The Days of Boundary Hall
Posted on March 11, 2013
I had virtually erased Boundary Hall from my memory until, a few weeks ago when I drove past it to see that it is now a large Cala Homes housing development. Coincidentally, just a few days later, it (Boundary Hall) came up in conversation with my friend Steve, whose wife once worked at the AWE (Atomic Weapons Establishment) nearby, as did I briefly, before escaping its clutches. For those of you who have never heard of Boundary Hall, it was a large hall of residence for AWE workers that was bang on the boundary of Hampshire and Berkshire, hence the cunning play with words in its title.
When the AWE (originally the AWRE) was first built on an old air base next to the nearby villages of Baughurst, Aldermaston and Tadley in the early fifties, MOD (Ministry of Defence) estates sprung up all over the place to house families of outsiders (including mine) from all over Britain. Hampshire Musher territory was invaded by Scots, Welsh, Scousers, Londoners and Geordies, all employed as scientists, lab technicians, engineers, technicians, electrical & mechanical fitters, secretaries, admin officers, tea ladies and laundry workers. The East/West Cold War was a huge source of employment and much of our childhood was spent in the shadows of this huge nuclear bomb factory that was a sitting duck if the Thatcher/Reagan partnership wound up the evil commies too much…Or indeed, declared a nuclear attack on them, as good old Ronnie did as joke whilst live on radio.
Ronald Reagan: He was a laugh wasn’t he?
For those who didn’t have families, home was Boundary Hall, a place with where the residents had a room, a sink, a toilet and shared facilities such as showers, a launderette, a canteen, a TV room and an incredibly cheap bar. I was always a bit wary of Boundary Hall as a child, it seemed to feature a hive of middle aged unmarried men wearing dubiously stained nylon trousers and ludicrously thick glasses and if I remember correctly, it was a place my Mother told me to stay well clear of. However, curiosity always gets the better of mischievous kids with liberal parents who let them run free and a friend of ours, who, for the sake of anonymity I will call Richard Nelhams (because that’s his name) was a master of befriending these people and extracting cash from them. God knows where he met them, Sunday school I expect.
When I was recollecting my memories of Boundary Hall the other day, I suddenly remembered a big fat and sweaty social inadequate who Richard introduced to us as someone who would gladly take us on a bus trip to Southampton baths as long as we didn’t tell our parents. It was an offer we couldn’t refuse and several weeks of us showing him our diving skills passed by before my mother found out and banned us from seeing this kind man who showered us with sweets and told us sad stories of how he had always wanted a son of his own. It seemed grossly unfair at the time but in hindsight, I may have been lucky to survive my early teens as an anal virgin, though I will say that this guy never tried to tempt us in to his room or do anything sexual; maybe the poor bastard did just want the pleasure of giving to kids, though my mother was having none of it.
As we got older Boundary Hall did have its advantages, as young men with little in the way of cash and in need of alcohol, it was always easy to get signed in to the bar by one of its drunk residents. The beer was ludicrously subsidised, meaning that the AWE was not only a place of huge employment, it also featured a plethora of alcoholics flapping about in plutonium laced glove boxes with their hands shaking as result of the previous night’s beer and the anticipation of opening time. It is a preposterous thought, but the AWE, a place containing enough radioactive material to remove the planet from the solar system, had three subsidised bars where staff could get pissed at lunchtime. These were the Rec Soc (the Recreational Society) Boundary Hall and the Police Club…Yes; I did just say the Police Club. That was the place where the MOD police who stood on the gates armed with machine guns could get pissed. There used to be a copper who used to drink in the Cricketers pub nearby who used to hit three or four cars just getting out of the car park; its just the way it was.
My conversation with Steve also reminded me of an incident about fifteen years ago when I received a CV from a former Boundary Hall weirdo named (and I will change this one, though some of you will suss it) Mr Bleskat, a man who made Gary Glitter look like a bastion of moral decency. On the CV he listed his hobbies as photography and football, so deviously, I doctored his CV so it read pornography and netball. It was a joke that went hideously wrong because I inadvertently sent it to a shocked client who reported it to the local police, who I then had to contact as a matter of urgency and explain my hilarious sense of humour to. I was dead lucky, as this particular copper, a WPC as it happens, saw the funny side and swept it under the carpet as a backfired joke. I don’t know what the charge would have been, but I reckon I could have been in big trouble.
Ultimately, Boundary Hall wasn’t really my cup of tea, or should I say, pint of fizzy keg bitter, but when I drove past it the other day, I did reflect on another part of my childhood and youth that was now gone forever along with the Flea Pit (Cinema) next door. Boundary Hall had many faults, it was full of alcoholics, misfits and more than likely, a good few paedophiles, but to its credit, it had one thing that in the 1980’s, couldn’t be found anywhere else.
A cigarette vending machine on Christmas Day!