Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Corner House

Our garden at Henley-in-Arden was detached. We had to cross the back lane, walk through the garage yard, and down alongside the repair shop, and there it was – a charming walled garden with a pond, and also a stream running at the bottom. [The pictures were taken in the garden.] The land rose gently from the stream up to the house and across the high street and up to some high ground known as The Mount. I think there may have been a stream at a higher level too, because I dimly remember a year of great rains when floods came down the hill, and the stream in our garden flooded too and rose up, so the two met in the middle and the whole high street was flooded.

During my earliest years at The Corner House we had two live-in maids, who sometimes wore white caps and aprons. Dorothy and Jenny were sisters, and rather silly and giggly if I remember aright. I recall screams from the kitchen when one of them discovered a mouse floating in a pan of milk, set to separate on the slate slab in our walk-in larder. But I should not be unkind, for they doted on me and enjoyed nothing better than a romp. They used to rouse me to such a pitch of hysteria by tickling my tummy and ribs that my mother was forced to intervene, with all the severity of which she was capable.

One of my favourite memories of my early years is of running along the landing and leaping into my father’s arms as he sat at the top of the stairs. Later when I was older he taught me to ride a bike in the lane at the back of the houses. He would run along behind me holding the saddle to steady me. I remember the day that I managed the whole length of the lane without coming off. I turned to him to share my pleasure, and found that he was still standing at the other end of the lane where I had started. I could ride – and without help too

There was a back staircase from the landing which led down into the shop, and it was an exciting treat for me to be allowed to go down those rather creepy seeming stairs occasionally. I imagine the door to it was kept bolted most of the time.

An annual event in Henley was the mop or fair (descendant of the old hiring fairs). This took place in the market square in front of our house, and was a source of great excitement for me. My father allowed them to run a cable through a window into the house to supply power, and in bed at night I could lie awake delightfully, listening to the raucous music from the roundabout. There was an old lady who had a stall selling brandysnaps just outside the house, and I can remember my eagerness to spend my pennies with her.

In 1935 there was great excitement for the celebration of King George V’s Silver Jubilee. I remember the souvenir mugs all the children were given, and the bonfire after dark on The Mount, the hill behind the village. I also remember running down the hill on the way home afterwards, and falling into a bed of nettles. I spent an uncomfortable night that night!

In January 1936 the King died, and my parents came to take me home from my primary school in the middle of the day, though I am not sure why. That same year we had to leave The Corner House. One of my father’s business associates had made off with all our money and we were in dire straights. Some time that year we went to live with my maternal grandfather in Handsworth in Birmingham.


Avus said...

Your memory of your father teaching you to ride a bike, brought back exactly the same experience for me with my Dad and I did the same for my kids.

Lillie said...

Marvelous memories, Judith! It's lovely to be able to view these things through your eyes. The garden, learning to ride your bike, the death of the king -- pieces making up a life that we could not imagine but for your words. Thank you!