Chapter 6 – Wareham
In 1958 I applied for a job with the Forestry Commission. They asked me which county I wanted to work in and I chose Dorset. Then they sent me to Wareham Forest. My first address was 39 Carey Road, Wareham, later to be renumbered 73. From my window I could see Ballard Down, Nine Barrow Down, Corfe Castle, Knowle Hill, Grange Arch, Flowers Barrow, Bindon Hill, Poole Harbour, the Arne peninsula, Poole Power Station and Wareham Mill. Many of these places were later to be featured in my Guide to the Isle of Purbeck.
I was an apprentice, but I did the same work as everyone else. Whenever it rained we used to play cards, and I remember that I could tell which cards one of my opponents held by looking at the reflection in her glasses.
In the evenings and at weekends I explored the surrounding countryside. The farthest place I reached was Bath, where I visited the Roman baths and mineral springs. Whenever I had visited Roman remains previously all I found was foundations, but here the Roman walls rose to a considerable height, and there were statues all round the site. Later I revisited the area and realised that the statues and the higher parts of the walls were all relatively modern.
On 7th October, 1958 I went to a dancing class. The first instruction was to choose our partners. I went straight up to the prettiest girl in the room and asked if she would be my partner. To my absolute delight she agreed. So far, so good. The next instruction was to start dancing. I danced like a new-born calf walks: I did everything wrong. Eventually my partner said ‘I can’t do this’ and ran out of the room. Later on, when I was at college, I went to another dancing class. The same thing happened as before, but this time my partner behaved quite differently. She went up to another couple and said ‘Will you change partners with me?’ At this point I gave up the idea of learning to dance.
When I had been in Wareham for about five months my parents asked me whether I would like to return home and go to the South-West Essex Technical College in Walthamstow. As I always did when I had something to think about I walked round the town walls. It was arranged that I would phone my mother when I had made up my mind. This was our conversation: I said ‘I have decided what I want to do: I want to stay in Wareham.’ My mother said ‘Are you sure?’, and I said ‘No I’m not sure: I want to go to college.’ As I spoke I knew that I would never regret it, and I never did. I don’t claim that this is a good way of making decisions, but it worked on this occasion. I look on my college days as among the happiest of my life, and I have never felt so much a part of a community as I did while I was there.
Over the years I have had many interesting dreams. The most remarkable thing about them is that I never decide what I am going to dream about. So who does decide?
On 2nd February, 1957 I dreamed that I was exploring an old house.
On 15th March, 1957 I dreamed that I rowed a boat from Sawbridgeworth to Roydon.
On 15th November, 1958 I dreamed that I was on the first manned space rocket to the moon, but I failed to reach it and came down after four hours.
On 23rd July, 1959 I dreamed that I was made a police superintendent as a reward for removing a parked car that was holding up the traffic. As such I told lots of people what to do and rowed someone out to a liner because he had just missed it.
On 5th December, 1959 I dreamed that I went to America, got married and bought a $370,000 house.
On 30th January, 1960 I dreamed that we were on a rally, and that when we were halfway down Bournebridge Lane we remembered that we had left the car at Lambourne End.
On 8th December, 1980 I dreamed that I caught a bus in the Lake District and they charged me £52, which I thought was rather expensive.
On 14th March, 1995 I dreamed that I became a close friend of Cliff Richard.
On 28th November, 1995 I dreamed that I met the Beatles. I had already met the Prince of Wales in a dream.
On 11th October, 2002 I dreamed that the Queen was a passenger in my taxi. I had to take her to a railway station, but I didn’t know the way.
On 9th November, 2002 I dreamed that I explored an extremely large and extremely beautiful stately home.
On 6th January, 2003 I dreamed that I got married. When I got to the wedding I realised that there should have been a best man.
On 28th November, 2003 I dreamed that I met Hayley Mills, who had recently been on television.
On 25th October, 2004 I dreamed that I was appointed Poet Laureate and that I owned a Rolls Royce.
On 16th November, 2004 I dreamed that I could travel downhill by sitting down and floating along a few feet above the ground.
On 14th October, 2005 I dreamed that I bought a dustpan, and it came with a book of instructions that was about an inch thick.
On 26th March, 2010 I dreamed that I was in the square in Keswick and surrounded by ruined buildings, and I said to somebody ‘I was here yesterday, and it wasn’t like this then.’
On 27th March, 2010 I dreamed that the publishers changed all the hand-lettering in the Wainwright books to type-setting, and I refused to work for them any more.
On 5th December, 2011 I dreamed that I went back to Whistlefield, and that everything inside had been changed out of all recognition.
On 25th August, 2014 I dreamed that I made an important scientific discovery and that I had to get to Manchester University to tell them about it, but I couldn’t find the university.
When I am dreaming I believe that what I am dreaming is really happening to me. If I am capable of believing that something is really happening when it isn’t how can I be sure that what I believe is happening to me when I am awake is really happening?
Throughout my life I have experienced remarkable co-incidences. For example, in 1960 I went to the village of High Beach to ask the landlord of the King’s Oak if he could cater for the end of the Romer Rally. Unfortunately, there was no answer when I rang the bell. As I was about to leave someone asked me what I wanted, and when I told him he said he had come there for exactly the same purpose! When I applied to enter his rally he said that his name was almost exactly the same as mine – Jest!
In 1961 another student was tossing coins, and he asked me to guess, when they were in the air, which way they would fall. This was the only time I had ever done this, and yet I got 17 right out out of the first 18.
In 1962 I moved into a flat in Aberdeen that I shared with another student. The following day we were joined by a third student, whose parents happened to be staying in the bungalow in Ullapool where I had stayed with my family three weeks earlier.
When I was living in Harcourt Road, Aberdeen in 1963 my brother was living in Harcourt Road, Wallington in South London.
In 1970 I went to the Welsh National Library at Aberystwyth and consulted ‘Elements of Cartography’ by A.H. (Arthur Howard) Robinson. They also had ‘Marine Cartography in Britain’ by another A.H. Robinson (Adrian Henry).
In 1971 I discovered quite by accident that a person who gave me a lift was the brother of someone I knew at Aberdeen University. We went on to discuss coincidences: how you often only discover them by a chance remark. Then, again by accident, I discovered that the driver worked for the Ordnance Survey in Southampton and lived a few doors away from where I lived when I worked there.
When I was working as a taxi driver in Barrow in 1996 I went to the wrong address, and one of the bosses happened to come along and told me where to go. Within an hour the same thing happened again in a different part of the town and it was the same person who helped me.
In 2001 I phoned Mr Pursey of Dicketts in Glastonbury to ask if he wanted any panoramas and he said that he had recently been a passenger in my taxi in Kendal.
Even my name involves a coincidence. If you change the last two letters of my surname to ‘us’ and add the first six letters of my first name you get the most famous name from the past; and if you take the last five letters of one of the titles of the most famous person from my own time you get my surname.
At one time I seriously thought that there must be something special about me because I get more than my share of coincidences, but now I think that the explanation is that the number of non-coincidences is vastly greater than we imagine.