Tales from the fifties From South Newington Rural life in North Oxfordshire.

 

This is another page for more stories of my growing up in this village, at a time when change seemed to happen very quickly after the war years.

I enjoyed this time of my life immensely, that is why it has been easy to recall these days, and I still have vivid pictures in my head of these times as though they were yesterday.

I hope you enjoy the tales below. there are loads of them when I get time to retrieve the ones I had written years ago, and placed onto my old computer.

And If I get time this winter 2016, I will write some new ones if you are interested.

 

Respect my Copyright to these Tales ,AW Prescott© "Otterman"©

Contact me if you want permission to use them.

*******

 

So we will start with the story of how we got mains tap water into South Newington.

 

 

 

Tap Water Into South Newington.Oxon.

 Staring the boys from the Emerald Isle.

Kottler and Heron, was the name of the company that supplied our mains water through South Newington, well they did eventually, and it was a long job.

I can remember asking Norman Steven's, the Steven's boy's father at the Post Office one day, when I was there to collect Peter and 'Fred's cigarettes, and picking-up Hubert’s pension in the brown envelope with the elastic band around it that I always took.

"What are the big heap's of black cast iron pipes with Stanton stamped on them in white paint for" I said ?,"up on South Newington hill ,where the army convey with the tanks and armoured cars had parked for a couple of days the previous week" .

Norman told me that they were for the new mains water that we were getting in the village that would do-a-way with the need for us to pump water from our wells.

Old Reg. Steven's, the boys gramp, was always pumping water from their well in the paddock of his, along side "Tink A Tank" path, to fill old baths and troughs for his collection of pigs geese, hens, and calves,

Well, a menagerie really.

On the following Monday morning, well nearly dinnertime as we called it, it was only the “Poshies”(Gentry) in the village that called it lunch. (Spot of lunch what, they used to say).

Anyway, a raggedy bunch of Irish men arrived in two old red Brook Bond tea vans.

Photo Courtesy Trojan owners club.

The men black with the dirt from their work, and a strong coating of mud on their boots, were seen calling around the village, at the farms, and from house to house, asking to see if there was anywhere they could lodge for the next few weeks, (six months or so) it eventually took.

Most of them ended up lodging at the Wykham Arms as I can remember, which was convenient for them, and the pubs profits.

 

Tuesday morning came and they set to work digging the first trench, up by Milcombe turn, where the pipe crossed the road.

It was hard going, with the iron-stone, and it took them nearly two month’s with pick and shovel, to dig the trench, and lay the cast iron main down the hill to near the bridge over the River Swere, this is where the work really began.

The men then had to start using a huge Holman compressor to run the pneumatic drills to break through the tarmacadam surface and ironstone underneath,  but shovels and picks still played their part and  were used to finish the trench off.

Each length of pipe was slotted together, and then a moulding clamp fitted around it, and then the joint was sealed with molten lead, this was heated in a large crucible over a makeshift fire in an old five gallon drum, until it became liquid.

A last task before nightfall for a couple of the men, was to set up, and fill the square red paraffin fuelled warning lamps, and then go around lighting then with large spills, made out of rolled up newspaper. and by the way the men kept working most nights until it was too dark to see to work.

 

By the evening the men had earned their meal and pints down at the pub.

The men each had their own individual character and got to be well liked around the village, and they were giving us running  water from a tap, something we had never had before..

Coincidentally the man that was fitting the piping and taps to most of houses was the landlord of the Wykham Arms, Tom Fisher, a plumber by trade.

 

As the men progressed through the village they were kept alive with sandwiches, cakes, and cups of tea ,from the woman of the houses nearest to where they were working, and even from some further afield.

The Irish men worked blessed hard, from seven in the morning, till dusk each day, and were happy in their work most of the time, passers bye would get bursts of jovial banter from them, or be entertained by the boys singing Irish songs or doing a jig.

 

"Jumping Jack Rammer"

 

*******.

Even when Mick, or was it Paddy, broke his arm jump starting the trench soil compactor, that had to be bounced into life until it fired and started, still kept working swinging a pick with one hand, and up to his knees in mud in the trench.

The volume of traffic ,or lack of it then, seemed to manage well with the disruption to their journey and often stopped to chat to the chap that was holding the wooden stop and go board, at their end.

Having this tap water did make a vast difference, to our life. we could now have two baths a week, in the old tin bath by the fire.

It had just taken to long to prime and pump the water from the well in-the front garden in the middle of winter.

So thank you Kottler & Heron.

and Mick, Michael, Paddy, and Sean. for your efforts making our lives better.

 

Story Courtesy AW Prescott©

 

More Tales Later.

One from Al Ussher.

Charlie,   I just read your story about getting mains water into South Newington, courtesy of the Irish!      Reminded me of growing-up on a hill farm high above the city of Londonderry, near the Donegal border, in the fifties. We had a "spout" from a well for fetching fresh drinking water. But no piped water into the dwelling...  However, there was a spring on top of the big hill and my father and his brother-in-law decided to pipe water down from the hill (about a quarter of a mile) using the "new" plastic piping on the market.  That was alright but they couldn't persuade the water to start running.   My father thought about this for a while and decided on a plan...  His brother-in-law had a Douglas Plus 90 and the  scheme was to attach the end of the pipe to one carburettor and syphon the water...   Fair enough, but Douglas owner Willie was not too keen on a water-cooled twin! 
  So what they did was to attach a short length of bicycle inner tubing between pipe/carb, start the Douglas and lightly grasp the inner tube.  As soon as water was felt, pull the connection apart fast.  It worked!  And as far as I know the water from the hill is still running...  Halcyon days indeed!   Al .
 Foot Note:  Our big hill was used by the City of Derry Motorcycle Club with sections for their annual March Hare Trial.  And I well recall helping my father carry buckets of water up to the sections because they were too dry!   And he was an entrant!  Local folklore has it that Terry Hill from Belfast, on a springer BSA Gold Star, broke the frame of the BSA on our big hill!!!   There you go!
Charlie:> Thanks Al  I do like a good tale from the fifties.

 

 

"Ma Roger's"

You will like this one , I still think about it when I see bacon.

 

"Ma Roger's", has she was  affectionately known, mother of Dot, Mary, and Hazel. well 

Peter (Page) was "sweet" ( I think that is the term of the day that was used) on all three of her daughters, so we made frequent visits to the little old farm cottage.to visit her quite regularly, (the small cottage was on the top road towards Hook Norton near "The Gate Hangs High" public house),with the chance that at least one of her daughters would be at home,

It was usually at between ten thirty and eleven in the morning, after we had finished feeding the calves in the deep litter yard, and checked the sheep along Barford Road. 

We would arrive just in time for lunch; this consisted of the farmhouse kitchen table full of glorious food.

There were newly baked cottage loafs still hot from the oven.

“Just backed it love” she said.

Home made cheese and butter, plus, jar upon jar of pickled this, and pickled that, raspberry vinegar and piccalilli.

A big enamel jug full of frothy creamy milk. “Just milked old Mabel” she said.

And this huge side of home cured bacon, which she proceeded to carve.

“Get your self a plate dear” she said, upon which she placed two large slices of this fat bacon with small pink piece’s of pork smiling out at me from the centre.

“Help your self to salt pepper and relishes”, she said, “and cut yourself some bread”, pushing the butter dish towards me, “the mustard's in the cupboard son”.

“Get him the mustard Peter and make your self useful”.

Well we sat around the table, what did I do?

I could not stand fat bacon, but I couldn't say so.

I plastered it with large amounts of mustard and relishes especially piccalilli, and kept my bread at hand to help it down.

My plan was one forkful of bacon, half a slice of bread and butter, and a big sip of my strong tea.

I managed to clear the plate and felt, well, very chuffed with me self, then without pausing from her conversation she said , “Oh you were hungry boy, here have a bit more”, placing another two large slices of bacon onto my plate.

Well did I feel ill or what, the time I had finished this lot.

Then out of the blue, Peter said, “by the way, I can cut (castrate) the piglets while I'm here, I've got the  knife in the pick-up.

Ant will hold them for me”.

No, I screamed from inside, with that lot inside me.

*******

Tale Courtesy AW Prescott©

 

1954-5."Or the Army Game".

It was about this time that young “Toot” and his mate “Skid” Lewis appeared on the scene.

I think they had just come out of the army after doing their National Service.

Young “Toot”, was so called after his father Albert Henry “Tooty” Williams, a right character, chimney sweep, and gardener, of some repute in the villages of South Newington Wigginton, and Swerford to name but three.

He got this name “Tooty”after buying and driving this little old Yellow car about, and sounding the bulb horn at every bend and even when he spotted someone he knew, he was never seen without a little white clay pipe hanging from the corner of his mouth either, but not many times did you see smoke rising from it. So being his son young Raymond (Ray) was labeled with the name “Young Toot”.

How “Skid” Lewis got his name “Skid” I don’t know. But I do know that he always had old BSA motorbikes and in particular one with a hand gate change gearshift that he used to ride about at speed and was always in a fluster.

And was also renowned for falling off of these bikes a lot. So this could be where the name started.

Anyway Ray started to work full time for Peter Page and his father at Grange Farm South Newington, I think Albert had got him the job because he used to garden for the Lithgow’s next door to the farm.

Ray would arrive at about nine thirty after feeding his own stock at Wigginton, where in their small paddock he kept pigs, calves, and a flock of hens and a few geese.

He arrived in his little grey Austin A30 car.

He always dressed immaculately in blue jeans, a freshly pressed brown smock, and wellies that looked like they had been boot polished, and his little brown trilby hat at a jaunty angle on his head. He had learnt well in the Army.

The first job he did arriving at the farm, was to get out his old tobacco tin, from his pocket , inside was the necessary rolling tobacco, on which he spent ages separating each and every  strand, it also contained a orange colored packet of Rizzla rolling papers, and this little gadget from which he would produce the days supply of cigarettes, each one placed carefully back into the tin. A box of Swan Vesta matches were next produced from his pocket, to light the first of the day; this took usually at least six matches to light. It was now time for a mug of tea, round in the kitchen where the days plans would be considered, this would take another twenty minuets or so, then the pigs and calves had to be fed before we “can make a start” as they always said.

As you can see, the first golden rule working on the farm then, was not to do anything quickly, always pace yourself, and take time to think about the job in hand first. Always walk at the pace of the slowest cow you were droving “ usually the one on three legs” (lame). And if someone asked you for the time of day give it to them, If they wanted to gossip, well you had all the time in the world to do so.

“Skid” Lewis had perfected the art of walking slowly, his feet would both walk sideward’s, so he could nearly walk standing still.

That reminds me of a tale I heard from one of the farmers down at the market, he said some of his men were spreading some of the heaps muck onto the root field, when one of them broke the stale of his fork, they sent the young lad back to the farm to ask the farmer if he could get them some new forks, the little lad returned with a message, he said. “Gaffer said he will goo and get you some new forks, but you can lean on yourselves until he gets back with them.”

Anyway it was spring and today, the calves that had wintered in the deep litter yard were going to be turned out. The feed troughs and hay mangers had been taken along to the field ("The Marsh" at the top of the hill on the Wiggy road)

And as soon as “Skid” arrives we will drive them up the main road, and along the Wigginton road into the field! Easy!

Well don’t forget these calves had been shut in this deep litter yard since not long after they were born, and not tried out their legs before.

I was sent up to the Turnpike to turn them along the Wiggy road, they came out of that yard on the corner, at one hell of a pace, kicking and bucking, and what a noise they made, bellowing at the top of their voices.

I managed to turn them towards Wigginton, with frantic waving of my stick and shouting at the top of my voice, but they were traveling at one hell of a speed. Ray said he would try to head them off, but there was no way he was going to get by them. The faster he ran the faster they ran, so he quickly came up with this idea to jump over the hedge and run up the inside, and then jump back over to the road  when he had got in front of them, and head them off.

