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Stenography by N A CARR

Photographs by CHARLIE JOHNSON

1900-1949 History 1900-1949 Memories 1900-1949 Gallery

The following holiday journal and accompanying photographs were submitted to the archive by Nick Pinnock whose father was one of a group of friends and associates who holidayed aboard the wherry yacht “White Heather” in September 1932. Nick kindly transcribed the journal and provided the following background information:

“Mrs Caroline Florence Johnson was the landlady of a boarding house at Orsett Heath near Grays in Essex. She was the widow of Charles Richard Johnson who had been a greengrocer in south London before they moved to Essex with their first son (born in 1904, also called Charles, and known as Charlie). Whilst running the King’s Arms public house in a hamlet called Baker Street, near Orsett, they had a second son, Alfred, who was born in 1919, only for his father to die a few months later. I assume that Mrs Johnson would not have been allowed to run the pub on her own, and maybe did not wish to. In any event, she set up house not very far away and opened it to paying guests.

My father, Charles Pinnock, born in 1909, was one of those boarders for eight years from 1928 onwards in what seems to have been a very happy household. I do not know how the idea of a holiday on the Broads took root, but a party of 11 people set out by bus and train via Chelmsford to Norwich for the wherry White Heather, including Mrs Johnson, her two sons Charlie and Alf, her daughter-in-law “Girlie” and her first grandson Laurie, plus various other members of her household—including my father and one of his colleagues from work, Walter Germany. They had no idea what was the quality of the accommodation that awaited them on White Heather, and the wherry had been converted to sleep only 10. However, grandson Laurie was small enough at the time to share his mother’s bed.

If you read the account “A Holiday Afloat” written by Walter Germany, you will find a rather heavy prose style. But there is an underlying good humour that shines through to me from someone who remained a close friend of my father’s family for all his life (and later came to be known to my brother and me as “Uncle Wal”). He dwells more than once on the partiality of one of their number for a glass or two, perhaps wryly humorous observations from someone who himself came from a family of strict tee-totallers, and he remarks tongue-in-cheek on the different habits of the male and female members of the groups. Sadly, he himself never married, but he was always popular with the ladies in my father’s extended family, so no misogynist was he.

You will see that the party were surprised and delighted by White Heather’s high standards and went on to enjoy a wonderful holiday. My father is known throughout this account as “Chas”, a nickname he may have welcomed to avoid confusion with his older shipmate Charlie, and Walter Germany usually calls himself “Wallie”. There was absolutely no sailing of the wherry; they were towed to their berth by motor-launch, but there was dinghy sailing and sight-seeing adventure by motor-launch, not to mention day excursions by public transport to Norwich and Yarmouth. There were shopping trips to Roys of Wroxham, who also provided a delivery service; service by Roys seems to have been very good, and it must have been affordable because there was no real money in anyone’s pocket at the time.”

ORSETT Heath knows little change; it is the same to-day as it was yesterday, and in all probability will be the same tomorrow.

Three rows of houses, several detached cottages, two public-houses, and an old corrugated iron Bethel; all in a tranquil setting. There is a meat shop and a sweet shop, while the other necessaries of life are left to roundsmen.

An old grey mare grazes in a field occupied also by a gipsy caravan, but a poultry farm is the centre of interest for most visitors.

Summer sees the yellow bloom of the gorse bush spangled across an undulating heath. An abundance of green foliage rings with the song of birds and the fields bear their various crops—a reward for the labour of man.

Russet tints and the fall of the leaf are Autumn’s prelude to the song of the wintry winds that cut through the barren branches, reaching out in their sorrowful majesty, bereft of the beauty they once proudly wore.

But the human spirit cannot always abide in tranquillity. It is restive and seeks beyond for new experience. The clarion call of adventure leads on and the vision of a new environment creates joyful anticipation.

Perhaps that is why on the morning of Saturday, September 3rd, 1932, Orsett Heath saw our band of happy inhabitants depart for a long-coveted week on the Broads of Norfolk.

Down the road to the bus stop, be-laden with packing cases, we trudged our way; a motley throng to be sure.

There was Mrs Johnson senior, and her younger son Alf. Her daughter-in-law, Mrs Johnson junior, and her very young son Laurie. His father Charlie Johnson had to be there too, of course.

