Part Forty-One

Moving to Fleet Hampshire brought a slight change to my daily commuting travel to work. From my house in Bedford Road Ruislip Gardens, it was only a five-minute walk to the train station where I caught a Central Line Tube train and changed at Oxford Circus to the Northern line for my train to Waterloo. But because my new house in Church Crookham was over two miles from Fleet station I used my car (1957 built Ford Popular car) for this daily journey and parked the car in the station car park for which there was a parking fee. This mode of transport was later changed to cycling. As I had sold my bicycle before the move to Fleet and not wishing to buy another one I resorted to visiting the local dump (scrap yard or ‘recycling’ centre). I found an old but serviceable bike frame, which I painted green, some old mudguards and other bits and pieces which enabled me to assemble a bike myself.  


At this point, I should tell you that, unlike the Underground Tube trains which ran quite frequently, the service from Fleet to Waterloo in those days was an hourly one on a steam train. This meant that when I was on early duty, which was on alternate days, I started work at 8 a.m. To allow time for any train delays and not wanting to be late I would leave my house at 06.15 a.m. to catch the 06.43 a.m. train from Fleet station which was scheduled for arrival at Waterloo at 07.30 a.m.

I had a briefcase which I attached to a holding rack behind my saddle. Upon arriving at Fleet station, I would dismount, dash onto the platform and park my bike in the covered area reserved for all bicycles. After locking up my bike and removing my briefcase from the back I would cross over the bridge to the opposite platform to catch the train to Waterloo. 

 There were some days, particularly in the winter time, when I would oversleep. This resulted in a mad dash on my trusty steed to the station. With briefcase firmly attached to the rack, my head down and my legs pedaling like pistons I hurtled along Fleet High Street nearly breaking the sound barrier.  It’s no wonder my bike was known as ‘The Green Flash’.  As I raced into the station’s entrance heaven help anyone who crossed my flight path.  There was a very helpful porter at Fleet station named Vic, who upon seeing any passenger arriving late for the London train, and panic-stricken as they dashed across the bridge would warn the train driver by shouting out, ‘One coming over’. I must admit that on those occasions when I was one of those late comers and if Vic wasn’t on duty, I would copy his warning to the driver as I dashed across the bridge, down the steps onto the platform, grabbing the handle of the first carriage door I could reach and, complete with briefcase would fall into the carriage receiving somewhat startled looks from some of the passengers ‘hiding’ behind their morning newspapers. The cost of an Annual Season ticket commuting from Fleet to Waterloo was £108.  There was no way I could afford a lump sum of that amount on my own but, fortunately, once again, Shell as they did with my mortgage, came to the rescue. They supplied the required amount to any employee who couldn’t afford the lump sum and then deducted the loan by monthly amounts from their monthly salary.  As a point of interest when I retired from Shell in 1989 I believe that the cost of an annual season ticket for the same journey had increased to over £1,300. 

During my days of traveling from Fleet to Waterloo, I was sometimes caught up in delays or change of trains. Naturally, it is quite common that any delays traveling by train can be due to breakdowns, bad weather, shortage of staff and similar inconveniences but during the 1960s there was another reason which was more serious and dangerous. This was due to the IRA threats of bombs being placed in strategic designated places particularly in London, i.e. mainline train stations. I remember on occasions dashing from my office across York road into Waterloo station aiming to catch the 9.12 p.m. train for home only to be confronted by police stopping all passengers boarding any trains because of warnings they had received claiming that there were some IRA bombs being planted somewhere in the station.  This could cause a delay of up to an hour which was inconvenient, to say the least.  On the bright side of traveling from Waterloo station I once had the pleasure of seeing a comedian and magician Tommy Cooper talking to a porter and on another occasion walking down the platform, I passed golfer Peter Allis who had alighted from the train I was about to board. I could have shouted out ‘Fore’ but I didn’t. Talking of Peter Allis some years later I purchased a second-hand golf club, a five iron, for the princely sum of five pounds in an antique shop in Horncastle Lincolnshire. On the back of the club head it bore the name, Percy Allis, Peter’s father, or should I say Par? I wrote to Peter about my purchase and received a polite, friendly reply from him which was a nice touch.

In February 1963 the whole railway system in Britain was changed dramatically when due to the loss of money the Government asked Richard Beeching to leave his high profile job in ICI (Imperial Chemical Industries) to take on the task of streamlining the whole train network system and making it more profitable. This colossal task Beeching undertook by reducing one-third of the network by closing hundreds of branch lines, 5,000 miles of track, over two thousand stations and tens of thousands of jobs.  The whole adventure has gone down in our history as a fiasco and a complete financial disaster. Even now, in 2019, one can hear people looking back to earlier times say things were fine then but that was before Beeching came along and ruined everything.

The last story I will tell you about here relating to trains is how lucky I was on 12th December 1988 when I was traveling on my usual train from Fleet which left at 0643 a.m. and arrived at Waterloo on time at 07.30. I then crossed the road and went into my office in the Shell Centre. At about 08.20 my wife Kathy phoned and was so relieved to hear me answer my phone. The reason for her relief was because she had just heard on the radio that there had been a terrible accident at Clapham Junction Station at around 08.13. This tragedy has gone down in history as the Clapham Junction Accident of 1988.  Three trains were involved. One train crashed into the back of another train which had stopped at a signal and then hit an empty train going in the opposite direction.  Thirty-five people lost their lives and seventy people had horrific injuries. If I had missed my usual train from Fleet that morning, I would have been on the next one which was one of the three involved in the disaster. No wonder Kathy was worried and subsequently so relieved when I answered the phone that morning.


--End of Part Forty-One—

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 Part Forty

If the 1950s were my defining years, then the 1960s have gone down in history as ‘The Swinging Sixties’. American singer Roger Miller summed it up well with his song ‘England Swings like a pendulum do’. That swinging feeling quickly spread throughout the country. Starting in London the fashion industry took off in Kings Road, Chelsea and Carnaby Street. The young men, many with long hair, sideburns and Zapata mustaches paraded the streets wearing flowered shirts, chiffon scarves, whilst the girls shocked the older generation (at least the women, but not the men who quite enjoyed seeing their ‘Mini’ length skirts}  Designer Mary Quant was the Queen of Fashion and models Leslie Hornby (known as ‘Twiggy’ due to her very slim body) and Jean Shrimpton (known as the Shrimp) were the models all the girls and photographers, particularly David Bailey followed.