It looked like it was going to work where “Skid” and I were behind them, and walking slowly.

But one of the calves had spotted Ray on the other side of the hedge, he had been feeding them all winter and they thought that is what he was going to do now, so they kept up with him on the road side of the hedge, eventually by running faster and faster, and jumping two hedges, he got back on to the road to head them off, and turn them into the field.

When we caught up with him he was still trying to catch his breath, he was bright red in the face with sweat dripping from his brow, the rollup he was smoking was broke in half but still stuck to his lip, and the scratches on his arms did look sore, not only that but he had lost his trilby hat, and the smock coat was ripped on the back.

I said, “ I thought you would be fit just coming out of the army”. He looked at “Skid”, and said, “ We never did anything that strenuous did we, in there, all we did was salute it if it moved, or paint it white if it didn’t. Happy Days.

Tale Courtesy AW Prescott©

 

More tales Later.

The Vet.

Staring, Ray Williams from Wigginton.

Fred Williams from South-Newington.

Boss, Peter Page from Grange Farm South-Newington.

"The Vet" from Chippy.

The vet had decided that it was time to de-horn the cattle down at the farm.

Now there must have been a financial reason for this, for Peter didn’t do things for nothing. A ministry incentive I would think.

Fred was told to keep the cows tied up in their milking stalls that morning, so the cows knew that there was something wrong, and were making more mess than usual.

The vet arrived at about ten o’clock, hacksaw in hand, and a bottle of Dettol sticking out of his newly pressed smock pocket. Fred had been sent off round to the barn to cut some twelve-inch lengths of binder twine, these tied round the base of the horn would stop any flow of blood.

Eight-year-old Buttercup was the first cow to loose her horns, sawn off about one inch from her head. She did look funny without them.

The vet operated on the next ten without mishap, but then cut off the blue and white Friesian Bluebottle’s horn a bit to close to her head. Blood spurted out from this for a few minuets just like the water out of my Dan Dare water pistol. Extra twine was bound around the stump and eventually the vet stopped the flow, her head was doused in Dettol to stop the flies.

“Keep her in to day” the vet said “and then she will be fine”. “We’ll put her in the loose box” Pete said to Fred.

By about one o’clock the vet had finished the milking cows without hardly any more mishaps.   They were turned out into the front field at about two, and all proceeded to rub their heads in the mole hills, ant hills, and any other loose soil that was about.

Around in the kitchen over cups of tea, it was decided to operate on the heifers in the deep litter yard on the following Wednesday.

Wednesday came; it was like a scene from “The round up at the OK Coral” around in the deep litter yard.

There was Ray with a dragline over his shoulder, his smock tails tucked into the pockets, straps around the tops of his wellie’s, his old brown trilby hat pulled down firmly on his head, and a brown roll-up hanging from the corner of his mouth.

When I first saw Clint Eastwood I knew I’d seen this guy before.

Fred looked like Charlie Wooster out of Wagon Train, dressed in his army “Great coat” tied with binder twine at the waist, and sporting a three-day beard.

Even Peter had dressed the part but didn’t know it, wearing his old ripped leather waistcoat and brown cords, and the tops of cut off wellie’s over his old brown boots.

The vet arrived sporting a clean brown smock, and sat in the opened boot of his Riley car to put on his Wellington boots that smelt strongly of Jeays fluid.

But the hacksaw he picked up still displayed traces of blood.

The idea was to corner each one of the eighteen heifers, with the help of the repositioned hayrack –manger along side the barn wall.

Ray would rope the steers, sorry heifers, and then tie them into the trough.

Fred would dish out the lengths of twine, and Pete and the vet would stand in the manger to operate on the beasts.

Well by the time we had stirred them up trying to catch the smallest, so that they could make a start.

Fred had tripped over the lengths of twine tied around his waist and fell flat on his face into the manure.

Ray had tried to lasso the heifer, but got the rope caught around the length of cast spouting down pipe that was hanging from the shed, and with one quick tug had removed the lot.

This was to be only the start of the mishaps.

Well with a great deal of swearing, shouting, mud, muck, cattle, and rope’s flying everywhere, the first six or seven heifers eventually had their horns removed.

But while operating on the next, the blade in the hacksaw broke and cut the vets left hand.

We retired round to the kitchen for tea while the vet washed and bandaged his wound, and Pete found a new hacksaw blade in the tractor shed.

Fred had nipped home to change his wet trousers and wash some of the mess from his face.

In the forced interval the heifers had calmed down, the ones still with horns inspecting the ones without. The next five behaved quite reasonably and soon had their horns removed

It was now "Dozers" turn, so named because she would barge her way through any door or gate before it was fully opened, and she did not want her horns removed thank you.

I sat firmly on the fence out of harms way, as she first pinned Ray to the wall and then Peter.

“Get the rope quick” he shouted to Ray as "Dozer" rubbed him up and down the wall with the horns that were to be removed.

They eventually did get the rope around her neck and Ray was trying to tie it to the rack with Pete still holding her horns.

She gave a mighty buck and tossed Peter into the air like a rag doll, Ray loosed the rope as it was trying to pull him through the rack, this dislodged the vet from the manger and he fell into the manure.

Fred tried to grab the rope that was still around the heifer’s neck, as it came through the trough, he missed, but the end of the rope was looped, and this caught him around the right leg and knotted as it went.

This whipped Fred straight off his feet, by this time "Dozer" was really getting revved up. She towed Fred three times around the yard on his backside with the others in hot pursuit trying to grab, the heifer, the rope or Fred.

Eventually the rope snagged on the corner of the trough, and after towing that as well for six foot Ray managed to grab the rope.

Fred was not amused when he eventually got too his feet, he only had three pairs of work trousers and four pairs of long-john’s, and three of these and the other pair of trousers were blowing in the breeze on the washing line behind me. Oh dear!    

The vet had been to his car to put on a clean smock but I don’t know why.

Well we had got to de-horn this beast one way or another no matter what she thought.

She was now hiding with the rest in the corner of the shed. Fred was more than annoyed, and picked up his droving stick that was propped up against the fence, he was going to get her out of the shed at any cost, and without any thought to his personal safety waded in.

Give him his due he did fetch her out from were she was hiding, but brought all the rest out as well.

Ray, Pete and the vet decided that they would try again but with a little more tenderness and calm.

Fred was meanwhile cracking their rumps with his stick along side Lithgow’s wall.

Ray picked up the rope that was plastered and went to wash it in the new water trough in the corner of the yard, Pete was clutching his head and asking the vet how much did the ministry pay per head.

The vet said it doesn’t matter we can’t leave her or she will bully all of the rest. Pete said well she did anyway.

Ray approached her quite calmly, the rope held out like a noose, he stroked her back with his free hand and managed to get the rope over her head. Pete managed to pick up the other end and thread it through the trough. Fred had calmed down a bit and was pushing her gently from behind.

The vet had now resumed is position in the manger as Peter gently guided her horns into the right place, Fred muttering to himself had walked around to the other side of the trough and was holding the rope firmly.

The vet soon cut off the horn on the right, but halfway through the left Dozer gave one last defiant lurch.

Fred let go of the rope he’d had enough, and didn’t want to play any-more, Ray made one half-hearted attempt to save the day as he was the Hero, but let go of the rope as well. The vet fell from his position again landing firmly into the manure. "Dozer’s" horn caught in the hayrack part of the trough, and broke off cleanly, but this shook Pete firmly into the bottom of the manger. I said it’s know good you lying there we’ve got the rest to do. Don’t you start boy he said as he crawled from the slippery trough.

“The other’s ull stop till the calves be big enough,” he mumbled to the vet. 

******* Tale Courtesy AW Prescott© ~Oo>

 

Egg Production for a Growing Market.

Or a tale about making good use of an old Army hut.

`Staring in no particular order,

Pete Page.

Ray Williams ,

Fred Williams. 

Billy Nelder,

"Tubby" from Mawles,

Electricians, Malc Timms, John West, etc.

Jack West the builder and his mates.

Oh and Hubert and the border Collie dog.

In 1955 it was decided down on the farm to go into serious egg production. A suitable deep litter building was found at an auction of ex world war two wooden buildings somewhere in deepest Cambridgeshire.

The first problem was that it had to be taken down, and transported to the site in the orchard, then reassembled.

Well, Pete found someone to take it down and transport it to the farm, about six lorry loads as I recall.

This is when the story really began, because we were going to attempt to put the blessed thing back up.

We spent the first day trying to work out where the panels went and which way up they were. The blokes that had taken it down didn’t think to number the sections in any way, and we could only hazard a guess which one fitted to the next by the change in the colour of the paint and creosote.

Day two was spent with shovel and spade and the help of the transport box on the “David”, pressed into use as a bulldozer to level the site.

Billy Nelder was due to have another of his days off sick from work the next morning, to try and fit the first sections together for us.

Day three came too quickly; we were still trying to finish levelling the site off when Billy arrived at nine thirty.

“I thought you would have half of it up by now” he said with a smirk all over his face.

“Where’s the end panels then”. “You choose” Pete said scratching his head, “because I don’t know”.

“Well it must have a point on” (gable) Billy said “to take the roof”.

After a lot of head scratching and jaw pulling, between them, they decided on a section to start with.

I can tell you these panels were not light and it took the strength of four grown men and me to lift or drag one, but I think I was doing most of the work.

Well Fred was only grunting and worrying more about the Woodbine he had dropped, and Ray was trying to keep his boots clean and keep the smell of the creosote away from his smock.

Billy was puffing and panting and trying to protect his weak back.

Pete was more worried about the panel being broken, than lifting it.

By dinner time we had managed to secure the first two end panels together, with the help of several wooden props and a quantity of six inch nails.

It took until four o’clock to sort out and fit what we thought were the next two side panels.

Billy said he would have to go back to work tomorrow, so that he could have a rest and give his brain time to recover.

I thought it was him stressing us out.

Fred was still mumbling at the end of the day about the cigarette he had dropped, and Ray was nursing a tear in his smock coat.

The day had not been too bad for Pete, he had only stood on one projecting nail, and tripped and fell over the dog, “skraising” his arm.

He usually had far more injuries from mundane tasks.

But he had lost or mislaid his favourite hammer, and this was causing him great concern.

It was decided the next morning after close inspection, that we should have positioned the sides onto the floor panel first.

Of course Billy was to blame as he was the brains behind the whole operation, and was a so called carpenter? Or was it a joiner?

Anyway, it took the three of them, plus me to manoeuvre and fit the first section of the floor panel under the end and side panels by dinner time, with a fair amount of bad language and temper tantrums.

We struggled all after noon to fit the next two floor sections and four side panels.

It was not until Fred had left to milk the cows, that the other two had realized that they should have fitted a panel with a door in into one of these.

Unfortunately the panels were now all nailed into place.

Back to the drawing board I thought.

After staggering about over the heaps of panels, and the Senior Service and roll ups running out fast.

It was decided to leave the door panel under the twenty others, and to cut a new door way when we had finished assembly.

“We can always board the other up” said Ray! Good thinking!

 

The next few days where long and progress slow, one panel up, and two down, was the usual procedure.

Saturday and Sunday had come and gone, and me shoes were wearing out fast with all the extra trips up and down to the Post Office for the supplies of cigarettes.

The plaster tin had also taken a bashing and was nearly empty.

They were hobbling about and nursing their wounds, even Billy had turned up with his arm in a sling, saying he had fallen over a length of timber at work whilst thinking about “The build up”. Coincidentally the next panel to be fitted had a red cross painted on the side of it.

The trio would have been well suited as extras in an “Old War Film”, or perhaps even “Florence Nightingale”.

