Old Monovians; Memories

Robert Barltrop - Summer

Summer

There was a June afternoon when the Old Boys' cricket match was staged at the Walthamstow club ground in Buck Walk, near Whipps Cross. All the school went to watch it. As I left home after dinner I saw that the barometer needle had gone a long way back, and I took my raincoat. It was sunny when the game began, but in the middle of the afternoon the sky darkened and a thunderstorm with pouring rain came. The match was abandoned. We stood sheltering in groups, wondering how we should get home; we heard that roads were flooded. Peter Hunt and another boy came up to me and suggested that we strip except for our raincoats, and run. Peter was a year younger than I, but I knew him from the running track; he was an athletic, sunny-natured boy who lived in Rowden Road, near the Stadium - sadly, he too was killed in the war.

It was a marvellous idea. We made bundles of our jackets, trousers, shirts and socks, and hung our shoes by the laces round our necks. Naked under the raincoats, we ran steadily up the roads to St Mary's, through the churchyard and down to the Belt. When we got to the Crooked Billet the whole area across the roads was under water - it always flooded there in heavy rain We splashed through it, and Chingford Road past the Stadium was our last lap. The storm passed over as I reached home. My raincoat and shoes were soaked but the rest of my clothes, held under my arm beneath the raincoat had come to no harm; and we had had an exhilarating afternoon.

The headmaster asked some of us to give up the first day of our summer holiday to act as guides. Parties of children from slums were being brought for a day in Epping Forest; some of them had never seen a tree, he said. Two others and I went to Chingford station and met a crowd streaming off a train, with a couple of men in charge of them. I do not know where they came from; they were eight or nine years old, shabby like children from Gosport Road, and wild with excitement. There were also three High School girls, brought on the same mission. 1 went with about thirty of the children, a man and two of the girls to Connaught Water. There was not much guiding to be done. The children whooped, shrieked and ran everywhere, and occasionally the man came and asked me something; I spent most of the day hanging about. The girls found a place to sit, and stayed aloof; one of them knitted, and they conversed occasionally. I suppose they were as embarrassed and uncomfortable as I was.