My Stories: The Coffee Bean Pot Band

There’s a tradition in our house that every time we open a new bag of coffee beans we cut out the label and place it under the elastic band that’s around the pot where we store the beans.

The pot is an old Illy coffee pot that we’ve had for years, over that time the number of labels has grown and the elastic band expanded.

Each of the labels compacted under the band has a little story of its own.

The story might be as simple as a trip to the local supermarket. Some of the stories are about special occasions; others are about holidays. The Pilgrims Coffee is from Lindisfarne.

There are stories about trips out and also stories about trips further afield. The Lojano is from Ecuador.

There are coffees that are there because they are favourites, others are special treats. Some we return to, others have been a unique experience.

The idea that we have drunk a coffee called Lazy Sunday is a deep irony.

The coffee bean pot band is a treasure trove of memories.

My Stories: The Boy with the Sword

There once was a boy who loved swords.He wasn’t old enough for a metal sword wooden ones were more than adequate. They would be swung around his head. He’d spin and thrust. He’d leap forward, twist and swing the sword. His wrist would twist and push the sword forward. He’d jump and reach upwards. He’d land and position.

Combing moves up and down the lawn he would dance. This way and that, backwards, forwards and sideways

In a world of his own he was entranced by the motion and the movement.

There was a gardener who would watch as he choreographed his moves, smiling at the pleasure dance.

The gardener had been trying to grow a particular flower, a tall slender flower with a multi-floral bloom at the top, an Agapanthus known romantically as the African Lily. The gardener had seen others grow these floral delights but had only managed to grow leaves until this particular year. This year one of the plants decided that it liked it’s location enough to burst into bloom. Upwards it pushed it’s long stem and moved it’s buds into position. The gardener watched as the buds steadily filled out ready to blossom.

Then one day, as you’ve probably already guessed, the boy with the sword walked up to the gardener and handed him the decapitated stem and buds. They were close to bursting, but they wouldn’t get the opportunity, this was not to be their year.

The gardener looked at the stem and looked at the boy and thought about all of the enjoyment that the boy had gained from his dancing and considered it a small price to pay. He looked at the boy and he laughed. African Lily would have to wait for another year.

Many years would pass and the boy would no longer dance around the lawn with his sword. The gardener would, eventually, grow another tall slender stem and watch the buds move into position. Maybe, just maybe he’ll watch them bloom but even if they don’t he’ll think about that boy with his sword and laugh.

My Stories: Driftwood Toast

In a previous story I told you about an experience with large waves at Hornsea. I also told you, in another story, about my Dad’s less than stereotypical approach to cars. This story brings those two threads together again.

When I was younger we lived in a house that still had an open fire. This type of fire were, at that time, being replaced with gas stoves across the UK. There’s something magical about a proper fire though. There are environmental concerns also, but there’s something primal about our connection with fire.

In this particular house the open fire wasn’t the main form of heating we had, as I remember, central heating. This left the open fire for special occasions and when it was very cold. The only thing I remember being burnt on the fire were logs. The logs were stored outside in a semi-neat pile at the back of the concrete garage. The logs got to the pile in one of two ways; they were extracted from people’s gardens (with their permission of course, another story for another day) or they were picked up as driftwood on the beach. I don’t know whether he did but I can’t imagine my Dad ever buying logs.

Collecting driftwood was something we would do on winter weekends. Summer weekends were spent at the allotment, but once the weather had changed it was time to walk the beaches and bring back whatever we found. This was mostly an opportunistic activity, we weren’t at the beach to fill a quota of wood, we were going to see what we could see.

On these adventures the car always had a trusty bow-saw deposited in the boot and we would go combing.

In the particular area of the east coast of England where I was raised there are miles and miles of beaches, the North sea is also a significant shipping route and the two together made for lots of discoveries. There were five of us on these excursions and we could carry pretty much anything we found. I have in my mind carrying a large log on our shoulders, my Dad, my brother and me. In my imagination this piece of wood is a broad tree-trunk and over 2 metres long. As I think about it now, I’m not sure how that worked because we would have been radically different heights, so perhaps that’s not quite how it was.