After suffering another weeks tile and strain, several days of silence, several of constant verbal abuse, and others to grim to mention.

The side panels were erected all forty four of them, and not all of the glass in them broken.

The roof trusses had been positioned in place as we had gone along, so all that remained was to fit the two last end panels, the roof panels, and to felt and batten the lot.

Well I went back to school on the Monday, which worked well as I needed a break too.

I suppose Hubert was sent round to the Post Office for the supply of cigarettes in between making the tea.

It took Ray and Pete about a week to get the roof on, and water tight.

When I visited after school each day the progress had been slow, and Pete and Ray were hardly speaking to one another, and were sporting dollies on their fingers, and there were spots of blood every where.

Ray had given up the smart look by now, and was wearing an old army oilskin jacket, with pockets stuffed full of felt nails. Pete went one better by sporting a natty little tweed sports coat with the new look inside out pockets, and three cornered vents half way up the sleeves.

There were heaps of ash felt off cuts lying everywhere.

I asked what was going to happen to them, Pete said “use um on the hen huts and lap um, what did you think we were going to do with them burn um”? No tight-fisted old blighter!

The next week, the electrician’s Melk Timms and young John West came after work to fit the wiring for the lights. A set of normal white coloured lights, and red coloured ones with a dimmer switch fitted, for use at night.

I said to Pete, were the hens frightened of the dark then?

He said, “Don’t be stupid boy, it’s to make them lay more eggs en it”. Oh.

With the lights working we could now get to work on the real job of carpentry, in the evenings from six until ten.

You could say that Pete wasn’t a carpenter or a handy man, but a “bogger” that had come good over a period of time.

Anyway, loads of timber had arrived during the day, most of it from Dalby’s in Banbury and Johnson’s in Deddington.

We had a fortnight to build six huge nesting boxes, and forty removable perches, together with the feed troughs and water basins before the pullet’s arrival.

I said why did we only have a fortnight?

Pete said “with all the pain and suffering, and the expense it’s cost me, the quicker the “Beggers” are laying eggs the better”.

I see!

We had spent the first two evenings making the notched supports for the perches, and had only had the small mishap of Pete standing on his boxwood rule, braking off the first six inches.

It was not until the next evening when he had picked it up, measuring the first six perches, and had forgotten to add-on the six inches that were missing, before cutting the wood that things started to go wrong.

 

For some fateful reason the second set of perch rails were nailed on in the wrong place and one upside down.

But it was Thursday, and Pete had been to market, and had probably bumped into one of his mates.

He never could hold his drink, and used to giggle a lot for hours afterwards, as he was doing now.

“Fetch me the pinch bar from the tractor shed” he said “we’ll so move um”.

Well I did not think this would be a good idea, but he was the boss.

He managed to prise off the up side down one quite easily, but the nails in the other had hit knots in the frame wood.

One end came away eventually, but cracking the rail.

It was while he was prising the other end, that he managed to trap one of the electric wires under the pinch bar.

With a blue flash like lightning, all the lights went out; Pete jumped and threw the pinch bar across the floor.

It was pitch black, and we couldn’t see a thing.

“You stay where you are”, he said, “I’ll try and get to the door and goo and get a torch”.

Well with a lot of shuffling about and grunting, it looked as if he was going to find the doorway. What he had forgot however, were the lengths of perch timber lying in front of the doorway, along with an open bucket of creosote.

He caught his toe on one of the four- be- two’s, and trying to save himself booted the creosote against the far wall, splashing every thing in it path, including himself.

“Bloody electrician’s” he mumbled “I knew they’d charged me too much”, “all I wanted was some light”!

Yes you did I thought.

He eventually came back with a torch; I had already managed to find my own way to the door by working along the side carefully.”

I think we’ll give it a miss tonight”, he said, “Tomorrow might be a better day”.

I hope so I said.

With the electric repaired, Friday night and all weekend was spent making up the nest boxes, with very few mishaps apart from the few length’s of timber being cut to the wrong size, and a few bent nails.

Hubert was more of a problem insisting on bringing cups of tea, which seemed like, every half hour.

He would annoy Peter by asking stupid questions, like, how was he going to reach nest boxes up that high, and how were the hens going to get into them in the first place. Where are the feed troughs, and how am I going to put water into them little things, (these were the automatic water bowls that had not been connected yet).

It always ended with Peter showing him the door by the scruff of his neck, and telling him to stay out.

Big “Tubby” from Mawles was there when I got home from school on Monday evening with length upon length of galvanised water pipe, a ginormous pipe bender and boss white and string every where.

It took him the next two days to connect up all the water troughs, when he eventually turned on the water for the first time on Wednesday afternoon, he found only two small leaks on a couple of joints inside, but one hell of a leak in the trench outside.

This was in a trench along the back of the cowshed, where the supply had been connected.

With bowl and bucket, the trench was eventually cleared of water to reveal the joint.

“It’s as I thought “Tubby” said “that pipe was rusty when I connected it”.

“What are we going to do” said Peter, nearly in tears thinking about the extra cost.

“Well the only way we are going to repair it is to break up the concrete path”.

“Tubby” said.

We knew the pipe ran from the cow shed to the water trough by the front gate, so it had got to run under the path.

“We’ll need to take up at least ten foot to find the next joint” “Tubby” said leaning on his giant sized stillsons.

. That’s going to cost a fortune, Pete said walking up and down with his head hung low and his hands clasped behind his back.

“We’d better get Ray back along from cutting his hedge to give us a hand, but he wunt like it”.

 

Thursday morning came, and I wasn’t feeling too special, so asked mother if I could have the day of school. “Only if you stay in bed” she said.

I said, I will, but I’ll just nip over to the farm and let them know I’m ill! “Go on then quickly” she said.

Well, I knew there would be some good sport today, and didn’t want to miss it did I.

Ray was chatting to “Tubby” when I arrived, trying to work out the best way to deal with this little challenge.

“Tubby” produced this huge sledge hammer from the back of his old Thames van.

“There’s only one way to deal with this” he said, striking the concrete with several server blows of the hammer.

Well this was no ordinary path; Jack West had built it, when he was putting up the concrete block pig sties, and he did nothing by half measures.

I’m sure the path was grinning at them, because it didn’t even crack.

Ray took hold of the hammer and gave it several blows, but he was out of breath in no time.

He had spent most of the week before off work with the flue, and was as weak and thin, has a “Chapel mouse”.

After about an hour taking turns to weald the hammer, they had just about managed to chip away a couple of corners upon Pete’s arrival back from foddering.

Ray and Tubby stood mopping their brows as they explained their predicament.

He picked up the hammer, in his “let me at it mode”, and after about five minuets had managed to break another small lump off.

There’s got to a better way of doing this they said, all three now mopping their brows.

It was decided after a long and in depth discussion to leave the pipe in the path, and to try and find it in the field at the other end, then to dig a trench along side the path, rerouting it from there to where the joint was with two dog legs.

Well after two hours of digging, they did find something that resembled a pipe. But of course they had still got to find a joint.

Two more hours tracing along the pipe, they came to what only can be described as a lump of rusty metal.

It was decided to cut the pipe and to try and loosen the joint with “Tubby’s” big pair of Stillson’s.

Miracle of miracles, the thing moved without breaking the pipe, and with another good soaking of diesel oil, he managed to remove it without damaging the treads to much.

All day Friday was spent digging the trench. This was left over the weekend, ready for “Tubby” to come back on Monday to fit the pipe.

Well I was still not fit enough to attend school, so I told mother that the fresh air down at the farm would do me good.

With the help of me holding the wrenches and bits “Tubby” got the pipes all in and fixed up by dinner time.

Turning on the stopcock after dinner, was like turning on the Christmas lights in Trafalgar Square.

Every one was there, including Hubert with the cats, and the dog at his heal.

“This better work now” said Peter “or we’ll have to carry the water be hand”.

After some hesitation the tap was turned and not a leak in sight, “Tubby” said it best to leave the trench open for a day or two, in case another leak showed up.

I said there were plenty of leeks in the garden showing up perhaps this one could join them.

No one seemed to think it was funny.

“Tubby” had stuffed a dead mouse up the pipe where it was rusty, and said to Peter that he had found the cause of the trouble, “look the mice had been eating it he said with a broad grin”.

Pete didn’t see the funny side of that either. And said he was a good mind to send the bill to Jack West for making the path to strong.

Yes and he would as well, and have moaned like hell if it had been too weak.

Now with less than a week to go before the pullets were due to arrive it was “all hands to the pump” again, with Ray showing us just how good a carpenter he was?

In the end the pair were treating the whole exercise as a competition, to see who could do the most work and make the best job.

Unfortunately Hubert was trying to help and was splashing creosote everywhere including all over the Border collie that once was black and white but now was virtually black all over.

Pete put in a few late nights, working well past midnight.

Well I could hear the banging in of nails, from my bed over in the cottage.

Friday came and we were almost finished. All that remained was to fit the new glass into the broken windows, and to finish creosoting the floor.

Peter managed to fit the glass, which had been cut to size by Hoods in Banbury, with only a couple of nicks on his fingers to show for it.

I had managed to finish the floor, without getting too plastered as well.

On Saturday and Sunday the new deep litter hen house was left with windows and doors wide open, to try and get rid of the creosote smell.

On Monday morning two tons of wood shavings arrived from Brackley Sawmills, ready to put down on the floor of the house, before the arrival of the pullets.

Given all this drama the pullets installed were more than happy. And within a month were starting to lay a few small eggs, increasing every week until there were nearly more eggs than could be coped with, so the frowns and long face’s, eventually turned into smiles... 

Tale Courtesy AW Prescott©

       

Now this is the story about the Village copper who ruled the district with an "Iron fist".

This was written very early on in my scribbling career, and will have bad grammar and spelling mistakes. I may correct them later, or I may not.

Anyway enjoy.

 

“Bomber Harris”

This was the name of the local copper in the fifties; he was based in the Police house on the corner of Barford road in Bloxham, just beyond Hiron’s yard.

There is only one way to describe this man “fatherless”.

If a friend of the Page’s passing “Bomber” on South Newington hill, he would make it his duty to call in at the farm on his way by and let them know that he was in the area, not as they had done anything wrong but he would always find something to interrogate them about.

I have never known another person in my life that could put “Fear” into a community like this man.

Example. If I was casually walking along the road to fetch the cows and “Bomber” appeared over the crest of the hill, I would start to feel guilty, he would stop dismount from his bike, and instantly start to fire questions at me.

“Were you the lad with the ferrets I saw up on Ash poles bank”, knowing I had no ferrets, “have you got that back light on your bike fixed yet”?

Yes sir, I fixed it when I got home.

“ Well I shall check the next time I catch you on it”.

Pulling out his book from his lapel pocket.”!

Oh yes and get some new brake blocks fitted” Yes I will. “ Let me see the tread on the bottom of your boots”. Mmm,” I should clean them before your mother sees them”.

Well I’m not joking this is what the man was like.

He attitude was a lot harsher with the adult community.

He would always find something wrong with the vehicle they were driving what ever it was.

If he could find nothing wrong with it he would tell them to get it washed as it was dirty,and stopping him reading the number plate.

Adults and children alike would leave the privacy of their own front gardens if they spotted him about, and hide inside the house until he had passed.

Even the sight of his bike propped against the wall by the phone box would leave the village like a ghost town until it was removed.

He used to call into Grange Farm about once a week, and inform the Page’s how many cattle they had in a particular field “ why is there one red and white cow running with the rest of the Friesian’s”?

It then took Peter ten minuets to explain to him that this too was a Friesian but red.

He bent down to remove his cycle clips and removed his helmet placing it on the corner of the kitchen dresser. Oh no this is to be a long visit I thought.

“I’ll have two sugars in my tea”, he said to Old Hubert, who was washing up in the old brown stone sink.

