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When my father first entered the Red Lion pub in the year of 1931 he would have known not a soul. However, it is almost a certainty that among it's customers, some would have had the surname of Stevens or Jarrad, members of that vast clan of relatives who lived in the village called Shamley Green. My father was a friendly man with good people skills and by the time he left the pub he would have known the first names of some of his fellow drinkers. Perhaps he may have even said, "Goodnight Harold", to that member of the Stevens family who was to become his closest friend. Those he spoke to would have learned his name was Wally and that he had recently moved into one of the nearby Longacre cottages where he was working as a gardener for the owner of the Longacre estate. They may also have learned that he was a family man and waiting at home for him was his wife Ruby and their little baby daughter, Violet Rose Tuffs. As the months turned into years the village would have seen his family grow as did our fathers friendship with some of the people he met , and this takes us to the point where this memory begins.
We are now in the year of 1946 and all is not well in the Tuffs household. Like so many men who had served their Country in the recent War my father was not happy that his employers expected him to continue working for the same wage as he had in 1939. Perhaps foolishly, my Dad had refused to accept this and by doing so had put our families right to remain in our home at risk. The result was he had received an eviction notice and the day loomed when the bailiff's would arrive to kick us out. I was just a baby at this time and I had no knowledge of these enormous worries that faced my family but my older siblings obviously had. Looking back I can say that in my entire childhood I have no recollection of my parents ever having a serious argument but, surely to God, they must have had some humdingers at that dreadful time. Put yourself in my Mums shoes and consider the situation that was facing her. She was forty two years of age with a baby who was just a few weeks old. She had six other children of school age, all depending on her, and she faced the real threat that within days they may all be made homeless. Those dreaded demons of the night must have made sleep close to impossible!
My fathers friends had an answer to his problem and it is quite possible it was suggested by his great pal, Harold Stevens. Their idea was that they'd get a few of the Jarrad/Stevens clan together to stand guard at our house on the day the bailiff's were due. Perhaps the plan was, that after politely shaking hands with the bailiffs throats, they would strongly suggest they return whence they came. I'm glad that my father rejected this well intentioned offer from his friends, for he knew that the bailiffs would just return on another day. What Dad did was ask the advice of an older and wiser gentleman who lived in the village and this man, a retired army officer, came up with the perfect solution. He arranged for Dad to rent the empty lodge house of a large property called Unstead Park, which was situated about four miles away in the nearby village of Bramley. But time was short and speed was of the essence and so began an adventure that Walt and Ruby's children still speak of today, close to seventy years later.
The swift withdrawal from Longacre cottage began the day before the bailiffs were due. A friend who had a lorry helped with the moving of the furniture and, on one of the runs, he carried my six year old brother Gordon and two of his sisters, the soon to be eight year old Phyl, and Dot, who was eleven years old. They had the excitement of sitting in the back of the lorry and with them they had some farm sacks. One of these contained their pet cat and in the others were mums chickens, which she relied on to supply the families eggs. They also had with them a large number of some recently laid eggs which mum had placed in a large crock pot. This pot was full of water and a substance called isinglass that our mother hoped would keep the precious eggs safe. She had said it was the responsibility of Dot, Phyl and Gordon to protect everything and so, as they sat in the back of the rickety lorry, they concentrated on this important task.
As the journey commenced the three young siblings sat, trying to hold the crock pot steady. The constant rocking of the lorry meant, according to my sister Phyl, that quite soon there was more water soaking all of their clothes than remained in the pot. Sadly, despite their efforts, the isinglass protective substance was not all it was cracked up to be (no pun intended), for every single egg was broken, but I'm pleased to say that on there arrival at their new home all the chickens were well and unharmed. However, the occupant of the cat sack had not enjoyed his unexpected outing at all for like all cats who have their freedom restricted, he had squealed, wailed and wriggled for the entire four mile journey. When, on reaching his new home, he was released, he took off like a rocket. The poor creature was never to be seen again!
I doubt if anyone alive remembers the order of the dramatic evacuation of Longacre Cottage on that long ago summer morning. It must have been sad for my Mother for she had been happy raising her young family there. I imagine she would have been the first person to arrive at Unstead Park, for she would be needed to oversee the moving in and positioning of beds, etc. I presume my brother's, Bob, aged twelve, and Len, aged thirteen, would have been with her to help with all the lifting. Dot, Phyl and Gordon arrived later, in time to wave goodbye to their cat. Dad would probably have been the last to leave Longacre, for he would have had to lock up and hand in the keys of what had been his home for fifteen years.
Needless to say I was oblivious to all this frantic activity for I was probably asleep as my pretty, fifteen year old sister, Violet, wheeled my pram from one home to the next. The route, I told she took, began by going on the rough track that went across what we all called the half mile field. Next she would have pushed me over the river bridge, then under the railway bridge and, after going past the canal, would have trudged on and up to the main Bramley to Guildford road. After another hours walk, with no doubt many adoring glances at, the then cute and cuddly, me, she too would have arrived at our new home. We were together, and we had escaped the wicked bailiffs by a whisker. That night, Dad, Violet, Len, Bob, Dot, Phyl, Gordon and baby me, would have gone to sleep quickly, and slept soundly.
I doubt that my mother would have gone to sleep as quickly as us, however, and I suspect she breathed sighs of relief as she thanked God for the roof above all our heads. She also knew there'd now be a bed for her eldest son, Wally jnr, to come home to, when he returned from Japan. That meant she would be able to sleep without worry and I'd like to think, as she slowly drifted towards the land of Nod, she'd have known that for that night, and for many nights to come, she would no longer be awoken by those dreaded demons of the night who have visited us all at some time in our lives!
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