Having recovered our spoils we would stand at the back of the car sawing up pieces of wood so that they would fit in the boot. These eccentricities always gained us a certain amount of attention from others on the beach, some of it admiring, some more scornful.

Once back at home the bounty would be cut up into fire sized logs and placed onto the log-pile to dry.

Once the days work had been completed, but only on certain occasions, one of my parents (my Dad mostly I think) would lay the fire and we’d all sit around and watch it burn. We knew which of the logs were driftwood because they would burn in different colours, magical greens and blues, because of the sea-salt in them. Sometimes the fire would struggle to get going and my Dad would place a piece of newspaper over the fireplace, covering the fire, to get the draw going. He’d do this with his forehead on the newspaper against the top of the fireplace and his arms outstretched to the sides to spread the newspaper out. My Mum never seemed happy about this course of actions. I remember being fascinated by the way the flames would start to grow and and eventually roar as the air swept passed them up the chimney.

Normally the time would come for toast, or crumpets, which we would toast over the firewood with a long brass toasting fork. We would argue about who’s turn it was to go first because we were so eager for that unique flavour of wood-fire toasted bread, melted butter and home-made jam.

I still love to sit and watch an open fire.

For those of you who can’t imagine me as a small person I thought I would include a picture that I recently came across. I’m the one with the arms crossed (not looking at my sister):

Chastney Family

Top posts for 2015 – Blessings and My Stories

There hasn’t been much new content on this site this year, there are many reasons for that, but I have to admit that the primary one is that I just didn’t get around to it.

For Blessings posts the top 10 have looked like this:

  1. Count Your Blessings #120 – Short Stories
  2. Blessings #183 – Counting the thing I have that money can’t buy
  3. Blessing #203 – High-Mileage Songs
  4. Blessing #205 – A Bit of Nonsense
  5. Count Your Blessings #64 – Stories, Fables and Parables
  6. Blessings #176 – Hovis Digestives
  7. Blessings #198 – Personal Proverbs
  8. Blessings #196 – A Full Notebook
  9. Blessing #204 – Clearing Out
  10. Blessings #202 – Home

It’s worth noting that the top 2 are by far the most popular posts.

For My Stories there’s only a top 8, because I’ve only written 9 of them:

  1. My Stories: Concussion
  2. My Stories: Mr Smith
  3. My Stories: Two Allotments
  4. My Stories: Hornsea Waves
  5. My Stories: £9 or £10
  6. My Stories: Jet Planes, Helicopters and Army Vehicles
  7. My Stories: “Y’alright Wack”
  8. My Stories: Sitting in the Corner

I have a list of ideas for the My Stories posts in my to-do list, I just need to get the words typed, so hopefully some more to follow in 2016.

My Stories: Concussion

All memories are manipulated by the passage of time, I’m aware that for this one I’m particularly conscious of that.

The other evening I was talking to my parents about an event that happened when I was a teenager. In those days I played rugby at least once a weekend, but more often twice. This involved playing for both a local rugby club and for my secondary school. My Dad’s recollection is that in this particular game I was playing for the school team, against the school teachers, that’s not something I remember so I’m not sure whether this is true or not. The game was certainly being played on one of the pitches at school.

At some point during the game I received a boot to the chin. My recollection is that this was received whilst trying to dive in front of  a ball that a member of the opposition was kicking further up the field.  Clearly I mistimed my dive and got a bit too close.

The rest of the game is a mystery as is the journey home.

The next thing I have is a dim memory of falling down the stairs – while I was trying to go to the toilet. This isn’t as odd as it sounds, at my parent’s house the door to the toilet is next to the top of the stairs, but it does mean that I missed the toilet door by at least a metre.

My next dim memory is of my mum talking to me in the car (on the way to the hospital). Apparently, I was steadily drifting off and the only voice that I would respond to was my Mum’s.

Time continued it’s merry journey, but my participation in it was limited. I have a memory of lying on a bed with people trying to get me to do things, but that’s about all. My Mum’s memory is of walking into the Casualty unit at the hospital and being waved through by the receptionist; I clearly looked unwell.

