Also that summer our new house at Hersden was ready and we moved. There was no electricity at first and I can remember the big day when the generator at the colliery came on and we could have electric light instead of oil lamps. Dad met Les and myself when we came home from school and said we had a wicketkeeper i.e. it was a boy. I knew nothing of the facts of life. I'd seen my mother growing larger - this was before sliced bread and she used to rest the loaf on her lump to slice it.
I think I assumed, or may have been told, that ladies grew larger in preparation for the arrival of a new baby. I asked how the baby had got there and was told that the nurse had brought it from the hospital. That puzzled me because she'd come by bicycle. How had she carried the baby on a bicycle? She hung a gladstone bag on the handlebars and had brought the baby in that. The bag didn't seem big enough but I accepted the explanation because your parents wouldn't lie to you would they?
I may have to backtrack from time to time as I remember things. Firstly an anecdote about my grandfather in London. He was a solicitor. A footpad was attacking people on the common, robbing them and killing some of them. He approached Granddad one night but he beat him off with his stick. Later the man was arrested and charged with murder. They came to my grandfather to organise his defence but he refused to take the case. "The man's a blackguard and the sooner he's hanged the better."
When we lived up north and had a car we used to play on the sand at Whitley Bay, a seaside resort on the Durham coast. There was a special significance about Whitley Bay which I didn't realise at the time. When my unmarried mother got pregnant her father chucked her out. 80-90 years ago this was a scandalous thing which brought shame on the family. (There's a nice irony here. A lot of years later, when he was in his 60s Grandpa Johnson needed a copy of his birht certificate. When it arrived he got an awful shock because he found out that he, himself, was illegitimate. The person he'd always thought of as his father was not so and his real father was unknown.) The proper thing was for the man to marry the girl and make an honest woman of her. Dad did so but not until she was six months pregnant.
A year or two ago Les told me that when the baby was due she went to au aunt at WHitley Bay and the child was born and died there. I asked why we hadn't visited the aunt when we went to Whitley Bay. Les said that we did. I have no recollection of it.
Sometimes we visited a cousin of my mother's who lived in the city of Durham. He was a butcher and had an enormous pair of horns hanging on his wall. Beneath it was a photo of him standing proudly beside the giant bull that owned the horns. This presumably was just before he slaughtered it.
Jumping now to the squire's Christmas party for the village children. I'm not sure whether the squire was there himself or whether the party was chiefly organised by his female relatives. I can visualise the room in which it took place but don't remember much more. We probably had jelly, cakes and cordial. Certainly not ice cream beacuse that was something you bought from ice cream sellers in public places. You couldn't have it at home because there weren't domestic fridges. There was a piano and we played games. Roger de Coverley (I've no idea how you played that.) Oragnes and Lemons. Pairs of children linked hands and held them up to form an arch. The otehrs circled. Perhaps somebody sang the words: Oranges and Lemons said the bells of St Clements/You owe me three farthings said the bells of St Martins/When will you pay me said the bells of Old Bailey/When I grow rich said the bells of Shoreditch/Pray when will that be said the old bell of Stepney?/That I don't know said the great bell of Bow/Here comes a candle to light you to bed/Here comes a chopper to cut off your head.
On that last line the arches moved down and anybody who had their head chopped off was out. Also Musical Chairs and I don't think I have to explain that.
Returning to 1929. The Wall Street crash was on October 24. That took a little time to affect the rest of hte world but the owners of Chislet Colliery must have been apprehensive about the financial future. Perhaps they decided to give up on the band and lay off its conductor. Alternatively he may have quit in disgust when the band let him down. That would be very much in character and I don't think he ever started one of his many new jobs before leaving his old one.
Either way he went to Chatham. He got a job there but I think he gave it up after a couple of weeks because he said the boss was a crook. Whether he had a job when we moved to Chatham I don't know. But that was certainly the start of our worst times. We rented a house in Ordnance Terrace which was either next door or next door but one to a house where Dickens had lived as a boy. I learned from a TV program that he had a friend who lived at no. 1 (Which I think was our house) and that this friend was later the model for Steeforth in David Copperfield.
At one time Dad had a job collecting door-to-door for a department store. I don't remember how long that lasted. He had a casual job for some days sitting in little wooden sentry box with a brazier coke fire at night taking a traffic census. He did this with a pencil on forms attached to a clipboard.
Whilst at that house Les got chicken pox. We shared a bed in the attic. The doctor came and said it was inevitable that I would catch the disease and that there was no point in me going to school. So I spent six weeks in that garret. There was no electric light but we had a candle. Mum told me years later that when I duly became ill she sent for the doctor. He came to the house but wouldn't come upstairs because she hadn't paid him the 2/6 for his previous visit. She called him an Irish pig and burst into tears. He said there, there, patted her on the shoulder and came up anyway.
During the time that Les and I were together a military funeral came past on its way to the cemetery. I was impressed by the fact that on their way to the grave they were slow marching, their rifles were reversed and the drums muffled. I expect they fired a volley over the grave and then, having honoured their dead, it was quick march to bright music on the way back to the barracks. I've always remembered that and actually mentioned it during a broadcast once. You do your duty but life goes on and it's quick march away and don't look back.
Some more backtracking. I don't know when this started but I definitely remember it in Durham. Our almost invariable breakfast then and for quite a few years was what we called boily. This was chunks of bread (long before sliced bread) in an enamel bowl with hot water from the kettle. Some sweetened condensed milk from a tin was added and the lot stirred up. The result was soft, sweet, milky and quite pleasant. I don't know what it was like nutritionally but from what we know now it was probably better for us than the traditional bacon and eggs. The attraction for my mother was that it was quick and easy and, above all, probably cheap.
One or two incidents from the time that we were at Ordnance Terrace, Chatham, which may only have been a few months. One night my mother saw an intruder in our backyard. She threw a flat iron at him and he left. This was before electric irons. The irons were sold metal, heavy and had to be heated on the fire or stove. If it had hit him it would have done him a bit of no good. Close to us was an undertaker's place, possibly just round the corner in the street whose name I don't recall. The parents went out for a walk one evening and when they came back there was a child's coffin on the front doorstep. As you can imagine this gave them a severe shock. I had a very bad sore throat once which might have been diptheria - a very severe illness at that time. Fortunately it wasn't. next