I have in the "Seventy years of", written a bit about the bike that I pulled out of the hedgerow to repair. Then looking for material for the Scott Ellis Page found the original story on my old computer so have decided to share it with you instead of just keeping it to my self.

It was written to try and keep the North Oxfordshire Accent alive so is written in that vogue.

Enjoy.

 

 

 Please respect my Copyright©  to all tales on this site .

If you want to use them please ask. 

 

Just a bit about the characters.

 

Sgt Vernon "Bomber" Harris. was the local Copper from Bloxham and feared by most in the fifties. he would even book you for having no tread on the soles of your shoes!.

Canon Hart was then in charge of the churches at Wigginton where he lived in the rectory with his sister and also looked after the church at Barford st John.

He had a "Sun" auto-bike that he used between the churches, Quickly: One day he asked me to take a look at it because it would not start ,I changed the plug and gave it a quick service before delivering it back to the rectory.

The Canon jumped aboard to test the machine, and I had done that good a job tuning the bike, that he disappeared at speed around the back of the tall laurel bushes that surrounded the gravel drive. I heard the scraping of metal onto the gravel and the motor cut out, then I had to rest my ears for the next few minuets to what was coming from the Canon's mouth.

I eventually crept around the corner, Canon Hart was lifting the bike back up, are you all right I said, with him dusting himself down, "yes my son" he said "you have done a wonderful job it has never gone so well" and gave me a ten bob note from his pocket.

Hubert and Son Peter Page owned the farm "Grange Farm" South Newington. where I grew up.

"Old Ken Waller" not that old then, when I first knew him, was the Gardener at Bush House for "Taffy Hhges and lived in the bungalow next door, he also looked after a battery house (one of the first) full of hens.

 

"The Bike".

Well, one Saturday morning when I’d finished feeding the pigs, and was drinking me cup of tea, lent against the feed room door, I was deep in thought.

Hubert had just passed me by with the week’s supply of paper for the privy, neatly cut from an old copy of The Farmers Weekly.

I thought it’s about time that I learnt to ride a bike, I can drive a blessed tractor but there’s no way that I can ride a bike.

I’d remembered that I had spotted an old bike frame, filling the gap in the hedge along by Tustain’s gate. I thought I’ll finish me tea and ask Pete what he intends to do today, that’s when he does decide to break covert from the privy.

Anyway, he did eventually come out; I said to him, what are we doing today then Gaffer.

He said “well I ent yer gaffer but, you can goo and make a start at painting them gates along the Wiggy road if yer like”.

I said what colour can I paint um then. He pulled on his double chin and thought,

“Well there’s some “David” red in the tractor shed, and there’s this load of Fordson blue that I bought cheap off of old Sabin”.(garage at Middle Barton.)

His he still about then I said,

“Well only just”, Pete said shaking his head, “I think he’s sprayed one too many of his cars and tractors and the poor old blighter’s suffering from lead poisoning”.

He did always put more on himself than he did on whatever he was spraying didn’t he I said. “Well the paints here so we may as well use it”, he said “and any things better than the paint them diddies didn’t put on en it”.

You will goo buying cheap stuff wunt yer, I said.

Them gates weren’t cheap I can tell yer, they said they were the lightweight variety and wouldn’t put so much strain on the post’s”.

Is that why they’ve only put paint on where they could see it then I said.

“Are all the folks round here always be-calls them diddies but they ent never done me any harm”. Not yet I thought.

I said well I better goo and make a start on then anyway, I think I’ll start to paint the gate into Tustains field.(opposite the tin barns along the Wigginton –South Newington road).

“Well I don’t care which one you starts on, as long as you does a good job”.

I shall do a good job don’t you worry, but perhaps I better not put that much paint on, or it might make um to heavy.

“Goo on you cheeky little begger, and don’t let me see you agen till you have painted at least three”.

Well, I grabbed the tin of “David” red, and one of the tins of blue, stuck an old screwdriver into me pocket along with the paint brush.

You see, I thought if I started on the gate into Tustain’s field, I would have a chance during the day to pull the old bike frame from the hedge.

I decided in me own little way, to try out a bit of me artistic bent on these gates.

So after four or five second of thought, I decided to paint the top third red, and the rest the “E27n” blue.

What I should have done however, was start to paint um from the bottom and not the top, or at least have let one colour dry before painting the other.

Well you can see where I’m coming from can’t yer.

I slapped the red onto the top third of the gate; along with the skin that was floating about in the paint when I stirred it.

But painting the blue on top of the red paint runs, changed most of the bottom two thirds of the gate to a lovely shade of purple, and a really good mottled affect.

Well you see, I was impatient, and wanted to find time to get at the bike.

The more I tried to cover the purple up, the worse it got, and in the end I stood four paces back and held the brush in front of me nose like a proper artist, and decided that this was as good a masterpiece as I could get.

And it did blend in with the landscape.

 

Well, I left this one to mature with old age, and set out on me other canvas, (sorry gate) opposite. I thought, I’ll try another method on this un, I think I’ve heard it called the new age traveller movement, but silly me it was called the old age traveller then.

Anyway, I removed the gate from its hinges and laid it across a couple of old rusty milk churns that were lying in the rick yard.

