Fifth installment

Access to North Wheddon Farm was by a rough track which ran down the side of the valley from the road past the rear of the house and into the farmyard. The side of the valley was fairly steep and of little use for crop growing, but as there were some grassy patches among the trees and bushes that grew there the horses were sometimes released on that ground to scavenge for fodder as best they could. When wearing their working harness both horses were as well behaved as anyone could wish, but the younger one when turned out on the hillside would sometimes entertain himself by cantering out of the bushes and down the track behind anyone who might be walking there, which for anyone who was not aware of this playful behaviour was a somewhat unnerving experience.

He certainly gave me an anxious moment or two on the first occasion that he decided to test my five year old mettle in this way as I came home from school alone one afternoon. I had got about halfway down the track when I heard his great hooves clattering down behind me. Looking round I saw that if I didn’t move I stood a good chance of being knocked down or worse, so off I went like the proverbial rat up a drainpipe and managed somewhat breathless, to reach the garden gate and safety. After that I always checked to see if he was anywhere about before venturing past the top gate and down the track.

One of my after school jobs was to take the accumulator up to the garage in the village for recharging, and to bring back a recharged one.

The accumulator was an acid filled glass battery which when charged provided the power to the wireless for about two or three weeks, so that the grown ups could listen to the news and find out if we were winning or losing the war. I expect that any parent today would be in trouble for giving a six year old such a potentially dangerous mission but in those days we were not quite so concerned about health and safety, the greater part of the population standing a good chance of being blown to smithereens at any time of the day or night.

Entertainment was rather thin on the ground and so a nine mile trip on the bus to Minehead was looked forward to by us kids for sometimes weeks in advance. Mother used to keep us in line by saying “ If you don’t behave you won’t go to Minehead”. The bus was a small affair by today’s standards, from memory it was a maroon and cream Bedford, whose mechanical parts complained noisily about all the hills that had to be climbed or descended and was fitted out with about ten or twelve pairs of slatted wooden seats which left a nice stripey pattern on your nether regions if you were lucky enough to get a seat. Once arrived at the town, if the weather was fine we would head for the beach where Mother would leave us to play, while she went to do some shopping. In those days mothers could rely on any adults that were about, to make sure that we didn’t get into any serious trouble.