A Knight’s Tale (21: The Summer Of 1947)

This photograph was taken in my grandparents’ garden in Durham in April 1947.  Chris and I  had just learned of our sister Jacqueline’s birth in Wimbledon.   I didn’t think the pram in the background was for Jacqueline, because it belonged to my grandmother.

Our attire needs a little explanation.  Chris’s footwear was a requirement imposed by his having broken his leg some weeks earlier.  Hopefully it is our night wear that we are sporting.  I hasten to add that our normal clothing was being preserved against accident by Grandma who was preparing for the journey for us to take possession of the new infant. Grandma Hunter had told us that Grandpa was very particular about always wearing clean underwear in case he had an accident. It seemed to me that if you had an accident it didn’t much matter what was the original state of your underpants. Maybe she had a different mishap in mind. Chris looks a little less sure than I do.  He and I were enswathed in our grandmother’s pink silk petticoats.

It was on that stay that the incident of the caterpillars occurred, so maybe Grandma was as eager as we were for us to travel down south to meet the new arrival.  My brother and I enjoyed trotting out with jam jars into which to entrap all kinds of poor creatures.  We weren’t knowingly cruel, for we always included a lettuce leaf or other greenery for food, and pierced holes in the lids. On this occasion it had been caterpillars that had received the treatment.  When we dropped the jar in one of the corridors of the house, Grandma wasn’t exactly overjoyed at the sight of a carpet of crawling grubs fleeing grasping little fingers.

Probably the very next day we were back home in Stanton Road, SW20;  I was sitting proudly in the garden with our baby sister in my arms; and the above photograph was snapped.  Chris doesn’t look any more certain about things.

In this age of global warming it is worth remembering that the months of the May and June after this were hot enough to send me inside coated with tar from the melted roads in which I was playing. I expect my poor mother could never clean them. We happily amused ourselves in the street, devoid of cars in those days.

The Royal Meteorological Society report of January 1948 describes the weather of Summer 1947 as ‘a memorable one in meteorological annals. The severity of the late winter, the rain and floods of March, and the drought and warmth of late summer and autumn were all outstanding over a very long period and their occurrence in a single year unique in meteorological history. The year also included the two longest periods of easterly wind for at least 66 years, one giving severe winter conditions and the other the warmth and sunshine of August’ (https://rmets.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/j.1477-8696.1948.tb00856.x)

We are only a small island, yet the accents are so diverse that people from one end of the country may react to those at another as if they are speaking a foreign language. I discovered this on my return from Durham when many Londoners could not understand what I was saying. I have no doubt that this affected my start in school which is to follow.


    1. Your question has alerted me to the fact that I omitted a complete explanatory paragraph, now inserted. So thanks again, Judy. It might amuse you if you go back.

  1. What a beautiful photo of you and your brother with your baby sister! Interesting comment about differing accents across various parts of the country. I remember the challenges we faced as children in understanding the different accents of the British soldiers who served the colony 🙂

  2. They say that English and the Americans are two peoples separated by a common language. I think that regional accents also may separate us.

  3. Sweet pictures! Lots of diversity of accents in this country, too. But as we are so large, that’s to be expected. I am interested in reading about how your Durham accent affected your reception at school.

    1. My entrance to school isn’t really about the Durham accent. It only occurs to me now that there may have been some significance. Thanks very much, Laurie

  4. This post is interesting on several levels:it reminds me of the birth of my youngest brother but more particularly of the birth of our daughter after two sons. I have a vivid picture in my mind of the two of them holding her on the steps of the hospital while my husband was paying our bill! South Africans have a clearly defined accent to the ear of the uninitiated – my English aunt thought it a rather harsh one – yet it is clear enough for people to understand us. Surprisingly, there are a variety of accents here too. I was, however, amazed at the variety of accents we have encountered in parts of England, some of which I had to wonder if people were actually speaking the same language as I had grown up with! Then comes your teaser about accent and schooling … as the only English-speaking child in the first year of my primary schooling, I had many obstacles to overcome so I am looking forward to your next installment.

