Sunday, 10 August 2008

Planes, Trains & Automobiles...On To Caversham...

So, after a bit of an exploration of the area around the old house, I rediscover many of the places I remember as a boy; The walk to school along Chestnut Avenue, much as I remember it. The part of my road where they were still building and I managed to fall off some scaffolding pipes and gash my leg on a huge piece of flint sticking out of the ground (still have quite a big scar). The area called The Spinney where we used to play 'Stig of The Dump'. All pretty much there and recognisable 40 odd years later.
Another fantastic illustration from Edward Ardizzone and an influence on getting me interested in children's book illustration I realize many years later.

I next head off to see if I can find the first school I ever attended at Ley Hill, a couple of miles away from where we lived. This really is pushing the boundaries of my memory as I think I was only there for a term or two before we moved to Caversham when I was about six or seven years old. I pass an old red brick pub on the way called 'The Hen & Chickens' which rings a bell and then I round a bend and there the school is on my right. It's obviously expanded since I last saw it (1967-68?) but still recognisable. The school must have been newly built when I attended as I remember some temporary classrooms and construction going on back then. The only distinct memories I have of this place was trying to sing along to "Morning Has Broken' and failing miserably as I didn't know the words and couldn't understand what the rest of the children were actually singing word-wise. I also remember making a model of an ancient hill fort by moulding the round hill out of papier-mâché over a balloon and then popping the balloon when it was dry. Fascinating.The only other memory I have is sitting outside the classroom there on the grass waiting for the school bus to take us back to Chesham. There was a boy happily pulling the legs off a daddy longlegs. Why does one remember such things?I leave Ley Hill and head off back to Chesham for a quick look around the town. I find the station which I believe is the furthest station from the centre of London on the London Underground. This is as far as you can get on the Underground. Trains stop here and then go back to London. End of line.
I think the signal box here made a big impression on me as a boy. I mean it's a 'proper' signal box isn't it? It reminds me of another childhood fascination...model railways.
I used to avidly collect the Triang Hornby catalogues. Again the cover illustrations were fantastically dramatic and atmospheric. I don't know who the artist was but I believe he used to place a mouse in each of his illustrations. The image below is too small to see it but I believe there is a mouse scampering over the tracks somewhere in the picture. Awesome illustration anyway.
Right, that was Chesham revisited. I never found the hospital where I was actually must have been demolished I guess, never mind!

So, on to Caversham near Reading then. It's closer to Chesham than I thought and I arrive early Saturday evening but it's been a long day so I basically find my B&B and put my feet up for a couple of hours. Later on I take a stroll along the banks of the Thames and walk over Caversham Bridge to a Pub called The Griffin for a couple of drinks and something to eat. It's been an interesting day and I'm looking forward to revisiting more places from my childhood tomorrow...

I'm up early on Sunday and I decide to pay a brief visit to a school just down the road from the B& B where I remember my mother working as a teacher. She took me there a couple of times when she was working and presumably didn't have anyone to look after me. It still looks like quite an imposing building even now.
On to Caversham, over the bridge and down Caversham high street, the shopping centre and the library instantly bring back memories and are virtually unchanged as far as I can remember. I don't have much in the way of a map so I basically follow my nose towards where I think Caversham Park Village is and the house we lived in for four years before moving to cornwall when I was 10.

Suddenly I find myself riding up Donkin Hill which has a sinificance for me in terms of childhood memories. I used to walk to a shop at the top of Donkin Hill practically every Saturday morning to spend my pocket money. More often than not I would buy an Airfix kit of some kind and would spend the rest of the day making it up. I think I must have been 'Airfix mad' as a boy. I wasn't alone. All my friends also seemed obsessed with it. Strange now looking back. Plastic modelling must have been the major hobby of many a young boy in the sixties and seventies.
The shop is still there although it no longer sells toys and models and now seems to be a fishing tackle shop.
Any excuse for another example of Airfix box artwork.Ok, we've had trains and planes so what about automobiles? Well, another favourite of that time was Scalextric. I was given a big box of track and cars that my parents bought second hand for what must have been about my 8th birthday. The track was enormous and filled most of the ground floor of the house we lived in. Many happy an hour was spent hurtling plastic cars around the huge circuit. It used to terrify the cat, particularly when a car would leave the track on a bend and hit him like a guided missile.
The yellow Lamborghini was particularly fast at cornering...


Anonymous said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Steve Cox said...

Thanks for your comment and I'm glad you enjoy my ramblings!

All the best


Anonymous said...

Ley Hill School was in fact built in 1927, so was already 40 years old when you attended! And I'm not sure that second picture is of Ley Hill Scool near Chesham...I think that may be the Birmingham Ley Hill Primary School!

Steve Cox said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Just came across the blog while looking for photos of Ley Hill School. I was born in West View in 1967 and lived in HillTop until I was about 20.

Sorry to be pedantic but that 2nd photo is definately of the other Ley Hill School in Birmingham!

Ley Hill nr Chesham did have a 'temporary' block of 2 classrooms but looking at photos now it appears to have been demolished.

The main buildings at Ley Hill Chesham do date back to 1927 but the front entrance, school hall and 2 story classroom block were probably late 50's early 60's

Steve Cox said...

Ok guys, I stand corrected, that 2nd pic has been removed. Not sure where it came from. When you get to my age, anything is possible! Thanks for your input :)