Mrs Becher’s Diary

The Cook Family

Old Mrs Cook, she was old when we first knew her, [c. 1916]. Sitting bolt upright with the black shawl over her shoulder – a lace cushion on her lap and her fingers busy with the bobbins and pins.  Her hair was parted in the centre and tightly drawn down each side shewing to full advantage the strong somewhat square face – very white and much lined – and the eyes steely   blue and dominant.      A personality one felt who sucked the vitality of the daughter who lived with her.

Aggie, an elderly woman, but still a child to the mother who completely dominated her – neat prim and spotlessly clean, moving with a mincing precision and putting wonderful stitches into the little linen squares or collars which were trimmed with her mother’s beautiful lace. She would show off the dainty laces touching each piece with loving care and telling of its particular make and the special name of each pattern.

She loved little children and would weave fairy stories for them. Her life seemed to be drawn from her mother, for after Mrs Cook died she was never the same.  She failed quickly and seemed to have no anchorage.

Minnie, crippled with rheumatism has survived her these many years.  Her patience, courage and cheerfulness are amazing.  Unable to move, her hands and arms disfigured and stiff. She is often unable to feed herself or even to move in bed and yet she has a childlike faith and trust in the Heavenly Father.

I felt privileged that she sent for me one day and asked me if I thought the Vicar would bring her Communion and if I would arrange it with him. She still lies there – stone deaf but with an understanding heart. Vouchsafed sometimes in such full measure only to those who look on at life and who loved our Lord with the humility and simplicity which is Minnie Cook’s

Bob Wigram

The victim of concussion umpteen times, with a bright mind – good natured yet narrow and he was a bad enemy.  He pursued his purpose relentlessly, oblivious of criticism.

A tremendous talker, he used to tell a story against himself. They were a large family and when as young children they were separating at night for bed and prayers, he suggested that they should all say them aloud together and then there would be no need to stop talking.

He was generous yet with an eye for his own profit. A friend of the working man, he openly asserted his superiority and claimed the deference which he considered his due. He was as a Squire in his own eye and they his servitors.  Horses and dogs were his hobby and he inaugurated a pack of beagles to which he always rode – the only man on horseback.

He was incapable of understanding the point of view of those who objected to hounds running over their ground and astonishingly referred to them as ‘bad sportsmen’.

Headstrong, he was a difficult customer in a disagreement as his high colour and firm jaw seemed to indicate. He married Adela Reid – ‘Ity’ to her friends, many years his junior – one of the sweetest things God ever made. Dark, faithful looking brown eyes with a widow’s peak above and a forehead that wrinkled deliciously when she smiled in that questioning way of hers. Thrilled with the idea of her baby, she died in giving it birth and she was missed and mourned by everyone who knew her.

Bob Wigram married a second time and to him there could never be children that could be compared to his two boys who he would have to be sportsmen from infancy.

The recurring concussion following frequent falls from his horse – they say he suffered it eighteen times, made the pain in his head almost unbearable and the end was characteristic of him – he simply took the direct way out – the way of a sportsman and blew his brains out.

There is a letter from him in my possession apologising for his enforced absence from the Boys Club annual Social Evening.  He writes – “I don’t believe you have a motto for your Boys Club, may I suggest one?  It was a saying of the Jews and perhaps the Vicar would read it to the Club:

Iron is strong, but fire is stronger, for it bendeth iron
Fire is strong, but water is stronger, for it putteth out fire
Water is strong, but clouds are stronger, for they draweth up water
Clouds are strong, but wind is stronger, for it blows away clouds
Wind is strong, but man is stronger, for he overcometh the wind
Man is strong, but fear is stronger, for it maketh man weak
Fear is strong, but wine driveth out fear
Wine is strong, but sleep overcometh wine
Sleep is strong, but death is stronger
Death is strong, but “loving kindness is stronger than all”
For it outlasteth death itself.

The Ex-Servicemen’s 1st Dinner

Shall you ever forget the first ex-servicemen’s dinner? – A photo of which hangs in the Parish Room shewing the band of voluntary helpers. There was beer ad-lib, given by the brewers and the barrels were placed in the kitchen. This was the undoing of the only professionals called in to help prepare and serve dinner – Mr & Mrs Sear.

The beer was drawn and put into jugs and jugs were also used to serve the gravy. In the general excitement and rush these became interchangeable to Mrs Sears and many an ex-serviceman must have been amazed at the flavour of the hot roast beef which was set before him. I had prepared 103 menu cards, one for each man present and scores of these were picked up afterwards lying on the tables soaked in beer.

Michael Rolfe

I think I shall always remember Micky. He was a very small boy when I first came to Tylers Green but even then he stood out from other children; perhaps because of his delicious curly head and those bright eyes, taking in everything and seeming to store it all in his quick brain – perhaps because of a latent strength of character that even then showed itself and which was to make him as he grew older a leader among his fellows.

He possessed that strange power which is given only to a few – the power to attract those around him to follow where he led. It was noticeable all through his short life and yet with it went a deep shyness and reticence which made it difficult for those older than himself to show the affection which all who came into contact with Micky, felt for him.

Gifted as he was, he hated to feel that there was no work for him to do and the tragedy of his death lies partly in the fact that he worried so much about it and yet it was no fault of his, rather the fault of the times in which we live.

But in spite of his own feelings and all through that side time, there was always the cheery look _ the delightful breaking smile which was one’s greeting as one met the tall thin figure passing up and down through the village.

Then later, after months of suffering, when he knew he could not live, he met the end with the same gay courage with which he had faced the world.

