Readers will find much to enjoy in this entertaining memoir in which Richard Walker recalls his boyhood and teenage experiences, growing up during and after the Second World War in Stopsley, Bedfordshire, at the time still a village on the outskirts of Luton.
In common with many others who were children during the wartime years, Richard looks back with mixed feelings to a time when to a child’s mind, the war seemed both frightening and exciting but was mostly just an inconvenient interruption to the otherwise enjoyable pursuits of childhood.
Richard lived in a small 1930s house with his careworn parents, his elderly grandmother, his cousin Margaret, who had come to stay after the death of her mother, and his dog, Jock.
With a keen interest in firearms, fireworks and rocket propulsion – acquired from his father, an engineer and wartime ARP fire-fighter – Richard was soon conducting pyrotechnic experiments in the old barn behind his home and in his favourite playground, a piece of common land known as ‘The Brickfields’ – an abandoned brickworks that Nature had reclaimed.
Here he was free to conduct his ‘scientific research’ in secret, accompanied only by Jock and Cousin Margaret, a vivacious character with whom he had a distinctly love/hate relationship.
We then follow him through his teenage years in the postwar period of austerity and political uncertainty, culminating in two years’ compulsory National Service, a never-to-be-forgotten rite of passage experienced by a generation of British boys. For Richard it was a to be spell in the RAF which marked the beginning of his adult life.
Told with considerable humour, in a very readable style, Richard's depictions of wartime family life and childhood are sure to amuse and entertain anyone from his era.