Category Archives: My House

The place where I grew up (4)

Last time we were walking through my home village of Woodville, down to the school and the church. Now, though, we return to the High Street, the most important street in the village. The first shop on the left was Ormes’s. Here they sold boiled ham, crusty bread, ice cold milk and cream cakes. Hot ham hocks were delivered to the shop, I think, on perhaps a Monday or a Tuesday, and there were also special arrivals of savoury ducks, which were very large meatballs, on a Monday and a Thursday. The manager here was Eric Boss, a man who could out-flirt and out-innuendo even the Co-op butcher. Here’s Ormes’s. As you can see, it too is nowadays derelict:

There’s one Eric Boss story that I cannot not tell you.

“On one occasion, my grandfather, Will was pushing his huge old fashioned wooden wheelbarrow up Hartshorne Road towards the Toll Gate at the top of the hill. It was full of clay, and weighed a colossal amount. This, of course, was of little concern to Will, who was extremely strong, having spent his entire adult working life carrying huge quantities of wet clay on his back at Knowles’s and at Wraggs.

Down the hill came Eric Boss, the manager of Ormes’ grocer’s and cake shop, and a middle aged “Jack the Lad”, a man with a great eye for the ladies. He was always chatting them up as he served them. When he met Will, he obviously saw it as a chance to show off, for he said to him, “Hold on there, old man, I’ll give you a hand.” He reached down to grasp the handles of the barrow and take some of the weight off my apparently frail old grandfather.

Imagine then his embarrassment, when he could not even lift the wheelbarrow legs off the ground.”

Next door to Ormes’s was Taylors’ newsagents, run by Albert Taylor and his wife. As you can see, it too is nowadays derelict :

Among many other products, Taylors’ sold magazines from America such as “Famous Monsters of Filmland”:

And I well remember having to go up to Taylor’s to pre-order my copy of the new British comic for boys, namely “Victor”, complete with free gift, a plastic presentation wallet full of postcard sized photographs of the great football and rugby teams of 1961-1962:

Next on the left was Renée’s fish and chip shop, with her fabulous fishcakes, made almost exclusively of potato, and her special batter, imported daily from Derby by special van in special plastic buckets.
Here is Renée’s today:

After Renée’s fish and chip shop, with her fabulous fishcakes, came the Viking Coach Company which took clubs, societies and just ordinary passengers all over the country. A holiday in Scarborough. A fortnight on the Isle of Wight. A visit to a show in London or off to Birmingham to see “Godzilla: the Musical”. Alas, the Vikings are no more. They are now a flower and furniture shop where business is so good that they are closed at eleven o’clock in the morning on a Friday:

Opposite Albert Taylor’s newsagents, was, I think, a dry cleaners, As you can see, it too is nowadays derelict :

Next door was Charlie Fowell’s barber’s shop.  Strangely, it is also closed this fine Friday morning:

Further up on the right hand side of the street was Ashmore’s, a second newsagent’s. As everybody has now forgotten how to read, it is now a curry shop:

Then there was Whyatt’s the greengrocers. Today, it is a Vape Shop, whatever that is:

I can remember though, the days when this greengrocery business was further up the street, on the left, until it had to be demolished to construct an important car park, and they had to move their premises. Here is that vital car park today, keeping the commerce of the area ticking over:

Whyatt’s original shop was at the side of a little road which ran away to the north from the High Street, on the opposite side from the Queen Adelaide public house. Whyatt’s always had boxes made of bright, thin, cheap orange wood on the pavement in front of their shop, where they displayed their fruit and vegetables. It was in this part of High Street that the demolition of a number of buildings occurred and, in the ruins of an ancient terraced house, a vast tangled rats’ nest was revealed in the ceiling of the back bedroom. It must have been ten or twelve feet across, and the product, one supposes, of generations of work on the part of countless hundreds of rats. As seven year old children, we always stopped to look at this natural wonder as we walked up to the Infants’ School at the top of High Street.

Opposite these shops and houses, on the other side of the High Street to Whyatt’s the Greengrocer’s was Woodville’s third newsagent’s, namely Jones’s, perhaps the least successful of the three. Nowadays it has been converted to a vitally needed fast food shop, one of forty three million  in the country:

Back in the day, the shop was a fine source of what we called “shilling war books”:

There was at least one other shop in this block, but I cannot remember exactly what it was. There are vague memories, perhaps, of a TV repair shop. As you can see, though, it too is nowadays derelict:

Further up on the opposite side was Smart’s shop, which was divided into two halves, both equipped with bright orange cellophane sheets in the windows to protect their goods against the sun. The right hand half of the shop sold, if I remember correctly, wool, knitting patterns, knitting needles  and sewing requisites, while the left hand side contained ladies’ dresses and other clothing. It was a marvellous shop for middle aged women to visit, to buy everything they needed for their hobbies.

