Richard and I would hold Oddiedod races on those steps. Oddiedods was our name for snails. We would collect snails from around the garden, take them to the steps, having already marked out a start and finish line on the top one, place an oddiedod each at the start line. Then cheer and shout like punters at the Grand National to urge on our 'steeds'. Slow but amusing sport! Years later I saw a council worker quite angrily sweep a snail into a busy road. When I asked why he had done that he replied “ I was fed up with it. Darn thing had been following me all day!”
The farm buildings were an ideal playground for us boys too. Especially during the summer when the stock were out. In one of them Dad had rigged a couple of swings which we used frequently. A large open fronted barn out in the rick yard held all the machinery. It had an earth floor which had quite a deep covering of fine dust over it . I did some quite serious farming in there with my Dinky toys. We had two dogs when we moved there, it became three with the arrival of Mimi, who was a rough-haired Whippet. Whose arrival I shall explain a little later. Whisky was a black and white, could have been white and black (I get so confused these days) Spaniel, Suki was a cairn type and the oldest and noisiest.
The four fields, the biggest said to be of sixty-six acres, of the farm formed a square and the buildings and house were where the corners met in the middle. Three of the fields had ponds in them which as you can image intrigued young boys. A stream ran along beside the bottom road (Carters Lane) and was well worth building dams in. We had three dogs to go rabbiting with when the mood took us. One year we had a pig with us too. Whisky had a very strong maternal instinct and one year she ‘mothered’ a runt piglet. The previous year she had found some baby hedgehogs and brought then home to nurse. Fortunately she had got their mum too so Dad was able to take them back outside confident that they would survive. So two boys, three dogs, one very yappy, and a pig hunting rabbits. Unsuccessfully.........I can’t think why?
We went to school in Quainton. Richard and I would walk, later cycle to the cross roads at Blackgrove and then share a taxi to the school with the Jones girls who lived on another farm nearby. Molly was about my age, I liked Molly! Her sister was older and so not my type at all. As Richard was two years ahead of me he was in the senior class. I was in the infants who shared a playground with the older girls during breaks. This left me, a shy young lad, prey to the older girls. They had a serious game of “house” going on. No! not bingo this involved pretending to be parents and running a home. They had marked out on the ground with stones, elaborate floor plans of houses. Quite a little terrace of them along one perimeter fence of the playground. The girl who decided to be ‘mum’ to me was undoubtedly the biggest girl in school so I had little choice in the matter. We the chosen ‘little ones’ ( there were other unfortunates) had to sit or whatever, certainly do as we were told...or else! Heaven help you if you stepped over a wall rather than use the door!!
The infants teacher was Mrs. Wooton and boy could she look fierce when cross. She would storm up the aisle between the desks, her face screwed up in a scowl, mouth tight shut with her tongue pushing her bottom lip out. Grab the offenders hand and rap them across the knuckles with a ruler. Ouch! Once was enough!..... so I was told. Mr Laws took the senior class. He was alright, mostly, and became good friends with Mum and Dad, they corresponded for many years after we left. I say mostly because one week it all went wrong for me, Richard had left by now and was attending college in Aylesbury, I had graduated to Mr Law’s class. That particular week I was up for punishment seven times. (I'm not boasting nor proud of the fact ) It was not all my fault I was framed on at least the last two occasions but due to my previous convictions I got caned again. Corporal punishment? Ha! I had enough stripes to at least make sergeant!
What did I learn from it? Right from wrong and above all discipline. Something that is seriously lacking in todays society.
Now back to how we got Mimi. After school finished in the afternoon we had to wait about half an hour before the taxi came to take us back to Blackgrove. Once a year a traveling fair would pitch up on the village green at Quainton. When this occurred we would nip along for a quick look round. So one Thursday I'm having a nose around and come across a cardboard box outside one of the amusements with some puppies in it. Chalked on the side of the box were the words “Free to a good home” I fell in love with the fluffy brown and white one and being a good boy for once, decided to ask Mum and Dad as soon as I got home if we could have it. “ No we can’t really afford another dog and besides the other two may not take to it!” they said. So, anyway, Friday afternoon I'm back there checking the cardboard box for my little pal. Well you know what they are like. Those sad little eyes, the pleading little whines, the nervously wagging tail. Then the soft warm kisses on your cheek. Who could refuse and besides, I'm sure Whisky would just adore a little puppy! So I take pup home confident it can work the same magic with Mum and Dad. Oh dear! “First thing tomorrow you will take that back young man!” To be called young man by Dad meant seriously displeased.
It seems that first thing Saturday mornings is much earlier for fairground folk than it is for young schoolboys! The fair had moved on. Back home again and although Mum and Dad were very cross at the time they accepted her and she became a much loved pet. Mimi, in her prime was fast enough to catch and trip Hares. Never actually killing one as they were up and gone again before she had turned. It was very exciting to watch.
To be continued........