The summers lasted ages. Bright, sunny evenings down by the river with plastic sandals on. Looking under every stone for a Trout, getting carried away and walking for miles down stream; it was always shallow.
The river banks looked like you were stuck on the 18th hole on a golf course. The iron bridge hand bars underneath, just close enough to swing hand over hand, trying to reach the other side – little feet dipping in and out of the water.
It was always warm, and I cant’ remember having a warm coat at anytime.
I still dream of the roads and the orchard I used to play in; eating sweet pears, plums, apples and damsons. Climbing every tree as high as I could go, never falling.
There were woods planted in a circle with an iron fence around and a gate. I started to climb every tree, and finally I climbed to the highest. Rising above the canopy, I looked into the distance and could see Stockport (where I would end up working for six years as a Baker Confectioner before joining the Army).
The woods were so big to a small boy and a place that I spent many hours making bows and arrows. Throwing arrows, a single straight branch with card as a flight, a simple groove near the top where the string with a knot in it would be the release mechanism. I could throw it hundreds of feet and I show my Grandchildren how to make them when they visit.
The Flob stick, as I named it, a stick about two foot long and some clay. Make a blob on the end and propel the clay for miles.
We had a cart made by a man on the street from old pram wheels with rope at the front. We spent hours going down hills, laughing until your sides burst as we had no brakes so we had to head for a field or a garden.
There was a house near us belonging to Mike Yarwood, the impressionist. He had the best apples around so we would climb over his gate and take bags, full then sit outside his house eating them when he pulled up in his Rolls Royce. We used to shout “Do Harold Wilson Mike!”.
My days with the balsa wood plane were great fun, throwing it into the wind. Sometimes it would fly for ages, always landing on someone’s roof. Then we would ride our chopper bikes to the park, the woods, down by the river. Never thinking about food, just going out in the morning and going back home for tea.
When I went to school I had a mate who had a toy car and we pushed them round this very smooth road, in the shape of a horse shoe.
We would take turns in pushing the car the furthest, the first one to the end of the road won. We were late for school so many times, but it never seemed to bother me.
At Xmas I got one toy each year, and I can remember two of the presents.
One was a very early memory of me in the hallway of 12 Hazel Avenue with a toy elephant with a key in its side. You turned the key a few times and it would creep across the floor.
My Xmas day meant Granddad coming round. He smoked a pipe and I loved the smell of the tobacco as it filled the room, and all our lungs, with thick smoke.
I got a tank one Xmas that was operated by some batteries and had four small guns at the front – you fired plastic rockets with suckers on the end.
The day was going great when I positioned the tank and aimed at my Granddads glasses. Fire! It hit him and stuck on the lens of his glasses. Early to bed for me.
I used to pinch my brother’s roller skates when he was out but always got caught and got a beating off him. They were so dangerous and fast with no control over them. I found some glue, and being a naughty little kid, I glued a wheel on each side and watched him put them on. I laughed when he couldn’t work out why they wouldn’t roll.
When it rained there was still plenty to get up to.
One of my favourite past times was to try and catch birds in the back garden. I made the linen basket into a cage on a length of string with a stick holding it up. I would put bread inside and wait for a Starling or Blackbird to go inside, then quickly pull the string, capturing the bird inside. At no point was the bird harmed in anyway – it was just a bit of fun.
In the garden were concrete fence posts with holes where the wire went through. I would poke a stick through one end and out would drop earwigs. Placing them in a beaker, I would carry them to my sister’s bedroom and put them in her jewellery box.
No mobile phone, TV, tablet, PlayStation, game console – just a garden to make my enjoyment.
On the landing was my mum’s sewing machine with cast iron pedals at the bottom.
I would sit and pedal as fast as I could. The vibration that rattled through the old floor boards was deafening and shook the whole house. Followed by “Where are you Ronald? Come right down this minute”.
I had a thing for hiding in the smallest places and scared my sister so many times, laughing and trying to run away, my rubber plimsolls being left when I made a dash for it.
I would hide behind the living room curtains on the window ledge, listening to my mum talking to herself about dropping a stitch.
