The Story of Heyford (Extra): Dear Diary – September 1956

September 1956

Dear Diary,

Well, that’s it. I’ve left Bliss Charity School and am preparing for the next stage of my learning at Duston Secondary Modern School. I didn’t pass the 11+ but that’s fine because all my friends are joining me on the daily bus trip to Duston. The few that passed the exam will bike to Upper Heyford, leave their bike in somebody’s garden and catch a bus to the Grammar School in Daventry. I’ve got my new school uniform, navy skirt and white blouse with school tie and a blazer with a badge for winter. For the summer we are to have a green striped dress made from Butterick Pattern No. 7741 available at Adnitts. Duston Secondary Modern School opens its doors this month and I am in Form 1A. A bus will leave Heyford at 8:20 am and bring us home after 4 o’clock. I’m looking forward to the next stage of my education.

I’ve enjoyed the school holidays, mostly outdoors. It was great not having to get up so early. By the time I opened my curtains nearly all the ladies in Furnace Lane had their washing out. They all have a line stretching from top to bottom, and they all seem to wash on a Monday, so it’s lovely to see rows of sheets blowing on a sunny summer’s day.

The other day I had a “butcher’s basket” on Sue’s bike and I jumped off when she started going too fast and ripped my knickers. I told dad I’d fallen down a tree because he knows I climb and he’d be really annoyed if he knew I’d been on somebody’s bike. He thinks they’re dangerous. Mind you that could be because he can’t afford to buy me one. It all started after we’d been scrumping down Ben’s Orchard and had to make a quick getaway because somebody shouted “Ben’s coming”. I have no idea who Ben is and don’t know of anybody who’s ever seen him but he has some lovely apples. I really don’t need to go scrumping because we have apples galore at home but I like to join in the fun.

I’m spending the morning with Nan while mum goes fruit picking up at Beck’s farm by the A5. They say that Mr. Beck was a pilot in WW1. He is a very kind man. Children are allowed in the school holidays but I like to help my Nan pod her peas and pick her gooseberries ready for Pap’s dinner and she lets me help make pastry in the kitchen sometimes. Having said that she’s not quite as bright as she used to be and doesn’t mind if I find a caterpillar in the peas, “adds a bit of meat” she says. I love her 3 cats which she has to keep the mice away. She falls asleep easily but she’s over 60 and she brought up 7 children, so it’s understandable. I might go off and play for a bit if she nods off.

Last Sunday my dad and uncle cut the hedge round pap’s garden & orchard. It’s a very long hedge and takes hours. Backing onto the orchard is Mr. Humphrey’s ladder making yard and you can hear the saws during the week in the woodshed but it’s quiet on Sunday because they all go to chapel.

The morning was spent with the men hedge trimming and mum cooking our meal. After dinner the men were clearing the hedge cuttings and making a bonfire at the top of the orchard, Nan and Pap were asleep in the living room, and me and mum washing up. All of a sudden mum gasped. “Oh blimey, they’ve set the hedge on fire. Go and sit with the oldies, and if Pap wakes up play dominoes with him, but make sure he doesn’t come into the kitchen, he’ll have a fit. What, miss all the fun,
again! Of course, I did as she asked and Pap didn’t wake up until the men came in, all black, saying the work had been done. Mum was grinning.


Letter published in The Prattler – September edition 2020

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