Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Leaving Kingsley

Although a major event in my life, leaving Kingsley was not something which had been long planned or a part of any long term scheme. Like so many major events in life the move came about as a result of quite a lot of unexpected events occurring, over a fairly short space of time, and all leading up to my departure from the village. I was twenty and engaged to a young lady from Binsted and I suppose there was the expectation that we would marry, probably go into a farm cottage, and remain in the village. However, fate intervened and my middle brother caught Chicken Pox, (it could have been Measles ).It just so happened that my fiancĂ©es sister was about to get married, in three weeks time actually. It was felt by her family that I might transfer my brothers disease, and they believed the incubation period for the disease to be about three weeks. Clearly, if that had occurred, the wedding would have been ruined. I was, therefore, not unreasonably asked if I would mind staying away until the wedding day. Consequently I went into voluntary exile for three weeks. Early in the first week my friend and colleague, Tim, suggested I join him for a pint. This I did and we ended up in the Market Tavern in Alton. The tipples of the day were Courage’s Tavern Keg Bitter and Watneys Red Barrel. During the course of the evening Tim suggest we went up to the nurses home at the hospital to find a couple of young ladies to take out. I, of course, should have declined but I didn’t. Tim had  connexions within the nursing community and he quickly managed to find two lovely young women to join us. Oh dear, without going into the gory details, suffice to say I married my partner from that eventful evening and we are still together nearly fifty years later. Tim also married his partner from that evening but sadly lost her to cancer last year.

Having gone through the trauma of cancelling my engagement the next event hard on its heels was the death of mother from a severe asthma attack at the age of forty two. To say devastating would be an understatement. There is no doubt in my mind that the woman of the house is the home maker and the corner stone of the family. The loss of mother changed everything. The home became little more than a hotel and father, my brothers and I became like ships in the night. Each getting on with their own lives, work and business as best they could.

The next significant event was the death of my boss Mr. Nicolson owner of Old Park Farm. This had the result of the farm being put on the market and sold to an insurance company. This meant that the employees were now working for a Board of Directors rather than the individual private owner. Frankly that situation didn’t appeal to me very much. At the time I had a large Alsatian cross dog which I was in the habit of training in the piggery paddocks. These paddocks ran down beside the gardens of the three newly built bungalows which were on the left hand side of the road going down the hill towards the sports club. The point of all this will become clear. One morning when I was feeding the pigs a man in a trilby hat arrived at the piggery and introduced himself as Mr. Watson from one of the said bungalows. He was, he said, the civilian personal officer for Bordon Camp and he had a vacancy for a dog handler upon his books. Having observed me training my dog he thought I might be the man for the job. He suggested I apply and gave me the forms to do so. I did and got the job. I, therefore, left the farm and shortly afterwards found myself at the Royal Army Veterinary Corps establishment at Melton Mowbray where I undertook the, then, War Department dog handling course.

Once again, after just a few months, things were about to change. My girlfriend was to finish at the hospital and move back to her home at Christchurch which was then still a part of Hampshire, not Dorset, as it is today. Several weeks of travelling back and forward to Christchurch two or three times a week and it became clear this could not be sustained. Due then to the good offices of my future father in law I was found a position as a trainee welder at the British Aircraft Corporation (B.A.C),factory at Hurn Airport.

So my departure from Kingsley occurred. In the end it just happened. I should have known that factory life and I would not mix, it was never going to work. Apart from the environment, which I didn’t like, we were living in the times of industrial unrest and, it seemed to me, we spent as much time out on the grass in protest as we did actually producing aircraft. It just so happened, and as a result of The Mountbatten Report into Prison Security, the Prison Service were advertising for dog handlers. In those days The Prison Service offered its officers a free house or rent allowance. Since my new fiancĂ©e and I were planning to get married this seemed like a good option. The full page adverts, in all of the popular press, for The Prison Service offered the prospect of serving at your local prison which for me was Winchester. Consequently I applied, was successful, and off I went to the training school at Wakefield in Yorkshire for the thirteen week course. It quickly became clear that the Service adverts were not worth the paper they were written on, the chances of me getting to Winchester were about as good as going to Mars. As for the dog handling, well you could not do that for at least a year due to a probationary period, which did not feature very clearly in the adverts, if at all. The Service policy of sending single officers to London prisons, due to staffing difficulties, was not mentioned either. I ended up serving thirty five years in the Service at Wandsworth and Dorchester but, due to the constraints of The Official Secrets Act, I am unable to report very much of that experience. Suffice to say, it did not take long to discover, The Prison Service and its senior staff all the way into Government Ministers held little, if any, regard for the truth.

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