The Story Of a Precocious Child. Part Four.
Opposite my home and rising high into the sky behind the few house that separated us was Bostall Woods, the best playground and adventure park a child my age could wish for.There was everything that Winn’s Common had and more. Huge oak trees with inviting climbable branches under which lay centuries of rotten leaves on which to fall or jump down on, steams to wash away the endless summer heat or wade through, when mud seemed appropriate. Blackberry bushes to use as food or as paint for camouflage and hiding places under spreading knolled roots or within gaping holes in cave-like trunk’s. There was a Band-Stand where uniformed men and women would play music I kind I had never heard, and bowling green with white clad elderly people rolling a ball and getting excited. There were cricket nets and a place to buy sweets and more ice-cream, it was heaven to me and more like me, before the word paedophile was ever heard of. I asked for nothing in those years except fresh air and freedom from the ever pursuing Park Keepers who always found fault in our antics especially on seeing me among the crowd. I never did find out why.
I had two uncles and three aunts directly related to me, although one aunt, my mothers only sister, and I never met as they had argued at sometime in their past and never healed that wound. That sister of my mothers did leave a lasting impression on me however, she had a daughter named Josie who had flaming red hair and an enormous personality managing Irish drinking bars where I would guess she ruled as a Queen over them all. The remaining two aunts were my fathers sisters and both lived a considerable distance from me, one in Houndslow on the western periphery of London and the other in Dover of the White Cliffs fame, on the Kent coast. These two destinations along with Borstall Woods was where I would spend all my holidays away from School and my parents. Of the two, Dover was far and away my favorite as at Hounslow I had only one cousin and she being a ‘Girl’ I had little in common. This did however change later, when I became interested in those creatures because she had loads of girl-friends and some I was fortunate to make acquaintance with. Since those days I have always preferred the company of women but perhaps more of that later.
At Dover I had three cousins, two girls and one boy, with no more than four years between us all. We shared a liking of the outside life walking for hours along the cliffs with me imagining aeroplane dog-fights high above. I once saw a Spitfire with its cockpit open fly low above me but it was peacetime then far away from what it was constructed to do and did so well.
Catherine, Alice and Douglas were friends more than relatives and I hope still are. Douglas joined the army and spent more than thirty years in it, now living in Cyprus widowed and with heart problems, a long way off from where we would catch sticklebacks together and then remove the leaches stuck on our legs after wading through more streams than I can remember. Alice too has lost her husband but has two children of her own that keep her busy and Catherine has a farm along with a husband, son and grandchildren. We often speak.
My mothers two brothers were both big men in statue and in generosity both gave what they were able to give to me freely expecting nothing in return. They had many other similarities both were bald and both wore caps. I luckily at this age still have hair but I have copied their penchant for covering whatever is left.
Uncle Reg with his wife aunt Doll lived in a council house had two children much older than me and although I not sure what he did in way of gaining a living, I am sure that he never had a great deal of money. But he had a heart of gold when it came to time. Once mother and I arrived at his home unexpectedly on a Saturday evening when he was dressed in vest and braces. He was eating his diner in an armchair, fixed on checking his football coupon as the results were announced on the television. He said something that night, the sentiments of which, have stayed with me forever. More or less this is how it went “come in and clear off for five minutes while I do this, then I’ll spend all night with you.” In today’s parlance I would say that he was an upfront guy, one not afraid of wanting his own space and telling you so, I admire that in people. A few years after I first married one of my wife’s sister, husband and three children would come and stay with us over Christmas and I welcomed this. They would arrive on Christmas Eve and settle in. I would make a heartfelt fuss over the children and be attentive to their parents but I always told them what time I expected them to go on Boxing Day. We too had a life not always having to share that, simply through a feeling of duty.