Pete was right they were lightweight, cuss even I could lift it, and could see daylight from the inside.

This was much more sense I thought, I could paint both colours at the same time, and they would only drip onto the ground. What I had forgot of course was that I needed to turn the gate over to paint the other side, and it said on the tin that it was twenty four hours drying time, and the cows were due to be turned out at six.

Oh dear, I’ve made another ruck here I thought, and Pete ent gooing to be pleased if he as too fetch the cows back from Barford.

With me quick thinking and flare, I decided the best coarse of action was to get two big handfuls of wet straw from the rickyard, to protect me hands you see from the wet paint, and then to refit the gate.

I could then paint the other side when it was fitted.

Well, I struggled like hell to get it back on to its hinges; I swear the paint that I had put on had made it twice as heavy.

With it fitted back onto its hinges, I gave one big sigh of relief; well at least we wouldn’t be chasing the cows half way round the country now would we.

I stood back to take a look at me latest masterpiece, it was not quite as good as the last I thought and did want a few finishing touches.

To start with, I needed to remove the straw that was stuck to it, but it did give it a more rustic affect.

Well, I managed to knock most of the loose straw off with a stick, but some of it just did not want to come off, it had decided that it wanted to become part of the gate rather than litter for some beasts bed.

I did manage to paint the other side though, and there weren’t that many runs. I stood back to view this latest creation and thought I would leave nature and the cows in the field to add the finishing touches.

Now was a good time to have a look at the bike I thought, I had already spotted a sheet of rusty tin in the rick yard to stuff into the gap in the hedge in place of the bike. I found a stick with a hook on it to pull the old bike from the hedgerow, without me scratching me hands on the blackthorn.

Well, after hooking it and tugging on the length of wood to free it from the brambles, I eventually got the old bike out and stood back to take a look.

There was one hell of a lot of rust I thought, and only one wheel. And I’m sure the chain is supposed to be flexible and not as stiff as Hubert’s poker.

On closer inspection, and scrubbing some of the rust off with the paint brush that I’d cleaned by rubbing it in the grass. Underneath the grime was an object that I thought I might be able to restore, and the green paint work weren’t that bad either. But I did need a front wheel, and the thought of trying to find one of these was going to pray on me mind all afternoon.

   Well, I best go and paint the gate into “The March”.

(The field on the right at the top of the hill facing South Newington.)

I thought, cos old misery guts had said that I had to paint three.

Well this steel gate seemed to be far superior to the other two, and even had mesh on the bottom two thirds.

I bet this one had fell from the back of the diddies lorry by mistake, or perhaps they had only lent it to Pete, and would be back round to collect it, like they had cousin Philips the week before last. Cause, he didn’t know that they were only on hire and had made one hell of a job fitting them to the posts, so they took them as well. And the locks, and the chains.

Well, I better paint it up I thought cos even if they as it back it ull mean that I will get one of me masterpieces some where else in the country, and some collector might cherish it one day.

I started at the bottom of this gate, (you didn’t think I was stupid I hope),well this wire mesh stuff was one bitch and a half to paint, and I got more on me self than I got on the gate, and ended up with the best pair of polka dot cords this side of Oxford.

By the time I had got to the stage were I wanted to paint the red, the paint had skinned over and it was nearly dark.

What was that shining from the other side of the road with the moon light glinting on it?

I went to investigate, after prodding it with a stick and removing the rotting sack that was covering most of the object I could see it was only a bloody bike front wheel weren’t it, and even the tyre was still up although the inner-tube was sticking out from a split in the side.

Then they says God don’t smile upon yer sometimes. I hooked it out and thought all me Christmas’s had come at once.

I laid it by the gate so nobody else passing could pinch it, and plastered the red paint on to the top part of the gate, dragging the brush from one end to another to remove the skin. It’s amazing how blue turns in to red in the moonlight you know, and the shine looks twice as good as it does in daylight?

Well, I stamped the lids onto the paint tins, and rubbed most of the paint from me hands with some grass. I stuck the tins along with the brush and old screwdriver under the hedge and covered them up with the old sack I’d found. I picked up the wheel so gently, and carried it back along the road, as I went I thought to myself, I hope it wasn’t the wheel from “Old Shim’s” bike or he might be still laid under the hedge. Na It couldn’t be, because I saw him last Friday, and anyway his wheels were all black.

 

Getting back to “Tustain’s” gate I could see that the cows had managed to finish off me masterpiece across the road and one of them was still trying to smooth out the paint with her tongue. I reckon it was the one Fred called “Monet” or was it “Money”.

 

Well what was I going to do with the old bike and the wheel?

If I left it under the hedge someone might come along and take a fancy to it themselves.

Na! No one would bother would they? But they might, and what if “Old Bomber” came by and found it, then I would really be in trouble.

For a start he would want to know where it had come from, and had a crook used it on a bank raid and had I still got the swag bag, and the face mask that he was using.

I was sure in my own little mind that I would end up down the cop shop and be clamped in irons. No I couldn’t take that chance could I.

So I thought I better try and drag it along to the farm, even if it did take me two journeys, and in the dark. But there wouldn’t be any spooks out yet would there?

