Local History

Buckingham The most sedate and affluent town in North Buckinghamshire.

Posted October 13th 2019

Buckingham March 2019. Buckingahm was the original Bucks County Town- called Shires in the days of lecherous wife killing lying King. Henry VIII. The stonework of ‘The Olde Gaol’ gleams in the Spring sunshine. Image Charles Close
‘Buckingham Voices’ available directly from this site for the bargain price of £7.

This was Bletchley September 2019

History is being made everyday. One could certainly not accuse the North Bucks Town of being stuck in the past.

I have had three books publsihed on the town. My father was a driver for London Brick Company at their Newton Longville Road brickwork- about which I have also written a book. I had my driving lessons and passed my test first time in that town.

So here are a few of the pictures I took around town this month.

Here is a group of everyday locals and shoppers in the twon centre. ‘Wilko’ the low cost retailer is very popular.
There are very poor deprived places, with poor job prospects for low skill working lass people. But the Criminal Lawyer CDMK is a very successful local business, The majority of people brought before the Criminal Courts are almost exclusively poor working class, with equally poor education from the local comprehensive schools. Most of the acused tend to pead guilty and are funded in their cases by legal aid.

As a former teacher, I am aware that Britain has low levels of literacy and numeracy compared to the rest of Europe, but has made enormous efforts and committment to what used to be called Personal Health education- as befits diversity.

It is interesting it needs the media and political elite to keep telling working class people what they really voted for when they voted to leave the EU. After the extension of the vote to working men in 1867,, one of the Tory Minsiters, Robert Lowe, said ‘We must now educate our masters.’ And so came the 1870 education Act for compulsory State funded education,
The name Co-op used to be as synonymous with Bletchley as it was with Rochdale where the movement to provide good cheap goods to working people started. Absorbed into the Milton Keynes sprawl, since 1967, this whole ex Co-op block of buildings is now broken up into some interesting little units.
This used to be ‘Stepehenson House’, named after the father and son railway engineering partnership that buit the London Birmingahm Railway, cutting through Bletchley village and puuting it on the Victorian map. Built as an office block, it became surplus to requirements as glitzy new office blocks opened a few miles north in Miltn Keynes City Centre. Developers, aware of spiralling property and rental prices, moved in to create luxury apartments here in the old town centre.
A meat worker carries Halal meant into a specialist Asian shop. This shop is behind the old Co-op shop, where the business had a slaughterhouse. i recall visiting the slaughterhouse during brief employment with Co-op butchers in the late 1960s. horrible place.
The late 1960s shopping centre, built to keep it up with the image of the new Milton Keynes which did not get its own shoping centre until 1979.
Rather surprisingly Bletchley’s public toilets are still open and rufurbished. The toilets in neighbouring Fenny Stratford were sold of for conversion into residene decades ago, while Fenny Stratford’s own little shopping centre decayed. Few people know that a Scottish engineer invented the diesel engine by accident in his little workshop behind where the Co-op used to be in Fenny Stratford.

This is the locality where I was born and bred

Story of the Winslow soldier who died on the last day of The First World War

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Robert Cook from Winslow Buckinghamshire, the last man to be killed at the end of World War One. Read ‘Dearh of a Hero’ by Richard Aldington. For some reason, I have always been fascinated by that war and read Aldington’s book when I was 17.

The 11 November is a poignant date for everyone, marking as it does the anniversary of the end of the First World War and subsequently becoming ‘Remembrance Day’ for the sacrifices made in all armed conflicts.

However, for some families this day holds a more devastating meaning. Approximately 600 British soldiers died on the final day of the war. In a conflict that many would argue was pointless to begin with, these losses appear especially wasteful.

Sadly, a man from Winslow, Sergeant Robert Charles Cook, serving with the 9th (Service) Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment, was one of the men to lose their life on the final day of the war. He was just 21 years old.

The soldier was the son of Robert and Mary Cook of Market Square, Winslow, and had been working as a gardener before he enlisted on 21 October 1915, aged 19.

After being promoted to Lance-Corporal, he arrived in France on 19 February 1916 and took part in the Battle of the Somme, where he received gunshot wounds to the leg on 15 September and had to be evacuated back to Britain for treatment.

Cook recovered and was sent back to France, now as a Sergeant, in the summer of 1918 to help with what would become the final advance through Flanders.

On 18th September 1918, he was shot through the spine, leaving him paralysed from the waist down.

The brave Sergeant fought for his life for almost eight weeks but finally succumbed to his wounds on Armistice Day, 11 November 1918.

Sergeant Robert Charles Cook is buried in the St. Laurence Churchyard in Winslow.

Winslow is commemorating Remembrance Day with a service at the war memorial followed by a parade to the Royal British Legion which starts at 10:30am on Sunday.

The full story of Robert Cook is told in the book ‘Winslow Fallen in the Great War’ by Mark Randall.

Posted September 1st 2019

For those who visit this site for local history, I apologise and promise to develop this page in the near future. I have written a number of books on the area and have read widely on the subject. This is the locality where I was born amd bred, seeing many changes and spending some time working for contractors building the new Milton Keynes, which ahs yet to be designated a city.

I have close links with the area and fond memories of my youth days running for Wolverton AC. My dad was a d lorry driver based at Bletchley LBC brickworks until a stack of bricks fell on him and killed him when I was eleven and he was 39.

In more recent years, apart from writing books on the place and time as Politcal Editor of Milton Keynes.Com, and as a columnist for the now defunct Bletchley Gazette, I have been a food delivery truck driver, seeing parts of Milton Keynes that most do not. I was also rejected for senior teaching job at trendy snooty PC Stantonbury Campus back in 1986. In my view the staff were a lot of comfotably off smug patronising posers. The same goes for the City;s folk clubs.

I got beaten up on the pavement outside one trendy club full of off duty opd after snging my song about how the City of London cops got away with likking innocent Ian Tomlinson at the G7 protests.

The comfortable MK bourgoise prefer songs about our fake heroic imperial murdering past, where the soldiers and sailors were as much slaves as the perons the ruling elite sent to kill. I nearly got kicked out of ‘The Last Night of The Proms’ in 2011 for simging ‘Britains a;ways always will be slaves.’ A posh prig in an epensive seat in front of my expensive seat did not like my words. Oh Brexit, what a laugh.

Robert Cook September 1st 2019

Avaialable from Scott’s Trading Winslow Market Square.

Winslow Plus Part One Boxes by R.J Cook with Charles Close

Copyright R.J Cook and Charles Close May 2019

An old painting of Sheep Street Winslow by Robert Cook.

