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The Author speaks of more peaceful early days in South-East England

Updated on April 26, 2016

Area covered by Stour and tributaries

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My old hunting ground as a 'shaverViking Beach and Jetty, Broadstairs:  Nice place to grow up.My training ship, but this is another storyThe "Shiny Sheff," she, too, was in my future.   (HMS Sheffield).Sandwich:  Peaceful town, now miles from the sea on the Stour.
My old hunting ground as a 'shaver
My old hunting ground as a 'shaver
Viking Beach and Jetty, Broadstairs:  Nice place to grow up.
Viking Beach and Jetty, Broadstairs: Nice place to grow up.
My training ship, but this is another story
My training ship, but this is another story
The "Shiny Sheff," she, too, was in my future.   (HMS Sheffield).
The "Shiny Sheff," she, too, was in my future. (HMS Sheffield).
Sandwich:  Peaceful town, now miles from the sea on the Stour.
Sandwich: Peaceful town, now miles from the sea on the Stour.

A Few Memories of Simpler Times

A Few Memories of Simple Times.

Growing up in England

As a lad growing up in Broadstairs in Thanet, on Kent’s SE coast, our forays into other parts were limited to the time it took to get there on my old Rudge bicycle, a sturdy yet ponderous beast which sacrificed much speed in the name of reliability. This, more or less, for our young legs, meant a half circle extending out towards Whitstable and Birchington on our right as we faced west, around to Sandwich on the mouth of the River Stour to our left. I say half circle, because we had out backs to the sea in the east and that ruled out travelling in that direction without a water-craft.

But still, we had some nice destinations back then. There was Sturry Woods which have all but disappeared today. There, the confluence of one of the tributaries of the Stour provided us with the ideal fishing grounds at what we knew as “Black Water and White Water. As the river left the weir area on the Canterbury Road, it meandered through a meadow, passing Fordwich, until it eventually dissipated most of its force in the Chislet lakes and marshes. This river, the Great Stour, (rhymes with “hour” in Kent…the other Stour in Suffolk rhymes with “more”), runs for more than 20 miles to Pegwell Bay.

People can be forgiven for being confused over what exactly is the Stour in Kent, because there are three rivers called Stour, and about another 12 tributaries all with other names. Half of the Gt. Stour is tidal and was a major inland thoroughfare for the Romans. The two main Stours, Great and Little, meet at Pluck’s Gutter before rolling gently past Sandwich to the sea. The Stour is generally a peaceable stream, but it runs fast in places and has strong currents and flood plains. I once saw a small boy swept under the ferry downriver from Fordwich; he was dragged out by his elder brother; this river has to be treated with respect.

I remember fishing for amorphous finny creatures all along the banks of this pretty river. Named such as Chubb, Perch and Roach come to mind. In fact, roach is a name that has seemed to appear in another guise later in my life. The adult fishermen went a bit further upstream towards Canterbury, where the Stour also formed lakes, these with lilies all over the surface and said to conceal the vicious and crafty Pike.

We also enjoyed a trip along the route past the Richborough power stations and the old Brock firework factory up to the Stour again, this time as it cut through the road in front of Sandwich; the tiny bridge there featured the only toll allowed in Britain at one time, but kid bikers weren’t charged. A good thing too, because there was no regular pocket money for us in those days. I was lucky to see a couple of half-crowns a year when we visited Granny.

One way we kids could make a few pounds was working for Montgomeries farm in Birchington during the hols. We were as reliable as the summer sunshine as we pocketed out £3 weekly pay check and never went back. I had aspirations to be a farmer, but to heck with it if it meant weeding cabbages all day in the bitter East wind while my mates were on the beach.

Another way to make a few shillings was to collect golf balls lost all along the edge of the links near Joss Bay. Sometimes we would wait in handy copses, occasionally pocketing balls before they had been lost. Once, we watched with amazement as the whole of Arsenal football team arrived at the Links Hotel for a weekend break. I had most of their autographs for many years until I eventually lost them.

A highlight of this somewhat boring existence was the arrival of the Danish/Norwegian recreation of a Viking Long-Ship, the Hugin. My grandfather was the president of the Broadstairs and St Peters Angling Society, so was given the honour of piloting the Hugin the last mile or so into her anchorage and he asked me - then about 5 - to come with him on his launch, “Patience.”