“Have you got the papers and the licence for the new bull round there back yet” he said. “ And I saw your man cross over the road with that old Fordson tractor, I hope it’s got a tax disc if not I should get one” stirring the cup of tea that Hubert had just made.

“ I wouldn’t say no to a piece of your fruit cake, I can smell it in the oven”.

Perching himself on to the corner of the kitchen table. “Oh and a Swede to take home for the wife, she does like them," and we knew he pulled one out of the field they were growng in if he wanted one.

Hubert was not keen on “Old Bomber”. As he had caused friction between the Page and Tustian family’s, “Bomber” always used to rub salt into the wounds, by bringing up the Tustians name.

“ By the way I’ve jut done old Tustian for not dipping his sheep”. Hubert sighed. “You haven’t got any sheep have you Peter”? “No not until next year when I thought I might get a few”. “Well if you do you’ll have to do something about your hedges, I’ve just been round to your cousins to warn him about his sheep straying.

There’s also a sheep rustling gang at work around here somewhere so keep your eyes open”. He said. “Or was that how you were going to get your flock” Hubert shook his head and sighed again.

“Talking of flocks, you haven’t got a carrier bag full of corn I could scrounge for my bantam’s have you. I haven’t been round to Cullum’s lately; they always give me enough to keep them fed.

Has your mate Nelder still got them Guinea foul in his pit at Wigginton?

I had to go out there one night because someone had reported into my office that there was a foreign bird lost along the road, I cycled all the way out thinking it was a French tourist that was stopping in one of Frogley’s chalet’s lost.

But when I got there it was one of his bloody guinea foul, I chased it along the road and into the hedge down into that bank field next door, (Pit Banks) the one that belongs to “Old Stanbra”, you know the one with the horse and cart, I had to warn him about speeding with that, and making the horse (pony) sweat.

Anyway the dam bird gave me the slip, just where I found some rabbit snares in the hedge, well I actually tripped over one”, I chuckled to me self, “I shall have to keep an eye on who’s doing the poaching, its not you young man I hope” he said glaring at me, no I said shaking my head.

“I called down to the Nelder's house and told his misses I should expect a dozen eggs for the trouble it caused me”.

Looking at his watch he said, “I shall have to go in a minuet to see if the Wykham Arms shuts on time, at two. They lock the doors and switch the lights out when they spot me about, they think I don’t know, I shall catch the blithers out one of these days you mark my words. There’s bound to be someone down there I need to speak to anyway”

I bet there is I thought.

This is what the man was like “ a pain in the backside”.

“Its not as if there’s a lot of crime in this area is there,” Pete said. Well no one would know where he was would they; I said, “No I never thought of that” said Peter clutching his head, “that’s probably why then”.

Bomber did have a few little set back’s in his sparkling career however, and got demoted a couple of times under suspicious circumstances.

There was the tale that Ray told me one day, about trying to catch “Skid” Lewis on his old BSA motorbike.

 

 

He said that “Bomber” had pulled an old length of rope with a sack tied into the middle across the top of the Wigginton hill on the South Newington road.

His idea was to stop Skid on the motorbike, as he knew it wasn’t taxed.

"Skid" used an orange coloured “Rizla” cigarette paper packet in the place of a tax disc, but he could never catch him riding the bike. 

  He had found out that “Skid” sometimes picked Ray up from the farm at four thirty.

Well “Old Bomber” had sat in the elder bush in the hedge for over two hours and was just about to give up his mission when he heard the old bike coming from Wigginton. As the bike approached at speed Bomber gripped on the rope, he saw it was “Skid”, and gave the rope a mighty tug, the rope broke as it flew into the air, and “Bomber” fell backwards into the largest bunch of stingers you have seen. “Skid” all but stopped but saw it was “Bomber” and gave him a two-fingered salute.

“Bomber” threw his helmet at Skid who promptly ran over it, he rode the bike down to the farm and parked it in the barn, that’s were it stopped for the next month until he had saved up for the tax.

So who won? Sgt Vernon "Bomber" Harris.

Tale Courtesy AW Prescott©

 

More tales Later.

So a lot of these Tales star one of the chaps that taught me most of the rules of growing up in life in the fifties. and this set me in good stead for the rest of my Seventy years.

His Name Raymond (Ray) Williams.

Now the stories will continue with him Staring in most of them? well has I say he was part of my life then and I have a lot to thank him for.

His father was also a Star in the community, that being Wigginton, and South Newington.

And there will be some tales about him too.

his name Albert "Tooty" Williams.

The late Ray Williams's wife Anne has sent me this photo of Albert and his little Yellow car that gave him the name "Tooty"

Story later.

Photo Courtesy Anne Williams.

Albert, daughter Doreen, and Grace.

and one of the whippets.

Here is Anne's story about Albert The Chimney Sweep.

 

TIME FOR THE SWEEP

Everyone was busy getting ready for spring cleaning at Dr Hyde’s cottage. Cook had sent the boot boy to High Street in South Newington to arrange for Mr Albert Williams the sweep to come. Albert said “I’ll be there next Monday at seven in morning, tell cook”.

Then the boy was sent down to Paddington Cottage to ask Mrs Collins if she wanted a week’s work. She said, “Yes” and cook said, “she will be a great help in the laundry she is such a good worker”.

The first chimney to be cleaned was the copper flue in the back kitchen. Albert cleaned five more in the cottage that morning

Albert Henry had been born at The Mill, Lower Slaughter, then with his father Henry, and his mother Elizabeth went to live in the village of South Newington.

Albert went around the different villages in a pony and trap taking with him his rods, brushes and some hessian sacks to put the soot into.

As he swept each chimney, the sweep would send the kitchen maid outside to make sure that the brush was out of the top. “Yes it’s out Mr Williams” she called.

The gardener came in for his breakfast and said to cook that he would have the soot for the garden as it makes some good feed for the sweet peas.

He would put the soot into an old bath and fill it with water to make the feed.

Soot was also piled in the corner of the garden and left for a long time before being used on the plants, as new soot burnt the leaves.

By nine in the morning all the chimneys had been swept, and after a cup of tea, cook paid the sweep who bade her good morning before leaving to go to his next job.

There were five chimneys to be swept at old Eli Wise’s, he lived in the farmhouse and was not a good payer - he always made out he hadn’t the money to pay.

While sweeping the chimneys at the vicarage, Albert met Ada the cook and he thought what a nice looking gal she was, so before he left he asked, “Will you come for a walk on your next evening off?”

She said, “Yes” and they started walking out together and fell in love. Albert asked Ada if she would get wed and on a Saturday in April the sweep married his cook in South Newington Church.

They had four daughters and a son, and spent the rest of their lives together in a cottage Albert bought in Wigginton.

Albert was also the proud owner of a motor car and the ‘garage’ was just a post, made from a branch of a tree, with a sheet of tin on top, and hessian sacking for the side.

When we lived in Merrivales Lane and Mother had our chimney swept, everything had to be cleared out of the living room or covered with old sheets.

The sweep came at eight in the morning and by half past the job was done. Then the floor, furniture and sheets covering the chairs all had a black layer of soot on them..

The mats were hung over the line and beaten; everything was washed and cleaned and that was the spring cleaning done for another year.

Today, because of central heating there is no more getting up to a cold house, or an early morning fire to light before you can have that first cup of tea. …………….Anne Williams

©Copyright Story and pictures Anne Williams. 

 

 

Market Day in Banbury, 

Every Thursday was Market day in Banbury, and a migration from the rural surrounding villages would  ascend on the town, the Hustle and Bustle was something I will never forget, And I can still see cattle and sheep being driven down the high street by the drovers.

Happy days.

So it was market day, Thursday, the store cattle had been picked up by Venvills early that morning and took to Midland Marts in Banbury, penned up, and had oval shaped paper labels stuck on to there rumps ready for auction.

We arrived at the market in Merton Street at about ten thirty.

The place was an orchestra of sound and smell, there were cattle, pigs, sheep, poultry ducks, drovers, and auctioneers, all in good voice, and the smell of cow manure, pig manure, pipe tobacco, cigars, diesel, oil from the Lorries, and beer from the pubs.

The best smell of all to me was the bacon and eggs aroma coming from the café.

First port of call on arrival was the auctioneer’s office to book in the cattle. Then Pete needed to find “Old Jack” in the pub, because he always knew the price the cattle should fetch that day. He was slipped a few pounds in his hand by Pete to run the cattle's price up.

This done, we would wonder around the pens and prod a few sheep and pigs with our sticks, the only way to see how fat they were, and make sure they were not lame.

If the sheep had full woollen coats, Peter would climb into the pen, sit the chosen lamb or ewe onto its rear and check it all over, making sure it’s feet had been trimmed and cleaned out and pinching its back to see if it was fat and in good condition.

The rest in the pen had much the same treatment if there was time.

We would watch the cattle sell, and Peter would bid on the pen of sheep that he had checked, but they were usually too dear for him to buy.

One of the farmers present would always say that he had some at home that were just what Pete was looking for, if he could meet the same price. Peter would shake his head and draw breath at the thought of paying that much “you come down a bit and we might have a deal” he would say chuckling, and rubbing his hands together.

After satisfying himself that there were no cheap lots that day we would go and find

The farm outfitters market stall, to buy two smocks for Pete's father Hubert, and one for Fred the cowman, also a pair of brown market boots for himself that he took ages to choose.

   On the way back to where the old pickup was parked around the back by the lorry park we would usually bump into another hard done by farmer, and get “way laid”, , with tales of the poverty they were all suffering (yes even then.)

Old Milner was a good example, he complained about how the price of sheep was bad, pigs terrible, and cattle - don't even bother, the straw was green, the hay was mouldy even the brasicas had got cabbage fly. The hens had stopped laying, and the wife was middling, and couldn't even cook his tea. “The daughter Beth was going to marry a commoner, from some town up past Birmingham, “I think it’s Salop” he said. And me point to pointer is running in the member’s race at the Warwickshire Hunt meeting on Saturday if it stay's sound?

“Come along Peter” he said we shall be having a picnic lunch, after we have eaten in the member’s tent.

“I'm having one of them new Teasel (Teagle) artificial spreaders from Bywaters delivered next Monday. But I hope they don’t want me to pay for it until the harvests in” he said I better go and pick up the medicine from the chemists for the misses he said or she’ll never get better, I bet that ull be the price of a fat lamb”, he said tearing himself away from the sparkling conversation.

When we could eventually get back to the pick up we would slowly leave the market with Pete waving and hooting to every one he knew or didn’t, on the way out.

He would then find some where to park in the middle of town, and we would walk to Broad Street carrying two empty card board boxes

To get the weekly grocery from the grocers and then to Lampreys in the market place to pay for the cattle feed, and seed for the next year's crops. It was always cheaper to buy it early if you had somewhere dry and cool to store it. (That’s what they said).

Then to Hoods the ironmongers to get the supply of nails, hinges and wire netting for the new poultry arks we were going to make.

I was left in Hoods while Pete nipped of to Lloyd's Bank.

Pete said to Arthur behind the old wooden counter "Get Ant a full set of carpentry tools anything he needs, and make um the best."

OK said Arth ,and asked what I would like.

I felt really embarrassed with the situation, but had always dreamt of owning me own set of woodworking tools.

There was a lot of chatter and noise coming from the back of the shop and then Arthur appeared with a arm-full of tools and plonked them on the counter.

"Lets see what we have got boy he said", dusting down his brown smock overall.

There were a boxwood folding rule, a wooden handled set square, a claw hammer, tenon saw, set of wood chisels and a wooden mallet, Oh and a pair of pincers.

Pete arrived back just has I was saying thank you to Arthur.

