By now the children were both attending the local independent Harpur Trust Schools and Jane was doing her BEd at Bedford College. While I was up-and-down to London, the others were schlepping in and out of the metropolis that is Bedford – we moved into the town. The house was to be where we stayed the longest of all our properties, while Jane finished her course and started teaching, and where Sarah and Matt completed school and went off to Uni. It was a lovely detached house with seven bedrooms, two large receptions, a dining room and a large kitchen (which we made larger by knocking through to the outside rooms.
Sarah went to Dame Alice, Matt to Bedford Modern and Jane later taught in the other two Harpur Trust schools – Bedford High and Bedford School. Staff received a 60% tax-free discount on the regular fees, so this proved extremely beneficial, financially it was even better than having a wife work in a building society and gaining staff mortgage rates (and in those days mortgage rates were often double-digit!).
Getting a bit ahead of the story, but when I was at Granada Business Services Division, we were looking at the market for home telephone exchanges. To experience this (à la Nolan Bushnell) I had one installed in our home. All rooms had an extension from where you could answer an external call and then pass it on to the relevant room/person. With teenage children this proved extremely useful.
This family home has many memories. Perhaps foremost in these is that we seemed always to have numbers of Bedford Modern boarders at the house. We learned later that they had to declare where they were going when they went out. Given that they could be in various rooms without adults intruding, we became a regular entry in their signing-out book.
A cat started to hang around the garden, often sitting on a window ledge looking in at us forlornly. Before I knew it, I came home to find Matt had fitted a cat-flap in the kitchen door and ‘Bimbo’ moved in. When, much later, the cat fell ill, the vet pointed out that this was a neutered male and he was quickly rechristened ‘Rambo’. He was one smart cat, he clearly understood I was not particularly a cat person, so made a particular beeline for my lap.
Towards the end of our twelve-year occupancy our location did become something of an issue. About half-a-dozen doors down the road that passed along the side of the house (we had a corner site), they started to have late-night parties. A small Commer van would turn up, all the furniture would be moved out into it and the party got under way.
We would have had no issue with this, but our commanding corner position is where the party’s drug-dealer would pull up his car, with the engine running into the early hours. He had several spotters who drove around to give him advance warning and he ran his engine to allow for a quick getaway. He was directly beneath our bedroom window. We called the police who were not speedy in responding, we watched as a Panda car with one young copper drove up the road, but was obviously too frightened of the dealers to stop.
Yet the police proved quite keen to use us as an observation post on another occasion. They knocked on the door and asked to sit in our lounge, which provided a good view of a previously convicted paedophile who they believed was developing recidivist tendencies.
We also once stopped the police from committing a miscarriage of justice. Our bedroom was double-aspect and a side window looked down the slightly dog-legged cross-road. We were woken by a drunk singing loudly and I watched as he walked down that road meandering between parked cars but then lost sight of him.
I went back to bed but then heard further noise and looked out to see a car stopped between the two lines of parked cars and someone tending to the drunk. He had apparently managed to collapse with part of his body sticking out into the single-lane through-route.
As I watched I saw a Panda arrive and watched as the two PCs were placing the driver into the rear of their car. I went down and saw that the driver was of some ethnic background, protesting that he had stopped to help the drunk, the two PCs were however convinced that he had hit him. I was able to arrange his release with my witness statement, before they went too far with this.
These stories make the area sound pretty dubious, and in truth the area and the town had become a tad ‘curate’s egg’ and we were in a bit that was becoming a tad scrambled. But we had twelve very good years there with good memories exceeding by many times the few bad tales listed above.