Christopher liked his toast charred till it was black; so a sign that breakfast was near was clouds of smoke floating up through the house.
For years the most important features of breakfast for us children were the letters we wrote to each other constantly, dashing to post them in the house’s private letter box under a yew tree down the drive. Mainly these letters were from us children to each other or to our parents, but occasionally they sent letters back to us informing us, for example, of forthcoming picnics or visits to Leominster.
Rain or sun would see us running down the drive as breakfast approached to post our letters. Then we’d take it in turns to be the postman of the day and one of us would go down the drive to pick them up. In turn we’d then read out loud the letters we’d received.
So grew up a vivid cultural environment in which our letters and gifts to our parents mimicked their activities. Where they had the Golden Cockerell Press and the Boars Head Press, I had the Eye Pond Press, named after the cottage which my parents had given me to play in, and my sisters the Blue Shed Press, named after the corrugated iron shed the soldiers had built to keep lorries and ammunition in.
So we wrote and drew and drew and wrote.
A booklet called ‘Stable Drawings’ by my sister Antonia was not of horses but of drawings done by her of two fictional characters, Mr Poppy and Mrs Poppy. They were called ‘Stable Drawings’ because she went into the stables to draw them.
Another Blue Shed Press publication was called ‘Bong Bong the Horse’.
Inspired by the plays that my parents put on in the village hall, Antonia wrote a succinct drama called ‘Roger’,
Antonia also filled book after book with the names, categorised by form or age, of all the children and teachers at Porish School, or the inhabitants of Porish Village – places which existed, actually, only in her imagination.
We children, Jeremy, Antonia and Juliet, also put on parties, or ‘happenings’, in remote corners of Eye Manor and its grounds. The guests were our parents and a few of their friends.
The floor of the Blue Shed was cinders so that guests, after half an hour or so of drama and games, even though they did these as gently as possible, would find themselves caked with black dust and choking with it.
There were white fantail pigeons who lived in a dovecot high on the walls of the house and, based on these, my mother wrote a children’s book called ‘Roocoo and Panessa’.
We invented a technique, which excited us immensely, of doing animated drawings on semi-transparent utility toilet paper which was very thin, one drawing on each sheet. These we wound onto the roll of a second toilet-roll and unwound in front of a bright light in a darkened room to our delight and the sounds of a commentary and harmonium music.
We thought it terrific. However, where we saw a dramatic and fantasmagorical epic taking us and our audience on an action-filled journey into fabled lands of hobgoblin and faerie, what my father, understandably, saw was the public flaunting of an unmentionable object – a toilet roll – bringing to mind an unmentionable activity. He had grown up in a world where women’s knickers were still referred to as ‘unmentionables’ and a request to use the toilet might be phrased as ‘May I disappear?’
He spoke to me and my sisters separately and in turn and very severely. There would be no more epics on toilet paper.
Jeremy Sandford FanClub Archives
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