The following morning I awoke and looked around to find myself in a hospital ward. The bed opposite was occupied by a man who had a shaved head and stitches that started just above one of his eyes and reached all the way over his head beyond where I could see. He smiled at me and said “morning!” The man in the bed to the right had a similar cut but this time from ear to ear. My first response was to run my hands over my head to see where the damage was. Eventually I found a graze on my chin which was developing a nice bruise beneath it; it was a relief.

Later on that morning there was a ward round. The person leading the round (a Consultant I assume) was not impressed. In my notes there were a lot of x-rays of my head, the Consultant looked through each one slowly.

“Why did we take so many x-rays?” he asked.

“Because he wouldn’t stay still.” was the answer from one of the juniors.

“Wasn’t it obvious what was wrong with him?” the Consultant responded.

There was no response to this question.

“This young man has a mark on his chin and he’s been playing rugby. Surely concussion is the obvious diagnosis!”

That was all that was said, no one spoke to me, I was just the patient. What needed to be said had been said and it was time to move on. Later on that day it was my time to move on.

My Stories: “Y’alright Wack”

Parking between the caravans resident in the “orchard”.

Walking along the straight narrow path, past the ample, two extended, workshop.

Seeing that the usually open door was closed progressing into the garden.

Looking across the garden to see how busy the top of Latrigg was and noticing that the bench was empty.

Saying hello to the search and rescue dogs noisily doing their job next door.

Climbing the few steps into the kitchen saying hello to Pauline stood their like a sentry on duty.

Turning the corner into the lounge.

There Doug would often be in his chair, reading with the aid of a standard desk lamp.

The greeting was simple, yet meaningful all the same “Y’alright Wack”.

I hadn’t always been Wack, the first time we met, and for some time after that, he called me Mark. Sue, now my wife, then my girlfriend, found this very embarrassing. Mark was a friend of her’s who would visit the house from time to time. I wasn’t embarrassed, it just made me smile.

I would sometimes get my real name, but more normally I was simply Wack and happy to be pal, mate, friend. As a stranger from the other side of Pennines it was nice to be welcomed in.

Many a time I wouldn’t get any further than the front of the workshop where he’d be reassembling some newly restored part of an Ariel, BSA, Norton, Royal Enfield and such like. Two wheeled marvels of chrome and gleaming paint on their way back to full health and occasional trips on the open road.

At other times he would be resident inside the workshop surrounded by tools, machines and various components. There was skill to the way he worked, but he wasn’t the tidiest of craftsmen, I liked that, because I’m not the tidiest either.

The workshop is cold now.

Most of the machinery has gone and so have the components.

I think I’ll carry on being Wack though.

My Stories: Top 6 for 2014

In 2014 I started writing a few reminiscences under the title of My Stories, I’ve only written six of them, there popularity has been in this order:

  1. My Stories: Mr Smith
  2. My Stories: £9 or £10
  3. My Stories: Jet Planes, Helicopters and Army Vehicles
  4. My Stories: Sitting in the Corner
  5. My Stories: Two Allotments
  6. My Stories: Hornsea Waves

My Stories: £9 or £10

Stereotypical men are supposed to love a fancy car, preferably a sports car with a loud engine. In this regard my dad is certainly not stereotypical.

Car’s have never been high on my dad’s priority list, they tended to be bought already aged and run from purchase to grave. A vehicle is purely a utility for carrying people and things. Even during the weekly commute the car’s boot would be adorned with a standard set of allotment gardening equipment including a spade, a fork, a watering can and a selection of dirty carrier bags ready for retrieved produce.

One car was an aged Ford Anglia Estate. I can’t remember how old it was, but they ceased production before I was born. I can’t even remember how old I would be when we had it, but suspect that I was somewhere between 8 and 12. I do remember that it was a deep red, burgundy even. At it’s youngest it would have been 10 years old.

Modern vehicles have all sorts of safety features the Ford Anglia didn’t even have seat-belts in the back. The wearing of seat-belts in the front of vehicles only became a legal requirement in the UK in 1983; it wasn’t until 1989 that it was a mandatory requirement for children in the rear of vehicles, the Ford Anglia went to it’s grave long before that. The three of us would sit in the back, we’d even add in a few friends if the need arose. There wasn’t the same sensitivity about the potential danger of accidents.