Introduction.

The burial of local historian Norman Alfred Saving May 2019, St Laurence Church.  My hard working exploited loving late mother was married at this church on VE Day 1945. She is now buried here with my father who died in 1962. The burial ground is a history book for those of us who know the town and its past.

Before saying anything else, I do not profess to be a local historian.  I write what I feel and what I think. As a former local reporter and senior town councillor, I made many bad decisions and enemies. For the sake of community and history, I originally joined the council to save the town’s new burial ground site which councillors wanted to sell off for development.

That may have been right to do, but my lack of vision was to freeze the town in its past, which I romanticised . Now I understand no one can stop decay, new growth and change.

One should be concerned only to help improve on what is and what was. We are at best links in a chain. Memories and history are places to go if we want the past to remain with us.

While I was writing this little booklet my old local history guide and mentor Norman Saving died, aged 83. On April 26th this year I visited his widow Ann who had been our next door neighbour from 1958 until we moved in 1993.

It was a moving experience once again, standing in front of ‘Penny Cottage’; which was in very close proximity to my old family home. So many memories came flooding back.

The Saving family’s history in Winslow goes back to the 16th century and Norman was a man with many memories, an instinct for local history and a man I often argued with but always respected. Without his wisdom and knowledge my first book on the town would never have happened. Norman was a wonderful sceptic who knew more than he, and many on the Town Council ever realised or appreciated.

When I was working on my original ‘The Book of Winslow’ I spent much time talking and walking the boundaries and back ways of the tiny town with Norman. He warned me never to trust the memories of the old folk. In spite of our differences, Norman and I shared a distrust of authorities and self serving unccountable remote careerist bureaucracy.

The day before Norman’s funeral. my property was robbed by travellers.  The police told me there was nothing they could do about it. I lost over £1000 worth of property and can expect more of the same regardless of all the taxes I pay. The police have other priorities for their computerised PC remote careerist bureaucracy.  

That is the world I must now live in until it is my turn to go.  In the meantime, who knows what is coming next in a very perplexing and uncertain world.

Like my mentor Norman Saving, I have always been one of the awkward squad, not an easy way to be. As Shakespeare put it: ‘To be or not to be, that is the question, whether it is nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or to take arms against a sea of troubles.’

Ann Saving at ‘Penny Cottage’ closing her gate in April 2019.  Her and Norman were both assaulted and robbed on this path, after being followed home from the post office on pension day.  The robbers were not pursued, so not caught.  My old house and birthplace is on the right of ‘Penny Cottage.’  When I was a poor boy, few folk could afford to go away on holiday.  So when asked where they were going, they never said Margate, they said Ourgate! We never locked our doors because we had nothing worth stealing.

Chapter One Innocence

Robert Cook standing, with Michael Sellar on sledge during the very deep snow of January 1962, Tennis Lane Winslow

I remember looking up out from my green framed pushchair toward Winslow’s grandly named High Street, for the first memorable time, realising that I existed.  The year must have been 1954, the springtime sun shining, but weather was cold enough for me to be wearing what was called a siren suit, after Prime Minister’s Churchill’s predilection for the one piece he wore ready to take cover when the air raid siren went off.

It was a bewildering defining moment. I have been confused ever since, trying to make sense of things, often going against the grain of allegedly normal life.

Seeing things, hearing smelling life for the first time was an overwhelming experience.  I was just over three years old.

As time passed, the little North Bucks market town of Winslow made stronger and more vivid impressions on me.  I began to make out the detail inside the vast chamber of Hawley’s grocery shop- now ‘One Stop’.

The front of the tall building was covered in ivy. The bricks were thus out of sight, so it looked as if the whole building had grown out of the soil. Within this joyous big cave, there was a strong aroma of tea.  

This pleasantness escaped from big plywood tea chests when the silver foil membrane had been cut open so that tea could be scooped up, put into blue paper bags, then weighed out by the ounce on the big white painted scales set upon the high wooden counter. Cheese was also personally measured, cut with cheese wire, weighed, then wrapped in greaseproof paper for sale.

All about the place, on its wooden floor, men and women wearing white coats with long aprons were noisily moving boxes, packets, bottles and tins. They had a rival from a similar enterprise, the Co-op, on the market square, but Hawley’s had class.  

Young Peter Hawley had been an RAF bomber pilot, cut down in his prime, but not forgotten in the churchyard.  Bob Holmes, meantime rose to be the cheeky chappie who managed the Co-op. When I was pre school, he gave me sweets for reciting naughty ditties taught to me by my sisters girl friends in the street.

Busily Hawley’s customers, mainly women, but also some crusty old farmers from surrounding villages, wearing dirty coats coarse shirts and baggy dusty old chord trousers held up by lengths of string or braces, their battered moth eaten hats and caps askew, waddled in for supplies, here and at Midgeley’s ironmongers across the market square. Smokers were commonplace amongst them. Tipped cigarettes were for wimps. The cancer link was then unknown.

These people came and went. Most were bulbous women in drab coats, green, black, brown or blue. Dresses were cheap and worn way below knees, fat varicose veined legs covered by thick stockings. Head scarves were worn like turbans. They were hiding piles of hair in curlers. Honest sweat was the natural odour without gender bias in summer, the season of flies and rural fragrances from the fields.

These were the days long before the boom in hairdressers,  Home perms were about as exotic as it got for most people. Ladies with perfume and make up on were scarce and better off in money matters.

There was a lot of head nodding and talking between these mainly plump red faced women. They had much to say to each other, ‘ooing and ahhing’ faces moving in judgement laughter or shock, depending on the gossip.

Of course I didn’t realise what gossip was, only that these people knew each other and liked talking. At my age then, I knew very few words, so the sound was a song like blur. They might just as well have been birds chattering.

Next shop for us was the Co-op butchers, a pokey little place at the top of the street, on the other side from Hawley’s.  There were no zebra crossings in those days, but traffic was not so heavy as now.

A lot of the floor was covered with saw dust, Men with steel choppers were hacking at bones covered in animal flesh on bloodstained benches. The bespectacled man in charge was Bert Goodman, a man I later learned, while working for him, was too fond of beer.

Half sides of pigs hung head down from hooks stuck into them, attached to sturdy chrome plated steel rails connected to the ceiling.

The lumps of meat being hacked at were not obviously once live creatures, but these half sides of pork were such remnants. They looked like the animals that paddled about in the mud in the little paddock opposite our tiny house, number 21 Sheep Street. They represented the difference between life and death.

