on the Isle of Grain all night). One of
Lilys most spectacular scrapes led to an early marriage to a sailor
(legend has it that this result was not altogether unforeseen by her
mother who made sure they had plenty of time together; and
when I knew T, the sailor in question, many years later he was
still an extremely attractively sexy man and must have been
devastating when young). I believe the reason for all the rush
resulted in a miscarriage, but at least one of the brood provided
As a sailors wife, young Lily had many house moves,
following the fleet. Her homes ranged round Britain from Kent to
Scotland, finally settling in Rochester where retirement and the
1939/45 war came into rivalry for possession of husband, Tom,
and the war won! He was off on active service and L bought up
two young sons alone for the next half-dozen years, while Tom
spent his time afloat as a Chief Petty Officer radio operator, and
being decorated for bravery. Many years later, I asked him
whether hed come across a certain acquaintance of mine who
also spent his war years in the Navy, he said, No, he must have
been on our other ship. A favourite minds-eye picture I have of
him is from one of Lilys memories of him on leave, unclothed,
prancing round the bedroom and over the bed, scattering
imaginary rose petals from a non-existent basket. He eventually
did retire and got a Navy shore job, but he missed the sea and
didnt survive long. His work with the Navy library was a
godsend to me. Basic necessities were in short supply in post-war
utility Britain, and luxuries unobtainable (even if I could have
afforded them)!
My first library consisted of a few birthday presents, but
mostly of damaged or redundant books and records, from the
Navy library. The scratches and wear on the records going
clickety-click and whoosh, together with the whine of the windup
gramophone motor and the smell of oil and dust could not
dampen the thrill on first hearing Beethovens Eighth or a Mozart

overture. Concerts, of course, were out of the question (unless
you grew up in a cultured or a rich family and could afford the
cost of travelling to hear the famous regional orchestras or the
Proms) there were occasional concerts on the BBC between
talks, plays, variety and sport on the Home Service, and these
were the only hope for most people who loved music. One
consequence of this form of musical education were the gaps in
my knowledge. For instance, I didnt know the second movement
of the Emperor for years that particular disc of the set had
been broken otherwise it would never have come into my
possession! I never really took to concerts even later, when they
were more accessible to me always preferring the radio or
recordings. Perhaps because Id got used to the natural breaks
during my early listening when the record had to be turned over
or the machine needed rewinding. Also I was afraid of my
irritating dry-throat cough disturbing the other members of the
In those years of clothing coupons, never enough to obtain
even the tatty materials and badly made clothes available to us
poorer civilians, I received a very acceptable present from uncle
T; it was a Wrens uniform. We never liked to ask and to this
day, how he acquired it remains a mystery?
Lily and Tom built a beautiful garden stepped into the steep,
chalky plot of land behind their terrace house, which they
irrigated by pumping the bathwater out of the bathroom window.
To this garden, her budgerigars (Gregory Peck and grey Spooky),
the Navy Wives, local history and the Admirals bunfights, she
devoted the rest of her life. Her other interest was her
grandchildren her two sons set up homes as far north as
possible and her running battle with the cretinous man next
door. He was unmarried and, after being disappointed of stepping
into Toms shoes, after the latters death, apparently comforted
himself by poisoning Lilys plants through the fence and playing
music at decibel levels that rocked the block! One Christmas as I
stepped through her door on a visit, I remember being blasted
through the party wall by ... peace on earth and mercy mild.
Luckily, all the main living rooms were on the opposite side of

the house. When she was eventually driven to try to do something
about it, a court ruled that they should BOTH keep the peace!
The next girl to leave the nest in Queenborough was my
mother, HH. Of her, one school examiner remarked this girl is
too clever to be wasted on a five shilling a week job. Which, of
course, was precisely what happened she became a cashier at
the Co-op. She kept the staff amused; one thing was her
impersonation of the manager. Then she went on to nursing. First
at a cockroach-infested general hospital from which she fled
home to a none too welcoming L senior, who wanted to send her
straight back! Then to a childrens hospital in West Norwood
among other young trainee nurses in crisp white uniforms. This
was a much better place with good food memorable bread-and-
dripping, and a big bowl of fruit on the table for them to help
themselves, and tennis courts for their recreation. One of the
patients was a Japanese pilot who had burnt himself terribly
steering his plane away from crashing on houses. What a
Japanese pilot was doing in a childrens hospital in England
around 1924, I dont know! All of his face that was visible were
two, bright, dark eyes among the bandages.
HH never took her State Register exams, preferring to go into
private nursing as the impersonal regulations of a big
establishment would not have suited her. One job, nursemaid to a
little boy, gave her a glimpse into how the other half live. Tables
groaning under loads of delicious food the master had a pair of
natty little clippers to cut up the duck. At her first meal with the
family she asked for duck and was never asked to choose
again. She went with them on holiday to a high-class hotel and
one day CW rode down on his motorbike to see her and, though
the family were not going to need her services that day, they
would not let her go out with him! HH thinks it was plain
selfishness, but it may have been intended as a discipline to
protect her honour; if so, they neednt have bothered, CW was the
soul of honour and anyway felt that she would not marry him if
they had a full affair (one of the polite ways of referring to sexual
intercourse in those days). HH says he was a virgin when they
married, the same as her, and she felt this was a reason for the
marriage being unsatisfactory in that department. HH found a