Apart from the Johnsons who were numerically preponderant, there was Chas Pinnock. He has no direct Johnson blood in him and the same may be said of Richard Pastfield, another member of the party, but both have an allegiance to the Johnson fold by reason of long sojourn at their place of abode.

It is rather discourteous to leave the name of a lady until last, but it would be highly improper to introduce with any brevity such an important personage as Aunt Ethel. It is as well to know that this very kind lady is also related to the Johnsons but her name, by right of marriage, is now Mrs William Matthews.

Now the Eastern National Omnibus Company is to be commended for initiating a service from Grays to Chelmsford. It was on a bus thither bound that our party embarked and met on board Walter Germany, yet another recruit to the cause of freedom.

The journey was rather more interesting than comfortable, as the vehicle had no propensity to expand when the number of occupants made this a feature very much to be desired. With noble restraint passengers refrained from abusing one another in circumstances wholly favourable to such a procedure.

Some were obviously of the opinion that the windows should be open to let out the foul air, while others appeared equally certain that it was much better to keep out the rain by having them shut. If there is any virtue in crowding persons one on top of the other it exists in the easy way in which the truly English characteristic of diffidence towards one’s fellow passengers is broken down.

One dear lady, pleased no doubt with the favourable opportunity of discourse, unburdened whole episodes of her life and waxed eloquent in descriptions of her relatives. Of course, one has to exercise human sympathy towards a woman who is divorced from those to whom she is accustomed to direct her natural flow of feminine verbosity. Nature never intended a woman to be quiet for long periods at a stretch, but most men appear to leave rather late in life before realising this.

The bus reached Chelmsford about an hour before the train was due to leave for Norwich, and having “parked” the packing cases in the room provided by the Omnibus company, it was decided that refreshment should be taken at a cosy little shop very much frequented by bus drivers and conductors.

A ham roll with the knowledge that a week on the Broads was to follow was far more appetising than a six-course dinner at the Grand Palace hotel with work following on the Monday morning. For the inner man to be well satisfied, the outlook must be rosy. At the outset all were agreed that we should patronise the little shop with the big reputation, but it was later discovered that one of the party had either deserted or lost the rest of the company. Which of these two was the case has not yet been established, but it is well known that he handed in his resignation to the Band of Hope some years ago on account of his disagreement in principles.

He has never entirely eradicated the effects of this severance, and to offset the consequent melancholy, has on occasions to take some form of stimulant to "buck himself up". It is thought highly probably that on this occasion the pangs of parting long ago were the cause of his absence.

The full company re-united at the Railway Station where, in due course, they were joined by Miss Elsie Davies and Mr Thomas Collins; the advent of this young couple completing the party, and it would be polite, but a pity, to refrain from saying anything of an introductory character about Elsie and Tom.

To discuss the actions of young persons who are betrothed is a breach of etiquette, but nevertheless it is felt incumbent at this juncture that mention should be made, in spite of all considerations to the contrary, to a snag in the holiday which might well have had serious consequences. Happily, however, owing to the abundant tolerance of those concerned, the position was looked upon as one of those mistakes which will happen.

It is important to remember that the conduct and general rules governing the holiday had been pre-conceived and by no means the least important decision in this regard could be summed up in the words “all pay the same—all have the same”. All had heartily endorsed this sentiment without reservation.

Now it is generally conceded that association between the sexes on holiday adds much to the enjoyment and gaiety, but man at heart is a selfish creature in this respect. He has a possessive instinct which he at times asserts to the discomfort and sorrow of his fellow-men, and it is with this thought that we are reluctantly compelled to associate Tom. If anybody ever flagrantly abused the conditions imposed upon him by his previous agreement, he certainly did.

He monopolised Elsie every evening, and not once was the spirit of equity in this respect forthcoming as we would have wished. No one man owns the moon, and it is said that all men are liars, so why should not the others who so desired have had their chance. It should truly have been “all pay the same—all have the same”.

We must discontinue this digression however, and revert to the events in their proper order.

Although the Railway Company had accepted the fee for a special carriage reservation on our behalf, very regrettably they returned this, stating that they had been unable to meet our requirements. In consequence the party was split up, and association could only be maintained though the corridors of the train. It was declared with emphasis that at the first opportunity an official should be approached with regard to this matter, firstly with a view to rectification, or failing this to act as recipient or conveyor of our innermost thoughts to his erring employers.