Well if there were it would only be “Old Ken” In his long raincoat and wellies.

I managed to drag the frame along to the orchard gate with some difficulty because the handlebars kept getting stuck in me pocket, and every time I hit a bump in the grass verge it would snatch backwards and try to pull me trousers down.

Them snake belts were never any good were they?

Well, I shot back along the road to pick up the wheel as fast as me legs would carry me.

Getting along by Waller’s gate (the bungalow next to Bush House) I spotted a headlight coming towards me from Wigginton.

Begger it I thought, I bet that’s “Old Bomber” and I bet he ull spot the wheel.

That’s just my luck, God gives it to me in one hand, and “The Devil” takes it away in the other. Anyway, I shot into their gateway and hid behind the hedge out of the way, until the offending light passed you see.

I was shaking in me boots in case it were “Bomber” but when it got nearer I could hear the put-put of a little engine. Thank God for that I thought, course I knows “Old Bomber” ent got a motorbike and there’s no way he’s making that noise tapping his truncheon on the crossbar.

Well as the light passed me, I could make out this Godly image on the auto- bike, and on the back rack was strapped a small suitcase.

I thought! I bet that’s God off on his holidays with all his worldly goods in the case. Then it came to me like in a vision, it was only one of his disciples, it was the one,

“The one and only, Canon Hart”.

I must go to Sunday school tomorrow if it’s the last thing I do I thought, clasping me hands and looking up towards the moon.

Well I ran and grabbed the wheel and clutched it close to me heart, there’s no way that “Old Bombers” going to get this little wheel I thought, and I’ll keep it locked up by the cart.

Well I did goo to school on the Sunday and prayed with all of me heart.

I said God please let me build me bike up, and learn to ride down in the yard.

Well he must have been listening to me course, when I got down to the farm the next Friday, and looked at it led by the cart, I could see that the chain weren’t no more rusty, and the wheel had been smothered in lard.

I thought it must have been that vision, the one that I saw on the bike, but it wasn’t, it was Peter he’d oiled it and got rid of all of the, dirt?

 

Well, come Saturday morning, I thought after we’d fed and foddered, I might find a few minuets or four to have another look at the bike.

But all me dreams were shattered, because Pete came out of the house wearing his best tie, round the collar of the shirt he’d been wearing for the last fortnight.

This meant only one thing, that we were off to take the boar round on its fortnightly visit to see its girlfriends, (servicing I think they call it) as Pete said.

Well one thing you do learn quickly being brought up on a farm is about the “birds and the bees”. Well I know birds fall’s out of a tree if you shoots um with yer catty.

And bees give yer a nasty sting if you clutches um in yer hand.

What I didn’t know however was that pigs needed servicing once a fortnight before they stopped working. I thought to me self puzzled,

I can’t see why them folks pester us, and why they don’t load their pigs up in a trailer, and take um to Hazelwood’s garage at Warminton, and get Frank Hazelwood to

Service um, like he as-too the Vauxhall Vellox car.

Or if they were that desperate, they could alus do the job them selves.

And I don’t reckon it’s doing the old boar a lot of good, cause after four oil changes and six plugs and points, he did not look good, and had a job to stager back to the trailer.

And it was making him foam at the mouth. I bet he’s anaemic like the piglets, I thought.

 

Well we got back from our round’s about three, and begger me I had drunk some tea, and was glad to get out of the car, cause I was busting to have a wee.

I ran straight up to the rick yard to have a look at the bike, I thought I wonder If God’s done any more of his little miracle’s this week, but off course he hadn’t, and I hadn’t been that bad at school I thought, and had even learnt a local poem which went,

 

Tom, goo down and fet the bull?

No that I never ull,

tuther day when us waned him,

It took four on us to pull).

 

Well where should I start, the chain was stinking of diesel, where Pete had soaked it, and was still hanging out of the old five gallon drum with the side cut out, along with the back of the frame.

But he had got the sense to at least take the back wheel out before dunking it. And that was a miracle on its own.

Well, perhaps I should start on the wheel then and it looked as if it might clean up fine, but what I couldn’t understand was that it had got no freewheel like on the other bikes I’d seen and that did puzzle me. I took it down to the tractor shed and clamped it up in the vice, I cleaned all the spokes up with wire wool and wire brushed all the rust off in a trice. I tapped the spokes with me hammer to see if they were still in tune, well a couple needed a turn or two but most on um were fine. Course what I did need were a tyre and tube. I thought, I’ll ask old Pete if on Thursday he could have a look when he gus to town. Or he might be able to call in at “Blue Pits” dump on the way back and see if there’s a couple laid around.

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Well not till after another hard and long week at school with only the light relief in the middle, when Derrick fell over in the play ground knocking out all his front teeth, making him look more like “Dracula” than he did before, did I manage to get down to the farm.

 

Well Hubert said that Pete was out till dinner time and didn’t know where he had gone, but he had put on his pair of Sunday best wellies, and had washed and shaved, and his best sports coat was missing from the back of the door.

I bet he‘s gone to castrate some widows pigs, I thought.

Anyway Hubert said I could help Fred to finish cleaning out the cow shed and washing up in the dairy, and then when I had finished that, I could collect the eggs from the deep litter shed, take the bucket full of greens round to the boar, dig some potatoes, and pick some brussel sprouts or a cabbage for dinner, pop round to the post office for him, and change the water for the ducks.

