Yesterday I told a little 1950s tale about getting stuck in the mud when the field opposite our house suddenly became a building site. Life up until that time had been fairly tranquil, Heronstone Lane was a quiet back water of Bridgend, unlike the race-track short-cut it is today, and even as very young children it was safe for my brother Geoff and myself and all the other kids in the neighbourhood to play there with little fear of anything untoward happening to us.
Then the builders moved into the field opposite; suddenly here was a whole new area of excitement for us youngsters as we watched the process of turning a green site into a new road with fifty six houses squeezed in. The first thing to go was the bank and hedge separating the site from the lane and for this they used a very small but powerful bulldozer which had the wonderful name Drott in raised letters on the side. Geoff and I thought this was a magical sight, watching this machine rip out the hedges with a mighty roar from its four cylinder engine as it pushed the results of its destruction into large heaps in the field. Thereafter, any bulldozer type vehicle we spotted was automatically labelled as a Drott.
Shortly holes and trenches were being dug and the little twin-cylinder dumpers would be putt-putting around filling the hoppers of the on-site concrete mixers which would begin pouring foundations, the sand and chippings for this lay in huge heaps as they progressed down the road. The sand was an attraction to us locals and we’d play there, mostly in the evenings, but sometimes in the day as well. The workforce acknowledged our presence but I don’t recall us ever being moved on. In those days building sites were never fenced off and this one was no exception, we could wander anywhere but mostly after the builders had left the site in the evening.
Before long the Drott started to be used for filling lorries to take away surplus top soil to a fill site and a long-snout ancient Bedford was used for this until one day a new Thames Trader tipper arrived on site to work alongside the Bedford. The driver of this new lorry was a cheery friendly fellow and us kids liked him as he always seemed to have time to chat to us as he waited for the Drott to fill his lorry. I don’t know where they were tipping the soil, but it wasn’t a huge distance away as the two lorries seemed to be back and fore all day. We liked the Trader, it was a modern looking vehicle and we always kept an eye open for when it was on site.
“Is Geoff with you?” my mother asked as she poked her head out of the door one day when I was in the garden. “Haven’t seen him” I replied, “Go and see if he’s playing in the sand” she requested, so off I went. There was a large sand pile fairly near to the house and Geoff could usually be found there, playing with a Dinky Toy lorry, moving his own loads around his miniature building site, but I couldn’t see him anywhere, normally his mop of blonde curly hair would give him away. On reporting back, my mother became a little alarmed, he was after all not quite five years old at this time. “Stay here” she instructed “I’ll go and see if he’s at one of his friend’s”, so off she went returning in a short while and stating he wasn’t anywhere and he must be down the lane or somewhere on the building site.
So off I went again, by now a good half hour must have passed as I went right down into the muddy building site, the putt-putt dumper drivers taking no notice of me, but he really was nowhere to be seen. On my way back up to report to Mum I heard the Thames Trader come down the lane to pick up its next load and suddenly there was Geoff by the sand again. “Where’ve you been?” I enquired “We’ve been looking everywhere for you”. “Been for a ride in the lorry” he stated; I was a little jealous of this remark as I would love to have had a ride in that Thames Trader, but I was also wondering about what Mum would say when she found out he’d gone off in the lorry with the driver without saying a word.
I suppose using the word kidnapped was a little over dramatic, but if this had happened in the 21st century there would have been a hue and cry with a major performance and the driver arrested and all manner of enquiries would take place; the whole vicinity would have been cordoned off and the helicopters would be buzzing round. Not only that, our mother would also be accused of neglect which couldn’t have been further from the truth. Our idyllic childhood was in a different era and I suppose I could be remembering through the proverbial rose-tinted-spectacles, but to me childhood isn’t the same today.