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Childhood memories from Kevin Partridge

I was born in 1963. I am the eldest son of Richard Partridge and Jane Partridge (nee Marsden), and have one brother, Andrew “Andy” Partridge.

Mum and Dad

My childhood memories are mainly of having good times around the village and next to the sea, with friends and relations. Many of these good times were spent with Andy, as a child, growing up in Prawle.

From left to right, me, Mum and Andy (circa. 1965)

My first memory was when we lived in Town Cottage, and we were at “Auntie” Ford’s house (she wasn’t really our Auntie). Andy was there too, and we were playing “I spy”. It was Andy’s turn, and he chose the letter “W”, but he was too small to pronounce it correctly, so said “Wuh”. All of us went through everything we could see beginning with the letter “W”, and, after some time, we all ran out of ideas, and asked Andy to tell us what he had spied. He was proud to tell us that it was “Wollers….. Auntie Ford you have Wollers in your hair”.

Me all dressed up, ready to go to a party, outside Town Cottage (circa. 1965)

Another was the first time Dad took us fishing, or “cunnering” as we called it (“cunner” is the local name of the common wrasse fish, that frequents our rocky coastal areas, and are often used for crab pot bait). I think we were using limpets as bait, and using hand lines, not fishing rods. I caught my first ever “cunner” and was so excited that I somehow slipped and fell into the sea. Dad got to the edge of the rocks and tried to reach me, as I went under the water a couple of times, close to drowning. Somehow, Andy’s box of egg sandwiches also fell or got knocked into the water in the commotion, and, just as Dad managed to grab first my hair, and then my shoulder, and pluck me to safety, Andy seemed more worried that some seagulls were diving down and eating his egg sandwiches, which were floating away. However, this bad fishing experience didn’t put me off, as fishing became one of my favourite pastimes.

Modern day “cunnering” with my son William, with his Grandad’s cap on, 2019

Modern day “cunnering” with my son Karl, 2019

Terry’s chocolate orange

One Christmas, when we were quite young, Andy and I were each given a “Terry’s Chocolate Orange”. Andy loved (and still does by the way!) chocolate of any kind, so he ate his immediately, at around 4:00am, when we went downstairs to see what Father Christmas had brought for us.

We then had to go back to bed for a few hours, so, I decided to keep mine and taunted Andy about it. When we came downstairs a few hours later, on the floor, was the remains of the chocolate orange wrapping and no sign of my chocolate orange. The deed was blamed on “Shep” our dog.

In the summer, we would go to Uncle Bob’s farm in Cornwall, as Dad and Uncle Mike would take their combine harvester there to cut the corn for Uncle Bob. They would first drive the combine to cut some corn at Yealmpton, and when finished there, after a few days, would drive on to Cornwall, setting off at first light. This was also our annual holiday, as we stayed in a caravan at Uncle Bob and Auntie Betty’s caravan site at Treyarnon Bay. One year, Dad was driving the combine to Yealmpton and I was riding on the combine with him. Mum drove in front with our Austin A40, with the lights on, and a homemade sign on the front saying “SLOW – WIDELOAD”, to warn the cars coming the other way to wait in a wide place, so the combine could pass. Every now and then someone would take no notice and carry on driving, oblivious to her warnings, to which Mum would have a few choice words as they drove by.

On one such occasion, we were half way across Aveton Gifford bridge, Mum was at the far end asking people to wait in the wider passing place, but one gentleman, in a cabriolet car with his partner in the passenger seat, perhaps trying to impress her, took no notice of Mum and just drove straight on across the bridge. Dad just carried on driving and as the sports car got closer, the gentleman started to realize it was going to be difficult to pass, but he kept coming forward. As we tried to pass, the front tyre on the combine (the front tyres are significantly bigger than the rear tyres on a combine) brushed the side of the sports car. Now, realizing that we would not be able to pass, the gentleman panicked and started reversing the car along the bridge as fast as he could, all the way back to the place where Mum suggested he wait in the first place. Dad just kept on driving with a big smile on his face, and as we passed by shouted a big “Thank You”.

