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.