Now and Then Magazine

An Independant regional magazine that is circulated into 78,000 selected homes

Latest Edition: October 2018

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- A model genius

- Bridging the gap

- Save Markse Hall

- Letters

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Peter Cook

the editor

Even to this day I can remember the contents of that cupboard under the stairs: As well as the gas meter, there were two pairs of wellington boots, a carpet sweeper, a box containing Christmas decorations, a fireguard and an old bagatelle board with the broken spring in the metal ball release mechanism. There was also a small shelf accommodating two old paint tins. So there was little room for me and my mother to squat there as we sat waiting for the storm outside to abate.
You see, my mother was frightened – no, the word has to be much stronger, she was absolutely terrified of thunder storms. I never knew the reason for this paranoia, but at the first rumble of thunder, no matter how distant, she would begin gathering up knives, forks, scissors, anything metallic in the certain belief they would attract a lightening strike. I was seven-years-old, and not equipped to question such a theory, although I do remember asking why we had to hide in the cupboard under the stairs. The answer was never forthcoming.
I spent a number of childhood hours in that claustrophobic cupboard, reading my ‘Just William’ book with the aid of a torch, while my mother winced at every clap of thunder. When my father came home from work he would laugh and chide her, patiently explaining the odds of a lightening strike. It was to no avail. It transpired that my grandmother had also followed this thunderstorm routine which leads me to wonder if phobias can be in the genes, because I feel a certain uneasiness when lightening is about. But then I suspect so do many other people.
Our cupboard under the stairs also became our refuge when the air raid siren sounded during the war. For mother, this was just an extension of her thunder syndrome, albeit a hundred times more perilous. Dad was in the Home Guard and often on duty when the Luftwaffe arrived. So it was into the cupboard again. This became such a regular occurrence, mother would prepare flasks of tea and sandwiches to take in with us. By now I was of an age to appreciate the dangers of these air raids and a couple of near misses when a stick of bombs produced five large craters in the field at the bottom of our garden, did little assuage our anxieties.
All this came back to me the other day when I read a letter published in my morning paper. It was from a lady in Birmingham who recalled her grandmother hiding the cutlery at the first sign of a thunder storm. There was no mention of a cupboard under the stairs.

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Peter Cook – Editor-in-Chief