Swans on canal

Not a frequent enough sight on the canal

Photograph: Iain Spencer Gerrard

Planning Applications and Related Matters

Akzo Nobel Site

The recent planning application for this site is for a very large number of housing units which, if built, will impact on the town to a considerable degree and none of the impact as far as we can see will be advantageous.

Regrettably the site gained outline planning approval back in the days when the government under the inept hand of John Prescott were forcing local authorities to accept ‘their share’ of new houses whether or not they were needed in any one particular location.

From the point of view of the preservation of community and a balance of needs, Littleborough needs more houses like you or I need another hole in our heads.

Yet we are stuck with this proposal even though the government has changed and there is a suggestion that ‘localism’ should have sway over government targets.

This is bad on a number of counts. More housing will tip the balance even further towards Littleborough becoming a dormitory town, not just of Rochdale but of the Greater Manchester area. It will bring in another set of ‘strangers’ who neither know nor care for the town and will in effect use the area as a place to sleep but leave it at every opportunity to go to work or to school or for entertainment. You’ve heard it all before, but good planning for the future of the town seems to have gone out of the window a long time ago.

Heaven knows what the overall impact will be of another 700 people and a further 500 cars. We can be sure that the roads will be further congested and without the slightest chance of any ‘improvements’ by our Highways Department offering a solution; their optimism in their ability to provide one is unbelievable, exceeded only by their failure to make any difference to the traffic problems and their ability to spend our money on fruitless alterations to road junctions. No one in authority seems to have noticed that when there is a blockage on the nearby motorway the diverted traffic tries to come through our town causing a huge increase in the number of vehicles which simply come to a standstill.

The applicants claim that they have read and taken into consideration the Town Design Statement. I don’t think so! While we do not wish to keep the clock paralysed at a twenty to four on the afternoon of Queen Victoria’s coronation, the Town Design Statement attempts to maintain an identity for our town which is discretely different to others. We like to think that houses built from local stone and roofed with decent slates are pleasanter to look at than those with pink roofs and yellow exteriors with plastic windows clearly designed for the ubiquitous semi; that windows should be of a certain size and design suitable for the South Pennines and not the South of France, or Eastbourne or London or practically anywhere in England that the ‘developer’ last built anything.

The reason we feel it important to maintain these design features is that, left to their own devices, the majority of ‘developers’ lack the understanding of what ‘local’ means. They would build their ‘standard’ houses without a thought for what is often immediately adjacent to them. Perhaps their architects have forgotten one of the basic tenets of good architectural design: be aware of where you build and ensure you ‘fit in’. This isn’t an absolute of course; certain landmark buildings need to stand out but most don’t and shouldn’t. I’ve often felt that we are labelled as having our heads firmly stuck in the past when we criticise new housing but I would suggest that if what was built was to an acceptable standard we might concede more. It is a generally accepted fact that most new housing is sub-standard when it comes to the size of the units and that they are generally at least 10% smaller than they ought to be. I have pondered this for a while and couldn’t understand the thinking behind such parsimony because if you increase the floor area of a house by 10% the cost doesn’t rise by anything like that amount; but then I realised that smaller houses mean more individual units to each acre of land!

The original outline planning application was for about 164 houses with some office accommodation and a public house. Whether the latter buildings would have been viable economically (how many pubs do you need in an area which has at least six within easy walking distance), there seemed to be an attempt to get away from the housesonly policy for previous sites over the last ten or fifteen years. Now we have an application for 174 houses, no affordable ones (Wow! What a surprise!), and no offices or public house; another sterile development.

There is no attempt to prove that this sort of development is good for Littleborough, no (sensible) attempt to show that the impact on services will be acceptable nor acknowledgement that the already overburdened roads system will be able to cope.

Why must we continue to suffer from these proposals? We are seemingly burdened with people in positions of power without a shred of an idea about planning or good design.

