by

The laxative Joke

And

East Leeds Lads on Holiday in Devon

By Eric Allen

The Laxative Chewing Gum. An amusing little tale (well to me anyway – possibly not to those it affected) was instigated by me in the 1950s. Beech Nut chewing gum could be bought out of vending machines located outside shops usually on street corners. On this occasion the machine in question was outside a shop in Fewston Avenue.

To recap: there had been an intense sales drive to advertise BONO  MINT laxative chewing gum and samples of this product had been pushed through the doors of local households. On the day in question my mates, Bernard, Pete and I were off to the Market District Boy’s Club – Bernard and Pete to play football and I was to play my game, rugby. Before setting off I took a packet of Beech Nut chewing gum and swapped the contents for BONO MINT laxative chewing gum. On the way to the club I offered a piece each to Bernard and Pete, who both, innocently, accepted. Of course I had carefully positioned a piece of the proper Beech Nut gum in the packet for myself.

After the game we met back at the club where I was advised that Bernard had been taken short during the match and had to make a hasty retreat off the pitch. It did not seem to affect Pete until later that night when we were coming back late at night from dancing at Pudsey baths. Pete had to quickly get off the bus and get behind a hedge. He caught the next bus but unfortunately the same thing happened again and as this was now the last bus he had to walk all the way home (on his own). Unfortunately it was still affecting him while serving at St Hilda’s Church the following morning. Fortunately the incident did not affect our friendship and we embarked on a holiday in Devon.

The Holiday in Devon It would have been around 1956/57 when Pete and I decided to have a week’s camping holiday in glorious Devon. We were in our mid teens and this was going to be an adventure. Our route was to be by steam train from Leeds to Bristol where we would change trains for Barnstaple, another train to Bideford and finally a bus to Clovelly, which was to be our ultimate destination. There we had arranged to camp at the delightfully named ‘Wrinkleberry Farm’. The site had already been recced by Pete’s mother and father as being a suitable spot for us.

We allegedly carried everything we would need for the week on our backs, including two small tents, one for sleeping and one for stores. In addition, we had with us, or thought we had with us, a Primus stove for cooking. We got off to a bad start by falling out over whether or not we should risk dumping ourselves and all this gear in a first class carriage; which looked much more attractive than those afforded by our third class tickets and werekleberry Farm for Blog

full anyway. Somewhere along the way, it dawned upon us, with a sickening impact, that we had forgotten the Primus stove; it was still sitting on our kitchen table at home. This was a major blow for two growing lads for it meant no hot food unless we bought out, this was a ‘double whammy’ as take-a-ways were as rare as rocking horse dung in Clovelly and anyway our financial resources, being young lads, was very limited. We decided, after debate, that our best course of action would be to buy another stove and this we did at Barnstaple. Now, whether we couldn’t afford a proper Primus stove or whether we just could not locate one in Barnstaple I can’t now recall but we finished up buying a Butane stove instead. The Butane stove was a small blue affair; the canister, which contained the gas, came separate from the base of the stove. To start the thing one needed to locate the canister onto the stove and push into position by forcing it onto a spike and securing it with two clips. That in turn pierced the canister and allowed the gas to be released in a controlled manner for igniting and cooking. Unfortunately, the first time we tried to use it we managed to spike the thing but did not have it located properly. This caused it to take to the air like a flying saucer propelled by the escaping gas and emitting a smell like rotting vegetation as it flew. By the time we retrieved the canister it was empty. So that was it, as we didn’t have access to another canister in outback Clovelly, so we were back to square one again without a means of cooking.

Happily, Wrinkleberry was a great place to camp and Clovelly itself, in my perception, one of the most beautiful villages in England. Of course we had probable been indoctrinated by Pete’s mother and father, who made pilgrimages to spend their holidays there almost every year. That was in the days when a Ford eight had to meander through countless town and city centers (before motorways) and an overnight break in Bristol on the way down, which meant four days of the holiday were lost already in the travel.

