We here in Great Britain have much to look forward to starting tomorrow, so here’s wishing you my reader a prosperous 2020.
One would expect that I would remember Mother, Diane, and myself, being evacuated to Somerset, together with Aunty Flo, and cousins Rosemary and Margaret, but alas I would probably need to be hypnotised, before I can find so much as a small spark of any of the details of that upheaval hiding in my cranial recesses. The first evacuations of children began in September 1939, but when it was found that there were hardly any German bombs dropped on England during that winter, many of the evacuees returned to their homes. I assume that the reason we were not among the first batch to be evacuated, was because both Mother and Aunty Flo were expecting babies at the time, and that it made more sense to remain in London close to the natal services that they were used to. The exact date of our eventual evacuation to Somerset is unknown to me, but I assume it to have been toward the end of 1940. The route would have been from Paddington to Taunton by GWR steam train, then Taunton to Minehead, again by steam train, then by bus or taxi to Wheddon Cross, where we were to be housed by farmer George Melhuish, and his wife Joan, at what is now called North Wheddon Farm.
House martins nested under the eaves of the main house at North Wheddon Farm in those days, and I clearly remember watching those clever little aeronauts flitting back and forth between their nests and the fields, carrying the airborne insects which provided food for their young, they were very different to the bold little sparrows and the scraggy pigeons that we had left behind in bomb damaged London, and their difference probably started the lifelong interest that I have had in our avian friends ever since.
Life on a farm for a three year old child is full of interest. At first I was not allowed to go into the actual farm yard itself but had to be content with watching the various activities through the bars of the gate or peeping over the wall, but as I got older Farmer Melhuish gradually became more aware of my interest in what he and his man were doing on the other side of the wall, and would sometimes ask mother if it would be O K for me to come and look at the new born lambs, or watch the milking in progress or the shearing of the sheep.
What appeared to me to be two huge horses, did all the heavy work on the farm. They pulled the plough and the mowing machine and the binder and the general purpose cart and the hay wagon. Their hooves were a good six inches in circumference and they probably weighed about a ton each. As time passes small people have a marked tendency to become larger and I was not about to go against the rules of nature in that respect, and Farmer Melhuish who had a daughter but no son, having taken notice of my increase in size, took to giving me little jobs to do around the farm and fields, like winding the handle of the shearing machine or bringing a fresh bag of corn seed to him in the middle of the field which he would be sowing with a gadget called a fiddle.