 

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Viaduct

A proposal to use the arches of the viaduct along Canal Street as retail outlets or businesses has been made and we have responded as positively as we can. The idea is to develop each arch but with the appearance of the viaduct foremost in any design. At least that is what we hope for.

We don’t have an outright objection to the idea but some of the builder’s ideas, who admits in the planning application that it is a speculative development, lead to doubts in our minds that he is fully aware of the absolute need to preserve and protect the structure; it is listed and as such deserves the utmost care in whatever work is carried out. Should this idea go ahead it will be essential to keep a tight control over the works.

There are advantages to the proposal as the present state of the areas beneath the arches leaves much to be desired. We and others have for a long time wanted to develop the small parcel of land between the viaduct and the River Roch into some sort of formal garden. It is suggested by the planning department that as part of the work a small footbridge could be built over the River Roch from this land to the footpath which connects Canal Street to the railway car park and The Square beyond and this we think is worthy of consideration. Another benefit would likely be the removal of the large advertising hoarding which has blighted the view of the viaduct from Halifax Road for many years; it even turns out that it doesn’t have planning permission!

 

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Concerns expressed to the Director of Planning

We felt some anxiety over the approval of an outline application for apartments in Brown Street which is proposing a building which will, in part, be five storeys high. We don’t particularly like the idea of apartments and would rather see proper houses if we have to have them at all, but our real unhappiness was in the sheer height of the building.

We wrote a letter to the head of planning and environmental services setting out our concerns and that the Town Design Statement was once again being sidelined. The reply we got was somewhat bland affirming the intention to consider the TDS in every relevant application but then going on to say that in this case the department was happy with the decision. It was pointed out to us that the fall in the level of the site would mean that the five-storeys would not appear as such; this is true from Brown Street – so existing residents will only have four storeys to look at! I regret to say that my feelings are that one of us is on a different planet.

As there are no buildings in the area of that height, indeed none over three storeys and those are rare, we feel that an error of judgement has been made the consequences of which will be with us for many years to come. Pity!

The same letter asked for the ‘official’ approach to the proposed additional wind turbines for Scout Moor. It turns out that the approval is not in Rochdale’s control, and that although representation by the planning department to the civil servants in Bristol and the Secretary of State will be vigorous and will contain the desires of local people, which are to have none of this sort of development, it will be a decision outside ‘localism’. It seems that that idea is already beginning to wither on the vine.

 

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Our MP

We thought we should ask our local MP what his attitude was to onshore wind power but as I write, some five weeks after we sent it we have not had a reply. A major part of the letter referred to a question put to David Cameron by the MP for Milton Keynes in Prime Minister’s Question Time on the 7th December last and which is worth repeating here verbatim:

Excerpt from Hansard: Prime Minister’s Questions on the 7th December 2011.

Mark Lancaster MP:

“The Nun Wood wind farm application spans three local authorities, each of which independently assessed it against their local plans and rejected it. Subsequently a distant, unelected planning inspector (my italics) overruled them and even moved his decision forward by three months so that it could be made the day before the Localism Bill got Royal Assent. The Prime Minister will understand my constituents’ anger. Will he look into what appears to be a blatant slap in the face for localism?”

The Prime Minister’s reply was:

“My hon. Friend makes an important point. As he knows, as a result of the changes we are making it will not be possible (my italics) in future to overrule such decisions so as to meet a regional target, because we have now got rid of those regional targets. We are giving much more authority and many more decision-making powers to those local bodies. Our planning reforms will ensure that local people and their councils decide what people need, and how to meet that need.”

The wind ‘farm’ referred to by Mark Lancaster has striking similarities to our experience in both the first Scout Moor turbines and the yet to be built turbines on Great/Crook Hill just above us, so one would hope that the PM’s reply would hold out some hope for those of us who oppose these units. Don’t hold your breath!

