I have been encouraged (by friends who should know better!) to write some anecdotes from my memories as a child growing up in Chesham Bois and Amersham in Buckinghamshire, England. Not being a writer by profession, I found myself wondering how to set about such a project.
To make it easier for me, and for the reader I hope, I will imagine that I am telling the story to my grandson, Daniel, in a few years' time. Right now (July 2001) he is just 6 months old, and really doesn't give a hoot! But looking through his young eyes, I can see that I grew up in a totally different world - no, not on another planet - but way back in the last millennium, 60 some years ago!
In fact we were living in the peaceful countryside of pre-war England (- that's World War 2, for the jokers in the crowd!) Amersham lies about 30 miles northwest of London, in what was then known as the Green Belt. That was a strip of rural land all around the capital which was to be left as countryside. To reach it, you travelled out on the Metropolitan Line of the Underground Railway, as far as Rickmansworth. There you waited in the train for 15 minutes or so, while they changed engines, as the line was not electrified any further. From that point, you were pulled by a good old-fashioned steam engine to your destination in Amersham . I guess we just weren't in such a hurry in those days! From Amersham station you took a taxi or walked 2 miles into the adjoining village of Chesham Bois.
Our house was called 'L'Enchantresse' (after me! - no, I'm just kidding!) and it was in Bois Lane, right across from the end of the path leading up to St.Leonard's Church. It was one of two houses built on the Canadian ranch-style layout, having a loggia - or veranda - right across the back, overlooking the valley, and Ley Hill and Bovingdon on the hills beyond. We could almost see the little 'push-me/pull-you' train which ran along its single line from Little Chalfont to Chesham, going under the bridge just down the hill from our house!
Well, to put things into perspective, I was born on 23rd. September 1937 (- now the big secret is out!) - which was the year when.......
Yes it was way back in the 'good old days' when........
The Happy Event (- me being born, that is!) was celebrated shortly afterwards at my christening, by all my grandparents and other odds and sods, as seen here! (How about those fashions, eh?) Cute little stinker, wasn't I? Just shows how the years change one!
My Mum and Dad had just about given up hope of having a baby, when I arrived. It just shows you, good things are worth waiting for! They had been on holiday in Italy (my Dad was Italian) - when my mother contracted typhoid fever in Naples. She was desperately ill, and even after she recovered, was not supposed to be able to have a child. So I'm just a little miracle, see?!
As background, I'll mention that my Mum's family were from France, and my Grandmother ran a high-class milliner's establishment (- that's hats, to you!) - with branches in both London and Paris. My Mum used to model for her, and travelled back and forth to France quite often. I grew up listening to all that side of my family gabbing away in French and could understand it all, but was too shy to speak much. Actually, my French Great-Aunt Renee who was a bit of a devil, used to teach me swear-words in French, without my knowing what they meant!! Just as well I didn't have too much to say!
An interesting sidelight to all this was that my mother and father first met each other while taking part in a performance of Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta 'Patience"! My mother was a 'love-sick maiden' and my father was a 'heavy dragoon'!! So as a child I grew up singing all the songs with my mother, who would play the accompaniment on the piano. Did I mention that my mother was a concert pianist in her youth?
My Dad's family came from Ivrea in northern Italy, quite close to Milan. My Grandmother sang opera at La Scala, Milan at one time, and her brother Mario played concert violin. Too bad my musical talent is not up to the family level, eh? But my daughter Michelle has inherited the gift anyway, having played the piano and clarinet (and cello!) in her youth. So it just skipped a generation, I guess.
In the photo above, my Dad is all dressed up to go 'up to Town' to work, on the 9.15 am train. That's the train that all the City dudes travelled on! My Dad was very artistic, and worked as a commercial artist for the Daily Express, in their book-production department. They brought out the 'Rupert' books each year. I thought it was neat that he knew the cartoonists Giles and Ben Wicks, and even got me their autographs!