At Bernard Sunley, the Woking-based residential, nursing and dementia care home run by charity Friends of the Elderly, resident Alan Brickett Leach, has been celebrating his landmark 96th Birthday, surrounded by his family and care home friends.
Alan Brickett Leach, has been a resident at Bernard Sunley for nearly a year, after deciding with his son, Peter, that it was the ideal place for him to call home. Alan, whose middle name Brickett is actually his Mother’s maiden name, grew up in Harlesdon, North London in a two-up, two-down house with his family. “We had a garden, an upstairs bathroom and a coal cellar. My Mother had a Ringer in the Kitchen area, but there wasn’t a Pantry as the house was too small. However, I do remember when we got our first fridge,” said Alan. “In the Front Room we had a family piano, which we could all play. I took piano lessons for a while, but not for too long. I remember I wanted to be outside playing and not sitting in front of a piano practicing scales.”
Alan recalls that when he was young, his Father was one of the first Telephone Engineers in London, which meant that his home was one of the very first to have a telephone installed. “I remember my Father talking about his job and how he’d sometimes have to sit on a Bosun’s Chair, 50 feet up in the air attaching and fixing telephone cables,” Alan recalls. “We all felt extremely honoured to be one of the first homes to have an indoor telephone, back then it was quite something.”
Growing up, Alan would meet up with his friends and play outside, either on the local streets or gardens. “We always played Marbles,” said Alan. “It was always competitive. I read once that the game of Marbles can be traced back to 1588. Evidently, the ‘Marble Playing Season’ was supposed to start on Ash Wednesday and last until Midday on Good Friday. Playing after that was thought to bring bad luck. That never stopped us a kids though, we played every chance we got.”
Alan and his family remained in London throughout the war and he has vivid memories of those times – the bombs, blackouts and, his gas mask. “You would always have to wear your gas mask around your neck in a box case. I have very clear memories of my Mother telling me that I was never allowed out without it – or else!”
At the age of about 12-years-old, Alan became a Messenger Boy. Even though he was lucky enough to have a phone at home, many houses at the time were still without one, so he took on the role of delivering war time messages from soldiers back to their families. “By delivering the messages, I became known as ‘The Boy Who Had A Push Bike’. I remember the girls liked that a lot,” Alan said with a cheeky grin.
In addition to his love of football and supporting his beloved Watford Town, at home, Alan’s family were a devoted “Card Family”, and often played Cribbage. “Crib is a bit of a family tradition as my son, Peter, comes to see me each week and we have our weekly game. At the moment, I’m winning the series,” added Alan.
Alan’s Father ignited his passion for engineering. After studying at The College of Technology in North London, Alan went on to become a Teacher at the college and eventually became the Head of Department for Design Technology. “I loved being a teacher – well, Teacher does stand for Talented Educated Adorable Charming Helpful Encouraging Responsible,” continued Alan. “It was an honour to be able to encourage, motivate and inspire my pupils to design and make objects that have a practical use, using a wide and varied array of techniques.”
Alan’s enthusiasm for design and technology started at a young age – he even designed, drew up plans and helped build a double storey extension at his parents’ house in London. He also did the same at many of his own homes.
After Alan married his wife Lyn, the happy couple – who honeymooned in Margate – continued to live in North London. They had two children – Helen and Peter – and Alan is now a Grandfather to four Grandchildren and a Great Grandfather to six Great Grandchildren.