Tag Archives: Hurst

Nellie Knows : The Wokingham Paper : 27 March 2015


I was thrilled to be asked by the Editor if I would like to be a columnist for The Wokingham Paper, the new weekly paper for Wokingham.  Of course I jumped at the chance!  Here is my first column which was printed on Friday 27 March 2015.  The paper is now weekly and you can pick it up for 50p from shops and newsagents across the Wokingham Borough.


“It’s a time of new beginnings with a new paper for Wokingham, the clocks going forward, the Easter holidays are fast approaching and gardens all over Wokingham are showing signs of fresh new shoots and lush green grass. What’s not to be happy about?

We really are very lucky living where we do and Wokingham is often quoted as being one of the best places to live. Having lived in the borough all my life I will have to agree. I grew up in Hurst when Dinton Pastures was just fields which subsequently became gravel pits when the aggregate was used for the A329M, now it is a hugely popular country park that attracts heaps of visitors yearly. I moved to Wokingham 25 years ago tempted by the bright lights and by the time I realised the bright lights were infact the level crossing lights it was too late and I’d already put down my roots in the town and it’s where I am raising my family.

The town centre is going through many changes and I would urge you to get involved and have your say. I’m a big fan of independent shops that give a little bit more and I assure you the town IS still open, yesterday I spent 2 hours after school running errands in town and picking up bits, not only did the shopkeepers welcome thecustom they also gave the customers some good old fashioned customer service with a smile. And that to me means a great deal.”


Popped into John Wood Sports to pick up a stud spanner for one of the girls’ football boots, whilst there they asked about the football teams the girls played for and supported. One of my girls plays for Ashridge Park U14s and one of them plays for Wokingham & Emmbrook U10s and are undeniably proud of their clubs and their achievements. Back in the day girls didn’t play football so it is refreshing to see so many girls getting involved and my husband is often badgered to go into the garden (or next door to retrieve a ball) or the park for the girls to practice their skills.

Books and reading

One of the great pleaures of my childhood was reading. I grew up on a diet of Famous Five and Mallory Towers, then I started reading pony books and the Flowers in the attic series. I still read loads and review books for authors and publishers which has introduced me to many great authors. A number of our local book shops and libraries have author events which are hugely enjoyable and very popular. I regularly keep an eye on Wokingham Libraries, Bookends and Chapter One website and Twitter feeds to see who is coming along and over the coming months I will be arranging a number of events which you will be able to learn more about in this column.

One of my hobbies is shopping, not just for buying new things but also finding new things and am often asked where I find things. Quite simply there’s loads of places to look and in supporting local shops I am playing a small part in keeping our town centre alive. Sometimes it might be considered easier to buy something online because it could be cheaper but when you add in the P&P and the time spent finding out how to reclaim your parcel if you are not in then that all takes time. My children often (regularly) complain that I spend too long in shops but I like the personal touch.

Food and drink

According to my friend Fiona I cook like her Welsh Nana cooked, which is opening the fridge to see what’s there and then creating a tasty and wholesome meal for all the family. If she times it right I will send her home with a dish of food for which she is grateful for (funny how she always manages to time it right!). I’m a big fan of slow cooking and have known Netherton Foundry for some years, they have a great range of cast iron cookware which can be found in Robert Dyas as part of the Theo Paphitis SBS selected items. Just this morning I threw in some tomatoes, chopped onion, garlic and carrots together with some mince and seasoning so that by the time the children are home from school or clubs, the homework is done and the kit required for the following day is located I can just lift the lid of the slow cooker and supper is ready.


Memories of Dougie Thompson


Last Thursday at 3pm the phone rang, it was an unknown number and I toyed with not answering it. However I did.

Hello it’s Tim (my old sergeant).
Me:  Oh hello Tim, how are you?
Tim:  I’m good thanks, are you going to the funeral tomorrow?
Me:  Whose funeral?
Tim:  Dougie’s.
Me:  What time and where? I’ll be there.
Tim:  1130am at St Paul’s, the procession is leaving Corner Garage at 11am
Me:  See you there

You see I couldn’t not go as Dougie had been one of the characters from my youth, one of those people you met and never forgot.

Dougie was a local boy who was born in a cottage in what was once fields in Woosehill, he was related to William Charles Arthur Smith who later became town mayor and who Smith’s Walk was named after.  A close knit family with huge links to the community.