All of this was accompanied by the music scene which really exploded with popular singing groups such as The Hollies, Herman’s Hermits from Manchester, The Animals from Newcastle, The Moody Blues, The Move and Spencer Davis from Birmingham, The Rolling Stones from London but without doubt the Capital place of the music scene was Liverpool which gave us The Searchers, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Billy J. Kramer, Cilla Black, and The Beatles. It really was a social revolution in Britain which subsequently had a big impact around the world.

Whilst this new revolution was making headlines Kathy and I decided that it was time for us to take the plunge by leaving Wedmore Road and start looking for our own property. It wasn’t long before we found one which looked suitable. It was a two bedroomed mid terraced house in Bedford Road, Ruislip Gardens. It was priced at £2,750, a sum which at that time was beyond our means unless I took out a mortgage. It was fortunate for us that Shell had a Mortgage arrangement scheme with the Halifax Building Society whereby Shell Employees could obtain a mortgage without the having to pay a deposit first. This meant that I was able to obtain a one hundred percent mortgage loan for the whole £2,750 asking price of the house. This loan required a repayment of £15 per month which was a lot of money out of my monthly income at that time. Many of my work colleagues thought it a bit reckless on my part but after much financial deliberation on our part, which was helped by my brother Bernards advice telling us that it was generally accepted that putting money into bricks and mortar was a good investment, we went ahead and bought our first house.

 The layout of this house comprised of two medium sized bedrooms, a similar size lounge with wood block flooring, patio doors leading out to a back garden lawned with flower borders on either side. The garden was fenced on both sides and at the back, there was a paved car parking area which could be accessed from a back alleyway entrance from the road. The kitchen was of a reasonable size with a coal/coke burning boiler supplying the hot water, a good sized larder, the usual sink, cooking facilities, and storage cupboards were all there plus the back door leading out to the garden. To complete the description there were stairs leading to the landing and the two bedrooms plus bathroom and toilet.

Whilst such a house was small and somewhat lacking in luxuries it was ours and we were very excited and happy to move in. Bedford Road was a long road with many similarly designed houses in it and ours, number 62, was roughly halfway down it. It was no distance for me to walk down to Ruislip Gardens Underground station for my daily commute to work. Shopping facilities were a bus ride away in Ruislip or nearly Ruislip Manor. Likewise, we were also only a short car ride from Greenford and visiting Dad which was also convenient.  We were also lucky that our neighbors were pleasant and fortunately they also had a baby boy of similar age to Chris. We settled in and gradually when time and finances allowed started to make some alterations to one or two rooms by decorating and painting etc. It was a labor of love and very satisfying. Another thing we did was buy two bicycles, one for Kathy and one for me to which I fixed a safety seat behind my saddle for Chris to sit on. With a haversack containing some refreshments upon my back and Chris safely strapped into his back seat the three of us would ride off beyond the blue (sometimes!) horizon. The only downside to this was that sometimes Chris got a little too excited on the back and would kick his shoes off bringing our convoy to a grinding halt for the necessary replacement of the said shoes. 

  In 1962 another life-changing event in our lives happened when in May Kathy went into Queen Charlottes Hospital once again and on Saturday the 5TH she had another baby boy who we named Martin Charles. It so happened that it was the FA Cup Final on that day and my cup runneth over when my team Tottenham Hotspur beat Burnley 3-1. What a wonderful unforgettable day that was. I’m pleased to say that Martin eventually followed my example and became a Spurs supporter when he was old enough to understand football better. But not only did he support Spurs later in life he actually played at White Hart Lane in a charity match to which Kathy and I attended as the proud parents along with Martin’s two children Laura and Michael. I was allowed onto the pitch before the match started and took some video footage for future viewing at home. It was lovely for me to stand there and reminisce about those far off days watching Spurs playing on this pitch back in the 1940/1950 days and here I was now watching one of my sons playing on this hallowed ground. 

  Our family was now complete with two lovely healthy sons and life moved on. We finished our cycling days when later that year my brother Bert rang me to tell me his neighbor was selling his car and Bert wondered if I might be interested in buying it.  We managed to scrape together the £27.50 asking price and purchased our first car. This was a classic six-cylinder 1937 built Lanchester 14 hp two-toned grey/blue color saloon with real leather seats, a running board on each side of the body and a spare wheel encased in a cover attached to the back of the car, above an iron grid which folded down to which a suitcase or two could be attached with leather straps. Another feature was a small cog wheel on the dashboard to which a winding handle was attached. By turning this handle, the windscreen would open from the bottom outwards thus letting fresh air in which was a boom on a very hot summer’s day.

But the biggest feature of this quality car was the method of driving it. It had what was called a ‘Pre-selector gearbox’ There was a gear lever on the steering column showing the choices of N for Neutral, D for Drive, 1 for first gear, 2 for second gear, and 3 for third with R for reverse.  It didn’t have the normal clutch foot pedal to press down and then slowly releasing it to engage your selected gear. There was a foot pedal but this was called the gear engaging pedal.

The method used to drive the car was to pull the gear lever down to the required gear, i.e. 1st and press the gear engaging foot pedal right down to the floor and immediately release it, you were then in first gear but nothing further happened until you selected D for drive, and released the hand brake whereupon the car silently glided away in first gear. Once you were on the move you pulled gear lever to 2nd gear but you weren’t in second gear until you depressed, and released the gear engaging foot pedal again. This method of selecting the required gear and operating the foot engaging pedal in and out was all you had to do to drive. It was easy and effective but although it took some time for me to adjust to this method, I eventually mastered it. The car was smooth and comfortable and served us well throughout the years 1962/63. The only drawback was that it did swallow up the petrol and oil too much so after those two years we decided we couldn’t afford to keep it any longer.

Fortunately for us, my neighbor admired it and was willing to buy it off me. We agreed upon a price of £15 and the deal was done. Now the big snag for my neighbor was that he couldn’t drive.  Like me, he didn’t have a garage to house the car so I drove it around to his back garden and parked it there for him.

