A Knight’s Tale (1 : “A Sneaky Weekend”)

On another blisteringly hot day, before the sun was fully up, I produced

a dozen current garden views from above.

Later, Jackie occupied herself planting and watering, while I carried out some dead heading. These activities were continued at intervals throughout the day.

Some years ago, now, encouraged by a number of my readers, I began work on an autobiography reflecting the era of my life so far. Eventually I came to a seemingly unsurpassable crossroads.

I have now decided to publish extracts from my draft, in occasional instalments, making use of some material previously posted and further thoughts and details, of which this is the first:

During the early 1940s members of my father, Douglas Michael Knight’s, generation were doing what those of his father had done before, namely fighting to save the life of our country, and, indeed, the whole world, from the might of Germany and its allies.

My maternal grandfather, an engineer in the prison service, was attached to Leicester Prison. As such he and his family including my mother, Jean, née Hunter, were allocated prison quarters.

Dad was billeted for a while next door. The teenaged neighbour must have aroused his interest, because, on 7th July, 1942, I was born in Leicester General Hospital. The above photographs were taken around this time.

Wherever he was stationed, Mum tells me, Dad took every opportunity when in England to get home to Mum and me and, later, Chris.  If he had no official leave, this involved nipping off for what she calls “a sneaky weekend”.   Apparently he found all kinds of means to do this, often involving the railway services.  On one occasion when he couldn’t find any sort of train he walked all through the night from ‘somewhere in Yorkshire’ to Leicester for the pleasure.  Dad himself has told me about marathon nocturnal walks to Leicester.

Mum’s part in the subterfuge was to keep a lookout for redcaps, as were termed the military police, one of whom was her elder brother Ben.  I guess discovery could have been awkward.


Later this afternoon, having read more of David Copperfield, I scanned the next four of Charles Keeping’s illustrations.

‘What was my amazement to find, of all people on earth, my aunt there, and Mr Dick!’

‘I observed Agnes turn pale, as she looked attentively at my aunt’

‘Mr Micawber had prepared, in a wash-hand-stand jug, a ‘Brew’ of the agreeable beverage for which he was famous’

‘I replied, ‘I, Miss Mills!’ I have done it!’ – and hid my face from the light, in the sofa cushion’

This evening we dined on Jackie’s luscious liver and bacon; boiled new potatoes; tender broccoli and cabbage, with which she drank more of the Sauvignon Blanc, and I drank Valle Central Syrah Reserva Privada 2019


  1. Interesting story about your parents. I think I remember a BBC series about military redcaps in the 1990s or the early 2000s. Did you eat lives or liver for dinner? (I make a lot of typos as you may have noticed so I’m not picking nits–just curious if there is a British meal with which I am unfamiliar).

  2. I’m so glad you’re going to share some excerpts from your autobiography drafts. We, your readers, are lucky! This is fun history about your parents. My dad enlisted to fight in the war the day he got out of high school – 1943 – in the U.S. I believe He became a paratrooper and jumped in France and Germany. I have the love letters he wrote to my mom (18 at the time, waiting and working in New York City). I think it’s important to remember our parents, their sacrifices, and what they did to stay connected with their loves.
    Your garden – sigh. Just. Lovely.

  3. You should resuscitate the autobiography you appear to have lead an interesting life. The garden’s looking wonderful – kudos to you both, particularly the Head Gardener.

  4. Great title! I look forward to more history.
    I just have a few stories of my parents relationship, mostly said to me aloud. After she was gone, all the letters disappeared.

  5. I’ll be reading your autobiography with great interest, and isn’t it wonderful to revisit your mother as a young woman. She would never have foreseen, then, the life ahead of her, and that she would still be going strong now! It’s not that long ago she was living independently. The garden shots are divine too.

  6. Family history becomes more interesting as I get older, so I’m writing about my parents for my children and grand children. I can see from this fascinating snippet why people have urged you to write about yours. Feel free to expand! Thanks for the garden views from above. I especially like the ones with what I believe is the weeping birch.

  7. Every time you show the great spread of the garden I can see the winter skeleton in my mind and the wonder of it is even more splendid.

  8. Once one begins to write of the past, it can be surprising how many memories come to the fore. Your children and grandchildren will be glad that you have made the effort to put your story down in a readable form – and we will benefit too.