Of course I didn’t then know what meat was. I remember seeing it all, looking back I understand. But I was still on baby food, not interested in what grown ups ate.  Didn’t even know the bigger people were grown ups, didn’t know I would become one. As far as I knew Winslow and me would always be the same.

On the way to the butchers we had passed the post office to collect the family allowance.  By this time I learned that I was a boy and girls were different. They were so mysteriously different that when my sister, who was three years older than me, had her weekly wash in our tin bath, in front of the living room fire- we had no running hot water, so it was all boiled once a week in kettle and sacepans on the gas stove- I had to be kept out of the way.  

In contrast, when it was my turn to be bathed, anyone was allowed into the room, including neighbours. Girls’ clothes were different too, so many clothes, colours. patterns and elaborate.  I wondered why.

So it was slightly disturbing when a curly haired lady behind the high wooden post office counter, who I later knew as Doreen Tofield, looked down at me in my little pale blue hooded siren suit, asking in a singing warbling sort of voice: ‘Is it a little girl, she is so pretty, she must be.’  At the time, all my blonde curls were peeking out from under my hood, like the halo of a saint, a picture of proverbial innocence.

Chapter Two ‘A Country Bumpkin.’

The author and angst ridden thinker Robert Cook, summer 1964, Sheep Street back garden. This garden had been my playgound, a wonderland full of imaginary cowboys and indians, Germans, World War battles, space stations and so much more.  I buried toys in that garden to keep them safe. Obviously I was very insecure.  That garden seemed such a very big place back then. A year used to be such a long time when I was a child. My favourite day was Christmas. After my father died, my mother did her best to keep the presents and happiness going. Cold made it warmer somehow as we clustered together.

My family background is eccentric. Winslow was, and still is, the English class system in microcosm. Mother was from the comfortably off Walker and Cripps building families.  Her Great Uncle Harry Cripps was the County Highways engineer who drew up plans for council houses and by passes in the twenties and thirties..

His big house in then posh Buckingham Road, where he lived with wife Ruby, was called ‘Gubblesgore’. The garden was so big it was sold off for housing in recent years. I remember Harry’s childless fur coat wearing widow, Aunt Ruby parking her black Ford Pilot car outside our house to deliver strawberries.

Mother’s father was a wandering Southern Irishman, coming to town during the harsh post World War One years to work, as many Irish did, to hated England, for employment as a groom at one of the big houses during the 1920s. So much for the luck of the Irish.  

World Trade Depression followed soon after him. So off he went for menial work in North London. He is buried with his wife in Finchley Cemetery.  

My mother was his fifth born- Catholics take the bible too seriously- with my maternal grandmother dying from what they used to call milk fever two weeks later. The year was 1924.  So she was brought back to her Winslow grandparents to be raised.

The woman she had thought was her mother died fourteen years later.  Then my mother was sent out to work as a cleaner for the post master’s wife.  War came in 1939 to broaden her horizons.   

The RAF moved into Winslow Hall in Sheep Steet, commanding local airfields as HQ to 92 OTU ( Operational Training Unit). Mother got a cleaning job there. RAF bomber crew survivor Sergeant Dickie Dyson married local girl Mavis Byford. Her father was on the ship that fired the last shot in World War One.  Dickie told me: ‘When I was based at RAF Little Horwood, the CO told us that the Bell Hotel was for officers only.  Phil and Bill Neal, who owned it replied to this with a message, we decide who drinks at The Bell. ‘  One has to ask what working people thought they were fighting for?

The local airfield was built on flat farmland between Little Horwood and Great Horwood Roads. So arrived with the RAF, 17 year old Bill, the love of my mother’s life who came up to speak to the woman he called ‘blondie’ on Winslow Market Square.  Being from the North East, my late mother had trouble understanding him.

She had just washed and was drying her long blonde hair by the town’s main pump. He was a rear gunner on a bomber.  Aircrew had a one in three chance of dying, So it wasn’t long before she was alone again. Crews were training.  

Their first sorties, out on Wellington bombers, were propaganda leaflet raids. Night training was dangerous.  My mother saw two Wellingtons collide over the North Marston Granborough sky. She told me that all the little pieces of aeroplane were like stardust floating down to earth.

The worst disaster killed many just behind the High Street.  The young pilot lost his bearings during night training, thinking the High Street was the airfield runway.  Only young Sergeant Harrington survived.

Soon after this happened, mother left her cleaning job at RAF HQ, Winslow Hall, to work as a lathe operator at the Firs bomb making factory in Whitchurch, a place affectionately known as Churchill’s Toy Shop.  My free thinking mother did not like Churchill, referring to him as a war monger. No doubt the death of her brother with the London Irish Rifles coloured her judgement, along with the loss of her sweetheart.

She met my military police man father when he was on guard duty at the gate outside her workplace . Edward John Cook the first had been a regular soldier wounded at Dunkirk in 1940.  He was a hard man from the grim back streets of Islington North London, close to where my mother had been born. Transferred to the Military Police, he trained Alsatian dogs.  

So it was his ambition to own an Alsatian of his own. That’s how dad came home from work one March Saturday, his birthday in 1957, unleashing the starving beast one of his dog breeding workmates sold him cheap.  ‘Prince of Winslow’ was five months old and had been returned to the breeder as untrainable.  

Dad thought he could tame him, nearly losing an arm in the process. His threats to have ‘Prince ‘ put down roused me to one of my few moments of rebellion.  ‘Prince’ was left alone with a truly Royal life style, reposing like the Sphinx on our back room dinner table, removing himself only for long walks, meat eating and tea drinking from a bowl. ‘Prince’ became my very best friend. As with my mother and father, I have never stopped missing him.  

I have never liked hard men, but discovered dad’s softer self while sitting at the bottom of his painful death bed, he talking about his life.  I was only eleven years old, before they took him away to hospital to die.

I stayed home from school in the January winter of 1962 to be with him. The house was very cold, we lived on National Assistance, family allowance and the pittance my mother earned as the ‘lollipop lady’ seeing kids safely into the school at the top of the hill in Sheep Street.

A stack of bricks had fallen on my father.  The rather condescending ex Royal Navy Doctor Rudd told him he had bruised ribs rather than a broken rib sticking into and ripping one of his lungs.  Removing the lung did not stop the infection that killed him.  

As an ex NCO, my father had the utmost faith and trust in the officer class even though he did not believe in God.  He was very English and knew his place, so in that sense he suited Winslow more than I ever did.

