the forties 1946 - 1949

The move to Pinner
 
After a few weeks of recovery in Taunton father and I returned to live with Uncle Sidney and Auntie Jean in Hendon. It must have been during this time that we somehow got possession of 1 Woodhall Drive in Pinner and moved there around the time of father and Phyl’s marriage.

 Pop & Phyl in 1 Woodhall Drive, Pinner back garden
Pop & Phyl at No 1 Woodhall drive, shortly after getting married and moving in.

Requisitioning was something that local councils were empowered to do under the War Measures Act. They could take possession of any vacant property and then allocate it to needy persons who had been bombed out. Number 1 Woodhall Drive Pinner had been occupied by soldiers who had left and it was standing empty. The property was owned by the then Artisans and General Dwellings Company who owned all the houses known as Pinnerwood Park Estate. Harrow Council promptly requisitioned the empty Number 1 and since Number 5 had also been requisitioned by Harrow, father was able to balance the incoming rent from Number 5 Kenton Gardens against the outgoing rent for Number 1 Woodhall Drive. Barbara and Lou moved in with us and occupied the two front rooms, one downstairs and one upstairs.

 1 Woodhall Drive Back GardenNo 1 Back Garden - 2

1 Woodhall Drive back garden - looking towards the house and down the garden

We all shared the bathroom and kitchen. This arrangement worked fine for some time although there was some friction once Judith, my niece, was born. She was not the happiest of babies and father got a bit fed up with the sleepless nights caused by her crying. Eventually Barbara and Lou found a place of their own in Northwood Hills and peace descended on 1 Woodhall Drive.

 
Having a Step Mum
 
Its now 1945 and I was 13 and Phyl was 28 , father was just 50. An interesting collection of ages ! What an undertaking for a 28 year old girl to be saddled with a teenaged stepson. In fact it worked out extremely well. Phyl was able to do all those sorts of things that I enjoyed. In particular she could make things and was genuinely interested in my hobbies. At that time I was struggling to make model aeroplanes, ships and eventually railways.
We went on bicycle rides together and also jaunts up to London to visit such model meccas as Walkers and Holtzapfels, Hamblings and of course Hamleys on Regent street. These were model shops par excellence.
I built a model galleon with the help of Harry Alford our next door neighbour and Phyl. She did all the painting of the sails and helped with the rigging.
At this time I used to make Perspex (Plexiglas) items which father sold to his colleagues at work. I made toast racks and jewellery boxes. The supply of Perspex came from Uncle Sidney who, at that time worked for ICI the makers of Perspex (Plexiglass). The staff were allowed to buy packages of offcuts at knock-out prices.
Father and Phyl were blissfully happy and I suppose this contentment bounced off on me. I never felt any sort of resentment about their relationship and we really felt like a well integrated family. I don’t recall any unpleasant incidents apart from those that are inevitable in a close knit family.
 
The last few months of the war
 
The war in Europe ended in May 1945. The last few months of the war whilst we were living at Pinner were relatively quiet. By now Hitler had started using his V2s. These were another particularly nasty weapon. They took the form of a rocket with a high explosive warhead that was launched from inside Europe and landed indiscriminately in Southern England. What was particularly nasty about the V2s was that you heard them coming after they arrived! In other words the first thing that you heard was the explosion followed by a noise resembling an express train. This was because the rockets travelled faster than the speed of sound and therefore exploded on the ground before you heard them coming. There was absolutely no warning of their arrival. The nearest we had was in North Harrow about 2 miles away. This hit a block of flats and killed many people.
May the 8th 1945 was declared to be V.E. Day, Victory in Europe Day. It was a public holiday and I was so excited I was sick in Pinner High Street when the coloured lights were turned on that evening. I made a startling recovery and I clearly remember a series of parties that we went to in various neighbour’s houses. The parties went on all night and some continued for the rest of the next day. After all we had been at war for close to 6 years, nearly half my life.
Apart from the fact that we could now sleep easy in our beds there was little immediate change in our lifestyle. Rationing was still with us. All the various shortages were to remain for several years to come. In fact rationing was not finally abolished until some time in the early fifties.
The final termination of the war came in September with the surrender of Japan and the declaration of September 2nd as V. J. Day. This followed the dropping of atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan.
 
