MY SECOND TIME ROUND!!
earing the end of the following school year Alan had to go into hospital and have a kidney removed. This meant a trip to Guys Hospital and after his return to Charcott and recuperation he managed to go back to school for a week or two before they broke up for the summer. He was due to go to a Secondary school at the start of the next term.
Whilst the boys were living with my mother I used to still visit on a Friday night and stay for weekends. I registered with a Marriage Bureau and corresponded with a few of the introductions, in fact I went to Finchley to meet one. However, I received information on a lady living in Eltham, South London and made contact, and finally went to visit her. She was a nurse with a young baby, about 18 months old. They lived in a basement flat and the baby, Julie, was in a playpen/cot with a lid to stop her getting out and making it possible to put curtains round so that she would not be disturbed during the evening as they only had a living room and kitchen. I made several visits, sometimes staying all night with my dog, Tim, and having to return very early in the morning to get to work. I thought, “blow this for a lark,” and asked Brenda if she would like to move in with me and she did this on the lst May 1968 as we seemed to be getting on well with one another and I was also worried about the circumstances in which she was living, damp premises etc.
Since Brenda was now a permanent feature we decided that the boys could return home and Alan would be able to attend Swattenden when they started back and Paul would be attending Goudhurst School, it being easier than Kilndown.
Karen was born on 21st May 1970 and when both Julie and Karen were old enough they too, would go to Goudhurst to school.
As soon as our respective divorces were through we decided to get married and this occasion was the 24th April 1971. We had tried to arrange this at the Church at Kilndown but we were considered to be too heathen as we had both been divorced although neither of us was to blame in the proceedings. We therefore got married in the Maidstone Registry office, the congregation being Alan, Paul, Julie, Karen, my Mum and Dad and Brenda’s Mum and Dad. After the ceremony we returned to Charcott for the reception - mum had made us a sponge cake as a wedding cake.
We went off on honeymoon to the Isle of Wight in our car. At some stage along the way a spaniel ran out in the road and I put on the brakes pretty quickly causing our luggage in the back to cascade over the rear seat. Brenda attempted to straighten this up by kneeling up on the front seat and reaching over to put things back, she caught her rear on the interior light and we had a sudden blackout – at least the car stopped as all the electrics shorted out. We had to call out the AA, which took some time, and eventually when they arrived they were able to bypass the lighting and get us going. As long as it did not rain or get dark we would be okay. We therefore continued to Portsmouth and found digs for the night. Instead of taking the car across to the island we just caught the hovercraft ferry and a coach on the other side. Quite an eventful honeymoon.
Our holidays always seemed to be never ending disasters.
We did a trip to Lands End with the car and mini caravan, only twice in two weeks did we have to use official camp sites, one of these was for us to get our clothes dried out in the tumble dryer when we had got soaked through, and the other on the return journey when we stopped at Brighton. We lived like gypsies during that time and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. On the return journey we were running rather late one evening and could not find anywhere to stop when we spotted this piece of grass, which looked suitable in the almost dark. We pulled up, unloaded our dustbins of clothes, food and utensils and tied them to the tow bar, slid the lid of the caravan over and set ourselves up for the night. In the morning we were woken by lots of traffic and found that we had parked on a traffic island. You can imagine the speed in which we got ourselves out of there. About 100 yards up the road we found a lay-by!
Another year we went to the Lake District and stayed a couple of nights at Morecambe Bay – Grange over Sands to be precise. The place was just mudflats and we found a site just by a cattle water trough on the edge of the mud. We went out for a walk on the sands and whilst out there we heard a strange singing noise. Suddenly we realised that this was the tide coming in. We turned round and walked fairly briskly back but the water overtook us and we had to cross a raging river. The boys had gone on ahead and left Brenda and I and the girls. We had to put the kids on our shoulders and carry them over the river, which by now was waist deep and running very fast. We travelled across the Yorkshire moors to the east coast and then intended to come down that side of the country. The tow bar broke and we had to tow the caravan with a chain, which was pretty dodgy.
We had several years of holidays in Wales. We had a touring holiday there with a Bedford Dormobile and got flooded out so that we all had to spend the night in the vehicle on the Brecon Beacons, as it was so wet we could not get out. Somewhere in the back of beyond Karen chose to fall over and cut her knee open. As there was no help available Brenda attempted to stitch the wound with a needle and thread. It did not work and we eventually found a hospital in the middle of nowhere and we managed to get her treated.
We discovered Rhossili bay and spent several holiday camping there until it began to become very commercialised. We still did not manage to escape the rains and saw many disasters with unskilled campers who did not really know how to pitch tents. There were about six people arrived on one camp site in their posh car, unloaded the brand new multi berth tent which they then tried to erect in almost gale force winds. We could do no more than sit and watch these cocky people attempting the impossible. When the frame had finally got mangled up into an unrecognisable mess they gave up and went away. We were terribly sad.