Although he couldn’t drive he thought it prudent to run the engine once a week to ‘just to warm it up a bit’ This became a ritual to see him every Sunday climbing into this beautiful car, wearing a pair of large leather gloves and he would start her up and just sit there letting the engine idle as he imagined he was driving through the leafy lanes on a warm summer’s day being watched and admired by other drivers.

I told him it didn’t do the engine any good to do this practice but he wouldn’t listen so I gave up. As the winter months were fast approaching, I also advised him to put some anti-freeze into the car but he just smiled and didn’t bother so I gave up the struggle and let him carry on in his Walter Mitty dream world.

The end result was inevitable, he ruined the engine and the lack of anti-freeze cracked the block. As he couldn’t afford to pay for any repairs, he was forced to get a couple of men to come around to break up the whole car. It was very sad to see this desecration of a lovely classic car by these two men as they took their sledgehammers and systematically smash the windscreen before moving onto the bodywork. The whole vehicle was smashed up and then thrown onto their lorry as scrap and taken away for disposal.

 Our time in our first house came to an end in 1965 when we decided to move from Ruislip to a newly built 3 Bedroom semi-detached house in Fleet, Hampshire. It is worth noting that my brother Bernard was right in his advice to us about investing in property because after our five happy years living in Ruislip, the house we paid £2,750 for was sold for £4,750, making a profit of £2,000 which was a lot of money to us.


--End of Part Forty --

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Part Thirty-Nine
In 1959 Kathy and I were very lucky to start our married life by accepting the offer of having two rooms in my Dad’s house in Wedmore Road. This same act of kindness had been done twice before. The first time was when my sister Lily and her husband Jack upon their marriage moved in with Dad and Mum and stayed with them until they eventually found their own property in nearby Ruislip. The next occupants of these two rooms were my brother David and his wife Doreen after their marriage in 1952. They followed the same pattern as Lily and Jack and only moved out when they found a Flat, or what was called in those days, a maisonette in Isleworth Middlesex. 
Whilst Kathy was still during her midwifery training at Queen Charlottes and living in the nurse’s quarters I was still living with Dad. But it wasn’t long before she successfully completed her training and was able to join me at Dad’s in Wedmore Road.  We were very happy as we settled into our new environment thanks to Dad.  We were very grateful to him for giving us this start which enabled us to, at least, dream that one day we, like Lily and David, would be in a position to buy our own property.
 Sharing with Dad was easy and there was also a fortuitous element to it which benefited us all.  This came into play due to the fact that I worked shift hours and there were many evenings when I didn’t get home until 10 or 10.30 p.m. Rather than Kathy being on her own, Dad would always invite her into his room where they watched television together thus providing company for each other. 
It wasn’t long before Kathy got a job nursing at King Edwards Hospital in nearby Ealing and we were able to add a few more ‘pennies’ to our income. I remember we would visit the shops in West Ealing, looking wistfully through the windows at the many items on sale. We worked, saved and managed to buy a three piece suite (two armchairs and a sofa) for our lounge. This ‘luxury’ cost us the princely sum of £45 which was a lot of money in 1959. In due course, other items were added as we put our stamp onto our room. Married life was getting better all the time and it was to get even better, when on October 24th that year, another great life-changing event occurred. It was when our first child, a boy, was born. Not surprisingly he was born in Queen Charlottes Hospital and we named him Christopher John.
Becoming parents was a wonderful experience and we embraced it with love and gratitude. I was so glad that Kathy already had the natural loving instincts of a mother (which she’d inherited from her own mother) and this attribute, combined with her common sense and nursing training, meant I just had to watch, learn and provide love and all the support required to mother and child which I was naturally glad to do.
My father was also thrilled, to not only having another grandchild, his 6th, in the family but also this child, being a boy, meant he would carry on the Hodgson name.
This sentiment was also shared by my three brothers Bert, Bernard, and David.
Dad kindly helped us with the cost of buying a pram for Chris. It was a lovely experience for us to put Chris into this gleaming white chariot and proudly walk down the street showing him off to all the neighbors and passers-by.
Meanwhile whilst we were preoccupied with our lives there were other events which were occurring in the UK at this time. This included a very severe frost in January 1959 which caused the newly opened Preston Bypass, Britain’s first motorway, to be closed whilst repairs were carried out. Even worse was to come at the end of the month when the whole transport system throughout Britain was in utter chaos as the worst winter fog since 1952 enveloped the country causing widespread disruption.
A historical event occurred when the Jodrell Bank telescope transmitted radio messages to the U.S. via the Moon. Back on earth, the Queen journeyed to Canada, and along with America’s President Eisenhower, inaugurated the St. Lawrence Seaway. Barclays Bank became the first British Bank to order the new-fangled gadget called a ‘computer’ that’s when all our troubles started, ‘Sorry sir, it’s the computer error’ etc
Cinemas throughout Britain were closing at a rapid rate as television took over as the main provider for mass entertainment.  In October the country held a General Election when the Conservative party led by Harold Macmillan won by the massive majority of 365 seats to Labour’s 258. The Prime Minister, with a wonderful example of British understatement, summed up his big victory with the words, ‘it has gone off rather well’ Among the nine new women MP’s elected was one Margaret Thatcher, who twenty years later in 1979, made history as Britain’s first Women Prime Minister and served for 11years 209 days.
British rule over the island of Cyprus ended after 80 years when an agreement was signed in London handing over independence to the Cypriots but Britain still retained her two military bases on the Island.
On a lighter note, the latest rave was the new Transistor radio which only cost £23 and was displayed at the Earls Court Exhibition. In addition to the arrival of the Mini, there was also the Rolls Royce Phantom V which could be yours for a ‘mere’ £8,905. I
Considered buying one but it didn’t have one of the new Transistor radios so I didn’t bother!
At this point in my story, I would like to tell you that for many years I have considered the 1950’s, were what I can only describe as ‘My Defining Years’.  The changes I encountered, good and sadly one tragically bad, were to change my life forever.
 It all started in March 1950 when I was called up for National Service in The Royal Air Force. I can truthfully say that I enjoyed my two years service. It held no worries for me. I was used to mixing with other boys throughout my days with the Boys Brigade. I was also lucky that the BB taught me how to march and perform all the drill movements required in the RAF. I also learned how to handle a Rifle, even becoming a Marksman. A requirement thankfully not required in the BB.
The big difference between us was that the boys I mixed within the BB were mainly local boys I knew, some from the same school as me whereas the boys (and girls) I met in the RAF were from all corners of the UK, many with different accents, outlooks, and upbringing. There is no doubt that experiencing this change is a great learning curve and an education in itself.
I am always grateful to the RAF for the training I received in Signal Communications through my service. The training, knowledge, and experience I gained was put to good use when I was demobbed. It eventually gave me a good rewarding career throughout my 36 years using this knowledge in civilian life. This started when in June 1952 I joined the American Embassy in London. This was an interesting and eye-opening period of my life applying my Telegraphic skills with Americans who were very pleasant and generous people.
Whilst I was working at the Embassy, I heard there were similar work openings in the Telecommunications field at the Shell Petroleum Company also in London. In addition, I also learned that Shell offered a very generous Life Pension Scheme. Whilst I enjoyed my days at the Embassy, I decided to apply to Shell offering my services.
I was successful in my application and joined Shell in December 1952, staying with them until my retirement in December 1989. 
The death of my mother in January 1956 was, alas, a very bittersweet definitive heartbreaking moment and one that can never be forgotten. The pain was somewhat eased three years later by my meeting Kathy in June 1958 and marrying her six months later in December 1958. As a result of our liaison there was another, and wonderful, Definitive Moment when on October 24th, 1959 our first child, Chris, was born.
So, taking all the experiences, knowledge and advancement I lived through, as described above, is it any wonder I call this decade ‘My Defining Years’?
---End of Part Thirty-Nine—