He would then at eleven, he said make me a cup of tea, and I could have one of Hudsons sticky buns.

I looked at me new Mickey Mouse watch and the little hand was pointing to nine, and the big one to six. I better get a move on then I thought, and I‘d only got me shoes on with the crocodile mouth sole on the right one.

Then he made me day so to speak, by pointing out with his little arthritic distorted hand towards a pair of bike tyres hanging in the feed room, along with two blue and white little boxes containing red coloured inner tubes. He slapped and licked his lips as he did and said,

“He‘s left yer these and he hopes um ull be the right size”. Oh Ha, I’m sure they will I said, tugging on me forelock and stepping back three paces. I thought I’ll fit um anyway, even if I as to stretch um to get um on.

Well you ent seen a list of jobs accomplished so fast, and I swear the soles of me shoes were smoking when I got back from the Post Office, it’s a good job I’ve got air cooling in the toes of um I thought, or me feet would be alight by now.

Well I only had the duck water to change, before I could have me tea and bun, and then I could get stuck in to the bike before Pete arrived back. Well this was my plan, but I first had to find the ducks. Not one in sight and there were ten, and it weren’t that close to Christmas.

I couldn’t remember if they were there when I came through the rick yard on the way down to the farm in the morning, but was sure it wasn’t me that had left the gate open, and if it was it was to late now, they were gone.

Hubert ull goo mad I thought, he love’s them ducks and treats um like his kids, and I don’t mean baby goats. I bet it was Pete that left it open course I knows that he can’t stand um, and is alus moaning about the mess they makes.

It was time to do a bit of detective work I thought, should I go back home for me big spy glass, or should I rely on me country cunning and instinct. Perhaps I should need a note book for me notes, and a pencil to suck on. No if I hung about to long the ducks might get back to Russia before I could catch up with um, and Miss Upton said that Russia was much further than London and I hadn’t even been there.

 

My cunning plan was to start at their pen, and follow their foot prints to where they had gone. Well this worked fine up to the gateway into the orchard but that’s were the track ended, because Fred had just took sixty milking cows and four heifers through the gate, and they had homed in to this like Spitfires into a dam, I’d got no chance. I couldn’t have picked up the track even if I’d got me best bloodhound out. I shall have to head to the nearest water then, I thought, this was either the brook at the bottom of the field, or the small pond that Ken’s got in his back garden, and they were heading that way.

I popped along the road with me nose to the ground, tracking you see, and knocked on Ken’s door. Had he seen ten Russian ducks I said, I thought they came from Moscow, because the name sounded a bit like that.

He shook his head and said, the last duck he had seen come in from the cold was the one that went into his oven last Easter, and that had only come from Aylesbury.

But he had heard ducks calling earlier that morning, and they were defiantly not quacking in English. I should try the brook he said they might have a flying -boat down there waiting to take them home.

I said they could fly them selves if Hubert would stop clipping their wings and taking the feathers for his Sunday best hat.

Back to the trail then, because I was getting no sense out of Old Ken. But I never did.

I crept down the hedgerow, ditch side, in case they were hiding until their contact came.

Nothing! well only a pair of foxes basking in the sun with full bellies, and three stoats ,and a weasel, a king fisher, two owls, four sparrow hawks, and a partridge in the pear tree.

Begger me, have you just thought what I have?

Them bloody foxes were full weren’t they?

Oh No!

But they wouldn’t have eaten all ten and there ud a bin some feather’s wouldn’t there.

I needed to pick up their trail, and fast, all I could see in the mud down by the brook was the footprints of moorhens, water vowel’s, one or two otter’s, a deer or a pig, it’s a job to tell the difference ,except a pig makes more mess with it’s nose routing for food. And then there were the pad marks of them blooming foxes again, but no ducks.

 

I thought I must be barking up the wrong tree so to speak, put perhaps if I climbed one, I might be able to see um from up there. I shined up the lime tree next to the stile, and when I got to the top I could see, Nothing, again.

Well there was to many leaves you see, but on the way down when out on a limb and just about to fall on to me behind, I did spot the “Red Menace” creeping down the opposite hedgerow, but this time there was only one.

Just as the bough broke with a crack, I’m sure I heard a duck calling down on the “Osier Beds”. It couldn’t be them though cause there were no tracks?

Perhaps they were crafty and had put on plimsolls, and I hadn’t been looking for plimsoll tracks! Well I’m not stupid, but they were Russian, and you know how crafty they can be.

Well on the way back up the far hedge from the brook, with me nose still to the ground, I came across a little pile of feathers, and most of um were black.

This was it then.

The ten ducks had found out one of them was a spy and, this is where they had set up the firing squad, and had then left “Reynard the Red” to get rid of the evidence.

On closer inspection however, it turned out to be the feathers from an unfortunate Rook that had met its end perched on the end of a barrel of some ones twelve bore, the cartridge case was there to prove it.

Back to the trail then, if I could find it. I had got as far as the fence by the apple trees in the orchard, and was looking at the pigs lying contently in the sun and grunting peacefully to each other, then I realised they were actually humming that now Italian classic tune “Volari”.