certain amount of consolation during that holiday in the innocent
attentions of the waiter who served her dinner on the upper
gallery as she babysat her young charge sleeping in a nearby
bedroom. The ballroom dance-music floated up the stairs and the
waiter and the nursemaid had their own private dance.
Talking of motorbikes Bay (short for Baby) was a beautiful
young man and a cousin of HHs. He was in the Navy and he was
killed in one of the first motorcycling accidents, riding pillion for
a spin. HH heard of it from one of her employers at breakfast,
remarking over his newspaper, Thats your cousins name isnt
Next out of the nest was Eileen she went into service and
all her life resented it! Her main objection seemed to be against
the assumption of rich males that all available luxuries are there
for their own personal sampling, and an attractive young woman
living in the same house is fair game! Mary-Ann was a general
term for any young female domestic servant and it was also the
brand name of our electric cleaner so we had to be careful not
to mention Mary-Anning in her company!
The advantage of working in a good, well-run, upper class
home was that it was one of the few working-class situations
where one could be sure of fairly comfortable living conditions
and sufficient, good food. The first time I saw, let alone sampled,
a big joint of roast pork, resplendent with crackling, was when I
was taken by HH on a visit to the palatial apartment of Lady
Mary-Clare near Kensington Gardens where E was working.
Later, Eileen went into war work climbing around inside newly
made barrage balloons to check against accidental holes. She
finally became a civil servant on Prevention of Trading with the
Enemy for the rest of the war (known for short of Trading with
the Enemy a fact that she was offended to be reminded of, some
thirty years later). She never married but, after a few attempts at
affording a London flat or her own, she set up home with Lily
senior, finally finding a flat of her own after the latters death
up to that time they were in a rent protected half-house in Lilys
name. The place Eileen found for herself was in one of those
huge conglomerations of blocks of modern flats. This one won a
prize for design and, sure enough, was ten years later,

uninhabitable. The housing situation by then was such that
everybody had to go on inhabiting it! HH and I agreed that we
would have needed to have been paid to live there, but E loved
her flat. True, it is a well-designed space for one person to live in
if you didnt mind living with the noise of five other families.
Another oddity was that she didnt care for West Indians, and that
area had a very high proportion of that group of people in
residence! She also had other incomprehensible phobias. It was
most unpleasant to hear her spit out the sentence, Theyre Jews,
of course, (applying this last to even the British Royal family)!!!
We cannot account for her rabid racism, there is nothing like it in
any of the rest of the family. There are good and bad in every
human community; how it is possible for a human being, in full
possession of their faculties to hate, regardless of individual
personality, a whole group of people? Even some Fascists
possibly didnt really understand what they were into? Possibly!
She wrote poetry, very turgid, surrealistic stuff, judging from
a small sample she once showed me about waterfowl and muddy
water. A youthful attempt at the genre, remembered with typical
sibling-savagery was:

The cricketers look nice in the distance
Wearing their flannels so white
My brother is very persistence
In going there every night

One of her more recent memorable remarks was when the
train stopped at Erith station, You can get off ere ith you like!
Lily seniors second husband was a merchant seaman and
they lived in his home port of Liverpool. The third member of
that particular family was Peter the budgerigar, he had been the
runt of the litter and Lily and Billy G gave him a home rather
than letting him be destroyed. Peter flew free around the home,
hopping round the table at meal times helping himself to a little
salt and a little butter off each plate. Billy and Peter took
reciprocal devotion to its limit, Peter being discovered dead in his
cage in the morning of the night Billy died. The only bit of family
lore about Billy that I can remember was one Christmas. We went