Tea time was great, my dad getting his yellow smoked haddock whilst we waited to see our White or Black Tripe; I covered it in so much vinegar to hide the taste
Many night I would get a clip around the ear for looking at my dad’s 🐟.
My mind has always been a bit weird so I thought it would be a bit of fun to pick up cats and take them into my mum’s bedroom, then shut the door so they were trapped. It upsets me now, thinking how the cats must have felt, but my record was five in the bedroom at once. Then mum would go upstairs and the scream would echo down our avenue. “Where are you Ronald?” – I knew what was coming next.
My other past times were collecting worms on a dinner plate and eating them. Mixing mud and water, and painting my face like an Indian. Finding a stone that I could draw on the path with. Talking to the man who had a garden full of roses with beautiful smells and colours of all descriptions. Sitting on top of the coal bunker where my dad did his firework displays, lying on my back, looking up at the seagulls and birds trying to work out how they flew. I didn’t know that the bird would become a massive interest in my life as a grew older
So, there were times when I was not the victim, but I could never get away from the sadness, even in the little garden.
There was a little girl called Paula who lived next door. She was my friend. I would walk to school with her in the morning. Her house was next to mine and she lived with her mum, no dad.
Paula had beautiful blonde hair and a pretty face. For some reason, I never set eyes on her mum once, but I heard her.
I have to say it as it was back then.
The screams would start as soon as she returned from school. The smacks could be heard as I sat in the back garden thinking what has she done now.
This would happen daily and some mornings in summer I would see black bruises on her arms and legs. We never spoke of how they got there as my legs had bruises on too.
Some of my bruises were my own fault, but that would change when my dad left when I was 9.
Paula lived next door to me in a flat that had stairs going up to it. On one occasion the noise of her coming down the stairs and hitting the front door made me go over and sit on the other side, asking her if she was ok, only be told to mind my own business and scarper. I did. I told my mum once but she said I was hearing things.
It never stopped.
I learned later in life that Paula cared for her mum. Paula was her sole carer, no help from anyone – not even a neighbour.
No one will ever know what her life was like – the pain and suffering my young friend must have gone through everyday being a carer at the age of seven.
When I write about my childhood and how traumatic it was, I think of Paula. She only knew sadness. No loves, no cuddles, no stories at bedtime, no playing with toys, no biscuits or a bar of chocolate.
I would leave Paula two years later when one evening me, my brother and sisters were gathered in the hallway. My Dad and Mum stood in front of us and said “We are splitting up. You decide who you want to live with”.
So, at the age of nine I had to make my first decision in life – not a big one, just one that would again make me question whether I was REALLY LOVED.
Years later I was told that Paula took her own life. I went back to the village, found her grave and laid some flowers for her. I left her all those years ago and could not help her.
At least Paula won’t have to live with the horrific life that she never chose to have and is at peace, with no more hurt.
R.I.P Paula my friend.
Other memories of 12 Hazel Avenue were children playing out on a summer’s evening when I had been sent to bed with no tea.
My Step mum had moved in.
I chose to stay with my mum, so the only meeting I had with my dad was on a Friday night when he would walk down the road and I would meet him on the corner of Brookfield Road.
He would reach inside his pocket and give me a Caramac chocolate bar, my treat once a week. It was heaven, and I made it last for hours, letting it melt into my taste buds. I would save the wrapper and keep it under my pillow, smelling it until the next Friday came.
Then shortly after dad leaving, my Mum could not cope and she left us too; I never knew where she went.
My dad came with a women I will refer to as B.
If my life had been bad up to that point, what came next would scar me for life and have an affect on me as a boy, a man, and a Dad in later years.
She was cruel from week one,and for some reason would look to find any reason to hit you – a tut from your mouth, a cheek movement, a look as you turned away – anything would result in a beating. I don’t know why.
What I learned was that she wanted my Dad, and she would only be happy when all the children were gone from the house and she had him all to herself.
It took her five years to get rid of everyone except my sister Julie, who had to live in fear of beatings and rape.
I would walk home from school, not knowing what would be waiting for me. Did you make your bed this morning? There is a piece of bread missing from the bread tin. A biscuit missing. Own Up Ronald.
