Memories of Stambermill include the awareness that at Grandfather's house
there was always a cat, and I can remember our having one at Yardley Street.
They could be stroked, but not the wrong way, and if mishandled could
retaliate. Their chief function was to 'catch mice' (pace Jerry!) and to be
stoked up with boiled 'lights' and the odd bit of fish.
The boiling of 'lights' was a ritual kept to a minimum as the kitchen
remained malodorous for hours afterwards. Thought - Why are they called
lights? When we moved to New Road, my parents came back once from a visit to
Broadway, which included contact with Mr. Morris the grocer, having been
given by him, a kitten which was christened unimaginatively, but with a
basic sort of logic, 'Morris Broadway'. I cannot remember what it was
actually called, but I don't think it lasted long.
We did have the odd goldfish from time to time, but over a fairly long
period, there was a canary in a cage. It usually fell to my lot to 'clean it
When I was about nine years old we went up to Birmingham and brought back
a black and tan puppy which had been bought in Birmingham market - not the
ideal source of supply.
Father did not like animals, so this poor creature was forbidden the
house, part of the shed being partitioned off as a kennel. As the pup was
barely weaned, this was the first act of cruelty.
I do not know whether there were inoculations for animals in those days,
but parents certainly were not aware either of their availability or their
need. The result was that the pup contracted distemper very soon in its
short life and had to be put down. The way in which this was done is hardly
credible, but it is true. Father arranged with a local vet that the matter
should be dealt with one morning. He was, of course, at work. So I was sent
at the age of nine, on my own to the vet's with the dog on a lead to have
him put down. I nearly broke my heart, and I had to go on to school
afterwards. It was not a nice day.
Life since then has brought me into contact with various acts of cruelty
to children, but this act of unthinking callousness I have bitterly resented
ever since, especially as it was perpetrated by a man who made much of his
public virtues. The iron entered into my soul and so, perhaps, began my
increasing scepticism of, if not contempt for, his sort of religion. The sad
thing is that he seemed to have no appreciation of my being upset and why.
At New Road we had from time to time, chickens, and white fantail pigeons
which of course could be tended at a distance.
One Christmas day the mistake was made of feeding the pigeons before they
were let out of the cage. Much effort was necessary thereafter to get them
down from the roof of the chapel next door before Christmas dinner could be
served. This caused Mother some annoyance, this being exacerbated when the
chicken, keeping warm on a trivet in front of the fire, decided of its own
volition to take a header into the ashes. I draw a veil over what followed,
because I cannot remember - perhaps just as well!
I have vague memories of rabbits at some time whilst at New Road, but on
the whole, the story of our animal associations is not a happy one.
© The Estate of William John Green, 2004