(101) 'Nappies, Elm Trees and Pranks'

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Ken
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(101) 'Nappies, Elm Trees and Pranks'

Ken
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Our house was among the first to be completed in the new twenty house estate called Hullmead, so when we, the Tuffs family, moved in, most of the houses were uninhabited.  My siblings would have watched with great excitement as the other nineteen were finished and our new neighbours arrived.  Alex and Irene Hendry arrived at No.1, with their young daughter, Janet.  Mrs Hendry was to become a good friend of my mothers.  Seymour and Pen Glue moved into No.11, with their eight year old son Mick.  Charlie Churcher and his wife came to live at No.16, Charlie was a Londoner with the wonderful, 'Stanley Holloway,' accent that Londoners had at that time.  "Hello Kenny, me old China," he would cheerfully say whenever he saw me, I really liked Mr Churcher.  I'm told that my brothers, Bob and Len, also liked, Renee, his pretty daughter, while young Ray Churcher became one of brother Gordon's playmates.  It was an exciting time as the older kids made new friends and their Dads met new drinking pals at the two village pubs. However, for many of the Hullmead mothers, including Ruby Tuffs, it was a time of constantly washing nappies!

In its first year of existence, 1948, Hullmead accommodated, in addition to their parents, almost forty children of varying ages.  Fourteen of them, including me, were still in nappies and, as this was long before the luxury of disposable ones, each of these linen nappies had to be either hand washed or put in the boiler.  Fortunately, the outhouses of all the houses were supplied with a washer boiler and these were in constant use.  What followed saw those nappies fluttering on the many clothes lines for what became known as the baby boomer years began.  George and Vi Stevens at No.4, had two sons, Trevor and Barry. Their neighbour's at No.5, Eric and Olive Thompson, had their second son, Peter.  Arnold and Millie Elliott, at No.15, added three more to their family with the arrivals of Martin, Linda and Isabelle, while Mrs Aylett, at No.17, had Sue and Philip in double quick time.  Births were followed by more pregnancies but, for one lady, the daily washing of nappies was almost over. By the time I started school in 1951, such tedious chores had become nothing but a distant memory, so there were no more nappies for my mother!

Looking back, I like the fact that the paths I walked to school on were the same paths my older siblings once walked. In winter we mostly walked the main road route but in summer, and whenever possible, we always walked through the alley that led off Sweetwater lane to the pathway through the blackcurrant fields.  It's rather a nice thought that there was a time when ten year old Violet walked that same route, accompanied by nine year old Len, eight year old Bob and seven year old Dot.  "Look out," someone may have shouted, "Here come the Tuffies'."  Later Dot would become the big sister and she, Phyl and Gordon would have walked that same path.  Of course, by the time I started School all my siblings had either moved on or left school completely but I, and my Hullmead buddies, walked to school the same way.  I recall there was a garden en route where there were some enormous rose hips. Their insides contained fine hairs that made perfect itching powder and during our lessons we'd put these to great use.  I also remember, with much pleasure, how we would play cowboys and Indians on the way back home.  I was always a cowboy and I'd hide in the bushes and munch on the blackcurrants as I'd lie in wait for those pesky redskins.  When I'd killed them it was time for home and a sugar sandwich with a glass of cool milk.

I'll finish this short trip back to my Hullmead years with a story about the Elm trees that were scattered around the village green.  This was long before the onslaught of the Dutch Elm Disease but something, long ago, had caused these trees to rot from the inside.  Whatever it was it did not kill them, but it made them a delightful place of play for us village kids.  These trees were heavily coppiced and kept to a height of about six meters but they were of a wide circumference and completely hollowed out.  Better still, some of them had a hole in the lower part of the trunk that a child could climb through.  Once inside, we had the perfect climbing tree, complete with natural footholds to climb safely to the top and this was were I'd sometimes sit to watch the cricket matches.  My favourite spot was the tree outside Judge Jellynecks house for it was close to the  Forest Stores with its supply of lemonade, crisps and biscuits. Many a time I've happily sat in that tree, sipping and munching, as I watched my brothers play and win.  There were other hollowed out elm trees we could use, two were outside Earnie Hills house and another was in front of, Avenell's, the paper, tobacco, sweet and ice cream shop.  There were at least four more trees outside the strip of land that fronted our pub, The Red Lion.  That's where I'll take you now, to a time close to my tenth birthday.

It was the day I discovered that these hollow Elm trees had other uses than just climbing.  They were also wonderful hiding places and an older boy called Mick Stevens showed us what fun you could have with them.  A small crowd of us were sitting on the grass outside the pub when a smart car drew up and asked if we knew how to get to a particular house.  Mick, who was about thirteen years old, gave some precise directions, "Straight down this road until you get to some crossroads, turn left and follow that road for about two miles and you'll come to a small green, when you get there, its the first house on the main road!" The driver thanked us and sped off and Mick told us all to quickly hide in the hollow trees and watch out for cars coming up Hullbrook lane.  I got in the same tree as Mick and we both climbed to the top where we were hidden from view.  He was chuckling and tee-hee-ing to his hearts content and after about ten minutes we saw the smart car coming up Hullbrook lane.  By the time it reached the main road and a visibly annoyed driver got out, Mick was actually chortling with delight.  I too was amused but also a little frightened, for the man was both large and angry.  Mind you, after he left and we all came out from our various trees, I laughed uncontrollably.  It was a prank I was to repeat many times in the years ahead.

There will be no particular order to these reflections on my life.  My Hullmead years ranged from my nappy days of 1948, to 1970, the year I got married.  There were a hell of a lot of laughs and many adventures between the two and some memories deserve re-telling.  Hullmead and I will meet again!
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Re: (101) 'Nappies, Elm Trees and Pranks'

Phyl gibson
those hollowed out trees had memories for me too. When I was 14 we used to hide our lipsticks in them. Dad would not let me wear lipstick until I left school, but you had to be 16 to get into the Cranleigh regal cinema on a sunday so we retrieved our lipstick on sunday afternoon But did not apply it yet as we wanted to get half price childrens fare on the bus not unlil we reached cranleigh did we want to look older. (The boys lit a woodbine cigarette to look older). When I was a couple of years older I bought  my first pair of trousers and again my Dad did not approve of women wearing trousers so again the hollow tree became my hiding place.
Ken
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Re: (101) 'Nappies, Elm Trees and Pranks'

Ken
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This tale tells of people, paths and trees that are no more.  But these memories of times gone bye, still bring pleasure to my mind and laughter to my lips.