She would sit me in the kitchen and, with the exception of a Black SS uniform, it was like a movie without the acting. After a time, I just admitted it to get out of the kitchen and was sent to bed with NO TEA.
Now, when or if someone blames me for something I didn’t do the red mist comes down and I turn into the boy again. Now instead of admitting it, I go into a rage – all because of a woman who mentally tortured me 3 or 4 times a week.
My nights of having no tea were many – going from my school dinner to the next morning was something my little stomach would get used to. This hunger together with the continuous smacking of my legs, even when I said “Yes it was me”, would scar me for life. Thank you B.
When I started secondary school it meant one thing – you would have your first pair of long trousers. But B had other ideas.
The first day was bad enough, not knowing anyone, but also being made to wear your shorts from primary school. It was another blow to my shot away confidence (another problem I suffered with right through my Army career).
If only she had known how much her treatment of me would affect on me throughout my life. Maybe she did know.
My days at secondary school started badly and I would end up hating it, from not having a pen to write with to dreading standing up and reading in front of the class.
The day would start with me buying my sweets from the shop I did a paper round from. The man in the shop was nice to me and I used to wind him up by asking him how much the penny chews were. Back then I think I am right in saying that the Black Jack and Fruit Salad sweets were 12 for a Penny, so on the morning of school I would buy 48, which always made the shop owner laugh.
They didn’t last long – as soon as I arrived in the playground the two local bullies would spot me, corner me, and take the lot off me. I was not streetwise and did not know how to fight.
My day at school followed by my night at home with B was like a constant punishment.
I could not wait to leave school and home. I left school on my 15th birthday on Friday, and on the Monday I started work.
My wage was £4.50 and the Bitch took £2.50 off me every week. It didn’t last long as I left home at 15 years 6 months old, and moved into the smallest flat in a rough area.
I was Bowie mad in those days and lived for his music. At that time, I had very long hair so I could do what I wanted. I got my hair dyed ginger and had a Bowie cut; the only thing was that my hair would not stay up. As I worked in the Bakery, the manager let me use Lard and I would comb it through using the wall fan to shape it. I even had a white silk bomber jacket with flowers and birds on it. My mate Jim had a sister, and she would make my face up like the Aladdin Sane album cover.
It was at that time the Dreaded Drink entered my fit, healthy body.
I would buy a 99 pence bottle of Bacardi and drink it straight.
I can’t be proud of that, nor the amount I drank over the years. With my life up to the age of 16, can you blame me?
I blame my parents for the alcohol problem that would lead to criminal convictions, failed relationships, anxiety, paranoia, depression, and many more problems I encountered through drink.
Maybe now, after nearly four years without a drop, I feel I can talk about it and I feel the best I have ever felt.
I saved for my clothes back then and the ones that stick out are my Cromby Brogue shoes and my multi coloured top.
I must mention my best mate Jim, who I looked up to; he looked after me all the time. We had some fun times, mad times, and scary times together.
Without going into the stories I will just mention a few….
Playing fire football where we would roll paper up in a ball put tape round it and set light to it than start the football game.
We used to go to the train line and wait for a train to come, run alongside it, climb onto it and travel for miles in one direction and then back again. How we didn’t die I don’t know.
He had a Vespa scooter and we would ride around with no helmets with 22 Pistols down our pants. Jim would wear steel toe capped boots and if a car cut him up we would ride along side it, kick the door and fire a couple of slugs in the bodywork.
We would make firework guns out of pipe – bend it over like a gun, drill a hole near the end, drop a banger in and light it.
We loved the Bob Hope films and in one scene Bob Hope was tied to a tree that was bent over to the ground and the rope was cut flinging him high in the air. Later when we had nothing to do Jim said “Let’s find a Bob Hope tree and we can put you on the bottom and fling you up”. God what a laugh that was.
We’d walk the streets looking for the biggest hedge, run from the other side of the road and leap into the hedge, landing in the front garden.
Garden hopping was another pastime – seeing how many gardens we could climb over until we got caught.
Cutting golf balls up and getting the miles of elastic out that they have inside was great, then stretching it across the road for a car to stretch it.
Yes, I was naughty, but I never hurt anyone.
I lost contact with my mate Jim when I joined the Army.