to spend the festive season with them and the only thing I can
remember from the visit (I was very young) was the step of a
factory that made soft drinks stained like a Pollock picture in
brilliant dribbles and splatters of different colours; the story is of
Billy, sitting replete in a state of euphoria saying, It couldnt
have been a better bird, (in that case, the Turkey).
W was the baby of the family. Such a tiny baby, that she had
to be carried on a cushion and could have fitted in a milk bottle.
She, of course, grew to be the tallest of the lot. She was still at
school when all the rest had gone. She remembers waking up one
night and, attracted by the sound of high jinks going on between
Lily senior and a party of her fellow teachers, going downstairs;
welcomed with applause of the assembled company turned
around the little trap-door in her pyjamas opened, and herself
despatched back to the bed with a light smack on her bottom to
a more general applause. After Lily seniors retirement they
moved from Dumurg Avenue to a bungalow in Chichester Road,
near Gravesend.
W went into business, as office work was then called,
finishing up in the Civil Service, during the war in the civilian
rank of SC in the WO and similar rank later in the FO. She was
the bohemian one having an unhappy love affair with a
married man sharing a flat in Chelsea with a girl friend (the
flat she sublet on her marriage, and would have been its owner
still if her husband, unknown to her, had not made it part of an
exchange bargain in one of their house moves)! It was in one of
the streets off the Kings Road, in a beautiful Georgian terrace
house, with wrought iron balconies supporting a grape vine and
Victorian lavatories decorated with bunches of blue cornflowers.
I went to her wedding reception there and she gave me a copy of
the Phaidon Leonardo. The groom got plastered on the wedding
feast wine and could be heard throwing up among the blue
cornflowers. They moved round a lot following his work,
bringing up three children and finally retiring to a cottage in the
Fens then finally, finally retiring to a pretty little terrace house
on the south coast. Ws life seems to have run on a lot of uncanny
parallels to my own artistic leanings, Civil Service, Open

University, Peace Pledge Union, living and working in London
and a propensity towards falling for unsuitable men.
Each Whiddett sister was a crowd in herself get all of them
in one room on a visit (a thing which very seldom happened, they
were not all on speaking terms at one time very often) and the air
would be supercharged with crackling electric personality energy.
Eileen, an enthusiastic conversationalist in general, would slump
silent in a corner when the other three rampaged into full flood.
As for us ordinary mortals with no, or diluted, W blood in our
veins, we could but concentrate on weathering the storm of
words, enthusiasms, memories and debate; as sentences, phrases,
laughter, illustrated with impersonations and spurts of regional
accents exploded around us in unstoppable gusts and whirlwinds,
crashing against walls, rebounding off doors and battering on
windows, whose glass and curtains miraculously withstand the
To finish the Ws early years here are some deathless lines
from one of their childhood plays:
The King is wownded
Not mortually I hope
Mortually, I fear

Do n t Yo u Kno w The r e s A Wa r On?

Whores and Wars. If men didnt go to them, there
wouldnt be any.

Our part of the family: HH, JK, CW and I, lived on a plateau
beside the Thames River. The real yeti, the original ice monster,
was the prehistoric Ice Age.
*I think the prehistoric ice cap that covered the Northern
Hemisphere melted, if such a cataclysm can be called anything so
prosaic as melt, from here! It drained down into the shallow clay
basin that was later to sprawl into another monster spreading
tentacles out across, heath and woodland; the great icy claws
retreating scraped the soft earth into deep scratches, gouging
scars into the landscape that still exist at Greenwich the slope is
relatively gentle and the wounds have become two house-lined
hills that descend on each side of the observatory promontory.
Another can still be traced where a church stands out above the
Woolwich ferry. The first deeply obvious scar carves its way
down through Plumstead common to the flat river marshlands
that line both banks of the river Thames length until it muddily
oozes into being a sea at Southend beyond the great bulges of
Sheppey and Grain. Around Blackheath to Erith, the whole
landscape is like a great rumpled bed, all folds and hummocks of
land. The roads have to scramble up and down to the rhythm of it.
A pleasant, wide, tree-lined streeted area like Belvedere has to
abandon its orderly, civilised centre to roll down in steep hills
carrying precariously balanced houses in an elemental swoop
down to the flat expanse of gap-toothed Thamesmead. Turning an
ordinary street corner in Plumstead or Woolwich becomes an
adventure, as the landscape takes a sudden dive, and vistas of
Londons towers and misty streets are revealed at your feet.
Where Bexleyheath and Erith meet, they crumple into canyons
that still carry ancient woodland. Undergrowth and forest cling to
their sides. Rain-water-gouged channels descend through groves