One day the time came for the Ford Anglia to go to its grave. I’m not sure what the terminal calamity that precipitated its demise was but I suspect that it was related to the expense of getting it through an annual MOT.

The chosen graveyard for our burgundy family bus was a breakers yard which, I think, was in a small village outside Beverley called Weel which also happened to be the location of the local tip.  My memory is of being sat in the car as my dad conducted the business with the breaker. Another memory is that the car was sat on a newly tarmacked road, it’s interesting what your brain stores away even if it’s not accurate. The windows must have been wound down because we could hear the negotiations as they unfolded.

The breakers initial offer was “£9”, for some reason my dad had a glint in his eye and wasn’t going to settle for that, he countered with “£10”. In modern money terms this is roughly the difference between £45 and £50. Backwards and forwards went the offer and counter offer but neither of them were shifting there was still £1 between them. Eventually my dad suggested that they toss a coin for it a truly British way of resolving a conflict.

The look of delight on my dad’s face when he won was priceless – £10 it was.

I don’t remember how we got home, but suspect that a neighbour picked us up because it’s a 3 mile walk from our house, but it wasn’t unheard of us to walk that kind of distance either. It couldn’t have been my mum who picked us up because she didn’t drive until we were older and they weren’t a two car family until after I left home.

I can’t be absolutely sure of all of the pieces of this story, the only bit that I’m reasonably confident about is that the bartering was between £9 and £10.

My Stories: Hornsea Waves

One of the things we would regularly do on a weekend as children was to travel to the seaside.

There are many beautiful seaside location within easy reach of Beverley. Beaches, cliffs and caves. Harbours, promenades and caravan parks. Lighthouses, lifeboats and fishing boats. Rocky beaches, sandy beaches and even a naturist beach.

The nearest place is the small seaside resort of Hornsea.

We would walk on the beach at Hornsea for hours. It wasn’t a place we  would go to for sunbathing, the breeze coming in from the North Sea is more normally biting. The cliffs are made of ancient boulder clay which are being steadily eroded. This erosion means that the beach is a pattern of sand with islands of pebbles extracted from the boulder clay and polished by the waves. Many of the pebbles include fossils so we would spend much of our time walking along looking at the ground, picking up stones and closely examining each one. More often than not we would throw the stones away but sometimes the tell-tale signs of Ammonites would have us bashing stones together in the hope of a ridged swirl revelation. We’d regularly pick up fossilised Gryphaea, not that we would call them that, to us they were Devil’s Toenails. For a period we would walk the beach in search of driftwood, but that’s part of another story.

The coastal erosion means that Hornsea has extensive sea defences providing a split level promenade and an extensive system of groins. Climbing over the groins was part of the adventure. Sometimes we would deliberately go to the seaside when the tides were high and the wind was blustering. On the best days the waves would slam into the sea wall and break over the upper promenade.

We were walking along the upper promenade one day when, from what I remember, the wind and the waves were moderately high. Not high enough to break over the very top of the promenade but still giving a moody seascape. I don’t think it can have been too violent, because if it was really wild my actions were downright stupid, but I think I was just being absent minded. Anyway, I was walking along, a little way behind the rest of the family, when I decided that a visit to the lower promenade was in order.

I don’t remember whether I was on my way down, or my way back up. What I do remember is hearing my Mum shout “Graham!” as I was on a walkway connecting the lower and upper promenade. Before I’d even had chance to look up a wave engulfed me.

It was fortunate that I was on the walkway because there was a handrail on the outside which the wave pulled me into and stopped me from being dragged out to sea by the wave.

Somehow, I don’t remember how, I got to the upper promenade and was reunited with the rest of the family. My clothes were absolutely soaked through. Other people walking the promenade had clearly seen the incident too with many of them making comments as we walked back to the car.

It wasn’t until years later that I realised how close I came to being a search incident for the local lifeboat at best, at worst I wouldn’t be here today.

Back at the car I stripped off and sat in the car in someone else’s coat and jumper. I don’t know how old I was, but I was small enough to be encased by an adult jumper.

I still love watching violent waves breaking over cliffs and sea walls, but I’ve not got as close as I did that day.