Post War Summer Holidays
 
In the summer of 1946 the three of us, Pop, Phyl and I, went to Westgate for our first post war holiday together. We stayed at a small hotel the name of which escapes me but I remember that it was on a corner.
There are two things that really stick in my mind about this holiday.
In the dining room of the hotel the tables each had a small vase of flowers in the centre. They might have been real but more likely they were artificial. At an adjacent table to us there was a youngish family comprising, father, mother, a son and a daughter. The vase seemed to cause some amusement to this family and the father was forever gazing at his son across the table and through the flowers. He accompanied his gaze with the phrase "I can see you through the shrubbery". This evoked screams of laughter from their kids and a good deal of amusement to Pop in particular. These words became a "family catch phrase" for ever after. I still use it today, some 50 years later.
The other great memory of this holiday was the local concert part which was on at the small pavilion theatre. The show was called "By the Way". And the opening number went something like...
"By the way is the name of our show.
By the way we would like you to know"
I’m afraid that’s all I can remember of the opening number or for that matter of the show itself. You see we didn’t really go to see the show. We went because it was the only place we knew that sold Walls choc ices in the interval. Ah those choc ices...they were such a luxury to use poor deprived beings. I’m not sure how many times we sat through what was probably a pretty fifth rate show, just to get our hands on one of those treats.
In 1947 I believe we moved on to Eastbourne and stayed at the Stanley House Hotel.
in Howard Square, it’s still standing and now classified as a 2 star hotel. It became our regular holiday home for several years and we also spent several Christmases there.
One notable Christmas we three dressed up as Cinderella and the two ugly sisters. I don’t think I have to explain who was who in this trio. We won first prize and I was later paid the compliment of a gentlemen allowing me to go first through the doors to the lounge. He was really fooled.
 
  Wilson Lorries, S.M.E., MacGillicuddy’s Year Book and a Mill’s Diesel
 Wilson Lorry Kit
As I’ve already mentioned there were still severe shortages of many things immediately after the war but many items gradually crept back onto the market in the late forties.
The ambiguous title of this section is actually quite simply explained. These were all hobby items that I particularly remember from those early days in Pinner.
There was a shop in the high street, on the left side going down the hill, which sold all manner of goodies. Apart from being a newsagent and bookstore it had a small toy and hobby section at the back. They sold Wilson Lorry kits. These were the forerunners of today’s plastic model kits. There were kits to make models of various types of the then current lorries that you saw on the roads. What made these kits special was that they contained some relatively sophisticated components. The main cab was die cut from some sort of metallised card and had the name of the owners printed on it. You folded this into shape, added a small wooden roof and I believe some sort of simple interior detail. The main chassis was made from machined wood and the wheels were moulded from an early plastic material. There were relatively expensive, I remember, from 3/6d (17.5p) and up. That’s peanuts today, but since my pocket money was only 5/- (25p) per week, it represented a large slice of my income. You could also buy plans of various vehicles, the name of the publishers was , I believe, Modelcraft. Using post card and various other bits and pieces you could make replicas of such delightful things as a Mechanical Horse and Trailer or a London Transport Double Decker Bus. However the latter proved to be beyond my limited model making skills.
I also remember that a company called Scale Model Engineering of Steyning Sussex, produced some most excellent kits of the current racing cars. These included the famous Mercedes Benz which was winning grand prix races all over the world. These kits had the most wonderful wheels. They were made of turned aluminium and included celluloid insets with spokes printed on them. When assembled these wheels were most realistic. the snag with the kit was that the body was a chunk of roughly shaped hardwood. You were supposed to carve this to shape. Again this proved beyond my skills, but those wheels ...wow. An interesting sidelight on the SME kits was that the company eventually turned its interest away from model making into the world of Hi Fi. They designed and successfully marketed, world wide, the then and still famous, SME pick up arm. The prototype was made for the Managing Director of the company who was so delighted he turned their entire production over to hi fi accessories. I still have a much cherished SME arm and it works as well today as it did when I bought it around 1962.
Amongst my many model making activities at this time, I was extremely interested in model aeroplanes. I belonged to the Harrow Model Aeroplane club and was an associate of the SMAE. (Society of Model Aeroplane Engineers) The latter membership entitled you to put the society’s transfers (decals) on your models as well as covering you for all kinds of third part damage insurance. The Aeromodeller was the monthly magazine that I awaited each month with eager anticipation. Especially exciting was the Christmas issue. It was always a double issue and had a story about MacGillicuddy and his pet seagull Drambuie. MacGillicuddy was the archetype aeromodeller and was always having all kinds of model aeroplane competition related adventures. Each year the publishers of Aeromodeller magazine published a Year Book devoted to these stories and other bits of aeromodelling trivia. I just loved them, can’t remember a thing about any of them as it happens. Even the significance of the seagull’s name escaped me. How delightfully innocent I was at age 16. En passant I should tell you that, much to the horror of Pop and Phyl, I also read Alberto Moravia’s book "The Woman of Rome"... I had no idea what it was all about, believe it or not!
The last item of the heading refers to a small model diesel engine used to power model aircraft. I had begged, nagged, cajoled and otherwise worried my father into buying me one for Christmas 1947.
A Mills 1.3 cc diesel engine

