George Ernest Bull; Part 4

When George returned from overseas, Hannah rented an old small house located in the yard of Allisons Buildings. There was an acute shortage of housing in the Village (and elsewhere) with waiting lists of several years to get into a council house. This house did not have electricity and again the oil lamps came out. The house had a large garden which was soon planted with vegetables. Of course George was a perfectionist and was soon trying to compete with the other growers taking advice on their secret recipes for leeks. Instead of receiving bacon or egg rations, we kept two pigs, geese and chickens. The fowl were kept at Cleveland Ave. and the pigs at Allisons Buildings. George built a beautiful pigpen, he fed the pigs and I had the job of keeping the pen clean. When they were slaughtered in Trimdon Colliery, the hams etc. were taken to Cleveland Avenue and cured in the bath in a mixture of salt and saltpeter for about three weeks..

This house although small was warm and cozy, I always think of Hannah as an excellent cook and then I remember her first attempt at a leek and potato pie. This was a special for George using one of his prize leeks. The pie looked beautiful, we sat down to eat it and Hannah cut the first slice, as she lifted it out of the dish the leek came out whole, she did not know she was supposed to cut it up before baking. There was lots of laughter.

The chickens were another story, the locals told him to kill the chickens by pulling and then twisting the neck to snap it, he tried several times to kill a chicken by wringing its neck, each time it survived and ran away, he then took out the axe and chopped the head off, he put the chicken on the ground, it got up and ran a few steps more he just could not believe what happened.

When we gave up on the pigs, George read an advert in the paper saying you could make a fortune selling mushrooms, he converted the pig pen to a mushroom house, bought special soil and the spawn. Theoretically, he had the perfect set up and conditions, but not many  mushrooms grew. In frustration he threw the whole lot onto the pig waste manure heap to use as future fertilizer, guess what, next year he had a great crop of mushrooms, never did make any money.

Finding a job became another problem. He could not practice his trade in the Trimdon area and because of his knee injury, he was not employable in the local heavy industries. He enrolled in a Government Training Centre in Aycliffe to re-train as a joiner. He bought a motorcycle to get to and from Aycliffe. Even after completing the training there were no permanent type jobs available locally. He survived by doing a little contract work and odd jobs around the village. Although I was still at school, I helped him with some of the projects. The most memorable was trying to reinforce the roof of the old Working Men’s Club. This old building with red tile shingles had the roof almost to the point of collapse, sagging badly. The old hand hewn roof beams were riddled with worm holes. With ropes and turnbuckles, he corrected the sag and then reinforced the beams to prevent the collapse. It was hot and dirty work in that roof space, it helped that being a pub, they kept him supplied with shandies through the access hole. This temporary fix lasted until the new club was built (Labour Club).

Because of his knee, he could not take part in any active sports so he became a spectator. The motor bike enabled him (and I) to go and watch the Durham Wasps ice hockey, a number of the players knew him from his hockey days and would come over and talk to him. He got me interested in this game and it still is my favourite sport to watch. Football was another passion, Middlesbrough especially if there was a London team playing. He also loved boxing but could not get me interested.

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