Jenkins-Of-Ewelme Web Site

Blog from the Past

Dear children, it's November 13th 2009 and I'm 65 today. I never thought I'd make it, but I'm truly grateful that I have. For one thing, it has now provided me with the opportunity to tell you about the life I have had and the times in which I have lived, both the good and the bad bits. Isn't this a little presumptuous to think that anyone will want to read about this? After all, I have  achieved neither fame nor fortune. However, I am aware of not knowing a great deal about the lives of my Mother or Father before I was born, and there is a little part of me that wishes I had had that opportunity to understand a little more about  these people who made me.

 If I can impart a little interest or even entertainment to those who carry my blood, or even those not even related, it will have been worthwhile. I have chosen this medium because of a professional and personal interest in matters related to the Internet and computers, so hopefully somehow it can be made to exist for a while in various forms. It will hopefully remain related to the other aspects of family history, which have been collected in recent years and contained within the Jenkins-of-Ewelme web site. 

What did you do in the War Daddy?
Well, I guess I was probably a natural replacement for some poor chap who had had no choice but to lay down his life in the name of continued freedom. Thankfully, so far that has proved to be the case. I was born in the latter months of the second world war on 13th November 1944 in a 'cottage hospital' in the small town of Wellington in the country county of Somerset. My birth certificate says that I lived in Haberdasher's Cottage, Langley, Wiveliscombe, Somerset, and both the area and the name of the cottage held a profound significance in my forthcoming life.

Apparently, I was christened in a 'tin' church as Christopher Glyn? Jenkins,  which I recently discovered still exists as a well maintained corrugated iron chapel, located practically opposite to where we lived. I, of course, have absolutely no memory of this initial period of my being, although I am convinced that some unconscious experience of 'the country' rubbed off on me to produce  a preference for open countryside as opposed to town living . Indeed, my first memory (I think!), is well and truly stored as sitting on a potty in front of my mother's mirrored wardrobe in our house in Highgate, with a realization that the image was actually ME! The semi-detached, three bedroom house was situated at 36, Fordington Road, Highgate, N6. I was unaware for some considerable time that  this was in fact a suburb of London. The road outside our house was quiet with rows of other semi-detached houses opposite, as it was basically a go nowhere crescent as far as traffic was concerned. Nearby, in the corner of a right angled bend in the road was a gated path that led to 'Cherry Tree Woods', which my father oft referred to as 'The Spinney'. This was the playground of my early youth, where I learned how to ride a bike, play putting and tennis, and enjoy the ice cream related delights of The Kiosk. It was also the pathway to East Finchley, and my later attended infant and junior school beyond. Opposite the far exit of the woods was East Finchley Underground station, where from High Barnet at the start of the Northern Line to just after East Finchley travelling South towards central London, was actually all overground!

It was the sound of tube trains disappearing into the tunnel at the far end of Cherry Tree Woods, like the gurgling disappearance of a sink of vortexing water, that was to be the familiar sound of 'home' until I was 11. Not entirely strangely, I called this 'the train going down the drain'. However, another of my earliest memories was so profound that I believe it had an unconscious effect on my earlier, and who knows, later development as a boy. This occurred when my mother Vera had some serious internal health problems, I think due to my birth, resulting in, as far as I can understand, serious infection leading to or as the result of a hysterectomy.  This was obviously a blow to the whole family, where in those days, there was no consideration of the head of the family being given compassionate leave from work, but an expectation following those war years, where men were away doing their duty, that the wider family would somehow pull together to help out in such circumstances. Arthur was 'Daddy'  and was a financial journalist in the City.  Sister Barbara (Babs) was 10 years older and Elizabeth (Beth, then later Liz) was 5 years older. I think Liz went to stay with the Spice's, my mother's sister's family, and as far as Barbara's recollections, was old enough to stay at home and looked after my father. All I can recollect is being in unfamiliar places, inhabited by unfamiliar faces. I think I must have been taken initially to my Auntie Maisie's house in Ealing. Auntie Maisie and Uncle Toc didn't have children of their own, so I don't remember much about their presence. What I do remember, is living with the Hill family, who were friends of Maisie. I must have been quite young, because I do recall eating baby food that tasted different to that I was used to. Like a lamb who had lost its mother, I found it strange and frightening  being  in an environment of strangers, the two daughters just like the the mother Nora, had rather flat faces! "I want MY Mummy!" I guess the height of trauma, was having what seemed like a rare visit by my father and Beth one Sunday I think, either at the Hill's or at Auntie Maisie's. I was highly relieved to see them, especially Beth, but they left me there again. "Daddy, Daddy, I want to come home with you!!" (Have I raised a tear yet? Oh good, so it should).

Wait for the next exciting instalment!