Mills 1.3cc deisel
They were 5 Guineas (£5.25) which was a large amount of money in those days. However, bless his heart, the old man came through and promised he would buy me one. I prepared a "boat chart", that’s like an advent calendar only designed for some event other than Christmas day, you cross off the days to the event in question.
Inevitably Christmas day arrived and there it was, all 5 guineas worth. You mixed the special diesel fuel using a mixture of ether, castor oil and some other oil I can’t remember which. I had already made a test mount for the engine and spent the entire Christmas morning trying to get it to start. Eventually it did get going and filled the garage of Number 1 with foul exhaust fumes. I loved it. It powered several planes that I built during the next few months.
 
The N.E.R. (Newood East Railway)
 
I was in the local library one day looking for a book on model aeroplanes. While browsing the modelling section I came across a book by Edward Beal. Actually, as I found out later, he was The Reverend Edward Beal and at that time (1947) one of Britain's leading experts in the art of railway modelling. The book was "Railway Modelling In Miniature" Third edition published by Percival Marshall & Co. Ltd. At that time there seemed to be a reluctance on the part of publishers to show publication dates. At a guess it was published immediately after the end of WW2 probably 1946. If anyone reading this knows the exact publication date I would be interested to know.
The result of acquiring this book from the library was like a revelation. I had never had an "Electric Train Set". Partly due to the war and partly because my "old man" probably couldn't afford one. To discover that people actually made their own was news indeed. I set about designing my "dream" layout and sourcing materials. I located some brass sleeper strip and nickel silver "OO" rail. Much oversize as it turned out! I made a track jig as per the Rev's instructions (Page 27) I also cut out a template for a single point (turnout) using a fret saw and a drawing I got from somewhere or other. I also learnt how to solder, seems silly now but you really did have to learn how do this. I remember our local G.P. Dr. Campbell , who was a Scot, came over and showed me how to use "a soldering bolt" as he called it. I eventually mastered the art and, like riding a bicycle, have never forgotten it. Now came the question of rolling stock and a locomotive and a power unit to drive it all etc. etc. As you read on in this biography you will find out that one of the reasons for my leaving school was to support this expensive hobby. I persevered and the N.E.R. gradually took shape under my learning hands.

Newood East Railway circa 1950/2Newood East Railway circa 1950/52

By 1952/3 it looked like this and operated really quite well. I had a few locomotives , notably a 5700 class scratch built pannier tank and a B & O pacific from Rivarossi the Italian manufacturers. For my 21st birthday (1953) my good friend John Mann gave me a set of suburban Exley coaches which were my pride and joy for many years. In passing I should mention that the garage was exceedingly cold in winter and exceeding hot in summer, but nothing could dampen my ardour for the N.E.R. There is a full history of the N.E.R. on this web site.
 