After about twenty miles a halt was made at a large station and an interview was sought and obtained with a gentleman in a peaked cap and blue uniform. He was most obliging and permitted the party to occupy a First-Class compartment, upon which he pasted a Third-Class label. This we took to be a compliment, and presumed it to be for the purpose of distinguishing us from the people who often travel in these carriages. Suitable remuneration for his kindness was given and he touched his cap murmuring appreciation in a thoroughly orthodox manner.

Enthusiasm ran high for the remainder of the journey to Norwich. Those not eating sang lustily to the accompaniment of ringing banjos. People passing along the corridors either enjoyed or objected to this impromptu concert, but on the whole the reception was quite good, and as no official complaint was received, it is to be presumed that the attitude of the Railway Company was not unfavourable.

Eventually the musicians themselves became fatigued and relinquished their tasks in favour of sustenance in the form of fruit.

At Norwich Junction it was necessary for all passengers to change and we entered a smaller train bound for Wroxham. Here the first impressions were obtained of the scenery which might be expected during the ensuing holiday. A comparatively short journey soon came to an end, and in spite of the kind offers of sundry persons to assist with the luggage the whole company insisted upon personal porterage. This refusal of proffered help was redeemed on the return however, and a local lad rendered service with a handbarrow which must have been exceedingly strong.

Our arrival at the yachting station was an experience in itself, there being boats in almost infinite variety. Small dinghies for rowing; motor launches equipped in a thoroughly modern manner; sailing yachts, wherries, and all manner of river craft. Everything was brightly painted and the brass-work shone from recent polishing.

Many of the earlier arrivals were taking possession of their own particular choice in craft and we were naturally anxious to locate ours.

It was agreed that whilst Chas and Wallie made inquiries the rest of the party should remain with the baggage. The office was situated on the other side of the river, and the crossing made in a punt poled by an old man, who apparently had done the job for many years past. The clerk in charge was businesslike and polite, and a as a matter of fact the folk generally, in Wroxham, impressed one with their helpfulness.

The holiday party aboard White Heather at Wroxham.

Into the “well” they jumped in great glee, and opened back the double doors leading into the saloon. The novelty of the whole thing may have had much to do with the first impressions, but the sight was certainly delightful to them. Two long couches—convertible to bunks—and an expanding table, together with a piano were the main items of furniture in the saloon. A polished brass swing-lamp hung overhead, and completed a really snug interior. Passing through the door at the other end of the saloon two small cabins were discovered, one on either side. Both were fitted with a single bunk, wash-basin, mirror and two large drawers for clothing. Beyond these was a much larger cabin, sufficiently spacious for four persons, with extremely comfortable and roomy wardrobe accommodation for all of its occupants.

A small service-hatch leading to the forepart of the boat was situated in this room, and it was through here that the cooked meals could be handed. This room had a very large mirror fitted right across the extreme end and pre-determined that it must necessarily be allocated to the ladies. The actual entrance to the foc’s’le wherein the cooking facilities were arranged was from the deck. This was a wise provision as it eliminated the possibility of oil smells and other fumes becoming objectionable in the sections of the boat reserved for dining and sleeping.

The actual heating appliances consisted of one large oil-stove, complete with oven, and two thoroughly efficient “Primus” Cookers. The utensils provided were spotlessly clean, indeed, some appeared to be quite new. It was unnecessary to bring them all into commission, but the frying pans did very good service. Taps, from the tanks containing drinking water, were also situated in this part of the boat.

Much more could be recorded of the amenities provided on our craft, but it is time tell how they hastened back to the old punt-ferry, and were soon conveying the glad tidings to their prospective shipmates.

The rest of the party were sceptical of the assurance that they too would be delighted, but seeing is believing, and the old ferry man was soon taking them across to the other bank. Surprise was general as all went aboard, and the expressions of general satisfaction augured well for the holiday that was to follow.

The company soon began to discard travelling garments in favour of free-and-easy attire. The unpacking of the cases and the placing of their contents into the drawers provided, enabled advantage to be taken of a kind offer to store these on shore, thus preventing what might well have been a distinct encumbrance.

After a while a large wicker basket was handed aboard containing the laundry required for the week. Again the cleanliness which had already in so many instances been exemplified was pleasingly noticeable.

