People made their own entertainment, and there was plenty - often centred on the village hall. Here there were evenings for plays, whist drives, jazz music (my father played the drums and saxophone) and dances, sometimes in fancy dress. Though small, we actually had a sprung dance floor in our house. On a grander scale was the 9 to 90 ball (I must have been 9 years old or over), where I remember a lady in a simple red dress held up from behind the neck, that when she bent over revealed her comely breasts. At that age I thought that it was rather disgusting. And there was the occasional ball at my grandfather's 18th century Strathfield Saye vicarage where, being gauche and young, I untied the bows on the dress of a girl I fancied. That was not the thing to do.
Foreign governesses, to educate and look after us children, came and went. One in particular hailed from Switzerland and became a family friend. I was staying with her family in Vevey when the war was eminent, so was put on a much overcrowded train and returned to England.
We took part in plenty of other activities, too. We gave tennis parties, our grass court being so good that we children were often given a prize should we find a weed on it.
Home-made lemonade was the thirst-quencher, dispensed from the shade of a wooden shelter that could be rotated as desired for sun or shade. There was the Schneider Trophy along the Solent to watch, where seaplanes of several nations raced. The British aircraft were powered by the newly-developed Rolls Royce Merlin engine, later to power many of our fighters and bombers in the upcoming war. The King's Cup air race sometimes took a course above our house. The mixture of private biplanes and racing monoplanes flew quite low in a handicap race around markers. They made a wonderful and colourful sight. There was car racing at Brooklands where we watched from the Home Banking to see such as Napier Railton and ERA cars race around. But for me it was aeroplanes and flight that fired my imagination. Alan Cobham would bring his Flying Circus to some farmer's field and take passengers up in an Avro Tutor biplane. I went for a flip at 7/6 had a loop-the-loop included.
But that was nothing compared with a flight from Croydon Aerodrome (then a large grass field as London's airport). It was 1931. Kingsford Smith had just flown in there from Australia in an Avro 10 Trimotor aircraft with the Christmas mail. It took a record breaking 17 days, crewed by an all-Australian crew - except that my uncle Wyndham Hewitt was his flight engineer and very much English.
Anyhow, Kingsford Smith's plane had a broken tail skid, so we were taken up (my brother Nigel and I) in a German Klemm Bat monoplane. We sat in the forward open cockpit on a bench, and had to hang on like mad in the wind and the exhaust of its in-line, air-cooled engine. I think it must have been a sales aeroplane with advertising words on its side and, unusually, had a prop boss fared into the streamlining of the fuselage. The type was very modern for its time and was used for training Luftwaffe pilots. It was made in many configurations, and a quantity were sold to Czechoslovakia and the USA.
The excitement and potential danger of flying stayed with me until I obtained my wings in the USA at the end of the war.
The Silchester house was built next to a Roman road. Because of this it was quite usual for us to find Roman coins in the kitchen garden soil. The coins were of little interest to us as they were found so often, so they were thrown in a hamper.
After my father died of radium poisoning (Madame Curie's triumph), we sold the main house and lived, mainly for weekends, and me alone in some school holidays, in the re-designed, and then thatched, ex-army sheds situated around the pear-shaped back drive. Much later, after I had joined the RAF and was working as a prop swinger, waiting for a place as a trainee pilot, I heard that the thatched house had burnt to the ground. No one knew quite how it had happened. Perhaps a tramp had broken in and set fire to it, perhaps an electric bed-warmer had been left on by mistake? Anyhow, all the Roman coins had melted away, and only an iron cooking pot and a lump of gold, found below where I had placed my watch in a drawer, were recovered.
Although now much older and able to become an RAF airman, that was the end of my connections with my youthful existence at Silchester. Its time capsule had now been left behind - some of which I have now remembered in haphazard form and recalled here in print.