30 March 2003

Ullswater Our Family and WW2 Pt.3

My Mother continued

OldEric says :-) One night after dark at the height of WW2 there was a knock at the door. This was strange indeed for someone to visit after dark unless the visit was urgent. Mum answered the door to find a Mr. Platt on the doorstep who, in a pompous manner told Mum we had a light showing, would we please take care of it. The light we found was in the kitchenette; the curtain was caught up at one corner when drawn to. So the offending light was taken care of. Mum was so embarrassed.

What was so important about that you might well ask? During WW2 a complete blackout was in force after dark, it was an offence to show any light. Wardens in both town and country areas were appointed to patrol after dark to strictly monitor the regulations. In the towns and cities it was obvious light could guide enemy planes to their destination and attract bombs. In the countryside especially in our remote area it was not so obvious but single lights had been known to attract stray enemy planes with unused bombs, which they were liable to eject on their way home to lighten their load and save fuel if they had lost their bearings.

Towards the end of the war when the allies’ forces were winning the war in Europe the industrial towns and cities of Britain were free from air raids and it was safe to visit dad in Chilwell. Mum, John and I used to go down to Chilwell to stay with Dad in his lodgings during the school holidays and luckily for us there was a spare bedroom for my brother John and I to sleep.

We went down to Chilwell by train, and although train travel on the main lines was not permissible due to the war effort travel on the network of branch lines it was. The branch lines were used for local freight and local travel and they were slow. There was a slow passenger train that wended its way on the branch lines through the countryside stopping at all the small towns and cities, which eventually ended up in Nottingham, close to Chilwell. The nearest pick up point by train for us was Appleby so we caught local public transport to there where we had to wait for some considerable time for the arrival of the train. Appleby railway station was on the edge of town on rising ground and so we decided to go down the hill to have a meal, we were hungry. As we were finishing the meal we heard the toot of a train and Mum in conversation whilst paying the bill asked the café people which train that one was, they named the train and it was the one we wanted.

We hurried out of the cafe, up the hill and by this time the train was in the station. We were no more than halfway up the hill and with a toot on the whistle in horror we watched the train slowly pull out of the station.

We arrived in the station breathless and my brother John only seven or so with his shorter legs dropping off hardly able to keep up. Mum explaining our problem to the station personnel and she was referred to the Stationmaster who after a deal of pondering suggested we could possibly achieve our destination with a train due soon and two further changes before arriving in Nottingham. The only problem he said was the trains were even slower with stops at each little country station on the way. It was just like missing the Express bus and having to catch the local bus with bus changes.

How we got from Nottingham to Chilwell and found Dad’s address I don’t know. We didn’t turn up on the expected train and Dad would not have had any idea what had happened to us and enquires would not have helped. There were no or at best few taxis and I guess we hauled our suitcases and ourselves by bus asking our way on the way. Cell phones were not invented then, private phones were uncommon. Street signs had been taken down to confuse enemy agents and street lighting was turned out, the blackout was still in force. We made this intrepid journey of what should have been only a few hours eventually arrived on the doorstep of Dad’s lodgings at past 10pm. We had left home early that morning.

Why we missed the train, mistaking the time I don’t know. Did we mis-hear, were we mis-told or was it mis-something else? I’ve no idea. All I know Mum got us there without any fuss, anger or shouting. But then that was how our Mother was; always she seemed to find a way if there was a way to solve a problem. As a boy I trusted my mother implicitly.
Ullswater Our Family and WW2 Pt.2

My Mother

OldEric says J After my father went away to Chilwell life went on much as it was before, that is to me. I continued on at primary school and in 1942 my brother John started school. He was 5 years old and I was turned eight years.

I’m not too sure how well off we were during the war, Dad now earned much more wages than before but had to pay his board and lodging down in Chilwell and pay for his trips home. We were probably at least a little better off.

Mum and Mrs Nelson took over the cultivation of Sharrow Bay gardens and toiled each day trying to keep them tidy and grow enough vegetables and fruit for our selves. Mum would be 35 years old in 1942 and the Nelson’s a generation older.

On the radio were a gardening duo that offered tips for “Dig for Victory”, the slogan on everyone’s lips on posted on hoardings where ever one looked. The duo were two ladies and Mrs. Nelson with her bubbling enthusiasm christened Mum Anna after the quiet one of the duo and christened herself, I cannot now remember the other name now and with much searching I’m unable to trace the pair of ladies. So my mother Mary became Anna for everyone but to me she was still Mum.

Later, looking after the gardens and tending the Nelson’s mansion was too much for the pair of them and Mrs. Nelson advertised for a cook/housekeeper and a couple applied from Liverpool, I believe, they were Mr. and Mrs. Redman, he a cook and she a housekeeper and they lived in the mansion’s servants quarters. They would be in their late forties or early fifties. The year would be in 1943. I can date this, at the age of eight I received my first stamp album and after asking everyone which country a certain stamp belonged I tried as a last resort Mr. Redman, he didn’t know either.