My 67th birthday today has reminded me that I was going to tell you something of my life following retirement at 65. Well, all I can say is that during the last 2 years, retirement has been practically as busy as when I was earning a living full time, but more on my terms as to what 'projects'  I have chosen to pursue. Now where was I? Ah yes, childhood at Fordington Road.

As an infant, life after the trauma of family separation revolved around Mummy (Vera Winifred), Daddy (Arthur George), Liz/Beth (Elizabeth Ann) and Babs (Barbara Mary). Liz was at 'The Martin' primary school in East Finchley and Babs  was at Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School for Gals (QEGGS) in High Barnet. Daddy (demobbed as a Major) wore an army jumper and khaki flannels or some such when he was pottering about at home, but dressed in his 'city' uniform of a three piece pinstriped suit and bowler hat during the week, and walked (with rolled umbrella) through Cherry Tree Woods to catch the tube into London. I learned later that he was a financial journalist, later to become City Editor of the Sunday Times. Mummy, as in most 'middle class' families, was a 'housewife', although as far as I can understand, originated from a 'country' family, located around Sandy near Bedford. The wider family consisted of the Jenkins-of-Barnet (Uncle Peter [E H Jenkins], Auntie Bob and son Meric, and Nanah my only grandparent), the Spices of Maidenhead (Uncle Fred, Auntie Ginger, with cousins Dimps, Michael, Judy, Janet, David and Jenny!), Uncle Bob and Auntie Molly Mayes from Margate, Auntie Midge and Uncle Harry Eagle from Bedford, and finally Auntie Maisie and Uncle Toch Townsend and Uncle Eric Mayes from Ealing. So you can see that my father's family was small and located within a bus ride, whereas my mother's family was large and widespread! As time ticked on, I sensed, but didn't quite understand, the 'difference' in the two sides. Visits to and by the Jenkins were more 'formal', where  'little boys should be seen but not heard' and introductions were accompanied by glasses of sherry, and lunch was prepared and cleared by Clara the maid. In other words, shouted of Victorian/Edwardian values. Visits to from the 'Mayes' side, seemed far more fun, with more laughter, games, and possible visits to  pubs. I didn't really understand why this was so, but this was 'my family' within which my consciousness was to evolve.

There were also other 'Aunts and Uncles' provided by close neighbours and family friends. Auntie Mitch and Uncle Mitch (The Mitchelmore's opposite), Auntie Freda and Uncle Leon (The Lewis's opposite). Then there was Auntie Jewel (great friend of my Mother and actual aunt to Stirling Moss!). Also Auntie Mary and Uncle Sid Slocombe, landlords of the Three Horse Shoes near Wiveliscombe, but also Auntie Mabel and Uncle Bob Dibble my godfather, who had played rugby for England! So, there you have a brief glimpse of the cards I was dealt, some of which would gradually disappear back into the pack, whilst others, now a bit worn at the edges, would influence how I eventually played my hand through life! (Alright then, you think up a better metaphor if you're so clever!)

I was rather a sickly child, having rather severe eczema and also prone to travel sickness, and thus I'm sure rather a pain in the proverbial. Possibly because now being the only surviving boy of the family, 'baby brother' having died before Liz was born, I may well have been somewhat wrapped in cotton wool (literally!), since I was the last chance following Mother's illness to balance a somewhat female dominated family. What I do remember though, is suffering from the cold, where there was no central heating of course, where some individual rooms were sometimes heated by coal and by the kitchen 'range'. Possibly due to rationing after the War, I was a thin gangly little boy, finding some comfort during winter months when tucked up in bed with a hot water bottle.  To get up on a cold morning, I found that by vigorously playing 'tube trains' under the covers, got me just warm enough to venture out into a frosty bedroom in a rush to take off pyjamas to put on vest and pants, if they hadn't already been worn all night! I guess I didn't appreciate the privilege of having this room to myself. On the other hand, Mummy and Daddy had each other to keep warm, and even Liz and Babs must have generated some body heat between them to raise the temperature of their room a couple of degrees.

So my recollection of those early years was one of self preservation and family respectability. In those days of political upheaval after the War, there seemed to be quite a few elections. My father was a staunch Conservative, and we would put up the distributed 'Vote for' blue poster in our dining room front window. At this time, you could also see who our neighbours supported, where it seemed we didn't   associate with anyone in our road who displayed a red one, but would perhaps tolerate a 'no chance' Liberal one.

