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(August 1944)

1.  Where we live

by Chris Myers

1.  Where we live

We live in Streetly, on the Chester Road, at the top of the hill between the Parson & Clerk and Manor Road. That's to say me, Mum and Dad and my big sister, Sheila. Graham used to live with us but he went away, two years ago, and became a soldier. We haven't seen him for ages and ages. This is him when he was home for the last time. It was February. Of last year. He's in Italy now.

And here's Sheila, Mum and me in our front garden. Dad was taking the picture, so he's not on it. This was earlier this year, in the spring.  You can see the daffodils.

We’re lucky living in Streetly because it’s not far from Sutton Park. We don’t live right by it. I wish we did. It would be nice to get to it just by walking across the road and then going straight into it.

From where we live you have to walk along the Chester Road and then turn right, all the way down Manor Road and, at the bottom of that, the gate into the park is just on the other side of Thornhill Road. It’s right opposite the Golf Club and all the ladies and gentlemen who play golf use it to get to the course. I suppose that's why it's there.

You can either go into the park there or you can walk further on down Thornhill Road, past all the nice houses, and go in by the main Streetly entrance. The Beech family live there, in the house just at the side of the gate. Mr Beech’s job is to look after the gate and all this side of the park and he does things like taking the money from those people who have to pay. That means people like us who don’t actually live in Sutton. Sutton people get in for nothing. Of course, if Mr Beech isn’t in his little hut you can walk through without stopping but you have to try to look just like a Sutton person while you are doing it.

Another way to get into the Park from our house is to go in exactly the opposite direction. You turn left out of our front gate and walk all the way down the Chester Road, past Queslett Road, and use the little gate which is opposite the Parson and Clerk pub.

That’s the way Mum and I went for a walk today and now we’re just coming out of the park, turning right and starting to walk back along the Chester Road, past the beginning of Thornhill Road and towards home.

I have lived on the Chester Road all my life and that is over eight years, now. I was born here in 1936, in April. I bet your arithmetic is good enough. And if it is, you'll be able to work out that now we are in 1944. You are with me on a nice, warm, sunny day towards the end of August. I start my new school next week, in Sutton. But it's still the summer holidays at the moment.

Today is not too long after D-Day, two or three months ago. And at about that same time, my brother drove up, from the direction of Monte Cassino, right through the middle of Rome, the day after it was liberated. He wrote and told us it had been "a moving experience".

I BET it was! I saw him in my mind's eye with his mates, in all their lorries with their big guns being towed behind, leaning out, waving and grinning, as they went through the streets. While pretty Italian girls offered them glasses of chianti and threw flowers and blew kisses at them. And all the vast crowd yelling and cheering with joy and excitement and waving flags and handkerchieves. And then.... 

And then, I imagined him an hour or two later. The city suburbs have been left behind long ago. The crowds have disappeared. There's just the constant roar of the lorry's engine. The rattle of the 25-pounder as it bounces around behind them on its big tyres over the broken-up surface, through open countryside and ruined villages. The clouds of dust coming up from the lorry wheels, mixing with the fumes of the vehicle in front, all around the lorry and inside it too. The sun beating down on the canvas roof. It is hot and smelly and gritty and everything is jolting and the seat is hard and the uniform is itchy. Graham has his arm raised as he holds on to a roof stay to steady himself, as do the others. They all know there's a job still to be done, ahead. What would he give at that moment, I think to myself, for a lovely, quiet pint of bitter at the Hardwick with his Home Guard mates - including our dad - and afterwards perhaps a game of solo or cribbage? Or even at the Parson & Clerk, although Dad wouldn't be there.

The lorry trundles on, together with hundreds of others, through the long, hot afternoon. Northwards. Ever onwards. Towards the front line.

But all that fighting, in France and Italy and everywhere else, seems a long, long way away when you are having a nice quiet walk with your mum in Sutton Park. Here, in this part, there is not even any danger from flying golf balls like there is nearer to the Streetly entrance. There, if you see one which has missed you now lying on the ground, all by itself, you mustn’t touch it. If they see you doing that, they’ll yell at you. I think it spoils their game. I have no idea why. They are really funny people.

Mum and I walk out of the Park through the little gate. Are you going to walk with us, back up the Chester Road, and see what I can see?

  2. The Parson & Clerk



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L8A April 2022
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