Archive for March, 2018

A Camping We Shall Go

March 1, 2018

A camping we shall go.
By Eddie Blackwell

It’s 1953 I’ve just turned 15 years old and the Summer Holidays from school have started. I’d only had three holidays since I was born in 1938. The first holiday was in 1947 the year Dad was demobbed. We went to Scarborough and spent Dad’s gratuity pay. We stayed at a boarding house over a Fish and Chip shop it was on a hill in Eastborough in Scarborough, which was not far from the Foreshore Road, and that beautiful sandy beach, there were Punch and Judy shows, Donkey rides and of course the old bucket and spade to make Sand Castles and Fortresses, we had Ice cream, candy floss and peppermint rock the weather was good. There were the Amusement Arcades and the penny slot machines, and the laughing Policeman, Dad and I spent ages watching and laughing at him it was a kind of infectious laugh that just came out and all your worries and problems just seemed to evaporate with the laughter, and you were happy that war was over your Dad was home and the future was before you. I remember one of these roadside photographers took a snap shot of me walking along by the lagoon in the Harbour that the rowing boats were hired from. Dad paid the man and the picture was posted onto you, I wish I could find it, black and white of course, but he’d caught me in the air, both feet were off the ground I was still in short trousers and I was loping along, I’d made a friend at the boarding house a young Lady called Shirley, she was in the background but she couldn’t keep up with me I was literally walking on air.
Food rationing was still on and the Men that were staying at the boarding house decided to go on an early morning fishing trip, so they hired a boat and off they went. They had a wonderful catch, Dad said the fish were jumping into the boat and they handed the catch over to the Lady of the house to cook for tea. The fish and chips that evening were delicious everyone enjoyed them, and one of the men said that was so good I could eat it again, (They knew they had caught far more than the fish that had been served for tea) and he said could I have seconds please, well that was it the Lady came in and said you’ve all had more than sufficient and she stormed out. Turned out they’d sold the rest in the Fish and Chip Shop. Every Family left the following day it was a matter of principle. Dad said we’d almost spent up anyway it was the Thursday of that week, and we packed up and came home. I remember carrying the case after we got off the Tram in York Road to walk up Pontefract Lane, passed the Princess Cinema, The Sheppard Pub, Charlie Atha’s Cycle Shop, then turning at Woolstons Chemist into Devon Street and home to number 29.
The next holiday was with the School to Interlaken in Switzerland and I’ll never forget that, it was a life changing experience. It was June 1949 I was in my 11th year Mum and Dad had scrimped and saved to finance it for me. We travelled over land by train across the Channel by Ferry onto Paris then through by train to Bern then by coach to Interlaken.
Interlaken is situated between two lakes Lake Thun and Lake Brienz. It’s a fantastic place and from the Hotel we were staying at you could see the Jungfrau and its snow covered peak. To wake up in the morning and see those mountainous peaks as you looked through the window is something you can never forget, it imprints itself in your mind and fills you with awe and amazement that such beauty can exist to lift your spirit out of your everyday life into another world where the Mountains are touching Heaven itself, we had a great time, Each day your Eiderdown was fluffed on your bed like an inflatable balloon, we’d never seen anything like it, we’d never had such luxury, and the food you could eat as much as you liked, and if you wanted something different to what was being served because you didn’t like it they would cook it specially for you. They were very spicy meals that were being served, and our Teacher Mr Child said he would give a prize at the end of the week to the one who ate the most.
Guess who won, well it had to be me, my Gran always said I had hollow legs so nobody else had a chance.
Each day we went on an excursion to a different location either by coach or by ferry We went across the lake then by road to Lucerne, saw the Bear pits in Bern, had snowball fights in the Mountains in brilliant Sunshine, went on the chairlift rides up the Mountains, up and down the Fenicular Railways all powered by clean Hydro Electricity then one night we were all awoken by a buzzing and were told not to open the windows it was the night of the June Bug, never did find out what kind of bug it was, but they were crashing into the windows making a heck of a racket then it all stopped as suddenly as it had started, peace and tranquillity had returned, except for Jack McAndrew’s snoring everything was quiet, then tap, tap, tap, on the Big French Widow, Mr Child and one of the Lady teachers had been out for a Drink and had been caught up in the chaos of the June Bug and got themselves locked out, so we opened the windows and let them in by this time Jack had woke up, and he said this is going to cost you Miss, we were told we would get a thousand lines if we were locked out. That’s only if you call out the Hotel Staff She replied, and I’ll speak to you tomorrow, now go to sleep like a good boy, a busy day ahead of us were going to the Jungfrau, and it’s an early start we leave at 9 am prompt.
