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E A Hanson Memo

Dear Chris

Seems a long time since you asked me if  I remembered anything at all about our time in Wivvy and, of course, since I was only about 5 or 6 when we left, I remember very little.

I was born in Rustington [West Sussex] in a nursing home in February, 1940 and it was so cold that year the sea froze as it came up on the beaches (so I was told).  Mum also told me that she had a horrid time when I was born and I always got the impression that she really wanted a boy to replace baby brother (David) – what a disappointment!

I remember the smell of the kitchen in Wivvy but not much about the layout of the cottage except that the back door opened onto the garden and we had chickens which were killed from time to time and hung on the washing line by Mr. Yandle, who scared me although he had a very kind voice.  Mum used to do her washing in a copper which was heated by gas, and I do remember the pump for the cold water, which I had difficulty in using as it was very stiff.

I only remember having one toy and that was a doll’s head whose eyes opened and closed and I pretended that she had a body when I put her in a box with a cover on.  I had a very good pretend friend called Day Day who I don’t think came back with us to Fordington Road.  I did talk to her all the time because Barbara had her own friends.  Richard Walsh and Jane were great friends of hers and they were always trying to get away from me because I must have been a drag trying to join in games that I wasn’t big enough for.

Pedlar, the Airedale, was a lovely dog and I remember when Dad came home on leave from Africa, he bought some bananas and Pedlar smiled when he saw them!  We had never seen bananas before and I have always hated them.  I do remember travelling up to London in the front of a lorry with Mum – it must have been when I was five because I think I still had chicken pox which I got on my fifth birthday.  We went to meet Dad and I remember that his uniform was very tickly and rough when he cuddled me.  I do seem to recollect going to school because it seemed to me that it was an awfully long walk and then up a hill at the end.  I am sure that Aunty Mary Cook and Uncle Clifford were also in the village for a while although Ba didn’t mention them. 

I am afraid I don’t remember much about you being born or brought back to the cottage from Wellington, but I do remember the shawl you were wrapped in when you were christened in the village church which had a corrugated roof.  You were already being bathed in liquid paraffin and Mum was worried that it would get all over the shawl.  The smell of that will always stay with me. 

The V.E. party was held at Pulsford’s garage which was next door to where the Walshes lived and we all had to wear red, white and blue – goodness knows where that all came from but I think we had ribbons (the girls) and jelly and cakes and jam sandwiches.  Trust me to think of the food.  Three Horse Shoes I do recall because it was hard to sit on Uncle Syd’s lap as there wasn’t much lap because his tummy took over most of it, and he let me lick his fingers when he dipped them in the beer.  There was a man in the bar who always promised me he would feed me on strawberries and cream and I think his name was Mr. Quick.  The stairs to the bedroom were near the entrance to the public bar with a door and they were very dark and steep.

We had a holiday at Blueanchor in a beach hut with mattresses on the floor and no room to move and I got sunstroke and saw pink elephants and had to have calamine put all over me with cold cotton wool, and Dad had  woollen swimming trunks which stretched and looked funny with his funny, thin, white legs, but he swum well while Mum pretended and walked on the bottom whilst doing the breast stroke with her arms. 

(Do you remember that holiday we had at Walton-on the Naze when we had a tent and a primus stove and I think you and I slept in the car?)

Sorry, the memories are very sparse and sometimes when Ba talks about it all, I think I remember but it may have just been talking about it later.

When we got back to Fordington Road, I went to school at a Convent in Muswell Hill – not for long I don’t think.  That is when the incident occurred that Ba remembered when I pulled another boy back from the road – it wasn’t you.  There was an awful fuss about it all, and he did get a bash on the head and, if the truth be known, it was probably all my fault anyway for not hanging on to him tight enough in the first place!

Not long after that I went to the Martin school in Finchley and you joined me when you were 4 or 5.  Do you remember going to those flats opposite the Martin and getting a signed autograph from Peter Sellers at his house?  We used to get liquorice root sticks from the sweet shop which lasted all the way home, but when you had sucked all the sweetness from them you had to spit the rest out!  That was well before sweet rationing stopped and things were still scarce.  We did have spoons of malt from a jar and we also used to have spoons of Ovaltine when Mum wasn’t looking.  I think it was my 7th birthday party when to Mum’s horror I invited the whole class and the teacher, Miss Hainsworth, and they all came! 

I started ballet classes in Muswell Hill when I was quite small and had to walk up Woodside Avenue, through by Tollington Girls School right up to the High Street (near St. James Church where you were in the choir) – past the road where the Cooks lived and down the hill, past the convent and through to a house where a lovely lady whose name I can’t remember, gave lessons.  I was not very good, but I obviously loved it because I carried on until I was about 12 (or until boys took over).  It was on one of these occasions when I was accosted by a man who wanted to take me into Highgate Woods and I ran all the way home and told Mum and she told the police.  After all that fuss I never told them again about the many times I was accosted in Cherry Tree Woods and on the tube, etc. on the way home from N.L.C.S.  The freedom we had in those days was unbelievable, and everyone believed we were safe.  At times it was scary but you soon learned how to treat all the 'sickoes' there were out there.

We used to go to Saturday morning pictures sometimes at the Rex Cinema in East Finchley.  Think its still there but is now called the Phoenix!

When Mum was ill in hospital, I was sent to Aunty Ginger’s and went to school with Jan and Dimps and you went to Aunty Maisies and Barbara stayed with Uncle Peter and Aunty Bob.

I took the 11+ two years in a row and the second time I took it, I had to go for an interview to N.L.C.S. [North London Collegiate School], which was a very impressive school but I didn’t want to go there.  I wanted to go the Q.Es because Ba was there and she loved it.  To my horror I got a free place, so there was no turning back.  It was a dreadful journey consisting of walking across Cherry Tree Woods, a 102 to Golders Green and a tube to Edgware, and then at least a mile up The Drive to school.  It used to take about an hour and a half in the morning and sometimes a lot longer coming home.  At least I could do all my homework on the journey but not on the days that the comics came out!  I remember some of the 'pea soupers' though and one night taking turns with the conductor with a white flag in front to steer the driver.  Those nights I didn’t go through Cherry Tree Woods but walked up the main road and down Woodside Avenue to the top end of Fordington Road, because at least there were street lights.  In the real fogs, these hardly showed up at all but just enough to see the kerb and the cars were very slow and very scarce.

We used to have lovely firework parties at Fordington Road down the steps from the veranda, and Meric used to bring a friend of his with him who wanted to have a hand in everything, which annoyed Dad, as he really wanted to be in full charge.  We also had some lovely Christmas times there with oranges and nuts in the bottom of our pillow cases and lovely parcels that rustled when you stuck your toes out.  You had a trumpet one year and followed the Salvation Army band who played outside the house on Xmas morning.  We had to go to Crusaders on Sunday afternoons, and I think that is how you got interested in singing in the choir at St. James.  You had a lovely treble voice. 

On Saturday mornings, I used to go to the hairdressers at the top of Woodside Avenue to work, and I was promoted from sweeping floors to shampooing.  On Saturday afternoons we all went to the O.H. and helped Mum with the teas for the Rugby players. 

I haven’t been to Wivvy for ages, but think that this has prompted me to suggest to John that when we next take the camper away – possibly in August – we should go that way, and I’ll see if it will dredge up any more memories. 

With love to you and all the family - Liz xx