My Stories: Two Allotments

The allotment is a standard feature of British cities, towns and villages. They can be single small plots of land but more usually are portions of land divided into individual plots. Each plot is big enough to be worked by one person and support a family.

The history of allotments goes back hundreds of years. In more recent history, during the industrial revolution, land would be given over to the labouring poor to enable them to grow food. In 1908 the Small Holdings and Allotment act was written and local authorities were given a duty to provide allotment space. At the end of the First World War further land was provided to returning service men. Numerous statutes in the intervening time has preserved the allotment across the British urban landscape.

Allotments are massively popular and most councils have a waiting list of people wanting one; many of them for years. In 2009 there were reports of waiting lists reaching 40 years.

It’s hard to give a definition of an allotment beyond it being a piece of land. They are wonderfully varied places where the whole spectrum of society come together. They reflect the British temperament for eccentricity and the human desire for space, for creativity and at some level for meaning. The variety of sheds and their contents would be enough to provide study material for a psychologist for many lifetimes. Some of the sheds are little more than tool storage areas but some are veritable home-from-homes.

Once a place for people to supplement their family income with food many allotments are now primarily places of hobby, but a hobby that produces very valuable outcomes.  The fruit, vegetables and flowers that they produce are treasured by those who graft to enable their fruition.

For most of my childhood we had two allotments which we imaginatively named as the top allotment and the bottom allotment.

The top allotment was where Mr Smith would come. That allotment was one of a single row of plots.

The bottom allotment was set in the middle of a far more comprehensive system off Kitchen Lane in Beverley. There are now 130 allotments in that area which seems about right from what I remember. Though it’s one large area there are really two allotment areas, the Kitchen Lane grouping and the Queensgate grouping.

Both allotments used to be on the edge of town, the top allotment still is, but there’s been quite a lot of development around the bottom allotment. I’ve no idea why one was chosen to be top and one bottom other then that seems sensible; the top allotment was roughly north of our house and up a hill; the bottom allotment was roughly south of our house and not up a hill. I don’t think it was anything more scientific than that.

There’s a saying in gardening circles:

One year’s seeding – seven years’ weeding.

When we took possession of the bottom allotment it had experienced at least one year’s seeding and plenty of marestail growing. Marestail is a terrible weed that creates networks of roots shooting all over the place below the depth of a spade.

That first year my Dad set about double-digging the whole plot as a good foundation for future years. Digging over a plot by hand is hard enough, spade-by-spade, row-by-row; double-digging is more than twice the effort. What you do in double-digging is that you dig a row to a spades depth, lifting the soil to a spare patch of soil. You then dig another spade’s depth in the bottom of that row, loosening the soil and adding in manure. You then dig another row moving the soil over the top of the first row, again digging in manure. You then dig over the bottom of the second row adding in more manure. You do this whilst also removing handfuls of weeds and miles of marestail roots. You then repeat until you have finished. I don’t know how long this took, but in my head it took FOREVER!

The essence of an allotment is it’s soil, without good soil all of your other efforts are worthless. Each year the soil would need to be prepared for the next year’s crops. This meant digging in the Autumn because you didn’t want to dig in the winter. Digging frozen soil is impossible, but it’s also detrimental to the health of the soil.

Autumn soil preparation also meant smoky fires and black potatoes. All of the remains of produce and weeds that managed to survive into the Autumn was piled into one corner of the plot where it was set alight using newspaper that we had brought with us. These fires weren’t roaring, flaming, affairs their purpose was to burn slowly and methodologically through all of the waste material which needed drying our before it would burn. As we dug we would regularly find potatoes that we had missed in the harvesting (I sometimes wondered whether Dad left them deliberately). These would be added to the base of the fire where it was nice and hot, but not flaming. There the potatoes would be left to cook until later in the day when we would pull them out and sit with muddy frozen fingers picking through the scolding potato flesh. We place each piece of potato into our mouths and pant heavily in a vain attempt to cool it down enough to be swallowed.

Spring days were taken up with seeding which would be done from packets that had arrived in the post in a small cardboard box marked with the name of Dobie’s. I can still picture the cardboard box and the green-turquoise packets that it contained. There are many seeds still today that I can name just from their size, shape and colour. Seeds are fascinatingly varied things.