Late one Saturday early evening Mrs Redman came up to our house looking very upset and worried, Mr Redman had gone down to Pooley Bridge in the morning and had not returned. She said she was going to walk down to Pooley Bridge to look for him and could Mum help. Mum in her quiet way asked a few questions and said she would accompany her down. We boys went too. Mrs Redman knew where to look in the village and we found him in the second of the two pubs, which were in the village at that time. Mr Redman was very much the worse for wear. Now I understood why Mrs. Redman needed help. Mum and Mrs Redman guided him home, he was all over the road swinging his arms and the two of them ducking. I can still picture him and the place draped across the low cut hedge being violently sick and the two pulling him out of the hedge and continuing guiding him down the two miles road home.

Mum never got exited over a situation, her way seemed to be to analyse the situation and then act. Gillian in some respects reminds me of her in her attention to a situation and quietly attending to it without fuss.

The Redman’s didn’t seem to stay too long before they left in the latter stages of the war. A Mr. Orphan came along about this time and took over some of the garden and grounds maintenance and this relieved Mum and Mrs Nelson to attend to the mansion. Mum cooked with Mrs. Nelson helping and Mum also took over the house keeping duties and this situation remained so after the war up to when we left in 1948.

Mum’s WW2 story will continue.

24 March 2003


The Wisconsin State Dept of Fish and Wildlife is advising hikers, hunters, fishermen and golfers to take extra precautions and be on the alert for bears this summer.

They advise people to wear noise-producing devices such as little bells on their clothing to alert but not startle the bears unexpectedly.

They also advise you to carry pepper spray in case of an encounter with a bear.

People should be able to recognize the presence of bears in an area by their droppings:

Black bear droppings are smaller and contain berry residue and possibly squirrel fur.

Grizzly bear droppings have little bells in them and smell like pepper spray.

NO? Try reading it again

16 March 2003

 Ullswater: Our Family and WW2 Pt.1

My Father
Shortly after we arrived at Sharrow Bay in late 1939 World War Two began. Conscription for the armed forces was taking place, which started with the younger age groups first. My father who was 32 years old in 1939 did not fit into the conscription category yet.

Dad joined the Home Guard, which was formed to guard “the home front” and was comprised of older men including retirees. Their duties consisted of doing evening duties and patrols, helping out the police and regular army and a myriad other duties that might crop up. These duties were all carried out on a voluntary part time basis.

In mid 1941-42, the was close to two years old and not going very well for the Britain and a call went out for volunteers to man the armaments factories which were being expanded to produce more. The Nelson’s mentioned to Dad if he wished, he was free to volunteer, Dad was now 34. For Britain the war was going badly, Germany was over-running Europe and would be soon at Britain’s gates so Dad volunteered.

He was selected for an interview and given an aptitude test and then he was sent on I think, a six week course to work on tank engines at a large factory at Chilwell near Nottingham. The course covered everything including assembly, fitting, making parts and making patterns. He was one of three out of one hundred who topped the course and I remember he was quietly proud of his accomplishment.

I also remember the course test pieces he made and brought home when we were in the Cottage at Sharrow Bay, he told me how he made them and later I would sometimes get them out from his workbench in the laundry area and look at them and wonder how they could have been made to fit so perfectly.

We saw little of Dad for over four years he was in Chilwell; he couldn’t come home for holidays, just the odd weekend. Travel during wartime was well neigh impossible. The railway system had been commandeered for the war effort and there was little or no room for private passengers on the main trunk lines. Sometimes Dad would come home for weekends. He had a friend down in Chilwell who lived in Penrith and he had a car. Petrol was rationed like many things during the war and Dad’s friend would save his petrol coupons until he had enough coupons to buy sufficient petrol to make the journey there and back, Dad and two others would share the cost of the petrol and expenses. We used to look forward to seeing him home, sitting in his own armchair and I think he used to be pleased too. Down in Chilwell he used to live in a bed sitting room in private lodgings and I imagine in was a lonely existence on his own. On Sunday nights his friend would pick him up and we would wave him good-bye for a few more weeks.

Looking backwards now Dad never used to say much, he was a quiet man and kept his feelings to himself. As far as I remember he complained little but I do remember he always tackled a problem with a positive attitude, there was in his eyes a solution to everything. I think too that although he had just a basic education he was probably a clever man and in another age he would have gone far. Dad taught me many practical things over the years and when I used to work with him he would quietly explain and show me the best way to tackle a job and to this day I still do jobs his way. I never really thought of it before I began my memoirs but I loved and respected my father very much.

