Wright Family Album

David's memories - Shudy Camps 1925-1930

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I was a petrol-sniffer at the age of 3. The old French car, 'Ruth', that Father bought was kept in a garage at the Vicarage, Shudy Camps, and I went and sat in the driver's seat early in the morning and sniffed the delicious air. Petrol in those days smelled more exciting than it does now; maybe it was the benzene. I suppose the lead in it went to my brain.

David in Ruth after it had been stripped down.

There was a huge tree cut down in front of the Vicarage. It was in full leaf and we all clambered about in the branches making 'nests'. The smell of fresh-sawn wood - particularly oak - takes me back to those warm summer days (and some nighttime frightening thunderstorms when as many of us as could climbed into our parent's bed.)

30-odd years later I built a 32' cabin cruiser in Essex, Ontario and used white oak for her frames and stringers. After months of sawing and sanding I found that the dust, which went black on sweaty skin, irritated my eyes and nose. But it still has a wonderful smell. I named the boat "Anna May".

Another place with a distinctive smell was Canon Thornton's pond. It's a hole in my imagination filled with lovely black smelly mud, though no doubt some of us paddled and swam in water.

The Vicarage was a short walk across a field to the church. Canon Thornton sensibly lived somewhere else, because the Vicarage was antiquated. It smelled of paraffin, partly from the Aladdin stove which flickered round patterns on my ceiling on winter nights. The walls upstairs were painted with whitewash. I was helping Mother one day and the door slammed. The handle was missing on our side and it was a long time before Elizabeth heard our shouts and let us out. When Mother was whitewashing the big brush went "Clifford, Clifford" across the rough plaster.

Mother was the glue which held us together; whatever kindness, thoughtfulness, contentment and generosity we have, we owe to her. Father was remote to me, being born so late in his life. His world was the 'mission field' and Mother was torn between his work and her eight children.

One day I was shown inside the closed side of the rabbit-hutch; it smelled of urine and little black balls but behind were some white, furry babies with no eyes. The outside loo was nearby and that had a really powerful odour! It was what the Americans call a 'one-holer' and I blame the nursery rhyme, "Ding dong bell, pussy's in the well..." for tempting me to drop a kitten in it. Mother was very angry and I think I got a whacking. I'm sorry for whoever had to get her out.

For many years afterwards excreta seemed to form a backdrop to my life: like some vague olfactory distant hill and dale. I was an almost constant bed-wetter till - thank God! - my first term at Dean Close. Pip, our black-and-tan dog, probably liked my smell and let me share his round African woven basket sometimes. He and I played under the dining-room table after I had 'got down' and that was where I first whistled. Barbara was the best whistler and could make her tongue yodel, and whistled as well on the in-breath as on the out.

There was a glass door from the dining room and either Barbara or Hugh crashed into it while running; the glass and blood and screams were horrible. Gordon, who may have been involved in that chase, impressed me another time when I fell and cut my knee. He knelt down and sucked blood and gravel out of me, and spat on the path. Gordon was down-to-earth, generous to a fault, and happy-go-lucky. After a brain infection put down to sleepy sickness he had a tremor of the hand and speech and some rigidity, all of which got worse when he was depressed. I believe his condition got gradually worse as he got older, till he was killed by a train at Templecombe.

But he seemed perfectly normal to me at Shudy and, being the oldest, usually led the merry way into fields or down past the old gun to the village. He, or Phil, drove 'Ruth' round the field; by then she wasn't licenced to be driven on the road. Phil was very large, being over 6 foot when I was less than 3. I don't think he minded being called 'Fidgety Phil', often tilting his chair back and sometimes going right over with a terrible crash. But 'Filthy Phil' - which I think Hugh once dared to call him - sent us all scattering in fright.

Doris' memories

Basil's memories

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