True Romance
It’s the early spring of 1948, March to be precise. My father remarked, somewhat annoyed at me for being so scruffy, "What you need is a girl friend, that would make you smarten up a bit". Pop was always immaculately turned out, it was even rumoured that when he was first married and gardening at 5 Kenton Gardens he wore spats! Of course he was absolutely right. A girl friend was exactly what I did want! "There’s a nice young girl just up the road who has had her eye on you for some time" he continued. " I travel up in the train with her father most days". Who was this gorgeous creature who worshipped me from afar I wondered. I dismissed the whole matter as just one of father’s rantings and went back to my models.
That weekend I was sitting on my bicycle at our front gate when who should come walking down the street? It was my undeclared admirer. I sat there transfixed and totally tongue tied. I think she said "Hello or "Good evening" or something, I really don’t know. I probably muttered something, being far too embarrassed for coherent communication. She turned the corner and just at that moment the 221 bus arrived and she jumped on. Nothing for it but to chase the bus and find out where she was going. Fortunately it was only to Hatch End Broadway, about a mile away. I stayed quietly concealed on my trusty steed, a Raleigh complete with a 3 speed hub and Dynahub lighting. She headed towards St Anselm’s Hall wherein there was some sort of scout or guide function. Some quick thinking on my part worked out how long the show would last, about how long it would take her to get back to Woodhall Drive and therefore at what time I should once again station myself, complete with bike of course, at our front gate. Around 9:15 seemed about right. So off I went, into the garage, to do a bit more model making until the appointed hour.
My timing was nigh on perfect. The bus arrived, she got off, crossed the road and came straight up to me and said "Oh so you’re here again are you ?". We started to talk. My how we talked, I have no idea what about, but it seemed that we talked for hours. She was Brenda Smith, my eventual first wife and mother of my two daughters. Much water was to flow under many bridges before we got married and this will follow in subsequent chapters. Oh and by the way, she was 13 going on 14 at the time.
We went for long bicycle rides together. Then we realised that we really could dispense with the psychological props of the bikes and actually go for walks together. This led to tea at each other’s houses, letter writing, and eventually to the pictures (cinema). All pretty standard stuff but nonetheless exciting and romantic despite its biological inevitability.
Now the pressure was on the get some additional income to enable me to keep my new found love in the manner required. Pictures cost money, ice creams at pictures cost money, 5/- pocket money didn’t go far especially after you had paid for two 1/9 seats at the Langham or Rex. We could have sat in the 1/3’s but that precluded the back row which was virtually a must in those days. So what to do ? I decided that I was bored with school anyway and that I would leave and get a job. No discussion about the whys and wherefores or the pros and cons, just do it. I would leave school as quickly and cleanly as possible.
 


The End of School
It was the end of October 1948. I had been courting Brenda since March 13th, yes I still remember the date of that Saturday night. I was in the lower sixth of Harrow County School for Boys and had already passed my School Certificate. Not quite well enough to gain Matriculation exemption, but well enough to go on to take my Higher Schools and thence to university. But I was bored. I was 16 with a girl friend, several model aeroplanes and by now a model railway to keep. I needed an income, in fact I needed to join the workforce.
At school on Thursdays we had a single period of maths followed by double physics that took you up to lunchtime. I struggled though the maths. We transferred ourselves and our physics books to the physics lab, just across the corridor as it happened. I put my books down on the lab bench. I took a last look around, made some excuse about going to the toilet, and walked out of the lab. I crossed the quad, picked up my bike and rode home. I had left school.
" You wait till your father gets home" said Phyl, horror struck at what I had done. I didn’t care what he might say. I’d made my decision. I’d left school. Pop came home at his usual time, around 6.00 pm. "Do you know what he’s done today? " Phyl greeted my father with as he crossed the threshold. Father, having seen and heard most of it before, replied " No, tell me". "He says he’s left school", "Oh really" then turning to me Pop said "So what are you going to do now?". That was it ? No remonstrations, no orders to return immediately, just a "what are you going to do now". What a let down. I explained that Brenda’s father, Walter, was a Rotarian and had already been making enquiries on my behalf amongst his fellow Rotarians.
 
