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Jan Page’s thoughts 

Dear Kate

This week we are staying in Di Caudery’s cottage and I have very much enjoyed reading your book about the history of the village. I was delighted to see that Nurse Rundle of Fairfield is mentioned. During the 1950s I stayed several times in the holiday chalet at the end of her garden, along with my parents and brother. My father worked for the Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell, near Didcot, and the chalet was advertised in the staff newsletter. I believe the original advert is among the papers he left when he died.

Certain details of the interior of the chalet stick in my mind. I slept on a camp bed in the living area, while the others had a bedroom at the far end. There were oil lamps (I don’t remember any electricity, although there were definitely cables between the chalet roof and the main house because one night during a storm they were struck by lightning – a terrifying sight). There was a stove for cooking which used bottled gas, but the kitchen area was otherwise very basic, and I suspect that there was no hot water. I don’t remember much  about the WC, except that it was at the kitchen end, and quite dark.

A few things stick out in my mind. One night my brother reached between the bars of his cot and peeled off several strips of wallpaper. My mother was very upset, but Nurse Rundle was highly amused. She often invited us to help with picking up the eggs: she had a very large hen-run at the side of the garden and the eggs were often half-buried in the grass. She would give us any eggs that we found and we’d have them for tea. One day a swarm of bees landed in a big flowering shrub (I think a fuchsia) beside the chalet door. She told us to go inside and shut the door and windows, then she went into the house and came back in her protective bee-keeper’s outfit, with hat and veil, and used a stick to knock the swarm into a big basket. The hives were kept in the hen-run, and I was always wary of them.

One summer when we arrived Nurse Rundle was quite agitated because she had rented the chalet to a woman who was refusing to leave. We had to stay in the main house, so the holiday was quite different that year. The “squatter” turned out to be an eccentric French woman. Dad tried to talk her round on Nurse Rundle’s behalf, but she was intransigent. He referred to her as “Fifi” but I don’t know whether it was her real name. I think at some stage when we’d returned home Dad heard that Fifi had given in and left. We certainly returned to the chalet the following year. During the time we had to stay in the main house my brother and I tried to avoid Nurse Rundle’s husband. I think he was a lot older than her, and seemed to us very bad-tempered. One evening Dad agreed to play chess (or maybe draughts) with him, and I remember when Dad beat him he up-ended the board and the pieces went flying. He also got very cross with us for pulling pebbles off the stucco wall of the house.

Nurse Rundle had a series of small white dogs, I think poodles. One, called Chloe, had long brown stains beneath her eyes, and was very snappy. Nurse Rundle also had a brother who lived nearby, I think probably in East Prawle itself. One evening he took us to watch some piglets being born in a little brick sty. His name was Mr Rendle, and I remember my parents saying it was funny that Nurse Rundle’s name had hardly changed when she got married.

I was interested to see the section in your book about fishing. I vividly recall going to Lannacombe to watch the big nets being pulled in. We were invited to see the big conger (?) eels writhing on the sand. I was horrified.

We last stayed at Fairfield in the summer of 1958. My mother was pregnant with my second brother. During that holiday we saw an adder on the path down below Gara Rock. Mum wouldn’t go any further. On 4th October my brother was born and Dad had a phone call (I don’t know who from) to tell him that Nurse Rundle had died the same day. During the last few years my husband and I have had holidays in East Prawle  four or five times, so I keep renewing my acquaintance with the place. It’s lovely to remember those childhood holidays. In 2015 we walked to Chivelstone and found Nurse Rundle’s grave in the churchyard. Very poignant.

Thank you again for the pleasure of reading your book.

Jan Page


 Ro Ward’s youthful memories  Jan Page’s thoughts Ashley Ford’s WWII memories   Barry Smithard’s recollections