Wednesday, 31 August 2011

One Roller Skate

 My Father stayed on in the Army after the War. He was in the Durham Light Infantry and had been part of the 8th Army in the desert and in Italy. I would have thought that was enough for anyone, but he opted to stay on and was seconded to the American Forces and helped with liason in Egypt. When he came back to the UK we ( me , Mother and my sister Gill) moved from my Grand parents farm in the North to Married Quarters near Salisbury. We were there for a while but when my Father finally left the Army we returned to the North and stayed , once more , at the farm.                                       
 Houses , to buy, were in short supply in the early 50s and a soldiers pay had not given any opportunity to save for such a purchase . My Father secured employment at Wilton ICI and my parents applied for one of the new houses that were being built by local councils to rehome the war ravaged population.  We were soon offered a house on a completely new Estate in Guisborough and we spent the next 6 yrs in that delightful North Yorkshire market town  . The estate was quite small, especially by todays standards and was built on a flat topped hill on the edge of town. Houses ran all round the edge of the top of the hill, with three smaller roads inside the circle and a little parade of shops at the foot of the hill. And to us children it was perfect !!     There were plenty of children too !.........We were the post-war kids......thebabyboomers !!!!!!                    
 With hardly any private cars in those post-war days  we could happily play with no sense of danger, no chance of being run over. We had long lengths of washing line strewn across the road for huge skipping games ; crouching down on the pavement, rope on the ground, should a car occasionally pass. We hula-hooped and played rounders , games that went on for hours with 20 a side ! Girls tucked skirts into their knicker legs and did handstands and cartwheels and we roamed in "gangs". Not the violent "gang culture" of today , but groups of similar ages and interests. We had impromptu Sports Days and had races on homemade "bogies", These "bogies" were usually made from some old pram wheels and planks of wood , joined together in ways that would give Health and Safety the "heebie jeebies" !                                          
One year roller skates were the " big thing " and I can still remember my excitement when I received a pair for Christmas . These were very basic roller skates with noisy metal wheels and a " key" to adjust the size but to me they were priceless ! It was a snowy Christmas so I couldnt try them outdoors , but Dad rolled back  the square of carpet in the sitting room and I skated on the lino underneath !   If you had roller skates that year you were " IT "and we devised many games to play on them ; including one that involved whizzing along at breakneck speed using two sticks as " ski poles ". Some kids didnt have skates so we shared , it was amazing how fast you could go on one roller skate, coasting along after much shuffling with the skateless foot  !  We skipped on skates , went to the shops on skates , tried going in for our tea on skates ( not allowed in my house ) and some kids even boasted that they had been to bed in their skates !         
 And then there were the long Summer holidays ! We  spent day after balmy day outdoors. From getting up in the morning to bedtime at night , we rarely saw adults . After breakfast we begged whatever we could for our "picnics " and off we went with our jam sandwiches, fairy cakes and lemonade bottles filled with water . We often went down to the silver beck that bubbled along the base of the hill , clear as glass , on its way to the far side of town. Here we " fished" with our little nets and caught poor, unfortunate Sticklebacks which we popped into jamjars. the poor things were destined to perish as we invariably left them baking in the hot sun  and my poor Mother despaired of the jars of lifeless fish or tadpoles that I deposited with pride on the kitchen window-sill.                                                                       
 Another favourite place was the " Big Field ". This was basically all the land on three sides of the hill. We children had made carefully mapped paths and dens and each " gang" had their own area . Our groups " realm "was a highly desired area known as " The Long Grass ". As the name suggests, the grass grew very long on this part of the hill and we had flattened down paths and " room " areas and left the rest of the grass long We could play here unobserved and spent endless hours hiding from imaginary pirates, kidnappers, monsters , aliens or any other peril that we had recently seen at the Saturday Matinee performance of the local Cinema !    We had no watches but we all developed a sort of instinct that told us it was " tea time " and homeward we would go with scraped knees and grubby faces ,happy as sandboys .                                               
 Many people still didnt have TV and even if they did there was only "Childrens Hour " that was considered suitable for us and then the TV " closed down " by way of an " Interval "for an hour, which, I suppose was the BBC kindly giving parents the chance to put the younger children to bed without missing anything !!  As I got older I was allowed back out to play for a while and we had great fun playing Hide and Seek, in the dusk, using the whole estate as a playground.                                                                                  
 We were never in and even Winter weather did not deter us. We sledged, we built snowmen, we had snowball fights and built igloos , one of which collapsed on one little kid we had pushed inside to test it  out !!  The older ones among us were often sent down to the shops with sledges when the snow was particularly deep ; as it often was ! We came back with groceries and even a bag of coal. One year I remember it snowed so much that we had to climb out of the dining room window and clear the snow away from the front door before we dare open it . That year Guisborough was cut off for a few days and a helicopter had to drop supplies for the Cottage Hospital ! Every day seemed like an adventure in those innocent , idyllic years . The sky was bluer, the sun was brighter , the days were longer and all our life spread before us like a glorious , shimmering ,giant carpet of discoveries. We were happy then .                                             
 Not long ago, on a trip to see friends on Tees-side we made a detour and I revisited the estate. Yes , it is still there , though obviously the houses no longer look new . They seem smaller than I remember and have ghastly PVC windows and " chi chi " curtains. New front porches and wooden decking. All have cars parked outside and some have caravans or campers . Affluence abounds . But the most striking difference was the silence. No chidren skipping or playing ball. no one out on bikes or running about . Nothing. I looked around and from almost every window there was the eerie glow of a TV set and I pictured a whole generation of children muffled up in their 3D , Widescreened, microwaved , drip dry world with their DSi s and PlayStations simulating life ...........................................I stood outside the house where I had lived all those years ago and faintly Im sure I could hear the ghostly tinkle of childish laughter and the tinny, clattery sound of one roller skate.


  1. Oh I remember it well!! Yes changed days now!

  2. This is the stuff of dreams, Rosalie! Especially beautiful image of your estate sitting atop that flat-topped hill.

  3. Ok, this post has just confirmed to me that you should be writing novels! Brilliant! What wonderful happy memories.