I retrace my route back to Easington Lane and once there turn right and head further down the town and at the next roundabout turn left and now we are heading towards Fencehouses.
As we enter the region of Fencehouses from Chilton Moor I see the shop that was once a butchers shop. I tried desperately to get a ‘saturday’ job there but never did and then the area on my left where once stood the old infant / junior shool of Dubmire.
Like many old schools there is now a small housing estate where many times I pee’d as high as I could up the toilet wall in the outside toilets. It was a game boys played back then.
Fencehouses, what can I say about Fencehouses, except to say I got up to things that still make me smile. I had finger marks left on my legs from being smacked which my mother threatening to report my dad to child services.
Discovering masterbation with a chap from school whilst we where fishing on the River Wear in Chester Le Street. Discovering girls and having an orgy in my parents house aged 13, (I’m not too sure if I should tell that story).
Smoking cigarettes from around 12yrs old by picking up dog ends from the gutter and smoking them. Had a few fights and generally got up to no good. I guess what most boys get up to as we discover the world, so let us begin. Tragedy was to strike, and my second brush with death came to meet me.
This house, at Fencehouses, was a 3 bedroom, with 2 inside toilets, a coal fire and huge gardens front and back with a brick built shed where my dad hung a fox’s tail for years. The kitchen was massive. My mother would make me lemonade from hot water and thinly sliced lemons. It also had a huge white sink, plus a walk in pantry and where I also saw my mother pointing a kitchen knife at my dad, saying to him, “don’t you come near me you bastard”……
The front room had a carpet that can only be described as rougher than old boots, it was like a really rough hard woven hessian and had I been wearing long trousers it would have worn my knees through in minutes. Then there was another downstairs room that I can never recall ever being used, but was to house my fish tank.
My fishtank had a small catfish in it that refused to die and it also became a play room for me. Going upstairs there was 3 bedrooms, the larger one being for mum and dad, 1 for me and 1 as a store room as it was never used. It was in this room one Christmas I found my toys in an old suitcase and played with my magnetic football game before the big day. I never did let on.
This house has lots of memories for me, some good, some bad, and some absolutely freezing as there was nothing like central heating back then. I would watch ice patterns form on the inside of my iron framed bedroom windows being amazed at the patterns the ice would make, it was fascinating, although I don’t recall being cold. This was to be my home for the next few years, with things going on that I recall that bring tears, smiles and stuff that maybe I should never divulge, but I shall.
Unbeknown to me, at the time, a few years later in the local swimming baths, known as Lambton D Colliery Baths, just at the bottom of this bank towards the coke works, I would become, aged 9, the youngest person in the country to achieve the Gold personal survival swimming award. I can still smell the chlorine, feel the frezzing cold knobbly floor, hear the rattle of the metal lockers and jumping over the ‘foot bath’ before entering the pool.
With it’s 6ft high diving board and the entrance end and concrete platform ‘benches’ at the other. It was only 25 meters long and 4 lanes wide and if memory serves me correctly a Mr Murtagh ran the place.
(The baths were in the first building on the left in the next photograph with the coke works in the background).
My dad had even called the local newspaper and I had my picture taken and a write up was put in too. (the price of fame eh!.
I was than asked if I would like to train with the swimming team at Durham City but I never went.
My parents, no doubt, couldn’t be bothered.
I could have been an Olympian me. The view of the old baths now, with no coke works skyline anymore.