I grew up in a village called Hurst, near Reading and Wokingham in Berkshire. Back in the 70s it had very few pavements and no street lights. Life was very easy then and it didn’t seem to rain.
We lived in an old forge, close to the pub (of which there were lots) with fields behind us stretching as far as the eye could see. We used to ride on the fields, part of which became a golf course and country park. When the fields were being dug up the lorries carrying the gravel to the A329M used to rattle past the house on a regular basis.
With no public transport we rode or cycled everywhere, carefree, we used to amble on horseback for hours or scuttle off on our bikes – no cycle helmets and flared dungarees flapping in the chains. Danger didn’t seem to exist in our childhood, all we knew was we needed to cross the B3030 or A321 safely, don’t talk to dirty old men with boiled sweets, be home on time and go somewhere safe if the Broadmoor alarm sounded and it wasn’t Monday at 10am. And the sun always shone.
The village had lots of large houses with sweeping lawns and grand driveways where we used to play with our friends or grandchildren of the owners, sometimes we would have to sit quietly whilst the grown ups chatted and drank tea out of dainty cups with tea leaves. Apparently famous people lived in the village but they were just people we knew and we were never star struck. A regular visitor to our friends was Christopher Biggins who we saw a lot of, his laughter filled a room. I remember the fist time I saw him on telly and was gobsmacked – there was someone I’d had lunch with and he was on the telly!
I went to the village school for a time and hated it. Maybe my experiences would have been different had my father not died when I was 9 and I was bullied for not having a father, who knows, but I did use my bullying experiences in the assemblies I gave when I was in the police. My brother went to prep school at the age of 7 and I missed him dreadfully, I wanted to go too!
My brother and I used to get into scrapes together and then lose our voices whilst staring at the ground. One day we were climbing over the hay bales and Amy from the pub came round to shout at Mum. Blimey she could swear and loudly. Mum stood by the fence with us either side, keeping us out of sight, whilst we were taking it all in. After that we were even more wary of Amy who could easily have been a Dickensian character.
There were 2 shops (Bagleys and the village shop), a butchers, another shop that became the newsagents for a while and a petrol station. And pubs. Lots of pubs! The Cricketers is now long gone but there’s still 4 left. Speaking of cricket there’s a cricket club where I met Big Welsh, we had joy we had fun, we had seasons in the sun! We got married at the village church where my father’s funeral was and where Mook was christened.
Shortly after meeting Big Welsh I saw the bright lights of Wokingham and before I could scuttle back to my childhood home in the village I had bought a house. It was only after being stuck in a traffic jam that I realised the bright lights were infact the level crossing, but too late I had swapped my small, sunny village life for a life in a market town.