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Part Thirty-Eight

The following week came, as they have a habit of doing, followed by many more weeks and each one saw me arriving at Queen Charlottes Hospital and taking Kathy out. We very often would take a stroll along the towpath of the Thames at Hammersmith usually ending up in one of the Wimpey cafes for a coffee and a hamburger or two. Naturally, during this time we were getting to know each other and liking what we saw more and more.
As our friendship grew it was inevitable that the time would come when I wanted to introduce Kathy to my Dad back home in Greenford. I spoke to Dad about it and he said ‘Why don’t you bring her home on Sunday so that I can meet her and we’ll put on a tea for her?’’ So when Kathy next had a Sunday off duty day I bought her home to meet Dad. The meeting and having tea together helped to ease any apprehension or nervousness on any side. As it was they got on fine and I had good feedback from both of them.  As the weeks passed and our relationship grew even stronger I took Kathy to meet the rest of my family who also welcomed her with the same ease and kindness shown by my Dad.

In August of that year, we managed to get a week’s holiday together when we went to Butlin’s Holiday camp situated in Clacton on Sea.  The weather was fine and we thoroughly enjoyed this new adventure. Just to be together, away from me traveling daily to work in London and Kathy having a break from her Midwifery lessons, gave us the chance to completely relax together and enjoy some of the activates on offer at the camp. We hired a three-wheeler bicycle from the camp and had a good laugh cycling along the promenade with the wind in our hair and not a care in the world.    We also enjoyed the swimming pool in the camp and of course, we just had to parade our dancing prowess on the dance floor.
A little later in our relationship, we arranged for me to meet Kathy’s mother who lived in Lilleshall, Shropshire (her father had died in 1957). I traveled up by train and had the pleasure of meeting her mother who was one of the nicest ladies I, or anyone else, could wish to meet. At the time of her father’s death, Kathy was undergoing her Nursing training at Burton on Trent and living in the Nurses quarters. Whereas her mother and her two brothers and sister were living in a house, which went with her father’s job, in Great Gate, near Uttoxeter Staffordshire.  Unfortunately, because of her father’s passing her mother, two brothers and sister were forced to leave the house and find alternative accommodation.  Fortunately, Kathy’s eldest brother Peter obtained a job on a farm in Lilleshall Shropshire and once again, fortunately, the job also included a family cottage for Mum and family...

 As time went by our relationship continued getting stronger. I remember one day when Kathy and I were listening to a record of Judy Garland singing her biggest hit’ ‘Over the Rainbow’  As we both loved it very much it became ‘our’ song. Whenever we hear it we are reminded of that day in my Dad’s house when we wished upon a star and how it all came true for us on December 27th, 1958 when we were married at Greenford Methodist church. Because Kathy’s father had died the year before, her eldest brother Peter took his place and walked her down the aisle. My brother David acted as my Best Man. As we couldn’t afford a big expensive Honeymoon we settled for a weekend at the Regent Palace Hotel in London.
  Now, as I write this (January 5th, 2019) over Sixty years have passed since our  life-changing date of December 27th 1958 and we have just returned from celebrating our Diamond Wedding Anniversary, which we did by taking a 12 day P and O cruise liner ship called ‘Oceana’ visiting Madeira, the Canary Islands, and Lisbon . We sailed from Southampton on December 17th which due to that being my birthday added another dimension to the happy event. We were also invited to join the Captain and his officers to have a champagne breakfast with them on the morning of the 27th December but unfortunately by this time Kathy had gone down with a nasty cold infection and was in no fit state to leave the cabin to attend.
We decided that I should go and explain and discuss this unfortunate turn of events with the Captain. He and his officers were very sympathetic and understanding about the situation but it was agreed that for Kathy to attend the function would pose too great a risk of passing her germs on around the ship.  As a compromise the Captain kindly arranged for a selection of foods from the breakfast menu plus the champagne and a beautifully iced cake suitably inscribed with the appropriate words of celebration befitting a Diamond Wedding occasion, to be delivered to our cabin.
     Just before I left the Captain to return to Kathy in our cabin I was asked to stand alongside him and hold up an envelope he had just presented to me. The reason for this request was that the envelope contained a card of Congratulations from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II  to Kathy and I on reaching our Diamond Wedding Anniversary and the ship's photographer was there waiting to record this happy scene for Kathy and I.  This act of acknowledgment by the Queen is something she does for all UK couples upon reaching this milestone, providing the official department in Buckingham Palace receives prior notification supplying all the necessary details.       About 15 minutes after I returned to our cabin the breakfast trolley arrived and Kathy and I were able to relax and sample some of the delights upon it. We left the champagne for a later date and after I had sampled some of the iced cake I asked for the remainder to be shared amongst the waiters attending us at our table in the dining room.  
  Who would have thought that sixty years from our Wedding day on December 27th, 1958 we would be, not only still alive but, celebrating our Diamond Wedding Anniversary at sea on a cruise liner in the Mediterranean on December 27th, 2018.
 So, bearing all that in mind I suggest it is only fitting to recall that three of the biggest hit songs of 1958 were the Everly Brothers singing ‘All I have to do is Dream’, (which is what I was doing in those days back in 1958).  Connie Francis singing ‘Who’s Sorry Now? This definitely wasn’t me because as one of my all-time favorite singers, Perry Como, sang, those heady days were for me wonderful  ‘Magic Moments’  So, to sum it up, my family, like me, were all glad I had gone to that dance on Friday, June 13th, 1958 and ended up taking a ‘Turn for the Nurse’.