Primary School Years
Life progressed with a comfortable feeling of routine, but also tainted with monotony and boredom. I eventually started school at the Martin primary school and remember being deeply upset that I was not in the same class as my big sister Liz. In fact, I think she was probably within a year of going to North London Collegiate for gals. I seemed to be a slow learner (but you've heard of the Hare and the Tortoise?), which when compared with the accolades given to my sisters for passing the 11+ and of course could read and write much earlier than I seemed to be able to achieve, I did feel frustrated  that I couldn't do the same, nor that anyone seemed to be prepared to spend much time helping me. I learnt to swim, ride a bike, play tennis in the park. I joined the Cubs, sang in a High Anglican church choir, then moved to the more traditional St James's Muswell Hill, both choirs of which provided me with a certain musical appreciation. Although I evolved into a confirmed atheist, have always enjoyed listening to the man-made beauty of the choral work, especially when accompanied by a church organ. I hated school, although probably couldn't really define that as such to myself as to how I was feeling. I was certainly frustrated at being at the bottom end of the class all the time, with Miriam Carling and Pauline Bartlett always shining at the top (what was it with damn girls?). Maybe it was the fact that I tried to avoid school at every opportunity, partly due to the fact I was frightened to use the outside boys toilets, the doors of which kept being kicked in by older bullies. Perhaps it was the long walk to school, especially in cold weather. Maybe because I was believed, when apart from the legitimate illnesses of Mumps, Measles etc., I could stay at home when I said I felt ill. I was certainly not a particular healthy child, and did have to visit our family doctor (Dr. Clarke) regularly usually for what seemed to be painful injections, and a local clinic for nose breathing exercises.

One significant activity was our regular visits to the Old Haberdasher's Rugby Club in Elstree on Saturday afternoons during the rugger season. There is nothing in particular that I could object to, and it just happened to be such a regular thing, that it was an accepted part of my life. My father in particular had many friends there, and I learned over time that the 'Old' meant that all the members had attended Haberdashers School at one time or another. I guess the only problem was that I was expected to amuse myself, which was fine when some other members' children also came, and we kicked balls around for a while, and were provided with some 'pop' and crisps to keep us quiet. However, the inevitable late returns on a cold Saturday night in a speedily driven and unheated car was sometimes an uncomfortable experience to say the least. It was my father's 'obsession' with the Old Haberdashers that necessitated regular trips to the 'West Country' for the annual Easter Tour, where I became increasingly familiar with all the en-route town names on the way to Somerset including Wiveliscombe (Wivey), the smell of stale beer in the hotels and pubs we stayed in, always decorated with the heads and horns of local hunting, the hubbub of large men in the club and hotel bars, and the regular familiarity with car sickness. It was only when I became a little older that sometimes I was given a choice to do something else, and I took those opportunities like a shot! 

I don't know why I couldn't always go to Maidenhead to the Spice's in Holyport, because I also remember staying with Auntie Maisie over Easter when she lived in Hammersmith. I didn't enjoy that as much, although Auntie taught me how to play Canasta, which whiled away quite a few hours of otherwise boredom. In those days, Good Friday and Easter Monday meant that shops and cinemas were closed. But going to Maidenhead was quite an adventure. I was taken to Paddington by tube train by my mother and put on a steam train (there wasn't any other type) to Maidenhead on the Great Western Railway. There, Auntie Ginger would meet me, and we would catch a country bus to Holyport. The Spices also lived in a semi-detached house. It must have had four bedrooms since the family was so large and it must have been a squeeze to take me as well. (Perhaps that's the reason I couldn't always go). What was the attraction? Well, for a start there was David. Although he was six months older, he was certainly willing to play cricket, and board games, go exploring, go to the pictures etc. In other words it was fun being there. It was also pure country, without the noise of a London suburb, with a village shop within 10 minutes walk which had the typical pungent smell associated with a small enterprise trying to sell everything, including sweets! Uncle Fred kept canneries, rabbits, tropical fish and cacti. The family was lively, fun and there was plenty of laughter. I must have also visited during the summer hols if I got the opportunity. They had a radiogram (we didn't), and this provided my first introduction to Jazz...Chris Barber and Monty Sunshine! I recall also getting the chance to sing in the choir in Bray Church when they were 'doing' the Messiah one Easter. David was a choirboy there, and when I lied that I had already done that with my choir, Auntie Ginger persuaded the vicar to let me join the choir for the duration! Bray was (is?) one of those archetypal English villages, with medieval church, village green, pub etc. and attracted the rich and famous to live within its boundaries (a bit like Ewelme really!).  The Spices had many a wedding in Bray church, usually with a reception in the village hall, where they had live music!! What fun that was, sliding across the wooden floor after soap flakes had been applied to make the waltz and quickstep a smooth glide.

