By the time spring eventually arrived, I was impatient for summer. I remember one sunny Easter Sunday looking outside and seeing the delicate yellow forsythia flowers, so I put on a summer dress. My mother, dressed in her tweedy Sunday suit, took one look at me and said ‘You’ll be cold’. She was right.
As a child, I had no special feelings about spring. Those odd warmer days just seemed to appear to tease us, to lure us into believing we would soon be riding our bicycles down to the beach for a swim. So mostly I would stay indoors and read, ignoring the seasonal taunts, until I was told to go outside and get some fresh air.
My generation were fortunate enough to enjoy a measure of freedom not afforded to today’s children. There was never any talk of kidnappers or molesters. We weren’t harassed by the constant beeping of mobile phones informing us of incoming messages that had to be answered immediately. There was no danger from internet bullying and Play Stations were a long way off, so we had to entertain ourselves, mostly outside.
Separating our cousin’s house from our own were fields through which ran the local river Brit. It was pretty slow moving and muddy, but good for minnows and tadpoles. There was a bridge across it, useful for playing ‘Pooh-sticks’, but the best activity was creating a dam. This eventually silted up into an island, which everybody referred to as ‘Happy Island’. We took picnics down there, bread for the ducks, which we ate, and always returned home rosy-cheeked, muddied and often missing a gumboot.
Further along there was a small copse where my friends and I picked primroses in March and bluebells in May. Some years there were cowslips in the fields, but we seldom picked them because even then they were considered endangered.
To get home from Happy Island we had to cross the railway line. My brother Nigel was on the station platform the day the last steam train pulled out of Bridport station. He had his picture in the Bridport News.
The Puffing Billy was replaced by a slightly less noisy, slightly cleaner diesel engine, which took us to Yeovil, fifteen miles away, where there was a heated swimming pool. We loved the independence of going there unaccompanied. The pool was always crowded, so little actual swimming took place and we spent most of our time running up the steps to jump off the high diving boards. But it was a good outing that kept us entertained until summer finally arrived bringing the lure of the sea.