The Jungfrau the highest mountain in Switzerland it has a cog railway that takes you to 11,332 feet, and they have what they call a snow blower that keeps the railway operating throughout the year. This snow blower was an old machine the cladding was made from wood, its powered by electricity and runs on the track it has two ginormous metal impellers at the front they fragment the snow and ice and blow it out to the sides of the track clearing the way ahead for the train to run on the track, we never saw it in action but you could imagine it tunnelling its way through. We were not very rich in those days and there were no mobile phones, so I didn’t have a camera to take pictures or anything, but it’s imprinted in my memory. I’m fortunate that there’s a Lady who lives at the end of our street was in the same class as me at school and she went on the same trip and has pictures of the waterfalls and the trips we went on. Happy days when you were young and innocent and the future was before you.
Oh I’m forgetting I did go camping with the Scouts to Low Water Farm near Clapham, in the shadow of Ingleborough. The first night we were raided by two Shire Horses who were in the field but our tents were those Ex-Army Bell Tents with thick guy ropes and deep wooden pegs, so they kept away from those, but the kitchen area was just about destroyed. The second day it started raining and we got washed out, a disastrous experience everything was wet through, so the Camp site was abandoned.
As I recall we marched from the Farm to Clapham and where housed in a Church Hall overnight, with palliasses and blankets to keep us warm. It was a strange place with huge carved wooden trusses that supported the roof but it was dry. We stuck it out then on the following day, we were given the option of staying on or going home but most of us decided to returned home. All in all I suppose I was very fortunate, many children of my age never had any holidays at all.
I had a friend called Harry Sharpe who lived in the next street which was Wykebeck Avenue running parallel with Halton Moor Avenue and we decided to go camping during the Summer Holidays of 1953, and we chose Malham Cove as the Ideal spot to spend our Summer break.
Frankie Laine was the top of the Hit Parade with “Girl in the Wood”, we had two Kit Bags full of tinned food a little 6ft-6in. tent that needed reproofing a primus stove and the other essentials and we were off, we went by train to Skipton then waved down a United Red Bus to take us to Malham, then we walked through the fields with our kit to Malham Cove.
We had no previous knowledge of camping, apart from my disastrous Scouting experience, so we were playing it by ear. The Cove was a formidable sight and a shallow stream meandered from the bottom which was reputed to be the source of the River Air, there was a small island in the stream and we decided that this was an ideal spot to pitch the tent, which we were to regret in the early hours of the following morning. We got the primus stove working, filled the kettle and made a pot of tea we agreed to take turns with the chores. Then we walked to the road and into Malham to get some bits and pieces, the Lady in the shop said we should go and see the Farmer and let him know we were camping in the cove, which we did. He asked where we had pitched the tent and we told him, be careful there he said the sheep climb in that area looking for feed, and they can dislodge rocks so keep well back from the face of the cove, I’ll look in on you when I’m passing but be careful and don’t do anything silly. It can be quite dangerous round there particularly at weekends when the Rock Climbers are about. Now go and see the Mrs she’ll probably have some cake or tarts on the go. Wow it was like home from home lemon curd tarts, still warm from the oven the Farmers wife was a lovely Lady and she wanted to know where we lived, and what were we going to do when we left school, she said she was born and bred in Malham and had lived there all her life, she had two young children a boy and a girl, one was in the infants school the other in the junior school, in the village, if you have any problems come back and we’ll help you sort them out, but be careful in the cove the waters can rise suddenly and the rock face is unstable.
We said we’d be careful and left with a bagful of goodies, the day was creeping on and Harry said I think we’ll have Irish stew tonight, and he set about opening a few tins. I primed and started the stove and away we went, would you like some rice pudding for afters Harry said… “I met a Maiden in the Wood and she said to me child” he was singing the song from the top of the hit parade and I joined in…“Remember me Oh Remember me. Remember for the rest of your life”… We were having a great time all was well with the World, we could shout and sing to our hearts content and nobody was saying be quiet. We had our Irish Stew and our Rice Pudding it was great, then I washed the pans and plates in the stream, the sheep were coming around to see what we were doing and the light was fading, so we decided to get ready for bed, we had inflatable lillo’s and sleeping bags and we settled down for the night. My feet were stuck out of the bottom of the tent but I was tired and I didn’t care I was comfortable and off to sleep we went, happy dreams.
In the early hours of the morning I woke up, and Harry was awake as well. My feet are wet I said, and Harry said I’m wet through, it had started raining during the night and the Island was no longer an island we were completely flooded out, it had been raining hard up on the Tarn and the meandering stream was now a torrent fortunately the rise was in the early stages so we recovered what we could and found higher ground, but a lot of our tinned reserves had gone, we made ourselves as comfortable as we could and dosed until it was light, by this time the stream was a raging torrent, and Harry said I can’t swim, don’t worry I said I have a Bronze Medallion for life saving and I’m a very strong swimmer. Eventually dawn broke and we made an evaluation of our situation, the tent and basics we’d managed to recover, so we re-pitched the tent on the higher ground above the water level, set up and lit the primus stove and made a cup of tea…. “She moved her tiny hands, and she made a little turn, she swayed in the wind, just like a graceful fern”… We were not deterred, but we did need some breakfast.