Joining the Work Force Churchill & Sim Limited
Walter Smith came up with three potential job offers. An apprenticeship in the printing industry at Watford, an apprenticeship in the electrical industry or a job with a firm in the City as a junior clerk. I decided that the first two involved too long a training period with minimum income and then there was still the chance that you might not get a job after qualifying. Thus, even though both careers interested me greatly, I plumped for the latter.
Arrangements were made for me to be interviewed by Messrs. Churchill & Sim Ltd of 29 Clements Lane, London E.C.4. Telephone number Mansion House 3261. The job description was something along the lines of trainee manager. In actual fact what they were looking for was an office boy who would make the tea, run errands and stick stamps on letters. I got the job and started work in mid November 1948 at the handsome salary of £2. 10. 0d. per week. (£2.50) Out of this princely sum I was able to pay Phyl 30/- a week for my keep, pay my season ticket to the City (7/6) and keep my models and girl friend in the manner accustomed. Oh and by the way we also got luncheon vouchers which paid for a lunch each day. I believe they were worth 3/- (15p) per day.
 
Something in the City
My duties at C & S were largely as out lined above. Along with two other boys we made the tea for the entire office each afternoon, more about this later. We did the post. This involved traipsing round all the offices and collecting up the mail, then sticking on the required stamps and taking it to the post office. The stamps we used were protected from us even thinking about cashing them by the simple expedient of having them perforated with the letters CS. This security operation was carried out by some company in the City and one of our duties was to ensure that there was always an adequate supply of perforated stamps in the strong room. Needless to say we frequently ran out much to the annoyance of Sidney Punnett the office manager.
 
A Dick is born
Shortly after joining Churchill & Sim the question of my name cropped up. It was the custom in those days that all office boys were known by their first names. Many of the staff, especially the directors had difficulty remembering Newton. I was summoned to the Chairman’s office one morning. The Chairman was an imposing person. one Chatterton Sim, reverently referred to as Mr Chatterton and behind his back as "Old Chat" or even "Chatty". He had an enormous "Colonel Blimp" style moustache which he constantly tweaked whilst talking. " Now look here Myers’ he started. "What exactly is your Christian name?" Without waiting for an answer he continued "Norman, Noah, Neil?" "Newton, sir" I replied. "What sort of a Christian name is that" he retorted and again without waiting for a reply went on "Haven’t you got any other names?" "Yes Sir, my second name is Richard". He seized on it immediately ‘Ha ! That’s it, Dick! We’ll call you Dick from now on. Now get out!" So that’s how I became Dick Myers for the next 20 years or so.
 
Tea, Tea glorious Tea
I promised to tell you more about the tea making process. As you know tea is a necessary adjunct to the smooth running of any English office. This was particularly true in a City office in the late 40’s. I suppose there were about 35/40 employees at C & S. The building was old, built around 1850. As a matter of interest C & S was formed in 1813 and they owned the freehold of the land of 29,30 and 31 Clements Lane. They eventually sold this land for an undisclosed sum in the 60’s I believe. Must have gone for several millions I should think. The building had a basement which housed the men’s toilets, some storage and the so called kitchen. The tea was made in a giant teapot that held about 12 cups. This meant that you had to brew up 3 or 4 times for each session. There was a double gas ring and two kettles. You started operations around 2:30. Tea was supposed to served from 3:00 onwards. The cups, ugh! , the cups. They were a disgusting collection of chipped and cracked china which I suppose the cleaners washed each night. We carried them around the offices in old wooden filing trays. These trays were lined with blotting paper which was only changed approximately once every two weeks. Since the building was on four floors the blotting paper was essential to soak up the drips and spills caused as we navigated the various stone staircases. You can imagine that by the time the blotting paper came up for renewal it was pretty ripe!. The tea soaked through the blotting paper and attacked the plywood bases of the filing trays and as a result these eventually disintegrated. Not before they acquired their own peculiar odour. The directors of the company got their tea first. This was the first brew and they also got a cup and saucer, as well as a spoon, where required. We didn’t serve sugar, it was still rationed. Instead, for those who wanted them, we had saccharin. "Depth Charges" we boys called them, since when one was dropped into a cup of tea it immediately rose to the top and exploded in to a circle of white foam. How any one drank this filthy brew I’ll never know.
 
