Hop-Picking, someone said that you really cannot understand what it was like unless you had experienced it, there’s some truth in that.
In the early years, (1940s/50s) we would get the train from London Bridge Station to Paddock Wood. We would be up really early & walk from Pages Walk to London Bridge pushing a pram or two with some of our possessions, happy & excited to be going Down-Oppin’. The hustle & bustle at London Bridge Station before you got on the Steam train, trying to get near a window to look out, waiting for it to pull away, then the whistle & off you go so excited. The clickety click of the wheels on the rails, your eyes watering with the smoke from the train, then you’re out of London there’s green fields, Sheep, Cows & then you spot the hop-fields, I don’t know what heaven is like but in the next three weeks I think I may be in it. Paddock Wood arrives & we all go in different directions, us to Hunton Court Farm, Hunton on the back of a flat trailer pulled by a tractor, holding on in case you fell off. Then we arrived at our Tin Hut Home, light the fire first to make a cup of tea, that makes everything feel better (still does today). Stuff the paillasse with straw for our bed, collect the bundles of faggots (wood) for the fire, have something to eat then bed, what a great day. This is a hard-working holiday for the adults but to us kids it’s all about fun & sometimes not getting caught, yes, we helped with the hop picking sometimes but if we could sneak away we would. Scrumping, pennies on the railway lines, trying to fish with a bit of string & a safety pin, then on top of all this, covered in mud but boy were we happy no health & Safety in them days. At night, all the fires outside the huts the banter, jokes, Micky taking & laughter of those wonderful hard working people who for three or four weeks had escaped, some of the slums of London to make some money for Christmas. Yes, you really had to have been there to understand, thankfully I was one of the lucky ones.
What could be better than this
A nice old cuddle and kiss
All beneath the pale moonlight.
Then some Tommy Tucker [supper] and off to Uncle Ned [bed].
Oh what a luvverly night tonight.