There it was staring me in me face, it wasn’t just the Russians but it was a truly international espionage conspiracy, that involved the new immerging “Mafia” as well.

Well it actually only involved one of there number, the one and only “Tony Macaroni”.

He worked for Helen Keat on her farm up at Milcombe, looking after her heard of Jersey cows. It was rumoured his diet was known to consist of hens and ducks, one a day, and raw if he couldn’t find anywhere to cook them.

Now there were ten ducks weren’t there? So there were only enough to keep him fed for a week and a half.

And I had seen him pass on his bike with a basket on the back the day before yesterday.

He was obviously doing a reconnaissance or a dry run as we say.

This would explain the tracks running out at the gateway I thought; he had led them from their pen to the gateway and then popped them into his basket.

It’s no good I thought, I shall have to go and face Hubert and tell him of my suspicions, and lay down the case before him so to speak.

And besides that, me tea was now going to be cold, and the sticky bun would be covered with fluff from the ceiling.

I was just plucking up courage to go and tell him, by banging me head on the tractor shed wall, when who should appear through the top gateway with the car and trailer but Pete.

He jumped out to open the cratch on the trailer clutching a handful of little rosettes, some red, some blue, and one pink.

Even before he had time to let the cratch down I could hear the joyous quacking of ducks, as he let it down they all popped out one by one in single file, with their heads held high.

“Be a good lad and put um back inta their pen” he said “while I gus back round to change”.

I drove um back to their pen all ten, wondering where the bloody hell he’d been.

I changed their water real quick and shot down to the farm house to find out.

I wasn’t a “Nosey Parker”. But these ducks had led me a merry dance in my head for the past four hours, hadn’t they?

When I got into the kitchen the rosettes were laid on the table, and Pete was explaining to Hubert were he had been with his precious ducks. Well Hubert didn’t even know they were missing.

Me cold tea and bun was still perched on the corner of the dresser.

“Here I better make yer another cup” Hubert said, “did you forget to come for this un”, throwing it into the sink, cup and all.

No I was to busy I said, but didn’t tell him doing what.

Pete said he had been to Witney to a poultry and duck show and sale, the drake had won first prize, the ducklings first second and third, and the group, best Muscovies in show.

Well done I said, thinking you could have taken me with you like you usually do on Saturday. There must have been someone else involved?

Was he gooing to take them to some more shows in the future, “no their only ducks ent they, and I wunt have time agen”.

I knew in me mind somewhere in the back ground there was a widow involved, but never did find out which one, and he was chasing after several

Well it was too late to have a goo at the bike today, and anyway I couldn’t get me head round them problems as I was too stressed out with me quest to be the next Charlie Chan.

By the time I’d fed the hens, and collected the eggs again it was tea time. Hubert had spent most of the day baking and had come up with this unusual but tasty tart of rhubarb pickle round the outside a circle of hard boiled egg halves, and then topped up with prunes and blue cheese in the middle.

Pete ate two large portions and said he was going to name the tart “bung me up and let me go”, but said he didn’t know which one was going to happen first, but would let me know first thing in the morning.

I said one slice would do me course it was cold and dark going out side to the privy, in the middle of the night, and I didn’t like the rats and mice round me legs as I sat on it either.

I finished me tea and said I thought I would go home as I still had an head ache and it had been hanging about all day, “it’s usually worry that brings mine on” Pete said, yes I know the feeling I said, I think I’ll go and read another chapter of my book “Twenty leagues under the sea”.

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Sunday morning came and I was up early, and had already eaten me fried egg with chard edges and bacon that tasted as if it had come from the sea, along with me toast and dripping covered in HP sauce to make it taste better, and was drinking me tea with leaves floating on top of it when father came creaking down the narrow stairs, kicking the cat “Smoky” as he came through the door. He was still angry at it from yesterday, as it had left some of its long grey fir on the newly painted cream door that he had been perfecting all day long, with a combed finish to let the old green paint show through.

Vicar Marriet was taking Sunday school to day, or not as usually happened, if we were there we would only get another lecture about the church steps, and how bad our parents were, and he still could not forgive them for knocking the heads off of the daffodils in the church yard, or making him chase them around the streets in the middle of the night naked.

Well father said I needn’t go, to Sunday school, so with “sing something simple” on the wireless I thought I’d do the same; “Old Macdonald” sprang to mind so I sang it all the way down to the farm.

After checking Pete out about the tart (he said he was fine so had eaten the rest to see if that had any affect).

I said I was going to spend a couple of hours on the bike instead of going to Sunday school. Pete said that was fine, and perhaps him up there might give me a hand.

Well for the first half hour he didn’t help a lot and punished me twice for working on a Sunday by letting the spanner slip twice, the second time taking the skin from my knuckles, and then I had to say sorry to him for swearing as well.

With both tyres fitted and with inner tubes inside I needed a pump to put some air into them. First I thought I better hide the two desert forks that I had brought from home and now resembled the letter “S” before I went down to Fred’s cottage to see if I could borrow son Michaels pump. Mick Williams was a big chap and resembled a young Winston Churchill in fact he dressed as Winston in the Coronation parade.