You OK Lads, I like the song, it was the Farmer I thought about you last night when it started raining, get yourselves over to the Farm and dry out the Wife will make you some breakfast, it won’t rise higher than that so your safe pitching there. The Wife loves music and that hit parade, but don’t go spoiling her I’ve got her just right, and off he went with his dogs, checking on the sheep and looking for eggs from his free ranging Hens. We were dressed and off like a shot across to the farm. I thought he’d be checking on you this morning the Lady said, he was worried about you last night when it started raining hard, the water rises unexpectedly when it rains up over the Tarn, I can see you got wet through, go warm yourselves by the fire, and I’ll make you some breakfast, it’s the most important meal of the day you know…“I vowed as she vanished, that when I was full grown, I’d have a girl just like her, to call my very own”…Bacon and eggs with beans tomatoes and Sausage, tea bread and butter you just could not fault it. I’m talking 1953 commercialization had not penetrated those rural areas and we were just two townies out of our environment
who needed help.
I’ve been hearing some singing coming from the Cove it acts like an amphitheatre, and echoes the sound down to the village, I love this modern music and that Hit Parade have you been playing music over there. Yes, we have a little radio and Harry took it from his pocket and turned it on, IT was a transistor radio his Dad worked in the Electronics Industry and this was the latest thing. Oh we’ve never seen anything like that around here it’s so small, and she pointed to the big box radio she had in the Corner of the kitchen, Harry said these will be all the rage next year, my Dad got it for me, but there not on the market yet, we asked if we owed her for the breakfast, but she said no it’s just nice to talk to someone from a big City and to hear what’s going out there. There was no power to the farm but they had a generator and a huge gas tank which provided for their needs, the roads were in good condition, but they did get cut off from time to time during the winter.
Off we went back to the tent, things were drying out slowly, but the sheep had been sniffing around in our absence, and we had to chase them off. We were amazed at the places they got to on the face of the Cove, we certainly couldn’t have climbed up there without ropes and harnesses, although we did try but deemed it was too dangerous and if you lost your footing and fell who knows
where you’d end up. We were still in good spirits the sun was shining and we had plenty to do, I was tidying around and making the tent ship shape Harry was sorting the rations and seeing to the kitchen, Harry said we’ve lost a lot of tins in the flooding we’ll have to go and walk down the bank and see if we can recover them, if we find any that’ll be your job because I can’t swim and you’re a strong swimmer, but the waters flowing quite fast now it could be a bit dodgy even for a strong swimmer like you, did I detect a note of sarcasm in that remark, no It was flowing fast and looked deep. We’ll take a rope with us Harry I’ll tie it on with a bowline knot, and if I get into difficulty you can pull me out, can you remember how to tie it
Harry said, yes you form a loop put the end through the loop around the back and through the loop again sorted I said it’s easy to tie and untie and it won’t slip. Mm was all he could say, then added well don’t blame me if it goes wrong. It won’t go wrong I said, and we may not need it anyway. I love this camping there’s always a new challenge, so your never bored.
Lunch was a sardine sandwich, we’d been lucky to have stored the bread in a sealed plastic bag which had protected it and kept it dry, we’d had a good breakfast and we were still quite full, afterwards we set off on our quest to recover any tins we could see in the river, I’d got my rope on just in case and Harry was hold of the loose end, come on boy he shouted pretending that I was a dog on a lead, so I growled back at him showing my teeth he laughed but took the hint, and didn’t do it again as we meandered along the banks of the river it started to widen out and form a stream which calmed it down and it became shallow, there’s one Harry was pointing and I went in a tin of Pears none the worse for wear in all we found several tins but the corned beef and Irish Stew were nowhere to be found and by this time we were approaching a little footbridge that crossed the river before it entered the village. We stopped there and returned to camp with our recoveries Harry said it’s not bad but it’s not good we’ve enough grub for tomorrow but then it’s tinned fruit with condensed milk, so we decided to stay another night then make our way home. We called at the farm and said we would be leaving tomorrow and thanked them for their help and kindness.
We arrived home the following day which was the Thursday, Mum said I thought you were stating for a week, yes Mum we were but we ran out of food. Did you enjoy it, yes it was great, what’s for tea I’m starving.
“and now I am a grown Man, and I’d marry if I could, but I can’t forget the memory of, that girl in the wood.
Remember me oh remember me. (big finish)
REMEMBER FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE…
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Thanks for another great tale, Eddie.

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