MY EARLY DAYS

 

Me (left) and Ivor on the chicken farm (1940).

We were evacuated

 

Ivor, Doll and little ol' me.

Must be 1934 - with me about 9 months old?

 My earliest memory is of when I was six years old and WWII broke out. We were to assemble at the school; but we were late. As usual, I was crying and a teacher smacked me on my leg. What a pleasant first memory!

We were evacuated twice. The first time for nine months to West Runton, near Cromer in Norfolk at the home of Mr. & Miss Love and the second time to Hermitage in Berkshire for two years (I can't remember the lady's name).

Ivor and I were lucky. We had good foster homes. But, poor Doll and Bert had bad foster homes.

I have to confess that I do not have many memories of those times; just tobogganing down "The Dell" in the winter.

I hated the cold and at Hermitage I was sent on errands to take my mind off the cold.

It was while I was at Hermitage that I had an experience that is still with me. While in bed and apparently awake, at the foot of the bed, in the wall; I saw a window. There was not a window there in fact. Then through the window a man pushed his head and upper body. He was in black and had on a black hat. He had a dagger in his hand and threatened me with it. A similar event happened later in my life.

I have a mild phobia of spiders. While at one of my foster homes and sitting on the outside toilet with my trousers at my ankles a large spider fell from the ceiling onto the crotch of my trousers. I screamed and ran out of the toilet. This is the first time that I can remember of being frightened by a spider. Previously I had no fear and would catch a spider between a forked twig and make it spin a web.

While out walking, we saw a couple in the grass making love. I took some others back to the site and demonstrated what had happened. Sad to say I must have got the wrong place; for when I lay down to show what had happened I rolled in dog shit! We all had a job explaining how that happened.

That's my memories of evacuation.


I recall my mum dragging me along by the arm crying. It was in the evening and the street gas lamps were on. I was fascinated by the star shapes caused by my tears. I screwed up my eyes to make the stars. Is there a moral in there somewhere?

Somehow from an early age I always had the "Mickey" taken out of me. People seemed to be comfortable in playing practical jokes on me. Was it my face? Have a look above! This made me feel very self-conscious and inferior. To compensate for this I developed a thick shell so that I could not be hurt. Of course, this is hindsight. At the time, I just felt different.

Although I suffered at the time; it stood me in good stead for weathering the storms of personal relationships.

In contrast, Ivor never had jokes made about him. No one dared! This made him vulnerable for the whole of his life and caused him to build a twelve foot high fence of razor wire around himself so that no one could get near him. Ivor could never deal with adverse events in a socially acceptable manner. Later his work friends were to testify to this.

When at twelve Ivor was given his first pair of long trousers dad made a little fun of him. Ivor sprang up and punched dad hard in the face. All hell broke loose but Ivor vanished until things calmed down

In contrast dad would often joke about me. I would wind him up about something in return. Dad would shout at me and throw his slippers at me. I would regally proffer his slippers back to him; with a, "Here are your slippers back!" This would make him even angrier. I had an instinctive understanding of psychological manipulation at an early age.

As a result of my feelings of inferiority, while young I would try to make people like me. For example; we lived on a council estate, and one of the tenants earned a living with a sweet barrow that was parked outside his house. There would often be a queue at the barrow. I would let the person behind go in front of me to be served first. I would do this many times. It made me feel liked!

As a child, I had a vicious temper and yet I was not aggressive. I had to be seriously provoked and then I would see red and ready to commit murder. My temper eased after the age of sixteen.

I was bullied at school. I was called, "Aylward the coward." Ivor and Bert would help. A teacher saw some bullying and said that he would help me to stand up for myself. He took me to the gym and put me in the ring with a boy smaller that I was. The boy knocked seven colours out of me and I just cowered in the corner. I could not hit him. This aversion to hit people stayed with me for life. I have looked upon this as a blessing. Some of my later stories will confirm this.