He had also a very kind nature, and when I told him I was building up a bike that I had found, he said that I could have any of the bits on the four or five bikes that he had propped against their back shed wall, to finish it and get it on the road. I borrowed one of his pumps and thanked him for the offer.

Shooting back up to the rick yard I soon blew the front tyre up, but had pinched the tube in the back one fitting it, so had to straighten the forks out again to remove it.

This was just what I wanted on the one day that I could get to work on the bike, I then remembered that father had a puncture repair outfit sitting in the front room window for repairing the punctures on Aunt Hilda’s bike when she used to walk in with it from Wigginton.

I ran over home and rummaged about in the window sill to find the outfit, and also came up with the roll of yellow handle bar tape that was left over from the Standard Fordson steering wheel. Mother said would I be in for dinner, I said no, I would pass on dinner so that I could get on with me bike, but would have a bowl of Kellogg’s when I came home at tea time.

Well alright then she said just this once.

Well that was a result on its own, course I wouldn’t at to eat that burnt up gristle and khaki coloured limp greens with thick stalks in, or brake me knife trying to cut into the Yorkshire pudding.

And I thought if I eat one more plate full of rhubarb and custard I shall end up, red,

 

And sour with a yellow head, a bit like Pete, when he comes back from market on a Thursday.

I repaired the puncture first time, and fitted it back onto the rim without pinching it.

I rubbed the frame over with an old sack, to get rid of the diesel, even the handle bars turned now even if they did scraunch a bit.

I sat it on to the old saddle and bars and started to fit the wheels, the front one slotted in fine after I had prized the forks apart a bit with a length of wood. The chain now limp but still very rusty and covered in diesel oil, slotted onto the back sprocket, and also fitted easily between the back stays. The nuts of the wheel also tightened, but when I turned the pedals the wheel went both ways but wouldn’t freewheel.

So that’s why it was slung in the hedge I thought.

I bet “Old Bomber” had put it there for a joke and it ud be me that he was laughing at.

Anyway, beggars can’t be choosers can they, and perhaps I could ride it back’ards’s and that would shock him, course I bet there ent a law to stop yer riding yer bike back’ards’s?

With it turned the right way up I had now got to try and fix the brakes, course if I did manage to learn to ride it I would need to stop wouldn’t I.

Now most of the bikes I had seen had little rods to pull the brakes on, but this un hadn’t, and that was starting to worry me as well.

The back brake blocks touched the rim ok, but the front wheel was out of another bike wasn’t it and was a different shape.

Both brake leavers where solid and attached to these where cables like on the motor hoe.

Maybe I should have left it in the hedge, and gone to Sunday school I thought.

Well if a jobs worth starting it must be worth finishing, and anyway we were put on this earth to solve problems and to not give up at the first hurdle. Me Uncle Tom had told me that and he surely must know what he’s talking about with the suffering he as to put up with, from all quarters.

So I sat on an upturned straw bale that had been put there for the ducks and pondered me little problem.

The back brake was easy, all I need do was to remove and soke the cable for a week in the diesel oil, and I’m sure that would un-seize the cable.

But the front was going to be a different matter.

I went back down to the William’s cottage and stood for a few minuets looking at the pile of old bikes in the corner, getting the picture into me head so to speak.

After conquering with me brain, me eyes, and me feet for some time, I reckoned I had come up with a solution.

I knocked onto the cottage door once more, and big Mick answered it.

I asked if I could have the front brake assembly from the rustiest bike.

He said “well I’m just gooing out dancing, but you can take the lot if you like”.

I said I would settle for just the front brake at the moment, but might waltz back down for some more bits later.

After fetching me spanner and screw driver, and the new pair of Mole Grips from the tractor shed, I managed to remove the bits I thought I reacquired.

Fitting these onto me own forks, I felt proper chuffed with me self, and all I now needed was some little bracket to attach the front brake cable to the pull mechanism.

Maccano, I thought, I bet I could find somut to do the job out of the kit I had for Christmas.

Me stomach was now starting to rumble, and after checking out the sun with a small piece of ash twig, I decided it was smack on six o’clock, and I better goo and eat me dishful of Kellogg’s ,and get me shoes polished for school, or at least get most of the mud off anyway.

 

Well it was three weeks before I could get to touch the bike again.

The first Saturday all day and Sunday morning I was allowed to go pitch-pole harrowing with the Old Standard Fordson, along in the wheat field to try and get rid of the stubborn stubble and squitch.

With the amount of times I covered the field I managed to bring most of the rubbish to the surface, and enough stone to build one side of Frogley’s barn.

Pete said I had done a bloody good job, but he now needed four blokes for a fortnight to get rid of what I’d pulled up.

The next Saturday was spent doing the rounds with the boar, and castrating four litters of piglets at Hanwell and two out in the wilds of Swerford along a narrow twisting track, and if that wasn’t all I had to drink seven cups of tea during the day, and eat two cooked breakfasts, and a cold lunch, and it was still only half past three.

Then we got back to the yard only to find that Hubert had-had one of his baking days again and expected Pete and me to sample all the little delights that he had laid out on the table, and he had made a fresh pot of tea.