Consideration was next given to the purchase of provisions, and after a list of delectables had been compiled a trip was made to Roys Of Wroxham. These very capable caterers have succeeded in bringing into a remote village store a style worthy of London’s West End. The variety of commodities was such as to satisfy the most fastidious tastes, and the general service left little to be desired. The assistants seemed to have been well schooled in the art of salesmanship and were at all times helpful and obliging.

The order was placed with these people, and within an hour delivery was made to the “White Heather”.

By the end of the afternoon most of the smaller boats had departed from the Yachting Station, and at seven o’clock a trim motor-launch was lashed alongside our craft, the engine chugging merrily as it towed up the river to a delightful spot where we were eventually berthed for the week. This was about half a mile from Wroxham Bridge, and the scenery in this vicinity has a beauty of its own.

Pretty thatched cottages, green lawns with flower beds, overhanging trees, and a variety of vegetation lines the banks. Little inlets provide a way for the family motor-launch to glide right up to the door-step. Directly opposite the mooring place were residences of distinction, where in one instance the underpart of the building served as a boat-house for a well-built high-powered craft. Two more house-boats were situated between us and Wroxham Bridge, but anchored at some considerable distance apart.

Before darkness set in, Chas allocated the sleeping accommodation. The ladies occupied the quarters already indicated; Tom, Charlie, Chas, and Alf, the convertible bunks in the saloon, while Dick and Wallie honoured the smaller cabins at each side. This latter arrangement was probably designed to ensure an even keel by the equi-distribution of weight. Little Laurie was, of course, to sleep with his mother, but for this purpose his parentage became rather obscure by the end of the week.

We were now truly afloat, and journeys to and from Wroxham had to be accomplished in the dinghy. Every member of the party considered that rowing a boat was easy work, but it was not long before all, with the exception of Dick, thought differently; he surprised the whole crew by tactics in seamanship well befitting a first-class sailor, which indeed he proved to be.

The Saturday night “feeling” is the same the world over, and the male members of the party decided that it would the right thing to go for a walk up the street.

Now it has already been recorded that Dick had a difference with the Band of Hope, therefore it is not surprising that he should show a marked aptitude for developing acquaintanceship with those whose experiences in this direction had been similar. One is often impressed with the affinity that appears to exist between Welshmen when meeting in strange places, but this pales into insignificance when compared with Dick’s uncanny recognition of those share his own particular thoughts on this matter.

The village could not boast many imposing buildings, but one edifice of considerable proportions had an exterior sign announcing the names of “Stewart and Patterson”. With many people this might leave a mental void, but at once Dick’s feelings were stirred. Beyond those doors marked “Pull” and “Push” he knew he would find those with sympathies akin to his own. A bond of fellowship was soon established, and as the days went by it was nurtured and flourished on the philosophy which has stood the test of time—verily, “That man does not live by bread alone”.

After a very enjoyable supper the party assembled on deck to witness a glorious sunset. This was Nature’s grand finale to a day of exciting event, and the curtain of darkness was rung down on the tranquil waters around us. In the saloon we lingered but a short while, for the arms of Morpheus were ready to bear the burden of eleven sleepy heads eager for the comfort of happy repose.

Charlie Johnson Charles Pinnock Charles Pinnock and Walter Germany

On the left is Charlie Johnson, caught by his own camera, in the centre is Charles Pinnock and Walter Germany (on the right) in their bathing costumes, whilst the photograph on the right shows a suitably attired Charles Pinnock posing beside the life ring.

Following some animated discussion, it was decided that the afternoon of Tuesday should be reserved for a visit to the Cathedral City of Norwich. The journey from the boat to Wroxham Village proved to be a heavy pull for the oarsman as the whole crew were conveyed in the dinghy at “one sitting”. A bus was boarded at the cross-roads where a policeman, no doubt concerned as to his health, stood upon a piece of ply-wood.

It says much for the conduct of the district that this man was the only constable seen in the village during the whole of the holiday.

The subsequent ride was through pleasing country, but as Norwich was approached the usual conglomeration of terraced houses, small shops, tram-lines, and traffic, became predominant. The first duty upon disembarking was to allay hunger and thirst which by this time was fairly common. Several narrow streets were explored for the existence of a restaurant and be it said to the credit of the party that their final choice rested upon a Temperance Hotel, where plaice, chips, tea, bread-and-butter afforded welcome resuscitation.