  9. So many memories, Derrick. My dad was a medical resident at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota in 1940. and my mother an English immigrant. I was born in December 1940, and my sister in August 1942. My dad was sent from Santa Barbara to northern Africa in August 1942,a week before my sister’s birth, and traveled between there and up The Italian coast for 3-1/2 years. Many memories of that time are called up as a result of your memories! I love the photosof your parents — your mom was a beautiful young lady!

    1. Thank you very much, Janet. I really hoped this would trigger memories for readers who might share them. You didn’t disappoint. Jackie said “you can see why she caught his eye” 🙂

  10. I’m so glad you are writing your autobiography! Your stories and your family stories are important! I’m so honored to read about your parents! I see your beautiful Mum has always been beautiful! 🙂 And it seems they made the perfect pair! 🙂
    OH…I love love love your garden from above photos! 🙂
    (((HUGS))) 🙂
    PS…I can’t wait to read more of your autobiography! 🙂

      1. OHMYGOSH! She’s getting to come visit! This is SO wonderful! If she can have hugs, please give her one for me! I think of her so often and I pray for her. 🙂

  11. Dear Derrick,
    what a great tale we very much loved to read. And we really enjoyed the drawings.
    Your garden looks lush and very well cared for.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Wishing you a happy weekend
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

  12. Lovely stories and great pictures.

    I am a bit suspicious about that overnight walking story however. The nearest place in Yorkshire to Leicester is Sheffield a distance of about 70 miles!

    It reminds me of that film Robin Hood Prince of Thieves. Robin and Azeem land on the Kent coast and Robin says “tonight we will dine with my father in Nottingham”, a distance of 210 miles. That would have been some walk.

  13. A lovely post, Derrick. I’m imagining Keeping illustrating a “a sneaky weekend.” 😀 It’s so romantic how your father walked that distance to see your mother.
    My parents married during WWII–my Dad’s eyesight was too terrible for him to serve in the military. I only ever heard about their courtship from my mom. I would like to have heard my dad’s version.

  14. Before my parents married in 1938, my dad had moved from their little town to Moline, Illinois, where he worked for John Deere. He didn’t walk the 180 miles to see my mother, but he hitch-hiked: a common and much safer practice in those days. I’m not sure how long it took him to get a car, but Mom said once he did, he earned extra money by accepting passengers for the trip. He’d do drop-offs and pickups in both directions.

  15. Derrick, are these pictures of your garden from above? If yes, it is looking absolutely different, but nevertheless gorgeous!
    I love to watch the old photographs. They are really special and create so much memories and imaginations.

        1. Actually, at this time of the year, with the trees in leaf, we don’t see the fence at the far (southern) end, which gives the impression that we have our neighbours’ trees 🙂

  16. I gather that the Culinary Queen has started sharing my fondness for Sauvignon Blanc.
    You, on the other hand, are firmly on the same ground as my husband, Derrick.
    I have enjoyed characterization of the aunt in both drawings, but the last illustration made the strongest impression on me, with its horizontal composition and lines flowing from center to opposite directions, expressing discord.

  17. Ah, Derrick, I always love the view from the second floor. Your garden is a paradise.

    I loved the story and pictures of your parents. You have such a way of telling a tale!

  18. The garden is looking elegantly arboreal. My aunt and uncle met in the war and he used to visit by bicycle, which some times involved a two day ride from Buckinghamshire to Lancashire. Men were clearly more serious about courtship in those days!

  19. Your garden landscape looks like it goes on forever – although that might be because neighbours also have massive gardens/trees…

  20. I LOVE the views of your garden from above. (I’ve been hoping you’d show some.) I enjoyed reading the excerpt from your autobiography. I look forward to reading more!

  21. I will be enjoying these blogs–so much day to day person history–and how people are so much the same, no? Just curious, though, what’s a heat wave in your parts? You can give Centigrade–I’ll figure it out. Pauline used to complain about 22C and that’s…late March, early April here…

      1. Ah, it’s all in what you’re used to! 30 is a nice summer temp here. We start being careful at 33-37, especially with the humidity. I hope it gets more normal there soon!

  22. I liked reading about you and your parents, Derrick. My parents were born in 1925 and 1926, so they were new adults, not yet married, during World War II and my dad served in the navy. All these family experiences that are framed by wartime unite a lot of people in how life was.

  23. A wonderful story of your dad walking to visit your mum from Yorkshire. We can only hope it was somewhere in the south of the county not the north!

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