--End of Part Thirty-Eight-

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Part Thirty-Seven

Although I usually went dancing on Saturday evenings, it happened that on Friday, June 13th, 1958, for some reason I can’t recall, Len and I decided we’d have a change of venue and decided to grace the Hammersmith Palais with our presence. This Mecca of dancing, which opened in 1919 and closed in 2007, was a very large, plush venue which kept open throughout the London Blitz and was very popular with many of the armed forces as well as civilians.  Band leaders such as Joe Loss, Ken Macintosh, and Phil Tate were three of the musicians who bought their orchestras to the Palais much to the delight of the appreciative dancers.
  Well, now we all know that Friday the 13th is considered by many to be ‘unlucky’ so why we chose that day to go there I don’t know but as it turned out that old adage could not have been any further from the truth. Whether it was fate or destiny, call it what you like, but for me, this was the day when I met the person who was to change my life forever.
 It happened after I had loosened up a little with a few twirls around the floor and as I stood to survey and seeking the next unsuspecting candidate for my next attempt I spotted her, a slim dark-haired pretty girl, standing all alone watching the dancers gliding past. Fortunately for me, the dance was a waltz so without hesitation, I boldly approached her and said ‘May I have this dance please’? She smiled at me and much to my delight said ‘yes’. As we stepped onto the shiny dance floor I warned her of the possible disaster awaiting her by uttering the next line ‘I’m not very good at this’. More delight, and relief, came when she replied that she wasn’t very good either.
  Now that the barriers were broken we glided into the one-two-three, one-two-three waltz steps to the manner born and thankfully without treading on each other's toes or banging into anyone else. She told me that her name was Kathleen and she was an SRN (State Registered Nurse). Having completed her basic Nurses training at Burton on Trent she was now doing Part One of her Midwifery course at the famous and nearby Queen Charlottes Hospital.

  We survived that first dance intact but as neither of us was very good dancers we bided our time awaiting the next waltz to come around although I think we had one or two quick steps and a foxtrot, which was just a shuffle around for us, but if a jive, tango or a samba were announced that was time for us to steal quietly away for a rest and a drink. I remember it was the Phil Tate Orchestra supplying the music that evening so once we’d found a quiet table we rested and had a long talk (or perhaps that should be, we had a long ‘Tate -à-Tate’ making tentative attempts to learn more about each other.

 When the evening came to end I found Len and told him  I wouldn’t be accompanying him in his car back to Greenford He wished me luck and I escorted Kathleen, who by this time I was calling Kathy, which I preferred and to which she didn’t object to, back to the Nurses home at Queen Charlottes Hospital. We said Goodnight but not before finding out when her next off duty day would be and arranging a date accordingly.  With a light heart, I was dancing on air as I quickstepped my way to Shepherds Bush Tube station and caught the train back to Greenford. I went to bed that night a happy man eagerly looking forward to seeing Kathy the following week.

End of Part Thirty-Seven

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Part Thirty-Six

I shall never forget the evening of February 6th, 1958. I was at work in the Shell Centre in London when the news came through that the plane carrying the Manchester United football team had crashed on a snow-covered runway at Munich Airport in Germany. The team was returning from playing a cup tie match in Belgrade which at that time was in Yugoslavia. After refueling at Munich, the plane bound for Britain crashed on takeoff Seven of the young ‘Busby Babes’ (named after their manager Matt Busby) were killed. Another one, Duncan Edwards, was so badly injured that he died 15 days later. Matt Busby was also badly injured and spent a long time in a Munich Hospital as did the wonderful player Bobby Charlton, one of the best ever players England ever produced.
 Despite this tragedy, the Manchester United club, under deputy manager Jimmy Murphy, was able to blend together a team good enough to reach the F.A. Cup Final four months later in May 1958.  The emotion felt by everyone as the team walked out that day at Wembley Stadium to face their opponents Bolton Wanders was heart rendering. Unfortunately, there was not to be a storybook ending as Bolton beat them comfortably by two goals to nil.
 A completely different event, and also a happier one, happened in the same year when the government announced that because Mayfair was deemed to be the most affluent area in the country that would be the first area to have parking meters installed.  

 Other new events which happened in 1958 included the opening of Britain’s first planetarium in London on March 21. Another first for the country was the opening, by Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, who was driven along a four-mile stretch of our first motorway, the 8 mile Preston bypass in Lancashire.  Further history occurred in the April when an Act was passed allowing women to sit in the House of Lords. Another big event made its introduction to the country when The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament was formed and we witnessed its strength of feeling when over 3,000 protesters marched to the Nuclear Establishment at Aldermaston in Berkshire. This was the first of many similar marches which involved the police fighting to control disparate crowds of protesters, many of them women, venting their feelings...

Talking of unrest there were terrible race riots in the Notting Hill area of London in September of 1958... On a brighter note, British Overseas Airways (BOAC) launched the first transatlantic jet service. Millions throughout the country watched the first televised State Opening of Parliament. Her Majesty the Queen made history when she dialed the first trunk call on the new Do-it-yourself telephone system. The call was from Bristol to Edinburgh. After a brief talk with the city’s Lord Provost, she then threw a switch which linked 18,000 Bristol subscribers to the new service.  