    1. Thanks very much, Anne. I do like to end with a teaser. 🙂 Two sons then a daughter is another coincidence. The schooling story isn’t really about accent, but it does occur to me now that that may have been of some significance.

  5. What happened to your brother’s foot, Derrick?
    We certainly tend to forget that exceptionally hot summers have happened occasionally even before the global warming scare.

  6. Such sweet photos! I love the tenderness and love evident in how you held your baby sister. What were you and your brother wearing in the photo above with his leg in a cast?

    Interesting information on the weather and accents. I think Americans are always amazed by the range of accents in the UK. Here, of course, there are so many different accents.

    1. That two of you asked the obvious question alerted me to the fact that I had left a complete explanatory paragraph from the post. Now inserted. You might be amused to go back, but they were my grandmother’s silk petticoats. Thanks very much, Merril

  7. These photos are so sweet! 🙂 Especially you holding your baby sister! 🙂
    Your wonderful telling of your memories is lovely and elicited many responses as I read them…OH! AW! YIKES! AW! Oh, my!, etc. 🙂
    What happened to Chris’ foot/leg!? I had a broken nose as an 8 year old…that’s a whole other story. 😮
    I look forward to hearing about your schooling and school adventures! 🙂
    (((HUGS))) 🙂

          1. Oh, my gosh! That is so scary!
            I’m surprised with all of the VERY active kids in my family we didn’t have many injuries or broken bones. I was the only one who had broken bones.

  8. When I worked in the Lake District my colleagues teased me about my Australian accent. I said, “listen here, you live on an island the size of Tasmania, and can’t make up your mind among yourselves how you want to speak the language!”

  9. Ha! I was really hoping that wasn’t your usual attire. I’m hoping your Grandma took the photo because she found your appearance to be so funny. It’s adorable, as is the one with you holding your baby sister.

  10. Your story is so relatable Derrick … I had 2 brothers, and later on we had the joy of a baby sister … and us boys would always be out playing football on the bitumen road ..

  11. Without the accompanying narrative, I’d have thought the pair of cute brothers were playing Romans in a game. The bygone days are being capably resurrected by swift touches of your pen.

  12. I am sure she had a different accident in mind, but thanks for the laugh! I remember the tar melting in summer too and getting on clothes, and the fascination it held for kids playing at ground level.

  13. I enjoyed reading this history. You have a remarkable memory. I love all the dialects. It is a shame that many are disappearing. My mother and I used to love to listen to the locals converse when we traveled in the UK. As an aside, I remember shopping for my step gran in Wales and having to take a shopping list written in Welsh because the store owner spoke no English.

    1. That’s why I need to get this stuff written while I still can. I can well believe that Welsh story. I once knew a North Wales farming couple the wife of whom explained that their youngest child was a damage. Her husband laughed and said “You mean an accident”. Thanks very much, Sherry.

  14. The photos are adorable, grandma’s petticoats and all, and I love the stories! The weather back then, the regional accents, all stories that help the reader feel like they were there.

  15. I pulled up in a supermarket carpark in Newcastle to ask directions. When I returned to the car my passenger asked, which way is it? I replied that I hadn’t the fastest idea because I couldn’t understand a word that had been said!

  16. It’s easy to see today’s Derrick in these photos: the child the father of the man, and all that. I smiled at the reference to the jam jar collections. I collected lightning bugs, but did the same for them: a bit of green grass in the jar, and holes in the lid.

  17. I just looked up some trivia – my country NZ is 10% larger than your’s in land size – but boy is there a big issue with the population! UK 65million v NZ 5million

      1. Correct the sheep 2 people ratio is a definite but to me that doesn’t require looking up. We also have a lot of dairy cows, we export a lot of both ordinary and baby formula powders….

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