Monks, golf and climbing chestnut trees.

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At the back of mum and dad`s shop were open fields and a private school for boys which was called Wellesbourne School.  Wellesbourne had an outside swimming pool which years later when the school had closed and was derelict, our neighbours` dog fell into.  The poor thing was there all night until my brother Martin and I sourced the barking, climbed over the wall and hauled him dripping, out of the murky water.

Wellesbourne school was next to a friary which used to exist in Acocks Green and was part of Sacred Hearts and Holy Souls Catholic Church community.  The monks would often go out onto Wellesbourne`s playing fields and practice golf, their brown cassocks flowing around their ankles.  Martin and I would gather up the golf balls and return them and the monks would bless us and make us feel very pious.

We had a lot of friends round about in Acocks Green and we would all meet up and play Acky One Two Three together until dusk and go home sweaty, filthy, happy kids. Children can`t do that very easily these days, play out on their own all day and have adventures which is a pity.  There was a concrete air raid bunker at the back of the flat which had a sloping roof and we would all climb up on there, me, my big brother Al`, Martin, the Slater sisters, Pamela and Gail and sometimes Tishca (Patricia) and Terry Price would join us and Terry would flirt with my sister Sue.

One time Martin decided to dig a tunnel, he dug into an earth bank with a spade he got from dad`s shed.  He dug in quite a way and then the whole thing collapsed on him, it`s lucky we were all there to dig him out again or he might have suffocated.  Martin was always getting into scrapes, mum sometimes used to call him the black sheep of the family which was untrue, he was just an inquisitive, brave boy. I loved him then and I still do.

I felt a sort of awe for my brother Alan all through my childhood and teens, I have never worked out why that was except that he was enigmatic and therefore very cool and interesting to me.  Al` suffered from terrible inner ear infections as a child which would leave him delerious with pain.  Mum and I used to sit by his bed and hold his hand through the night and he would weep, it was awful and wouldn`t happen these days.  Very unfortunately these childhood infections have left my darling bro` with tinnitus which has nearly driven him insane over the years and almost entirely deaf now, which is a great shame as my brother is a very gifted saxophonist and blues harmonica player.

As a child I loathed my sister Sue.  She was six years older than me and incredibly bossy and wouldn`t let me join in with her and her friends and wouldn`t allow me to go to her birthday parties and so on.  She got to stay up much later than me and had a grown up relationship with mum and dad which I was very envious of.  I remember saying the f word when I was about four, I suppose I`d heard one of my brothers saying it and Sue slapped my face hard telling me never to utter the word again.  I carried on loathing her until I was about fourteen and then I fell madly in love with her and remained so until her much too early demise, nearly five years ago.  I miss you every day my dearest sis.

At the back of the flat on the bit of land we used to call The Black Patch (which was really just the Midland Bank car park,) grew a magnificent Horse Chestnut tree.  It is huge, it`s still there and is a protected tree because it is so old.  When I was four I decided to climb up into it`s vast heights and then of course, I couldn`t figure out how to climb down again.  I`m laughing now at the recollection but I remember my father`s face, he was furious with me and had to get the long ladders and climb up to get me down.

My parents never smacked us to discipline us, they had both been `strapped` as children by their fathers` leather belts and I think they must have made a joint decision never to dish out that kind of punishment.  I believe I was sent to bed after the tree incident, without my tea!

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2 responses »

  1. Dear Nelly, by absolute pure chance I stumbled across your blog and was fascinated. It brought back many memories of , as my Sister refers to it, the Acocks Green Mafia. My Sister Caroline and I (Barry) lived next door over the Electricity Showrooms. Terry Price was my mate in those days as we were of similar age, but then we moved away. I’m sorry to say that as you were the ‘baby’, only Caroline remembers you, but they were happy days.
    I remember the freedom we had and the areas we played in – yours Dad’s field with the wooded garages, where every November the 5th we had a huge bonfire with all the old vegetable crates and the offcuts from the local wallpaper shop (Terry lived over it?)
    Woolies drive was popular for skating and trollys. (And for parking sports cars – yes I remember the incident)
    A large pile of sand in the garden of the bank kept us amused for best part of a year. The weather had to be pretty bad to force us inside our homes – the whole gang lived over the shops, so we all had little room to socialize indoors..
    There’s lots I could write if I had the time, but I must sign off. Thank you so much for the memories. I’m really sorry to hear about Sue.
    I have some photos from the period. Sue, Alan, Pam and Caroline by the air-raid shelter etc., a picture by the garages with Terry and Alan and Martin. I’ve recently been scanning some old negatives, so could send them to you, if you would like – or perhaps you might prefer to just keep the memories so I would quite understand if I did not hear from you.
    (I can be contacted at mawsonb@cardiff.ac.uk )
    Barry

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