If I did have any interests at home, it seemed to be of a technical or scientific nature. Why this was so, I really can't explain, since I was to discover that my father was absolutely useless at anything technical or practical, and no-one else in the wider family seemed to have an interest in any of the sciences. I did get some satisfaction in taking old radios to pieces and storing the parts, or rigging up a system of entry/no entry lights to my bedroom with switches and low voltage light bulbs and batteries from Woolworth's. The family soon got fed up with being pleaded with to come upstairs and knock on my door. During this period, I also got a present of a toy crystal set. This was the start of a long term interest in wireless, and I wanted to know how it worked. I was able to lie in bed with a set of headphones, and as long as the 'cat's whisker' was correctly set, the aerial wire long enough, and the tuning capacitor correctly positioned, I could listen (just), to some of the popular programs of the day on the Light Programme of the BBC! The Goon Show, Take it from Here, and one of my favourites - Journey into Space. The first time I saw television was when we were invited across the road to the Lewis's to see the Cup Final between Blackpool and Bolton. I was going to say 'don't ask me who won', but a simple Google has told me that it was held at Wembley in May 1953, where apparently Blackpool won 4-3 and the famous Stanley Matthews was playing. I could still say 'don't ask me about football', because exposure to rugby within the family was so intense, that knowledge about football never got a look in really. What I can tell you, is that this was also the year of the Coronation, and whether this was a case of 'keeping up with the Lewis's', we got hold of our first television. On Coronation Day (June 2nd), the Jenkins-of-Barnet came, including Nanah. The lounge was arranged like a cinema with curtains drawn shut and dining chairs brought in. I was smitten, although I did not have the audacity to express to others what it was I enjoyed so much. The music of course, but the whole idea of cinema at home, looking at live pictures, but then seeing them again later. I wanted more!

One TV programme that enthralled me was a serial called "The Quatermass Experiment" This was about the famous scientist Professor Quartermas sending a space rocket into outer space, but on its return discovering that the 'pilot' (not sure the word astronaut had yet been coined ), had been taken over by some sort of alien being! The music was perfect to scare the living daylights out of you, but also a fitting introduction to the genius of Holst's Planet suite. Was this the stimulus for a lifelong interest in astronomy? I recall using the household step ladder to climb into our loft, where we had a skylight. Using my father's war souvenir of a large pair of German binoculars (now where did they get to?), I would scan the sky on a dark frosty evening, pretending I was also a famous scientist, only being able to last out for about 30 minutes before the shivering took over.  Of course the most prominent stars were those three bright ones in a row, which always seemed to be around when perusing the sky walking home from choir practice or cubs (No parental hand-holding in those days!). Nobody at home seemed to know that these formed 'Orion's belt' or advise going to the library to find a book on the subject. One profound disappointment was that my father had promised to take me to an Observatory on Hampstead Heath for my birthday, and I was really excited about this for ages. On arrival, it was closed, and obviously he had not done his homework at all. The offer was never repeated.

One thing I did enjoy about school was going on school trips, and I seem to remember a few to the London 'Museums'. These included the Imperial Institute, - all about where coffee, tea and rice came from, the Natural History Museum, - fossils, birds eggs and insect collections, - and my favourite, the Science Museum, where not only were there large machines, but collections of beautiful telescopes and microscopes (essential for a budding scientist), and down in the children's department there were lots of pulleys to pull and wheels to turn, and doors that opened automatically and .... Now, whether my parents ever took me, I can't remember, but I do know that during the holidays in an attempt to alleviate increasing boredom, especially in the long Summer holidays, my mother would pack me a lunch and provide me with enough cash to catch the tube to London (South Kensington) and return. There was no entrance fee, so it was quite cheap entertainment really.  I guess frowned upon today, but not so unusual for a 9-11 year old child to travel alone in those times, and quite convenient for parents not to have to take time to entertain their children for up to 8 weeks in the holidays. It would have been nice to have a friend along,  but was certainly better than getting bored alone at home, which just couldn't be avoided sometimes.

Apart from those trips to Somerset and one to Scotland, where I fell ill on the way and had to stay in Melton Mowbray for a couple of days (was it those car fumes again?!), there are two family holidays that must have been quite good, by remembering them!  I can't remember in which order, but one was to Aldeburgh on the Suffolk coast where we were camping in caravan and tents. It was a hot Summer, and my eczema and hay fever were uncomfortable. But there was a lake nearby called The Mere, where you could hire out rowing boats, which I thought was terrific and peaceful. There was Moot house - an old meeting house, and the 'House in the Clouds' built on top of a tower, which could be seen from quite a distance. Our walks along the sea gave a clear indication of the remnants of prepared sea defences against invasion during the War, which gave a chill up my spine to think that grown ups had to stand up and fight each other. I wasn't really aware that this was Benjamin Britten country, who gave us 'The Young Persons Guide to the Orchestra' (first heard on another school trip to the Gaumont Theatre North Finchley conducted by Muir Matteson, whose orchestra played in many films of the day). It was later that I discovered that Britten based his Opera 'Peter Grimes' on this part of the coastline, where some pieces really capture the rural tone perfectly (Dawn).