Pete’s house in Leeds was a shrine to Clovelly; there were pictures of the place on almost every wall and a Devon pixie doorknocker. For those not lucky enough to have visited Clovelly when it was a living village rather than a virtual museum it can best be described as one long, narrow, cobbled street which reached from a car park at the top to the quay far below. Motorised transport was not allowed in the street: it was far too steep and narrow anyway. All goods, including: milk deliveries, groceries and even the dustbin collection and funerals were carried out by means of donkeys pulling sleds. At that time, the whole village was under the ownership of Lady Hamilton, who lived at Clovelly Court, a grand house out of bounds to the rank and file.

We must have been fit at the time for we would be up and down that street from Wrinkleberry to swim by the quay, three or four times a day – all four or five hundred feet drop of it. I certainly wouldn’t like to have to tackle it even once a week today! One day we looked back from our swimming in the quay to see all our clothes floating on the water, the tide had come in and we hadn’t noticed; the salt water ruined my new watch. About the third day a most amazing thing happened; we were lazing about on the big pebbles by the seaClovelley for Blog (2), like a couple of great porpoises, probably thinking what we would have for dinner. We were still without the stove – One day as I was laid on my stomach on the beach looking up the winding street, I gasped: ‘Your Lill and Bill are coming down the hill!’ We called our parents by their first names, they said we were cheeky b’s but I think they liked it really. I suppose we were a bit avant-garde for the fifties. Anyway, I remember Pete saying, ‘Come off it. How can they be? They’re at home three hundred miles away!’ It was a bit like in The Hitchhiker’s guide to the Galaxy when the main protagonist who is on a distant isolated planet sees his old aunt walking down the road towards him. However, in his case he was hallucinating – I wasn’t – it was Pete’s Lill and Bill. They had made the three hundred mile plus journey, all the way from Leeds, to bring us the Primus stove. Well, that and the fact they didn’t need much of an excuse to have an extra holiday in Clovelley at the best of times. Thereafter, for a few days, we slept in our tent and Lill and Bill slept in the van alongside us at Wrinkleberry Farm. And we were able to cook on the Primus stove; in fact, I suppose we had the advantage of Lill doing most of the cooking for us too.

The week proceeded idyllically and sunny for the next few days, we had a memorable trip to Lundy Island on the old Waverley paddle steamer, which would arrive from Ilfracombe and anchor out in the bay where the local fishermen would row the folk who wereWaverley paddle steamer
going to make the trip out to join it. I admired the lifestyle of those old Clovelley fishermen. Many of them had been born and bred in Clovelley and worked the fishing boats as lads before getting ‘wanderlust’ and joining the Royal Navy or perhaps the merchant navy and going off to see the world. Finally they would return to finish their days back in Clovelley, pottering about in their boats, setting a few lobster pots, making few bob rowing holidaymakers around the bay etcetera but mostly just to sit around smoking on the harbour wall chewing the fat with their old mates. What a lovely way to spend a life! I believe the old Waverley, which incidentally made the trip to Dunkirk to bring the lads back, is still plying its trade among the Scottish Islands even at the time of writing. Lundy, a windswept rock in the Bristol Channel was at the time home to a few lighthouse keepers and a puffin colony. I recall a steep climb to an old stone church, a post office making good profit out of selling the island’s own puffin stamps and a having a picnic. A good day was had by all.

About Thursday the weather changed and it started to rain and I mean rain, ‘stair-rod time’. Now, there is not much to do in Clovelley in heavy rain so good old Lill and Bill said they would take us on to Newquay in the van, where there were chances of a few more foul weather attractions. So, off we bumped to Newquay in the back of that seatless, Jowett, Bradford van. We still intended to camp but the rain was no better in Newquay: probably worse if anything. We paid an old farmer for a campsite but it quickly turned into a river and we had to abandon the idea of camping altogether and seek ‘bed and breakfast’ accommodation. We were boarded the first night by a nice lady who then passed us onto her daughter for the rest of the week. Both houses were located on a bend in the road into Newquay near to where a circus was being held. Neither of us has been able to pin point the exact location of these two houses on subsequent visits to Newquay.