 Back to the world of sport in 1958 showed that the Grand National was won by a horse called ‘Mr. What’ and the Derby by ‘Hard Ridden’ On the cricket front Surrey won the Championship for a record seven successive seasons. Britain’s Mike Hawthorn became the first Briton to be crowned Motor Racing Champion of the World. Unfortunately, his glory was short lived for sadly he was to die in a road accident on the A3 road near Guilford in Surrey a few months later. Still, on the fast cars scene, the British Motor Corporation unveiled the Austin Healey Sprite car for the first time.  Away from land speed, Donald Campbell achieved a new water speed record of 248.62 mpg.  Over at SW19 (Wimbledon) Australian Ashley Cooper beat his compatriot Neale Fraser 3-6 6-3 6-4 13-11 to win the Men’s Tennis Championship whilst American Althea Gibson beat our own British girl from Torquay, Angela Mortimer 8-6 6-2 to take the ladies title.
 Meanwhile, up at Royal Lytham St. Anne’s Aussie star, Peter Thomson won the Open golf tournament for the fourth time. It is interesting to note that the second/third and fourth players behind Thomson were all from the U.K., namely Dave Thomas (Wales), Christy O’Connor Senior (Northern Ireland) and Eric Brown from Scotland.
  In the entertainment world, Hollywood bestowed three Oscars on the wonderful David Lean film ‘The Bridge over the River Kwai’ Another equally successful film was ‘My Fair Lady’ a musical starring Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn which was based on a story by George Bernard Shaw called ‘Pygmalion’.  

The Royal Variety Show had a plethora of stars such as Julie Andrews, Rex Harrison, Stanley Holloway, Norman Wisdom, Harry Secombe, Bruce Forsyth, Tony Hancock, Roy Castle, Max Bygraves, The Beverley Sisters, Frankie Vaughan, Harry Worth, Hattie Jacques, David Nixon and American singers Pat Boone and Eartha Kitt.

--End of Part Thirty-Six -- 

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Part Thirty-Five

 As a result of the bomb damage from the Second World War, there was an urgent need in Britain for houses so the Government bought out a plan to build what was called ‘New Towns’. Stevenage in Hertfordshire being the first one built in 1946. This was followed a year later when Crawley, West Sussex and East Kilbride in Scotland joined this new concept. The houses in these new developments were a revelation, sporting double-glazing windows, Central Heating and all the latest labor-saving gadgets in the kitchen which had the housewives drooling with pleasure.


   On the political front Anthony Eden never really recovered from the Suez Canal war of the previous year and the strain on his health forced him to resign as Prime Minister. Harold Macmillan took over but not until after the usual behind the scenes battles and skulduggery amongst the party whips which defeated his chief opponent Rab Butler. 


     Other events in 1957 included such diverse events as seeing the Vulcan bomber enter the R.A.F. service. Vauxhall Motors introduced three new models the Victor Saloon (which was claimed as giving 40 mpg) and the Cresta and Velox models.


   A terrible tragedy occurred in June when a BEA (British European Airways) Viscount plane crashed at Manchester’s Ringway Airport killing 22 people.

   In July at the Conservative Party Conference the P.M. Harold Macmillan, thinking of the abundance of goods and the choices people now had compared to the austerity of the war years and its aftermath, famously proclaimed that ‘Most of our people have never had it so good’


During this period of my life I felt that although I had enjoyed having a few dates during my RAF days and afterward, I grew a bit lonely and restless at home with just Dad. This became more apparent now that my friend Graeme had married and moved away. So, I decided that I should give the fair sex another chance to renew their acquaintances with me!  What better way to do that than to go dancing? The only problem with that was I couldn’t dance. How could I, someone who loved to, and still do, watch Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly not be able to dance?   My efforts were more like Gene Astaire and Fred Kelly.


Anyway, undeterred, off I went to a Dance studio in nearby Ealing to have a few lessons in the noble art of Terpsichore. In those days there was a man called Victor Silvester who had been a World Champion Dancer in his earlier days but went on to teach dancing and formed his own orchestra. He was well known for only playing strict tempo dance music. When teaching he would give timing guidance to the pupils, in relation to the steps of the dance, for instance, if the dance was a Quick Step, he would instruct the pupil by saying ‘slow slow quick quick slow’. This method of teaching was adopted by most dance teachers including mine. She would play 78 rpm (Revs per minute) shellac 10-inch gramophone records of the Victor Silvester Orchestra playing a strict tempo dance melody. I started by learning how to do the waltz followed by the Foxtrot and then the quickstep. Eventually, I became reasonably proficient and reasoned that I was ready to demonstrate my new-found skill to the public at large. Whether they were ready for me is another question1


   As luck would have it, one day whilst shopping in Greenford I bumped into an old school friend of mine, who not only went dancing every Saturday evening but also had a car and invited me to join him. So, come the next Saturday, Len and I, dressed up to the nines drove over to Chelsea Town Hall. The place was packed with men and women waltzing, quick stepping, foxtrotting, shuffling around, and trying not to trip over their own feet or kick their partners. It wasn’t long before Len found a partner and off, he went gliding around the dance floor whilst I just stood nonchalantly looking around seeking out someone attractive to approach.


My strategy was based on the fact that because the Waltz was the easiest dance to do I would wait until the band played one before approaching my unsuspecting chosen prey to utter the time honored phrase ‘May I have this dance please’?

Eventually, I was lucky and found someone who was willing to take a chance with this clean-cut Lothario of the dance floor. As we took up our positions to commence the dance, I thought it only right that I should give the poor girl some advance warning of what was to come by saying ‘I’m not very good at this’ This was accepted with a smile of encouragement and an assurance about not to worry. So, with some trepidation on both sides, off we went with the Waltz sequence of steps, One Two Three, One Two Three etc. After the usual introductions of exchanging names, it was considered mandatory to ask your partner ‘Do you come here often’? Goodness knows what would have happened if the girl had replied ‘Yes, but not anymore’


Fortunately, she didn’t and we both survived without any injuries or embarrassment.

Because all of this happened so many years ago, I cannot recall what happened for the rest of the evening. Suffice to say that at the end of the evening Len and I had a drink or two before climbing into Len’s car and headed back to Greenford. My first venture into “tripping the light fantastic” in public may not have been exactly fantastic but at least I didn’t trip. It was considered good enough to try again and, thanks to Len and his car, I continued showing off my dancing prowess, visiting other local dance venues on more Saturday Nights.


