The Crameatorium

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1. Mum and Recollections
2. Jo

1. Mum and Recollections

As an only child, with one older brother and sister I never had to share my mum

She worked hard earning the money for my toys and clothes

Mrs Cook over the road in Moore’s Place had a club book, the source of my treats 

Mrs Cook was lovely, she had two daughters, Linda (the older) and Valerie, my age who I used to play with I can recall Mrs Cook even now, scarves were the fashion and I recall her bulging, separate cleavage, with affection, in an innocent mummy way

I also recall playing Twister with Linda and Valerie in their front room and the overwhelming smell of cheesy socks!

I once, when very young,  persuaded Valerie to put her finger down the barrel of my of my pop gun, promising not to pull the trigger, I did of course

Mr Cook (aka Curley) was a lorry driver for James’s Mill and used to collect grain from the local farms.

I recall going out and spending days with him in his lorry (a great adventure for a young lad)

I remember us navigating narrow country lanes of Berkshire

I was also fortunate enough to go around the town on Bob (Mr) Lewingtons coal lorry whilst it delivered coal and then back to the coal yard (now Macklins Close)

In the yard were the low wooden outbuildings full of sawdust, chickens and rats where I would play for hours

Bob (Mr) Lewington was also a drinking buddy of my dad and would, on Sunday mornings appear at the British Legion in his black Rover 90

I would join his daughters in the back, in the huge squeaky brown leather cushioned seats, my dad in the front, and off we would go, usually to the Tally Ho at Hungerford Newtown

Drinking and driving was allowed back them

Mum, I recall did the cleaning at the Brindley’s over the chemist shop

I often went with her and remember the splendour of rooms filled with furniture and cabinets

They had a Pekinese dog called Nifkey who once lived with us.

Hiding under the bed attacking dads ankles when they appeared.

Nifkey didn’t like men

Mum also worked at Franklin’s the greengrocer and fishmonger

The fishmonger being the source of our smoked haddock meals (with mashed potato and peas with plenty of vinegar)

I vividly remember the heady smell that rose from the boxes of apples I opened and put out for sale

At one point I helped out there and did some delivering in my car

For some reason I remember mum, myself and my car (actually a small van with side windows, in Prospect Road

Long before I remember the Johnny Seven multi gun bought from her earnings and my Fireball XL5 models

She was working I am sure because she had to

In those days some working class men were still cast from times of hardship

My father, one of 11, not all survived but when he was paid, the money put cash in his pocket

When you had cash in your pocket you had money to spend, something unheard of in his history, so to the boozer, the place to be and be seen

He was of a different class when stood at the bar in his trilby hat ordering the drinks

He once was a length man on the railway (so my birth certificate says) and I heard that once he worked for the local butcher

This skill was put to good use as I recall, preparing meat (both bought and some supplied by local poachers) Burning the feather stubble from chicken and pheasant, and cracking the bones in the door frame

So manual labour it was, with gardening and night watchman other occupations

He did some “watching” on the new Polyhomes estate to the side of Tarrants Hill (some connection to the actor Richard Todd)

Standard practices involved ensuring that building materials safely left the site under cover of darkness

To his credit (and the only one) he did maintain a large vegetable plot, providing all our veg

I recall no conversation with him, not one, ever.

He was not skilled in a practical sense, I once witnessed him trying to put up a  wall shelf in the Kitchen with a hammer and nails, when the nails bent he got bigger nails

On one occasion, the only one, he had procured a hand painted (brush) green post war bike, sit up and beg style with mechanical brakes, ancient even in those days!

This was for me as I needed one for the paper round

I was unappreciative and speechless

My self purchased drop handled 12 speed racing bike was the bees knees though and stayed with me for years

Mum kept me in check, even whilst at secondary school

I remember one Sunday afternoon being scolded when I got home “You’re a bit young to have girls calling for you!”

Lynne Francis had called at the house looking for me

Unbeknown to her, Keith Talmage and myself were at Hungerford Station "sheltering" in the waiting room.

It was pouring with rain but we were in the company of Pamela Downs, one of the “hotties” from school

I had to leave (not sure why, hence arriving home for the scolding)

Keith in the meantime had Pamela to himself

Lynne was blonde and slim (there is another story involving me witnessing, from a distance, but not participating, in a double act of pleasure for 2 lads from school with Lynne)

She had a motive for calling on me

My friend was Keith Morgan (nickname “buses”)

He was a well developed, advanced and knowledgeable in the area of women, I had barely discovered or acknowledged girls!