Going Abroad
The other memorable holiday occurred because my father had somehow won a 'horse' in a sweepstake for the Derby at Epsom. What this meant was that depending on the finishing position of the horse, my father would win a certain amount of money. We all went as a family on the day. Our horse's name was 'Farrell' but even consulting Google, I cannot tell you what year it was. I can now understand why there was so much excitement, since the horse only came in 6th, and we (well Daddy did) won £600! Goodness knows what first prize was. Anyway, I remember driving to a Chicken restaurant in Barnet and having a slap up meal. Chicken was a delicacy in those days, presumably because they were too valuable for eggs than meat. It was like having the once a year Christmas lunch in the summer. Of course, chicken is now the cheapest meat today. Anyway, whether planned before or after the event, I was told that we would be having a holiday 'on the Continent'. That meant going 'abroad'! Went to the Belgian resort of Heist were we stayed in hotel right on the promenade. It had a lift and a games room in the basement. You could hire cycles and pedal cars and just pedal up and down for ages! Also staying at the hotel was a group of children from a drama school. I fell in love with one girl who asked me whether I would like to join them for a cricket match on the beach. There was also a boy called 'Bunny' May who I made friends with, who I later saw on TV in some children's' play. Oh what bliss! When my parents wanted to go and visit local places (like Knokke), I pleaded with them to let me stay with my newly found friends. They relented. I learned to love omelettes, and vichy water instead of lemonade. I thought the 'Oranjeboom' I saw advertised in front of cafe's was fizzy orange juice, until when I asked whether I could have one, was told with much laughter that this was lager beer, presumably from Holland next door! I was heartbroken when we had to leave on the second half of our holiday - I was in love remember? But this time I was not allowed to stay behind. We were going on some sort of 'grand tour', and went into Holland, then to Reims (champagne and cathedral), then Paris (up the Eiffel Tower), and various other places in between. It seemed that we had not booked anywhere to stay, so my father had to sort this out on a daily basis. My impression, even at this age, was that my father's French was not very good, but with plenty of gesticulation, we seemed to get nightly accommodation. One memorable hotel was right next to a church, the clock of which struck the hour all night. Another was where my mother was severely bitten by bed bugs. I'm not sure how my father coped with my mother's insistence to make a complaint!

There was one other significant 'holiday' or 'school trip' which I almost forgot. Whether that was because it was so traumatic that I had wiped the memory of it , I'm not sure. This occurred, either prompted by a note brought back from school, or a recommendation by our family doctor. This was a proposed trip for junior school children to Austria for a month, and organised by something called the Anglo-Austrian Society. What the purpose of this organisation was, or even where Austria was, I was not at all sure, but I believe my parents thought this might do my eczema good. I think I must have been about 10 years old. Of course, I was initially very excited about the trip, having gone to a preparatory meeting describing the journey and told what to expect during our stay. Unfortunately, the trip was very arduous and involved a trip across the channel (travel sickness again!) and then a train from the French coast to Vienna.  This was long and uncomfortable where the carriage only had wooden seats, where we must have travelled through the night, because I remember climbing up into the net hammock-like luggage rack to try to get some sleep. A coach trip, from I guess Vienna, brought us to the destination of Scheibbs late into the evening after dark, to what can only be described as a 'big house' in its own grounds. I seem to remember that we were given something to eat and drink in a refectory of long tables and wooden benches, and then shown to one of the dormitories. It was great relief to have what was thought to be a comfortable bed at last, and to wake up the next morning to see the surroundings and smell of the pine forest. The enjoyment of the experience ebbed and flowed in that it was lovely being able to wander freely within the forested grounds, playing war games or some such with  a group of boys of the same age. Also to walk down into the town, where the best shop in town sold sports gear such as hunting knives and table tennis kit. Table tennis was one of the activities available back at the school, and I got (I thought) quite good at it. So, I wanted my own table tennis bat and a wooded handled folding knife. The problem was that I hadn't been given that much money to spend and it was soon used up on such items. Of course, we all had to write postcards/letters home, and I remember asking for more money to be sent, since I didn't have enough Schillings and Goshen! Certainly my eczema was getting worse (or better?) by the fact that it had flared up into a scratched raw  state. The only relief I found I could get, was to soak  my arms in a sink of as hot water as I could stand and dab the back of my legs with the same. Each of us was paired off with a local child for some of the term, which I found highly embarrassing, since neither of us could speak each other's language and I just hadn't learned the skills of social interaction. Others seemed to cope O.K. and I was somewhat jealous to find on our departure that each child got a gift. My partner was the son of the local baker and I got something called an apple strudel! One chap was partnered by the local jeweller and got a watch, and others got some quite attractive items to take home. (You can't play with an apple tart!!).  There seemed to be quite a lot of trips organized, including one to Vienna, where we also saw the Vienna Boys Choir, but the one which spoiled the whole 'holiday' for me, was a trip into the mountains by coach. What the ultimate aim of this was, apart from showing us that the higher you go, you get snow, I don't know. I don't even know whether we reached our planned destination. However, the coach had to negotiate some rather treacherous snow bound mountainous roads, which were frightening enough looking over the drops on one side of the road (scratch scratch). Now whether the coach got caught in some sort of snow drift, or whether the coach broke down, I can't remember, but what happened next was a trauma too far. Apparently, a nearby farm or barn was decided would be the best point of refuge, and we were all guided and told to get some sleep in the straw/hay (scratch scratch - wheeze wheeze). I guess this was my first experience of a full blown asthma attack, caused by the dust kicked up by so many children trying to get comfortable. Somehow this was noticed, and I was taken back out into the nearby coach and placed on the back seat, where the non English speaking driver was awaiting dawn or some rescue party to arrive. Of course this long term away from home 'adventure' eventually ended, and time dictated that a return to 'normal' life would resume. How this particular experience affected me in shaping my future personality and actions is difficult to assess, but certain behavioural circumstances which occurred later, may certainly have had some foundation in the forthcoming self inflicted fight for survival.

