Middleton’s Village Memories

10 Jun

I often browse ebay on the look out for some memorabilia on the Dig for Victory campaign or other and always find myself tapping in the name of ‘Mr Middleton’ to see what comes up.

He wrote several books and some were made up from the numerous talks he gave on the BBC radio. One of those books is called ‘Village Memories’ written 70 years ago in 1941. Again, it is a compilation of talks but this is about his experiences of life in a English village. I found the book on ebay for the princely sum of £2.00 and it is what it says, a really enjoyable account of village life during the Second World War. It arrived minus its dust jacket but on the inside front cover is glued an illustration that appears to be the front of the dust jacket. Back in the 30’s and 40’s it was common practice, from all accounts, to throw away the dust-jacket before adding it to your shelf. But someone has taken the time and trouble to paste this on the inside front cover?

In his introduction he wonders why ‘a damp, dilapidated, insanitary thatched cottage, with holes in the roof and low doorways which knock corners off your cranium, always thrills the artist and inspires the poet to burst into song, or the novelist to weave a love story around it ?’ He goes on to say ‘However, village life is not all love and romance, and in these short stories and observations l have merely attempted to afford a few brief glimpses of life as it was, and still is, and l hope will always be, in the heart of rural England.’

Under the chapter ‘This Transport Business’ he talks already about the roads not being what they were with too much pleasure driving, despite petrol being rationed! He talks of old ladies and retired colonels hogging the road. And to cap it all, he is only allowed to purchase 6 gallons a month! I wonder what he would make of the roads today?

So in desperation he turns to his bicycle as so many others did in those days…..

I have set up a bicycle. I must get about somehow, and l refuse to be beaten. After all, l used to cycle quite a lot, so it’s not a new experience. True, there was rather less of me then than there is now, and what there was, was of decidedly better quality, but l am persevering, and perhaps in the long run (if l ever have one) it will do me good. It seemed strange at first; l felt rather like a monkey on a stick, but l am making progress. With the aid of a kerb-stone and a wobble or two l can now mount the thing without slipping and scraping the skin off my ankle. I have several methods of getting off, some of them rather spontaneous and not very elegant, perhaps, and it sometimes means collecting the pump and other oddments from the gutter after dismounting; but so far nothing serious has happened.

What annoys me, however, is the attitude of motorists; there are far too many of them on the roads, in spite of petrol restrictions, and they seem to think the proper place for bicycles is in the ditch…..I’ve as much right to be on the road as they have, and l tell them so in no uncertain language. I have hung a tin hat on the back of the bike, and fixed a card on the handlebars with A.R.P. on it, but it commands very little respect. Some people seem to think of nothing but themselves…..

I’m beginning to ache violently in certain quarters, and l’ve a jolly good mind to fill up the tank and blow a whole month’s ration on one glorious mad rush to Brighton and back. But it would be sure to rain if l did.

Some things haven’t changed then. Still the same arrogance shown by some motorists towards cyclists. I have just seen the weather forecast and it looks like we are set to get a real drenching on Sunday. Yippee! Whatever you are doing, cycling or not, have a great weekend.


Posted by on June 10, 2011 in Mr Middleton


10 responses to “Middleton’s Village Memories

  1. greg becker

    June 10, 2011 at 17:56

    Looks like a really nice book, and illustrated too can not be bad for 2 quid.

    • trevorhunt

      June 11, 2011 at 08:41

      Hi Greg, It was a bargain for sure. I like reading the originals because when it is in my hands l wonder who else has read it and where? What were they going through at the time? A bit like walking around an old building and wondering who else had walked through that doorway? New books are lovely but give me an old book any day. Hope you’re plot is still looking good?

      • greg becker

        June 12, 2011 at 15:25

        I totally agree about how old books have a sense of history, and how this can add an extra dimension to the experience of reading them (providing they are not too fragile). Its just one of those qualities books have that I
        do not think (hopefully) computers and kindles will ever be able to replace. Long live books, especially the old ones!

  2. Maggie

    June 10, 2011 at 18:42

    Loving your posts about Mr Middleton and his gardening handy hints too! The way things are going we’re all going to need to be able to grow our own!

    Best wishes from unexpectedly sunny Liverpool… Downside of that is it’ll be cold tonight if it doesn’t cloud over, and we had to put the heating back on yesterday it was so chilly – so much for “flaming June”!


    • trevorhunt

      June 11, 2011 at 08:16

      Welcome Maggie, Thanks for calling by. Yes, there doesn’t seem to be much let up in this economic crisis most of us are experiencing.The only difference between now and what Mr Middleton went through are the lack of bombs falling out of the sky!
      We lit the fire again last night! It poured with rain, thank goodness, and became quite cold. We seem to have gone into reverse with our weather. Mad or what! Have woken to a glorious sunny morning so back in that garden to do some weeding. Its the best time to be in your plot when the soil is moist from a nice rainfall. Magic.

  3. Toffeeapple

    June 10, 2011 at 19:11

    Things were similar in Wales, my homeland; though I recall a lot of horses used as transport rather than cars. I think that only the Police Sergeant, the Headmaster, the Doctor and the Wedding Photographer had cars. Happy days!

    • trevorhunt

      June 11, 2011 at 08:23

      Hi Toffeeapple, You are quite right…Happy Days! I am assuming someone has told you about the horses as you don’t look old enough to remember looking at your picture! I get told off sometimes harking on about the past and how things used to be. It is interesting reading Mr Middleton’s book as he talks about how things have changed for him and looks back at the past with fond affection. I suppose in the 30’s and 40’s there were big changes afoot and when compared with what life was like at the turn of the century it was hard to keep up. But l think like that now, especially in the world of technology. There is something to be said about living a quiet, simple life but l could never give up my laptop now.

  4. chicaandaluza

    June 10, 2011 at 19:44

    “True, there was rather less of me then than there is now, and what there was, was of decidedly better quality” love it!! What a great find your book was and I love the bike too.
    Have just ordered “Make Do and Mend” and another book about surviving on War Rations (inspired by your blog). Won´t get them until the end of the month when a friend will bring them over….can´t wait! Have a great weekend and hope the sun shines.

    • trevorhunt

      June 11, 2011 at 08:31

      Hi Tanya, Yes, the book is full of wonderful stories. I find myself saying to my wife ‘Listen to this one…….’! She thinks l have been reincarnated as Mr Middleton as the more l find out how he was as a person she says that could be me too! Oh Dear, maybe its another way of saying l’m just a grumpy old-ish man!
      I have a few books on Rations and Wartime Recipes, some re-prints and some original copies l have bought off ebay. I keep meaning to try some out and post the results but time is not on my side at the moment. Will try soon though.
      Poured with rain last night, proper rain, and more expected tomorrow. Hope it clears for next week as we have our son coming to stay for a few days.

  5. elaine rickett

    June 24, 2011 at 19:47

    I love the bit about “there was rather less of me then ……and what there was, was of decidedly better quality”. How true!


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