Father had used to cycle over ten miles to Bletchley brick works and back every day in all weathers- it was such a privilege to be a man back then, nearly killed fighting for his country, then finally killed by his job.

Though we could not afford the cost, the electric fire was on all that winter time. Our house was draughty, so a lot of the heat went out the doors and windows.  

I sat close to the fire, listening so intently to my father’s stories, that one day the heat started scorching my blue jumper. If he had not smelt the burning I would have caught alight as I was too cold to notice.

As a child, we were so poor, we slept under piles of old coats, with bricks heated before the open fire, to warm the bed. Going ‘wooding’ in local fields eked out the coal. March winds were a bonanza in this respect.  Coal came to town via the railway.

Here the wagons were unloaded into the Co-op coalyard, then delivered in sacks by Les Rowe from an ex army red blood coloured Bedford OW lorry.

Coalmen wore black leather bibs, carrying the coal on their strong backs, coal dust painting them and clothes black too.  

But that is me getting ahead of my story.

Father is long gone, so young when he died and just another working man.  

Soon I will be gone too. Dad once said to me that Winslow was a very boring place, you could never buy what you wanted and everything was knee deep in cow shit. Lucky for him he was a lorry driver with the London Brick Company.  So he travelled in his lorry, to places where he could get what he wanted.  Luckily for him he had a house rented at a peppercorn rent from my mother’s property owning Uncle Tom Walker.

It was a pretty basic place but better than most had, on the sunny side of town and a welcome escape from the bomb sites and hovels of North London where my parents spent the first three years of married life , also where my sister was born in 1947. My father used to taunt me that mother, him and my sister were cockneys, while I was just a country bumpkin.

My mother often said that the best thing about the war was bringing new blood to Winslow.

Chapter Three  ‘ A Religious Ruler ’

Royal British Legion Remberance Day Parade entering High Street in 1956. Approaching his death when I was 10, father told me that those who had really experienced the carnage of World War never celebrated or talked about it. I learned from his short life and death, the importance of scepticism {Author’s Collection}

Before I started school my best friend was the publican Frank Warner’s son Tony Warner. He had an older brother Brian who I never really knew. The pub was and still is called ‘The Nag’s Head’. There I sampled, thanks to Tony, my first cigarettes, though we never really knew how to smoke. It was popular with working men, very different from today.

Forever in mischief, I believe Tony fell from a tree in the fields that became Elmfields Estate behind the street, went off to hospital, his parents quit the pub for the council houses so I was left alone. There were other children around me when I started school, but they were tough council house boys, alien to over protected me. So it came to pass that I never played football as they did down the council house estates. ‘Give me the child until he is seven, and I will give you the man’ said the Jesuits.

Of course there were the nicer softer girls, but they were even more alien to me. According to my sister, boys were made of slugs and snails and puppy dog’s tails, while girls were made of sugar and spice and all things nice.

One Sunday Tony and I were playing in the street when he started shouting and banging on the wooden gates of the Curtiss’s home, former Black Horse pub (which closed by order of Lord of The Manor McQuoradale in 1924 because he didn’t like the noise so near his stately Winslow Hall) , next to ‘Penny Cottage’ in Sheep Street. Here, Peter Curtiss had a side yard full of cars for sale. Tony’s behaviour annoyed him.

So I was amazed and amused when a bucket of water slowly appeared above the gates, tipped and drenched little Tony who went screaming, shaking himself and running back to the ‘Nag’s Head.’

Another Sunday, a young rather elegant young lady called Joyce Hawkins trotted down to us on her stately high heels and in her Sunday best frock, asking if we would like to come to her parent’s house and watch television.

We both said a delighted ‘Yes please.’ She instructed us to go home and wash our hands first. It was the first time I ever saw such magic, rather concerned that all the little people in the box might escape and cause me harm.

By the time I met Tony again he had found Jesus, via the nurses in hospital. My parents, in spite of mother’s Christian upbringing- her grandfather Walker earned the nickname ‘Pius Walker’, his house on the market square being called ‘Perseverance House’ – were at best agnostic. So I would have none of this.

As a pre school child, and until my father’s terminal accident when I was 10, our only holidays were going back to my parent’s birth place and relatives in North London. It was an area then with many bomb sites, poverty and slums.  Unfortunately, even as a young child I was too questioning.

My father was one of the first, if not the first cockney to set up home in Winslow.  He was an outsider, who as a regular soldier aged 21, survived wounding at the fiasco of Dunkirk- after which Churchill sacked his commander Gort because Gort refused to fight to and kill the last man.

I could read before I went to school. So I read a poster on the Post Office wall while my mother was signing her family allowance book. It featured a mushroom cloud with something about the H Bomb. There were also stacks of pamphlets advertising careers in the army and navy,

When I went next door to my aunt Flo Cripps’s house I asked what an H bomb was, I learned the worst. That is when she told me about the Americans bombing Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

She told me that a local man named Bamsey had been a prisoner of war with the Japanese. When he came back home he was a bag of bones, so the Japanese deserved the nuclear bomb.  

So having survived two years of infant classes behind the iron school railings, with all the hard knocks of being bullied by the bigger boys, knocked over onto the hard playground many times, I made it into Standard One, the first junior class hosted by the feared Miss ‘Polly Parrot’ Green.

Miss ‘Polly Parrot’ Green as sketched by me during one of her lessons in 1957. Those were the days of ink wells and wooden desks with hinged lids and little spaces for our stuff. I never understood why I won so many art competitions while I was at secondary school though my teacher Mrs Taylor was inspirational in many ways- yet again I am ahead of my story.

The Christian religion was then the backbone of Winslow’s social order.  Locally Lord Addington ranted about the dangers of the 1870 State Education Act, emphasising the need for bible teaching to be its mainstay.

So it came to pass that we sang ‘All things bright and beautiful all creatures great and small, all things wise and wonderful. The Lord God made them all, the rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate, God made them high or lowly and ordered their state.’

The impact of two world wars made many ordinary people doubt the love and power of God for good.  Other more earthly powers had been seen at work, captured and recorded on film and tape for future generations. The power of science had been revealed awesomely.  The days of religious propoganda and simplistic explanations for life and death on earth were in doubt.  

When my infant class teacher. Miss Cole, told us about dying and going to heaven, I wondered why I could not just get into an aeroplane like the Comet IV jet airliner and be flown there right away.