I was very proud, and in some ways, in awe of my elder (by 10 years) sister Barbara. ( I was much later to become very proud again!) She was able to play our mini grand piano, which took up about 25% of the space in our lounge (mainly scales and 'Fur Elise' most of the time!) Neither my mother or father touched the thing, but Liz had some lessons, and so did I for a short impatient time. Babs could also sing, when we went to see Uncle Peter and Auntie Bob at Barnet. Uncle Peter seemed to be an accomplished pianist and my father also did a 'turn' during some visits. It seemed that Barbara, as head girl of QEGGS, had done well enough in her final school examinations (A levels?) to get a place at Homerton College Cambridge. Obviously the accolades abounded, especially as Meric was also at Oxford like his father before him. More family respectability. Now whether such achievements influenced my own self esteem, not personally doing particular well at school, is difficult to say. I was 8 or 9 at the time, so plenty of time to mature? Homerton was in fact a teachers training college for ladies only, and was not actually part of the University itself (it is now, and includes chaps!). Whether this was because ladies were not expected to take degrees in those days, or whether Barbara particularly wanted to be a teacher, I'm not sure. But as far as I was concerned, this was either a bit special or perhaps the norm we were all expected to achieve! Apart from the car journeys, I quite enjoyed visiting Babs at collage. We took picnics and went punting, visited Barbara's room and met her friends. It was a bit like going on holiday for a day. The journey took us through places called Royston and Bulldock which I traced out in our AA handbook, and perhaps these trips also provided the opportunity to visit my Mother's sister - Auntie Midge and aunt - Great Auntie Vi in Bedford. Vi was able to catch flies with her bare hands and feed them to her goldfish! Anyway, on one of these journeys, which must have been one where we were taking Barbara back to college, we had a car accident, where a car had turned out onto the main Cambridge road apparently without seeing us coming. We ended up on our side in a ditch on the opposite side of the road. I think I must have been sleeping, since in being awoken to find us at that precarious angle and saw what I thought was smoke coming out of the engine (probably just steam), I panicked to get the hell out of there. It seemed that my father had broken a finger and the car was certainly not driveable. What arrangements were made to get us to and from Cambridge I can't remember, but it confirmed my nervousness towards my fathers driving ability ever after.

While Barbara was at Cambridge, she met an undergraduate called Malcolm. He was at Corpus Christi college situated on the  opposite side of the road from Kings college, the icon of the University. He was apparently quite a good rower. As far as I remember he looked a bit like a version of David McCallum (Man from Uncle) having the same distinct kind of chin/jaw. Eventually, there was the announcement of an engagement. Well, this was all new and caused some family excitement. Barbara eventually graduated (DipEd?) and got her first job as a teacher at a primary school in Barnet and returned to live at home again (I bet Liz was not best pleased in having to share again!). The (my) 'troubles' started when Barbara started to bring home a pay packet. She certainly paid something towards her continued keep at home. One day, I unfortunately came across some cash in her bedside table while searching for something else that I really can't remember. To me, there were so many bank notes, that using the wide eyed naive logic of a bothered youth, taking one or two would not be missed at all, would it? Even if it was, it was nothing to do with me! In those days (1954ish), paper currency consisted of Ten shillings, One pound and Five Pounds. I don't think I would have been stupid enough to take the largest note, but perhaps I was! After spending some in the local park on ice cream sodas and sweets, I knew that there was no way back and from that point on, and I was now the dishonest member of this respectable family.  The rest of the money was frittered away on comfort toys, some of which I lied that I had found in the park. The hole got deeper. Perhaps I'd got away with it? Then one evening, my father arrived home from work at his usual late hour, often after my bedtime. After a while, and unexpectedly, he came into my room and told me to get out of bed. I saw he was holding the familiar twisted rubber whip he had sometime brought back from Africa. The game was up! Nothing was discussed. He ordered me to drop my pyjamas and bend over. The pain of the first blow was excruciating, never having ever experienced anything like this before. I yelped loudly while instantly realising that there was more to come. After the third, the hurt turned to hate, and the rest of the six ended  in screams, begging and crying. At the end, nothing further was said, and my 'Daddy' existed no more. The matter was never mentioned again by any member of the family, for perhaps by doing so, would have shattered the mistaken pretence that nothing had wrong with the respectability of this family. However, from that point forth, I regarded myself as a failure in comparison with the achievements of my sisters, but regarded my father with distain and a complete failure as a parent.

