The Beach Hut

The Beach Hut

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

The Gamekeeper

He appeared from the wooded area at the side of the drive and he came striding down the path towards us.  He was carrying an enormous weapon under his right arm and supporting the barrel in his left hand.  “Do you call that a gun?” he might have said to the policemen at Heathrow Airport, “this is a gun”.  And he would have been right, it was like nothing I’d ever seen before, or want to see again. 

We were in Dorset following in the steps of my husband’s (Lee’s) grandfather who was born at the end of the 19th Century near Wimborne.  We’d seen the church where he was baptized, the school where he taught in 1910 and now we were trespassing in the grounds of the house where he was born to the Butler’s daughter in 1888.

“There it is, turn up there,” Lee said.

“I can’t, it’s private,” I replied.

“Just go on up the slope for a bit,” he said.

And I did, and we found the house, and here we were, face to face with the Gamekeeper and his gun!  “You’ll have to get out and talk to him,” said Lee.

“Why me?” I asked.

“Well I can’t,” he replied.

So I got out of the car and took a few timid steps forward and said, “I’m really sorry, I think we’ve wandered onto private land.”

“Yes you have,” the Gamekeeper replied in a distinct West Country drawl.

I couldn’t take my eyes off the gun.  “We just wanted to see the house. You see my husband’s grandfather was born here.”

“Well you can’t come any closer, there’s nobody in.”

“That’s a shame, it’s a lovely house.  He was the Butler’s grandson.”

“Was he?”  He moved the gun slightly, perhaps to remind me that it was there; as if I’d forgotten.

“Yes.  Well, we’ll just turn round and leave then.”

“That’d be best.” 

As I turned the car round I saw him sling the gun over his shoulder and walk slowly back towards the woods.

I was certainly pleased to get back to our Travelodge that afternoon, and in one piece!

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Mother's War

During WWII Mum and her baby sister were evacuated to the Bristol area from Eastbourne.  Mum was at school and was supposed to go away with her class, however on the night before she was due to leave she told her father, “Dad, I don’t want to go”.  To which he replied, “Don’t go then”.  As simple as that.  A short while later the women were evacuated and that’s when Mum, her sister, her cousin, Gran and Auntie Edith and Auntie Ida (AKA ‘the Aunties’) went to live in a couple of rooms in someone else’s house in Bristol.  An earth toilet in the garden, no running water and strip washes from a bowl.

There was still a spare room next to the rooms occupied by Mum and her family and in this room the family stored their apples.  Fresh apples, delicious apples.  This was war, food was scarce.   Auntie Edith used to help herself and everyone else too saying, “They’ll never notice a few apples”, and they didn’t, until the lady of the house came upstairs to collect some only to found they’d almost all gone!

Gran had to cook on the open fire in of the room and it was a luxury to be able to cook a roast dinner in the oven in the kitchen on a Sunday.  The host family only ever had boiled potatoes and when the man of the house saw Gran’s roast potatoes coming out of the oven he always said how ‘wonderful’ they looked.  He didn’t get any.   I remember one sunny day in 1983 Gran visited me at home in Croydon.  It was such a wonderful day we decided to have a BBQ in the garden and we stacked the charcoal and lit the fire, fanning the flames furiously to get the fire fully under way.  “Women must have been so pleased when the oven was invented mustn’t they”, said Gran, bemused as to why on earth we’d chose to cook lunch this way, and probably remembering those days when she had to cook on an open fire in a cramped room.

Mum recalls a particularly vicious night of bombing in nearby Bristol when she woke and looked out of the window to see nothing but red in front of her.  It must have been soon after that when the family moved back to Eastbourne, clearly Bristol was no safer.