Out and about
One of our other, and far more pleasant, duties was the delivering of letters by hand. In particular a trip to B.O.T. S.W.1 (Board of Trade, London SW1) was good for at least an hour out of the office. "Bottswhy" as we called it, was the Timber Control. It was located in several large old houses in Cadogan Square in Knightsbridge. You took the Inner Circle train to Sloane Square and then there was about a 10 minute walk to the offices. Ten minutes back to the train and thence back to Monument station which was our local stop. I believe the return fare was 10d in those days (that’s approximately 4p). The train ride took about 20 minutes so that will give you some idea of the distance you could cover for such a small sum.
We also made regular trips to the Bank, the Westminster on Threadneedle Street. This involved a few minutes walk through the back alleys of the City. We got to know our way around the "Square Mile" as the City of London is known. By the way I keep referring to we and the boys. There were 3 of us and my contemporaries were David Wigmore and Wilfred Davies. Dave was the son of one of the Directors head gardener and was felt to enjoy slightly enhanced treatment. Wilf and I got quite friendly. He was a large gangly lad, not at all well suited to carrying filing trays of full tea cups around! I remember that he had an ancient father who was in his 70’s or 80’s when Wilf was in his teens. One of Wilf’s great joys was miniature car racing. These weren’t model cars, rather small 4 wheel drive vehicles which raced round a dirt track. This was a new sport at the time although I believe it’s become quite popular in the US now. Wilf’s cousin was Stringer Davies, the actor, who was married to Margaret Rutherford. Wilf and I had the pleasure of meeting his cousin after a performance of "The Chiltern Hundreds" at some London theatre. I recall that we went out to dinner with Stringer and some other members of the cast after having had a few drinks back-stage in his dressing room. This would have been in 1949 I should think.
There were many interesting characters at C & S. There was John in he shipping department. John had an hearing aid which was not always reliable or turned on. You would hear his colleagues shouting at him "John ! It’s whistling again !" ..."JOHN !" The problem was that when John’s hearing aid whistled he could neither hear it or anybody else.
Then there was Mr. Gibbons. "Old Gibbo" or just plain "Gibbo" as he was known. He brought sandwiches every day and insisted in sharing them with us office boys. He would carefully select 2 or 3 perfectly square sandwiches. Cut a piece of quarto copy paper in half with his letter opener. Then he would produce an immaculate package of the sandwich wrapped in the copy paper. This was then surreptitiously handed to ever happened to be at the "Boys Desk" at the time. We thanked him politely and placed them in a drawer promising to eat them later. Frequently they never got eaten and from time to time we had to dispose of the slightly decaying sandwiches from the drawer.
One of the directors was Bob Bulkeley, commonly know as "bollocky". We believe this was because of his deep voice. You’ll have to draw your own conclusions about this one.
I became very friendly with one of the director’s son, John Mann. His father was one of the senior directors and a real gentleman. John and I shared a love of model railways and consequently spent virtually every lunch hour together. There were several model railway shops in the city and we used to visit them on a regular basis.
 