The local market was a feature of interest and the fresh fruit displayed upon the stalls enticed purchases of plums, so luscious that they were consumed long before the return.

Time did not permit of a visit to the Cathedral so after enjoying a steady walk, during which other interesting sights, including the Castle, were seen, the party boarded a home-bound bus.

The dinghy, which had been moored in a narrow creek, was once again called into service, and as the shadows of evening fell upon the life of Wroxham we were pulled steadily back to our “Maison sur l’eau”.

The piano on board helped towards brightening the proceedings after dark, and although it had long since passed the zenith of its musical career, the valiant effort of various pianists brought forth the strains of many a popular melody. Lustily the crew joined together in happy song. Those who could not sing in harmony sang in discord, and it may well be imagined that although the effect was on occasions somewhat low-brow, merriment ran very high.

Aunt Ethel was particularly good with a snappy solo effort entitled “Snap your fingers—clap your hands” which she rendered in unique style, sometimes with accompaniment but more often without.

Alf, by virtue of a piercing voice, excelled at leadership, while the “basso-profundo” of Charlie and Dick gave depth and solid foundation to many a medley.

As was natural, Tom and Elsie retired to the well of the boat in quest of Romance which is the right of all young people through whose hearts Cupid has shot his Golden Arrows. To what heights they soared is the secret of their own souls, but the atmosphere of the Broads is, in itself, conducive to the abandonment of a material world. The fast sets of the city for whom dance halls are the only rendezvous of romance, have yet to drink of a nectar far sweeter than their lips have ever sipped.

Before retiring a conference was called with the object of discussing the desirability of visiting Yarmouth on the morrow. It was thought that the weather should be the deciding factor, and as there was no knowledge of a “depression over Iceland” hope ran high for the Wednesday to dawn a warm and sunny day.

The sky proved to be cloudless, and having donned suitable clothing the party hurried to the Railway Station when some amusement was caused by the arrival of a steam-driven Rail-car, which in appearance resembled a large tram. It was quite efficient for the purpose, however, and the Junction of the Yarmouth train was reached in good time. About an hour’s run through fields and villages and the party were soon emerging from the busy station intent upon a day by the sea.

A comfortable spot was found upon the sandy beach, where Charlie, Chas and Tom were quick to avail themselves of the splendid facilities for a first-class sea bathe.

Little Laurie had found his “heaven” and with spade and pail infected many of his seniors with the spirit of Peter Pan.

Sandwiches, rolls and cake, were obtained by the ladies and an al fresco meal was very much enjoyed, although it was difficult to keep the sand from the sandwiches. Following the meal the party broke up for a short while to make sundry personal purchases, and during this period the opportunity was taken to despatch boxes of bloaters to relatives and friends.

Later in the afternoon our beach position was abandoned, and all with the exception of Dick, wended their way along the esplanade towards the Fun Fair which is situated beyond the Pier at the Southern end of the Front. Dick had found the lure of a comfortable deckchair and the warm sun irresistible; with a hat shading his sunburnt face once again he capitulated to the desire for sleep, to which he had so often shown a marked partiality.

A ride on the Scenic Railway is an experience which many people might well avoid, but for the younger element it provides a variety of thrill not easily forgotten. Through darkened tunnels ghostly apparitions with staring blood-red eyes strike fear into the hearts of the passengers, who fiercely grip the safety bars of their jolting trolleys. A Devil, with pitch-fork posed ready to pierce the travelling sinners, glares down with a menacing scowl, but the car passes on again to daylight, and commences a steep ascent to regions above.

The breeze from the North Sea fans the cheeks of the “climbers” but suddenly the summit is reached and, hurtling down to ground level they become painfully aware of a nauseating feeling that the lower portion of their anatomy is fast departing from its usual position. This process is repeated a number of times until one is not quite sure whether the heart is covered by the waistcoat or trousers, but curiously enough everybody votes it a fine ride, and not a few take advantage of the cheaper rate for a repeat excursion.

Little Laurie, in Elsie’s charge, was delighted with a trip on the miniature railway, and Alf considered it great fun to steer his electric bumping launch into as many others as a sixpenny ticket would permit. The entrance of the whole party into a glass maze created high merriment, and some considerable time elapsed before the exit could be discovered.