 

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More Turbine Wars

An application to put a 30-metre high turbine (40-metres to the tip of the blade when vertical) at Rakewood was opposed by us along with practically everyone living at the hamlet. We felt that there was no justification to build such a structure in what is a conservation area, on green belt land and within the Hollingworth Lake Country Park; indeed we could not think of an area more in need of protection from such an idea than this. The turbine would have been so out of place and out of scale with everything around it and would have been visible across the lake and beyond that we cannot understand why anyone would think it acceptable. Thankfully, despite a recommendation from the planning department for acceptance of the proposal, the planning committee turned it down.

We continue to evaluate planning applications as they surface in the hope that we are doing some good in the preservation and revival of Littleborough town.

Iain Spencer Gerrard

 

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Betty's Tree

Some years ago a tree was planted in the Country Park in memory of Betty Pickis. The original tree unfortunately withered and died, so the L.C.T. Committee decided to replace it.

As the original tree, which was a red hawthorn, had not done so well in the wet conditions, it was felt that a more suitable specimen should be planted in its stead: this resulted in a choice being made of a weeping willow, which, if conditions are right, can grow to be very ornamental.

The Trust contacted the Wardens at Hollingworth Lake who were happy to help and advise, suggesting that December and January were about the best time for planting.

Whilst this may well be the best time for trees, it is seldom the best time for humans! However, a tree was ordered, and duly delivered at the beginning of January; the tree then had to be planted as soon as possible, so a working party was hastily put together, and, with a certain amount of trepidation, agreed to meet on Saturday morning, January the 7th. The working party turned up expecting to get soaked, (it had been a week of almost continuous rain) but the tree had to go in, and Judy, one of the Wardens had set time aside to help us. So, enlisting the help of my son Marcus, we arrived at the Lake complete with our waterproofs only to find a nice clear morning. This, of course, cheered us up. Our chairman Danny brought the tree up in his van, and it was only then that I realised just how big it was (it can be hard for me, brought up on feet and inches, to envisage just how tall 3.5 metres is).

The position of the original tree was felt to be impractical, and as this type of tree thrives in wet conditions, we set to work slightly lower down nearer to the wetland; we dug the hole and the tree was planted, along with a good size stake to hold it place, after a dousing of water and treading in, the tree began to look good. Judy dug a hole for the stone to hold the plaque, the fence was put in place, and the job finished. I removed the commemorative plaque for cleaning, and because none of Betty’s family was able to attend on that day, I thought maybe we could attach the plaque at a later date, perhaps when the weather is better, and we could re-dedicate the new tree with the family and L.C.T. members there.

Russell Johnson

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Public Toilets in Littleborough

Some time last year Littleborough lost its public toilets. The Tardis-like unit had been in position for getting on for fifteen years and was, to say the least, unpopular. An earlier block had been demolished because of vandalism and the cost of upkeep. So it was replaced with a ‘state-ofthe-art’ bog. Probably the reason for its unpopularity was the fear some people had that it would let them down in some way. They could have had a point as a few years ago, while sat in my car adjacent to the Wheatsheaf, I had watched children playing with it, opening and closing the door apparently without paying any money; you can imagine what effect that would have had if someone had been in the thing when they began their game.

As to saving money, well, that was a laugh! The cost of hiring the unit in the last year before it was dispensed with was £36000 and the income little more than a tenth of that.

Oh, yes, and there was the little issue of it being out of order when events were on in the Square, requiring the organisers to hire mobile toilets for the day.

Still, we can’t go on without such facilities; every town should have at least one. So what is Rochdale’s plan for the future? If you hadn’t guessed yet, it is precisely nothing. No money you see. What about all the dosh we pay into Rochdale’s coffers in the way of rates you might well ask? You might well ask but don’t expect an answer! I wouldn’t want to give the wrong impression here about our Councillors. They are as keen as we are to see some sort of replacement.

We were approached last year to provide a design and drawing for a new loo. This we did. Soon afterwards our committee resolved to see what might be achieved by taking it forward as far as we could. We asked another member of our society, a Quantity Surveyor, to cost the project based upon our drawings which he willingly did.

