Life at Wilmar

Now for my life living in Wilmar (1930).  (This was not the sort of house that we were used to and we were only there because my mother acted as caretaker when the family were abroad.) I can only tell you what I remember. I was very young, most of my family called me ’Blue’.

It was the most gorgeous bungalow, not that I was impressed at my age, if my mum was with me that was all I cared.  Where my mum was that was my home.  It had lots of rooms, even a bathroom and a wonderful lavatory, you could just pull the chain from a big tank on top of the lav and it sent all this water down the pan, I thought it was magic.  There was also a very large kitchen with a huge big stove.  Mum would be cooking nearly all day, she would make a big pot of stew from old bones.  I often wondered where they came from.

When we were on our own the rest of ‘the mob’ were at school, it was lovely. I loved having mum to myself. She would say, ‘time for one ole, two ole’.  She called it this because it would be piping hot, it was two mugs of gravy taken from the stew pot to make room for the dumplings, being so hot I would say ‘whoop ole’ after each mouthful so mum forever after named it that (lot of nonsense).

We kept ducks, rabbits, pigeons a ferret, cats and one dog.  We used to eat pigeons eggs, they were like little golf balls. My greatest pet was a Rhode Island Red cockerel named Longshanks, he was the most beautiful bird you ever saw.  I had him from a chick and would carry him in my apron everywhere.  If I was sitting on the doorstep he would come and sit on my lap.  I can remember his body was always warm and when I stroked him he loved it and would make a funny noise in his throat.  I loved him even more because I thought hens laid eggs but he laid the bacon.  Anyway he grew really huge and such a handsome guy.  One day my gran came to stay with us, I think she was teasing him, she said he just flew for her and pecked her head.  She should have kept that stupid hat on.   Anyway she came into my mum with blood running down her face (made the most of it).   Mum did no more, grabbed Longshanks, took him to a big door in the shed and shut his neck in it and killed him.  I hated my mum, my gran and everyone else.  I cried and cried until we had him for dinner (he did taste lovely).

Fred my brother used to feed and clean all the animals.  We used to breed rabbits to eat, we still gave them all names.  We had a huge duck pond in the paddock it was all red tiles.   Fred had a big water tank on wheels so he used to clean it out every Sunday morning.  He would clean out the hutches and put lime in to keep them sweet.  One day a tramp called round, he used to give Fred a penny for wild rabbit skins and four pennies for a tame one.  On this particular day Fred used to hang them outside on the shed wall to dry out a bit, some of the tame skins were a pretty colour.  When Fred came out of the house the tramp had gathered them and put them all in a sack, he tried to ‘do’ Fred saying they were mostly wild skins.  Fred did no more than grabbed him by the throat and tipped the whole lot out and told him never to come back again ‘or I will give you a good hiding’.  I thought Fred was ever so brave he used to work so very hard.  I didn’t see much of my dad.

We had two large tennis courts and a very large round summer house.  We had a cob nut walk, asparagus beds and strawberries in the huge kitchen garden.  There was a long wide drive up to the bungalow, it had big white stones all the way up, we used to have to whiten then every so often, and mum was very fussy.

Mum always put hens under a sitting hen, it was lovely when they were running round with their mum, and there would be yellow, brown and even black ones.  If they were a bit sick mum would put them in a big cardboard box and put them under the stove on the hearth, I thought it odd because she would hard boil eggs and chop them up for them to eat.  They were really cute.  When mum wasn’t around we would take them out of the box to have a run around and hope the cat didn’t come in.   Some would get the ‘gapes’  keep opening their mouths and then mum would give them some salt water to drink.

Good times

We had some really good laughs at times.  Ivy used to get out of the bedroom window and bring some cobnuts back.   It was a job cracking them with our teeth.  Then we had to hide the shells, but Ivy would always find a way.

It was like the good apples, mum would say only have the ‘drops’ so we used to nick them from the tree and rub the stalk with dirt to show mum how it had all gone brown from being dropped.

Every Christmas mum would make a huge rabbit and sage pie, it was out of this world.   We would gather ivy and holly to put over the pictures on the wall.  Then get the gramophone with the horn out ready.  We would go out singing carols and might get a penny or two sometimes they gave us a Christmas pudding.   When we sang ‘We Three Kings’ we would start to giggle and point to ourselves seeing our surname was King.   Mum would take the money from us when we got home, then we would make a wish when we stirred the Christmas pudding, I wished I could have kept the money.

We used to be so excited going to bed, we only ever had a piece of coal, a walnut, one orange and a large pink comic which was out of date and someone in the ‘posh’ houses had given mum.  We still had a wonderful Christmas.   Mum would put a piece of holly on top of the pudding then she would set it alight with blue flames, it was sheer magic.  We would all hope to get a silver threepenny bit but only one ever went in.  Then after tea on went the music, we had five records which we played every year.  We, well not me, used to have a drink of mum’s homemade orange wine.  My brother Fred would sing like Paul Robeson, Gert would sing  ‘Only a Bird in a gilded cage’, Vi would sing like Gracie Fields, Red Sails in the Sunset, Lil used to yodel and her song was ‘I Started my Life as a Cobbler, I’m working from day until night with a torili torili addy I’m working with all my might’.   The rest of us would jig around and be very silly, until it was snap dragon time.  Mum would lay raisins out on a big dish and pour brandy over them and set them alight, they would glow such a pretty colour.  Mum would put a sheet around her to bring them in and put the lamp out, we were supposed to make a grab for them on the dish, I would be scared to even look, let alone touch them.  But there would be such laughter.  You would never believe how poor we really were.  Such lovely memories.

Off to school

Then came the time for me to go to school, I was five so off I trot with my sisters.  In those days you started school when you were five and stayed there until you were fourteen.  When I started my first day they wanted anyone who knew a poem. I put up my hand as I had seen the other kids do that.  So out the front I went, stood on a chair so everyone could see and hear me:

Three men went a hunting

Nothing they could find

But a little dog’s turd

And that they left behind

The teacher didn’t seem at all pleased with me so they told me to play with the plasticine, which I stuck on top of my head and couldn’t get it off.   Mum had to cut it off, I had a little brush on top of my head for ages.  I also knew another poem my dad had taught me before he left or whatever happened to him.  Three men went a hunting was the best one though as I thought it was rude:

Oh Barney oh Barney

No breeches to wear

We’ll buy a sheepskin

And make him a pair

Woolly side in, skinny side out

Oh Barney, oh Barney they’ll never wear out

Also a song:

God made little Robin in the days of spring

Please said little robin when am I going to sing

When am I to sing  ?

God then spoke to robin

You must always sing but your sweetest carols keep for wintery days

Keep on wintery days

We used to sing a lot at school, there was an old wind-up gramophone in the playground, which we used for country dancing, my favourite was call ‘rufty tufty’ Lena and I were always dancing to it at home.

Whilst were living in Wilmar bungalow the other girls Gert, Vi and Lil still used to sleep in the cottage, so when the time came for us to move back in all was well.  Gert got married when I was five years old and I was her bridesmaid , I wore a salmon pink dress and a ring thing on my head.  Soon after getting married we moved back into the cottage because Gert and Ack had the chance to move into a little bungalow called Briarash Lodge, it was nice what I can remember of it.  That is where Freddie her son was born.

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