Christmas at Churchill & Sim.
Christmas 1948 had a few surprises for me.
A gentleman call Mr Scott arrived one afternoon just before Christmas. He handed out envelopes to various staff members including us office boys. In the envelope were gift tokens for Harrods. Each of us boys got £3.00, a princely sum. I bought a tie and some Van Heusan collars with mine.
Then were each called into the office manager’s office. Sidney Punnett was a strange man. at times he ruled us with a rod of iron and we went in fear and trembling of him. As I got to know him better I realised that as so often is the case, he was actually a man who was tortured by feelings of inferiority. This was particularly noticeable in his almost "forelock tugging" approach to any of the directors. However, I digress, on this occasion he was all smiles and pleasantries. After asking how I felt I was getting on and was I happy here etc. he announced that I was to be given a raise of £1.00 per week. This brought my income up to £3.10.0d a week. I don’t think I’ve ever been as well off as I was at that time. Then the biggest surprise at all...Mr. Punnett handed me a sealed envelope and said it contained my Christmas bonus. He then wished me a Merry Christmas, and asked me to send the next boy in. I was so embarrassed I rushed straight down to the basement into one of the toilets, locked the door and opened the envelope. There were six brand new £1.00 notes in it! They had given me £1.00 for each of the six weeks I had worked there. Now I really was rich.
The generosity of Churchill & Sim was to be repeated over and over again through he next several years. I shall chronicle the events as they occur.
 
The die is cast
As far as I can remember 1949 was a fairly uneventful year. I continued to work at C & S. My model railway progressed in the garage of 1 Woodhall Drive. My courting of Brenda continued and by now reached the "heavy necking" stage. Nothing more of course. Pop and Phyl enjoyed each other and I enjoyed them. The country’s economy was slowly, oh so slowly improving. We still had coal fires with the attendant horrendous smogs and fogs.
BBC Television had started up again. We had a 9" black and white set, there was no colour of course. Programs started at around 7.00 in the evening and barring breakdowns continued until about 10:00 pm. The newscaster on TV wore dinner jackets and spoke with roper BBC accents. The lady announcers wore evening dresses also. What’s my line was on the top programmes on TV. The rest was mainly "night club" type cabarets" with the odd Film Board of Canada documentary. Pop would turn the set on about half an hour before it all started. He reckoned it took that long for it warm up properly.
 
Lovely Lotte the Swiss Miss
This must have been the first year we went to Eastbourne for Christmas. But we had also been there in the summer. It was that visit when I met Lotte Wulleman, the man eater! I didn’t know she was but found out later in the back row of a news theatre in London after the holiday. She was a Swiss girl who was staying at the same hotel as us and whose parents had come over from Switzerland for a holiday. She was employed as an au pair in London somewhere or perhaps she was just in England to study. She was somewhat older than me. Perhaps two years, she must have been nineteen and I was a fairly immature seventeen. We went for long walks on holiday and it was a typical holiday romance. Nothing happened while we were in Eastbourne. I suppose we may have held hands, but that’s about it. Pop and Phyl were very taken with both her and her parents and addresses and telephone numbers were duly exchanged. Eventually we all returned home but Lotte was determined to "have me", not that I realised it at the time. The week after we returned home the phone rang and it was Lotte suggesting that she and I should meet and go to a cinema. We met at the Corner House at Hyde Park Corner, had a meal and then went to the news theatre at Baker Street station to spend the last hour before I caught the train back to Pinner. We were quietly watching the films, probably holding hands when she made it clear she wanted to be kissed. I was not entirely unwilling and turned obligingly to face her. What I was not prepared for was the passion with which she attacked me. I can perhaps liken it to kissing the active end of a vacuum cleaner pipe. Her tongue was all over the inside of my mouth, her hand grabbed mine and placed it firmly on her left, or right, who cares which, breast inside her blouse, and made it clear she wanted it caressed. I was stunned! I was also completely terrified. She murmured something about going back to her flat but I hastily declined pleading a headache, tiredness or something or other. She accepted my excuses gracefully with the promise that we would get together some time in the near future. We never did. In fact I never saw her again. The following Saturday I made sure that I was out all day so as not to have to answer the phone. Neither Pop nor Phyl could understand why I didn’t want to see her again. I certainly couldn’t tell them, I was far to embarrassed. Eventually she gave up the chase and ultimately returned to Switzerland, married some Swiss stud and produced countless Swiss children. I’m sure she was a very nice girl and if I had perhaps met her a few years later I could have coped. Nay not coped nourished and enjoyed.
What a missed opportunity eh ?

Click for next section: "The Fifties Part 1"
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