of gnarled tree scattered slopes, patched with rough grass and
bracken. Roads have to take a circumspect way carefully along
the tops of the ridges to maintain a level surface and then
suddenly abandon themselves, in the necessity of plunging down
into town centres and old shipping wharves and docks alongside
the river.
It was beside the Thames marshes that my branch of the
family began and will probably end.
Typically, my mother met my father when she missed the last
bus home. She must have been returning to Chichester Road,
because she had missed the last bus from Dartford station. The
way led through the desolate part-wilderness, part-industrialised
and part-farmlands with a few speculative building estates and
old houses dotted about, by the Thames marshes between
Dartford and Gravesend. CW saw her waiting at the bus stop and,
on finding how far she had to travel, told her she was lucky to
have met a friendly native, walked with her to his own front door,
and apparently liking what he had found, walked the extra few
miles past it, to her, or rather Grandmas door. His current
engagement was terminated, he sold his BSA motor bicycle, they
got married, had a homely honeymoon in Dorset and settled
down in a flat in Barnehurst where they were allowed one bath a
week and the use of the washing line on Mondays, wet or fine!
HH was attempting to teach CW to dance when I came between
them. The first floor flat, obviously unsuitable for a baby, and L
senior at that moment embarking on her second marriage moved
to Liverpool, so they rented the Chichester Road bungalow from
Bob, a big black and white Labrador type dog came with the
house and constituted himself my constant guardian. No
tradesman, visitor or council worker was allowed near me.
Behind the house was a big oak tree and I would lie in my pram
and gaze up at the most beautiful view in the world through
leafy branches at sunny sky and clouds.
Another doggy story HH standing transfixed at the
washing-up, watching myself, then a toddler, crawling through
the fence to retrieve my ball from between the paws of the savage
and, no doubt bemused Alsatian dog next door.

The problem of that district was the permanent layer of grey
dust that floated from the cement factory and settled on
everything. It spread a grey shroud over roads, paths, window
ledges, roofs; the cabbages in the gardens and the fresh, new
leaves on spring time branches were all smothered with it.
Windows could not be left open, however hot the weather and the
atmosphere altogether so unhealthy that it came as a mixed curse
when the bungalow was sold over our heads.
It was during the thirties depression, and CW was out of
work most of this time. One job he did have was at Rotherhithe
and another at Elmers End. He could not afford public transport,
so had to ride his push-bike the twenty miles there and back each
day. The Rotherhithe route took him along Watling Street, up
Shooters Hill (a cup of tea at the shack, still existing, on the top
of Blackheath). He always had a proper breakfast and, one
morning as HH washed up, CWs hand appeared with a bunch of
red roses through the kitchen window.
Holidays from work in those days were unpaid, so he never
took holidays! HH sometimes took us children to the sea for a
week and he would either join us, or do the home decorating,
during that weekend. Later, when the children were older, HH
would go on holidays alone and I continued the tradition when I
became a wage (of a sort) earner. JK, like her father, never
wanted to go away for holidays; probably both had found their
enforced absences from home enough to last a lifetime! They
both liked their living routine to go on undisturbed, HH and I
both needed an occasional jolt to keep the adrenalin flowing.
Also, for CW, the exercise he got searching for jobs probably
lasted the rest of his life. There were no agencies or job centres,
or even proper Labour Exchanges then, so job-hunting was
literally on your bike, going round looking for job vacancy
notices posted up outside factories and workshops. My parents,
like every other working class household, could not dream of
having a telephone. As soon as it became at all possible, HH
insisted on installing a phone. No neighbour was likely to be on
the telephone, so any family emergency meant a trip to the
nearest public box probably some distance but not likely to
be vandalised!

The cat, Samba, wants to type here is her own personal
unassisted statement:
,. l lk po
Perhaps she knows what it means!
A terrace, working class house cost 100 then and they
didnt even have the 10 needed for the deposit. So when we had
to move it was again on your bike for CW, this time looking for
houses for rent. If only the fashion for building your own home
had come a bit sooner (this happened in the short period of time
between the improvement of wages mostly due to war work
and the clamp down of Building Restrictions intended, some
thought, to preserve the countryside but, of course, giving
capitalist business interests the most advantages)! He could have
carried out most of the work himself as he had all the skills
(except electrician to a professional standard) that would have
been necessary. His family had always disapproved of hire
purchase and his political views were against private property,
but I think HH could have probably bought him round to the idea
if it had been more generally practised. There was a family
around the corner who lived in a House That Jack Built youve
guessed it husbands name was Jack! It was a small bungalow
and is still lived in! The present owners have adapted and added
to it, so Jack would never recognise it if he should come back, but
he wont hes been dead these many decades!
We moved to Blackfen, where I distinguished myself by
falling into a tin bath of scalding hot water. We hadnt been in the
district long enough to be on any doctors panel so, that Sunday,
CW was again on his bike looking for a doctor. The one he
eventually found was an Indian, very unusual residents in this
country at that time, and even rarer as doctors! The skin came off
my hand like a glove and the scars went up my arm and across
my chest, but I had kept my head above water. The only reminder
of the incident was my left hand which always looked like an old
persons my right hand has caught up now! The house had no
hot water in the upstairs bathroom so HH used to carry it up for
my nightly bath. It was My Fault as she was taking me upstairs
with all my three years old imperiousness I ordered her back
for the water and then fell in it, possibly with a little help of a