However, rural people were slow to change. The majority deferred to their betters , always voting Tory, crediting Churchill for defeating Hitler rather than wondering why Hitler came to power in the first place.

And so it still was when I entered Standard One.  Polly Green was one of God’s finest warriors. So, one day in the autumn of 1957, Polly was sat high on her perch, in front of her old stately wooden desk, her hard leather wrinkled face topped by a pile of grey curls to rival Marge Simpson.

That morning, after playtime, Miss Green was telling our class about how the Bible was written. Maybe I was the only one listening.  I noticed the girls always acted like angels, never noisy, looking pretty, ribbons in their hair. She was talking about ancient parchments and tablets being dug up in what she called, in softening respectful tones, ‘The Holy Land.’

As she spoke imperiously ex cathedra like The Pope , her beady brown eyes squinted and scanned the young subjects.  Thin unpainted lips were pursed while she shared the secrets of the holy book, a grim black bulging copy of which lay under her gnarled 70 plus year old left hand.. I listened very carefully while she told us how all of this wisdom was excavated 2000 years earlier, then turned into a book telling us all about our creation and about what is right and wrong.

When she had finished, I cautiously raised my tiny young hand. A runnel of tension curled excitingly in my stomach.  She looked down like a bewigged old judge out of touch with my lowly reality.  ‘What do you want Cook. No you cannot go to the toilet. You should have done at play time.’  ‘No miss, please miss, I want to ask a question.’

‘Question, question, I never said anyone could ask questions. I am telling you the word of God. There are no questions.’ she squawked. Her old unmade up face was going red.  What you saw with this tiny woman was what you got.  That is why I liked her, and she fascinated me.  I still feel the same about her.  She was inspirational.

‘But miss, I don’t understand.  ‘When I was young’ – I felt very old after being shut in this horrible Victorian style building for two years; the Sheep Street National School opened in 1903 and Miss Green looked as if she had worked their since day one.  ‘Young, young, what do you mean. Do you think you are more than a little boy?’ Then with an evil smirk, she leaned back in her high chair, deciding to give me enough rope to hang myself, I suspect.  This gargoyle of a woman was her own truth.

Undeterred, I followed my childish logic. ‘I used to bury my toys in the garden. I used to read Noddy books.  I believed in Noddy.  Does that mean that if I buried my Noddy books in the garden, then there was a big nuclear war, and in 2000 years time the survivors dug up my Noddy books that they would believe in Noddy.?’

Polly was parrot by nickname and a bird by nature.  She swept down from her perch, her red cardigan flapping open, baggy blue cotton dress billowing behind her, beak of a nose pink with blood pressure, sensible shoes making her sure of foot.

To me she was more vulture than parrot.  It was not as if I had not been warned by my sister and her friends who had passed through her wrinkled grasp before me.

So like a vulture she swept me up from my little wooden seat, claws on my skinny shoulders and flew me out of the room. ‘Stand there, don’t move you horrible little boy.  I will see to you later.’ Bare legs trembling, fighting back tears, I stood like a guard at Windsor Castle.

‘Polly’s classroom door opened into the school’s only corridor. Its walls were gloss cream painted brick, no plaster, no faking niceness. Just past the headmaster’s door, on the end wall, a big clock tick tocked.

Always a nervous child, I had yet to master the skill of reading time. Standing there, legs quaking wondering what I had done and what punishment to expect, time stood still for me.

Then at last I heard the bell ring, I heard the scraping of little chairs over the rough splintery unvarnished parquet floor, squawked commands, then the door flung open. Children scuttled past me, girls first as always. Then for long moments time stopped once more.

At last out came ‘Polly Parrot’ beady evil eyes looking me up and down, twelve inch ruler in hand.  Not a word was spoken, Swiftly she bent down, aiming the springy wood at my little bare legs. There were scabs on my knees from where big boys had pushed me over for laughs so many times.

My long grey socks were down around my ankles, making my calves a softer target. I looked at the pile of grey curls, smelt her well soaped body, then felt the sting as she slashed at my legs in her biblical frenzy.  Still not a word was spoken. Up she got, turned on her sensible flat heeled shoes, scuttling back into her cave.  

I was too surprised to cry. So many years later, I am grateful for that valuable lesson she gave me.  There would be many more lessons and teachers, but that was more than six of the best.  She was very religious ruler.

Chapter Four Fun in those Days

Les Brazier outside the Bell Garage in Sheep Street 1963.

I always dreaded being old.  My father was 41 when he died in great pain.  Mother said he was over the moon when I was born on a cold winter’s day in December 1950.  

Every birthday she told me the same story of how, in the early hours of December 6th, he skated on frozen ground his way up Sheep Street, High Street, Avenue and Park Road to rouse Nurse Rolfe, a distant relation on her side of the family.  

The street lights went out at midnight in those days so he did it all in the dark.  Traffic was scarce and we poor folk had no telephones.

Born during the so called ‘hour of the wolf ‘ in the upstairs front room of number 21, apparently I refused to breath and Doctor Murphy had to be called urgently.  

A bowl of cold water and smack on the bottom did the trick. So I have been here ever since, though it has been touch and go. As with all of us, my time will soon come.  ‘All things are bounded and temporal as one of Winslow’s old vicars, Rev H. I. I. Denny said long ago.  ( see ‘The Book of Winslow by Robert Cook ).

Relieved to hear me crying for the first of many times, there was celebration, though dad would soon be back behind the wheel of his old lorry.

My passion for cars and trucks came from my dad’s work as a lorry driver and truck mechanic, skills learned during life in the army. I grew up with the smell of diesel and petrol, riding in my father’s brick lorry along with the rest of the family at weekends and in school holidays.

My school boy sketch of my dad’s brick lorry waiting to pick us up for a summer time excursion into the ever expanding house building sites of South Bucks in the 1950s. We never knew until the night before where we were going.  The most exciting place was Hayes in Middlesex, close to Heathrow Airport.  If dad had enough spare miles he would park by the airport’s boundary fence so I could watch the airliners landing and taking off. That was when I saw the world’s first jet airliner, the DH Comet.

I admired my father’s trade so much, I could not wait to grow up and drive a brick lorry of my own. He had built me a soap box cart complete with braking system when I was about 8 years old. So in my mind it was a brick lorry.  That was when I decided I wanted more carts and to build my own.  They would be a fleet with numbers on.