By the time I managed to drag me self home I was totally bloated, and then opening the front room door found that mother had been baking too, and had left me some of her over baked lemon curd tarts with brown edges, and strawberry jam plate pie with a black caramel topping.

I thought, she really must do something about that old range, or I’ll get home one day and find her all shrivelled round the edges, and black as well.

 

                                                      *******

 

The following wikend started of alright and I sailed through me feeding of the pigs and hens, and had even managed to take a peep at the bike, to make sure it was still there.

I was happy, and the sun was shining, and I had been tweedaling a tune all morning.

Mother said I had caught this tweedaling from me great uncle, Fred Powell who lives at Bury Hill farm, in the fields of Wigginton. (Next to Paradise but gone now).

It was a long old walk all up that drive to his farm, and I’m sure if you tweedall’s, it helps to get you there quicker.

And I know that his neighbour old Thomas tweedall’s as well, only this time in Welsh.

   Well it must have been me tweedaling that had upset Fred, cuss he had got a sore throat and couldn’t grunt and grumble in his usual manner, and had sent me out of the cow shed for making to much noise.

Pete had gone off in his tweed sports coat and yellow tie, and the right front tyre on the Standard Fordson was flat.

I sat on the stone wall by the feed room, kicking me heals against it, and pondering what I should do today. But before I could make up me mind Hubert appeared through the back door with the old black kettle steaming like a train in the station.

“Goo and pour this kettle of water over the ants nest by the door of the privy ull yer”, he said.

Well, I staggered up the steps into the garden with the old kettle to where the nest was.

There were a few ants running about, but I didn’t think it fair to scald these for just going about their business.

True, I did knock the occasional bird from a branch with me catty when I was fired up, but most of the time I left gods little creatures to get on with their own lives, without making to much fuss. Anyway, I poured the water round the edge of the stone to frighten the ants away, and hoped Hubert wouldn’t look again if he thought that I had done the job. I took the kettle back to the kitchen and asked him if there were any more little jobs that he wanted me to do.

He said, “There is one thing you could do, walk along the “Hooks”, (little pockets of land in the bend s of the brook) and make sure old Tustains sheep ent got through the brook, when yer gets back I’ll make yer a drink, and you can have a dishful of these cherry-curds I’m cooking”.

Alright then I said, and off I went tweedaling me tune.

 

I climbed through the stile at the bottom of the orchard, and set off on me journey.

Well, most of the under growth in these “Hooks” were taller than me, and I had a job to walk, also big lengths of keck (cow parsley) kept sticking in the tops of me wellies.

I’d got three parts of the way along the first field, following the meandering of the brook. When suddenly a chill breeze had hit me in the back of the neck, and made the tall grass behind me rustle.

I looked round quickly, with goose bumps already on me arms. There was some thing that wasn’t quite normal happening, but I didn’t know what.

The birds had suddenly stopped singing, and the red squirrel that had been feeding its face by the brook, suddenly took to the trees.

There was a faint banging, coming from a loose red rusty sheet of the old pig ark tucked away under the corner of the bank.

Even the sun that was shining felt cold on me back.

Should I go forward? Or go back? Was I falling into a mysterious trap?

No there was only one way, forwards, it was only a little breeze that had caught me unawares. And anyway, the hedge into the next field was nearer than the one behind me wasn’t it?

I staggered on as quickly as I could, without getting the long twisted grass wrapped around me wellies.

I had to keep glancing over me shoulder at every opportunity, because I was sure that some one, or thing, was following me.

I made it to the hedgerow just as the Brock badger in its set under the old oak tree, had pocked its nose out to take in the morning air. It too was not sure of its self, and snorted twice before disappearing into the depths of its set.

A blackbird was making one hell of a commotion, croaking out its danger warning for everyone or thing to hear.

A small white cloud past slowly over the sun, leaving black shadows to meander through the undergrowth.

There was defiantly one hell of a sense of unease by every thing about me.

I sat down on a large ant heap with me back towards the hedge to ponder me plight.

Without any warning I had this terrible hungry feeling in the pit of me stomach, and all I could think of, was me aunt Flo’s apple roly-poly pudding, with them brown sweet apples inside.

If only I had a slice of that I thought! It would probably make me feel a lot better.

I rummaged in the right pocket of me jacket to see what I could find, but all I came up with was a black and white humbug that was covered in fluff. I gave it a suck and then spat out the fluff, but I was still starving hungry, but knew that I didn’t keep humbugs in me left pocket.

I rubbed me hand accidentally over the out side of it, only to feel something inside.

I delved inside to see what it was; it was something rapped in greaseproof paper.

I cautiously opened it up, only to find a portion of apple pudding, the same as I had been thinking about.

Well, I ate it before even thinking where it had come from.

This gave me a lot more courage than I had-had before.

I knocked the ants from me trousers, and climbed through the fence, sliding down the bank on me behind into the next “Hook”.

 

The grass and undergrowth was not as tall in this one, and there was even a little glade in the middle of it, and the sun was shining on to it too.

I still however had this feeling of being watched, and an uneasy presence.

I got to the glade without a lot of trouble, only tripping over a black cat that was lying under a large bunch of wild garlic.

In the middle of the glade there was a circle of toadstools, with a hare with one crooked ear sat in the middle of it.

