Tuesday, 18 November 2008



Roam Free!

This memory takes me back to the time I had my
first 'real' bike given to me. It was my welcome home
present from my Mum and Dad after being away
for a couple of weeks at my eldest sister Mary's
house in Tongham, Nr Aldershot, Surrey. I suppose
I was eight or nine years old at the time.

It was a bad time as my Mum had to go into hospital
and have an operation to remove a lung. Myself, and
my younger brother and sister, Billy and Sally, were
'barracked' out for two weeks in a really 'hot' summer.
Adventuring was very high on the agenda, and thanks
to a neighbours boy who was just a couple of years
older than me, I got plenty to think about.

From playing down at the 'rickety' railway bridge,
where we used to invade some poor chaps spinach
patch, and playing 'chicken' with the steam trains.
(Ashamedly). To messing in the orchards and hop-
fields that were rife in the area at that time. An old
deserted 'oast-house' in the village was one of our
favourite spots for just 'hanging out'.

It was the time of Tizer and Jubblies. Two things
we'd not experienced back home in leafy Wargrave,
so that in itself seemed like we were 'big-time'. As
for bed-time, we had to share beds with my sister
Mary's other four kids in a three-bedroomed house.

My sister Sally naturally shared with our niece
Valerie in her bedroom. But in the boys room there
was my brother Billy and Me. Little Ray, Tony, and
baby Graham who were of course our nephews.
Do you think much sleeping went on? Not a lot.

Those two weeks seemed to last forever, and even
today, I can't believe we could have crammed so
much adventuring into two weeks.

Anyway, when we got back home, we'd all three
been bought something 'special' as our reward for
having to be away from home, and as I said earlier,
mine was a bike. It was a girls bike. 'Pink', and a bit
on the big side. It was our neighbours' daughters' old
bike that she'd grown out of, but that didn't worry me,
I was now independant to the point I could go any-
where I wanted, when I wanted, and I did.

A few weeks later, and I was really starting to miss
the friends I'd made in Tongham where we'd spent
the summer, and I got to conspiring with a good
friend at the bottom of our road, Bob goddard. His
dad used to drive a huge lorry, and Bob would often
go out with his Dad on long lorry trips, so knew his
way about our part of the country well.

I asked him if he knew how to get to Aldershot,
and he did. I asked him if he fancied doing a bike-
ride there on the Saturday, and he did. So we
managed to get a few bits and bobs to eat along
the way and a couple of bottles of water. Then on
the Saturday morning we both sloped off in the
general direction of Aldershot.

I mentioned earlier that it was a particularly 'hot'
summer, and this day seemed to be the hottest. We
thought we'd been going for miles when we ran out
of water, but infact, we'd only gone four or five in the
'right' direction, as Bob had taken us on a rather
longer route than we'd needed to go. He was
following the route that his Dad used to take in his
lorry, but his Dad delivered grain from the BB&O
depot in Twyford, and of course went 'round-robin'
as it were. I know at one point we were pushing
our bikes up Bix-Hill on the north side of Henley-
on-Thames. Completely in the wrong direction.

We stopped at a little shop in Spencers Wood to
tell the shopkeeper there our plight, and hope for
some sympathy, (which we got). Thankfully in the
shape of some Smith's Crisps and a bottle of
Corona Lemonade. This helped us get the rest
of the way to Aldershot, and from there I knew
my way to Tongham and my sister's house.

Sadly, it was now gone two o'clock in the after-
noon. It had taken us 'far' longer than we'd hoped,
and to cap it all, there was no-one in at my sister's.
Our hearts sank as we sat there wondering what
to do. The whole estate seemed deserted, there
didn't seem to be anyone around.

Then a neighbour from accross the way, who I'd
not met before came over to us. Said she recog-
nised me and that my sister and the family were
over the park playing 'Stool-ball'. (Apparently like
rounders but with slightly different rules). My
sister was in the team and it seemed like the
whole village had turned out to watch this 'mom-
entous event'.

We made our way over the park and caught about
half an hour of the game. Enough to see Mary
batting away and running for all she was worth.
(I'd never seen her so active). When she finished
and came over to see Me and Bob who were
sitting with 'Big Ray' (her hubby) and the kids, she
was absolutely flabberghasted, she couldn't
believe we'd made so much effort to get over to
see them on such a hot day.

We got taken back to the house naturally, and got
fed and watered. But there was only time to have
a little natter before we had to start making our
way back home to Wargrave. Only 'this' time,
Big-Ray drew us some directions to follow so that
we'd get home a lot quicker than it had taken us
to get there.

I suppose it was a sign of the times back then, that
our Mum's and Dad's never even missed us. Just
asked if we'd had a good time. Great stuff!

Although we never got to meet the friends I was
originally missing, that day is 'so' ingrained in my
memory that I consider it one of my 'treasures'.

I wonder if old Bob Goddard still remembers?
Or even if he's still around? So many friends now
dropping off the perch, you begin to wonder.

Catch you later.



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