A pastoral tale.
The village and main event in this story are real. I personally spent many happy months in the area as a boy and this has fed my story. In case you wonder, the goat was real too!
An explosion involving a train carrying bombs and other explosives occurred in Soham Station on 4th June 1944. James Nightall, the fireman lost his life and Benjamin Gimbert the driver was injured. Both were awarded the George Cross. This story draws loosely on this accident purely as an aid to the plot. No reference is made to persons living or dead associated with this accident.
The warm, early morning sun blinded me for a moment as I reluctantly left our front door to go to school. Rather like most ten year old boys I hated to idea of going to school. There were so many better things I could be doing on a warm June morning. With a heavy heart I walked up the rough road beside the railway line, dragging my feet in the dry dust.
"Wait for me!" came the sweet voice of Bathsheba Claire Grainger, the girl next door. "Can I walk with you?" came the same request she made every day. As I did every day I replied, yes Snooks."
My name is James Feest and I was born in 1926 in Haddenham, a small village near Ely in East Anglia. For those of you who don't know, East Anglia is the fertile flatland in the east of England. The principle industry in the area was and still is, agriculture. My father was the signal man and deputy station master at the local London and North Eastern railway station, 50 yards from our house. Bathsheba's father was the station master.
Bathsheba and I had grown up together and were as close as any brother and sister. In truth my feelings ran deeper that any sibling relationship and the mere sight of her was enough to make my heart melt. Her sweet elfin face, long blonde hair and her large blue eyes. She was the most beautiful girl I had ever met.
You might wonder why I called her Snooks. Bathseba's mother was addicted to literature and had borrowed her daughter's name from the book "Far from the madding crowd" by Thomas Hardy. There was one problem, however. Bathsheba hated her name with a passion.
I remember well our first day at school when we were five. One of the children in our class thought the name was funny and kept chanting "Bathsheba" during play time. The more Snooks complained the more other kids joined in. After a while she became hysterical with anger and burst into tears.
"Please don't call me that," she begged. "Any name but that."
One of the older boys gave her a comforting hug.
"There, there snookums, it'll be all right," he told her condescendingly.
One of the other kids laughed out loud. "Snookums? That's what we'll call her."
From that day Bathsheba became known as Snookums. And you know what? She loved it.
"You know James," she told me one day. "I feel that I belong now that I have a nickname."
Soon I shortened the name and just called her Snooks.
Snooks had four distinctive traits. First, she could never lie. If she ever tried, she would blush and look downwards, avoiding eye contact. Secondly she could be infuriatingly stubborn. Thirdly, she readily jumped to conclusions. Finally she had a fiery temper.
So what can I tell you about Haddenham? Well my home village was roughly ten miles from Ely in the fenlands of East Anglia. For those of you who haven't heard of Ely, Haddenham is roughly 14 miles from Cambridge. The population of the village was only around 600 and the village straddled a crossroads. The eastern road went to Ely and the west to Earith. The high street wound south.
The Kings Head pub sat at the cross roads, directly opposite the church. Diagonally from the pub was the village green and the war memorial.
We attended to local village school. There was one teacher and a single class of 20 kids. The school taught us the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic. The presumption was that the boys would go into farming so only a minimal education was needed. As far as I was concerned, I intended to follow my dad and work for the railway. For the most part I got on well with the other kids. The one exception was Eddie Roberts, the school bully. He was a tough kid and only a fool ever crossed him.
Snooks and I were a sort of unofficial couple. We spent a lot of time together and it was assumed by most that we were an item. That was except for Eddie. He made it quite clear to me that he had designs on Snooks and he once told me that he would find a way into her knickers.
"I'll be showing her what a real man is," he told me one day.
Like most kids of 10, I was sexually innocent. I knew that men and women looked different but I had no idea what sex was about. It sounded to me that what Eddie was suggesting was nasty even if I didn't know what he meant.
The whole affair led to a fight which left me dazed and bleeding on the ground.