"That ent much he said that ent a full tool kit, he ul need a plane (smoothing) a mitre block,spoke shave,bradawl, some pliers and one a them new fangled Surform things, and a wood tool box to keep um in." Uw and aya got a fork andle.

I just could not believe it.

Pete was like this a proper skin-flint most of the time, but so generous a bloke when he put is mind to it.

I still have the set square today, and threaten anyone that tries to use it.

 

 

Well you may not know this,(but most do) this sketch was based on Hoods The ironmongers Shop in Banbury, Ronnie Barker lived in Chalbury and had a Antique shop in Chipping Norton.

but he obviously got acquainted with Hood's along with the North-Oxfordshire accent.

This little clip as helped to keep it alive, like I intend to.

You may have noticed I have trouble with "Has" and "As" and other words starting with "H" well, we dunt use it rownd here .

Enjoy as ever.

Tale Courtesy AW Prescott© Otterman©

 

1952 "The David"

 

Right I’ll go back to 1952 when I was six and at school playing marbles with one of the boys from Milcombe on the front concrete playground at dinner time (lunch time), in South Newington.

(This is the front playground right onto the road but there was hardly any traffic then.)

 

South Newington School. Photo Courtesy Anne Williams.©

*******

A vision, in front of my eyes, appeared before me.

It was then I realised that I was deemed to spend the rest of my life tinkering with mechanical things.

Around the corner from the High Street, came rattling, an old blue Ford “D” lorry with a wheat sheaf crest and the name Young’s Garage of Banbury sign written on the cab door.

On the back was a “brand new” green and red Standard Fordson tractor, well it looked brand new to me; anyway it was being delivered to Philip Page one of the three farming Page families in the village.

I was already spending most of my time when not at school, down at the Page’s Grange Farm.

Hubert and Peter only had an old rusty Standard Fordson and this was way past its prime and always breaking down.

We would spend most Saturday afternoons cleaning out the fuel filter and changing the spark plugs, to try and make the old girl run correctly.

Then out of the blue one Saturday morning Pete said “goo and ask yer Mum if you can come with me to Middle Barton, this afternoon”. Middle Barton ,where was that?

This was a major trip for me, as I never left the village very often, and not this far away from home, however far it was. “Was it near to the sea” I asked Pete, because Mother had said that one day we would go to the seaside. “No” he said “Its only five miles away out past Nether Worton”, I didn’t like to tell him I had never heard of that village either.

I shot home to ask Mother if it was alright to go on the trip, “Oh I don’t know” she said “it’s a bit far, but I spose it ull be all-right as long as you gets back before its dark”, thanks mum, I said as I sat on the blue brick step out side the cottage to pull me socks up that had gone to sleep in the ends of me wellies.

We jumped into the old Austin A40 pick up, the blue one.

The week end before we had spent Sunday replacing the back floor boards, and it stank of creosote.

Anyway we were off to see, “Old Sabin” that’s all I was told.

After a journey that seemed to take ages we eventually pulled up out side this old black tin shed in a narrow back street of Middle Barton; it was three thirty and getting dark, Mum will start to worry I thought.

Pete jumped out of the old pick up and closed the creaking door behind him, “Sit still and I’ll goo and find him” he said through the open window”.

Well after about ten minuets an Alsatian dog appeared, closely followed by this small framed man in completely oil stained brown overalls.

He was wearing glasses with the lenses covered with welding spats, and an old woollen hat pulled down over his ears.

He was eating what looked like a bacon sandwich, but covered with black oil from his hands, the fat from it was running down from the corner of his mouth.

“How doo boy” he said as he dragged opened the tin shed’s doors, and switched on the light inside.

“Lets have a look then” Pete said ringing his hand’s together.

Standing inside the shed was this bright red tractor, in fact every thing inside the shed was bright red including the cat that jumped from the tractor’s seat and scuttled out of the shed through my legs.

Old Sabin had found the tractor for Pete and had just spray painted it you see.

“So this is the “David” Pete said patting the bonnet, and getting his hand covered in wet paint.

“Old Sabin” told us it was an ex ministry “David Brown Crop Master” diesel, that had once been used for towing planes on the runways in the RAF so was Air Force grey in colour before he sprayed it red, and to me it did look new.

“Its our new tractor” Pete said “and the first diesel in the village”, “Old Sabin” here is going to drive it over when the paint’s dry, still rubbing his hand with a cloth and getting more paint on his Fair-Isle pullover.

This old tractor was always called “The David” from that day on.

On Tuesday when I got over to the farm after school,” The David” had arrived and was taking pride of place in the tractor shed.

The old Standard Fordson had been moved over to the right hand side of the shed in the place where the old spade lugged Fordson had lived before she had been banished to live under ten acre hedge.

I spent an hour sat on the plush canvas upholstered dual seat pretending to drive it. I was pushing the brass knobed throttle lever up, then down. And it had two gear shifts, one with H and L at the top and bottom of it and the other 1 2 3 4 and R.   It also had leg fairing's to protect your legs from the element's, and later as I was to discover, channelled most of the heat from the engine back around your body especially when the gearbox warmed up as well. It also had a black push button on the left hand side of the steering wheel; this was the electric starter button.

Another lever on the right-hand side was for the hydraulic three point linkage. It also came with a three furrow mounted plough attached. “Old Sabin” had found this for us too.

 

Wednesday morning came and when Pete went to start his new baby it did not work, even a spray of cold start from a can into the top of the air cleaner didn’t help.

Old Sabin” was called back over, he diagnosed a dead cell in one of the six volt battery's, the only cure after the initial re charge was a new battery from North Bar Tyre and Battery Company (Normier).

After a two day wait for the new battery to arrive and be fitted. The frustration of not being able to play with his new toy was taking its toll on Pete and he was getting through twice as many packs of Senior Service than was normal.

With the new battery fitted “The David” had its first nursery outing attached to the pig trailer. This was usually pulled by the Vauxhall Velox, and used to transport a bag of nuts and an old galvanised bath full of pulped mangolds and swede's for the calves that were turned out in “The Marsh”. The calves had not been acquainted with this new red being and had to check it all over immediately it was driven into the field.

From its front with lights to the back with the three point linkage, before their stomachs took over control forcing them away to eat their feed.

Well for the next ten day's or so, that's all “The David” did. Peter would drive it round to the end of “Tink A Tank” to collect his twenty Senior Service, and Fred's ten Woodbine's , from the Post Office run by the Stevens family . He would then deliberately drive it through the middle of the village with a grin on his face the back way home to the farm to show it off.

It would do the occasional foddering ' with the car trailer attached, but was left outside the gate if the gateway was to muddy.

Well sooner or later this tractor had got to prove its worth and not be treated like a toy.

Pete decided that with the new hydraulic plough attached he would plough up the first half of the kale field.

Setting the plough up for the first time was difficult for Peter; he just did not get the hang of this new hydraulic stuff, and would keep pulling the plough out of work instead of leaving the linkage lever alone. He would keep winding up the plough wheel that was not even on the ground, and forgetting that the tractor needed steering. This was making the furrow look more like a dogs back leg than the straight line it should have been.

After about an hour or so’s practice he was coping better with his new found skill, but still kept reaching over the back of the tractor to pull the rope at the end of a furrow to pull the plough out of work, as on a trailing plough. Old habits die hard, this is when he should have been using the hydraulic leaver. He also tended to drop the plough to early at the next run up the field, or to late, but he was getting there all be it slowly. Another problem was with wheel grip. If he stood on first one brake peddle and then the other this did help to find a bit of grip, but it was not good. (No diff lock you see).

Eventually the field did get finished apart from the hadland, (headland). Pete decided that he would use the Standard Fordson and the Ransomes trailing two furrow plough to do this, as he knew this combination better. He did not want to get “The David” stuck in the hedgerow and have to tow it out. It would have scratched the new paint work you see.

 

 

We spent most of the following Saturday hosing and cleaning “The David”, this practice carried on for the next month or so. After the tractor had been used for a particularly dirty job that week, and got covered in mud, it had to be thoroughly cleaned the next Saturday.   It was not until Ray Williams arrived down at the farm to work and took responsibility for the tractor that this stopped.

His job was to keep it clean and serviced, or at least greased. The car and the pick up then once again became Saturday's little job's, these had to be washed and polished and had be neglected while the new toy was number one.

 

Ray took pride in keeping this tractor in good fettle. If it had been used to run the flat belt for running the milling machine in the tractor shed over the weekend, (a job I later did on most weekends) getting it covered with milled flour, his first job on the Monday after feeding the stock was to slick it over with an oily rag, whilst checking the oil water and greasing it up. Good stuff I found this diesel for giving the bonnet a shine if you spilt some while filling it with the old “Newton Oil's” five gallon drum, but it did make your hands and cloths smell.

It was usually the fault of the galvanised funnel slipping the one with the filter in, that caught the dead flies. (How did flies get into diesel oil)?

One of the tractors little gadget's that I had never seen before , was this weighted cap on top of the exhaust pipe that closed the end of the pipe off to stop the rain getting in while the engine was not running , but when the engine was running the exhaust fumes would keep the flap open. A Simply Brilliant idea.

Anyway “The David” was the number one tractor on the farm for about five years until “The Inter” ( International B250) arrived.

Tale Courtesy AW Prescott©

 

Where There's Muck There's Gold.

 

In early autumn, a hard weeks work started with Fred spending a day after milking the cows in the morning pulling up the muckle weed, stingers, and docks from the muck-heap in the rick yard along the Wiggy road.

Tommy the old carthorse had been fed an extra portion of bran and oats; he knew his lazy days of summer were over.

Ray and me had spent the day fitting a new drawbar to one of the old yellow and red muck carts. This had been designed and built by “Old Sabin” at Middle Barton, and converted the horse drawn cart so that it could be pulled by a tractor.

 

The mist lay thick over the Swere brook the next morning, but the hazy sun was trying to appear. The pigs and calves were quickly fed, as me Ray and Pete were going to make a start “Muck Spreading”, with the newly converted cart hitched to the Old Standard Fordson.

Fred would hitch up Tommy to the grey and red cart when he had finished milking. Pete had shelled out on a new stale for his well-worn muck fork, and had riveted it in with the help of two sawn off six-inch nails. He also produced from the cart a brand new muck drag, (a four tined fork bent to act like a rake). Ray had brought his own fork, oiled, and was polishing the stale with a piece of sacking.

I had made me a shortened version, by cutting the sharp end from the broken stale of a rusty old fork that I had found in the barn.

Pete backed the cart up to the muck-heap and we all began forking on the first load.

Well I tried me best, but me, and me fork were to short, even with me stood on top of the heap. And I kept missing the cart.

After filling Pete’s neck with a fork full, I was banished to the other side of the heap to pull up more weeds.

After thirty minutes with laughter, bad language, and pauses to mop their brows, the cart was full.

Ray had the honour to drive the first load down to the stubble field, while Pete and me walked behind the cart.

The tailboard was dropped, and the first try-out with the new drag was left to Ray.

You see the first half of the load had to be dragged off before the cart could be tipped.

I was allowed to pull the catch while the chaps, one at each corner at the front, lifted until the cart tipped.

Pete jumped onto the tractor and shot it forward to remove the rest of the muck.

 

By the time we had got back to the heap, Fred had arrived, and had backed Tommy and the other cart around the other side from where we had started, and was filling it slowly, very slowly, a Woodbine hung from the corner of his mouth.

Tommy was enjoying the grass around the heap as he waited.

Fred was filling his cart about one load to three of the other boys.

 

I led Tommy down to the field; Fred strolled behind rolling another cigarette.

Fred had a much better technique to unload his cart, the cratch was dropped, and reigns in one hand, drag in the other, he ushered the command “Get-upp” at the top of his voice to Old Tommy, who shot forward a couple of paces and then stopped again, after half the load was dragged off Fred pulled the tipping catch, and shouted “half-upp” pulling on the horses reigns at the same time. Tommy shot backwards the shafts shot up, the cart tipped, and most of the manure slid off. And with another “Get upp” and losing the cigarette from the corner of his mouth, the lot was off.

