Thursday, 30 March 2017

War Baby ......... stories by Eddy Newport no 30 .............. Muffin the Mule, Oxleas Woods and a model sailing boat

Another in the series by Eddy Newport taken from his book, History of a War Baby.

The Woods, 1976
I had many fights with my brother Dave.

I would tease him until he lost his temper and chase me round the bungalow with a stick trying to hit me with it.

I defended myself with a dustbin lid. Soon my jealousy was to hold no bounds. David’s friend Olive (our neighbour) parents bought a brand new television set and David was invited in to see it.

A television circa 1950s
TV had just started to become popular. That expense was far too much for our family. I did get in once or twice to see it, but not as regular as David. He watched the children’s hour with Muffin the Mule, Hank the cowboy and other visual delights on children’s hour, all this was excluded from me.

The feeling of the unjustness of it all on a 12-year-old, was too much, and I would tease and fight with David even more. As I was bigger I always got the better of the hassles. My mum said to me “One day David will beat you and then you will be sorry” how true that statement was to be. I guess I got what I deserve. We are very close now.

At the bottom of our  garden was a large fence, the other side of it was a Government Training Centre. An establishment set up by the government to help men after the war to get some qualifications to acquire skilled jobs like plumbing carpenters, electricians, gas fitters and hairdressing.

The later being the most popular with the local establishment. Volunteers were asked to be victims to the trainees for practicing their hair cutting skills. On Saturdays, the children were allowed in to have their haircuts. We would queue up at the gate and then taken through to the large room with all the prospective barbers would be waiting. Depending on who you got, and how much experience he had, you either had a good or bad hair cut. All this was for free so our parents did not worry, too much, as to how their kids looked like when they came home.

Blackheath looking out towards the Common 1976
I remember one Christmas when I was given a model sailing yacht as a present which I was very keen to try out. The nearest pond was the Prince of Wales Pond in Blackheath near the pub of the same name. This pond was very popular with small boating enthusiasts who would bring all types to sail.

Model tug boats, jet propelled boats, all sorts The jets were very exciting to watch as these were set up tethered up to a post set in the middle of the pond, the boat would be set off under a jet propelled engine and go round and round at incredible speed until it stopped, crashed or in some cases flew off its cable and ended up going over the grass beside the pond.

Sometimes a sailing boat would get in its way with the end resulting in damaged boats and a few cross words. I would not let dad rest until he took me to the pond to sail my new boat. She looked magnificent when the wind filled her sails and she took off over the pond. I was very proud of that boat.

Our social life was taken up with visits to Kennington to visit Nanny Hicks or Dulwich to visit our Nan and Granddad Newport. Other occasions were spent in visiting aunts, uncles and cousins.Special times were had when cousins Brian, Freddie and Doreen came to visit us. They lost their dad to illness (Uncle Fred) and came down with Aunt Jennie. They loved visiting us what was to them “the country” There were several wooded areas around and we would go off and explore them. I was to tag along with the two boys and I loved it. Close by in Birdbrook Road lived uncle’s Fred’s brother and his two children Vera and Alan and so they had to pop in to see them whilst they were visiting us. A case of two relations visited, for the price of one journey.

Those Woods again
On hot days we would go up Board Walk, which was about two miles long, to visit Oxleas, Jack and Castle Woods at Shooters Hill.

We would pack a picnic and off we go. These woods is an ancient forest and were famous for the hiding place of the notorious highwayman Dick Turpin, who robbed coaches going up the hill as they slowed down.

Shooter Hill was part of the Roman road Watling Street and the main road to Canterbury and Dover. In the middle of Castle woods was an old folly that looked like a castle tower.

The top of the tower could be seen poking out above the canopy of the woods. This had been converted into a café and for a few pence, one could go up the tower and see the view of London and Kent from its top. This was the climax of our day out.The long walk home back along Broad Walk was an effort and when we got home we were ready for our beds exhausted but happy

Dad about this time enrolled me in the Cub Scouts. The scout hall was adjacent to the church of St James’s in Kidbrooke Park Road. St James’s church had a very tall spire but was bombed during the war and was just a shell of a building.

Next door was a prefabricated building which was used for the services.

Mum had Geoffrey christened there and once we reached a suitable age David and I were sent off to the Sunday school.

What I remember of my time in the cubs was good. I enjoyed the games and I was taught a lot of necessary things to get a badge to sew onto my green jerseys.

I managed to become a sixer which meant I had two silver stars on my cap. I felt confident and important and good about myself.

That was until I went up into the scouts proper and I could not handle the bullying and complexity of what I had to learn there so I left and that was the end of my scouting days.

Soon I was to gain my real freedom, dad got me a bike. Unfortunately, it was a smaller one than my friends had, and a little bit disappointed that it was a ladies bike without a crossbar.

It did, however, give me the freedom to roam wherever I wanted to go. Now I could explore my local area and I was off.

My friends and I went all over the area. All about us was trees to climb, fields to play in and streams to build dams in. A wonderful life at that time, not a care or a worry in the world just a boy having fun.

© Eddy Newport 2017

Pictures;the Woods, the 1950s television and Blackheath from the collection of Andrew Simpson and remaining pictures courtesy of  Eddy Newport

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