Summer days were taken up with weeding, watering and cropping.

Weeds, what can I say about weeds, if you garden then you know about weeds, if you don’t then you are best left in blissful ignorance.

Watering was all done by watering-can.  Each set of allotments had a free-standing tap. In our case it was a couple of plots over. The tap itself was a push-button contraption connected requiring you to keep the heavy button depressed to keep the water flowing. As a young boy I barely had enough strength to push the tap down let alone keeping it depressed for a whole can full. Thankfully some helpful sole had created a piece of wood with a slot cut out of it, this would be fixed across the tap to keep the button depressed as long as you positioned it correctly. At the bottom of the tap was a large bucket into which a watering-can would fit. You would leave the tap running to fill the bucket, you’d then fill your watering-can from the bucket. The trick was to water fast enough that the bucket never overran. Quite often in the summer the opposite problem occurred as all of the allotment characters queued up to get their fair share of water.

Cropping is an art-form, you have to know what you are looking for and how to treat each plant. Allotments are normally used for a whole variety of produce, we were no exception: strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries, black-currants, white-currants, red-currant (immensely sharp), runner-beans, french-beans, broad-beans (that made your teeth squeak), peas, carrots, parsnips, swede, turnips, beetroot, potatoes, savoy-cabbages, red-cabbages, brussels-sprouts (left until after the first frost), onions, shallots, leaks, garlic, courgettes, marrows, squashes, sweetcorn (also cooked in the fire sometimes), cauliflower, broccoli, radish and lettuce. Different crops were grown in the different allotments because the soil was different and so was the sun and shelter, a small plot at home was also used to grow asparagus.

After a fulfilling day in the sun with a car boot full of fruit and vegetables you would get home and it was then that the preparation would start. We were expecting to do our part in getting everything ready to be frozen, dried, stored, jammed, turned into chutney and other preserves. I suspect that I cold still top-and-tail gooseberries while watching the television.

In those days the allotments were a place for the men, if women were there they were helping their husbands. I’m sure that many of them went the allotment to escape to some solitude. I can’t say that I remember many of the characters other than knowing that they were generally a friendly bunch always ready to give some helpful advice. Dad knew many of them by name. I don’t remember there ever being many children though, perhaps that’s because many of the other gardeners were older and their children had long since grown up also. Sometimes we would get bored and go off down the country lanes, but not very often, from what I remember.

Our cars always had some tools in the back ready for a trip to the allotment. My Dad has never been particularly car proud and has run some proper old bangers over the years, but that’s another story for another day.

My Stories: Sitting in the Corner

In my childhood we lived on a road called St. Leonards Road. St, Leonard is apparently the patron saint of prisoners, captives and slaves (amongst other things).

I wonder how many people who passed our house in those days thought that I looked like I was in some form incarceration. I suspect that it looked a bit like I’d been sent to the naughty corner; the reality was that I was in one of my favourite places.

This special place was in the corner of our bay window where I sat on a wooden footstool. This simple perch was crafted by my dad as a school project, if I remember correctly, and it lived in the corner for the sole purpose of being my seat. It had turned wooden legs and a woven cord seat. At footstool height it was perfect for the childhood me to sit, peer over the window ledge and take in the sights beyond.

If people wanted to find me, they knew were to look.

We had a smallish garden out of the front of the house, where the bay window overlooked. The garden itself was worth looking out of the window for. My parents were and still are master gardeners and there was always something different to see. I particularly liked the huge daisy like flowers that would sprout high into the sky in the summer.

Beyond the garden was a footpath which, in those days, was quite well used. There were some shops down at the end of St. Leonard’s road which people would walk to for provisions, or fish and chips. The shops are still there, but people now drive there and I don’t think there is a fish and chip shop.

The road outside our house had the added interest of being slightly to one side of the end of a t-junction. I would spend hours counting cars. Some days I would count cars by colour; on others it was cars by manufacturer; on other days I would count who went in which direction. The counting was always in my head, it was a mental game that I played, it would have felt weird to write it down. I would get to learn the routine of some of the cars even though I didn’t know the occupants.

