Tony Inwood's book, "Flying under the Radar: A story of hope and healing" -  described as "A true story of damaged childhood, turbulent adolescence and a descent into alcohol and drugs and the consequent peripatetic lifestyle of a ‘down and out'" - was published in November 2023. Chapter 11 is shared here with his generous permission.

In "Flying under the Radar" Tony develops the details of life at the Paddocks, Lacton Hall and the Colt House, to include the emotional problems he tried to cope with. In Chapter 11, Tony "gives much detail about general life at Caldecott in the 1960s, especially from a young child’s perspective."

Tony's book is available on Amazon, here.


Chapter 11 Life in the Junior Study

Upon my arrival in the Junior Study, I felt rather sad and bewildered as I saw my case being taken off to the dormitory for unpacking, until Miss Murdin, who ran the group, welcomed me and introduced me to another boy of my age. He befriended me, showed me the ropes and helped me to settle in. He had been at the Community for some while, having been in the nursery originally, and was very pleased to have recently been “promoted” to the Junior Study! I took an instant liking to this boy and we became firm friends, which continued throughout our time at the Community, and has continued to this day. I was most appreciative of his showing me the “ins and outs” of the place and explaining the rules.

Before long I began to feel more at ease and get to know both the place and the people and, although I didn’t see much of [my brother] Colin, I didn’t mind too much, knowing all the time that he was at least around the place. As with the assessment centre, there was an ordered, calm existence and my thoughts and feelings were largely occupied with day to day life in my new environment and I was feeling reasonably happy.

The pattern of life consisted of rising at about 8am and having washed, dressed and cleaned our shoes, we would all proceed down the seven or eight flights of stairs, through the hall and into the dining room for breakfast. We would be joined at breakfast by the Senior Study, the next age group up, of which Colin was a member. The older Senior boys, eleven and upwards, would have already eaten and would be making their way to the bus stop to attend either the local Secondary Modern or Grammar schools.

Breakfast always followed the same pattern, which was Muesli on Mondays, ham on Tuesdays, eggs on Wednesdays, porridge on Thursdays and cereal on Fridays. On weekends it was kippers and haddock. These were accompanied by toast, or rolls and butter, with marmalade. There was also an item known as “Scrunch”. This was really just plain bread, which was a day or two old, and had been baked in the oven to make it crunchy! We also had Camp coffee served in large blue mugs from a huge metal urn.

When breakfast was over, we would make our way back upstairs to the playroom for a short period before going over to school. Classes were split into three age groups. Our class was run by a woman who was fairly plump, had a bad hip, and a rather red face. She was always kind, but could keep very firm control of the class, when needed. She also had a delightful little beagle dog called “Topsy” who was a great joy to us children.

The schoolwork here was always interesting and fun. I remember doing drawings and paintings and making papier mache puppets, by pasting old newspapers onto a plasticine model. We also once all saved the cream from our break-time milk and made it into butter and then had a little on our bread at teatime that evening.

Once a week, we were required to write to our parents or relatives. I always found it rather a tiresome task as apart from a few details about what we had been doing, I could think of very little else to say.

The schoolwork was punctuated by a short break in the mornings and afternoons, during which, in the morning, a small bottle of milk and two sweet biscuits were eagerly consumed. We then indulged in the usual playground games of “Tag” and “Hide and Seek” and so on. We also used to climb the big beech tree and swing on a rope that was tied to one of the branches, whilst the girls would sit on the grass in summer and make daisy chains. They also enjoyed playing hopscotch by the garages.

We must have done Maths, English and Geography in some form, but I don’t recall much about them in the early days. I think these were more likely to have been done in more detail in the other two classes as we got older. 

We did learn about the Romans, though, which I found interesting. However, the highlight for me was the last half hour of school each day when Mrs Robson would read books to us, such as Mary Poppins and Worzel Gummidge. She was a very good reader and always tailored her voice to suit the different characters. She also read us “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings”, which I found absolutely enthralling.

At lunchtime, we would go to the main house, back to our playroom and wash our hands. Life at Caldecott was to some extent governed by bells being rung certain times of day, whereupon certain actions had to be taken. One of these was for mealtimes, so when the outside bell rang, we once again descended the stairs and took our places in the dining room.

The food at Caldecott was very good on the whole, considering that it was an institution that had to cater to over 100 children in those days. Many of the vegetables were grown in the huge kitchen garden of the stately home and were really good and also very fresh. My favourite meals at lunchtime were steak and kidney pie, although I now no longer eat meat, with two veg, one of which in the summer was very often lovely new potatoes, which had been dug up that morning. There were always plenty of these and if one table had finished theirs and wanted more, the bowl could be taken around other tables, to see if they had any spare. I used to love eating rice pudding too, which was quite stodgy and very filling.