Here is the knitting shop today. It was converted into a vitally needed fast food shop, one of forty three million  in the country:

And here is the clothes shop. It’s used, I presume, to store the uncooked ingredients for Kim’s Kitchen. It’s very pretty, though, and I take my hat off to the architect who came up with that conversion of the original shop, after only seven years of study:

Next time, my attempts to get Woodville twinned with Florence.

25 Comments

Filed under History, Humour, My House, Personal, Politics

The place where I grew up (3)

Last time, we finished Part Two standing in the middle of Moira Road with our backs to the traffic, hoping that Woodville, my natal village, did not yet have anybody with a silent electric car. First on the right is the Junior School that I went to, now closed down and fenced off, and used by Derbyshire  County Council as a Youth & Community Centre:

My Dad went to the Junior School in the late 1920s and early 1930s, and I went there in the late 1950s and early 1960s. My Dad then worked there, and, in fact, taught me in what would one day be Year 4. I was also taught by Miss Cartwright, Mrs Burman and Mrs Simpkin. All four of them were excellent teachers and tried as hard as they could, even though their classes had around forty five to fifty pupils.

Next to the school is the church of St Stephen:

Nowadays it’s a lot more dramatic as St Stephen the Martyr, but we all knew it as St Stephen’s. After going to the school next door and standing in the playground  as a little boy and watching the swifts nest under the eaves of the church, Fred had his funeral there in  2003.

The next building was the Church Hall where our School Choir, District Champions, gave a concert for the Old Age Pensioners in 1962:

I think it’s just being repaired rather than being derelict. Next comes the only shop in the road, namely Hopper’s, which always seemed to sell the coldest fizzy drinks and ice cream, when we returned from playing sport at the Recreation Ground. Hopper’s had a door which clanged with a mechanical ringing effect and this unique sound was emphasised by a grey, metal grille on which customers were supposed to wipe their feet as they entered the shop.

Here is the shop today, alas:

Between the Church Hall and Hopper’s is the house where Fred, my Dad, was born on November 30th 1922. No blue plaque as yet. It’s the house with the three windows in the roof:

Right at the very far end of Moira Road was another shop which was close enough to the Recreation Ground to provide cold fizzy drinks and ice cream for young children playing sport up there. I have forgotten the name of the shop owners, but they were much more like a convenience store with tinned vegetables and canned fruit for sale. Here is the shop today. It’s as good as derelict if you’re thirsty from a good game of football:

Next time a trip up High Street, or, as my Grandad would say, a trip “up Box”, using the old expression for Woodville, taken from the man who took the toll money in the eighteenth century. We’ll see Albert Taylor, Reg Ashmore, Renée and her chip shop and Graham Fowell, who left his Dad’s business to become a minister of the church.

 

 

 

 

26 Comments

Filed under History, Humour, My House, Personal, Politics

The place where I grew up (2)

Last time, we looked at the pretty little village where I grew up. It was called Woodville and it is in Derbyshire, England.

The school I went to was down Moira Road, one of the five roads that met at the Tollgate. Much more interesting, though, was Donald Ward’s scrapyard, where we would call in hoping that we would be given metal ball bearings to use in our schoolboy games of marbles:

Occasionally the metal ball bearings would be thrown at us, but none of us were too proud to reject any projectiles that came whizzing our way. Legend told of an immensely strong gentleman of Ukrainian heritage, who worked in the scrap yard, and who was so strong that he could lift a length of railway line off a lorry without any outside help. Here’s his brother, as I could not find any pictures of a man carrying a railway line. He’s just bought his lunch at the takeaway:

Inside the scrapyard was a traditional bottle kiln, which is still there to this day, because it is a Listed Building:

My grandfather, Will, spent a great deal of his adult life working in a bottle kiln. It was hard physical work, which required an enormous physical effort. Grandad was immensely strong and, although he was only a small man, he had huge slab like forearms and muscles made powerful from years of lifting heavy objects. He worked in the pipeyards at Wragg’s and then at Knowles’s. Both of these companies were near Swadlincote, and they manufactured underground pipes, mostly for drains and sewers. During the 1920s and 1930s, because of the severe physical strains of his job, Will was a relatively well paid employee, earning at one point some 42/- per week (£2.10):