When dad was building his chicken houses and chicken runs in the garden, he dug down to get some sand to mix cement, passing through clay.  He explained it all too me. So when he had finished, I dug holes, dug out the clay, made cubes which I left to bake in the sun. (Read my book ‘Bucks Bricks’.}

Then I loaded them on my cart, got a neighbour’s boy to push me into town delivering my bricks in people’s front gardens. My father soon closed my brickyard down because he and mother kept tripping over all the little holes in the garden.

The Bell Garage at the top of Sheep Street, just before the High Street was another wonderful place for me.  The proprietor was Les Brazier, a farmer’s son who loved engines more than farming.  There were all sorts of cars there, filling up with petrol or being mended.

I interviewed Les in 2000.  He told me:  ‘I bought the Bell Garage in 1952. At one time it had been run by the Bell Hotel.  I bought it off Peter Curtiss who carried on working for me.  I remember we had an old Hillman Minx down the side of the garage.  Peter said we ought to start it up so we could sell it.  We got a battery and turned it over.  No good, so we poured some petrol down the air cleaner.  All of a sudden it backfired, caught the can of petrol alight that was in Peter’s hand.  He threw it in the road right in front of a man riding his bike.  Lucky it didn’t hit him, but we did get it started.

‘We were right on the main road which was often busy.  Mr Wigley- a prominent auctioneer and land agent- senior used to drive across the Market Square to get petrol.  We’d stand there directing him.  He was very deaf and would sit in the middle of the road in this old Austin 10.  By the time he’d got it in gear there was something coming, so we’d shout ‘Stop’ and he’d say ‘You said go’.

‘He’d ring up a night or two later and say ‘Mr Brazier, would you come over, the car’s in the rose bushes. ‘ He’d had one too many.  We’d go over to Steeple Claydon and we’d get it out.  We had some fun in those days.  Cars were still pretty basic.  There was no unleaded petrol.  You were mostly taking the heads off the engines and replacing the valves.  Not many cars did more than 40 mph.’

There was no breath testing in the good old days and few road accidents to my knowledge. I remember a BBC personality living locally, I think his name was McDonald Bailey, killed with his wife driving home to Winslow in about 1957, near Shipton. He lost control of his Austin car at the top of No’rs Hill. But with increasing traffic there was worse to come.

Winslow had its own police station in Station Road, run by Sergeant Barringham. He had one grim black police car for himself and driver. The rest of his large team rode bicycles.

The worst crime I recall back then was when the local school was burgled, the thief taking a stop watch and starting gun, God knows what for. The magistrates court adjoined the police station, overseen by Captain Micklem.  When the session was over he would adjourn to the Bell. Micklem had a tin leg.

Interviewing local deli owner Maurice Newman for the Aylesbury Plus newspaper, back in the 1980s, Maurice told me that local Tory stalwart Captain Micklem was his CO in wartime Oxford, beds and Bucks light infantry.  I said ‘Oh yes, he was a war hero, lost his leg.’  

Maurice laughed. ‘He lost his leg fooling around with a rifle, drunk in the barracks one night, shot himself.’  Obviously I found that hard to believe, but who knows, as a local top cop once said to me!  There is no doubt the Micklems were prominent, and all families have their troubles.

Those were the days when the fledgling TV advertisements promoted drinking with ditties like ‘Guiness, Guiness gives you strength.’  The town had nine pubs in the 1950s, counting some members of the local constabulary among their regulars.

Getting ahead of my story again, I recall serving drinks to Barringham’s successor, then staggering Sergeant Gilchrist, at a local dance in 1971.  He was in the company of equally inebriated Dr Patrick Murphy. As a matter of interest, the good doctor had served in the merchant marine on the Russian convoys during World War Two.

When Doctor Murphy wanted lunchtime relaxation he had a problem.  There were no secretaries or answer phone at Norden House.  He explained to me, during an interview for the ‘Aylesbury Plus’ newspaper: ‘I would ring up Mr Carpenter- a retired chimney sweep- at Winslow Telephone Exchange and maybe say: “Mr C, I’m off to the Folly for half an hour.  Let me know if any urgent calls come in.”  He would often reply: “I suggest the Shoulder of Mutton, doctor, most of your friends are there.” ‘ 

Chapter Five Just the Ticket

  • M Cain started his bus company with his brother and uncle in the early 1920s but was forced out of London when London buses were nationalised into London Transport.  Here is one of Red Rover’s ex London Transport buses in Winslow High Street, being driven by Mr Howlett, the man who founded Acclaim Travel with his wife Grace Durham who can be seen chatting with him in this late 1950s picture ( Grace Durham. The Red Rover Story by Robert Cook )

The word omnibus means for all. The word was shortened to bus, but buses have never been for all.  Buses were intended for the workers. Railway trains also used to be affordable for the lower orders, even if they had to travel third class.

These days the nationalised railways have been given back, rather than sold to private capitalists by the locally admired Tory Government. Ticket prices have soared for the commuter market from dormitory towns, better off locals driving their BMWs at break neck speed to Milton Keynes and Aylesbury stations for well paid jobs in other town and Londons.  

These high paid folk have pushed house prices through the roof while council houses have been sold off at a song, then re sold at vast profit.

I made my loathing for Thatcher clear during my time teaching in a Tory dominated school in Aylesbury and in my work as a journalist for the Aylesbury Plus.

I was the Winslow reporter and Junius columnist ridiculing and exposing the incompetence and corrosive political correctness of Bucks County Councils Education service- a service so awful that I had to expose Chief Education Officer Steven Sharpe for sending his 12 plus failure daughter to school out of County in Oxfordshire’s comprehensive system.  

He told the reporter I sent to photograph and interview him, ‘My wife decides these things.’  That sounds rather like local MP John Bercow’s lame excuse for saying the anti Brexit sticker was on his car for being his wife’s car, even though it was in the House of Commons car park.

I first encountered Labour Parliamentary candidate Bob Maxwell when his glamorous entourage visited my uncle and aunt’s house in 1959.  They ran the Labour Party Committee rooms at 23 Sheep Street.  Maxwell shocked the well to do by winning the seat against Tory grandee Sir Frank Markham in 1964.  

Class is not just a Winslow thing.  It is a British thing. Feminism, anti racism and diversity are smokescreens.  Thatcherism killed old Labour. Now, with Brexit, the country is supposedly confused. That is nonsense. Our elite are just trying to fool us into thinking a deal where we stay in the union with no MEPs to represent and cause upset is actually Brexit.  Believe that you will believe anything.

We hear too much about diversity in Britain, a euphemism for fragmentation. Two twentieth century world wars accelerated technology, though the profits have not been shared with the ordinary fold who did and still do the fighting.  