And so went my childhood until I discovered that magic creature, a girl. They smelled so different from bicycle oil and sweaty school boys. Now it was “Did you do it!” Many lies were told by young boys about their sexual prowess and the willingness of female acquaintances. In fact, I didn’t do it until I was 18, ancient by today’s standards, but about the norm back then. Of course, then we had immediately to get engaged, which lasted a few months if you were lucky. I was famous for having used the same ring on three different “fiancées” It finished on the finger of a Swedish girl who wears it to this day (she was 15 in 1960 when we met! Jail bait, but we didn‘t quite “do it“).
She told her husband a girlfriend gave it to her. Ah, Sausage, how sweet you were and patient to put up with that as a nickname.

My youth ended, really, with the divorce of my parents and all the trauma that kids go through. “Who do you want to go with?” Heck, I don’t know, neither of you two creeps! But it was mum who won that day; dad remarried and was out of my life for good.
Then mum was, too, as she went to live with my grandparents who couldn’t have a young boy living in the house because of “the doctor’s angina!” Jeez, doc. Heal thyself!
So to h--- with you all, I must have thought as I became a radar trainee at Chatham Royal Naval Barracks…but that was where another chapter called "Man" began…


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    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 3 years ago from North Texas

      I think I really grew up when I became pregnant with my daughter. Until then everything was an adventure, but with being responsible for a new life, I had to settle down a bit and be more serious.

      With so many things to do at any given time, how can one possibly be bored? I can't even remember being bored. Who has time for it?

      How old were you when your parents divorced? You actually called a girl sausage?

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 5 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Thank you, dear...when exactly did you grow up?

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 5 years ago from North Texas

      Life was so much simpler when I was growing up too even though it wasn't that long ago compared to yourself . . . ;) Interesting and a good read. Nice to remember when life was less complicated.

      Take care, Bobby . . .

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 5 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Hi Annie: I only got bored and fractious if I couldn't go out on my much to do in Broadstairs where I grew up...then I found girls (lassies) and it really got interesting!


    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 5 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Hi Jama...Yes, we're all nuts! And we should really say, North America, the Mexicans get really pissed when we say America, cause that's them, too.


    • bac2basics profile image

      Anne 5 years ago from Spain

      Hi again Bob. Aha, now I know you aren´t from Yorkshire, so the "luxury Tha knows" in a previous hub must mean you are a Monty Python fan !! We really did have enjoyable childhoods back in the day..even with all the trauma´s life threw at us. I used to be up at the crack of dawn and be off on my bike till dark and no-one bothered one bit about that.Great adventures where had and I don´t ever remember wondering about whinging that " I´m bored".

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 5 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      Bob, be nice now. I've been to Paris, Texas. Also in London, Arkansas, for all of the 30 seconds it took to drive to the end of the block that counted as "Main Street", turn around, and leave again. I was coming back from visiting my daughter at Hendrix College in Conway AR, and couldn't resist taking a detour just to say I'd "been to London". This was long before my trip to the REAL "Lunnun".

      The last is the reason the entire time I was in London, (my first week in England), I could barely understand a word said to me, so I mostly nodded and smiled a lot.

      As for how North American news agencies refer to Paris and London, keep in mind the majority of Americans couldn't find either on a world map or globe if their lives depended on it. But then, we have quite a giggle when the BBC World News presenter refers to a major American city as, for instance, "Chicago, USA" instead of "Chicago, Illinois". Sometimes they don't even get that specific. They'll say "in the American state of Illinois". I'm guessing "in the United States state of Illinois" would be rather confusing!

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 5 years ago from UK and Mexico

      How about "Muzzle," for "Mousehole," (Cornwall)..."Muffem" for "Meopham," (kent) and even the capital is never London, but Lunnon.

      That's "London, England," of course!

      North Americans produce chuckles over here when the news agencies say, "Paris, France," or "London, England."

      Yes I know you have your own paris Texas and London, Alabama?) or is that Birmingham?

      But you would hardly expect the French President to be addressing crowds in Paris, Texas!

      Bob You only got about 320 hubs to go!!

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 5 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      Bob, your childhood in SE Kent sounds most idyllic. Thanks for clarifying the different pronunciations of Stour, depending on the location. Now I won't embarrass myself when in Suffolk pronouncing its Stour like "hour".

      Oh, wait...the English are quite tolerant of Americans who mispronounce place names. Good thing, too, because I've never been able to get my phonetically-trained brain to accept "wooster" for Worcestershire, or "lester" for Leicester!

      Voted up, funny and awesome!