Charles tells the story of his life so far. He makes the reader aware of the trials and tribulations which a physically handicapped person must overcome, to be accepted by society. Battling against the do-gooders who quoted theory. And were always telling him he was not capable of performing an action and must stop doing it. Even though doing it was part of his life e.g., that he was unable to ride the bicycle he was riding. His story is told in thirty chapters with titles such as Gratitude, Movement, Helping and Love. Each one followed by the lesson he learned about that aspect of his life.
Chapter 3 - DISCIPLINE Early in 1941 my grandparents moved to a house in Louisville Road, Upper Tooting, number 47. They shared the house with one of my mother's sisters, Ada and her husband Reg, who had the ground floor, three rooms and kitchenette with an outside toilet. My grandparents, with their youngest child (my aunty Pat) still at home, had the five upstairs rooms, kitchen, bathroom and toilet. My parents moved into a flat nearly opposite my gran's house at number 28. Ours was an upstairs flat with an outside toilet and a coal bunker on the back verandah. I painted this bunker many times at my mother's instigation, no doubt to keep me out of her way. In the flat below ours, lived a lady we called Old Nursie. She wasn't a bad old duck, but she did like to bang on her ceiling with a broom if I was making too much noise while playing around. As I was not very stable when walking, I spent a lot of time indoors, playing on my own. My favourite position was kneeling with my legs splayed out in line with my bum which was on the floor. I could then crawl about the room easily without the need to stand and walk with the probabilty of falling over and instigating a broom banging from Old Nursie below. Louisville Road was where I grew up. It was an incredible road, with many associated characters. As I still could not walk far without falling over, my tricycle was my main means of mobility when I was allowed to play outside in the road. Soon after moving there I had an encounter of the worst kind. I was out riding my trike, when two very friendly boys about my own age offered to play with me. As part of the game, they tied a piece of rope around my handlebars and pulled me along, terrific!!! To the end of the road, marvellous!!! On to the common, a little concerned but okay. Further on to the common over a big road into a real scary part, with lots of trees. One could easily get lost. Not OKAY!!! They untied the rope from my handlebars, and ran off. I was new to the neighbourhood. Having been institutionalised for quite a time, I had no experience of fending for myself in a street-kid environment. I had been abandoned in a strange place far from the street where I lived, with no idea in which direction to go. "Boo! Hoo! I'm lost, don't know where I am, how do I get home?" Along came two young lady White Knights who recognised my address and escorted me home. End of story? Oh no! My mother, protective lioness Peg, emerged to wreak vengeance on the boys who dared prey on her Bobby. When pointed out to her, the boys received a real dressing-down as only Peg could give it. She never once hit me, she only needed to shout at me. Whatever she said must have been very effective, because from that day on I was virtually adopted as the fourth Mark brother. The boys responsible for this prank were Malcolm Mark, one year younger, and Roy Mark fifteen months older than me. There was an older brother Rex, five years my senior, whom I met later. The Mark brothers were very tolerant towards me after this incident. My lack of ability to walk without falling over was taken for granted by them. I was lucky if I could go more than twenty steps without stumbling as I would trip myself up - the toecap of my left shoe bore witness to this, for it was heavily scuffed where my right shoe scraped it with each step I took. On the occasions when my right foot hit my left instead of just skimming it, I would end up on the ground. I always had a bandage on at least one knee - no Band-Aids in those days! Many a time when the Mark boys and I were walking along the road together, I would fall down but they would take no notice. When questioned by passersby as to why they hadn't helped me up, they would reply: "He's alright, he'll ask for help if he needs it." Through taking this approach to my disability, the Mark brothers helped me more than anyone could ever imagine. It was through Rex and Roy I joined the Wolf Cub pack of the 1st Balham & Tooting K.S.O. Scout group. There was a large gang of us children who used to play in the street, and we had a great deal of fun. However, Rex and Roy would go off on Saturday afternoons in a uniform to this thing called 'cubs and scouts.' I wanted to go as well. My father, although proud of me, was protective. Fearing what effect rejection by the Cubmaster might have on me, he tried to dissuade me from trying to