Winslow Station, (sketched by the author), on Thomas Brassey’s 1851 old Oxford to Cambridge line, crucial during World War Two, derelict in 1985 abandoned after being used as a workshop in the 1970s.  

The line was closed by order of Minister of Transport Oxbridge graduate Barbara Castle, a lady who knew so little about transport that she could not even drive a car- see ‘The Richard Crossman Diaries’.  Castle mentored Jack Straw, another Labour high flyer.

It amazes me how Dr Beeching gets the blame for closing the line in 1967, the year they started building Milton Keynes.  That is politicians for you.  When I interviewed the last chairman of British Rail, Sir John Reid, for a magazine, he told me that Prime Minister John Major was clueless about railways, just wanting to privatise something like his heroine millionaire’s wife Thatcher, and British Rail was one of the few things left to do that with.

In its heyday Winslow’s station connected the town to the West Coast mainline, East Anglia, Oxford, and Banbury.  Castle ended all that- not Beeching.

Epilogue Hope and Illusions

R J Saunders shop in Winslow High Street. 1956. Reg was also a part time fireman.  Conveniently for him, they built the new fire station opposite this building, which was his home and shop. The new fire station featured an old air raid siren on top to alert the crew who might be at home or work all over the little town. Saunders sold my dad his bicycle, which I still have.  Best of all, he sold Dinky Toys and Hornby railways. Bert Small the barber was next door. I hated the barbers so mum always bribed me with a Dinky toy to get my hair cut.  The money for the toy usually came froma  rebate when the gas man counted the money in our gas meter.

Two twentieth century world wars were all about empires and greed of the interbred European ruling elites.  While lecturing in political history at Aylesbury College of Further Education in the early 1980s, many students didn’t like hearing this and complained. A lot were feminist social worker types, improving career prospects doing evening A level classes. Too bad, the truth always hurts and the comfortable and ignorant do not like it.

On the plus side, for all the mass slaughter and misery, science, technology and manufacturing moved forward apace.  

Televison was first broadcast in 1936.  Twenty years later H Shaped TV aerials popped up on chimney pots all over town.

My Uncle Charlie Cripps next door to us had more money because he had already had the first of his terrible accidents on a building site. So we used to go next door, sitting on his sofa to see the world through the little screen front of the big Pye television set that had cost him a lot of money.  

Bricklayer, Uncle Charlie loved his television, especially Tommy Cooper’s show, always keeping up to date.  Leaving school unable to read and write, he had a sad life.  I recall him telling me how good an impressionist Tommy Cooper was.  He said:  ‘When he puts on a policeman’s helmet, he looks just like a policeman.’  Charlie painted water colours.

The black and white 405 line system of 1956 was not so clear as you can imagine if you were not there.  But it was better than the old static images of the so called magic lantern given to me by the Lambournes on the opposite side of Sheep Street- along with my first grown up brass bedstead bed, because they were getting rid of stiff before moving to the council houses. Winslow was a self supporting community in those days.

We got our own TV set in 1957, installed by a team led by ex field promoted army officer and radio expert Arthur Adkins, uncle to one of my best ever friends Steven- we went off to university together after being club and county athletes together. Steven was a runner of world class potential, but that is another story. He was also my rival in many ways, as we were aspiring intellectuals. He once told me how much he enjoyed talking to me.  

When I asked him why, he smoothly replied:  ‘Because you are so ignorant.’  We were about 17 at the time, in the back seat of a car, on the way to compete in the National Cross Country Championships.  He was reading Samuel Butler’s ‘Erewohn’ at the time. Like ‘Polly’ my friend was inspirational.  

This was the 1950s and early 60s in small town Winslow. I was a kid who still made model aeroplanes and played with his model railway. I took my Uncle Charle’s empty beer bottles back to the ‘Nag’s Head’ get full ones, collecting the deposit for me to save and buy more track for my railway.  So I was indeed ignorant. Steven’s contempt inspired my interest in literature.

Back to the main story, for the masses, it was television that was shaping the new consciousness.  As Winslow moved into the 1960s TV drama, pop music and news were re shaping the world and Winslow.  Moralising Dixon of Dock Green and Sunday Night at the London Palladium with leggy sequined tight wearing Tiller Girsl opening the show, for a fianle with the likes of Gracie Fields and Shirley Bassey were fading TV interests, fuddy duddy and shows of the past.

Britain’s empire was in decline and the local newspaper brought us the thrilling story of local hero Gunner Chowles fighting a rearguard against Aden’s Moslem rebels.  

The world was changing.  My father was still listening to his record player, probably the first home built stereo in town, buying his records form Hallahans, another TV and radio shop fronted by Miss Andrews, on land now occupied by Elmfield Gate’s road exit on to High Street.

My father was dying then, along with the old ways of Winslow, all the cow shit he hated getting lesser everyday. No more grumpy old Jack Hone, McQuordale’s man putt putting up Sheep Street on his high old Fordson tractor stinking out the street with clouds of tractor vapourising oil-  TVO as we nerds call it.

Stan Blake, my mother’s cousin- her aunt Violet Cripps married spiv, con man and travelling salesman Barney Blake- up from Kent , sitting on a farm machine by the iron railings of Winslow School.  

The school was a place I hated.  The picture was taken c1930. Winslow Hall’s roof can be seen peeking over the hedge in the background.  The school’s outside toilets are visible left.  There was no full roof, so boys used to compete to see who could project their urine highest over the wall on to the playground. This was another sport I failed at.  The standard was high, one boy managing to drench the deputy headmasters, Jim Hall’s head with his jet. The school was sold off in the early 1990s for luxury housing,

When I started at Winslow School, the leaving age was 14. Those who passed the 11 plus transferred to grammar schools, as my clever sister did. She and I were never close so I have few memories of her there, other than teachers telling me that I was nowhere near as clever as her. On the plus side, the headmaster was an ex soldier Norman Bevan, a man from a wider world than Winslow.  

The school was not the same after Bevan left to head the new secondary modern school at the other end of town and village school master Arthur Chapman took over with his rather snobbish wife being my last teacher before I left aged 11. The school also lost a good deputy head, Jim Hall.

Jim Hall, a severe looking man with slicked down hair, thanks to Brylcream, was another ex army man and a stickler for PE. Our school had no playground, so until the secondary modern school was built we used to trek up the Little Horwood Road, then climb over old grey rotting wooden style by the double bend, walk down the footpath where the cycle way and Elmfields are today, to the old long gone recreation ground to play cricket.