The lesson that was read on Monday, March the 26th 1934, as his body was laid to rest on a gorgeous spring afternoon, seemed to speak of that tremendous hope that will wipe the tears from all eyes: “These have come out of great tribulation and have washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb”.

Jessie Dixon – April 1934

She was always the life and soul of the social events connected with the church. Was it a jumble sale? Mrs Dixon was there. [illegible sentence omitted]. Or a Mothers Union Outing or a Christmas Tea? There she was, making us all gay with her infectious laughter and the jokes which generally told most against herself – which of us who saw it will ever forget the occasion of the hot mustard bath on the Parish Room Platform or ‘the fit of sneezing’ that brought the house down. The children – I fancy she loved the ChiIdren’s treat best of all; she was always there and I have seen her gaze with eyes that were not quite dry at the gaily decorated Christmas tree hung with the gifts that were to be given to the children.

Till almost the end, she was making little garments for Dr Barnado’s babies. Unable to get to the working parties, she had the work at home and took the greatest pride and delight in putting into each tiny garment the most beautiful stitchery.

Where help was needed she loved to give it. Sorrows and bereavement had quickened her sympathy and no one ever appealed to her in vain.

After her home, St Margaret’s Church and all it stood for, held perhaps the largest part of her heart and life and she was seldom absent from her seat on a Sunday evening.

During these last few months, when weakness and weariness came upon her, she shewed amazing patience and a laugh was never far distant. One of her last outings was to the Church she loved and not many days after I had driven her there for her Easter Communion, she was called to the eternal Easter where there shall be neither sorrow or crying, nor any more pain.

Penn Fair 1934

Penn Fair, Watercolour by Mrs Violet Becher

“Ain’t it grand
To be blooming well dead.”

Heard hundreds of times this must have been the actual sentiment (or something like it!) of many who live near the Common during the few days round Sept. 17th when the Fair is with us.

Hour after hour without cessation or pause, the engines throb and throb, the tunes played by the roundabouts blare out and the shrill whistle of the engines sounds at regular intervals. And the tunes follow one another, each air blending into the next – and round they come again – from 2.30 till midnight there is no escape, and as daylight fades the flares are lighted and the glow and smoke can be seen a long way off; and still the tunes go on sad and gay intermingled indiscriminately, while the gilded animals on the roundabouts slide up and down and go round and round with their freight of human bodies

Penn Fair, accurately speaking ceased to exist about 30 years ago.

OriginaIly, how long ago no one seems to know, a Charter was granted to the Parish of Penn and staIls and booths were erected free of charge once a year all round the Red Lion Public House and down both sides of Elm Road.

Then about thirty years ago the Common was rented from Chipping Wycombe Parish Council and the caravans and stalls moved into Tylers Green and made their home there.

During the 3 days allowed them it is as if another village had grown up in a night. At a given moment, each vehicle is driven on to the common and in a remarkably short time apparent chaos becomes perfect orderliness – each vehicle being parked on its appointed place with consummate skill and accuracy.

The family life begins at once and cooking pots are brought out and for three days is lived in the open. One half of modern civilisation watching how the other half lives

Birds – Summer 1934

Many of us in Tylers Green deplore at this time the custom of shooting the birds while the cherry trees are in fruit.

In a certain garden there is a little nesting box made from a piece of the trunk of a silver birch; it has been nailed to a post over which trails a crimson rambler. A pair of wrens have made their nest inside. The entrance hole is the size of a penny, but afraid of draughts for her babies, or perhaps to keep out enemies, the little mother worked a layer of moss over two thirds of the aperture, till it seemed hardly possible that she herself could squeeze through. Now, quite unafraid and unperturbed by the very near presence of the owner of the garden (convalescent from mumps) who sits exactly under the nest, she busies herself satisfying the rapacious appetites of her brood. Backwards and forwards she flies, gone perhaps for 2 or 3 minutes and returning with a large caterpillar in her long beak, she hops slowly nearer and nearer through the surrounding branches of the tree, and then flies with a little rush on to the perch outside the hole and the little wide open mouths are satisfied for a brief moment. If it should be a moth, she waits patiently and then poking her head she reappears with the discarded wings which apparently are not to the taste of young wrens!

Some years ago a dweller in Tylers Green was working at his job in a yard. Suddenly there flew to him a robin who chirruped loudly and then returned towards a heap of stones. This happened once or twice and finally the little bird alighted on his shoulder. Laying down his tools, he followed where the robin led, and was just in time to see a rat disappearing from the direction of the nest. By this time only one egg remained and lifting the nest from the stones, he put it high up on a branch of a tree where the grateful bird immediately went to take possession of it in its newer and safer position.

Rogues – September 1933

Do you remember the little streams of babies walking about the village this summer? There were about 48 of them between the ages of 2 and 5 and they came from a nursery school in the heart of Stepney and were spending a fortnight at Rogues. I shall always think of them as the Water Babies. The weather was perfect and they were never seen in anything but little hand-knitted bathing pants of the gayest of colours. One evening when I went up to see them, they were sitting in a little group on the tennis lawn eating their supper of porridge and bread and butter out of brightly coloured bowls – each group having a father or mother who saw to the wants of the others. Supper ended, they were allowed to go and paddle; and there was a rush of little feet over the long grass, under the trees and past the flower beds down to the water, where their small garments were discarded and the round pool became fringed with tiny scraps of humanity each in his or her birthday suit. Those in charge told me sad tales of unhappy homes, dirt squalor and neglect – verily it must have seemed a Paradise to them.