Dad was inclined to make jokes which people took literally. One of his clients was a tiny woman with a great brute of a husband who used to get drunk on a Saturday night and come home and knock her about. Dad said “My wife wouldn’t stand for anything like that. If I did anything like that she’d dong me on the head with that vase there.” And he indicated a large vase on the mantelpiece. Next Saturday night she was standing on a chair beside the door with the vase in her hands. As her husband came through the door she crashed the vase on his head, put him in hospital and nearly killed him. He had to have 32 stitches. It’s said that he was a changed man after that and never hit her again but I don’t know how long that lasted. I’ve often wondered what would have happened if she’d killed him. At her trial for murder she would undoubtedly have said “But Mr Lander told me to do it.”
It was while we were living there that I learned the approximate facts of life from the other boys. These days it might be hard to believe this but I must have been about 10 before I knew for sure the physical difference between the sexes. At a park on a hot day there was a female toddler running around with no clothes on. I could see that her genitals were distinctly different. So it was more than just the fact that they had long hair and wore skirts. I think it was about this time that I found out about Santa Claus. I think I was a bit peeved that my parents had deceived me for so many years although I’m sure it was the normal thing to do and was done with the very best intentions. (I read recently a rather nice little story about the child star, Shirley Temple, who was the top box office attraction of her time. She said her Mamma took her to a department store to meet Santa Claus and he asked her for her autograph!)
Whilst living there a boy from next door, who was about the same age, and myself became Cubs. We went to a jamboree in a large park. The salute was taken by the Chief Scout himself, Lord Baden Powell, who had founded the scouting movement. I have a vague recollection of an elderly man in shorts and a big hat. I attended for quite a while and enjoyed learning how to tie knots, do semaphore, etc but when the evenings became just game playing I got bored and left.
Nottingham has two professional soccer (Australian for football) clubs so there was a match every Saturday during the season and eventually we went to both. One of the clubs used to send batches of free tickets to schools and I got one once. That struck me as a good way of introducing the game to future spectators. Again I don’t know how long we lived there but eventually we moved to a better area. It may have been a couple of years because I was in one class probably for only one term. Then I was in the senior class. Because of the date of my birthday I wasn’t able to go to secondary school for another year so I repeated that year. That would suggest that we lived in that house for a bit more than two years and that we moved when I was changing schools. Come to think of it I went to the secondary school closest to my original school, not the one closest to where we were living. That meant taking a trolley bus or walking down to the city centre, taking another trolley bus from there and walking (usually running) down the street to where the school was. I was frequently late.
A word about trolley buses. They were new to London when we first went there and Nottingham had only just changed from trams. Most of the drivers had originally been tram drivers and passengers complained that they stayed in the middle of the road when they pulled up at stops. They didn’t have doors and they slowed down as they moved over junctions in the overhead wires. If I was just missing a bus in the city I ran after it and jumped on whilst it was still moving. At the other end of the journey it was possible to jump off opposite the street with the school in it and save a bit of time that way. The school had a bell. When it stopped ringing you were late. More often than not I was running when it stopped. Prefects were stationed at the gate to apprehend late criminals like me. If they were decent blokes they let you go through. I used to skulk in a classroom until the pupils came out from the morning service and mingle with them as if I, too, had been there. At other times latecomers were marched into morning assembly and made to stand out the front alongside the teachers. As I was self conscious at that time this was agony. The number of times you were late was recorded on your term report. That figure was always high but it would have been quite ghastly if I hadn’t managed to get away with it as often as I did. next