join. Being me, I was adamant I wanted to join. A compromise was reached. My mother would take me along on a Saturday afternoon to meet the Cubmaster, whose decision would be final. Saturday afternoon came, along we went to the Lecture Hall of Balham Congregational church, where the meeting was held. This was the first time I met Sidney Riches the Cubmaster - Pa! Pa's comment was: "He can sit on the stage and watch. If he thinks he can join in anything, he may do so. Then, if he still wants to join the pack, I shall be pleased to enrol him." I did not sit on the stage for long. At the end of the afternoon I still wanted to join, so I was eventually enrolled as a Tenderpad in the Wolf Cub pack. No concessions whatsoever were made to me in respect of my disability, it was entirely my prerogative to withdraw if I felt anything was beyond me. There were many things I could not do at first, but as time went on I managed to accomplish more and more. Certain concessions were made in respect of tests. One in particular which comes to mind was catching a ball - 6 times using the left hand, 6 times using the right hand and 6 times using both hands - for me this was modified to catching a ball 9 times using the left hand and 9 times using both hands. I managed to catch a ball by clutching it to my body with my left hand while my right hand waved about wherever it wanted to. This was accepted as a two-handed catch. I was proud of being a cub and obtaining both my proficiency stars. These were worn in the front panel of the cub's cap and each one attained was referred to as having 'an eye open.' I achieved both eyes open. A cub pack is divided into 'sixes,' designated by colour and made up of six cubs of varying age and experience. A sixer is the cub in charge of and responsible for the five under him. In time, I became sixer of the red six. During WWII various schemes were devised to encourage children to help the war effort. One such scheme was a badge for National Service which could be earned by cubs and scouts. I obtained my N.S. badge, as did most of the cubs and scouts in our group, by collecting salvage, mostly waste paper. Every Saturday morning we would assemble the group's trek cart and call on local homes and businesses collecting their contributions of waste. Because I had difficulty walking very far and could not keep up with the others, I would fall behind. Consequently, I would invariably end up sitting atop a pile of paper on the trek-cart, king of all I surveyed. The paper we collected was baled up and stored in the Lecture Hall, where it was piled nearly to the ceiling. It served as a wonderful adventure playground for us young ones before going home after salvage collection. Cubmaster Sidney Riches was a remarkable man. He had been in the Medical Corps and had served in Egypt during the first World War. When he returned to civilian life and his involvement with his local church, he became a Sunday School teacher. Some of the boys in his Sunday School class were boy scouts in need of a scoutmaster. They prevailed on Mr Riches, who succumbed and became 'Pa,' Scoutmaster of the 8th South West London Scout Group, which had begun in 1908. As the boy scout movement grew, the group was renamed the 1st Balham and Tooting. Pa had the idea his scout group needed a patron. His father, who had been with the British Foreign Office at the Court of Siam, came to mind. Pa wrote a letter to the King of Siam requesting his patronage of the group. He received a letter in the King's own handwriting accepting patronage of the group, and allowing the 1st Balham & Tooting scout group to call itself the 'King of Siam's Own' - K.S.O. This letter took pride of place in the group's club-room, as it was a great honour for the King to write in person to anyone. As well as becoming patron of the group, the King also founded the Tiger Scouts in Siam. Hence Pa was influential in spreading the Boy Scout movement to Siam. Where his scout group was concerned, Pa expected and got the best. He was a stickler for discipline, running the group on quasimilitary lines. The K.S.O.s were different, almost a law unto themselves, mainly because they were the best. Normal scout groups had bugle bands. The K.S.O.s had a trumpet band. This trumpet band had such an excellent reputation it was invited to play at the Albert Hall as part of a special celebration. The Musical Director of the Household Cavalry Band composed a piece of music specially for the band to play on this occasion. I never heard our band playing at its best, because by the time I joined the K.S.O.s it was wartime and the majority of our players had joined the armed forces. However, on occasions there would be an old scouts' reunion where the band instruments would be brought out of storage and a magical noise would emanate from the club-room. Pa was a kind and unassuming man, the quintessential bachelor. He smoked a pipe, loved...
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