Some people, especially women, took to me! Must be my good looks! After a row at home I went to the shops and was looking in a toy shop. A woman started to talk to me as I was crying. She looked a woman of some means. She asked me if there was anything in the window that I would like and I pointed out a chemistry set that was priced at 5/3d, (20/30 in today's values). We went into the shop and she bought it. When I went home I was hit for going away and again for taking the gift. But, I kept it and was amazed at the experiments I could do.

I was very naive. The woman could have been an abductor. Looking back, several incidents occurred in my childhood that could have been dangerous. I was gullible, but somehow I did not get caught or harmed. Perhaps I had a charmed life.

At school I was judged to be stupid. I was placed in a "remove" class. The next year I was top of the class and returned to the "A" class. But then I was always near the bottom.

The headmaster, Mr. Allen, came into the classroom one day and I became involved in a discussion. I don't know how. The outcome was that I proved to him that black was white! I based my argument on the fact that white reflects light. I expect that my arguments were spurious but Mr. Allen could not see it. He was furious that this smelly little slum idiot had beaten him in a discussion! Several times in my early years I had knowledge that I had not learnt! Weird!

Being interested in science, at an open day I was given the job of demonstrating the manufacture of oxygen. This involved in heating chemicals in a tube and collecting the oxygen. The gas came out of the tube through a pipe, under water and into a gas collection jar. While talking to a parent I took the Bunsen flame away from the tube, water rushed up the pipe into the tube and it exploded. Bad boy!

While helping to sort out the chemistry storeroom with another boy, he dropped a jar of sulphuric acid and it spilled on the floor. I took a bottle of alkali and put it on the acid. Good boy!

I made a cap bomb from two bolts and a nut. I threw it up. It came down, hit the ground and exploded. The headmaster heard it and told me that if I couldn't find the two bolts he would give me "six of the best." I couldn't find the bolts and so I was caned. The one and only time I was. It was terrible. The pain was excruciating. I could have killed the bastard! But, I expect it was his revenge on me for beating him in the discussion. Bad boy!

I used to make money by painting door knockers and selling things door to door. I bought 35mm film that had been used at the cinema and sold it at a penny a yard to make stink bombs. I took some of the film and but it in a bottle that had a cap that was wired into the neck of the bottle. I also put in some match heads to light and make it explode. For the first few times it didn't work. And then it did. BOOOOOOMMMMM!!!!!! It blew up in my hands. The explosion was heard a mile away. A piece of glass took off a friend's ear lobe. Another piece went through my chin and out of my mouth. I was in a mess! At the hospital they said that I was an inch from death. An inch to the side or down and I would have cut my throat or jugular. Bad boy!

My dad would not let me sit the eleven plus exams as if I passed he could not afford the cost of a uniform. I wonder what would have happened if I had.

I once ran away from home and hid in a shop doorway. When I was found I was told that all manner of bad things were going to happen to me when I got home. I was terrified, but when I did get home no one seemed to have missed me! I remember my dad was eating beetroot!

I don't smoke but I like a social drink. At the age of twelve I bought a quart of cider and drank it while sitting on the pub steps while my parents were inside. I was blotto! I couldn't stand the smell of cider for years. We went camping to Canvey Island and found a cigar that had been soaked and dried out with sea water a few times. Old muggins here was elected to smoke it. It was not an experience to be repeated! (Though I did do something similar as an adult!)

Ivor left school at age fourteen. The leaving age was put up to fifteen the following year so I had to stay on. Teachers were coming home after serving in the war. They were a different brand of teacher that we had had. I had an interest in motorcycles. The science teacher was teaching us the internal combustion engine. After I had corrected him on a couple of points he put me in front to teach and he sat in the class. The old style teacher would have told me to be quiet.

My interests were in motorcycles, photography and radio. I had a large half-plate camera and took quite good photos. I did all my own developing, printing and enlarging. I mostly used ex war department chemicals and paper.

After the war, radios were expensive. I made my own from junk I picked up from second hand shops. I taught myself about radio from a 1936 Pear's Encyclopaedia.

All in all for someone who was made fun of, was an idiot and a coward I didn't do too bad in my first fifteen years!!

NOT BAD FOR A YOUNG AMATUER!

IVOR AND BERT c1950

AUTOBIOGRAPHY