This was every Friday afternoon from May to September, excepting holidays and I hated it.  Being on the receiving end of a hard wooden ball, with  aheavy bat to defend poorly coordinated self, was not my idea of fun.

The secondary school changed all that.  We were going to play football for the first time.  Jim gave us a briefing in the school canteen hut.  He said it was important to stick to our positions.  At the time my father was supposedly but not recovering from his failed operation, so he had no wages. Wanting to look the part, mum persuaded Uncle Charlie to buy the boots from Hilton’s shoe shop, along with socks and shin pads.

Off we went, two by two like the animals boarding Noah’s Ark. The new school at the end of Avenue Road looked amazing as we went through the front gate. Dividing us into teams, Jim- whistle around his neck- organised us in positions. Probably because I could at least run fast, I was near the middle where a circle was marked at the centre of the pitch. That was the half way line dividing the team ends.  

One sharp burst from Jim’s whistle and we were off. Well everyone was off except me as I had no idea what was going on.  We did not play football in Sheep Street.

Apart from me, the boys were very excited, calling out to each other, slipping over, desperate to get the heavy leather ball then kick it between the goal posts.  Boys got peer group respect this way.

At half time there was lots of gasping, laying down and rubbing calf muscles and excited chatter involving all except me. The field sloped quite steeply, so my team did a bit better when we changed ends- though still losing.  I did not care, never understanding the passion of football and its supporters.  I have never watched Winslow United play.

So at the end of the match Jim called to the boys, ‘Come on, gather round Cook. Now, look at his feet.  He hasn’t even got his boots dirty.  Little angelic me just looked up into his red seemingly angry face and said: ‘But Sir, you did tell us to stick to our positions.’ Instead of getting my class mates to laugh at me, they laughed at Jim.

The country may then have had hopes and illusions about its future, but after Bevan left so did any hopes I ever had.  As for illusions, I had none by that time.  New headmaster’s wife Mrs Chapman, my last teacher, made it quite clear she thought I was thick. Her glasses were Dame Edna Everidge style, her cheeks chubby, giving the impression that she was always smiling, though often rather nasty. She was the only other teacher at that school to hit me. I don’t recall why, probably for talking out of turn.  

I remember Chapman dragging me from my seat, pushing me tumbling between rows of wooden desks, then tugging, in a rage, directing me to her classroom door, slapping my head from side to side as she pushed me out.

Teachers had a licence to hit, some of them obviously enjoyed it.  There was something very Dickensian about that old school, teachers attitudes and the smell of wood and cheap ink from the ink wells in every pupils desks.

As for hopes, growing up in poverty and hardship at the bottom of the Winslow pile, I never had illusions or delusions.  I have none now.  

As for Britain, the Brexit con and fiasco says it all.  This is a new and sinister age of elite control and censorship. Little Winslow is not an island, but some of its people live in a bubble.  Criticism is a dirty word as far as the elite and vested interests are concerned.

One of my most disturbing memories of Winslow is the workhouse.  There is an old peoples’ home built on the site now. Years ago we used to see a trail of old men and women walking holding hands like school children, all down the High Street, Sheep Street, Little Horwood Road.

They walked out every Saturday and Sunday afternoon, like little children, innocent smiling faces, except the one mum called Albert who had no friend’s hand to hold.  He followed up behind. We saw them always on Sundays while walking ‘Prince’ down to let him lose in a field by the railway bridge a mile out of town. Prince enjoyed those moments of freedom, as we all do.

Though of clean and tidy appearance, their clothes were unusual, men with stiff winged collars to their shirts, double breasted suits, turn ups and brogues, women in floral dresses and flapper style hats from the 1920s.  

Self important Dr Rudd and lay preacher wrote a patronising pamphlet for his audience of admirers.  It was apparently about his role as medical officer for these sad old folk who lived in the workhouse.  Rudd made no mention of why those people were in there.  The women had been sent there when young and troublesome to parents who lived in a religious snobbish hypocritical England.  Rudd made no mention of young girls put in that horrible place because, oh dear, they had babies out of wedlock.

They never saw those babies. One of my many arguments with Norman Saving, probably the worst, was when I told him I would tell the tale of the young Turney girl, , aged 19, condemned to death for drowning her baby in Granborough Brook in 1924- the year my late mother was born.  

I told him the story would be in ‘The Book of Winslow’ (1989).  He told me that I was displaying my tabloid journalist mentality. One did not have to be Sherlock Holmes to work out the backstory.  This poor girl, described in the vulture like press, as having a mental age of 12, had been in service with a wealthy family in Guildford- the master of the house a wealthy powerful man. This little country is all about class.

Local history and its exponents talk amongst themselves and for themselves.  I am not a local historian, but am Winslow born just after a murderous world war and now living in a crazy dangerous complex age.  Human instincts are ultimately religious, reproductive, selfish, superstitious, fearful and ultimately animal.  Those instincts will out, however strong the boxes. Even coffins rot away.

My old sketch of McQuoradale’s obseqious brown coated estate manager Jack Hone astride his Fordson tractor, taken from my book ‘Before the Supremacy of the Motorcar’ 1982, That memoir of mine pictures him at what is now the entrance to Elmfields Housing Estate.

Looking back on my first schooldays, three women were definitive.  Miss Cole, the wonderful innocent infant teacher, Miss Green, a woman of her own truth and justice, and Mrs Chapman, a toady to the local class system who influenced me in unintended ways. Winslow is fertile ground for narrow minds.

As a child I remember tramps coming round to our back door, hoping to have their ‘billy cans’ filled and maybe a few scraps of food. Life at the bottom of Winslow’s pile, was hard for me and others, but worse for those tramps. Poverty is relative.

Snobbery was rife in Winslow and still exists. Their are two kinds of snob, the ones who look up to their ‘betters’- inverted snobs as my mother called them- and those who look down on their inferiors.  That order was reinforced by church and school.

Deprivation with all of its humiliations and insecurities is difficult.  For me the most moving words ever written about Winslow were found inscribed on a wall in Winslow Workhouse:

‘Of all sorts of business

The cadgers are the best;

Because when he is tired ,

He can sit down and rest

Here lies a poor beggar

Life always tired,

For he lived in a world

Where too much is required.

Friends grieve not for me,

That death is severe;

For I am going to do nothing

For ever and ever,

Poor old M is dead and gone,

He’s gone to a place

Where there is no breaking up stone.’

R J Cook May 21st 2019