Back in the day Dougie was at Reading Collegiate and when he was offered an apprenticeship at a big garage in Reading he stayed loyal to his roots and worked in the family business.  Dougie had 2 sisters Mary and Henrietta and his father gave them each a plot of land where they built homes and raised a family. Dougie was married twice and I only knew his second wife Lorraine because they owned the field next to us in Hurst where they first kept goats and then ponies.

Imagine as a child meeting a man with flowing locks, sideburns and an ill fitting t shirt, in a field with his wife and small son, a blonde cherubic little boy whose eyes never strayed from his father when he was talking. Dougie was so unlike anyone I had or have ever met. He always had time for us. He would park his car in the drive next to ours and would always say how you getting on? He mended the fences that were beaten down by the golfers eager to retrieve their stray golf balls. One day he ran across the field with us children struggling to keep up with him and he shouted at the errant golfer, one such golfer had a hooped earring and he said that real men don’t wear jewellery. This from someone with a ripped and oiled t shirt.

As the years went by we spent less time hanging around in trees and ditches but Dougie was always there, he would greet us with a smile and tell us tales, reminding us of a slower pace of life.  I mentioned we had goats in the field next door belonging to Dougie to a friend who was a PC in Twyford and he said oh yes Dougie, everyone knows Dougie.

Everyone did know Dougie.

When I joined the police and a tow truck arrived to remove a vehicle out jumped Dougie, with his trademark smile and no nonsense approach the vehicle was loaded up and off it went. My crew mate asked who that was, my response was simple. That’s Dougie. Nathan his son joined the business in 1998 and in 2001 he became Dougie’s business partner. Father and son.

Over the years I heard news of Dougie but I didn’t see him much. When I was told by Tim that he moved to a residential home nearby I should have visited him, but I didn’t. When I was told he had died there was no way I could miss his funeral. I changed my plans and apologised to my daughter that we would still go out for lunch but it would be at 1pm and not noon. She nodded and said that’s ok knowing that my past is a treasured part of my life and ultimately shapes her future.

Turning up to the church in very good time the car park was full so I parked on the road. Walking back to the church car park I was met by people who were walking down to the Corner Garage. For Dougie. In the car park I met Tim and a number of long retired officers. As I stood in the car park with people who inspired me to join the police I felt a sense of community. We were all there for one reason. For Dougie. It was therefore a fitting tribute to Dougie that he had a police escort on his final journey, it was equally fitting that people stopped what they were doing to turn and watch this local community character on a stretch of road that he knew so well.

Walking into the church there was a sea of faces, some I knew by name, some I knew by face, some I had no clue who they were but like us they were there to celebrate the life of this unique man who had time for everyone. For Dougie. The order of service had photos of Dougie with his beaming smile and one with his trademark t shirt, the hymns were perfect All things bright and beautiful, Guide me oh thou great redeemer and Abide with me. When Nathan his son stood up to speak the congregation all turned to see him. I’d not seen Nathan for years and the cherubic blonde haired boy had been replaced by a proud man who so resembled his father and whose words said it all.

How you getting on?
The favoured salutation of an exceptional man.
A man who had NO acquaintances only friends, even if he hadn’t met them yet.
A man whose arms’ power could persuade the un-persuadable yet provide the warmest most gentle sanctuary for whomever needed.
A man whose mischievous behaviour proved most infectious. A man with hands big enough for his “thumbs up” to near rival the warmth and sincerity of his smile.
A man with devotion and loyalty to motivate risk to flesh to protect family or friend.
Infact a man with strength multiplied by the need or vulnerability he found himself witness to.
Step near this man and feel the warmth of the summer sun, realise then it is just the warmth of his compassion and this man shone brightest amidst the company he loved.
How you getting on?
The favoured salutation of my father. To hear him say it was to watch him glow, once in his company he’d beg “don’t go”.
How you getting on?
My father’s salutation – now favoured by many.
Yet my father favoured no valediction and I leave it so.
Dougie Thompson
A friend to all, a father to three, a brother to two others, a man to be admired and I’m so proud, all of those to me.

Nathan’s cousin Andrea also gave a tribute and I learnt more about Dougie. I never knew he had stood over the body of a dead girl to protect her from passing traffic. I have goosebumps writing that. That was just the kind of thing Dougie would do.