There was a period at around this time (11 years old) that each child at junior school had to take a test called the 11+. Liz had passed hers and I assume this exam also existed when Barbara was 11? There was an expectation that children from 'professional' middle class families would pass, and gain entry to grammar school. There was also the possibility that the more well to do families would send their offspring to a fee paying school, some of which were called 'public' schools. Now as an Old Haberdasher, my father wanted me to go to his old school! The problem was that potential pupils also had to pass an entrance exam. I failed the 11+ (told you I was a failure). I can't remember whether I had been given any preparation for the 11+at all, but I do remember often joining Mrs Thomas and her children Rosemary, Catherine and Gareth across the road for spelling tests/games, and wished she was my mother instead! We didn't do that sort of thing at home until.... I was put in for the entrance exam at Haberdashers Askes Hampstead School. This was in Westbere Road, Cricklewood. I think I was taken there not quite knowing what to expect. The head boy (gold tassle on cap) and other Prefects guarded the entrance and directed potential entrants to a group of classrooms. One could see the main hall, with balcony and organ, and the dining refectory with their benches. There was even a tuck shop. In the distance there was a rugby pitch, and adjacent to the Tuck shop there were the bicycle sheds and Fives courts. On the other side was a more modern building, which we were told was the Science Block! That day the CCF (the school Combined Cadet Force) would be exercising on the quadrangle while the exams were being held. The desks were something like out of Tom Browns School Days, heavily carved by pupils ancient and modern. The whole atmosphere was of a storybook public school, and that is exactly how it was. Taking a formal examination within that unfamiliar environment was a completely new experience for me. Many of the questions, I had little idea how to answer - "cross multiply the following two fractions". I guess that having a taste of a possibility of going to such a school (especially with a science block), makes one want the opportunity, even though in your heart of hearts you know you are not qualified to do so. Sure enough, eventually the news came through that I had failed the exam (told you). No, I didn't get a thrashing, but there was now a degree of realisation that for some while, I had not been keeping up with my contemporaries nor our neighbour's children, nor my siblings at the same age. Whether the comment was made before the 11+ or after the entrance exam, I remember one of my parents saying "You don't want to go to the Alder School do you?" Perhaps such a threat was thought would immaculately give me the knowledge to cross multiply?  The Alder school was apparently the 'secondary' school children who had not passed the 11+ would go to. This was the start of the era of 'Teddy Boys', examples of whom were to be seen in the park and on the putting green. "These are boys who have been to the Alder School Christo!" Well what the hell was I supposed to do about it? I do remember my father telling me that there was a chance I could take the Haberdashers entrance exam again "if I was prepared to work hard". In advising him of the cross multiplication and other questions I didn't understand, I found that my teacher, Mr Blazzey, kept me back after school a few days later to teach me how to do it, although I didn't understand what it was used for. I was also told that a special tutor had been hired to help me with general stuff, including geography, English and spelling and mathematics. The tutor was Miss Fram a retired school mistress. She lived in Barnet, and twice every week from then on, I was excused lessons at the Martin school and caught the bus to these cramming sessions. My Mother was also given a book, which also had exercises, especially spelling  to enhance my late 'education'  to a sufficient level  for the forthcoming exam. The day finally arrived, but this time I was now familiar with the surroundings and the atmosphere. I'm not convinced that the work I had put in, or should I say the work that had been put into me, had suddenly transformed me into a brilliant student, but there is no doubt that I was able to answer a few more questions (including cross multiplication!).  I now did want so much to go to Haberdashers, although I think I was also being realistic in accepting that there was every chance that there would be another failure notice. I could hardly believe it when the result came through that I had passed. This was the first time that I had done something successful, and was convinced that my father must have  'pulled strings' to make it happen, since I didn't 'feel' the equivalent of top of the class . I was congratulated by neighbours and relations, and felt at last that I had some reason at last to hold my head up high! This indeed was to be the beginning of a new life changing epoch, as for some not fully understood reason, we were to move into a much larger house, which backed onto my father's beloved Old Haberdashers Rugby Club. Now I was also to become a potential member.