Meals were mostly carried out in two sittings, namely the seniors followed by the juniors, mainly for reasons of space. These meals were always conducted by Miss Leila, who controlled each stage of the meal by the tinkling of a little hand bell. This would signal a period of silence before either clearing the tables between courses or dismissing each table at the end of a meal. If a child was late for a meal, they would be expected to stand for a few minutes behind their chair, before being allowed to sit down and eat their food. Similarly, any child who was rude at the table or showed bad manners, would also have to stand behind their chair and remain silent for a short time as a punishment for their rudeness.

After lunch we would go into the very impressive library for what was known simply, as ‘rest’. This meant taking a tartan rug from one of the cupboards, laying down on it on the floor and reading a book for half an hour. These books were taken from the local library and there was a woman who very helpfully guided us as to the sort of books she felt that we might like. I remember reading an assortment of books in my early years ranging from Biggles, to a series of adventure books about twins from different countries, through to Enid Blyton’s “Secret Seven” and “Five” books.

After rest, we would wander back over to the schoolyard for our afternoon lessons, which ended about 4pm. An afternoon activity, amongst other things in Mrs Robson’s class, was doing a little bit of gardening. Each child had a tiny plot in which to grow various vegetables or flowers.

Mrs Robson, very sadly, was a widow, because of her husband dying of pulmonary tuberculosis right at the end of WW2. He had been a stretcher bearer. Apparently, he used to write to her regularly of his experiences. She decided to write a book containing his letters and it was published in his name in 1961. It is called “Letters from a Soldier” by Walter Robson and was very well received by the critics.

After school, we would go back to the house for high tea, which would be our last meal of the day. On Thursdays, this meal had the added treat of being followed by an ice cream. We would then go to the playroom for a short while before bedtime, which was around 6:30pm. Once in bed, we had about half an hour in which to read, update stamp albums, or do other similar activities. Then Miss Murdin would read to us from various books for 15 minutes or so, before lights out. I recall “Treasure Island”, “Coral Island” and stories by E. Nesbit, such as “5 Children and It”, “The Phoenix and the Carpet” and “The Story of the Amulet”.

On Saturday mornings we attended the school on the premises until midday and these few hours were usually taken up with woodwork or arts and crafts. As for the rest of the weekend, that consisted of games in the grounds and fairly long walks with a group of us children going along country lanes being led by Miss Murdin. To any bemused person passing by she must have looked like a “Mother Hen” leading all her “Chicks” behind her! At the end of it, we would spend our pocket money in the local sweetshop.

This cycle of life continued for me in the Junior Study for about six months, which passed, on the whole, fairly happily. During this period, Colin and I were visited once or twice by my mother who was now living in a bed sitting room and working as a typist. She would hire a car for a day or weekend and travel with Dennis to come and see us. These visits from mother and Dennis were fairly frequent, usually about twice a term on average, and they continued throughout the eight years that I was at the community, although at a slightly scaled-down rate.

My father, however, whilst quite keen to see us in our new surroundings initially, was totally averse to driving long distances. This was largely, I suppose, because he felt unfit or unable to drive other than for short journeys, because of the medications he was taking for his mental and emotional condition. On the occasions he did come down, he hired somebody to drive the car for him. As such, he only visited us two or three times at Caldecott altogether. We did visit both of our parents during the school holidays, though.

Any visits made by either parent were always greatly looked forward to by Colin and me and when, on one or two occasions, a visit was postponed for one reason or another, bitter disappointment and a feeling of rejection would set in and would take several days to shake off. This was regardless of what the reason was, even if we knew that it could not be helped. 

However, these visits, when they did take place, were always very enjoyable and usually consisted of trips to various seaside towns nearby and included picnics on the beach and walks and ice creams.

Money, as far as my mother was concerned, was still very tight and I often felt a mixture of anger and sorrow when she explained that she could not afford to let us have more than one turn on the dodgems, or a few pennies for the slot machines, because of this. The anger was not directed at her, but more at a set of circumstances that could allow a situation like this to exist. The sorrow I felt, though, was more for her, knowing that she really wanted to provide for us, not just materially, but in every other way too, and was unable to do so.

These aspects aside however, visits were by and large very happy affairs and always as the day wore on, with the time of their departure growing ever more imminent, a feeling of sadness would slowly creep over me. It was always with a lump in my throat and a forced smile that we kissed and waved mother and Dennis goodbye and watched them drive off, until the car was completely out of sight. After a day or so, the sadness would wear off and normal life would resume, and I would focus my thoughts in other areas.

In November of that year, my ninth birthday arrived, and there was always a great deal of importance attached to birthdays at the community. Firstly, there was a specially made oak noticeboard, which hung in the hall and each month all the children who had a birthday would have their name written in italics on a card, with the date and inserted into a slot on the board for all to see. On the top half of the board there was a picture, which changed each month as well, like an ordinary calendar. Having one’s name put up in this way always made one feel very special and full of pleasant anticipation. On the day itself, the member of staff responsible would give the child in question a little present which they had specially bought on their day off. In addition to this, a birthday party was given in the dining room, with a cake and candles. This party was combined with high tea, and the person whose birthday it was, could choose who would sit at their table.

At the end of Colin’s and my first term, the holidays duly arrived.