Dad combining in Cornwall, 1972

Left to right: me, Dad and Andy in Cornwall, 1972

Continuing with the combine theme, when I was about 6 or 7, Uncle Bob explained to Andy and I, how the combine worked. He told us that there were lots of “little men” who lived and worked inside the combine to sort the corn out from the straw. Andy and I were very intrigued by this, and, often tried to find the “little men”, alas, we never did find them.

 

 

Uncle Bob had some more funny stories to tell. On one occasion when we went flying with him (he was one of the oldest people in the UK to obtain his private pilot licence), he told us that he had to inspect the aircraft before each flight.

Uncle Bob and his flying mate (circa. 1972)

On this occasion he asked us to help him. One of us noticed some scratches on one of the wing tips. “Oh, that was when I flew under a bridge” he said, “and got a bit too close to it”. We believed him. Of course, we found out many years later that this had happened on one occasion when they were bringing the aircraft out of the storage shed, prior to a flight.

We spent many happy days on Treyarnon Bay beach, with Mum, Auntie Marg and our cousins, building dams to block a stream flowing to the sea, splashing about in the water, and sleeping in the caravan, whilst, during the day, and late into the evening, Dad and Uncle Mike were combining.

Back to Prawle

We used to help Uncle Derek Wotton with his milk round in the holidays and at weekends, especially in the summer time. We would take it in turns to help him, and we would get paid a bit for helping. In the summer we were very busy as we would go with Uncle Derek to all the caravan fields, in addition to all the village houses. On one such occasion, I remember going into a field at the bottom of the long straight road from Ash Park towards Prawle Point. We drove to the far corner of the field to ask if they wanted any milk. To my surprise and amusement, there was a young lady completely nude there. Uncle Derek didn’t bat an eyelid, just smiled, and asked the lady if she wanted any milk today. I can’t remember if she said yes or no. Another time it was Andy’s day to help. He delivered some milk to Mrs Webb Perkis at New Houses, and she said to Uncle Derek, “Oh, isn’t she a pretty little girl” about Andy. Andy had blond curly hair when he was young, as did I (see photos). Andy said Uncle Derek must have repeated that phrase to him hundreds, if not thousands, of times. I remember she also had a parrot, but, luckily, the parrot didn’t learn that phrase, or Andy may have heard it even more times. We always looked forward to the end of the milk round as we would get paid, and, more importantly, we would have the best cup of 100% milky coffee you could imagine, made by Auntie Phyllis, accompanied by a huge slice of one of her sponge cakes.

We would play football a lot with Mike and Chris Brown, Steve Tucker, John Andrews (from the Providence Inn, when he was back from his boarding school), and would be very grumpy when it would start getting dark and we would have to go home.

Andy on the left and me on the right (circa. 1972)

Andy on the left and me on the right at Prawle Fair (circa. 1972)

I used to go with Dad to the crab holes at very low spring tides. I remember finding it very difficult to keep up with him, as he seemed to glide over the rocks from one hole to the next, trying to beat his friend, John Currie to the holes. (I must admit that last summer I went again a few times with Dad, and I still couldn’t keep up with him and he was 78 at the time!)

Dad on the left and me on the right at the crab holes, 2019

Mum used to make dinners for Auntie Dorothy Partridge, which Andy or I would take to her. Every time I would knock on the door and enter the room where Auntie Dorothy used to sit. She was deaf, so was always startled to see me, and would always say “Oh my, didn’t he make me jump Kevern”. She would then say, “Can you get me ears please, Kevern” (“ears” were her hearing aid).Andy and I would live in a caravan when we lived at Wyngates, as Mum used to do Bed and Breakfast in our house to make a bit of extra money. We loved it as we were independent. Not sure if it helped our school marks though, as we used to spend many hours playing darts in there. We used to love hearing the rain on the caravan roof when we eventually decided we should get some sleep.

Wyngates, with the caravan on the right where Andy and I would live (circa. 1972)

Other fun times were had, racing little “matchbox” cars down the path at Wyngates, making bows and arrows from the willows around Moorwell pond, flying kites over the football field, building miniature stone forts with grass for roofs and putting toy soldiers inside, then throwing darts at them, and, jumping from the top of the flat roof at Wyngates into huge fir trees which were on the other side of the path, to name just a few.

