Autobiography Early Years

The Wonders of the Countryside

Wonders of the Countryside by Catherine PainOur time in London was coming to an end. My brother was still sickly and Mother was told that unless we went to live in the country he would not survive. Mother consulted Father and he agreed we should move. She went house-hunting and found an almost new bungalow to let in the country town of Rayleigh, only a few miles from Southend-on-Sea. It was close to the railway station so Father could travel up each day to The City. We were to move at the end of the summer term in 1936. I was the only one at school: Mary was four and Colin was three.

I was very happy at the prospect of leaving the hated London school and moving to the country. I have always liked change. Unlike most people, I believed that new meant better. This proved to be true. Moving to the country was as exciting as I thought it would be.

Mary and I both remember the day we moved from London. It was warm and sunny. The sunbeams shone through the uncurtained windows and flooded the bare floorboards with a shimmering light. It was strange to see the familiar furniture stacked up in piles. Our bedroom looked like an empty box. I was afraid our toys might get lost. I searched anxiously for a small blue doll’s comb. I never found it.

The van came to take our furniture away and we set off for the station. Mother’s deep wicker basket bearing our picnic, went with us.

The journey from London to Rayleigh seemed endless although it was only some thirty miles. At last we arrived. We walked the short distance from the station to Llanberis Avenue and found to our delight that the road was new and had not yet been made. Although there was a narrow concrete footpath at one side, the widest part was a stretch of earth and grass. What had been muddy ruts in the winter were now sun-hardened ridges like brown waves in a solid sea.

The van was already outside our new home, having bumped its way over the uneven surface. The bungalow was all ours. No-one else had the right to the key of our front door. We were thrilled by the veranda, a wooden porch that ran the length of the front of the house, The lavatory was outside. There was no bathroom. We would continue to take our weekly wash-downs in front of the fire in the old tin bath we were used to.

There were only four small rooms: two bedrooms, a living-room and a kitchen. The garden seemed long. By far the most exciting thing was the view from our front door. We faced an open field fringed with tall trees. We raced out to explore and for the first time in our lives we came face to face with blackberry bushes, tall grasses that harboured bright little jewels of wild flowers, elderberry trees and wild rose bushes.

Small white, blue and brown butterflies hovered and we could hear a faint chirping noise which we discovered came from grasshoppers. We had only ever seen such things on the back of cigarette cards.

The sense of freedom was overwhelming. We had come into a new kingdom of our own where we could wander at will, without supervision. Fields that had once been cultivated now lay fallow. The ridges made by the plough had hardened into waves and hollows, like the sea. We delighted in leaping across them as fast as we should go. We played at keeping house in the sun-dried ditches.

Mary and I spent all our time during the summer holidays exploring our new world.