The cost came to £51500 and we decided to put this information before the Pennines Committee at their last meeting. They were willing to offer us their blessing but could not see a way of finding the necessary cash.

We have been researching the possibility of obtaining a grant but in the present economic circumstances these are thin on the ground.

Another option which has been suggested was to offer shares in the project to the citizens of Littleborough and another to stand on street corners with a bucket! Anyone fancy either?

One suggestion is to ask Rochdale for monies which are or have been donated into Rochdale’s coffers by ‘developers’ as part of a Section 106 agreement when planning permission has been sought for various housing schemes. Briefly this is a standard ‘ask’ from builders to pay towards the works necessary because of the impact their schemes would have on the locality. Without fail all this money has disappeared into Rochdale’s wallet and no benefit has ever come back to Littleborough. We would now like to see some of it to build a new toilet block.

If anyone has any other suggestions for raising money we would welcome their ideas. Better still has anyone got any spare cash?

Iain Spencer Gerrard

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The Co-operatives in the Pennine Townships

The designation of 2012 as the International Year of Co-operation and the reopening of Toad Lane, the birth place of the Rochdale Pioneers, has drawn attention to the importance of our heritage in the formation of the co-operative movement both locally and internationally.

Whilst so much interest is rightly focused on the original Pioneers, it is also important not to overlook the significant impact of co-operatives on the everyday lives of ordinary people in the industrial north. Thus it was that the idea of exploring co-operatives in the Pennine Township was conceived. Using oral histories, artefacts and documentary research it was decided to build a picture of ordinary people working in Co-op mills, shopping in Co-op stores and living in Co-op houses.

As one person said "The Co-op ruled Littleborough". We were amazed to realise that in the small community of Littleborough there were Co-op mills including those on Whitelees and Hare Hill Roads and of course for a short time, Frankfurt. On Church Street there were not only shops but also a painting and decorating department. Hare Hill Road was of course dominated by 'the dome' which housed the Co-op offices. Next to this were the grocery, haberdashery, bakery, millinery and shoes departments. On Bare Hill Street the Dance Hall was the venue of weekly dances and, many of our interviewees recalled, the place where they met their future partner and subsequently where they had their wedding reception.

Around Littleborough were many branch stores — Durn, Centre Vale, Rock Nook, Summit, Lighthouse, Caldermoor and Featherstall. For many people daily shopping for fresh food, writing a weekly order to be delivered to the house and collecting the 'dividend' twice a year were important memories. For ordinary people who lacked access to banking, the Co-op dividend enabled them to save for holidays, Christmas and for clothing.

Many of these former Co-op buildings are still standing. Are Civic Trust members aware of these rich parts of our architectural heritage? Perhaps their existence should be noted and recognised.

We were able to record some wonderful memories of life in the 1940s, 50s and 60s. It is intended that these will be kept at the North West Oral History Archive. Many people were generous in loaning some precious items including a Dividend Account Book from Smallbridge Conservative Co-op (ending in 1968), a Littleborough Account Book covering the years of the second world war, and NewHey invoices from 1903 and 1904 which demonstrated the purchasing strength of a small Co-op store. It was exciting discovering objects, photographs and documents for the first time — of particular fascination was a pamphlet from the Littleborough Co-op giving the national anthems of the 'allies'. In Littleborough we were loaned paintings by a local artist which recalled coal and grocery deliveries in the 60s.

There were many days of researching in the Co-op archives in Balloon Street, Manchester and of searching through minute books. However, through all of this, the central focus of our project depended on the generosity of ordinary people who shared their memories of life before the era of motor cars, fridges, freezers and supermarkets.

In November 2010 we were finally able to mount our exhibition showing 'Glimpses of Everyday Life'. We started in the Community Centre in Wardle, then moved to Smallbridge Library, to Milnrow's Butterworth Hall and finally to the Coach House. We were accompanied by a gentleman who, as a young man was a Co-op shoe repair apprentice.

