22 HAMILTON ROAD PART 4
By BRIAN LAWRIE
Knowing how time and distance can shade ones memories and make the good times better and the bad time worse I will be as careful as possible to detail the fun of growing up as a lad on the South Oxhey Council Estate. Sun,rain, snow and ice most of my free time was spent outside.My mothers philosophies were,If its hot wear your shorts,if its cold wrap up, if its raining, once your soaked you can,t get any wetter. As a result of this outlook playing outdoors was nearly always the prefered option of my brothers and our friends.In my very early years my mother would take myself and my two brothers on the bus No 346 to Bushey Park as the bus stop was just round the corner in Hayling Rd near the Jet public house.The weather did not interfere with these trips.
As I got older (being the eldest of the younger half our family) and more responsible ( it was years later before I understood what this meant) I was allowed to take my brothers and go off into the woods.By the time we reached the end of our road and crossed over the road and into “the woods” all thoughts of responsibility gone from my mind it was time to run totally wild and free.Build dens.climb the trees,push over the dead silver birch eat blackberries,nuts,find conkers,fight the “red indians” “the germans” and very often each other or your friend. Eventually hunger drove us home. It was up the path in through the back gate ,open the back door to find mother waiting,with always the same question,have you had fun?, look at the state of you,strip off where you stand, the bath is run, go and get clean.your meal is nearly ready.How did she know we were on our way and run a bath,prepare food and how did she know we were going to be that dirty.The answer to all these questions remained a mystery until I became a parent myself.
The other major play area was the “golf course” but this was mainly used in the summer to play cricket. We were lucky enough to have our own set ot six stumps complete with bails ,two bats, pads,batting and wicket keeping gloves a “proper hard ball” with a stitched seam.Goodness knows what sacrifices my parents made to make that lot available.These games of cricket were occasionally made very special when we could persuade our dad with “will you come and umpire “On these rare occasions our friends and we brothers were at “Lords” or the “Oval”
Not for us a “knock about” we were playing real cricket with Mr Lawrie who umpired the Oxhey Cricket Team. Heady days and heady stuff. When used during the winter the golf course was our football pitch,coats and jumpers as goal posts and back home to,”you lot are filthy”when our christian names were used it was usually followed by a lecture for some “incorrect behaviour” and punished depending on the crime.This ranged from having to apologise to someone, to bed without supper,a sharp smack on the back of the leg, hold your hand out here comes the “wooden ruler”bed without supper” being veiwed by all of us as the the worst punishment of all.
Playing in the street was not permitted accept for races round the block. These were handicapped (counting to a number) depending on age youngest and smallest setting of first and so on up to the eldest. If the eldest came home first he was accused of cheating and” not counting slow enough” if the younger ones came in early, they had only won because “we” the eldest had let them.The concept of fairplay was alien unless an adult was present,outside of home or school the rules if any were very different,no member of your team was ever out, the ball had always gone between the posts on your side and never for the other team, without arguement you had always missed when shooting the enemy and were only dead when they shot you,as a result most games ended in some form of discontent,and the time worn statement “we are never going to play with them or you again”,at least until tomorrow by which time I/we will have completely forgotten about yesterday and we are “best mates” again.The general rules by which we lived our lives were never never “split on a friend” “it wasn,t me” I didn,t see or hear it”take your punishment and get on as tommorow could be my turn. Obey the rules at home and school, make your own and enjoy freedom outside. Never never mix them.If we took our dissagreements with our friends home,the stock comment from mum or dad was I,m sure it was not that bad and you will be fine tomorrow,now you must be starving after all that running about. Exercise,the open air,learning to grow up,taking the knocks and bruises,parental love and direction. A wonderful way and a magical place to grow up.