We always took a short cut to school. We found that by climbing a wall, then scrambling across the corner of a garden to a second wall we could then climb onto that wall and then jump down into the school grounds. This cut quite a large corner off our walk. This adventure was usually punctuated by a little old lady, the owner of the wall and garden, who used to come out and shake her stick at us and shout loudly. Her dog always barked vigorously. But they never caught anyone. We were too quick for that.
Some years later when my mother came home one day she asked if I would be very kind and take a little dog Sammy for walks after school every day. His owner. Miss Pilgrim, was now too old to take the dog out I wasn’t sure. I didn’t really like taking our own dog, Mac, for walks. He was quite old now and although still very lovable he was very slow. But eventually I agreed. I was somewhat shocked when I discovered that Miss Pilgrim was the owner of the wall and garden we had climbed over and the dog was the one who had barked at us so much. I soon became very fond of Sammy and also of the old lady. Miss Pilgrim. I didn’t know whether she remembered our antics on the wall, but she was always extremely nice. Every day after school I took Sammy for his walk and then had a chat with Miss Pilgrim. She always seemed to appreciate my opinions and we got on very well. She treated me as an equal, as if I was an adult. She also gave me little presents like sweets or chocolates, which I wasn’t allowed at home because my mum said I was getting too fat. When Christmas came mum gave me a present to give her. I can’t really remember what I gave her but it was probably some soap and talcum powder, which was very popular in those days. I remember how pleased she was when I gave it to her. I expect she had other visitors but I never saw anyone else in the house. She gave me a book for Christmas. I still have it somewhere. I loved her and her dog. I suppose they were my first loves outside my own family. Taking Sammy for a walk was great fun. He could walk or run as fast as I could. He didn’t seem to get tired if we went a long way. At weekends I often took him across the fields. I enjoyed his company very much.
We went away for Christmas that year. When we arrived back I insisted on running round to Miss Pilgrim’s house. The plan was that I would take Sammy for his walk and thank her for her present. The house looked different when I got there. Something was wrong, Sammy was not barking. What had happened? A strange lady opened the door when I knocked. “Miss Pilgrim is dead”. She said. I was devastated. I ran home to tell my mother. She went round to the house to find out what had happened. Miss Pilgrim had died suddenly the day after I had seen her last She had a heart condition. I was heart broken and cried for ages. The lady was her niece who lived on a farm in Essex. Sammy was taken to Essex. Mum said we could visit him, when we went to see Uncle Maurice and Auntie Ethel who lived down there. We never did. The niece told Mum how grateful the family was that I took the dog out regularly and visited her aunt. I was thanked for being so loyal and going daily to take the dog out. I was upset about Miss Pilgrim’s death for a long time because it seemed like something very important and special had gone from my life.