Will’s job was to carry a tray of soft, “green ware” which would have weighed around a hundredweight, perhaps some fifty or so kilos. He took them from the place where they were made from moist clay, on a large wooden carrying tray, into the bottle kiln, to be fired and hardened. The bottle kiln, in an effort to retain heat and to economise, was slightly recessed into the ground. It had a very small door, so that Will was obliged firstly to slide down a gentle slope, and then to dip down so that he could enter through the tiny, heat conserving, door. Finally, Will had to lift the heavy tray with its cargo of wet clay objects upwards onto the racks inside the kiln.

Here, of course, inside the kiln, it might be immensely hot, and stories were often told of how men, stripped to the waist, would drink a whole bucketful of water to slake their huge thirst. They always wore sacking on their feet. Newcomers who arrived wearing a pair of shoes for their first day on the job would find that their footwear barely lasted until finishing time at the end of the first day. When he finally retired in 1964, my Grandad was replaced by a fork-lift truck.

Continuing down Moira Road, on the right was, firstly, the Junior School, and then St Stephen’s Church and then the Church Hall. We’ll look at them in more detail next time, but for now, here’s a glimpse. When I was a child, of course, the younger generation were so clever that they did not need to spray paint the names of the roads on the asphalt:

 

21 Comments

Filed under History, My House, Personal, Politics

The place where I grew up (1)

I grew up in a small village called Woodville, just to the south of Derby, in more or less the centre of England. Cue The Orange Arrow:

The village had around 4,000 inhabitants who worked for the most part in the local industry, which was digging up the local clay and using it to make water pipes, sewage pipes and the like.

Originally, the village was called Wooden Box, because five roads met in the centre, and the man who collected the tolls from the travellers on those five roads lived in a large wooden box the size of a small house. The place where he stopped the traffic therefore became known as the Tollgate. Nowadays, it is a roundabout.

Here is the High Street shortly after the end of World War Two:

It was quite grim when the snows of 1947 began to get a little grimy:

Over a series of blog posts, I would like to show you what Woodville was like when I was a little boy in the late fifties and early sixties, and what all those places are like now.

In the 1950s, the shops of Woodville were vastly different from what they are nowadays. At the top of Hartshorne Road, where I lived, was the Co-op butcher’s, with its decorated ceramic tiles, where meat was displayed on a big white slab behind a huge plate glass window. Here are some of the ceramic tiles:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Inside was the counter with a wooden chopping block at the side. The butcher wore a striped blue and white apron, soiled with smears of old blood. He was, like all butchers, a Smart Alec, who fancied his chances with the women and was always over familiar with them.

Here’s the butcher’s shop today. It’s derelict:

Higher up, on the corner of the roundabout was a large shop called the Co-op. In the picture below, it’s on the right:

Margaret who worked in the Co-op was my mother’s particular friend. Here’s the shop today. It’s derelict too:

On the opposite side of the road was what had been the old Police Station. Here it is, in the centre of  a very old postcard:

The County Library was to move into the derelict police station around 1960. The story was told locally that four special garages were constructed to house the mobile library vehicles, but that the people in charge forgot to measure the huge vans’ lengths, so that they eventually stuck out of their garage by some  three or four feet and it was impossible to close the doors of the new buildings.

Around this time, the same location also housed the local Civil Defence, who had a large and enormously loud siren next to the building’s chimney. It was a frightening machine which could be sounded should “Our Friends the Soviets” ever launch a nuclear attack on Woodville. In the early 1960s, I well remember the threatening and haunting sound of this siren curling around the walls of the houses on, thank goodness, just one occasion per month, possibly the first Sunday, when testing was allowed to occur if my memory serves me well. Here’s the police station pretending to be a library:

Over the road from the Police Station was a ramshackle, black, wooden garage where cars were repaired and petrol was sold, BP, if I remember correctly. Further along this road towards Burton on Trent, on the left hand side stood a garage which sold Cleveland Driscoll petrol, and which was unstinting in the way in which it gave away primarily purple coloured advertising lapel badges to small boys.

Here’s the garage today. It’s derelict, with weeds growing in front of it:

The roundabout was called the Toll Gate, and it had a third garage, which sold, again if I am not mistaken, Regent petrol. It was called the Clock Garage and here it is today, repainted and restored:

Next time we’ll look at my old school and the house where my Dad was born.

