Uncle would arrive back at the hairdressers at last, and then they would decide that we needed a haircut. Sitting in the back seat of the car trying not to lean back against the seat is hell. Is there anything worse than hair down your shirt after a haircut. It's absolute agony. We actually could not wait to get home and have a bath or get a towel to our backs. Uncle would watch us on the inside mirror and slow down quickly throwing us forward then speed away throwing us back into the seat. We went home sitting sideways! Auntie would tell him not to be so rotten, but he had that grin on his face all the way home. We rushed indoors to get our shirts off and get mum to brush the hair off our backs before we did anything else.
The road back home took us past Colchester Castle.
It was a big ruin, and was built by the Normans, or was it the Romans, just like the Tower of London. It had a great big moat around it; no water just grass. There were now only ruins but they were pretty colossal. The keep had been partially roofed and turned into a sort of a museum. It had a few glass cases and swords on the wall and suits of armour and stuff like that. The bouring stuff was the cases full of flints and arrow heads and axes from pre-history. I'm not sure why museums think these are so interesting when they are actually so bouring. The armour and swords and weapons are good but you are not allowed to touch. They have old fogies as old as the exhibits making sure that you do not do nothing. They stare at you daring you, just dying to chuck you out on the street. Yeah. They'd have a job with Aunt Edna.
The castle was in the grounds of a big park, and some Sunday's we would all go over and watch The Railway Club play The Transport Club and local villages at cricket.
Uncle was usually the sixth man into bat. We didn't think he was very good from what Auntie said, but one Sunday he bowled out most of a village team and then won the game with his batting!
Dad made us a cricket set. Bat, stumps and bails and one of the fathers came up with a cricket ball. It was hard and it hurt if it hit you which it did a lot. We played in the field across the road from the house. It was under grass and was grazed by sheep so it was kept pretty tight, but anyway we found a fairly flat patch, and when Mr Fazio, the man who lived next door saw that we were interested in playing and were getting quite a few kid's to play, he went out one Saturday and roped off a piece of grass and started raking it and getting rid of the sheep droppings.
"You justa keepa offa that grass for a bita, and you see. I make you a cricket picha some betta thana Lordsa." Everything had an 'A' after it.
He had come from Naples, he told us, in 1930 and settled at Camden Lock in London and had worked in the clothing trade for a couple of years, and in that time taught himself English, and got a job with The London Traction Company, became a driver and after two more years came to live at Colchester and a job with the railway as a driver. A crash in Chelmsford between his train and a goods wagon had turned his hair white and done something to his sense of balance. The crash was not his fault but even so it was because of Uncle John that he now worked in the office at Goreham Junction and he always took the time to tell anyone who would listen.
"John Shead saveda my family. Kepta my job"
We watched what he was up to when he was out there in the field on a dry evening or weekend. He was filling up depressions in the grass with soil brought from somewhere, then raking it level and tamping it down.
We carried on playing and waited for the farmer to come along and tell us and Mr Fazio to 'clear off' but he didn't. Well, in the Summer Mr Fazio suddenly informed us one day that the pitch would be ready, if it didn't rain, that weekend and after all his efforts, he expected us to field a team.
We had rather lost interest in cricket, what with all the bruises and cracked ankles, and anyway football was always our game, but it did cut the field up and Uncle said that after all his efforts we could not ignore him and that he had been excited and talking about it at work, so get talking to our mates, what mates? and get a team together, or else.
A team. That's eleven for cricket. If we played it was George and Joe and Tony and my brother and one of the girls, or maybe not. All you needed was a bat and a ball and two sticks to run between.
We had the boys on the Row, and two others from school and there were some boys from the houses down the road who joined in if they had nothing to do or wanted to start a fight; but three others who usually played with us if we played cricket at school with a bat and a soft ball, were girls. At a pinch, that probably made ten of us, as long as no one was going for haircuts or the dentist for long ago made appointments. We told the girls and asked and they said they would, so we asked them if they would turn up on the Saturday. Now they probably said yes because if they messed up then it would not be held against them as they were ONLY GIRLS, but if they scored we would never never hear the last of it!
Chris and I stood looking out of Auntie's bedroom window waiting for someone, anyone to arrive, and we could imagine that our mates up the Row were probably doing the same.
It was a nice sunny day and we had told the others to be there about two. Friends of Mr Fazio, who were quite big kids, had been arriving all the time.
Half past one nobody had arrived from our side. Two o'clock-still nothing. Two minutes past Mr Fazio appeared in the road from the alleyway with people all wearing white and Mr Fazio pushing a mower. For ten minutes we watched him go up and down the 'pitch', and then push the mower to the gate of the field. It looked a bit peculiar where the grass had cut in places and missed in others. He left the mower by the gate and walked back to where others were now knocking in stumps with a mallet and paced out the length for the bowlers stump. This bloke meant business. His team then turned and stared at our house.
"I think that he is ready." Uncle had come up behind us without us hearing and had been watching over our shoulders.
We opened the front door of the house as a horse drawn farm buggy pulled up by the gate and the three girls and the two boys from the school got out together with some others who had obviously come along for a laugh. Our mates appeared as if by majic and Uncle and Mr Fazio tossed a coin and the front doors of the houses opened and most of the Row appeared, either to walk down or stand on their doorsteps.
Colchester High Street at the beginning of the century; not a lot changed from when we were there.