I left the church and headed home. Calm and grateful. When asked how the funeral had been I said it was beautiful. I couldn’t think of what else to say. Nathan had done his dad proud. The next day I sent Tim a text saying I wanted to write about Dougie and Tim sent me Nathan’s number. I duly sent off a text to Nathan and was thrilled when I got a reply. On Tuesday afternoon I went to the Corner Garage and chatted to Nathan for hours (we could have chatted more!). Nathan showed me old photos of Dougie, of Wokingham back in the day when the pace of life was slower, of Nathan’s ancestors, of the community we live in and yet for some have no idea how it’s all linked to in today’s fast moving world, of the field next to our house. I had no idea that Dougie’s family were such pillars of the community. Dougie was never boastful. Dougie didn’t demand respect yet everyone respected him.

I’m very privileged to have grown up in a community that had local characters like Dougie and I am honoured that Nathan has shared his photos and memories with me.  To me Dougie was a man who had the field next to our house, a man who everyone knew and a man who hundreds turned out to say their final goodbyes to and I am privileged to say I was there.

Thank you Nathan for sharing your photos and memories with me – your dad was a special man.

Village life


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.


19 years ago I uttered those words after Big Welsh proposed  and as soon as they were out of my mouth it seemed that everyone had an opinion as to what would be the best wedding ever.  I think everyone wanted us to have things at our wedding that they didn’t have at theirs!  We wanted a very small and simple wedding, with an evening reception the next day and suggested a Friday in May which prompted my paternal Grandmother to say marry in May rue the day.  I suppose having been together for 7 years she wasn’t able to say marry in haste repent at leisure!  Well she did have a a point as May was a very busy month what with Big Welsh’s birthday, 2 Bank Holidays and a half term meaning my pageboys wouldn’t be around.

We went for June.  A FridayDaring.  Well we had to get married on Friday as opposed to Saturday because the ushers wouldn’t be there, the majority of guests wouldn’t either and more importantly neither would my brother and as he was giving me away it was rather important it was on a Friday.  My brother had introduced me to Big Welsh at the cricket club 7 years before and if there were no players on the Saturday then there’d be no game and subsequently there’d be a riot and that’s just not cricket!

My Godmother, Judy, said she would make my dress for me and as I had no idea what I wanted but I had a very good idea of what I don’t want she suggested we went to see Beryl a pattern cutter in Romsey.  Beryl took one look at me and said “simple, certainly not white, green trim and just brushing the floor”.  I hoped she meant my dress was to be simple and I wasn’t.  I didn’t dare question her as she wrapped a cream piece of material around me in a flourish, with her tape measure moving around me magically, pins in her mouth and gathering the material land tutting, smiling and repining! I was gobsmacked that this lady who I had never met before could decide what I wanted without me saying anything!  I had tried on a big hooped, white, frothy thing and looked odd!  The pageboys (aged 5 and 7) were dressed in green checked shirt, beige shorts, beige socks and green sandals.  Judy had piped their outfits with the same green that she had piped my dress in and we all had the same green buttons.  They looked gorgeous!  The bridesmaids had green dresses that weren’t unlike mine and they too looked gorgeous.  Big Welsh was in tails with a green tie.  He looked dashing, I looked short apparently!

So, we got married on a Friday in June.  A friend of my mother’s drove us to the Church in his green Jag .  We had the hymns and music that we wanted (Dambusters, Arrival of the Queen of Sheba, Bread of Heaven, Jerusalem), I amazed everyone by saying obey, my brother was delighted to give me away and every one of the 50 guests looked fabulous.  We then drove back to my childhood home for canapés and a buffet in the hottest marquee known to man as the temperatures reached 30 degrees.

After the speeches, I got changed into my going away outfit, handed my bouquet to my grandmother for her to lay on my father’s grave and we got back in the green jag and drove off to Cliveden where we watched the most amazing storm and had an idyllic evening.

The following day we went back to Mum’s and got ready for a casual evening reception where everyone let their hair down and we partied early into the next day, before spending the night at Cantley.  Just as well we didn’t have any plans on the Sunday as we were exhausted and wanted to get back to our own home, open our presents and just relax!

Oh but we did!  Mum had invited half the village, two thirds of the next village and one tenth of a small Outer Hebrides island.  Back on went my going away outfit and back to Mum’s!

That night we eventually got home and just flopped, exhausted after a weekend of getting married!  The following day we set off for Somerset for our wind down honeymoon week at Pennard Hill Farm, taking with us fizz left over from the wedding and stinking colds.

Our wedding gift to each other was a cold, that’s certainly not a gift to be sneezed at!