Back to wartime stories – the east coast was a dangerous area to live, though here, a few miles inland, was seen as less so until the American air base came. Early on, children were evacuated here from London. Mrs Murphy came with her two small children, Terry and Tony. The younger was still a baby, which was probably the reason she came too. She made her home here, in fact, and stayed on for the rest of her life and one of the boys lived with her. She was a cheerful woman who loved jumble sales. If you had a stall, your face lit up when you saw Mrs Murphy, who could never resist a bargain. She’d take all the oddments off your hands if you threw them in to the deal.
Sprig would have been about four when she moved here and Ma offered to look after the younger child, Tony, when Mrs Murphy was doing something or other with Terry. She left the pram on the lawn, with the baby asleep. Sprig didn’t know about this. And he came rushing into the house excitedly – “mummy, I’ve got a brand new brother or sister asleep on the lawn!”
Parents are weird, aren’t they? Sprig had a phobia about rubber as a small child, he couldn’t bear the feel of it. Yet somewhere – I haven’t been able to find it, sadly – there’s a cine film of him sitting in the bathl, crying bitterly with terror because there was a black rubber ring plonked over him. They thought it was hilarious.
In those days, you didn’t have a bike with stabilisers, but a big tricycle that you carried on using until you were old enough to manage a big bike. So again, Sprig must have been about four when he and his ma went cycling off into Yagnub to do their shopping. A bomb was dropped on the Common, the other side of the railway line – I suppose it was the latter that was being aimed at. Sprig was bounced right off his tricycle. He clambered up, saying “I hope Mr Hitler doesn’t do that again.’ He never lived that down, either.