Percy - The Younger Years
In the 1930’s when Percy was just a little urchin living in Chesterton things were really quite hard, especially as there were five children in the family. Days would go by without food. There were no coco-pops in those days, or pop-tarts, and a luxury meal was lard dripping on a bit of stale bread. Percy lived by his wits and soon developed a talent for working a deal. They were, though, happy times and in the summer months Percy and his brothers spent many hours fishing the River Cam. George, Lacy and Percy would often go off and fish at Waterbeach, strapping their fishing tackle to their rickety old cycles. The four mile trip seemed quite easy going along the river towpath, as it was back wind all the way. It is strange but many years later I too would make the trip to Waterbeach to fish from my home near Cherry Hinton. Anyway, the journey along the riverbank is very special with many features along the way. Fen Ditton Church, the Plough Pub (there was in those days a hand operated ferry to the Pub) the Lock at Baits bite with the friendly Lockkeeper. The trouble was that the journey was made harder coming home, as it was always face wind. The journeys to Waterbeach were generally made in the summer months, as the track would become very muddy in the winter. Bunking off school was also a regular occurrence with the brothers as they travelled the countryside looking for freebies not caring about learning to read and write. One summer, Percy, never one to miss a trick worked out a cunning plan. He noticed that on Tuesdays and Thursdays a Mr. Blinkey would make the trip to his pig farm in Waterbeach with his horse and cart. He would not leave the farm until 4pm to go back to Chesterton and so this gave the young lads the opportunity to hitch a ride. They did not mind the smell from the cart, they were just glad to hang on to the back freewheeling. Lacy would hang on to the left hand side of the cart, George on the right and Percy, because he thought of the idea, would get to put his cycle on the cart and he would sit in the back! Most journeys were uneventful if not a little bumpy; the lads would mess around a bit and do that freewheeling with their legs in the air stuff. However, one-day things did go a little wrong. The youngsters were messing around again ringing on their bicycle bells and larking around. The old black carthorse seemingly oblivious to the rumpus from the back. The cart did, though, hit an unusually large bump in the track and sort of lurched momentously to one side, Lacy lost his hold on the back and then hit the rut in the track and fell off in to the bushes to the side of the river. The other two lads were highly amused as their little brother got up and brushed himself down. The trouble was that the horse and cart kept going and try as they may their shouts were in vain and Lacy became just a little dot as he tried to catch up. Of course Percy and George secure in their lift were not going to stop and wait for their brother and just continued on to their home. The two youngsters stumbled in to the back yard and put their fishing tackle away in the outbuildings. In to the kitchen they went looking out for anything to eat. Their mother stood in the hall doorway resplendent in the white full-length apron. Where’s Lacy she cried? George shot off upstairs, leaving Percy to try and explain why they had left their brother. About half an hour later Lacy eventually staggered in to the kitchen. Grass stains on his bruised and cut knees. His shirt torn and his hair with all bits of twigs in it. “They left me mother” he cried. “Percy, Perrrrcy”. The little urchin appeared from the hallway “Yes mother”? He said in his little boy lost voice. “Why did you leave our lacy by the side of the track”? Quick as a flash Percy replied, “Well mother, you see we saw our brother get up and we thought as he waved that he was saying to us carry on, he would catch up”! Percy winked at Lacy without his mother seeing “That’s right isn’t it brother” he said to Lacy. “ummmm, well yes mother that’s what happened” Lacy replied. Throughout their lives it would appear that Percy would get into some little scrapes and yes you have guessed it, brother Lacy would always be there to get him out of the mess.