Running Away 1954

I am a free spirit and I was different from my 20 minute birth on the landing of my Railway House in February 1945 at 00.20. Number 5 of 6 children with 4 brothers. My generation remembers being cold and shortages and coupons but everyone was the same so it wasn’t a problem.

It wasn’t like we were outside the windows looking in. We had no envy or much understanding of how the rich lived. There weren’t any cars on our Railway Estate.

We travelled on trains from an early age and we have a great sense of family. Many of them were in Ireland so we went there and played in the Phoenix Park. The “little 3” as I called them as the big 3 worked. Some of the Irish cousins went to live in Scotland, in Lennoxtown, in Stirlingshire and we all played in Campsie Glen. Our mother was English and from Leicester and we went to see them. They lived next to a big turntable where the big Steam Engines were turned round. They lived in a Railway House too with a tin bath hanging on a hook in the kitchen and a toilet in a shed in the garden.

I suppose I was about 9 when I decided life was too bad and ran away on my scooter. I had a few pennies, and some broken biscuits, and planned to live next to the Canal in Hanwell where the horses pulling the barges used to rest. It was about 12 miles away. I arrived there finally, and climbed down to the canal, and sat down in the filthy spider ridden concrete doorless room and cried. It was an early realisation that I had bitten off more than I could chew, and I felt powerless, and it was getting cold. I scooted home defeated, but resolved that if I ran away again I would plan it better, which I did, with warm comfortable destinations. So it was a big learning experience.

I arrived home tired but my long scoot. My mum was home so I told her I was home. “Home from where” she asked? “Home from running away” I sobbed. She was furious. She hasn’t noticed that I wasn’t there or missed me. She marched me to the shops where we used to go, and publicly humiliated me telling the shopkeepers that her ungrateful child had run away. Then took me to the Catholic Church for confession.

“Bless me Father for I have sinned. I ran away on my scooter”. The dear man was not judgemental at all but curious. “Where did you go?” He asked. “To the Canal in Hanwell”. He was very impressed and said “Wow that is a long way”. And wasn’t cross for upsetting my mother, because she was only upset when I returned. And no harm had come to me, and St Christopher was surely looking after me.

Often I negotiate out of difficult problems, but sometimes the other person can’t comprehend the dialogue or context, so I have to walk away. From one difficult situation I got on a train to London, and stayed in the Youth Hostel in Kensington Gardens, and went to see Riverdance. It was chicken soup for my soul and was revitalised and came home. Problems look different from a distance.

Val Fieth, Born 1945
July 2022
Source: Facebook Group "The Good Old British Childhood Years"