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Tuesday, 28 March 2017



Some childhood games changed because of the war, others were merely dependent on the one common denominator available to children at any time: they all involved “imagination”.


Wartime Tank

Although I loved to run and jump and skip I had another superior game piece - I had my doll’s pram!   I no longer primly pushed this miniature version of a Silver Cross beauty, that was a leftover from my “only child” more affluent times.  It now served a more timely purpose. Let me explain.

The hood moved up and over.  So what!  You might say.  Well, this made it a perfectly ideal tank.  Once the hood was raised just a little, I would sit inside facing forward (a bit of a squeeze).  Then, a boy as the driver pushed the carriage , I would be the forward gunner peering and poking my toy gun through the slit of a raised hood. 
This all happened at breakneck speeds along the streets surrounding our house.  What fun!
This pram became a hand-me-down, but it never again saw the kind of play that it had during the war.

The Secret Tunnel
This was a game that I was not really involved with, as their babysitter I took very little interest in what my younger siblings were doing.  Obviously, it was an event that must have occurred right under my nose, but I was not even aware of its existence until many years later.

To understand this game you need to imagine the layout of the lower floor of the small row house that we lived in.  You entered by the front door, and to your right was a room that at one time served as a living room but with a growing family was then being used as a bedroom by LS and me.  Further onto your right was the bedroom proper which overlooked the back yard.  This was where Mum, Dad and my brothers LB and LLB slept.  Down three short steps and you reached the kitchen and scullery, and an exit door to the back yard.

As you can imagine the main bedroom was a crowded affair, but there was a small narrow cupboard at the end of one bed. 
The whole point of “Secret Tunnel” was that LS, aged six years, convinced LB, aged four years that a tunnel ran from this cupboard to the back yard.  To prove her point she would put LLB who was about two years old at the time, into the cupboard and tell LB to leave the room, run down the stairs to the back yard where he would find LLB waiting for him. 

It never failed!

While LB was busy running, LS would grab LLB from the cupboard and lower him out the window to the back yard!  The natural follow up to this was that LB wanted to travel through the secret tunnel.  She would oblige by putting him in the cupboard with the instructions to look for the secret entrance.   I understand he would be in there for hours.

What makes this story so poignant is that LB was never told about the true secret of the tunnel until he was a grown man!

Best to Keep Moving

As you can gather from the previous story, LS had, and still has, wonderful organizational skills coupled with a great imagination.  During my time as official babysitter these skills came in really useful.  I could just escape somewhere to read my book with the secure knowledge that all three charges were well cared for and playing happily.

Whether such was the case in the following story I leave you to decide.

For this you need a little background information about the streets of London.  You’ve no doubt heard the tales of London being paved in gold.   The confusion with this arises because here in North America, the “pavement” is the part of the roadway meant for vehicles.  In England the pavement is the part that people use, known in North America as the “sidewalk”.  In some parts of London the paving stones used for the “pavement” were often flecked with little gold coloured pieces of something or other. Hence; “paved with gold”.

The roadway on the other hand was often paved with blocks of wood.  Yes wood.  Not just any wood, but wood soaked in creosote or tar.

London is a very big city and a very old city.  The wooden blocks used for the roads dated back to when horses were the main means of transportation.  Naturally, over time these roads were all replaced with asphalt, but in many incidences the wooden roads were merely paved over leaving the blocks underneath.

So now we come to the time of these stories.  The authorities had no immediate need to update the roadways; Hitler was doing it for them! And the bonus for the good citizens of London was “free firewood”!

Dad collected these abandon blocks whenever he could.  I’m sure that the burning tar did wonders for any of us that had lung congestion and it certainly added to the outside atmosphere that contributed to the smog and London’s nickname “The Big Smoke”.

But let me get back to this story.  Let’s presume that there were some of those discarded BRICKS lying around, and let’s further presume that LS was imagining what one could possibly do with them?  

Simple really; Invent a game called “Keep Moving”.

LB aged four and LS aged six have climbed on top of the bomb shelter.  LLB at age two can’t quite make the climb but nevertheless LS will find a way for him to be involved.  He is told to run through the shelter from one opening to the other and there would be a surprise for him when he reached the backyard.  In the meantime, LB armed with a spare ROAD BRICK is lying down leaning over the edge and is being directed by LS to drop the brick behind LLB when he emerges from the doorway below.  The timing was supposed to be that as it fell behind him it would scare him. I bet!

It was a difficult manoeuvre to accomplish, so required that LLB make the run through a number of times.   Without the promised reward, LLB was getting very tired of following directions, and there was likelihood that LB was not being cooperative.  Suffice to say the brick eventually dropped and hit LLB square on the top of his head!
As I said “It’s Best to Keep Moving!

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