The Woman Who Counted The Gooseberries - Benjamin Pond - Longshoreman

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The Woman Who Counted The Gooseberries

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Poole Herald, 27th August 1958
A reproduction of the original article by Benjamin Pond

Some very odd and funny happenings can now be told of life in the early days amid the dunes, marram grass, and the banks of sand which gave Sandbanks it's name.
In those days I had a shack near the old Haven Inn, also a houseboat in Stoke's Lake, and I did all manner of jobs for the few residents at that time.
There being no buses or other transport, people from Poole rarely came so far to look for work, so I became the first Sandscape gardner, and I might add that it is surprising what can be grown in pure sand.
Just you notice, next time you are in Sandbanks, all those tall evergreens in this sandy soil, mind if you dig down a few feet you find water fresh, not salt.

Yes, if you dig a few feet down at least 40 feet from high tide mark you will find fresh water, as the salt is absorbed by the sand. So if you ever get shipwrecked on some desert island, well just dig a well and all will be well.
My shack was hidden in a sandy hollow between what is now Banks Road and Seacombe Road.
I kept my food in a cupboard which also served as a table, and a box was my seat. Upon this box I could prepare and eat my meal and clear things away without once getting up from my box seat.
I sloshed the tea leaves from my cup (a coconut shell) out through the window while seated and my stove was close alongside.
No sanitory inspectors in those days, no one wanting to sell me bootlaces, in fact I went bare-footed whenever possible. But as the number of residents increased things began to happen.
My first story concerns an old couple who came from North of Aberdeen. They had been living here about five years when they first asked me to do some odd jobs.
I was told to hoe under some fruit bushes, but not until the woman had counted every gooseberry.
Feeling annoyed I said: "I was once given 36 lb of these awful things and lived on them for whole week, never no more for me."
She answered: "No you might not eat any, but you might knock one off with the hoe and bury it."
Another time the old woman opened a window and shouted: "Come to the door when you have done exactly £2 worth of work."
When I went to the door she said : "Now, to save you putting a tuppeny stamp on the receipt, I will pay you £1 19s, 11d, so you see we have both saved a penny." How tight can one get?
This old couple would save used matches until they had 400, which was just enough to light one fire, - I'd had enough.

Early days at Sandbanks recalled by Benjamin Pond

Now to someone more generous, Signor Marconi.
One summer's evening I had hauled my boats up at North Haven Point, thinking I had finished for the day, when I saw an ordinary looking little fellow coming towards me.
It was Marconi. Says he, rather abruptly: "Will you put me aboard?" Rather surprised I ran a boat down and pulled off to his 800 ton steam yacht with it's crew of 58 Italians in bright blue nautical dress.
Stepping aboard, he gave me 5 bob, a lot in those days, and with a sly wink, remarked: "I shall have to stop you selling bait to my men." Yes, the entire crew were so busy fishing over the stern that they had clean forgotten about the boss.

Guglielmo Marconi
(1874 – 1937)
Guglielmo Marconi was an Italian inventor, best known for his pioneering work on long distance radio transmission and for his development of Marconi's law and a radio telegraph system. Marconi is often credited as the inventor of radio, and he shared the 1909 Nobel Prize in Physics with Karl Ferdinand Braun "in recognition of their contributions to the development of wireless telegraphy"

But he never stopped the bait supplies to his men.
Some years later, Sandbanks began to develop. Two firms of estate agents opened offices and I erected their "To be Sold or Let" signs at sixpence a board.
Strange things began to happen at night and darker deeds were done.

One morning 22 estate agents boards appeared at the front of a small bungalow: at the gate of a teetotallers house were three cases of empty beer bottles; another night a figure all in white was flitting around in the Banks Road area, it crossed the road in front of the little bus, scaring the driver, who refused to go on.
Soon after this and when Panorama Road was made up, all the red lamps were removed and placed at the top of a high fir tree.
Peace only reigned when a party of young Danish students finished their month's holiday.

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