I was the conduit through which Lynne would advance her longings for Keith

I was incredibly naïve and unaware

Still am

On another occasion I had no idea why Lynne and Keith locked themselves in the Geography room leaving me outside


I think Lynne was the first girl that I fancied, but I didn’t know what fancying had to do with the ideals I had for true love and partnership whilst hiding in shyness

I do remember walking down the high street, hand in hand with Lynne’s friend Brigetta Hanson, just the once, not sure why, it was just the once

I do recall that at one point in my life that a drastic change took place

Perhaps as a consequence of a spurt in growth

I found myself short sighted

When I went to secondary school I was unable to see the blackboard, even if I sat at the front of the class it was difficult, but cool people didn't do that

It would be years later, mainly thanks to John Lennon and his round specs that I managed to overcome my shyness and wear spectacles

I had gone through years of secondary schooling not being able to see what was on the blackboard

I recall the horror of a science test where the questions were written on the blackboard and I could not read them so had to make up answers to the questions I couldn't see

In hindsight surely the teachers knew or suspected?

This also may have led to some overreacting and a chip on each shoulder

There were several fights at school

And a certain 1st year gained a notoriety for beating up a 4th year bully

My days at schools were unbelievably stressing, I couldn't  see properly but  i wouldn't  admit it or wear glasses

Despite it all I still managed to get through and get my Apprenticeship when I  left

Mr Chesney had a piece of my art on his office wall

Years before Mr Chesney, the headmaster, during assembly, had called me out in front of the whole school because I was wearing a coloured jersey over my school uniform

I heard the commotion but could not see who it was aimed at till I was shoved forward

The only time my mother got to hear of anything untoward was when Keith and I (may have been others) bunked off school and had a very loud jam session at my house

Not very smart as my house was only about 200 yards from the school and everyone passing  by, on the way to school heard the noise! A teacher was sent to collect us

As a kid I was never aware that my mum was ill

I did hear a scream one night and as a young child was scared but not enquiring

I once spent a week living with my sister in Great Bedwyn

I don’t recall the detail but think my mum went to hospital

The great story, always proudly and loudly told by Bill Leach (my sisters husband) was that I kept crying because I missed my mum

Apparently I wouldn’t stop so Mr Leach, took me upstairs and hung me out of the bedroom window by the ankle till I stopped

Those were the days

How he laughed when recalling the story, which he did often

Bill was another boozer, (especially with his brothers) keen to do the rounds of the local pubs with my dad

I wish I knew where he was buried so I could piss on his grave

Another time mum fell over in the back garden, I was distressed because I did not have the strength to help her up

Mum was proud of me, she never wanted me to turn out like dad

When I got myself a paper round she was pleased I had got myself a job and was earning myself some money

Later I earned even more by marking up the newspapers and collecting the paper money on Saturdays

I saved my money and at 16 I had my first car in a council rented garage waiting for my 17th birthday, so I could drive it!

Later I got myself an apprenticeship at AERE Harwell, training to become a electrical craftsman, I am sure my mother was very proud of me (“the apple of her eye”, my sister once said)

Not long after she became ill again and went to St Margaret’s hospital in Swindon

I had no idea what was going on

Eventually she came home

I was at the bottom of the stairs when the the doctor and my father came down

As they reached the bottom of the stairs the doctor turned to my father and in a rather angry voice exclaimed..

“Mr Crame! Your wife has come home to die”

6 months later she did

The kaolin and morphine kept her going as did the Complan meals

She couldn’t understand why she wasn’t getting better

remember being shocked one day when she stood before me, there was a problem, a dressing had come adrift and a stream of grey goo was seeping out of her abdomen

I remember the trauma of having to lie to her, assuring her all was well, when clearly it wasn't, it was just taking a while for her to get better i said…

She was finding it more and more difficult to keep her mind on those things she enjoyed doing in her chair next to the Rayburn in our tiny back room

She was either doing crosswords, knitting or playing patience, with real playing cards, carefully and precariously aligned on the back of a shove halfpenny board

Later when she was bed ridden, in the front room, the doctor was increasing her dose of kaolin and morphine

She was thin, sallow and quite grey

Not really conscious, not with us

I was in the doorway of the room when she died

The lady who “sorted things” came round and said “I was dreading this day, poor Joan”

To qualify, my status as an only child...

When I was born (in the front room of 2 Weathervane Cottages) my brother had moved out to live with my gran in Little Bedwyn

There was no room for him now I had arrived.

The house only had 2  small bedrooms

Ron was 16 when i was born

We were not a close knit family though Ron did later help out with some driving lessons

I would estimate that over my entire life we (Ron and I) have been in contact less than 20 times

My sister, Phyll (married to Bill) lived in Great Bedwyn and already had a daughter older than me!

