The Tears of a Clown

Now if there's a smile upon my face…

The Back Twitchell

The word ‘twitchell’ appears to be a peculiarly Nottingham word. I have never heard its like elsewhere. It denotes an alleyway, a wynd, a ginnel or whatever is the favoured word in your part of the world.

My parents’ house when I was growing up had a short twitchell next to it which was a short walkway from Redhill through to a small housing estate leading to Arnold. It was unremarkable and only characterised by the six to seven-foot private hedges that so many people used to own in the 1960s lining it on either side.

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Nearby ‘Back Twitchell’ had much more of interest. It lined, as it still does, an outer perimeter of Redhill School. The other side had the one-after-the-other ends of back gardens of the neat council semis from a nearby crescent. Half way along the twitchell lived Ted, the car mechanic with his higgledy-piggledy little wooden workshop at the end of his yard. A trusty blue overall which was mostly oil and a French beret at a jaunty angle. A big bear of a man, a former RAF serviceman with a long bushy beard and always a kindly word for us young laddies – especially if he knew our dads. For decades Ted had a row of motors in various states of decay and disablement along the black ash twitchell. We knew it was the end when all those old motorised carcasses were finally strapped up and towed away…

The twitchell was also used for conkering, hide and seek, practical jokes on passers by, football, letting off fireworks and many other childhood pastimes. Then came a certain age and girls…

All grown and at work, still that twitchell persisted as a short cut through from a pint or two in Arnold back to Redhill, under the stars last thing at night, considering the world. Halley’s Comet came along and I remember standing transfixed for several minutes on that old twitchell of my childhood, looking up at this wonder in the skies from the inky blackness and thinking of the several decades I’d tramped that familiar, dark ashy path.

Most of all I remember the wonderful distant childhood sight of my dear dad walking home from Arnold during the afternoon. Always clad in an immaculate navy blue suit incongruous with the overgrown old twitchell, head held high and his unmistakable, slightly nautical gate earned from many years at sea in the Merchant Navy. As he got closer and smiled at me I would see the familiar sprig of hawthorn he would always pick from the hedges and pop in the corner of his mouth. I would give everything I owned to see that sight just one more time on that little pathway.

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March 5, 2012 - Posted by | Ripping Yarns | , , ,

6 Comments »

  1. Thanks for your write-up of this piece of marginalia, somewhere that featured in my childhood too. We used to walk our dog down here to access the school playing fields (around the time the all-weather pitch was first created) and sometimes to go and explore “the jungle” – the wooded area beyond the end of Monsell Drive.

    Comment by Jeff Tupholme | July 17, 2018

  2. Thanks for your comments, Jeff. Ah yes, the ‘jungle’ – my main escape route to freedom from Redhill Comprehensive School in the 1970s.

    Comment by Stuart | July 17, 2018

  3. Just wondering now if you remember the time when there was a small stream flowing across the little green space at the bottom of Monsell Drive, where the horse chestnut trees and the substation are. I’d estimate that it was filled in or covered over in the late 1970s. I wonder what it was – rainwater runoff from the hill or an actual stream?

    Comment by Jeff Tupholme | August 14, 2018

  4. Hi Jeff, yes I remember it well, I’d often play there as a youngster as I lived close by (and still do). I believe it was a genuine stream which ran, possibly underground, through the neighbouring cottages’ gardens. You’ll probably remember that the stream ran into a culvert underneath Mansfield Rd. I think from there following the line of the main road undergroundI think the stream would originate from somewhere up around Arch Hill or possibly Colliers Pad near Hammonds Farm as was.

    Comment by Stuart | August 14, 2018

  5. Maybe it’s time to get the divining rods out!

    Comment by Jeff Tupholme | August 15, 2018

  6. Indeed! Back in the day I think I’d have been more inclined towards fishing rods!

    Comment by Stuart | August 15, 2018


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