Man and beast working as one you see.

By one o’clock a dozen heaps had been dotted about the field.

Hubert arrived with the cheese doorstop sandwiches, and the enamel jug full of strong tea.

After the break another seven loads were accomplished by three o’clock.

Fred left me to look after Tommy, while he walked to the top of the hill to fetch the cows. I drove the cows to the farm, while he unhitched the cart and rode Tommy home.

After two more days of the same, the field was now dotted all over with little black heaps.

Thursday was damp but the muck needed spreading.

The wet weather gear was donned, black wellies, rubberised leggings, army great coats, and a bran bag with one corner pushed into the other used as a hood with the rest hanging down the back, and tied round the waist with binder twine. I had to manage with my old blue duffel coat and patent wellie’s

The heaps were dragged out slowly, one at a time, the last few inches broadcast with the use of the four tined forks, until the whole field was covered in a thick black blanket. This was left for a couple of weeks, before the Ransomes three furrow lay plough was hitched to the Old Standard, and the field ploughed and left for the winter to rot in.

Part two now in the spring the next year.

One of my favourite jobs on a warm and sunny day in the late spring on the land was thinning out rows of Mangolds and Swedes. planted in the field that we had well fertilised with the manure the autumn before.

We would start hoeing the roots, when we had finished foddering the cattle, that is Ray Williams and my self, and after we had taken a break for our morning lunch.

This was usually a cup of tea from Ray’s flask, and a country style cheese sandwich(large and chunky) whilst sitting on the bran bags in the feed room, along with a variety of cats and dogs.

 

“Old Fred” would come along later when he had finished cleaning the cow shed and washing up in the dairy, about eleven o’clock. He would always arrive with his still dirty hoe from the day before over his shoulder and a soggy roll-up or Woodbine hanging from the corner of his mouth , and muter where shall I start at the tuther end.

It was a really back aching job and needed lots of concentration, you see you had no second chance to get it right. Make a mistake's and you would destroy the crop you were working on.

The tool needed for the job was a garden hoe, (one with a knock out blade); this had been sharpened like a razor on the old wet stone wheel in the rick yard  before hand.

Each end had been filed and tapered to a point. The point was needed so that you were able to select the seedling to be left in the ground, the healthiest looking one. And the one you considered the most likely to grow.

The rest were removed either with a forward or backward motion of the hoe.

You would then remove the next full blade full of seedlings leaving a good strong healthy plant again to grow on.

As you may appreciate it needed a lot of concentration and a certain amount of skill and was a very slow job.

But this gave great satisfaction afterwards to see a job well done, when the field of dark green waving tops turned into huge Golden and Red roots, it was then that you knew you had done a good job.

 

 

Sketch "Otterman"©

During the summer months the roots were weeded either by hand or with the one wheeled motor hoe. This was a bit unstable for me to use, as I was still too small. But I did try, usually ending up with the hoe on top of me and having to give it a miss until I was older and bigger.

If all went well with the crop they were ready to pull and heap up in the early autumn, usually after we had a shower or two of rain to soften the ground if it had been dry.

 

“Pulling, cutting, and yupping”, (heaping).

 

This was another skill that you needed to get right first time or you would cut or loose your fingers if you got it wrong.

The tool needed for this operation was an old meat carving knife well sharpened and with a good grip. This was most important or you would loose the knife, or an eye or worst still injure someone else.

The technique was to grab the leaves of the mangold pull it, chop most of the roots and soil off with four or five chops of the knife. Then to place the knife at the base of the tops, blade upwards, swinging and throwing the mangold and cutting the tops off all in the same motion, and towards the chosen yup (heap.)

The tops were scattered on to the ground, later to be ploughed back in. The heaps of roots were then carted off to the bury. This had been dug in the rickyard, and then lined with straw. The soil that had been dug, being heaped up at the sides ready to cover the crop again when it had been mounded. This was then again covered with straw to protect it from frost. Then the soil heaped on top and firmly tamped down.

You could say that this was the only Golden treasure that a poor farmer could bury.     Well apart from his dear wife.

The bury was left untouched until about Christmas time, there was usually a heap of Mangolds still in  the barn to use up from the year before until this time. a few had got past there best and had started to decompose and get slimy , this was usually the signal to unearth one corner of the new bury.

Fred would hitch Tommy up to the rubber tyred grey and red cart, I had just re painted this with grey paint left over from painting the gutters and down spouts on the house, and for the red I used some of the New David Brown red.

Anyway Ray had been pressed into help as it was market day and Pete was already in his check sports jacket and twill trousers and Hubert had polished his brogue shoes up for him, and not the brown boots he normally wears for market, when he wore those shoes it generally meant a trip to see the bank manager, Ray and Fred said that it was Pete who was keeping the bank afloat.

The soil was dragged and shovelled of the corner that had less chance of getting the full force of the winter weather, usually the one facing south, the straw then removed revealed the golden glow of the new crop mangolds, one or two mice also ran out as they had found this warm to nest in.

The cart was loaded with the first of the crop and then straw and some of the soil replaced.

Tommy had enjoyed his time in the rick yard waiting and had grazed down every thing that was green

Back at the yard he was backed up  with the cart into the stone barn by Lithgows drive this was now the new home for the mangold chipper. and with the load tipped off an old galvanised bath was placed under  the machine and  Ray had the privilege to crank the handle for the first batch, a treat for the calves in the yard.

 

*******

The only image I can find of a root chipper, we seem to have forgotten about our agricultural past. and with few cameras about at the time in the early fifties a lot was not recorded. what a shame. I am now glad that I did my tales a few years ago of my rural upbringing.

Tale Courtesy AW Prescott©

 

"Milking" a Tale for Christmas.

 

Or a Tail For Christmas.

 

The Christmas period started with the usual pessimism, down at the farm.

doom and gloom everywhere.

The animals still had to be fed and watered which ever the day of the year, and of course the cows milked.

This was the main problem, milking the cows, because Fred always had Christmas day off, about the only day he did in the year.

Except for last year when he had a couple of days off with the flue.

I think this period was preying on Hubert and Peters minds and this was making the atmosphere more desperate than normal.

Well, Fred finished off late on Christmas eve ,I don’t think he liked leaving his cows to be dealt with by someone else, and he knew in his heart the cows did not like anyone else dealing with them.          

Hubert handed him his weeks wage packet, and the usual Christmas gift of forty Woodbines, that I had been round to the post office for earlier. There were also two Swede’s in an empty paper hen pellet sack and a dozen eggs in an egg tray with tinsel tied round it.

I could never work this out, as the rest of the year Fred would help himself to the Swede’s, and even give some to mother.

And he always picked up a dozen eggs to take home on a Friday night without question.

Well I suppose it’s the thought that counts.

Anyway, Fred mumbled a long list of do’s and don’ts to his boots, but was meant to be for the ears of Hubert.

I don’t know why he bothered, because they both knew in their minds that there would be some sort of problem when Fred didn’t milk the cows, as there always was.

I expect that Fred thought that if he had told someone, or only his boots, then at least he could not be blamed for the cows, antic’s, upon his return on Boxing Day. He knew he would suffer when he returned, for he told me one day, it always took at least a week for the cows to settle down again after “someone else udd had to milk um”.

I said I would come over to the farm and start to feed the pigs for them in the morning after I had opened me presents, and empted me Christmas stocking, I could eat the chocolate and orange for breakfast on the way down.

Peter had got the cows in early, for him, but late for the cows, as they were usually called at six thirty and it was now eight o’clock.

He had given them their cake rations in the mangers, so they were comparatively happy. Pete said he would make a start, after a cup of tea and a salt bacon and mustard sandwich. Hubert was meanwhile bashing about in the dairy trying to remove the lid from the churn that was to go under the cooler, and knock the lids on to last nights churns ready to be put out on the milk stand. He was doing this with the handle of his walking stick, and also trying to knock the cats from under his feet with the other end.

The first show of frustration for the day came from Peter as he went to pick up the first two milking machine buckets and clusters.

“You’ve put the pipes on the wrong way round you silly old begger, I told you to leave um and let me do um”, he said. “Why don’t you leave the milking to me and goo and make your self useful by sticking the cockerel in the oven”.

Hubert took a swing at one of the cats with his stick and knocked the milk measure to the ground.

“There that’s got to be washed again now” Pete screamed,

“That ull be alright” Hubert said rubbing it round with the tails of his smock.

I said I would make a start on feeding the pigs, I thought I would be better off out of the way of the two of them, Pete shouted after me, and said to give them what I thought was the right measure as it was Christmas, “as you usually feed um to much” he squawked , thanks!.

 

I had fed about half the pigs and had noticed Peter several times walking round to the dairy with the pales of milk, with the usual Senior Service stuck out from the corner of his mouth. I also, had watched Hubert stager back round with empty pales.

He then thought he could carry one of the full ones back to the dairy and had managed to get half way round the concrete path when I spotted him.

I ran over to give him a hand, but it was too late.

He lost his footing on the slippery path, and on trying to save him self with the aid of his stick, dropped the pale crashing to the floor, spilling most of the milk over him self, and the rest still steaming hot, onto the cold path.

The cats which always followed him about, didn’t miss this opportunity to lap most of it up, this was their, Christmas present.

I said I would take the pale back while he changed his smock.

I should have stopped well out of the way, for no sooner had I walked through the cowshed door, looking round to see what the clatter was.

Found that “Old Doris” had kicked off the milking machine cluster into the gutter. “Clara”at the time was trying to stop Pete putting the machine onto her as well.

I gingerly picked up the cluster from the gutter but there was no way that I was going to try and put it back on, she had once put me into the gutter when I had accidentally brushed past her while giving her the ration of cake.

I can remember that Fred even had to grunt at her and push his head firmly into her side, always with his cap on back to front, to get the machine on.

I shouted to Pete that the cluster had fell off of “Doris”, he said “that’s all I need, any way I thought you were feeding the pigs”.

I said “I am but Hubert had asked me to bring the pale back”.

There was no way I was going to tell him that he had spilt a pale of milk.

“Give me the damn thing” he said “she’s been a Cow all morning”, Ho- Ha’ that must be his Christmas joke then I thought.

Even “Daisy” looked round and yawned with her big brown eyes gazing skyward. “Doris” didn’t think it a joke, and proceeded to prod Peter into the gutter four times without even trying.

The next one was a bit more than a prod, and left Pete sprawled against the back wall of the cow shed. She haunch'd her back and proceeded to christen him in the process.

She obviously did not like being called a cow; he should have perhaps chosen a different name to call her.

He was game for a laugh though, because he proceeded to try again and put the damn thing back on.

I would have “given it best” as the bucket was almost full, and I’m sure she hadn’t got that much more milk to give.

He was not going to be beat, and reached for the rope to bind around her flanks. Pulling it tightly around her back. Doris knew the game was up, and stood like a lamb while the machine was refitted. All this for two more eggcups full of milk, I thought.

Hubert arrived back with a cup of tea for Peter, accompanied with the flock of cats that at once proceeded in to the full pale of milk with gusto.

That was of course a wrong move, “get them bloody cats out of here” screamed Peter “I told you to stop out of me way”.

Hubert began to flail his stick about at the cats which only upset the cows more. “Goo and get on with your dinner” Peter said, snatching the stick from Huberts hand “and take the cats with yer”.

I thought the best thing I could do was to leave as well, so I made my exit on the right.

I carried on feeding the pigs, minding me own business and thinking if mother had put our old boiling bird into the oven yet for Christmas dinner, and wondered if father would come home in his usual merry drunken state as he did in the past few Christmases , always blaming “Maa Fisher” at the Wykham Arms for his condition. And never eating more than two mouthfuls of his Christmas lunch, before falling asleep at the table, and snoring loudly.

