Out and about

Mam was busy putting up Dad’s bait (packed lunch) at one end of the table. The strains of Al Martino’s ‘Here in my Heart’ were just fading on the wireless. Tommy, me and ten-year-old Coral had just finished tea, a fry-up of new potatoes and egg topped with a helping of baked beans.

“Is there any pie left?” I asked.

“There’s a few slices left. I don’t know why I bother baking, it only lasts five minutes,” joked Mam.

Mam always had a bake-up each Sunday afternoon. Fadgies1, apple and date pie and currant slice were the favourites.

“Can ah go out when ah’m finished?’”

“After you’ve sidied the table you can,” said Mam, “and don’t be too late back in.”

The three of us shared the last of the apple and date pie.

Al Martino – ‘Here in my Heart’  1952
Here is my heart, my life, and my all, dear
Please be mine and stay here in my heart


When we were finished eating, I cleared the table and reached for my jacket. I stepped out into the street. The frost on the flags glistened like a million stars with the reflected light from the gas lamp on the corner. I walked the few feet to the house next door.

“Can Cliffy come out?” I asked his Mam, Peggy, who answered the door.

“Come in while he finishes his tea,” she answered.

Rosemary Clooney was playing faintly in the background.

Later we wandered up the road, discussing what it would be like on the moon if it was ever possible to get there. It was a full moon and a double halo surrounded it in the cold still air. It appeared to glide across the sky as the occasional clouds drifted past. We gazed up. “Ah’ve read that thez two foot a dust on the moon.”

 Rosemary Clooney – ‘Half as Much’  1955
If you loved me
Half as much as I love you
You wouldn’t worry me
Half as much as you do


When the weather was fine, the local gang of kids trudged up Ormesby Lane to ‘The Becks’ and ‘The Plantations’. We spent many happy hours jumping the beck2Stream[/efn_note) and fishing for sticklebacks, tadpoles, frogs or newts. Another favourite pursuit was searching for skylark eggs. These were grey with reddish brown speckles and were a prized possession.

We heard the bird before any of us sighted it, high in the sky in the middle of one of the fallow fields of Keld House Farm. We headed for that location. The Skylark nests on the ground and is easy to locate because the bird always sings whilst hovering high in the sky directly above its nest. They are renowned for their song at twilight. Just as we scrambled through the hawthorn hedge we spotted a white plume of smoke two fields away.

“Thez a fire over there, ah wonder worrit is?”

With that, we ran towards the excitement. As we got closer we could see a long low timber structure that was burning furiously. A frantic farmhand arrived from the direction of the farmhouse and tried to enter the building, to no avail.

“Ah think thez ‘orses inside!” he yelled.

The three of us just stared helplessly. Two fire engines roared across the field, just as the roof collapsed inwards in a shower of sparks. One of the firemen ran straight to us and grabbed the nearest boy. “How did this fire start?” he accused.

The fire was extinguished in clouds of steam, our names and addresses were taken and then we were let go. When we arrived home we decided not to mention the incident to our parents. We worried for days, wondering if the police would come to pick us up.

Frankie Laine – ‘I Believe’  1954
I believe for everyone that goes astray
Someone will come to show the way


Cars were very rare and the policemen on their beat were either on foot or rode around on push bikes. Hardly anyone locked their door. If they did, the key was usually hanging from a length of string that could be reached through the letter box. Dad’s old pushbike was left unlocked on the footpath under the front room window each night without fear of it being stolen. Bike locks had yet to be invented.

One night Mam got a terrible fright. Standing by the bed was a policeman! Dad’s alarm clock was broken and he had arranged for the local bobby on his beat to ‘knock him up’ for night shift. After repeated knocking with no response, the policeman let himself in and came up the stairs to wake him.

Next: Grandad’s garden

Previous: Uncle Ronnie

  1. Bread buns that are peculiar to Teesside, made with lard.