Snooks and I enjoyed swimming and were fond of walking the two miles across the fields to a tributary of the river Ouse. The tributary was only about 25 feet across and was way too small to have an official name. The locals called it Cedric's Dyke. Our favourite spot was a small wood at the bend in the dyke. There was a weeping willow which overhung the stream and from which a rope had been tied. The kids loved to swing on the rope from the bank and throw themselves into the water. The water was safe and it was a great place to play.
When we were young, Snooks and I would strip naked and splash in the water for hours. It was then that I realised that girls weren't built quite the same way as boys. I was intrigued why Snooks had a cleft between her legs rather than the bits I had but that's as far as I thought about things. The other difference was while I was happy to stand on the bank to take a piss, trying to see how far I could my piss could fly, Snooks would shyly take a piss behind a bush.
My first inkling of sexual matters came when we were twelve. Both of us had hit a growth spurt and were gaining height at an incredible rate. I also noticed that Snooks was filling out. She now had a nice pair of boobs hiding behind her shirt and her legs and rear were getting nice curves. I still didn't see her as a sexual object although I did find her physical changes very attractive. One August afternoon we headed down to the dyke. While I stripped off and launched myself naked into the water, Snooks simply stripped down to her vest and knickers and sat on the bank.
"Aren't you coming in?" I called out.
Snooks shook her head sadly.
I swam to the side and sat beside her.
"What's wrong?" I asked.
"I'm not sure I should undress outside anymore," she replied. "My body is changing and Mum told me I'm nearly a woman now."
"My body has changed, I'm not sure its proper for me to expose it anymore."
"I know what you look like," I naively replied.
Snooks nervously gnawed her lip for a moment before pulling off her vest. Her previously flat chest had grown two small tits, each capped with a large nipple. Snooks blushed as she saw me looking at her.
"They're lovely," I said almost reverently, they was the nicest thing I had ever seen
"I can't take my knickers off," she told me. "That would be too much."
I nodded, not really understanding.
I never really understood what sex was all about until the next year when Snooks and I had one of those life altering experiences. It was a hot July Saturday afternoon and Snooks and I were taking a walk up to the windmill outside the village. While we had friends in the village, we both enjoyed the countryside and we often took a long walk on the weekend. The route we chose that day was only around 5 miles but it would take us all afternoon to complete.
The day was one of those special days which seem to stay with you always. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and no breeze whatsoever. The air was filled with the scents of summer and the sound of birds and insects. We strolled, hand in hand, immersing ourselves in the joy that life in the country brought.
We took the long narrow path from the village past the wide fields belonging to old Mr Walsham. As we turned a corner we heard a loud bleat. Mr Walsham kept a goat at the end of his land. The creature had been there as long as we could remember, tethered to a stake driven into the ground. We felt sorry for the poor beast, it's life being limited to such a small area. We could never understand why it hadn't been allowed to roam freely in a field. For many years we had been afraid of the goat – it would run after us, trying to butt us. We then discovered that the way to its heart lay through its stomach. Goats will eat pretty well anything and this goat was no different. We discovered that it had a passion for carrots and we always brought a few with us to feed him. The goat soon got into the habit of listening out for us and would bleat whenever we got within 10 yards of it.
"Hello Billy!" Snooks called out as the goat ran to the full extent of its tether. I could never understand why she felt the need to give a name to the animal. The goat bleated noisily, waiting for a carrot. We spent half an hour just feeding the goat and scratching him between his horns – something which he loved.
We set off again. While we were walking past Bishop's farm when we heard the sound of metal slicing through earth and the snorting of horses interspersed with quite whispered commands. There was a small gap in the hedge and we peered through.
We could see Arthur Hayes guiding his horse drawn plough. The field was obviously due to be left fallow that year and Arthur was ploughing in the summer overgrowth.
Arthur was a quiet, taciturn man who lived alone in a cottage on the Earith road. He was also a champion ploughman who had won the ploughing competition for the past 6 years. Such was his skill that he hired his services to the farms in the area. He wasn't a local man, having come from Tiverton in the west country.
We watched, entranced, as he skilfully guided the horses across the field. The horses instinctively knew what was expected of them and only required the slightest word or click from Arthur's tongue to tell them what was needed.