Phyll was 20 years older than me, Ron and Phyll each with their own lives with little time for a little brother


A great adventure, the John O'Gaunt school trip to the Lake District, camped by the lake, did orienteering in the dark, climbed Helvelyn and walked striding edge

I still have my Helvelyn Cloth sew on badge

The Primary school kid picked for the football team who hid in the sandpit after lunch so he would miss the coach taking the team to their football match

I recall being told off at the little school (before primary school but on the same site)

We were all sat cross legged when a new girl came into the classroom and joined us

The girl was Patricia Goss, daughter of the local postman, very pretty with very long dark hair I was turned round facing her, just staring, for some reason mesmerised

Helen Katsmzuk where are you now Later, Rosemary Cleverley, Barbara Edwards and Carol Waters (elder sister of Jeremy)

The doctor who attended my mum was Dr Hugh Pihlens 
He as authored the book,  Hungerford - A Pictorial History

2. Jo

In the aftermath of my first divorce, I had managed a recovery from living in a B&B (Beverley’s Borlase’s parents) with no prospect of anything except drinking myself under the table (Ironically in The Plough Inn, an old haunt of my father and uncle ‘Chubber’ in the Snuff Takers Bar) and descending into a deeper depression

My share of the divorce proceedings from the sale of the bungalow (Paddock Road) amounted to roughly £5000 to pay off the remaining ‘family’ debts left in my name - the rest had gone Kathy’s way after she had sold the bungalow, expecting the council to house her and the kids (no mention of the £1000 diamond ring she bought herself in reparation…) with me broke, depressed and with an impending future of bed and breakfast life

But then a moment of ‘clarity’

I saw a wretched future and saw Kathy taking me for everything forever

I took out finance on a second-hand Fiat Uno and managed to rent a 3-bed semi in Thatcham.

I now had outgoings that gave me somewhere to live (and the kids to visit) and a car to run around in

Having legitimate outgoings put the brakes on Kathy being able to take all my income in maintenance payments leaving me trapped in B&B for ever

Things looked a bit better for me (ironically Kathy and the kids would, later on, for a time move in and live with me at Shakespeare Road)

Peter even went to the local school (a nightmare waiting to unfold)

Eventually things settled and with the money I had to pay off the family debts, (which of course never happened) I went to a local Estate agent.

The Estate Agent was one with a reputation (SG) for being very generous/flexible with the multiplier they used to calculate how much mortgage could be obtained (they also arranged the mortgage, so presumably got commission there as well)

After basically fabricating a set of outgoings I managed to get a mortgage, the repayments taking a huge proportion of my actual income, but I could get back onto the housing ladder!

35 Buckingham Road was mine, ironically nor far from St George’s Avenue where Kathy and the kids now lived

I moved in and very soon rented out 2 rooms (to chaps with squash playing abilities)

The additional income allowed me to live and pay the bills

The reinvented self also lived at Northcroft Playing squash, doing weight training, swimming and running

Here I met Jo, the hard working continually busy assistant manager

She also ran the squash leagues and strangely I soon moved from the 12/13th division up to 7/8th

I fancied her and we got on quite well, but she did have a strange side, and a reputation for a degree of promiscuity (I was told that once the storeroom door opened exposing the goings on to those in the bar, she was seen naked on the floor caught in the act with a married squash player)

I often went back to her place, late night after Northcroft closed and listened to Dire Straits (nothing more)

We once went to Alton Towers; she hated the vigorous rides and her long legs buckled and wobbled uncontrollably when we got off them.

I once took her to Gatwick when she went on holiday Nearly having an accident on route!

I still have the postcard she sent me

There was a strange side to her, she would go into a disconnect null state, very distant

She said she would like to be friends but that I was not to expect anything, she said she had some problems (Tree Song, one of the first tunes I ever recorded was about Jo)

he usually wore a short tennis skirt and I often followed the travel of her athletically long legs I think it strange that I have no recollection of her chest, usually an area of interest, but I did notice her eyes were captivating, always dilated and subliminally inviting

One evening, after work, Jo came to my house, completely unannounced

I was very (!!!) pleased to see her

But quite soon I realised she was in that disconnected state, which I found annoying.

Then something happened that has always troubled me and still brings me down, things might have been so different?

We were on the sofa in the living room cuddling Jo said “Let’s go upstairs and make love”

And I turned her down

I said, no, not now, you are so tired…

We cuddled then she left

I never made love to Jo (not that time or any other)

I still wonder about that night

A few days later back at Northcroft Jo confided in me; she was troubled.

The fiancé of her best friend was writing her letters, he wanted to be with her.

