1960: Harold

Harold Ravenscourt Stedman.

dad in garden

Dad Pottering

He was born in 1918 and was, in 1960, 42 years old. At this point he was a parent of 5 children and working at Purdown Hospital as a male nurse. Dad worked here after his time in the army. He specialised by working in what was then called a Mental Hospital. Purdown Hospital was a specialised Psychiatric Hospital with patients who often had residence from birth or were “committed” to the care of the N.H.S. Purdown became part of the Stoke Park Hospital group that specialised in Neurological research through the Burden Institute.

Dad had two different words for his activities at home. They were clearly different in his mind. Tinkering involved taking things apart and putting them together again. Often this would be his motor bike or later the car. He must be the only person we knew who would build his own garden shed from bits of tin then take it apart and put it together again a week later. Mum said he liked decorating. She also said she wished he didn’t.

Pottering, by contrast, had no fixed object of enjoyment. He would wander, bear like, until he found something meriting his attention. This would often be in the garden, rarely be one of us children, sometimes it might be directed to making something useful like chess pieces from broom handles or lamps from bits of tile. At one time he took up painting in oils. He should have stayed painting walls. His ultimate pottering was engaging in the home brew fashion of the seventies. His elderflower wine was of notorious strength.

His tinkering was usually observed by or engaged with Gerald as a shadow. Pottering was more likely to be followed by Derek, especially when brewing a wine. Our only regular shared activity was in collecting stamps, usually provided by letters to his patients at work. Stamp collecting probably fell into the pottering classification.

Mr Cox lived opposite. I suggest his pottering with Mr Cox was more about having a sly cigarette or latterly cigar. At this time he would often send my brothers to Gormley’s café for 20 Woodbines. I got the job when I was a bit older, like when I was 5 years old, money in a hankie, note on a piece of fag box.

Dad wasn’t a particularly demonstrative Dad. He had a generally quiet and tolerant attitude. Outsiders would probably describe him as laid back and easy going. He was far from easy going. He knew his own mind and when probed was happy to let you know his opinions. He rarely offered them as pearls of wisdom. He would rather internalise his thoughts until the day they came out in a period of grump and frown. I never heard him shout, I often saw him in a bad mood. He cared intensely for us and Mum but never let us know that in words. Mum described him as a typical naval Tory. Apparently Sailors voted Tory. She enjoyed cancelling out his vote by voting Labour. Harold was an old school man of his generation, a product of a large family and a military early working life.

Diary Entry

Sunday December 11th 1960

Dad would have kept a diary for work but not for home. If he had then on this particular Sunday it might have looked like this. It is all imagined rather than real.

It was very cold this morning. Mum was up earlier than me so the kitchen fire was started but decided to get the other one going as well. Had to remind the boys about getting their school stuff ready tonight and not to leave it to Mum to do it for them. She was busy with Gerald this morning so I had to get Valerie to sort the breakfast.

Alan got to the paper before me, I was not happy. I went and got Tony to give me a hand tinkering with the bike. He is good at getting a good shine on the metalwork and takes his time to get it right. Alan can’t be bothered with it. I cleaned the spark plugs and checked the oil. Took Tony for a ride around the block when we finished.

It’s Gerald’s first Birthday on Tuesday. Will get something for Mum tomorrow. He won’t care what he has so we have bought some new shoes for him. Will need to get christmas shopping sorted when kids are at school.

Went over top see what Jack Cox was doing. His house is as mad as ours is at the moment. He has a good shed though!

Dinner was the usual. The veg was the last of our own cabbages. Hope to get in the garden next week, might get to bulbs in garden.

Valerie took Richard out this afternoon. Not sure where Anthony went but I could hear Alan playing football in the field. Gerald was his usual demanding self. He kept Mum busy. All the kids were in on time for tea. They went to church with Mum so I could have some time on my own except of course I had to look after Gerald and Richard.

We listened to Sing Something Simple on the radio while they were out.

The kids got their school stuff ready when they got home. Alan said something about needing some new shoes. In bed by 9 for them. Fat chance! I’m on at 6 tomorrow so in bed by ten. Hope the bike starts in the morning.      


1982       2nds Buckingham A L 17-14

1993       Leyton Orient H 1-1

1999       Colchester H 2-1

2004       Macclesfield H 0-0

2010       Sheffield W A 2-6

Next Week 10th July 1961

Holidays in Portsmouth


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