I would hear the occasional crash of a pale and the odd bout of bad language coming from the direction of the cowshed, but nothing to serious I thought, so it must have been going quite well.

Then on taking my last two bucketfuls of food round the back of the cowshed to the concrete pig sties, I heard the note of the milking machine motor suddenly change, I thought to me self that’s odd, as I poured the bucketfuls into the trough of the old saddle back sow with sixteen piglets getting most of the feed over their heads.

 

This is the exact type of machine that we had then and I think it did have room for two belts but we always ran it with one? cheaper en-it.

 

Getting back round to the feed room I found Peter mumbling to himself, “the bloody thing must be here some where”. I asked him what he was looking for; he said the spare belt for the milking machine, as the other one had just broken? Oh that’s why the note had changed, Oh dear I think this could be a nasty situation, because I could remember Fred walking about with a broken belt about a month ago. Should I tell Peter that, or keep me mouth shut and let him keep on searching?

 

I was just about to loose the battle with me conscience and tell him that I had seen Fred with the belt in his hand, when he found it for himself tucked down the back of the bran bags where it had obviously fell from the window ledge. “The begger’s broke” he said, staring at this shredded piece of rubber strip. “Where am I gooing to get a belt on Christmas day”?

The cows by this time were starting to get slightly agitated, as it was nearing eleven thirty and they should have long been out in the front field by this time. The mess they where making would take hours to clean up. I asked Pete how many cows there were left to milk, he said three and the heifer that had just calved in the loose box next door. But she would have to be milked by hand anyway. Couldn’t you milk the other three by hand I suggested, “I could” he said “but what happens about tonight”.

I said well it would give us more time to think if we could get the cows out in the field first wouldn’t it.

“Well I s’pose your right, I s’pose I could then” he said “but they don’t like being milked be hand, especially the three that are left, but I s’pose that’s gods law anyway”.

I said should I start to turn the cows in the first shed out. He said “if you does that there’s no way I’m gooing to milk um”. So I said I would fetch the stool from the dairy and another spare pail.

After missing several right hooks from “Betsy” Pete managed to get most of the milk from her without much fuss. Luckily all three of the cows were starting to dry up, and so did not have that much milk to give. After a few more near misses and a couple of un’ seating's from the stool he managed to milk out the other two. The heifer wouldn’t be so important at the moment and would wait until we had turned out the cows. Which we then did.

“Lets goo and have a cup of tea and I can have a smoke, so that I can think” he said. I said you must have been thinking a lot this morning by the amount of fags you have got through. “Are it’s a worrying time Christmas, you don’t know what’s gooing to happen next year”. I suppose that’s the sort of statement I expected.

Round in the kitchen Hubert was busy with his Christmas dinner. He had the potatoes, carrots, and swede cut into the normal giant sized chunks (yes you always had swede even with Christmas dinner) and was attempting to peel the sprouts. The smell of the cockerel in the oven was making me mouth water. I hope mothers boiling bird smells as good, I thought. The festive bottle of whisky was in the middle of the table, so Pete added a good slug to his tea.” Do you want a drop in yours Ant” he said. I said only a little drop then, course it needs one of us to think straight don’t it.

Was there a belt in the tractor shed that would fit for tonight I said “No I looked for one for the “David” the other day and couldn’t find any”?

Wouldn’t the belts on one of the tractors fit I said, “No there to long and to thick” he said. How about the fan belt on the Velox I said, “Are that’s worth a look I never thought of that”. We drank our tea and went round to the garage to have a look. Pete matched the broken belt against the fan belt “No it’s too blooming short and to narrow” he said, “I wonder if the one on the A40 (pick up) would fit”, “open the bonnet”.

“Yes this un looks a bit more promising but I think it’s a bit short, but we may be able to turn the blighter on to the pulley”.

How are we going to fodder the cattle in “The Marsh” without the pick up if we take it off, I said. “Well we could fodder first and then take it off? But begger that, it might brake and then what would I do”, good thinking? I said,

“Are we better fodder with the car and trailer when we’ve fitted it to the machine”, he said. After bashing his knuckles on the radiator a couple of times he managed to remove the belt from the pickup. Then with a little help from a big spanner on the pulley of the milking machine engine, refit it to that. It was a bit tight, but when Pete threw the switch it gave a loud squeak and squeal and then seemed to work alright. “Thank God for that he said”.

After foddering the cattle in “The Marsh” all we had to do was milk the heifer with the new calf, Pete said he would muck out after he had eaten his Christmas dinner.



I watched Pete milk the heifer, lent over the door of the loose box from out side. I said what are you going to call the new calf, he thought for a while as he was milking her and said, “Well we could call her “Fanny” or “Christmas” but her mothers name is “Marybell” and the bull’s name was “Old Joe” but it ent a bull calf so we cant call it Jesus, so we better call her “Beth or even No*el” yes Noel’.

Yea that’s a belt’er, I’m going home for me dinner, and to tell mother I said.

“Don’t forget to come back over after dinner to collect your cherry-curds then, and I may have found yer a bit of a Christmas box” he shouted as I ran off.

Ok, I shouted back, see you later.

After managing to force most of me Christmas dinner down me, and I can tell yer that old boiling bird were tough, but it had got a bit of flavour but I think that had come from the thyme and parsley stuffing.

Mother didn’t want us to leave the table until father had arrived back from the pub.

Both she and gran were looking anxiously at the old grandmother clock on the wall. It was already a quarter past two, and the landlord always shut prompt at two on Christmas day, if he didn’t for the rest of the year.

Father did eventually arrive back at twenty past, singing the first verse of “Good King Wenceslas” over and over, as he fell through the door nearly tripping over the cat.

Mother brought his dinner from the oven and removed the hot plate that was covering it before placing it onto the table.

Father sat down and stubbed his fag out in the sugar bowl by his right hand.

After he had eaten about four mouthfuls from round the edge of the plate he had already got a drowsy look in his eyes with his head getting nearer the plate. Mother jolted him back in to life by shaking his left shoulder and asking him if he wanted any Christmas pudding.

“Only- a- bit” was his slurred reply while he was trying to saw his portion of the boiling bird in half with the blunt knife. After three more mouthfuls his face had nearly touched the plate and I just managed to pull it away as the first sigh and snore came from his mouth.

Mother said we would have to pull the home made (brown paper) crackers at tea time when he had woken back up, as she put his portion of pudding and custard into the oven to keep warm.

Can I nip back over to the farm to see how the new calf’s doing, I said to mother, and I think Pete said he has got me a Christmas present and a jug of cherry-curds to collect.

“Well don’t be long”, she said, “they don’t want you over there pestering them on Christmas day”.

No I won’t, I shouted fleeing from the door still pulling me coat on.

I could see Pete and Hubert still sat at the kitchen table and wearing paper hat’s, through the kitchen window as I arrived, so thought I would spend half an hour talking to the new calf so not to disturb them until they had finished.

It’s amazing how good newly born calves are to talk too and they don’t interrupt your conversation very often, and then only with a short blart and a lick on yer hand.

I told it all me troubles, and fears for the future in not really knowing what I wanted to do with me life, but with a few reassuring licks from its rough tongue it managed to sort me out. I patted it on the head and said thank-you, and went off back to the kitchen with me heart reassured.

I knocked on the kitchen door for once as it was Christmas, and then went in.

“You were quick” Pete said, and Hubert asked if I wanted a cup of tea. Yes please, I said, I didn’t stop for a drink at home or it ud have been dark before I could have got back down, and I have got to be back for tea time.

The “Old Man” had put me a jug full of the cherry-curds on the corner of the dresser and tied a piece of pink tinsel around it.

“Come with me” Pete said “We better see if we can find yer sumut for Christmas”.

We went out of the kitchen and up the back steps into the garden, and then turned left into the new chicken shed that we had built onto the gable end of the house.

We step’t quickly through the door of the shed, so as not to let all the heat out from the lamps.

Pete picked up one of the boxes that the day old chicks had arrived in, and then filled it with the biggest and best chicks that he could find from the two hundred that were under the infa-red lights. He then placed them gently back into another smaller pen in the far corner of the shed under a new light and into new shavings.

“There” he said “They be fer you, and if you looks ater um un till they be big enough to goo outside you can have that ark up in the rick-yard to keep um in”.

I just didn’t know what to say, I had been dying to ask him if I could one day have a couple or two of the chicks for me self to rear, but couldn’t pluck up the courage to ask.

Me eyes filled up with water and I had a job to croak out thank you that’s just what I won’ed for Christmas.

“Well you minds you looks ater um wunt yer, and I’ll feed um for yer in the mornings so as you ent late for school. Come on then you best not keep yer mother waiting for tea, you can come back-over first thing in the morning to make sure they be alright” he said holding the latch on the door.

I will, I said, trying to find the doorway through the tears in me eyes, I said thanks, another four times on the way back to the kitchen, and thanked Hubert for the cherry-curds as I took the jug from the dresser. See you in the morning I shouted as I left the back door.

I ran up the road the front way home and couldn’t get through the door quick enough to tell mother what I’d got and spilt a drop of the cherry-curds onto the mat. Guess what Pete’s given me for Christmas I blated, only a box-full of chicks and he said I can have an ark to keep um in when they gets bigger, and he’s going to feed um for me in the mornings and they got a new light and shavings. Steady-, steady, she said you’ll make yer-self sick if you don’t calm down. “Leave him”, gran said “he’s only excited and he’ll be alright”. Course I only woke father up didn’t I. “What’s all the fuss about” he snorted as he broke from a loud snore. “It’s alright Ant’s only been given a Christmas box by Peter down at the farm”. “Oh that’s all” he said fiddling in his pockets trying to find his cigarettes, “Make us a cup of tea duck, and is there any thing to eat”.

“I’m just going to get the tea” mother said “but you can have your Christmas pudding out of the oven if you like”. “I’d sooner have a mince pie and a sandwich”, he said still looking for his fags.

He staggered to his feet and went outside to the privy.

Shall I tell him about my present I said to mother?

“I shouldn’t bother him at the moment love” she said “I should leave it till tomorrow”.

We had our tea of red jelly trifle, mince pies, and the Christmas cake with the same paper cake fringe round it as last year.

Father ate two mouthfuls of his sandwich that mother had carved from the bird and one mouthful of mince pie, spilling most of the crumbs on the floor, before leaving the table saying he was going to get ready to go out to the pub again.

After tea we sat listening to the carols on the wireless for an hour and plundered the Christmas stocking for some more of the chocolate. I started to read the new book that I had been given by aunt Hilda from Wiggy, “The Boys Own Annual”, but couldn’t get the chicks out of me head. Only just before last Christmas I had gone to market with Pete and he had taken me to Hoods hardware store and told the man behind the counter to provide me with a full set of carpentry tools, while he went to pay the feed bill at Lampreys.

I chose the cheapest there were there, because I didn’t want him to over spend.

He came back to collect me and took one look at the tools on the counter and said to the man, “They ent no good, he wants some proper tools, so’s he can make a good job, they be only toys”.

These were promptly swapped for much more expensive tools and he insisted that I had a try-square and bevel, along with a bradawl and a brace with a set of bits. To add to the pile that was stacked on the top of the counter. “Be you sure that’s all you wants for the moment” he said. Taking a roll of note’s from his pocket to pay. Yes thank you, I said with a broad grin on me face that’s more than enough.

This is what Pete was like, tough on the outside, but underneath he had a heart of gold. To me, anyway. I went to bed about ten with a cup of Horlics in the new Horlicks mug that I’d had as a present and a mince pie on a plate. I had a warm glow on me face and couldn’t believe a Christmas day could be this good!

