War Memorial Gary Trouton

An extract from A YOUNG MAN'S PASSAGE

July 2005

A fascinating insight to life in Stoke Ferry in the 1960's by one of our best known TV personalities

Julian Clary

When you remember your childhood, it always seems to be sunny. My family spent a lot of summer holidays at my grandparents' big manor house in Stoke Ferry. I would play for hours in their big garden with my sisters, Frances (right), who is four years older than me, and Beverley (left), two years older.

My mother's father (an accountant at the local sugar beet factory) was a great

gardener, growing lots of English flowers like stocks, hollyhocks, lupins and nasturtiums.

My sisters and I didn't fight really - my grandmother wouldn't have allowed it. She was a retired school teacher and kept everything just so in the house. They had a big mahogany dining-table with placemats with scenes from different ballets. We each had colour co-ordinated crockery and napkin ring - mine was pale blue, Frances's pale yellow and Beverley's were pink. Our towels were in our colours as well.

At age seven, I still wanted to be a vet. I was a member of the RSPCA junior society. I was in my guinea-pig phase then - I had one called Hildebrand who used to have litters every few months. We had a Siamese cat called Cilla who came with us to Norfolk and disappeared. I was told she had run away, so for years, every time we went to Norfolk, I would go looking for her. It wasn't until I was an adult that my mother, Brenda, told me she had been run over. I adored my mother. My father, who was a policeman, had less sway with me - he tried to interest me in such manly pursuits as decorating and fixing the family car and I was always very disdainful

My sisters went to ballet classes from age three - I was not jealous at the time, but I am in retrospect. Frances (who later became a Tiller girl) was always the best, and Beverley was the worst. She used to do a dance called Flowers in the Breeze. We would call it Weeds in the Thunderstorm.

The car journeys to Norfolk from Teddington seemed to take hours and hours. I used to get car sick - once I vomited in the pocket of my father's tweed jacket. My mother used to distract us with long improvised stories that she would start the moment we got in the car. It was very clever how she would incorporate anything we would happen to pass. There was one tale about a man who never washed and had mice nesting in his beard and sparrows in his hair. She would say,"When we drive around the next corner, you will see were he lived". So we'd all wait and suddenly there would be a windmill. She would somehow draw the story to a close just as we were arriving at our destination.

Julian Clary's memoir: "A young Man's Passage is out now. This article first appeared in the Telegraph Magazine on 23 April 2005. In giving his permission for the article to be re-printed, Julian told me that his grandparents were Hector and Victoria (Queenie) Macdonald who lived in Manor House on Wretton Road. Mr Macdonald was the Financial Director at the Wissey sugar beet factory.


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