June 2022 Books Monthly Review of books and stories magazine - on the web 24 years...
  books monthly
     A series of essays on growing up in the 1950s - 1960s


Editor's note: I've split the Growing Up page into several different chapters which you can access by clicking on the links in the list below. Previous "Growing Up" articles which you can access from the panel on the right:

The next update of this page will be in the July issue...

I was born Paul Edmund Norman on Friday 13th September 1946, at number 72 Boverton Drive, Brockworth, Gloucester in the county of Gloucestershire. The district nurse who delivered me, at 8lbs, 10 ounces, was Nurse Doyle, and she told my mother that she believed I might be a German baby, because of my square head. (Germans were known as "square heads" during WWII because of the shape of the infantrymen's helmets. Although there were no German prisoners-of-war in Brockworth, there were Italian prisoners-of-war in a camp of Nissen huts immediately backing onto our rear garden at number 72, although in the year I was born, those prisoners-of-war had been released; many went back to Italy, some remained in Brockworth and elsewhere in Gloucester. I was anything a genuine English "baby boomer", probably the result of my parents' celebrations the previous Christmas...

My nuclear family at the time of my birth comprised...  Mum, Dad, Sister Jean; Gran (Mum's Mum, Uncle John, Uncle Ernie, Great Uncle Ernie, Great Aunt Grace, Uncle Bill, Aunt Grace, Cousins Brian and Peter; Uncle Leslie, Aunt Grace; Uncle Eddie, Aunt Joyce and Aunty Cicely, Mum's older sister, all living in Brockworth or other villages nearby in Gloucestershire. In Hornchurch: Aunty Florrie, Uncle Stan, Cousin Colin; in Rainham: Aunty Ivy, Uncle George, Cousins Eileen and Sylvia; also in Hornchurch, Uncle Leopold; in South London somewhere: Aunty Doris, Uncle Ernie. Other cousins came along at various intervals, but this is the family I was later made aware of who existed at the time of my birth. For the first couple of years of my life, obviously, it was just Mum, Dad, Jean, Gran, Uncle John and Uncle Ernie. London family members may have visited, but I would not have been aware of them. It didn't even occur to me then that I had only one Grandma, Mum's Mum, and no grandfathers. I would later come to regret not realising this, as I would have asked Dad more questions, certainly; it's only recently, when we started to compile our family trees, when all the older members of my family were dead, that I discovered the truth about my three missing grandparents - of which more later.

My earliest memory is one of terror: I remember standing up in my cot, I would have been maybe eight or nine months old, clinging to the rail, and screaming as monkeys climbed the wall on rop ladders. This may have coincided with my having contracted whooping cough, an illness that almost did for me; later, I was reliably informed that in the room in which I slept, there was a wallpaper frieze depicting various zoological animals, including monkeys.

My next most vivid memory is of sitting on the floor in the front room in the bay window of ouir three-bedroomed, semi-detached house, listening to the radio (probably Listen with Mother) and with a picture book, almost certainly one of the titles written and illustrated by Mable Lucie Attwell. I would have been around three years old. After that, memories come thick and fast: the terrifying ride up the road to Cranham Village School on a double decker Bristol Omnibus, clinging for dear life to one of the vertical poles near the bus entrance, holding on with the other hand to my sister Jean, five years older than me, and entrusted with getting me safely to the little school and its eighteen or so other pupils. I was four and a half years old when  I started school, and I loved it, but I was terrified of that bus journey, and always wished we could sit further inside the bus rather than on the seat that ran lengthways near the entrance. In those days, 1950, we started off with black slates and chalk to practise our writing skills. I survived, so I guess it must have been OK, although I didn't travel well on longer bus journeys, and often had to get off the bus to be sick, and then wait for the next bus to come along.

The Sunday morning walk up Green Lane to Coopers' Hill - I say walk, more often than not I would be riding my Triang tricycle and Dad would be pushing me with the handy tubular steel rod that could be attached to the boot of the trike. In the boot, some sandwiches and a bottle of Tizer. Once at the top of the hill, Mum and Dad would point out everything there was to be seen - the Gloster Aircraft Company factory with its extensive grounds, on which county cricket matches were often played; our house, clearly visible; the road to Cheltenham, the road to Painswick, the range of hills that marked the end of Gloucestershire and the beginnings of the next county to the north, Worcestershire marked out by the Malvern Hills. There was one other view that I knew of at that time, one that was marked as a viewing point, and that was a couple of miles further into the Cotswolds. Unparalleled. None of this would have meant much to me at that time, but I recall the Sunday walks. I recall also being looked after by my Gran, who lived in an identical house in the next street to ours, Boverton Avenue, where she lived with two of her seven children, Uncles John and Ernie. I remember sitting in her dining room, playing, usually with a toy car, and Uncle John coming home from work (or so I thought at the time), at lunchtime, bringing with him the dog from the pub just down the road from the Gloster Aircraft Factory, where he worked (or so I thought at the time). Rego was a massive Alsatian, tan and black, and I remember sitting under the dining table whilst Uncle John ate his lunch, and I would play with Rego - he was a gentle giant, and he was soft, and probably quite ferocious when he was guarding the pub - the Pine Tree, it was called, and I later found out that Uncle John was rarely actually at work, but spent most of his time helping out in the pub. He was a rogue when it came to work, but he was also a war hero, more so than my other uncles, who also served in the war, but there was no photo of them looking like Johnny Wingco, my favourite character from my favourite comic at the time, Knockout.

Uncle John and Uncle Ernie were lovely uncles, always ready to amuse me and to let me read the cartoon strips in the newspapers they read (Dad didn't approve of the Daily Mirror, but he wasn't there, so he couldn't stop me!). I also later found out that although Dad and Uncle John were best mates - Uncle John was best man at Mum and Dad's wedding; politically, they were poles apart. Gran kept house for  the two uncles - I was never sure if it was her house or theirs, but looking back it was probably hers, as until the middle of WW2, she was married, and I would have had a granddad, but he was no longer around. I have yet to find out what happened to him. There was also a seventh child of Gran's Bertie, but I understand that he died when he was two years old, so I never got to meet him either. Anyway, Gran and Granddad (both of Mum's parents) were staunch labour supporters, and held the weekly meetings of the local labour party in their house in Boverton Avenue. Our house, and three others, two opposite, one the same side of the road as ours, formed a circle, with a track going off North, and a similar track going South, through to the parallel road of Boverton Avenue. All the houses were identical, all three bedroomed villas with bay windows top and bottom. They were personalised, of course, with paintwork, and the gardens were all different. Ours was the biggest in the two roads, a fact of which I was immensely proud. The northern track went past the Nissen huts on the left and immediately into open countryside that led, ultimately, to the village of Churchdown, now the home of GCHQ. The southern track led ultimately to Ermin Street, the road that led from the Cotswolds to the city of Gloucester, through the villages of Hucclecote and Barnwood.

The small print: Books Monthly, now well into its 24th year on the web, is published on or slightly before the first day of each month by Paul Norman. You can contact me here. If you wish to submit something for publication in the magazine, let me remind you there is no payment as I don't make any money from this publication. If you want to send me something to review, contact me via email at paulenorman1@gmail.com and I'll let you know where to send it.


  In this issue:

  The Front Page

  Children's Books

  Fiction books

  Fantasy & Science Fiction

  Nonfiction Books

  The Silent Three

  The Four Marys


  Pen and Sword Books

  The Back Page

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