Geoff & Phyllis Brooks came to Crawley End in 1964 and left in 1976 when they moved to the Yorkshire dales. The cottage referred to below is the right hand end of Mapletons, and is where Lil and Tubal Flack lived before moving to Pinkeneys, the bungalows in Crawley End.
Pam’s Memories of Nanny (Lil Flack)
About a year or so after Pam was born, a row of Old People’s bungalows was completed, forming one side of a small cul-de-sac about two hundred yards north of where we lived. With some difficulty, Nan’s family persuaded her to take one of them and the time came when she and Tubal said a sad goodbye to the almost derelict picturesque cottage in which they had lived since they married. But their bungalow had the best position of all for Tubal and Lil. It was the last of the short row of six and beyond it there were the open arable fields of Essex.
Behind the bungalow was room for a small lawn and border and behind it was a footpath which led to the fields. Gates for all the bungalows gave them a convenient back way for walking out to the fields or to the road and the village. There was a smaller front garden, soon set with roses and a patch of grass. But most important of all, there was an extra piece of garden at the end, between the house and the field, which Tubal soon turned into a vegetable plot. The first season he was producing potatoes, carrots, peas, beans and greens which were as good as any in the village and better than most. He also found room for some flowers for Lil to cut and have in the house.
Pam’s memories of Nan start with their home in this bungalow. What follows are some of her own recollections as a small child.
These are somewhat disconnected memories, being a series of impression that have remained with me since I was a very small child and spent so much time with Nanny. One of my earliest memories is of the red and white calendar in the kitchen and the look, smell and taste of the Carnation sweet, sticky, condensed milk. Another is of Nanny at our house doing the washing in our twin tub. Her sleeves were rolled back over her thin arms and bony elbows and she went from dipping in the tub to hanging out the clothes on the umbrella clothes line outside. Back at the house I remember Tubal doing the football pools and eagerly checking the scores on Saturday afternoon. Nanny always seemed to be doing something like brushing the hearth or getting a meal ready. But nothing was rushed or hasty. I remember a prevailing feeling of contentment and never felt the need to have any toys.
Nanny would talk to me most of the time, telling stories of when she was young and going back to when she was a little girl. She spent a lot of her time working in the fields and I loved the stories of hay making when the children would play on the hay and ride back to the farm on top of the pile of hay on the wooden haywain, drawn by a large and strong farm horse. We had a small transistor radio with an earplug, on which I used to hear ‘Listen with Mother’. I also used to watch Bob Langley on TV on Pebble Mill at One. I thought he was wonderful, but Nanny was never interested in the telly.
As I grew a bit older, I got bolder, like any young child. I began jumping off a chair, though repeatedly told not to. I insisted, being free of the discipline of home, and then I cracked my head on the corner of the old dresser. I remember bawling my head off and being covered it seemed with oodles of blood. I was wrapped in a blanket and carried home by either Bryan or Barry, one of Nanny’s grandsons.
Nanny also did some childminding of Katy, the daughter of a couple who lived in one of the modernised thatched houses, down Broad Green – a byroad of the village. We were great friends, but revelled in the freedom of Nanny’s to do thing we would not have risked at home. We picked up cigarette stubs from the garden and pretended to smoke the m until Nanny saw us and scolded us telling us it was dirty. On one occasion, Katy pushed her head through the railings in the front gate and got it stuck. I tried to help but I couldn’t make her see how to twist her head to get it out. So I put my head through the railings as well to show her. Then we were both stuck and they had to send for the Fire Brigade. This moved us to greater efforts and with some help we got our heads out before the Fire Brigade arrived.
Katy too found the atmosphere secure and comforting and we spent a lot of time curled up together on the wooden-armed settee, Kate with her ‘comfort’ – a bit of fluffy cloth – and me with my thumb in my mouth and sometimes my white teddy. Once a week I went on the bus with Nanny to go shopping in Saffron Walden – always called Walden by Nanny. I don’t remember anything about the shopping, but I do remember that on the way back we always got off the bus at a green semi-detached house in the hamlet of Littlebury Green to see Nanny’s brother and sister who lived next door to each other. I loved sitting with Nanny on the bus and loved the visit to Aunt Flo. Not only was the house green, but the grass around it seemed more expansive and greener than anywhere else. We had cake and tea – Nanny said that Aunt Flo, who used to help at the nearby Hall, could cut bread and butter thinner than anyone in England. I loved the visits and the gossip. However, the most fascinating thing was the weather vane on a short pole in the garden. This not only showed the direction of the wind, but had windmill sails which worked a little man who was chopping wood. When the wind blew freshly the simple machinery whirred wonderfully and he chopped furiously.
I have other memories, too, of a more intimate kind. Sometimes I stayed late and Nanny put me to bed or occasionally I stayed the night – as a child would at its Grandparents. Nanny put a brick on the hearth in front of the fire and then wrapped it in a small flannelette sheet before putting it in the bed to warm it. When I stayed the night, I remember watching Nanny as she got undressed and into her long flannelette nightie. She was slim and elegant – even creating an impression on a two to three year old child. She took her hat off to sleep. I used to watch as she brushed her shoulder-length hair and put it in a pony tail for sleeping. I think she brushed her hair with a hundred strokes every night. Sometimes later, when Barry had left and got married, there was a spare bedroom. But I don’t remember sleeping in it. I slept in bed with Nanny. Where was Tubal? I really can’t be sure. I know that he did not get changed whilst I was in the room, but I think he came back to sleep. My vague recollection is that I slept in the middle with Tubal on the right and Nanny on the left. But he may have slept in the spare room later when it was available.
Other intimate memories are of washing Jill’s – Barry’s wife’s – back in the bath. She was very pretty and very curvy. I also remember later helping to change Jan’s baby’s nappy – Jan was the third youngest of the grandchildren and I was very fond of her. The only time I felt the need to be on best behaviour was when we went along the road to Nan’s daughter Win. Win was fussy and particular – I don’t remember being told to behave differently, but I could sense it in Nanny’s manner, and took my cue from her. Back home at Nan’s, I also had a special friendship with Tubal. He would leave Nan to entertain me most of the time, but when she was busy, he would put me on his knee and tell me stories. I was fascinated with his pipe – and with the smell of pigs which lingered when he came back from feeding them. As I grew older and went to school, I brought my friends along just as I would if she had been my own grandmother. It wasn’t that there were exciting things to do or to play with. It was the atmosphere of welcome and security. It was ‘just being’.
Postscript: when Geoff, Phyllis and Pam moved away Nan insisted on making the journey to Yorkshire for a few days because she couldn’t rest until she had satisfied herself they were all settled in their new home. It was probably the furthest Nan had ever been from Chrishall.