June Dyer

A reflection on 49 years in Bengeo

June Dyer

Together in Rhodes – May 1994

My husband, Ron, and I moved to Bengeo from Tottenham, North London, in 1963, together with our three children, Paul, Angela, and Sandra. Coincidentally, Ron, had been evacuated here during the war. It was a lovely sunny day in August when we arrived and, whilst weather and neighbours welcomed us warmly, the local wildlife was less friendly. Soon after arriving, a lone wasp (renegade or hitman?) seized his opportunity and stung my 7 year old daughter, Angela. There have been no further conflicts, so maybe this was just a warning shot.

We had lovely neighbours – Eric Shaw, Olive and Fred Church, Joan and John Roberts, Will and Queenie Purkiss, and Paul and Toni Liffers.

On 2nd May the following year (again, a sunny day, unlike this year), I went into labour with my fourth child. Olive had already given me a lift to the hospital during a couple of false alarms a few days earlier but, on this occasion, Ron was working nearby in The Avenue. My son, Paul, ran and got him to come home before settling himself in front of the TV to watch West Ham beat Preston 3-2 in the FA Cup final. Ron took me to the hospital and Lynne was born that day, her name being chosen by Eric’s mother.

In those days, we had doorstep deliveries from the milkman and I fondly remember the time when ours was delivered via horse and cart. The horse seemed to know the round as well as our milkman and knew exactly which houses to stop at. Part of the daily routine was to put the empty glass bottles out at night, and bring in the new bottles the following morning. I remember that, one sunny evening, my eldest daughters, Angela and Sandra, saw this as an opportunity to be helpful. We didn’t know what they had been doing when they appeared in our hallway after an evening out “playing”, but they were in hysterics. After several attempts to find out the reason for their mirth had failed, only being met by heightened levels of laughter, they finally led me outside and pointed to our neighbour’s house. There were literally hundreds of empty milk bottles around the doorstep. I’m sure that the milkman was exceptionally grateful, although I don’t remember anyone being quite as amused as we were.

In 1969, the River Beane flooded. I was in Hertford at the time and it seemed that every route I took was blocked by flooding. Fortunately, I met up with my daughter, Angela, as she was trying to get home from school, which eased some of the stress. We finally got home after someone had rowed us across one of the flooded areas. (How many people have a rowing boat in their back garden?)

We always got on very well with our next door neighbours, Will and Queenie Purkiss. When Lynne was playing in the garden, Will would be in his garden pruning his roses and keeping an eye on her. I think he enjoyed talking to Lynne and watch her play as they were the best tended roses in the country. They used to have sherry and mince pies with us every Christmas Eve and we used to leave a stocking on their doorstep the following morning. I remember that the stockings got bigger and more elaborate each year.

From 1975 to 1980, my son owned the newsagents shop in The Avenue and I managed it for him. Our timing could have been better. There was a long period during which newspapers were often on strike and, without the aid of computers, we were continually having to amend the newspaper accounts, resulting in a lot more work for much less reward. We officially opened at 7am but had to be there a lot earlier to get the newspaper rounds ready, and I remember asking one of the paper boys to unlock the door for me as I couldn’t quite reach the upper lock. When leaving at night, I used to stand on my glasses case to give me the extra inch that I needed. I always enjoyed looking at the gardens on the short walk from our house to the shop, and remember that Pam Lutner’s was always exquisite.

Ron worked for the Co-operative Insurance from 1967 until 1991, when his failing health meant that he had to retire early. This gave him the opportunity to do things that he had never got around to doing when he was busy working, such as making matchstick models. We were lucky to have such a good neighbour in Anthony Liffers (Paul and Toni’s son) who took him on a number of day trips, notably to the Houses of Parliament, which Ron often talked about.

Sadly, Ron passed away three years ago. My daughter, Lynne, and her family moved in with me but I feel that it is now time to move on. So, after 49 wonderful years, I have now put the house up for sale. I will miss all the friends I have made during that time and, as you can imagine, having worked in the shop for a number of years, I have met a lot of lovely people. I will take a lot of happy memories with me.