I remember one day Andy, Pete Allen (“Peewit” as I used to call him, and, he used to call me “KP nuts”)  (one of my best friends at the time) decided to go on our bicycles to Lannacombe to dig for ragworms and lugworms for fishing bait. I had a 5 geared “chopper” bike (small front wheel and large back wheel in case anyone doesn’t remember “chopper” bikes, or are too young to know of them), Andy had a 3 geared “chopper” bike, and, Pete a 5 geared racing bike. We reached Chivelstone Cross and Andy gave me the garden fork, as he couldn’t keep up with us, as his bike only had 3 gears. We set off down the steep hill towards South Allington, and the council had just laid new tar and chippings. Half way down the hill Andy’s front wheel started wobbling badly and he fell off his bike, flying over the handle bars. I have never been so scared in my life (except for perhaps when I nearly drowned during the “cunnering” experience mentioned earlier). One of his top teeth had pierced through his top lip and the end of the tooth broke off and there was blood all over his face. Being the days before mobile phones, I tried to comfort Andy, and we knocked on one of the doors for help. Luckily George and Nancy Richards were home and Nancy looked after him, cleaned his face and disinfected the gash and we all calmed down. They took Andy home, and his face was so bruised that Mum didn’t recognize him. Andy had to have stitches in Kingsbridge.

I used to go fishing a lot from the rocks and beaches with Pete. We would often go to East Portlemouth late in the evening and fish for bass near Salcombe bar.

Andy on the left and our cousin Matthew on Andy’s “chopper” bike (circa. 1977)

I also used to go and stay with Matthew Yeoman (another of my best friends) in Salcombe. We would go fishing on his Grandfathers boat, I think it was registered SE14. Matthew would get up before it was light, and, go with a few others to catch live sand eels, which we would use as bait later in the day, to try and catch bass. We would go fishing sometimes with his Dad and us, and sometimes his Mum would come too I think, then, when we were older, just the two of us. We would mainly catch bass and pollack, and, without telling fishing stories, some really big ones too!

Andy and I would help Mum with the gardening at Wyngates, and getting vegetables and fruit from Dad’s garden. I would also go combining with Dad in the summer, and at the age of 12 or 13, I would drive the combine from 1:00pm to 2:00pm, when he would have something to eat and drink. I remember going with him to Ringmore / Bigbury area where Dad combined the crops for Mr. Tallants, and I drove the tractor and trailer. Mr. Tallants was a very well-spoken gentleman, and he would wear khaki shorts and wellington boots, in the heat of summer, a very “interesting” combination.

Me on the road below The Retreat in the blizzard of 1978

In the blizzard of 1978, Prawle was completely cut off from the rest of England. Andy and I went to help the farmers digging out sheep that were buried. I remember you had to look for holes in the snow, as this was a sign that there were sheep buried as the warm air from them breathing would melt the snow above them. We could walk from any point, a to b, and not have to take the roads, as the snow was up to the top of the hedges.

I spent many days trying to find places where rubbish had been dumped in the old days, and then I would dig through it to try and get to the bottom of it, where all the oldest stuff would be buried. I was mainly looking for old bottles, but found many other treasures, including whole clay pipes, bullet heads, old coins, and numerous parts of old shoes, to name a few.

Me on my “Gilera” in Kingsbridge car park (circa. 1980)

When I was a bit older, my cousin Robert “Bob” Partridge would come to Prawle on his Gilera moped (his was red and mine was blue, also, a Gilera) and we would ride around the cliff paths, even though we were told we shouldn’t, but luckily there were far fewer people walking them then.

Oh, and before I forget, I did go to school, firstly to East Prawle school, for a few months in 1968, before it closed, then to Stokenham school, and then to Kingsbridge Secondary school.

For some reason, I have far fewer memories of school. I do remember one of my favourite lessons was history, with one of my favourite teachers “Uncle” Norm Frost. He organised a chess competition and first prize was a small beefeater soldier on a small wooden block that he had made himself. I won it, and still have it to this day.

I am in the back row, far right

To finish, I remember saying to Mum and Dad once, when I was about 15, “Oh I wish I was 17, then I could drive a car”, to which they responded, “Never wish your life away, because the older you get the quicker it will go”, to which I thought at the time, “what a load of rubbish”, now, a little older, and, hopefully a little wiser, I can confirm what they said was certainly NOT a load of rubbish!