The exhibition was seen by groups of primary school children, by many visitors and proved a trigger for the reminiscences of many older people. We received numerous accolades from those who visited and enjoyed our work. It has been an exhausting year but tremendously satisfying.

The photograph was taken at Wardle and Smallbridge Community Building, showing some of the display panels (there were 8 in total), and the two covered display boxes (one to represent Co-op weddings and funerals, one to represent Coop buying and selling; this one contained the scales from the Caldermoor Co-op).

Margaret Edwards

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A Letter to the Editor

I was interested to read the letter from Barrie Bateman (Newsletter Winter 2011) as I remember his father well.

I would often see him at work in his garden in Henderville Street as I made my way home from the Central School.

Mr. Bateman was our postman and is mentioned by name in my book ‘Northern Roots’ (published by Isis in large print and available from libraries). He has a special place in my memory because whenever he met me on Calderbrook Road he would give me a wave and call out ‘Hello Policeman!’

I could make no sense of his greeting at the time, but have since recognised it to be an oblique reference to the fact that during the war my father was in ‘the Specials’ who patrolled our village by night to guard against enemy intruders!

Out of such little incidents are the building blocks of our childhood memories formed.

Rod Broome

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The Memory Box

We’re pleased to include another extract from Rod Broome’s “Memory Box”, with these memories of a long-ago Easter production of the Pace Egg Play

The Embroidered Handkerchief

I'm in our back yard making a shield. It has a flat top and two curved sides and I'm going to paint it white and put a big red cross on the front. It's made from some sheets of cardboard that Dad brought home from the shop. They were cartons that the shoes were delivered in.

Everyone in our gang has a different job. I'm making the shields and swords; Gerald Pickering is making the helmets; Peter Garlick is going to borrow an old sweeping brush from his Mum; Gwen Kershaw has written out the parts in the play; and Ian - that's Gerald's little brother - is getting a tin-can for us to collect the money in. Last year we made nearly two pounds.

We're all getting ready for Good Friday because that's when we do the Pace Egg play. We've been practising for two weeks. I am St. George, Gerald is Slasher, Peter is the Turkish Knight, Gwen is the Doctor and Ian will be Old Beelzebub. He's the one that goes round with the tin. We haven't got enough people for Owd Tosspot or Dirty Bett, so we're just going to miss those out.

It's Good Friday morning and I wake up as soon as it's light. I feel really excited but Mum makes me have my breakfast. Then it's time to put on my costume. I've got an old pair of pyjamas that I tuck into my wellingtons and a cardboard breastplate with a big red cross on the front. My sword is made from two pieces of wood that Dad brought from the hen pen. He whittled the blade for me and I painted the handle red.

When the others come to call for me, Mum invites them in and we have a drink of Co-op lemonade. Everyone's costume is different. Gerald has a silver helmet and a sash going over one shoulder. Peter has a round shield and a special curved sword that his big brother Ernest made. Gwen has a top hat and a black bag to keep her medicines in. Little Ian is in an old dress and has blackened his face with soot because he's supposed to be the devil.

Before we do our first performance, we all stand together in our kitchen and Mum and Dad admire our costumes. Then we go into our back yard to say our lines and act our parts. When we finish, Mum claps and Dad puts sixpence into Ian's tin and we all go round to the front and stand in the middle of Calderbrook Road ready to do our play for a real audience.

Ian bangs on a dustbin lid with a stick to attract everyone's attention, and when people come to their front doors or look out of their windows we know we can start.

In the Pace Egg play, Saint George - that's me - is the good knight. I have to fight all the other knights. I have a long battle with Slasher, but in the end I kill him and he falls down in the middle of the road. Then the Turkish knight challenges me and, after another long sword fight, he wounds me and I drop to my knees, dying in agony. Beelzebub - that's Ian - calls for the Doctor and Gwen runs in on the sweeping brush, which is supposed to be a horse, and opens up her black bag.