 

 

28 Comments

Filed under History, My House, Personal, Politics

Home is the sailor, home from the sea, And the hunter home from the hill

When we were first married, my wife and I bought a house in the Meadows area of Nottingham. This was traditionally a place of slums, crime and general unpleasantness, but at the time, the early 1980s, huge numbers of unhealthy hovels were being demolished to be replaced by newly built, better quality, council houses, as they were then called. Mixed in with all the rented accommodation though, was a small estate of private houses, and we bought one of those. When we first moved in, we were surrounded by a vast building site:

photo 1

In the background is Nottingham Castle, which has very little remaining from the medieval period and dates mostly from the 1670s. It is perhaps most famous for being the trademark on Players Cigarettes:

trade markxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

And now, it must be nine minutes past four and the teaching day is ended and I have driven home at top speed:

“Home is the sailor, home from the sea,

And the hunter home from the hill.”

photo 3

I used to have an old 1964 Hillman Minx De Luxe, with the registration plate BLT 141B. It was my first car, and I loved it dearly. I wish I could have it back again. It had previously belonged to my Dad, Fred, who loved it even more than I did. When the seventeen-year-old car failed its last roadworthiness test, he was so glad that I took the trouble to drive it, fairly illegally, the 35 miles to his house, just so that he could then drive it himself on its last ever journey down to the scrapyard.
This beautiful blue car was “the one” as far as Fred’s motoring career was concerned. One day in 1966, he took me with him to nearby Derby and we visited Peveril Garage, on Friar Gate, up near the headquarters of the Derby County Supporters’ Club:

dcfc
Fred told me not to mention anything whatsoever about the day to my mother, not under any circumstances. Without any consultation with her at all, therefore, he bought this marvellous car, which was priced at £510. In those days, that was a princely sum indeed. If truth be told, it was actually a total sufficiently royal, that when my mother did eventually find out what he had done, she would have had Fred beheaded if she could have organised it.

The car was a rich blue, half way between sky blue and navy blue, with a black side stripe picked out in metallic chrome. In later years, when he had problems with rust on one of the wings, Fred was to opt for a total re-spray, which allowed him to retain the same colour blue for the body, but to incorporate a black roof which added that extra, unique, little detail to his beloved car:

photo 4

At this time, I had only recently passed my driving test, so, while I waited for the green “Provisional” plates to be invented, I retained my Learner plates, with the Big Red Ell on them. That was enough to be pulled over by a young policeman, apparently tired of arresting burglars, drug dealers, terrorists, murderers and bank robbers. Still, no hard feelings.
And here I am, looking like the man who designs the stage costumes for a 1970s pop group:

photo 2

I am wearing my favourite wide lapel purple jacket which had a wonderful Polyester feel to it. My shirt was short sleeved and chequered in pink and white. My extra wide tie was scarlet, and again, made of Polyester for easy cleaning. My glasses were gold-rimmed and my hair was a deep delicious dark brown without the slightest trace of grey:

photo 5

I had probably been wearing a pair of trousers throughout my day as a teacher, but they are not visible in this photograph. They may well have been my favourite pair ever, which were generously flared and mid-grey with an emphatic large black check design all over them. This created a whole series of huge squares perhaps four or five inches in size. I eventually gave these show stealers to a charity for the homeless in Africa. I often wonder who got them and what he made of them. Conceivably, some kind of shelter.

17 Comments

Filed under Criminology, History, Humour, My House, Nottingham, Personal

It’s the Witching Hour : Story Number Eleven

Number 11

“E pur si muove” : “And yet it moves” (Galileo Galilei)

When my father, Fred, died in hospital at the age of eighty, his wristwatch was found to have stopped at 11.04. I went round to his house a couple of days later to check everything was all right, and I found that the old brown wooden clock in the sitting room, which had been a wedding present some fifty or more years earlier, had also stopped at that very same time of 11.04. This is like his sitting room clock, but the time is wrong:

big clock

 

Towards the end of his life, Fred had been both blind and bed ridden and his house had become very neglected. During the period after Fred’s death, both my wife and I spent a lot of time cleaning and redecorating all the different rooms.

As we did this, day after day, on more than one occasion, we both smelt what we thought was my mother Jean’s perfume. It was as if she were watching over us in approval as we dusted and hoovered. I suppose that if that were the case, then it should not have been too surprising, given that Jean was a typical 1950s housewife, always cleaning and re-cleaning, and immensely house proud.

