Monday, 10 March 2008

#008 Back to Bretby

Also pre-war and with my dad’s help, 5 of us bought a brand new bell tent for £5, each of us paying my Dad a shilling a week for it. Dad took the tent and all the gear to Pear Tree farm at Kinoulton in Nottinghamshire. We would cycle there most weekends, we bought a Primus stove and did all our own cooking buying bacon and eggs from the farm. The farm owned a fine tennis court and with their permission we marked it out having already mowed the grass, then we paid to play on the court. We had a knock out tournament most weeks. We also had a ridgepole tent. Two of the lads slept in these using sack bags stuffed with hay as a mattress. On one particular Saturday Sir Jesse Boots (Boots the Chemist) daughter came with her boy friend, they had all the best camping gear, we got on quite well with them and they copied us by stuffing some sack bags with hay for a mattress. On the same evening we walked along the canal tow path to the next village Hickling, and straight in the pub near the road bridge, here we had quite a few pints of beer and also played dominoes with the locals a good night being had by all.

On our return to the farm we were passing the Boots camp, their tent had been flattened - the cattle had ransacked their tent to get at the hay. We thought in our inebriated state that this was a huge joke little knowing that our tent had had the same treatment. The farmer lent us tarpaulins so we were able to effect good repairs. The rich Boots people could afford to stay at the farmhouse. We camped here most weekends but we had to take the tent down, the Army objecting to the camp at the outbreak of war. They were frightened of air attacks by the Luftwaffe, what a joke.

February 1934 saw me back at Bretby Hall for further operations to my feet. This time the stay was only six months. In the hospital were quite a few lads who were there in 1929/30, they were delighted to see me and wanted to know all the news of “the outside world”. The same food was being served and the same games were being played in the ward, it was as though I had not been away, school was the same. One improvement had been made ‑ a tuck shop had been opened. We were then able to spend our meagre pocket money on sweets of our own choice. Mr Heather still appeared with his goodies and still held the Sunday singsong ‑ it appeared louder than ever to me. The day of joyous home return soon came this time, it was sad goodbyes to all my comrades in the hospital, some of whom were destined to be there for many years hence. 1 was to return to this hospital for a knee operation 40 years later.

Back home once more, I was to see the shop's new extension. A new shop front had been fitted; motorcycles were now being sold, ie Triumph, B.S.A., Excelsior and New Imperial. A larger workshop had also been built by George Leivers, later to be a prominent builder in the locality under the name of Brown & Leivers. Reedman’s Builders of Sawley did the shop alteration and fittings.

Return to school was again more difficult; I was again put in a lower class. Exams were on at the time, and next to me sat a boy from Armstrong's travelling Fun Fair who were in the town. The children from the fun fair had to attend our school, history was the exam and poor Gordon was clueless. I did the exam for him, he finished top, and there was an inquest and a reprimand for me. My brother was in the same class, having caught me up due to my hospitalisation. I finished 3rd in class so was hoping to go up to the next class, however I did not go up as students who were due for their scholarship exams had preference. So, I had to wait a further six months before I made it to the higher grade. My brother Ernie won a scholarship to the Grammar School the following year. I had by this time caught him up, my stay in hospital thwarted my taking the test for Grammar School.

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