We often receive correspondence from our clients and love it when they share their experiences. Below are some letters from Mr E., a client with Christies since 2003, which he has kindly let us share. We hope you enjoy reading about his experiences as much as we have.
“After reading the February edition of the Companion, and in particular the story of Mr. A of London and the celebration of his 100th Birthday, I am submitting my story as follows:
I was born hastily on the kitchen floor of a flat in N.W London on 19/10/1917: a Zeppelin bombing raid was in progress, hence the haste, a yelling bundle of uncontrolled apertures, I had no hair, no teeth and no money and after nearly 100 years I have come full circle to that position again, a few strands of white hair, seven remaining teeth, minimal savings but most precious of all, a dear wife Joyce, 74 years of marriage, 3 children, 9 grandchildren and 6 great grandchildren.
My own siblings, 5 brothers and 1 sister, have all died. My sister Doris had fallen in love with a German Businessman and when the Second World War was declared, Doris and her husband Hans Schulz were given 48 hours’ notice to virtually walk away from their home and cross over to Germany via Harwich-Hook ferry before Germany closed their borders, so her life was another story being on the receiving end of British Bomber Raids, her husband conscripted in the Wermacht and Doris living as a Hausfrau with two young children under Nazi rule in Hildesheim near Hanover in Germany which fell to the Allies after a devastating raid by British Bombers before the entry of British Forces and she became secretary/interpreter to the Town Major because of her flawless English/German. She never returned to the UK as her family were resident and working in Germany. She retired to Garmish-Partenkirchen in the Bavarian Alps and died there two years ago but was reticent to discuss the War.
Now back to my story, I left State School at 16 and obtained my first job as an office boy at Chartered Accountants Littlejohn, Wilson, McKnight & Co of Cullum Street EC3. The pay was 15/- per week (75p) which was allocated 5/- for a weekly season ticket, 5/- for my mother and 5/- for my pocket.
The office was decidedly Dickensian, sloping desks at which the clerks stood, open coal fire for heating, the ammoniac smell of horses manure drifting up from the crowded Lime Street below. I would have been articled to train as an Accountant for the sum of £300 but that was out of the question, even 300 pence would be impossible to raise so I looked around for a better job and obtained one as a Junior Clerk on £1 per week with A L Sturge & Co Underwriting Agents at Lloyds of London and I spent 40 years with them, broken by the War years, before retiring in December 1945 (1985?), but this time as a Financed Name, Member of Lloyd’s which sounded grand but turned into a disaster when big claims arose on Asbestosis, Shipping and American losses due to hurricanes, so I settled my debts and left for Civvy Street.
My dream of ‘rags to riches in one generation’ exploded and I was back to square one.
I joined the Territorial Army in 1938 on A.A. Defence of G.B. which was sparse in those days. I was promoted to W/Sgt and moved to Buxton, Derbyshire as an instructor to receive and train some of the continued call in of various age groups. I was never a roaring bullying type but calmly helped the conscripts to accept and settle down to their new way of life. I never charged any man with a military offence but helped them as far as possible.
I took all the courses that were offered ranging from Aircraft Recognition, Physical training, “German Language” at Brighton University, Infantry training in Dorset. In German we learned the Horst Wessel Marching Song of the German soldier and also “Lili Marlene sentimental song. Rendition on request at a small fee!
General Montgomery wanted more men for his advance into Germany but because of my T.A. Service I was de-mobbed early in December 1945 and I returned to the City job at £5 per week but that was soon changed. My in-laws were terrific and gave me accommodation for years until I could purchase my own home for £3500 in Pinner, Middlesex.
Now I’m happily settled with Christies Care looking after us and we’ve made some good friends with the carers.”
Reminiscences of Kent
“Kent is in the news so often these days that I feel tempted to write a few words of the time I lived in the village of Bossingham, 5 miles from Canterbury and easy access to Folkestone, Dover and Ashford, Kent.
I was physically active, a careful driver, and I loved walking, gardening, occasional trips to France by mainly ferry, hovercraft and eventually by the ‘Chunnel’.
Equally on dull days, a trip to Canterbury full of visitors, parties of school children (many from France) and street entertainers the length of the main High Street but with always the peaceful cloisters of the great Cathedral to saunter round. As a paid-up friend of the Cathedral I always had access to a parking place in the grounds and would relax and listen to choral practice.
I was a member of the town library and am always grateful to them for the efforts they made on my behalf on the history of ‘well digging’ by labourers in the Kent area.
A boss and 6 men, digging down to reach water 100 feet down. Many had ‘hard hats’, old padded bowler hats, a winch, ladders, staging and brick lining the walls as they descended.
It was very hard work. A village resident remembered his Grandfather as a team boss of well-diggers travelling the County. They must not be dug near CESSPITS!
On occasion they would encounter natural caves into which they would pack the excavated soil etc. The interior walls of the well would be bricked as they descended in 8 foot depths.
Kent always had water as it percolated down through the chalk subsoil to underground aquifers. Even in long dry periods, they never appeared to have a water shortage.
The old well in Bossingham was situated in the headmaster’s garden, and the villagers would come for their water daily. Now there is a rain gauge on the well which gives the amount of water available.
The local pub was the ‘Hop Pocket’ which gives a clue that hops were grown locally. The garden of our accommodation, ‘The Farmhouse’, had a badger’s sett at the end of the garden, which sloped away to a sweeping vista of cultivated land, empty in winter, but full of golden ripening wheat in summer. With footpaths leading to the church on the hill which we attended when three of the grandchildren were christened as we watched the proceedings sitting in the boxed in pews, but unfortunately it all went wrong when we had to move to another part of the country.
From the White Cliffs of Dover, the buildings of Calais could be clearly seen. On the Channel was a highway for shipping passing through to the North Sea ports under the eye of Dover Castle from where Vice-Admiral Ramsay masterminded the Dunkirk evacuation in 1940 when Adolf Hitler swept into France.
I made many friends there and in free time, managed to visit R.A.F. fighter stations of the wartime now museums, visits to farmers to buy top quality English apples at harvest time.
There were frequent trips to France, once as a foot passenger on a day return for £1 with time ashore for lunch and a visit to the duty free shop.
But all good things come to an end. A stroke put me out of action but a long process of medication and learning to walk again has enabled me to become mobile with the aid of a rollator.”
“I was sitting here quietly looking at the T.V. and then a marvellous hamper was delivered full of “goodies” with a message from all at Christies Care. I’ve never had such a gift in all my life and I looked out of the window to catch sight of my benefactor but he had departed.
I appreciate that I’ve lost my ability to attract the fairer sex and no longer a danger, but the eating and drinking senses remain untouched by the march of time.
Thank you all for your kindness.
I shall think of you fondly as I settle down to have a glass of Sherry and a mince pie!
100 years old tomorrow”
I am writing to advise you of the excellent care and attention that my present carers, namely Mario and Hillary, have provided and which has been mainly instrumental in reaching my 100th Birthday and thereby the Queen’s congratulations and a letter of commendation from the Secretary.
As I acquaint you of my thanks I also remember the capable staff of head office.