Books Monthly
July 2024

It's quite a while since I wrote anything for thre back page, so I thought I would populate this page with short, snappy reminiscences of my early life. I've mentioned before, albeit a long time ago, that my earliest memory is of standing in my cot screaming my head off because the bedroom was full of chattering monkeys. They were climbing up the wall, and I believe I was around six months old. It turned out that there was a decorated frieze all around the walls of the bedroom which had pictures of farm and zoo animals on it. So the room was full of chattering monkeys, but then it actuallt wasn't. Fast forward to my eighth or ninth year, and although I must have been aware of this before, I was suddenly aware that the council estate up the road towards the roundabout junction with the Cheltenham Road and the Painswick Road, had on it, at the western end, a cinema.

It was a fleapit, and the films it showed were many months behind the films they were showing in the Odeon cinema in the city centre, in Southgate, as it then was. Anyway, we were the family in Brockworth who did not have a television set. In fact we went through the first fifteen years of my life in Brockworth without a television; Great Aunt Grace and Great Uncle Ernest had a television set, but they weren't very nice people. Let's put it this way, if Mum was unable to be home for when I got home from school, Great Aunt Grace and Great Uncle Ernest were bottom of the list of people she would ask to look after me until she got home, and there were, in descending order, my Gran, my Uncle Ernie, my Uncle John, My Aunty Cicely, my Uncle Owen, my Uncle Bill before you even reached the bottom of the list where Great Aunt Grace and Great Uncle Ernest sat. I do remember sitting on the floor watching The Lone Ranger and Robin Hood on their television, but only once, and we tended to steer clear of them mostly, I don't know why. You will gather from the above that my entire maternal family had decamped from London in 1938-1939 and moved to Brockworth, in Gloucestershire, where the vast majority of the menfolk worked for the Gloster Aircraft Factory which began in Brockworth and stretched all the way down to the next village, Hucclecote, where my Uncle Leslie and Aunt Grace and their seven children (including one set of twins) lived.

We often visited them and came away with carrier bags full of American comics in exchange for hand-me-down clothing my Mum had sent for the myriad children in the tiny little house they inhabited. So, up the road, on the council estate, there was a cinema, which anyone could patronise, you didn't have to be an estate resident. And with Sunday afternoons spent religiously listening to a radio programme called Movie-Go-Round, introduced by Peter Haigh, we were always up for a trip to the cinema. This wonderful building changed its programmes four times a week. Mondays & Tuesdays, Wednesdays & Thursdays, Fridays (Horror night) and Saturdays & Sundays - four different double-feature films complete with a cartoon and a Pathé Newsreel. Many weeks I went four times a week, especially when I was in my mid-teens and had a burgeoning appetite for horror films like The Fall of the House of Usher, and Dracula, for example. My uncle Owen worked in the boiler room at the rear of the cinema, and we would stop by and say hello to him - he was always covered from head to toe in soot, almost as though he worked down a coalmine. I saw many wonderful films at the fleapit, including The Dam Busters and Reach For The Sky, both starring my favourite actor of the time, Kenneth Moore. I also discovered the joys of Tarzan of the Apes of course, mostly featuring Lex Barker, one of my favourite screen Tarzans until Ron Ely and Miles O'Keefe showed how it really should be done. Many's the time I would find the paperback of the film I had seen the night before on the revolving rack in Mr Lees little post office down on Ermin Street where the bus stopped to take us to school. Happy days...

Happy reading!