She takes out one bottle after another - all different sizes and colours - but then chooses one and gives me a drink from it. I get better right away and stand up and kill the Turk. Everyone cheers and Ian goes round the neighbours with the tin. Then we wave to everyone and move further along Calderbrook Road where we do it all over again.

We spend all morning acting our play but one of the rules of the Pace Egg is that you can't do it after twelve o'clock. So at dinner time we all go back to my house to count the money. Mum puts the felt mat on the polished table so the coins won't scratch, and we share it out so we have the same amount each. Then all the others go home and, after I've changed into my ordinary clothes, we sit down and have a fish and chip dinner.

Mum is just clearing the pots from the table when there's a knock at the front door and who should walk in but Auntie Nellie with her friend Edith!

'I've come to see the acting,' she says, and bursts out laughing! I start to tell her that we're not allowed to do the Pace Egg play in the afternoon, but then realise she's teasing me. So I just give a grunt and pull a face.

'No, what I really came for,' she continues, when everyone has stopped laughing, 'is to see if Erroll Flynn here would like to come for a walk with us. We're going up to Hollingworth Lake this afternoon - there's a fair on during the Easter Weekend.'

I get ready quickly and a few minutes later we set off along Whitelees Road towards Featherstall. Today, we're walking to the Lake through Spenwood which is not a wood at all, but a winding path through the fields towards the canal. Suddenly Auntie Nellie stops and points to a small hillock on our right.

'Those are the ABC steps,' she says.

I look across to the mound and see that a set of rough steps have been cut into one side of it that go from the bottom to the top.

'Why are they called the ABC steps?'

Auntie Nellie shrugs her shoulders, but suddenly I have an idea. I set off at top speed and begin to run up them, saying the letters of the alphabet as I do so… 'A, B, C, D, E…'

When I reach the top I look down at the grown-ups who are pausing to light a cigarette. 'There are more than twenty-six,' I call, disappointed, and plod down to join them again.

'It's a mystery,' agrees Auntie Nellie and we walk on until we come to a narrow tunnel where the footpath goes under the railway line.

'Why is there a tunnel for this little path?'

'Because a long time ago, before there were big roads, this was the quickest way to Hollingworth Lake, and when the railway line was built they were not allowed to block it off.'

'Oh.'

We come to the Rochdale Canal, walk along the towpath for a few yards and then turn right over a little hump-backed bridge. Ahead of us is a cart track that goes up the hill, passes through a farmyard and eventually leads us out on to the bank of Hollingworth Lake.

It's crowded! Everywhere I look there are hundreds of people in holiday mood. Families are walking in both directions around the lakeside path, talking and laughing loudly. Long lines of people are queuing at the ice cream van and the candy floss stall. Little children wave cardboard windmills or balloons they've won at the fair.

The fair! It's full of colour, noise and flashing lights! The sounds of jangling music and grinding machinery waft towards us.

'Let's go and have a look,' says Auntie Nellie, and I hold her hand as we make our way through the crowds towards the roundabouts, roll-apenny stalls and stripy tents near the boathouse.

I have a go on everything! I spend all my money from the Pace Egg play, and Auntie Nellie and Edith spend some of their money, too. We have lots of fun - then Auntie Nellie says, 'Let's find somewhere quieter, where Edith and I can have a "Craven 'A'", so we make for a bench on a grassy bank near the boathouse and we all sit down for a rest.

I'm watching the man who hires out the rowing boats. There's a line of boats next to the landing stage and when people have bought a ticket from the little hut he helps them to get into one, passes them a pair of oars and pushes them off.

'Have you ever been on a boat, Auntie?'

'Oh yes, when I was a bit younger.'

'Can we go on one now?'

