Memories Like Snapshots

Writing about the 1940’s as I have been is quite an exercise. Some memories I will never forget they are engraved deep on my brain whilst sometimes – rarely – a new memory will emerge as I trawl the depths. Memories of many years ago are just like snapshots. I think the earliest ones from the age of 2 up to about 11 are of the snapshot variety. Anything after that may have more depth and detail.

I asked my mother what I was doing on VE day,  on the day of the 60th Anniversary. She needed coaxing because her long term memory was deteriorating. Her short term memory was almost gone altogether.

Anyway, it was the time my father had returned from Ceylon and was now stationed at the Ford Naval air base in Sussex. We were all living in a largish house in Yapton, just a few miles away. The village was also the residence of many evacuee children, one of whom, David Rayner lived in the house with us. The houseowner was Mrs Cox, a large, jolly country woman – not that I remember her.

As I was saying about snapshots, that’s the sort of memory I have of that time, just snapshots. So, I asked my mother what I did and it seems I went to a party in the village hall. It can’t have been memorable because I have no memory of that either.

What I do remember of that era is limited to about 3 or 4 snapshots. I do remember running across fields of stubble with the other kids in bare feet, jumping across a ditch and seeing a water rat. We crossed a railway line – Southern Electric – with the third live rail – and if I had got that wrong I wouldn’t be writing this.

The next memory is of a crashed two engined plane in a field. We kids scrambled on board and salvaged a few mementos. I remember having a piece of paxolin electrical circuit board and I remember the smell of it. The next day we went back and we couldn’t get near it because it was now under guard. It seems we must have got there in the first place very soon after it crashed. It was in one piece, probably did a wheels up belly landing.

The final memory – which I repeat – apart from having marmalade tart as I said earlier for my first school dinner – don’t remember the school however – is that mother and father were to go to the beach at Bognor on bicycles. It was a warm, sunny day (weren’t they all) and I was to sit on a rolled up raincoat strapped around the crossbar. There was nowhere for my feet so I felt insecure – I was only five after all – and I wouldn’t go on the bike. Without further ado I was left behind in tears and off they went for a day at the beach. What sort of parent would leave a five year old standing in a country lane in tears and happily, without a care, go off to spend a day at the beach?

Five years old for fox sake – unbelievable. Well, I can tell you, it doesn’t get better.

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