The road that fed into the t-junction was an offshoot of another road which lead up a steep hill. From the top of the steep-hill we would see if we could free wheel our bikes all the way to the bottom around two corners and into the driveway of our house. My dad would play the same game in his car, especially when we were all inside.

To one side of the t-junction were houses, on the side were we were was a field. All of the houses on our street and the surrounding area had been built around the the same time, in the middle of these houses a plot of land had been left undeveloped. This would become our play area and the place where I first learnt the splendour of gazing up into a night sky free of light pollution. It would also become the place where I sent to school, eventually.

Sitting and watching the world go by is one of life’s simple pleasures. It doesn’t cost anything but fires the imagination if you let it. Sometimes the people passing our house were on their way to an adventure in some far off land, perhaps they were pirates. The cars were rocket-ships or hover-boards, two cars together were in a chase. Boys on bikes were up to mischief. The older lady who looked very prim and precise on her sit-up-and-beg bike with its handlebar basket was really a spy.

I still love to sit and watch the world go by, but my imagination is less vivid which feels like a shame.

My Stories: Jet Planes, Helicopters and Army Vehicles

The house where I grew up wasn’t far from the edge of the market town of Beverley. We lived at what was known as the push end called  Molescroft. I’m not sure about it being posh, it was certainly the newer end of that ancient place. There’s been lots of development since those times and the house is no longer as close to the edge of town.

Beverley is surrounded by many villages mostly picturesque and distinctly rural. These are the type of villages that feature on British drama programmes that they hope to sell to an American audience. They have a wonderful set of names too Bishop Burton, Cherry Burton, North Cave, South Cake, Walkington, Tickton as well as the gloriously named Wetwang.

The nearest village to where we lived was probably a quaint rural village at one time but it had mostly been subsumed by a large RAF base built not long before the Second World War.

During the Second World War it had been part of Fighter Command and hosted Spitfires during the Battle of Britain. While we were kids, though, there wasn’t that much flying going on. My understanding, after doing a little research, is that by then it was a maintenance unit with planes flown in for work and flown out when completed. If you stood at the end of our road, which  finished near the top of a small hill, not far from the top allotment, you got a good view of the runway and an even better view of the hangers.

The planes I remember the most were the English Electric Lightening and the Avro Vulcan.

From our view of the runway it was fascinating to watch the Lightening screaming down the runway until a parachute was fired out of the back slowing it down significantly. I often wondered what would happen of the parachute was to break.

I’m not sure how often the Vulcan visited; the one a remember was showing its prowess at a splendid local Air Show and Open Day. I’ve found some pictures from 1974 which are just how I remember it, I’m not sure whether this is the same day as the one a remember, but it’s about the right time. At six, if that’s when it was, this arrow shaped giant was fascinating as it flew over our house and rattled the single paned windows, amazingly agile for such a large aircraft.

I had no idea of the purpose of these aircraft during those days of the Cold War, for me they were entrancing roaring giant birds. I’d never known real war, I’m not even sure that I even knew about the cold war at that age.

Being close to the North Sea the airfield at Leconfield was also home to RAF Rescue Helicopters; first it was the Westland Wessex followed later by the Westland Sea King Westland Sea Kingwhich looked so much more prepared for the job it was being called to do. They would fly in and out low over our house sometimes hovering in their splendid high-visibility yellow paintwork. We would regularly stand in the back garden and wave to them, sometimes we could see them waving back as they leaned out of the open side.  I would imagine what it would be like if they lowered the rope down and took us for a ride, sadly, they never did.

A few years after the glorious Vulcan acrobatics the airfield changed its use and became the home to the Army School of Mechanical Transport. The Lightening and Vulcan were replaced by Trucks, Tanks and Land Rovers. The flat land around the runway was turned into hills and gullies providing off-road experiences. The roaring noise in the skies became extra vehicles on the local roads. In the army you could learn to drive at 16; seeing these boys who didn’t look much older than myself drive such large vehicles was amazing. The locals soon became adept at knowing how to avoid the delays caused.

On one particular day in 1982 the vehicles streamed out of the base on their way to a ship, the Southern Ocean and war. It was the talk of the school the next day, I missed it completely, in the coming weeks I would learn what war was as the images were shown on our televisions.

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