It was 1942 and, as usual, I went out into the street at about 8am to see whether the Jerries had managed to land a bomb on our neighbourhood. Negative!
The gang slowly appeared onto the street and wended their half-asleep frames towards Mrs Skilbeck‘s. Mrs Skilbeck was a very short, dumpy, elderly lady with glasses (OK! Spectacles now!) that were so thick that, had the sun ever shone, she would surely have had her eyes burnt out! Even with them, she couldn’t see a thing unless she held it directly under her, slightly Roman, nose. She always seemed to wear the same old blue overcoat, reaching down nearly to the ground. Mrs Skilbeck lived in the tiny cottage on Dick Woollacott’s farm at the top of the road, with her 2 sons. One of them was Billy. He was a hero of mine as he was huge and wore a blue denim jacket and jeans, even in those days. I don’t know how he managed to live in the cottage as the wooden ceilings were soooo low that even Mrs Skilbeck was permanently hunched up! Anyway, I digress!
Mrs Skilbeck had the paper-shop, opposite Frank’s house. Overnight, it had two huge wooden doors which were closed and padlocked. She must have known, even then, that the Yanks were a’comin’ and would be based in the church field at the top of the road. Just precautions, I guess!!
Anyway, the gang had paper-rounds – all in the near vicinity – and afterwards would drift into the school playgrounds. There, of course, I would join them. Being not yet 4 years old, I would always have to be ‘last man in’ at whatever games were played, which did rankle somewhat. Naturally I couldn’t complain, or Frank would set Keith upon me!
Well, the bell would be rung by Miss Evans, and everybody would line up and be marched into school. I got pretty fed-up continually being left on my own so, one day, I marched in with them. Boy! It was a whole new world! And a great big coal-fire burning warmly. Great!
I saw that everybody sat down at a desk, so I sat at an empty one and watched. Didn’t take Miss Evans long! She was a real schoolmarm, if you know what I mean! Very short, skinny, tweedy clothes, grey hair, loud voice, penetrating eyes, (that, I swear, could see what you had for breakfast!) and was a spinster!!! She also lived at 11 St. Peter’s Road, which was a house hidden by trees in her garden, so that we couldn’t see what she got up to!
“And what is your name?” So I told her!
“And I suppose that you want to join school?” Not arf!
“Well, your sister (Doreen, 2 years older than moi!) had better go and tell your mother.” Which she did.
Now, unfortunately, my Mum had 6 of us to keep, so had to go out to work daily, and was quite surprised when she did see me later that day! I was sitting on the ground in our scullery, hiding behind a sack of Dick’s spuds which we had purchased, feeling very sorry for myself, and quite scared! I knew that justice was about to be meted out!
Well! What had happened was this; All the wonderful excitement of the school life, warm classroom; with all my mates; great books; playtime; bottle of milk, etc. all took it’s toll of a 4 year old! How was I to know that they had toilets? Nobody ever told me!
And so it was that during playtime in the yard, …………I shit myself!
What made it infinitely worse, I had the runs!
ALL DOWN MY LEG IT RAN! Wearing short trousers made it look bad!
The bell rang at the end of playtime and we all lined up.
She saw it!
She called Doreen out and told her to take me home. Poor Doodee! (Family nickname). She took my hand and walked away from the lined-up kids. Me with all the, ……..well,…….. ‘stuff’ down my leg! I turned around and saw Frank at the head of the line. He was laughing uncontrollably, and pointing at my leg!
Poor, poor Doodee. But then, what are sisters for?