Many other side-shows, some of which almost guaranteed profitable returns, made exacting demands upon the financial resources, which had so far remained in a very healthy condition. The winners of boxes of toffee later discarded as “trash” unfit for human consumption, were heartily congratulated by the less fortunate losers, but the highest pitch of excitement was reached when the prize of a long-eared fluffy rabbit was awarded. Chas and Wallie shot corks at cigarettes but were rather disgruntled to find that not only was it necessary to hit the packets but also to cause their complete dislodgement.

Chas, accompanied by Tom, was soon pacified on the adjacent beach however, for it was there they found an opportunity to display their equine knowledge and ability in the saddle. To the edification of the rest of the party they cantered over a sandy track in a style which suggested pride of ownership rather than the payment of a lowly shilling. Laurie, no doubt owing to his tender years, had chosen for him a smaller mount, but nevertheless enjoyed his sixpennyworth on the donkey.

Having exploited Yarmouth for a day of varied pleasures, a return was made to the station where Dick gave a brief but satisfactory account of his own activities, which appeared to have been enjoyments after his own heart.

Part of the journey back to Wroxham was via a different route to that travelled in the morning, but our destination was soon reached and all-aboard the dinghy we were rowed down the river back to welcome rest and refreshment on “White Heather”.

During the ensuing evening it was decided that inquiries should be made regarding the hire of a motor-launch for Thursday afternoon. The delights of the river had, until this time, only been explored in the dinghy, and it was generally felt that an early opportunity should be taken to become acquainted with the scenery and features of interest that the lower reaches could provide. A price was obtained at the boat station and a more or less provisional agreement made that the launch should be called for as had been suggested.

Bed-time arrived, and happy thoughts of the day together with pleasant anticipation of the morrow made a fitting mental nightcap to a further night’s repose.

For dinner on Thursday Roys had been requested to provide a roast joint and Chas and Wallie received orders to collect this at about mid-day.

Certain experience had already been gained in the art of sailing, and not without some measure of confidence the nose of the dinghy was turned up-river with a steady breeze blowing from behind.

Most of the crew were on deck to witness the departure of the two amateurs, and as the little boat gathered speed laughingly cheered an ominous farewell. The breeze bore them around the bend and little difficulty was experienced until a sharp turn was taken towards a narrow channel, where good mooring accommodation presented itself. As the tiller was pushed over a sudden gust of wind carried the sail with a crash from one side of the boat to the other. Heeling over at an angle which was alarming, her two startled occupants were almost shot headlong into the river.

Wallie let loose the mainsheet and Chas struggled to the mast where his hurried efforts culminated in the sail almost stifling them both in its rapid fall. With feelings of relief, however, the inlet was reached, and making fast to an improvised capstan they proceeded to carry out the purpose of their journey.

The meat collected, it was thought that the return to the “White Heather” might be effected by carefully tacking from bank to bank. Two attempts were made to head in the right direction but both proved abortive, and it was finally agreed that the sail should be lowered and resort made to the oars.

Those awaiting the arrival of the roast joint were highly amused at the derelict appearance of the little craft, but nevertheless were bound to admit that many great historical characters of the sea also met with similar experiences during their initiation.

Dinner finished, Wallie, Chas and Tom proceeded to the Yachting Station for the motor-launch, and had explained to them the essentials of manipulation. To meet any unforeseen contingency a spare can of petrol was placed aboard, but the contents of the tank proved to be sufficient.

Having reached the “White Heather” the others were soon taking their seats and with Dick at the helm we headed downstream towards Horning and Ranworth.

As we glided steadily along, the scenery unfolded itself in a panorama of natural beauty. Trees overhung the water’s edge and grassy slopes beckoned with abundant vegetation rose on either side.

Nearing Horning a halt was made to witness a yachting race, but the journey was soon recommenced; the old chain ferry, used for conveying the farm waggons across the river, was an object of interest, as no doubt it has been for many years past. Turning from the mainstream we followed the route of a narrow channel which later opened out into a broader expanse and threading our way through sundry other craft we pulled in at a small quayside.

The Ranworth village inn kindly provided tea and sweetmeats were purchased from a tiny shop which evidently served as the local store for most necessities, including postal requirements.