slight push from the vessel that unexpectedly over-balanced me!
The scene as it appeared to CW, called in from the garden,
standing nonplussed at the foot of the stairs, was of HH with a
dripping and steaming bowl in one hand and a dripping and
steaming, screaming me in the other, half-way up the stairs.
Our next move was to Park Mead where we rented a nice end
of terrace house in a one-sided street beside, and about twenty
feet below, Rochester Way, now the A20 perpetually roaring
and wheel-screeching, then a fairly busy road that was only noisy
on Saturday nights from the charas full of cockneys whizzing
down to the seaside. Danson Park swimming pool was directly
opposite. The park was always pleasant with its lake and tree and
(now long gone) statue lined, walks. I once saw my phantom
lover there.
While we were in Park Mead, I was packed off on a visit to
Lily junior in Rochester, a four-year-old alone in the train, with
the guard keeping an eye on me. A bit woebegone (remembering
my previous period away from home, at a convalescent home
after my brush with scarlet fever plus pneumonia. It was at
Dymchurch and the only memories I have of it is of paralysing
home-sickness, the horsey woman in charge and her dogs (my
only friends, those dogs) and a lovely tall sun-beamed hallway
with a parcel from home waiting on the window sill and
almost irretrievably losing a mothball up my nose because I liked
the smell). My aunt, Lily junior, encouraged me on the walk back
from the station with promises of tinned tomato soup. I think it is
from that visit that I have distinct impressions of stealing sweets
from the sweet tin and accidentally treading on a precious plant
while helping with the gardening, all with no repercussions or
recriminations. No wonder Lily became my favourite aunt,
together with W who, come to think of it, was not really so very
much older than I! When I got home, there was a little red-faced
wailer JK! (Jennifer Kaye).
JK was two years old when she broke her arm on a pot of
jam. It was a two pound jar in the recently delivered box of
groceries standing at the bottom of the stairs that she had just
tumbled down! Even such as we had routine tradesmens
deliveries in those days. Very few people had cars (think of it

streets and streets and no parked cars) and the butcher, baker
and grocer were eager to give service for custom. Greengrocers
with horse and cart came on the rounds to sell to you outside your
own front door. In those days there was usually a housewife in a
rented house all day. Jobs were scarce and there was not the need
for both partners to work to pay off a mortgage.
At the end of the road there was a rough patch of ground
where I used to dig up horseradish to sauce our roast beef.
Barbara, next door, and I both caught mumps and went off to
hospital together. Our mums used to get maudlin together over
cups of tea and the wind-up gramophone playing the little toys
you love so much, are waiting for your tender touch: In every
nook and corner you are missing. Much later, Barbaras elder
sister married an American serviceman. They had children of
their own and they adopted others. One day the children were all
watching TV, one boy went out for cigarettes and, on his return,
found all his brothers and sisters dead from television fumes; this
was in the early sixties.
Our landlord needed to repossess the house for his own
family, so CW rode again! Eventually, he found a terrace rabbit
hutch, one of a group of twenty-four built around a frying pan
shaped close. Built in the thirties, and an architectural prize
winner at that, they were nevertheless only just big enough for a
couple with two children maximum. Ours was grimy and
neglected, set between two hard plots of tangled garden. The
main advantage to CWs eye was the garage at the bottom of the
garden for his workshop with good alleyway access, but HH sat
on the stairs and cried on the day we moved in it was such a
come-down from our previous house. Maybe this was why the
place always had a slightly mournful, haunted air to me. This, in
spite of the fact that it had everything I could possibly want as a
child mostly nice neighbours, good playing areas with
fascinating little spaces among bushes and sheds in the garden,
close to wild fields, and within small-leg walking distance of
Dartford heath and the river Cray to get damp and grubby and
smothered in hayseeds in. Behind us there was a big nursery
garden full of glass-houses. The glass was all smashed, I think
deliberately, in order to remove any landmarks that attacking

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