I noticed Rose Bishop walking across the field from the direction of the farmhouse. Rose, a plump, ruddy faced woman in her mid thirties was striding across the field carrying a jug.
"Arthur, are you ready for a break?" she called out.
Arthur came to a halt and wiped his brow.
"That will be most welcome, missus," he replied in his broad west country voice.
Rose put the jug down and walked up to Arthur and kissed him. Not just a simple kiss, I would add. It seemed as though she wanted to eat him. She pulled at his shirt, unfastening the buttons and then pulled off his overalls. In a moment Arthur was naked. His lean, muscular body was pale except for his face neck and forearms, which had been burned bronze by the sun. We both gasped as we saw his cock, hugely erect and gnarled with thick veins.
Rose dropped to her knees and buried her face in his crotch. Snooks gave a gasp of shock and grasped my hand.
"Oh Arthur, you smell so good," Rose gasped as she sucked and licked his swinging balls. "The smell of honest sweat."
A moment later she gripped his cock in both hands and began sucking it, slowly taking more and more of it into her mouth.
"Oh gosh," I heard Snooks whisper under her breath. She was gripping my hand tightly and her body shivered.
Arthur was pulling at Rose's dress and it soon joined his clothes on the floor. Her body was plump and her huge tits sagged against her belly. Her crotch was covered in dark hair. She leant over the plough, offering her rear to Arthur. In a moment he mounted her and pushed himself into her body. She moaned loudly as his cock was buried firmly inside.
He began thrusting in and out and Rose cried out as if in pain – except it wasn't. "Oh Arthur..." she gasped time after time. Arthur pounded her body time after time, the slapping sound of his belly and balls hitting her body ringing out across the field.
He suddenly gave a groan and collapsed against her.
After a moment they separated and a gush of white liquid left her body and splashed down Rose's thighs. She turned, knelt, and began to lick Arthur's cock clean.
We quietly crept away, each lost in our own thoughts. I had once seen a stallion service a mare and to be truthful, Rose and Arthur fucking seemed little different to what I had seen.
After a short distance we stopped and sat on a grassy bank.
"So that's what sex is?" Snooks finally asked.
"I reckon so," I replied.
"Oh," Snooks replied. Again there was a long pause.
"He was so big, how could she take him inside her?" she finally asked. "My thing is so small, nothing that big could fit inside me."
"We're still young," I replied. "I'm no where as big as Arthur is."
I had found the whole thing exciting and my cock was hard, pushing out against my shorts. Snooks must have noticed."
"No but your thing was making quite a lump in your trousers," she quipped.
She laughed as I blushed.
"I suppose yours will grow to be as big as Arthur's, one day," she smiled.
"I hope," she added to herself.
When I reached 15 I began work as a porter and general dogsbody at the station. There was never any doubt that I would follow my father into the railway – the job was reliable and well paid. There were just the four of us on the staff – Mr Grainger, the station master, my dad, Ernie Fielding the ticket office manager and me. Mr Grainger, no one used his first name, ran the station with a iron will, following the rules of the railway company to the letter. An untidy station was anathema to him, and the idea of a delayed train was simply intolerable.
As the junior member of staff, my job was really to keep the station spic and span. My first job of the day was to sweep the platforms, empty the waste paper bins and water the flower beds. Once that was done, I spent my time helping the other staff members where I could. Slowly I learned the jobs of the ticket office and a little about the signal box. Issuing tickets wasn't hard, it simply involved taking a ticket from the rack, where there wasn't a pre-printed destination, writing the destination on the ticket, and then putting it in the stamping machine to print the date of the journey.
The mysteries of the signal office were more complex and I found it hard to grasp the system for communication between signal boxes.
Snooks also left school at 15 and began work as a clerk at the flour mill.
It was good to be working and, after handing my keep to mum, having some money in my pocket. Haddenham wasn't a hotbed of social life but we were able to go to Ely once a month to see a film at the cinema.
Our lives ran along smoothly and we were content to be what was known as a "courting couple".