It didn’t seem at-all afraid of me, and beckoned me over with its right front paw.

It was trying to tell me something, but could only speak in gibberish, so I had a job to work out what it was saying, or what it meant.

Just then four elves, and three pixies, appeared from behind the largest toad stool, along with a may pole that they assembled, and stuck into an appropriate sized worm hole.

Another elf, much older, staggered from behind the fifth toadstool on the right, dragging a fiddle that was nearly twice his size.

He gestured to me to give him a hand, and lift him onto a mole hill that had suddenly appeared.

I helped him position the fiddle upon his lap, so that he could reach it, with the bow that one of his little helpers had brought.

With three sharp taps of the bow onto the base of the fiddle, he set off playing with a tremendous screech, he broke into the tune of a jig that I had been tweedaling all morning.

The instance that he started playing, the elves and pixies that had assembled the maypole, started dancing round it at full tilt.

The hare was lending a paw, by holding the maypole straight.

I sat on the old fallen willow tree branch to watch, while for the next ten minuets or so they led a merry dance, first one way ,and then the other, the elf changing his tune several times, but he kept coming back to the one that I had been tweedaling.

The now warm sun on my back was making me drowsy, and with the sweet sound of the elves jig in my ear I started to nod off to sleep.

It wasn’t until a “Tiger Moth” plane flew over head and startled me back into life that I realised that I must have been day dreaming.

But the mole hill was still there fresh, and the pigeon’s feather that was in the middle of the ring of toad stools, was shaped just like a fiddlers bow.

I shook me self and thought I best get on with me mission ,or it ud be tea time before I got back to the farm, and the cats ud have eat me cherry-curds.

I got to the fence into the third “Hook”, and took a long and lasting look through the gap.

I’m sure the breeze from this one is coming from the opposite direction I thought, and that presence is still behind me.

I stepped through the gap left by the broken rail in the middle of the fence, this “Hook” had a lot more sinister feel to it than the other two, the undergrowth was a lot more dank and dark, and there was a blue haze of a mist floating over the babbling brook.

The trees that lined the bank were twisted witch elm, and the stag ash trees were shaped like the towering pinnacles of some medieval castle.

I slowly fought my way along the brook, treading carefully over the entwining clumps of bramble.

A fox rustled through the undergrowth in front of me, looking round and giving me an evil stare with its bright green eyes.

The sun had now gone out, and was replaced by a cold grey sky, the temperature dropping like a stone.

The screech of an owl from behind me made me stop in me tracks.

Owls shouldn’t be out at this time I thought, they only come out at dusk.

I had got two thirds of the way along the roughest part of the brook, and reached the big bend where the water falls over broken rock, and then cascades into a whirlpool in the corner.

The willow tree branches hung across it in the form of a castle drawbridge across a moat.

The crows in the trees were restless, and kept diving down to something in the distance, many of their number fighting for their superiority.

The blackness from the mouth of the galvanized shed in the corner seemed to go on for ever as I starred into it.

The old broken door was creaking as it slowly moved in the breeze.

I made my way slowly foreword to where the crows were swooping, carefully placing my feet one step at a time.

The cold presence was still behind me, and the swirl of the breeze was making it colder by the minute.

I must carry on I thought, and there was no turning back.

I approached the spot trying to cover me head with me arms, to protect it from the swooping flock.

I could see the presence of a carcase as I moved closer.

What was left of it was lying on its back with its feet in the air, and a length of fallen branch lying across its neck.

It had been a fully grown lamb in its prime, but how had got there, and how had it met its end? As I stood puzzled, scratching me head.

A particularly large gore-crow took flight from the hedge.

As it ascended into the sky,

It laughed like a crone,

And shouted, goodbye.

Into the distance it sped on its way,

The sun came back out,

It was a beautiful day.

This must be the witch that I had heard told,

Lives down in Wiggy and is all shrivelled and old.

I must get back home and report what I’d seen,

The “Old Witch of Wiggy”, or was it a dream.

I climbed through the fence by the old lime tree,

And looked at me watch it was a quarter to three.

Where had I been for most of the day,

I shook my head, I couldn’t say.

I got back to the farm and drunk me tea,

Eat me cherry-curds and went home you see.

Mother said have you had a good day,

And did you find the pudding that I’d hidden away.

Oh!! Yes I ate it,

And it was very good.

Here’s a feather for your hat that I found by some wood.

 

 

                     Do you know! I was tweedaling that tune for weeks as well?   

 

Well I did eventually finish the bike, but had no way to learn to ride it with the fixed wheel.

The answer was to take off the chain, and to stand on one peddle at the top of the hill and get the balance of the bike that way.

After several run outs into the main road, and several scraised knees, I did learn to ride the bike, and eventually could reach the pedals with the chain on.

The old bike eventually got taken to bits, and the wheels were used as the back end of the truck that we used to race down North Hill at Milcombe, until one day taking avoiding action from the approaching car I took to the hedge and ended upside down in the ditch full of smelly water.

This was the end...Of "The Bike"

 

Most of this is written in dialect and changing it would destroy the North Oxfordshire Accent that I am trying to save.

 

©Copyright to all these Tales " Otterman"2010. and reserved.