8 March 2003

Ullswater: Barton School and Education 1944

OldEric says :-) Along came the year of 1944, I was ten years old and later in the year would be the first turning point in my life and a turning in every other child’s life. This was the “eleven plus” examination, a pass or fail in this examination dictated a child’s path in secondary education from eleven years onwards. A pass gave a child the right to attend a Grammar School and avail themselves to the teaching of specialist subjects by specialist teachers. The stepping stone if need be to a University education.

To fail the “eleven plus” destined a child to a basic only secondary education of improving on the three Rs at a village school until the age of fifteen was attained. In town and cities education it was a little better for the “eleven plus” failures where Secondary Modern schools were being set up a with somewhat improved education syllabus.

I’m going to write later how I felt about the whole situation as a boy and later as an adult and why I didn’t cheer like many did when the ‘eleven plus” examination was abolished and Grammar Schools were disbanded to wipe out an elitist system. It may seem strange that a casualty of the “eleven plus” should not cheer the abolition of the “eleven plus” examination but I didn’t and I will explain later as I proceed through my education..

I’m going to write later how I felt about the whole situation as a boy and later as an adult and why I didn’t cheer like many did when the ‘eleven plus” examination was abolished and Grammar Schools were disbanded to wipe out an elitist system. It may seem strange that a casualty of the “eleven plus” should not cheer the abolition of the “eleven plus” examination but I didn’t and I will explain later as I proceed through my education..

I took the “eleven plus” exam like everyone else and when the results came out, I had failed, and I was destined for a poor second-rate education. To minimise my loss and make the best of the situation my parents on recommendation sent me to Penrith Secondary Modern School situated up by the railway station next to the Park and ruined Castle but before the Grammar School.

I now had a bike, I was eleven years old and I was capable of biking down to Pooley Bridge and catching the bus daily to Penrith. From the age of eleven until fourteen plus for three and a half years rain or shine I biked each school morning down to Pooley Bridge and leave my bike at Jimmy Farrell’s Crown Hotel then wait for the Ribble bus to take me to Penrith school along with the other children. The bus travelled the route from Patterdale to Pooley Bridge then via Tirrel, Yanworth, and Eamont Bridge and then into Penrith. In those days this was the main road from Patterdale to Penrith not as the route is today.

Pupils came to Penrith Secondary Modern from a large area and from as far away as Patterdale in one direction almost half way to Carlisle in the other. I would say fifty per cent at least of the pupils came from the surrounding country areas and the rest from the town of Penrith. We were, all of us failures of the eleven plus examination.

One thing we all quickly learnt was Penrith Secondary Modern School was a school of strict discipline. We were there to learn, slackness was not tolerated, I suppose it was a crash course to try and make up to some degree for what we had missed. And later looking back I’m more than sure it did.

I’m going to write later how I felt about the whole situation as a boy and later as an adult and why I didn’t cheer like many did when the ‘eleven plus” examination was abolished and Grammar Schools were disbanded to wipe out an elitist system. It may seem strange that a casualty of the “eleven plus” should not cheer the abolition of the “eleven plus” examination but I didn’t and I will explain later as I proceed through my education..

1 March 2003

005         Ullswater Barton School and my Buckteeth

Well I guess this little tale of my buckteeth comes with in school life really so I will include it too.

When I was seven my second front teeth started to grow but my first teeth didn’t start to loosen until my second teeth came through and these second teeth grew in front of my first ones. So I ended up when the first one did loosen and come out with protruding buckteeth.

During the school Dentist’s periodic visit about two years later at the age of nine it was suggested a brace should be fitted to pull my teeth back into line. Yes, it was the same old Dentist that had taken out my tooth at the age of five and naturally I was not too keen of being butchered again. However after a bit of persuasion I decided to go along with the idea and give it a try.

There was an added attraction; I was required to go into the town of Penrith for the initial fitting and then every three weeks for adjustment thereafter. This used to take half a day, I caught the bus to Penrith by the school gate at about eleven o’clock and after my session with the Dentist at one o’clock I had a good hour to wait for the bus back so that gave me ample time to explore the shops and other places before and after my appointment. To a young country boy the well-stocked shops to a young country boy were a magnet and to a young country boy.

The appointment didn’t last long after the initial fitting of the dental plate with the wire across the front. All the Dentist did after inspection during each visit was to tighten the wire a little at a time until he was satisfied the wire tension was sufficient. I can only guess now but to hazard a guess my visits lasted over at least twelve months.

After catching the bus back it was too late for school and I usually went straight home having had a very interesting day in the town of Penrith.

The gap between my two front teeth is not associated with my buckteeth problem that is an inherited thing. I notice that my granddaughters Ashlee and I think Caitlin also have a gap between their two front teeth. This may have come through me or it could have been inherited from their father Paul’s side of the family as I note Paul’s father has a gap between his two front teeth too.