Then followed the longest train journey home either of us can remember. First the train went to Plymouth, were we were delayed and had to make a change of trains. Eventually we arrived in Bristol where we had to spend a cold night on the station platform as our train did not leave until the next morning. That night spent on a cold seat was memorable in that it was so cold and miserable. Ironically, as we were told later, our carriages were standing alongside the platform unlocked where we would have been welcome to spend a warmer, more comfortable night than on the station bench. We arrived home in the afternoon of the next day. It was seventeen hours after our departure from Newquay by time we saw the grimy old face of Leeds Corn Exchange, which always confirmed our holidays were well and truly over. But what an adventure it had been!

****************************
Great tale Eric. I remember it well – especially the laxatives!!!

Last months pic? St James Infirmary (Jimmies) Taken from Becket Street Cemetery
Now for this months’ Remember these two Schools?
.Beasts in the top school belles in the lower schoolCentra & Thorseby for blog

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12 Responses to “”

  1. Jim Dick Says:

    It was Central High which I left in 1969 and Thoresby.

    I emigrated to Australia with a mate from “Central” in 1971 and have been here ever since although have managed to visit 68 countries in this 42 years!

    Jim Dick

  2. peterwwood Says:

    Well done Jim, you are correct of course the picture is:The Leeds Central High School and Thoresby. There must be hundreds of Old Centralians out there across the world. Come on give us a shout or better still send us a tale to peter_wood@talktalk.net

  3. Nauru Says:

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  4. Eric Sanderson Says:

    Quite right Pete , there are many old Centralians around but only a minority came from East Leeeds. But, the pupils were drawn from all over Leeds and in my year, 1952,I would guess it was about 6% , and most of those were from Victoria .

  5. Eric Sanderson Says:

    Bit of finger trouble on my earlier post, in the spelling of Leeds and the year. Should have read 1951 & the percentage excluded those from such as Harehills so perhaps a wider definition of East Leeds would include a bigger number of potential contributors as Pete suggests

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  7. aussiepom Says:

    Brings back lots of memories of family holidays. Mine wasn’t as exciting as the ” The Likely Lads ” though. What a great adventure despite the rain. Well wrote too I could almost hear the seagulls and feel the cold on the train station.

  8. Douglas Says:

    Thank you again Eric. A great reminiscence. And now I know about your diabolical streak; the laxatives were a dreadful prank. I am another old Centralian, probably among the oldest, having begun there in 1945. Though I am not sure I qualify fully because I was admitted to the Junior Technical Section, Builders C. I think at that time the new labour government obliged the leading high schools to create a Technical section to enrol those kids who had failed their year 11 – demonstrating that they were not really professional standard – but who might make good tradesmen. We did bricklaying, plumbing, carpentry and tech drawing in the afternoons. It was an absolutely great education, and earmarked to be a tradesman though
    I was, I ended up as a university professor, hats off to Leeds Central High.

  9. peterwwood Says:

    I have just remembered – that was not the end of our adventures with the Primus stove, for many years it lay languishing in our cellar until Eric, now married, lost the use of his gas cooker at home. He remembered we had that old Primus stove and came and relinquished it from our cellar as an interim cooker until his own was repaired, whereupon it blew up and set his garage on fire. Good job he hadn’t tried to use it in the house!

  10. Eric Sanderson Says:

    Pete – the story just gets better and better

  11. peterwwood Says:

    Eric, – the leeds thing with three eees Leeeds. I’m always doing that by mistake but I thought this looks good it could be a slogan for promoting Leeds. At the moment they have the ‘Leeds live it love it’ thing so I sent Them the slogan ‘LEEEDS SO GOOD IT DESERVES THREE E’S’. But alas it fell on stoney ground.

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