In 1978 we decided we wanted to move from a tied cottage and looked around for somewhere to buy. We eventually came across a property at Knoxbridge Staplehurst which we could afford - £11,750 – and although Mr. Henley senior tried to persuade us this was not the right thing to do because we would lose money in the long run we went ahead and bought.
My mum died on 5th March 1984 after being taken ill and getting her into hospital.
We sold the house at Knoxbridge and moved to Hawkhurst in February 1985 – the house was sold for £39,000 provided we supplied the new people with a goat - we let them have one which we named Burquin Quidsin – they increased the payment from £38,000 to £39,000 for this privilege as they had let us down and we had lost several opportunities to buy other properties because they could not complete.
I managed to stay with Jack Henley for a total of 26 years but things got so bad that I started looking elsewhere and finally escaped from his clutches on 7th August 1987 and started work for Mr. Barnes at Etchingham on 24th August 1987.
Brenda’s mum died in March 1987 and her dad in October 1987. There was some money left to Brenda and in early 1988 we started to erect an extension to the bungalow comprising two substantial bedrooms and conversion of a small bedroom into built-in cupboards. Nick and I did the majority of the erection after having the base put down by builders. We did have a little help from our friends with the heavy lifting – roof trusses for instance – and internally the plasterboard when the sides and roof were up. We even managed to do the roof shingles ourselves and were proud of our efforts.
As dad was now living on his own
at Charcott we had to make at least one visit a week to collect his washing and
deal with any bills that needed to be paid. I used to go straight from Paddock Wood
on a Friday night before coming home to have my dinner. A round trip of 50 miles. He had home helps and meals on wheels
and Mary Porch used to do his shopping for him but it got too much and he had
problems with the cold and we had several scares and had to get him into
hospital. During the summer of 1990
not long before hour holiday he was taken ill and we brought him home to us and
then he went into the local hospital.
He only lasted with us about six months and eventually died on 2nd February 1991 – only three days before his 89th birthday. I only hope we did our best for him whilst he was with us.
I continued working for Mr. Barnes at Etchingham, we had up to date computers installed and I became quite proficient with the machines and the programmes. I was getting to the stage of being extremely bored with my work as I had set everything up so efficiently that I only need to do about an hour and a half of work every day, except for the once a months updates on the accounts and the monthly VAT Intrastat returns. The two women in the office, Jenny and the bosses daughter Zoe ran the purchases side of the Fruco accounts and there became many instances of errors which I discovered as I now had a lot of time to check work, mainly because the accountants used me as a scapegoat to cover the excessive time they took to audit the books each year and everything was blamed on me, and I was determined to cover my back. I started recording every error that I discovered and the mode of correction, and the time it took me. This became a 13 page document entitled “Errors” and in the latter part of November and early December 1995 Mr. Barnes asked me for information and when I was looking into the files he spotted the one entitled “Errors”, asked me what it was, so I told him, showed him, and he asked for a copy.
Within a couple of days he told me he was upset that I had recorded this information, and in his time too, and said he would be discussing my record with others. On Monday 18th December 1995 I went to work and was immediately told not to turn on the computer – I was sacked – he would make it as easy as possible for me by giving me a good reference and make the dismissal as redundancy.
He subsequently made me a generous offer, I would not have wanted to work with any of the staff there again under the conditions that I had recently experienced so, having discussed the matter with the Citizens Advice Bureau, I accepted his offer.
I was now out of work just before Christmas! A blow but after Christmas I decided that now was the time to do what I had wanted to do for many years – go self employed. The money that I had received from my job, various withdrawals and cancellations of insurance’s, helped me to now clear many debts, and reduce the mortgage to only £10,000 meant that with luck we could survive on much less than we had before.
I made various applications for jobs and registered with several agencies. I eventually ended up with one job at Appledore, at very reduced rates to what I was used to, for two periods a week which ended up being Monday and Friday around 10 hours on average per week. I also obtained the job as Treasurer at Tenterden Club – also working there on Monday and Friday – about one and a half hours per session, the remainder of the work being carried out at home. Another job in the Tenterden area, in a farm office for a couple of hours on a Friday afternoon, later changed to Monday afternoons completed my sessions in that area.
I got a job through one of the Agencies, at Tonbridge for one day a week (usually about 5 or 6 hours) but at my normal charge of £10 per hour. With these jobs, and my job as Treasurer at the Royal British Legion at Hawkhurst, I had several other more erratic jobs, Piper and Fisher at Cranbrook, now and again since I set up a computer and programme for accounts and got that working correctly. I had a regular monthly job working for Phil Santer on his farm accounts, on occasions I also got work from him for the Dried Flower Business. I had one or two irons in the fire when it came to once a year accounts and two other less regular but still permanent jobs for Clive Bruce and David Craddock.
This meant that in the year since I had been self-employed we were able to exist quite well on a much less return than we were ever used to.
Now to sell the house.