--End of Part Thirty-Five—

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Part Thirty-Four
 In 1957 politicians from France/West Germany/Italy/Belgium/Holland and Luxembourg met in Rome and signed The Treaty of Rome. This Treaty encompassed what was also called The Common Market/The European Economic Community (EEC) and was the forerunner of what eventually became the European Union (EU). 
This historic Document was followed by five more in later years each one containing many adaptations and new ideas all with one basic aim behind them. That was to bring all the European countries together working for the common good as a Union of Nations or The United States of Europe as many called them.
This common market of trading partners was designed to make it easier and cheaper by eliminating much of the current time wasted dealing with all the red tape involved in exporting and importing to each other. Naturally many of us thought that sounds a sensible idea so our Government of the time signed Britain up and we joined the club. 
   With the passing of the years and more treaties written into the constitution we ended up with a European Parliament hell-bent on creating a United States of Europe,
this meant that all member countries would cease to make their own rules of self-government and therefore would be subservient to new rules inflicted on them by a European Parliament, made up of unelected politicians from any of the eligible European member countries. This concept of thinking that one cap fits all was considered by many people as completely misguided and unrealistic.
 I remember wondering how on earth can unelected foreign politicians sitting in some European Parliament make decisions which might have a disastrous effect on a small village or community in Britain. Equally, why should we in Britain impose our views on other countries as to how they run their own affairs?  
Jumping ahead here I must tell you that this mad state of affairs sadly has gone on for many years afterwards until the whole European Union fiasco climaxed in 2016 when the then UK Prime Minister David Cameron announced there would be a referendum on June 23rd that year when the British people would have a free vote as to whether the UK remained a member of the European Union or left it. We were promised that whatever the result of this historic vote the decision of the people would be carried out. After a bitter struggle throughout the country, the final result was that 51.9% of the people voted to leave and 48.1% to remain. This decision surprised many people and thousands found it hard, or even impossible in many cases, to accept it. The people who voted for Britain to remain within the EU claimed the opposition didn’t understand what they were doing and demanded a second referendum whereas the Leavers retaliated by saying the Remainders should accept the decision of the majority of the people in what was after all a Democratic Vote. A new word, BREXIT, entered the vocabulary. This was an acronym for all those voting for Britain to exit the EU.    By this time David Cameron resigned as Prime Minister and Theresa May took over the role.  It’s interesting to note that Theresa May herself voted to Remain but, all credit to her, in a speech she made after the Referendum result, she famously assured the country that as far as she was concerned Brexit means Brexit. From that moment in time rightly or wrongly she has worked tirelessly towards achieving that goal. It has been an almighty struggle with arguments and disagreements from not only the European politicians in Brussels and the Labour party in Britain but also amongst her own Conservative party members in Parliament. As I write this it is July 2018 the bare fact is that Britain is scheduled to leave the EU in March 2019. Trying to find a deal acceptable to the 27 members of the EU and Britain for an orderly departure can only be achieved with major compromises on both sides which is still proving very difficult to obtain.
--End of Part Thirty-Four-- 

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                                        INSIGHTS ON IVOR

Part Thirty-Three
The year 1956 was also notable as the year when Britain faced another explosion on the music scene when a young man from Tupelo Mississippi with a most unusual name burst upon us and changed the face of pop music. Yes, I’m talking about Elvis Presley who entered the hit parade with a song called ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ and later that year ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ ‘Hound Dog’ ‘Don’t Be Cruel’ and ‘Love me Tender’ followed.
   Teenagers in Britain were soon rushing out to buy his records. The gyrating somewhat sensual body movement’s this man gave whilst singing his songs onstage caused raised eyebrows, to say the least, amongst the older generations around the world. But as far as the young people were concerned he was fantastic and idolized. It wasn’t long before there were hundreds of young lads copying their hero. In an effort to attract the girls some of them changed their names to what they thought were more attractive ones. So Harry Webb became Cliff Richard (and later Sir Cliff Richard).  Ronald Wycherley changed his name to Billy Fury which sounded more exciting, Terry Nelhams (later Terry Nelhams-Wright) morphed into Adam Faith and later in life became an actor and successful businessman. London cockney Tommy Hicks preferred to be known as Tommy Steele, who could not only sing and play the guitar but also became an actor appearing with the great Fred Astaire in a Hollywood musical called ‘Finians Rainbow’. Finally, there was plain old Reginald Smith who decided that he would stand more chance with the girls by changing his name to Marty Wilde, a wise move because he had a very long successful career in the world of Pop.
   It is worth pointing out that whilst all of the above could sing and went on performing for many years afterward, there were many other Elvis worshippers who couldn’t sing a note, at least not in tune, or play the guitar but that was of no consequence. All they had to do was to follow Elvis’s dress code, which included blue suede shoes, and remember to carry a comb which they frequently used to comb their hair into a special style: known as having a ‘DA’. This was a code word for an abbreviation of a rude part of a Ducks anatomy! 
   Armed with this transformation the ‘poor man’s Elvis’ would gyrate around the stage like a whirling dervish causing the girls to swoon and scream their heads off.  
   Another performer who caused riots in Britain at this time was Bill Haley and His Comets who burst onto the scene with a record called ‘Rock around the Clock’ which topped the hit parade for many years afterward. Bill Haley was older than Elvis and with a ‘kiss curl’ haircut; he differed to Elvis’s thick black hair.  There were many occasions when the Police were called out to cinemas to stop the youngsters rocking and rolling in the aisles and then in the streets after being evicted from the cinemas.
   The hit parade records of this period could be heard from record players, ‘Dansette’ being one popular make, in many homes throughout the country. In complete contrast to rock and roll records we had crooner Pat Boone telling us in the song that ‘I’ll be Home’ and the peaches and cream girl, Doris Day,  proclaiming that ‘Que Sera Sera’: whatever will be, will be.
   In the cinemas, the music continued with the release of High Society, music by Cole Porter and staring Bing Crosby and the one and only, Louis Armstrong. But good as that was I have to say that my favorite choice as the best musical film from that time is Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel starring Gordon McRae (a much-underrated singer in my opinion) and Shirley Jones. 
   Popular cars in Britain at this time included the Ford Anglia, Prefect, Consul and the Zephyr/Zodiac followed closely by the Hillman Minx, Standard 10, Morris Oxford and the much loved Morris Minor – which started production in 1948 and sold well over 1.3 million before production ceased in 1972. Another car which raised a few eyebrows was the arrival of the three wheels ‘Bubble’ cars. There were the Isetta and the Messerschmitt from BMW which, despite only having a 250 cc engine still, managed speeds of between 60-70 mph and the Heinkel. None of these cars were around for any length of time so I suppose you could say it didn’t take long before the ‘bubble’ burst.
   Britain during the 1950’s was a golden time for motor cycles with sidecars. It was quite a common sight to see a couple or a family taking to the roads for a trip to the coast or into the countryside for a day out. A family would have Dad driving, suitably equipped with a pair of goggles and leather gloves, with mother sitting behind him,  her arms wrapped around his waist whilst the face of excited child peered out from the window of the sidecar. 
   In November 1956 the Chancellor of the Exchequer at that time, Harold Macmillan, introduced to the country Premium Bonds which were scheduled to go on sale on June 1st 1957. This was Government-backed investment scheme whereby for £1 you could buy a Premium Bond which bore a personal unique number and was entered into a monthly draw with a top prize of £1,000 and prizes of a smaller value down to £10 if your numbered bond was drawn. The maximum number of bonds anyone could have was £250. The scheme took off far exceeding the government’s expectations (on the first day of an issue there was £5m worth of bonds sold)  and, as I write this 60 years later in 2018, is still going strong.  
   The big differences now are that the maximum holding anyone can have has increased to £50,000. The lowest prize is now £25 and the jackpot is £1m. Every month there are two draws which give the chance for two lucky people to win the jackpot prize of £1 million each!
   The beauty of Premium Bonds is that although they don’t accrue any interest on your investment they are always redeemable at face value at any time so you always get your original stake money back albeit it won’t be worth as much due to inflation. I have won a few smaller prizes over the years but am still awaiting the ‘Big’ one!
   The year 1956 also produced some unforgettable sporting events. In the world of cricket Yorkshire’s brilliant batsmen Len Hutton was awarded a Knighthood and fellow Yorkshireman, spin bowler Jim Laker, made history when in a Test match against the Australians at Old Trafford he took a total of 19 wickets. He took 9 for 90  in their first innings and 10 for 53 in the second (becoming the first man to take all 10 wickets in a Test Match).  I remember the sheer excitement as, along with some friends, watching this outstanding performance on the old black and white television screen as the wickets tumbled. 
   Sadly not all sporting events end in triumph and this was very evident when in the same year, at the Grand National, the Queen Mother’s horse Devon Loch who had jumped all the fences without any sign of trouble suddenly collapsed as it neared the winning post allowing another horse, E.S.B, to emerge as the winner. The reason for the fall was never really discovered.
   -- End of Part Thirty-Three -- — 