One morning in January 1944 I was summoned to Mr Grainger's office. I had by that time progressed from being a trainee to a full time porter.
"Alf Hickson is retiring," he began, "and they need a replacement. I think you will fill his job admirably."
Mr Grainger gave a rare smile as he gave me this news. Alf Hickson was the assistant station master at Soham station and the idea of being given such a promotion made my head spin.
"You work hard lad and you're a fast learner," Mr Grainger continued. "This will be an opportunity for you to show us what you can do."
There was, unfortunately, a down side to this opportunity. Soham was 13 miles from Haddenham, too far to travel on my bike easily. While I could easily ride such as distance, the work involved working shifts and travelling pitch black lanes late at night or early in the morning would be awkward. Add to that the fact that I would need to be available to go to the station at a moment's notice and it was clear that I would have to move to Soham.
Snookums was delighted when she heard the news but her face fell when she heard that I would have to live in Soham.
So it was that at the age of 18 I left home. Snooks wasn't too pleased about me moving to Soham – the idea of only seeing me roughly once a week wasn't too attractive. I think she knew how important the job was to me and she accepted the way things would be.
It turned out that the widow of the previous station master lived near the station and was prepared to give me lodgings.
Mrs Setchel, my new landlady, lived with her 20 year old daughter, Catherine, in a cottage near the station. Catherine was engaged to a soldier in the artillery. Catherine, or as I preferred, Cath, was a vivacious fun loving girl with a ready smile and a wicked sense of humour. She was totally besotted with her fiancé, Frank.
Frank was a great bloke. He actually came from Manchester and had been moved to East Anglia with his regiment. He had met Cath at a local dance and they had immediately clicked. It was only a matter of time before he proposed to her. The truth of the matter was that in war time, the risks of death were such that couples tended not to waste time with long romances. Living for the moment was all that mattered.
I settled into the work easily enough. While the post of assistant Station master sounds rather grand, I still had to help with the thousand and one mundane jobs which running a station entailed.
I managed to get home once a week to see Snooks. She didn't seem very happy with seeing me so infrequently and she made little effort to hide the fact. For the first time in our lives were began to argue, mostly over insignificant matters. It was getting to the stage that we would part on a sour note and I was beginning to doubt that me go the Haddenham once a week was really worth the effort.
One evening Frank came to the house.
"Can I have a word, Jim?" he asked me.
We slipped down the road to the pub and settled down in a corner to enjoy a pint.
"I'm off overseas next week," Frank told me.
"Oh bugger, where?" I asked.
"Not certain, possibly North Africa. Look mate, could you see your way to look out for Cath? She enjoys her social life and I want her to continue to have a good time to take her mind off me. She'll worry herself to death with me away and she'll need something to occupy some of her time. She enjoys going to the cinema and dancing and having a good time, do you think you could be her escort?"
"Don't you trust her?" I asked with a wicked grin.
"I trust her absolutely. It's the other guys I don't trust. There's a lot of forces, both British and foreign billeted in this area and a lot of them will be looking for a girlfriend. It's a certainty that she'll be hit upon if she goes out alone. Equally, I don't want her sat at home worrying when she could be out having a little fun. The solution is for some reliable chap, like you, who Cath likes and enjoys being with, to be her escort."
"Don't worry on that score, mate," I told him. "You just concentrate on staying alive, I'll keep Cath safe."
"One more thing," Frank added. "I want you to give Cath away. With the uncertainty of war Cath had wants to get married before I leave."
The wedding was a rushed affair with only close family present. I felt like a dog with two tails escorting Cath down the aisle.
Cath was inconsolable the following week as Frank waved from the train. Like so many women, the uncertainty of whether they would see their man again was agony.
True to my promise to Frank, I made sure that Cath had plenty to keep her mind occupied. True to Frank's fears, quite a lot of blokes tried to hit on Cath. She would just smile and tell them that she was with me and they usually left her alone. For my part, I quite enjoyed going out with Cath, she great fun and we became very close. The down side was that I was going home even less frequently.