Homeward bound, our speed was somewhat accelerated, and the evening air chilled the spray which occasionally dashed over the side into the faces of those occupying the forepeak.

Another resplendent sunset marked our journey’s end, and as the comfort of the cabins was sought we ruminated upon the events of the preceding days, happy in the thoughts of the joy they had brought, but conscious that our holiday was fast drawing to a close.

On Friday morning the ladies gleaned, from some mysterious source, the information that Roys were conducting their Harvest Sale, and as was natural, they straightaway seized the opportunity to garner in the bargains, which occupied their time until mid-day.

Meanwhile the male members of the crew availed themselves of the violet rays which were pouring down from a cloudless sky. Alf was somewhat envious of the swim enjoyed by his seniors, but displayed great faith in Dick who suspended him over the side by means of a noosed rope.

A number of photographs had already been taken, but Charlie struck fear into the heart of his wife by climbing into the boughs of a high tree in order to obtain a bird’s-eye view of the boat and its crew. Girlie, although reluctant to allow her husband to risk so much in the service of the party had herself contributed a great deal to the general enjoyment and welfare by studious attention to individual requirements at mealtimes.

As can readily be imagined little Laurie proved to be a son who demanded the ever-watchful eye of his parents, but his presence added much to the “family spirit” which prevailed at all times during the holiday.

In the late afternoon the “White Heather” made her way back to the Yachting Station, which, being adjacent to the village facilitated the spending of a long evening ashore.

Wallie and Chas, probably in search of romance, attended a dance at the local Hall, but the fair sex being in the minority, the first beat of the drum was immediately followed by an unruly scrimmage for the possession of partners. This did not coincide with their original aspirations, and after a little while they returned to the more desirable company of their friends.

Here the fun of packing had commenced and served to distract thoughts of the parting which was to come on the morrow.

Alas! The scene of so many happy experiences had to be abandoned, but nevertheless the journey home did not lack in the spirit which had animated the delightful days at Wroxham.

As each familiar landmark was recognised, we were indeed thankful for the little change that Time makes at Orsett Heath. The old grey mare neighed its welcome, and the adventurers settled down to the tranquillity which makes such a holiday, so deep in its contrast, an adventure well worthwhile.


:: FINIS ::


A Holiday Afloat December 1932

Early next morning the majority of the crew were astir, and the experiences of the night were the common subject of discussion. It being a little strange, some had not slumbered quite so well as beauty would demand, but Chas and Dick are hardly veterans of this pastime, and had little trouble in obtaining their full measure of “unconscious ease”.

This, however, did not enhance their appearance above that of the ladies, for the drab stripes of the masculine pyjama can never compare with the brilliant colours and slinky textures of the more delicate garments of feminine night attire.

To the credit of Aunt Ethel, Mrs Johnson and Girlie [Mrs Johnson’s daughter-in-law], even the early morning cup of tea was forthcoming. It is highly debatable as to whether man or woman should rise first, but holidays are not for the purpose of argument upon this thorny subject, so for the most part the menfolk contented themselves as willing recipients of the favour bestowed upon them.

It can be well imagined that the morning brought forth a variety of activities in which the crew might indulge. So far as personal toilet was concerned it was every man for himself. Some shaved and some preferred to wait a longer growth. The bucket did good service as an improvised wash basin, although for the more particular there were of course the customary facilities below deck.

The swabbing down was done by Dick quite according to precedent. He cut a “dandy” figure with his trousers rolled up above the knees, and wielded the mop with a dexterity which earned for him a number of envious helpers on subsequent mornings. He being the only “professional” sailor aboard the crew looked to him for nautical guidance, and it was not long before he fulfilled his trust in a manner which delighted Tom and Chas.

The sail of the dinghy was hoisted and soon swelled to the breeze. Down the river she went and rounding the bend became lost to the sight of the “White Heather”. It was some considerable time before a return was made, but there was abundant evidence to show that the sail had been a very enjoyable experience for those concerned. Others availed themselves of later opportunities for this pastime and one occasion a stiff breeze on the adjacent Broad gave great speed to the craft, so much so in fact that it was necessary to reef the sail thus preventing the heeling over which on occasions had the side of the boat within inches of the water.