Auntie Nellie and Edith have a conversation in which they decide that Edith will stay on the bench and look after the handbags and things, and Auntie Nellie and I will have half an hour on the water.

I feel excited as we go to the hut, buy our ticket and walk out along the wooden boards over the Lake. I can see water splashing beneath us through the cracks.

Our boat is called Mayfly, and the man pulls it in with a hook on a pole until it is pressed against the landing stage. Then he helps Auntie Nellie and me to get into it and passes her the oars. With the same pole he pushes us out into the Lake, and points to the big clock on the boathouse. 'You've got until ten past three.'

Slowly Auntie Nellie rows away from the shore. The people on the landing stage get smaller. Little two-seater motor boats chug past us and waves from speeding yachts rock us from side to side. It feels dangerous and exciting!

I look at the big clock on the boat house. Fifteen minutes have passed already!

'Can I have a go at rowing, Auntie?'

'Oooh, I don't know about that. We'd have to change places.'

'We could do it very carefully.'

'Well, I'm not sure…'

But she begins to move gently, working herself along the seat so that I can take her place. The boat sways from side to side. I stand up and start to move towards her when disaster happens! One of the oars slips out from its metal holder and plops down into the water. Auntie Nellie leans out and tries to reach it, but it floats away from the side. She says, 'O, my giddy aunt!' but she isn't cross. She just bursts out laughing!

We go round in circles for a minute or two, trying to swing the boat so that it's closer to our lost oar, but without any luck. It's floating further away.

I say, 'What shall we do now?'

But at that moment one of the little motor boats chugs close to us, so Auntie Nellie waves to it and calls, 'Yoo-hoo!' and the young couple in it look over and see what's happened.

They steer in a big circle and come alongside our missing oar. The young man lifts it up and drags it through the water with one hand whilst gradually bringing his motor boat closer to ours.

'There you are,' he calls, when he's close enough for Auntie Nellie to reach it, and we both give a wave and shout, 'Thank you!' as the little motor boat turns away and chugs off across the Lake.

Our time is nearly up, so we gradually make our way back to the landing stage. The man with the pole gives us a hand to get off the boat, and we find Edith sitting contentedly on our bench watching an old woman feeding ducks at the water's edge.

She stands up as we arrive, but Auntie Nellie says, 'No, let me sit down and have a "Craven 'A'" first, Edith. Did you see what happened? We nearly had a shipwreck!'

They have almost finished their cigarettes, when a young man strolls past. They obviously know him because Edith says, 'Look, there's Geoff Simpson from Carringtons'.

He gives a wave and comes over to say hello - then suddenly produces a small plastic bag from behind his back and dangles it in front of my face. It's half full of water and contains a little orange fish.

'Do you want a goldfish?' he asks. 'I won it on the darts.'

I look at Auntie Nellie, and when she gives a nod, I say, 'Oh yes, please. Thank you.' And he wraps the loops of string around my fingers.

On the way home, I decide to call the fish Horace, and when we go in I tell Mum and Dad about our time at the fair and our adventure on the Lake.

Mum invites Auntie Nellie and Edith to stay for tea, and I go into the kitchen to see if I can find an empty jam jar. Leaning against the back door are a shield with curved sides and a flat top, and a white cardboard breastplate with a red cross on the front. It seems a long time since I was St. George!

* * *

I would love to be able to say that my Memory Box contains a packet of "Craven A" cigarettes, in memory of Auntie Nellie, for she was an habitual smoker. Many of the normal processes in her everyday life were preceded by the inhalation of nicotine. But cigarette packets are usually disposed of the moment they are empty!

However, when her house was emptied after her death we found in the top drawer of Nellie's dressing table several boxes of ladies' handkerchiefs with embroidered edges and a decorative letter 'N' in one corner.

Most of them were passed on to other relatives, but I still have one in my Memory Box which recalls many fun-filled afternoons from days gone by.

(Copyright © Rod Broome 2011)

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Editor: Brian Walker


 

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