The letters explained how bored he was with his fiancée, she was so dull and boring, he went fishing a lot to get away from her, he explained how much he wanted to be with Jo, she didn’t know what to do

She said she had not encouraged him and was very concerned and he was her best friend’s fiancé (I was a bit taken aback but pleased she confided in me, slightly confused as to what to suggest when I still had my own confused interest in her affections)

Her best friend, a girl I had not met was called Anthea

Later that month I was passing through from the squash court gallery to the restaurant/bar area when I noticed Jo sat at a table with a beautiful, petite, long red auburn-haired girl Jo introduced me to Anthea

Squash was mentioned and she played! I suggested a game sometime…

Later that month I was on court with Anthea, her wild auburn red hair and short skirt quite distracting

I remember doing false serves several times to get her attention and to enjoy her smile

I can’t remember if it was that night but one time, she came back to 35, I was bemused that she sat on top of my fridge

Another time she brought some chowder in a flask (it wasn't very nice)

I was falling for her

Later we stayed overnight at the flat she was staying in along Boundary Road, we talked for hours and slept on the floor No sex, just a lovely friendship, very soon I wanted to be with her all the time, if not in person, then on the phone, I wanted to be in total contact with her, I couldn’t stop thinking about her

One evening we had just finished a game of squash, I had already got to the gallery, watching others playing squash while I waited for Anthea, just as the door opened and Anthea appeared from the stairs, at that same moment Jo was bounding along the gallery beaming towards me, I embraced Anthea, and Jo stopped dead in her tracks then disappeared the way she came

What seemed like only seconds later there was the sound of high revs and screeching tyres, Jo had left the building

Eventually Anthea moved in with me, the friend who’s flat she was staying in had returned (I can only presume Anthea had moved out of the house in Lambourn she shared with her fiancé) she had nowhere to go and I was more than happy for her to move in I was in love with her

We agreed that  if she got pregnant, we would get married. Anthea became pregnant, we got married and Lucy Ellen Crame joined us

Years later, we were having an anniversary meal at the Valle d’Oro an Italian restaurant in Newbury

I mentioned, in conversation, how it was strange that walking though the town, i had expectations that i would meet people i knew, some kind of vibe I mentioned Jo

A strange quiet, the room seemed to darken, the moment frozen, Anthea looked as if in shock

Anthea then told me that Jo was dead

She had died a few years back (my incredulous disbelief at this news was raging as a fear, disbelief, sorrow  and anger)

Anthea continued… Jo had committed suicide, it was her second attempt

I was in shock, her best friend, my friend, why didn’t she tell me, how, why would she keep this from me?

Anthea exclaimed “I knew you would react like this” not explaining why she hadn’t told me

My brain was racing, how could she keep this from me! How long? Why!!

My mind raced back to a period when we were having phone calls at the house, but no one was there, was it Jo?

Anthea always answered the phone, was there really no one there? Looking for help? Suicide!! Second attempt!!

I was totally disbelieving that Anthea could keep this from me and for so long

Something died that night

How could she not tell me?

In my mind everything began to unravel.

Anthea thinking her best friend was taking/had taken her fiancé away from her?

How could she get back at Jo, take away something dear to her?

My whole relationship with Anthea, shattered, everything questioned, truth and honesty, those things I hold dear replaced with a deceit and dishonesty from the woman I loved

Things continued to get worse, my depression, my heath (undiagnosed diabetes and a failing thyroid) and pressures from a disenchanted work life (my 15 minutes of fame long gone)

Subsequently, amidst the divorce from Anthea everything previously taken at face value and true were questioned in my mind

Those weekend visits she made to her parents, the courses she took away from home, the visits to her brother and sister in London, the regular letters she received from her friend (Andrew) but were never mentioned.

The unmentioned bank accounts, And the saga of Jo

She even brutally and callously turned the knife in my heart when she whispered in my ear “see how deceitful I can be”

I had been found by Steven wandering the streets of Newbury near the City Playground, worse the wear from alcohol and medication.

He took me to 35.

I remember the phone calls, the Police and then that all was well, I had been found (I never perceived myself as a threat to anyone)

Anthea said she had to go upstairs to change her top

But I heard the phone call she made to her partner telling him I had been found, she came back downstairs, I said I had overheard her, she hadn’t changed her top

She came close and whispered in my ear “See how deceitful I can be” she detailed other instances of things lost and situations but I was long gone

Water under the bridge I know, but those memories linger and I can always recall those days of my infatuation diluting into my indifference and selfish behaviour and the horror of Anthea’s retribution

The final twist, whilst I loved them both was that I never bonded with Dan (similar to Laura, whose impending arrival prompted Kathy’s divorce petition)

That thought sticks with me

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