At this time, my brother, Ken, who had always been so firmly convinced that the house was haunted, refused to go into the empty property on his own. He had always had the idea that spirits, whether good or bad, are pushed into the background by human activity, but that when potentially haunted houses are empty, then the ghosts will begin to claim them back as their own. Ken certainly believed in the story of the little man who had lived there in the 1940s.

Similar feelings were expressed by my daughter Lauren. As I mentioned above, during that period immediately after Fred’s death, my wife and I were readying Fred’s house to be put on the market. We were spending all of our time cleaning, painting and decorating.  Meanwhile, Lauren sat upstairs in the smaller of the two bedrooms revising for her imminent GCSE examinations. She spent all of her time sitting with her back to the wall, scared stiff as she worked. She felt that there was somebody else in the room with her, but that they really did not like her being there. These disquieting feelings only came when she was on her own. As soon as anybody came into the room to see her, all her fears disappeared.

It is easy to dismiss ideas like these out of hand, but it is a little like the difference between walking through a graveyard at three o’clock on a sunlit afternoon:

sunny graveyard

as opposed to three o’clock in the cold, dark depths of a winter’s night:

graveyard_zps723fe69f

With this idea in mind, on the very last evening before the contracts were exchanged and Fred’s house passed out of my possession forever, I decided to do an all-night vigil in an effort to experience something ghostly.

To cut a potentially long story short, I saw or heard absolutely nothing. But, at the same time, though, I was, throughout the entire night, so scared that I never did manage to switch the lights out. I really was very frightened. And, just like Lauren, I too spent all my time sitting with my back to a wall.  Read into that what you will.

There were other strange happenings as well as the stopping of the wristwatch and the old wooden clock. We were experiencing them, I suspect, because we were clearing out Fred’s house after his death. It is very frequently said, for example, that building work, and many other types of physical change such as painting or wallpapering, are extremely good for provoking a strong reaction from any ghosts that may be present.

One day, I had been cleaning and painting the living room. This was the downstairs room where Fred had spent the last two, painful, years of his life, except for his stays in hospital. He had a bed, an armchair, a commode and a television, so he was self-contained in a sad, forlorn sort of way.

That particular day, we had reached lunchtime, and my wife and daughter were outside in Fred’s old summerhouse, finishing off their fish and chips from Renée’s Fish Bar. For some reason I now forget, I was alone. Suddenly, I had the strangest feeling that Fred was there in the room with me. I called out to him,

“Are you there, Dad? It’s me, your son, John. If you are there, give me a sign.”

Straightaway, the curtains in the window looking out towards the garage and the concrete drive where Fred had parked his cars for so many years, began to shake and move. Then they stopped. I waited a few seconds and then called out for a second time.

“Is that you, Dad? If you are there, then make the curtains move again.”

Without delay, the curtains again began to move. I went outside, and called in my daughter, Lauren. I told her to come into the living room and just to stand still and watch, and not to say a word. I called out to Fred for a third time,

“Are you there, Dad? This is your granddaughter, Lauren. If you are still there, give her a sign. Make the curtains move like you did for me.”

Immediately, again the curtains began to move, and then stopped. I turned to Lauren, and asked her if they had actually moved, and that it was not just a coincidence. She replied that she had seen the curtains, and that, yes, they had moved, and that apparently, it had been in response to my request.

So, for a fourth, and final time, I called out loudly,

“Are you still there, Dad? If you are, make the curtains move again.”

And sure enough, they did. I have no explanation for these events other than the supernatural.

There was no window open. No door was open. The central heating radiators underneath the window were switched on throughout the entire episode, but this would not explain the fact that the curtains actually came to a fairly abrupt stop on four separate occasions. Neither was it my imagination or wishful thinking. That was one of the reasons why I asked Lauren to come in and be a witness to events. And to this day, she maintains, Galileo-like, that, yes, the curtains did move.

.
Not surprisingly, perhaps, for quite a while afterwards, Fred was to appear in my dreams. There was one that stood out among the rest.

This dream took place on a huge luxurious ocean liner, standing around a grand piano which stood at the meeting point of several long and wide corridors:

fingersccccccccccccccccccc

Fred was standing there, listening to the pianist who was tinkling away at the ivories in rather desultory fashion. I was talking to Fred, and was trying to trap him into giving me details about the afterlife.