It was a great thrill to go scudding across the Broad with the water swishing beneath the bows, and to dodge the boom as it swung over at each turn of the tack. Each gust of wind demands an immediate response from the helmsman, for in the event of his failing to slacken the mainsheet a mishap would be inevitable.

The ladies preferred less vigorous pursuits, and also spent a good deal of time in the preparation of meals which were always very much enjoyed. The atmosphere and environment were conducive to hearty appetites, and it says much for the catering arrangements that on all occasions complete satisfaction was expressed with the fare provided. Aunt Ethel earned the approbation of the whole crew by purchasing from a travelling shop a roast chicken, which proved to be a succulent morsel indeed.

During the short periods that food was exposed, a number of wasps intruded on our privacy. In spite of the gay effect created by their black and yellow “jersey” even at the outset they were greeted with some degree of prejudice. It was to be regretted that their unseemly and vicious conduct let to open hostilities which raged in right good style following the infliction of bites on various members of the party.

The appearance of these insects became the signal for the rolling up of newspapers and the seizing of “swatters” in general. To the accompaniment of appropriate “Oh’s” and oaths, these were wielded with disastrous and bloody effect, in consequence of which the whole wasp population expiated the crimes of their compatriots.

The village Pharmacy which was an excellent example of Roys’ enterprise kindly served an antidote for the stings which had been suffered, and it was during this purchase that a real character study of meanness was observed by members of the party.

An aristocratic gent with a military appearance required a bottle of hair oil for which he wished to make his own price and quality. This amounted to a demand for a bottle usually costing three shillings to be sold him for one shilling and sixpence. The Chemist, whose patience ranks him as an expert among salesmen, made every effort to please this difficult customer. He mixed up a sample and measured the liquid content of the bottle, endeavouring to establish a conviction that the prescription he was called upon to dispense could not be produced at the lowly price required. Whether or not his persuasion met with ultimate success is unknown, for the members of the “White Heather” left the shop with a deep-rooted disgust for the meanness of this haggling example of a Scrooge-like aristocracy.

The holiday party on White Heather 1932 Riverside bungalow at Wroxham 1932

The riverside bungalow at Wroxham which became better known as The Bure Court Hotel, photographed by Charlie Johnson.

The holiday party onboard White Heather 1932 Returning from a shopping trip in the dinghy Holiday group on board White Heather 1932

The holiday party on board White Heather with the author, Walter Germany, seen standing immediately in front of the mast, Charles Pinnock is standing to his left wearing the natty nautical cap. Tom Collins is in front of him, with Elsie Davies at his feet and Aunt Ethel to his left. Mrs Johnson is seated to the far right of the picture, her younger son Alf is facing her, and her daughter-in-law is standing with her own very young son seated in the life-belt. The man with the mop must be DickPastfield, who proved to be so expert at wielding it.

Returning from a shopping expedition in the dinghy.

Charlie Johnson climbed a nearby tree to take this birds-eye shot of the group on board White Heather. The motor launch with the canopy seen moored alongside is most likely to have been the day launch hired by the holiday party.

Nick Pinnock added the following footnote to the story: Dad never actually holidayed with the Johnson family again, and he never revisited the Broads, to the best of my knowledge. But my father gave Mrs Johnson’s address as his own when he married my mother in 1936. After those days, there were several family holidays on the River Thames based on power-cruisers, including one just after my own birth in 1948, with the last one in 1953. It’s remarkable to find that the little boy Alf (best pictured seated at the front of the dinghy after the shopping trip) went on to pilot a Horsa glider to Normandy on D-Day. His much older brother lived with his family a long stone’s throw from our own family home; Charlie became a member of London Transport’s bus-driving elite on their long-distance Greenline coaches, whilst his wife Girlie (Annetta Violet, she was called, really) showed equally great pride in her employment during our occasional visits. Girlie was very fond of emphasizing that she was “a Civil Servant” and she worked “for the BBC”, phrases which were always memorable because of her slight, attractive, lisp. My father and Walter Germany stayed close friends for life although their career paths diverged—but both remained working in the packaging industry, which Alf eventually joined too after his military service—and Mrs Johnson remained a treasured and much-respected friend of my father’s right until her death in 1965. Dad always spoke of this holiday with a smile in his voice, in a way that made me think he felt it was the best one he had ever had (although he may have had to be a little bit cautious in saying that after he had started to holiday with Mum!).


Nick Pinnock 2018