Move to Elstree
I must have been 11 in the Summer of 1956 during a sea change in the lives of the Jenkins-of-Highgate. We were moving to my father's beloved 'Elstree' to a much bigger detached house, which happened to back onto the grounds of the Old Haberdasher's Sports Club. In fact it was located in Borehamwood Hertfordshire, but we had always known it as 'going to Elstree' or 'to The Club', before the adjacent country village of Borehamwood turned into a sprawling council estate to support the post war housing shortage of an expanding Greater London. Even 'Elstree Studios' kept its name, located off Borehamwood High Street. I was to also start at Haberdashers School in Cricklewood, within a few weeks, conveniently situated on the same steam train line as Elstree and Borehamwood Station (London Midland Scottish - LMS), and within a 20 minute brisk walk from 'One Oak' 98, Theobold Street. How we had arrived at this undoubted step up in the social strata I really don't know, but since I just had to follow what I was told would happen, I can only guess that my father had taken a better job or promotion. However, this was exciting, a time to turn over a new leaf, and leave childhood behind.

The house had four bedrooms, plus what was called an 'Anti-Room', which seemed to be where an original  third bedroom would have been before an extension had been built a while ago. My mother used this as a sewing room with her treadle Singer machine. Barbara, now with Lambretta motor scooter to continue her teaching in Barnet occupied the 2nd bedroom, which had a hand basin, while Liz had a nice outlook onto the back garden, as did my Mother and Father. I had a very small room between anti-room and Liz's Room. I guess I had been spoilt in Highgate, but now the girls had separate rooms at last. The front probably had a garden larger than the back one in Highgate, sporting some tall fir trees plus the house nom de plume of a single mature oak tree. The back garden was exceptionally long with wide lawn bisected with a Summer house once able to be turned to face the sun and adjacent to a fish pond. Such a change in environment and lifestyle would surely defocus previous feelings of shame, and provide some happiness and stimulation through the period I was to later discover was called Puberty!

So, here endeth the end of childhood to enter into the period of a teenager and young manhood. The voyage through this new age is also full of much turbulence, life changing choices and uncontrolled events. I'm afraid you'll just have to hang on again for the next exciting episode!   


Hello again. I thought you would like to know that on this November 13th 2012,  I'm still here at the ripe old age of 68. During the period of my life that I am about to relate, I imagined that really was an old age indeed. This year has been on of the most memorable, what with the Golden Jubilee,  the London Olympics, and the long awaited arrival of someone new I can also talk to from the past - the birth of little Georgia to Hannah and Greg. So, Welcome Georgia. I have just about got used to retirement after three years and doing the things I want to do, although my caring role for Margaret does take up a slice of time and produces certain restrictions on us both. However, I have managed to build an automated observatory in the garden, which is keeping the little grey cells stimulated. With my life long interest in technology, I was reminded that nearly 60 years ago, the family acquired its first television to watch the Queen's coronation. In view of national events this year, we acquired our first 40 inch 3D TV. What kind of visual communication will there be in another 60 years children?

The Teenage Years
At the end of the Summer of 1956 aged 11 (Last November), I started at the public (meaning fee paying) school of Haberdashers Askes. To get there, I had to catch a 'steam' train from Elstree and Borehamwood station to Cricklewood, both being on the London Midland Scottish rail network, with the London terminus being St Pancras. Being togged out in brand new school uniform and cap and satchel, this was one of the most exciting but nervous days of my life. Would I learn something new today? Would we have games? Well, the first day/week was a good indicator of what  school  life would  be like from now on, and it seemed OK to me (for now). We were sorted out into 'houses', and I was in 'Joblings', apparently after a past housemaster. I had to sew a green button on my cap. I was allocated a form room and form master - the gigantic T E Carrington, or 'TEC', apparently an ex-policeman, who could often be heard shouting at his history class when a pupil made a some sort of faux pas. We all got a homework and class subject diary, which gave us details of each of the subjects we were to take and where they where to be held. This was supposed to be signed weekly by a parent and by the form master, who could add comments and details of detentions etc.  I found I was to take French and Spanish, which I had no idea what would be like, and Physics and Chemistry which I was looking forward to. Also, Maths, English, History, Geography, Art, PE, an afternoon of Games (Rugby/Cricket) Music and last and least, RE. However how was all this to be fitted in to a day/week starting strictly at 9.00 am and finishing at 4.00 am. With about an hours journey each way to and from school, this was going to be quite a challenge each day, especially with prep each day to complete. 

How do you finish a lifelong BLOG?