“Where do you live now then, Dad?”, I asked.

“You know that already.”, he said with a slight smile.

“And where you will you go tonight ?”, I asked. “Where will you sleep after we’ve left ?

He did not offer any reply.

“Well, Dad, will I be able to come and see you sometime?”

“Of course you will come and see me…..one day,” he replied, with a strange, wry look, and then walked off for ever down one of the corridors.

I have had no real contact with Fred since, but deep down, I am sure that this will not be the end of the story.

6 Comments

Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, History, My Garden, My House, Personal

Hallowe’en Tales : Numbers Five and Six

Number Five

The UFO

It was perhaps in the first half of 1959, a spring and summer of bright white clouds, bright blue skies and bright warm days. I was in the first year at Junior School, in Miss Cartwright’s class. I must have been seven years old. It was the morning of a late spring or early summer’s day, and we had just finished morning playtime, with little bottles of milk and the excitement of straws.

Before each class went back into their classroom, the teachers used to make the whole school line up, in an orderly fashion. Once everybody was quiet and behaving themselves, the classes could start to go in. We members of Class 6 were patiently awaiting our turn, when we all became aware of what even we, as small children, could immediately identify as an unidentified flying object. It was moving silently toward the south west, and was to all intents and purposes, like a grey, or perhaps metallic silver Zeppelin airship:

zeppelin

It was not like any of these obviously fabricated modern UFOs:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Under the main section of the craft, which was like a short, stubby cigar in shape, there was some kind of gondola, which was of the same colour, and had a number of conspicuous round portholes in the side. There must have been at least four of them.

I have not found any exact match for the UFO we all saw, but these two are both close. There weren’t any lights on the ends, though, and both drawings lack the gondola, which carried the portholes:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The UFO was only a few hundred feet up, at perhaps the same height that we used to see the Vickers Viscounts and Canadair Argonauts from Burnaston Airport flying over:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There were of course, no airships in 1959. I myself was a keen plane spotter, and in any case, at the time I watched it, I was sure that this was no plane. I still know the boy who was in front of me in the queue. I see him from time to time even now, fifty five years later. He too has no way of explaining away one of our most vivid childhood memories, despite having grown wise with a wrinkled face and long white hair.

Number Six

Mad Bill

Over the years, my friend Stuart Taylor was to tell me many stories about the ghosts which either he, his mother or his father had either seen or heard. At the time I believed him implicitly, although as we have drifted apart, and I have heard more about him from other sources, I have begun perhaps to doubt the veracity of much of what he told me. I find it difficult to explain away, however, the story of Mad Bill.

Near to Nottingham, at Netherfield, the main railway line to Grantham runs over the River Trent, and over the frequently flooded water meadows alongside it. The railway line crosses the river on a long, cast iron viaduct, which was constructed around 1850. The orange arrow points towards the viaduct:

land orth of

Popular legend among the railway workers said that in the depths of the night, as they worked on the track near the ageing viaduct, men would occasionally hear what was known as “Mad Bill”.

“Mad Bill” was a strange ghostly manifestation, and consisted of what sounds like somebody throwing down, very loudly and very angrily, a huge old empty oil drum. There is then a delay while Mad Bill apparently walks across to pick the oil drum up again, before throwing it down, and then beginning the process all over again. Nobody has ever seen anything, and it all sounds rather ridiculous, although as Stuart pointed out, these things can seem a little more serious when you’re all alone on the viaduct in the pitch dark at three o’clock in the morning, going back to retrieve a hammer or a shovel you’ve left behind.

“Mad Bill” always occurred on the isolated farmland to the north of the viaduct, which is still indicated by an orange arrow:

viaduct

“Mad Bill” could also be heard on the lonely fields to the south:

land to th south

One winter’s day, I was out bird watching with Stuart, on a gravel pit, next to the viaduct. It was around three o’clock in the afternoon, when suddenly every single bird took to the sky in blind panic. That is usually a sign that a raptor is about, and we scanned the heavens eagerly with our binoculars, in the hope of finding a Peregrine, or some other bird of prey.

We didn’t see one of course. But we did hear something, over on the far side of the river, on the deserted and inaccessible water meadows. It sounded just like some muscle bound idiot smashing a very large and empty oil drum onto the ground. It was still daylight, and we were able to check the area. There was nobody there, and as far as we could see, we were the only people for miles around.

7 Comments

Filed under Aviation, History, My House, Personal, Science