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Part Thirty Two
   Getting through the months following my mother’s death were helped in no small measure by the support given, once again, by my father’s two sisters Lily and Kate. In addition to Auntie Lily being a member of the St.John Ambulance Brigade she also loving cooking so Dad and I had no worries on that score. I remember doing the shopping for Auntie Lily and when she wanted me to get some lamb at the butchers she always insisted I must ask for ‘Half a shoulder of lamb, blade end’. In her eyes the blade end was the best part and I always managed to get it.  What delicious meals she produced irrespective of which end of the unfortunate animal she cooked for us. She also made the most delicious Egg Custard Tart, one of favourites. She was a gentle lady who had two interests in life. One was being a member of St John Ambulance Brigade. This interest often meant her being sent to football matches or other public events ready to administer any medical help. She made us laugh once when she came home a little dissatisfied because her nursing skills were not required that particular night because no one was injured! Conversely another time she would exclaim the evening event was ‘Good tonight, lots of casualties’
  Her second love was cooking and she liked nothing better than being in the kitchen cooking. This she did whilst chatting away to herself, happy as Larry (Lily sic) as she conjured up meals fit for a man. She was a spinster and having worked in service for many years she always considered men to be the masters in the house. This attitude of subservience to men which was quite normal then but now, rightly changed due to the long campaigns for women’s rights had no effect on Auntie Lily. As far as she was concerned she had a duty to provide Dad and I with meals fit for any man, nothing less would do.
   Auntie Kate had a completely different persona. She had style, presence, very warm hearted with an easy going manner. Dad and I and the rest of the family all agreed that we couldn’t have had anyone better than these two wonderful ladies to help us all through the trauma of losing Mum.
   We were also extremely lucky to have my eldest brother Bert and his wife Ethel still living in Greenford and therefore always on hand. My sister Lily and husband Jack were also not a million miles away in nearby South Ruislip. Bernard and David and their wives were further away but they all gave their support by visiting us and keeping in touch via the telephone.
   Every Sunday my father, along with two neighbours, Lou and Harry would toddle off to the local Red Lion pub in Greenford for a well earned pint or three. When Dad returned, his inner self suitably replenished he would sit down with his two sisters to attack the lovely Sunday roast dinner, especially if it was the blade end of half a shoulder of lamb, lovingly prepared and cooked by Auntie Lily. As this weekly ritual usually didn’t start until about 2 o’clock Auntie Lily would serve my meal earlier which meant by the time Dad and his sisters sat down I would have finished eating mine and would be sitting relaxing and listening to their conversation at the table.
 These occasions I remember with great fondness. Many times Dad would be holding forth on some subject close to his heart, probably politics. Emboldened by the amber nectar this weekly tête-à-têtes would, at times, be quite hilarious as Auntie Kate, being staunchly of the Conservative persuasion would differ from Dad’s Labour viewpoint and a friendly ‘argument’ would develop. Meanwhile throughout these political discussions Auntie Lily would be chunterring away in the background usually getting the wrong end of the stick and the two combatants would stop their debate and try to explain their respective points to her, without much success. Meanwhile I was doubled up with laughter listening to this pantomime of patter but thankfully it always ended up amicably and the three of them would sleep it off for the next hour or two until next week at least. 
   Dad continued his life as a printer working for Walter Phillips at his works in Perivale, a daily cycle journey Dad made in all weathers. I remember some stormy nights he would arrive home windswept and soaked from the torrential rain he had battled through. Those occasions are reminiscent of the night I was born when Dad faced similar atrocious weather conditions. The big difference now was cycling along the cycle lane on the lighted dual carriageway Western Avenue from Perivale to Greenford accompanied by cars and Lorries was a world away from the dark lonely winding deserted lanes of Bettws to fetch the midwife.
---End of Part Thirty Two--

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