Tale Courtesy AW Prescott©

 

The Romany Gypsies.

*******

Gypsy Caravan picture.

It was about the end of September every year that the gypsies would arrive somewhere in the neighbourhood, they would usually camp somewhere, where there was a broad grass verge to park the brightly coloured caravans on, and tether there ponies.

"The Baulk", the little high sided track that runs down to the ford that leads to Moor-Lane at South Newington was one of there favourite places, they had running water from the River Swere at the bottom of this lane,

and somewhere to wash their clothes. these were left to dry on the bushes around the river banks.

 

In later years they moved to the site at the "Slad" near Milcombe,which also runs down to a footpath to the river.they camped here in the late seventies and eighties.

These were Romany Gypsies, the ones you could trust and not like their distant "Traveller" cousins, that know-one seems to have the time of day for.

The Gipsies might steal the odd clutch of eggs from the nest box, or pull the odd swede or potatoes from the field to complement their Rabbit stew, or the odd hen or pullet that would wander into there camp site, and become Chicken casserole.

But mostly they would live on food from the hedgerows, berries, nettles, and mushrooms all played part in their diet.

Also I found out one day! Hedgehog.

I was passing there camp site, despite what mother told me, that if you go near them gypsies they will kidnap you and take you away to sea!

So they were sailors as well I thought.

Anyway, they had this wonderful smelling meat roasting on a spit.

I could not resist, I asked the old gypsy woman, “what is that roasting”, she said, "it be hedgehog dear"!

I said "how do you catch them then"? She said “you puts some food out for um, and when they comes out to feed you hits um on the end the nose with a stick me dear”.

I said,” well how do you remove the spines” she said,” well you roll them in wet mud and put them on a stick, then you put them onto the fire, when their done you pull of the mud and the spines come off with it”! “Oh” I said. She gives me a bit to taste and that meat were so sweet, I can still taste it.

When they camped nearby in the fifties, I think it was along the road, near "Rignal House", the woman used to knock the doors around the village selling cloths pegs.

These were hand whittled from six-inch lengths of willow or nut, and then bound at the top with tin, cut from old tin food cans (usually from Brassso cans I found out looking on the back of the strips,) these were nailed on with a little black nail, or tin tack.

The Gipsy women would also try to sell bunches of lavender, to put under your pillow to help you sleep, and white heather for luck.

I know most of the women in South Newington looked forward to there visit’s then, and depended on them supplying the cloths pegs.

It was not until there distant cousins started to appear, wedging there foot into the door gap and threatening to give you bad luck if you didn’t buy something from them, forcing scrawny bunch of heather into the house wives faces. The attitude towards the Gypsies then seemed to change forever.

 

Another visitor on the doorsteps at the time (the Fifties) was the,

Indian brush salesman.

He would arrive with this huge brown suitcase with an extra strap around it, that he could hardly lift, always wearing a neatly pressed suit usually brown in colour, and a brightly coloured turban.

The case was full of every brush imaginable, and he would spend ages trying to explain their use,

Mother would usually buy a yellow duster or two “to get rid of him” she would say. And the cost would have to come off of the amount of money in the butter jar that was put up for the tailor that used to call every week from Barford or Hempton. Father and us boys would be proud owners of one of his tailored suits for special occasions and Sunday best.

*******

Tale Courtesy AW Prescott©

 

“Long Tom,”

 

"Long Tom" Page, Peter and Philip Pages cousin, yes there were three farming Page families in South Newington.

“Long Tom” as his name suggests was tall, six foot something and walked with a stoop, but always wearing a cheeky grin on his face.

He seemed to be the poor relation of the three families, and had the tenancy of the Trent’s farm up the little through lane from the main road up to the Barford road, next to Trent’s orchard, the one the Coronation sports day was held in.

Well I don’t think “Long Tom” was poor, but just canny with his money as the Yorkshire folk say, but he was prone to accidents and had this, Well! Laid back attitude to life.

He also would try new farming practices good and bad, that the other farmers of the area would draw breath, frown. And shake their heads at.

He was the first in South Newington to make silage as a feed crop for his cattle. What was silage the others said, what a waste of a good crop of hay.

that will never work, I rest my case, but this is what Tom was like, he gave it a go.

He was also the first to cash in on growing potatoes in a big way; these grow in gardens don’t they? More head shaking, from the disbelievers.

But "Spud Picking" would give the local house wives and there children a chance to earn a bit of Pin money I think it was  termed, when harvest time for the potatoes was due.

This would usually fit in to the half term school holiday, at the beginning of October, so also helped to give the kids something to do and help there mothers for a change. But you can see how crafty Tom was in choosing this week, more cheap labour you see.

To pick the potatoes the women would get paid 1 shilling a basket, and Tom was a stickler at making sure they had not added lumps of soil to the basket or left mud on the potatoes to make up the amount and try and cheat him.

Philip Williams, yes another Williams to, I am not joking I think he was Fred’s nephew or something like that. But they were related, and his younger brother Rodney used to work for “Long Tom” to.

Anyway Philip was in charge of digging up the spuds, using Tom’s old Rusty E27N Fordson Major tractor with lights fitted, but I don’t think they ever worked, like most of Tom’s machinery. This tractor  was linked up to an old Ransomes trailed potato digger with half of the tines missing, it used to break down more often than it worked, and would leave potatoes in the ground, but the women loved this, for the potatoes that were left in the ground the women could go back and rout them out of the ground with there hands, and then take them home for their meal. "Gleaning" I thing the term was, but some women took advantage of this, and would tie their aprons up and take more potatoes home in the hems of these, and the really cheeky ones, used to have a bag slung around there middle, and fill these making out they were pregnant.

Potatoes at the time in the fifties seemed to be scarce, and a bit like gold dust for a few. Rationing was still just in force and anything that would help with a meal was a bonus.

This potato field used to be at the top of the hill going out of South Newington on the Chipping Norton road up on the left opposite the Hambidges farm entrance, and right by the track up to the Tew's Farm.

“Long Tom” had bought an old rusty Nissen Hut from a dispersal sale and this was used to store the potatoes in, and his old ex RAF Fordson lorry,this was just off of the Tews drive too.

 

Philip and Peter Page had dairy herds of Friesian cattle, but Tom had a heard of red and white Shorthorn.

The herd was mostly in good fettle but there was always the odd one that would let the herd down, and call for criticism by the villagers,” he’s got a load of old cripples en-he was the term used.

As I said Tom had the tenanted farm owned by the Tweedie family but now managed by the Husband of daughter Rosmund now a Trent.

Well in the autumn every year part of the tenancy agreement was for “Long Tom “to supply a load of well rotted manure for the Tweedies garden, and for the now only part time ,gardener my Uncle Tom Clifton.

This garden was the best kitchen garden I have ever seen. The soil was something you would die for; you have never tasted young carrots, or sweet tender peas like the ones that came from this garden, magic. Then there were the hazel nuts, asparagus, globe artichokes, the tender but crisp runner beans, new potatoes with a taste all of their own, tender small broad beans, snow white cauliflower’s Savoy and red cabbage, onions some as big as a plate, and shallots as sweet as honey, all growing in clean and weed-less rows in this iron red soil. Garlic when strung up hanging in the potting shed would have now made you think you were in France with its fragrance.

And then in the Autumn sweet corn on the cob, marrows courgettes, all the root crops parsnips, turnips carrots, beet root were all stored in wooden seed trays full of sand and saw dust, and then covered with straw, and stacked in the potting shed, but out of reach from frost, the beet were each individually wrapped in tissue paper first ,to stop them getting knocked and making them bleed.

A garden you thought would last for ever, but it didn’t, the green grocers started to buy their produce from where they could buy it cheaply, and sell it to the gentry on a first come basis and the ones that owned these magnificent kitchen gardens, so it was more economical for these people to get rid of the life time gardener, and the gardens slipped into disrepair like the Tweedies eventually did. Tom Clifton kept his own garden to this standard for the rest of his life, and daughter Joan still keeps it like that to this day.

The vegetables were being sourced from farmed acreages on a vast scale now in Norfolk and Cambridgeshire and had started to be imported from the fertile land in Holland. So all Kitchen gardens were left to over grow or be used for keeping a pony in.

That is up until now when there may seem to be a revival of the large country house Kitchen type garden for supplying the Organic trend and also to supply upper-class restaurants. We hope so.

"Long Tom" went on to eventually buy his own farm, " Cow Pastures"on the Wichford road out of Hook Norton.

 and spent the rest of his life there living there as a gentleman.

*******

Tale Courtesy AW Prescott©

 

The Carter.

 

Photo Courtesy Graces Guide.

"Same truck same colour and back but with a brown coloured canvas tilt top.

"1949 Bedford K type 30cwt.

 

On Thursday at about ten thirty the Carter from Enstone would draw up outside the old cottage (Turn Pike Cottage).

His name was Somerton; he would bang on the kitchen door and shout “ Is there anything you wants from market missus”. Mother would open the door and give him the list she had prepared, along with the money she had kept at the back of her purse. These were the items to big to get home on the bus that he picked up for her, like rolls of lino, or mats for the kitchen, bags of quick lime for the closet, the occasional sack of potatoes’.

He also carried hardware for gentry; I can remember he once had one of them new electric Burco   boilers on the lorry. Something we could only dream of owning.

Anyway with his list and money in his hand, he suddenly remembered that he had forgotten to take from the back of the Bedford lorry the charged up accumulator batteries for the wireless, usually two, he rolled the canvas tilt up and handed them down to mother, he would pick the two flat accumulators for charge that afternoon on his way back. When he dropped off mothers shopping list of goods.

This system later reversed when young Gordon Clark whe worked for Norman Rivers (garage opposite the old school house,) from Bloxham did the charging, he would then pick the flat ones up in the morning and bring the charged ones back on his way home.

He also had a side line as a poachers runner, there would be the occasional brace of pheasant that would appear from the back of the lorry, and a plentiful supply of rabbits (until they caught Mixy,) and the odd hare. Even the odd side of ham if you could afford it, out of our league that.

*******

Tale Courtesy AW Prescott©

 

Eddie Walton’s leaving party.

The Walton family was about to leave South Newington, for a new start in Australia. Eddies Father who worked for the Northern Aluminium Company in Southam road Banbury. Had been posted to the Australia branch of the company.

The Walton’s lived in the first cottage on the right past the Vicarage next to the telephone box on the high street.

The first cottage to have a phone apart from the Post Office? Well they could here it ring from inside the cottage, and only needed to nip outside the front door to use it. So was also one of the families in the village that didn’t have to rely on Telegrams from the Post Office, that Norman Stevens had to deliver.

Well the week before they were due to leave, all the kids in the village were invited to this party.

Their kitchen table was stacked full of paper plates full of food, all sorts of cakes, little individual ones, and the same with quarter sandwiches, cut into triangles.

Big bowlfull’s of trifle and pink blamounge, and red and green wobbling jelly turned out onto glass plates.

Steaming hot sausage rolls, and home made pork pie.

To drink there were bowls full of ginger punch and jugs of lemon squash that was only made last week said Eddies mum.

Kathleen, Eddies sister did not want to leave the village, and so would not come down the stairs for ages, she shut herself into a cupboard and just would not come out.

She did eventually come down after we had eaten all of the food, and were playing pin the tail on the donkey, in their small wooden half boarded hallway. Their father said the pinholes we were making would lend some character to the house, yes that is what he said, but I don’t think he cared anyway, for they were leaving.

By the time Eddie was performing his conjuring tricks and he were a born good conjurer, two or three of the kids had been sick in the hallway, or just outside the front door.

We were playing blinds mans bluff, and being made to stick our hands into a bowl of warm jelly, making out it was “Nelsons” eye.

Most of the boys were getting rather boisterous, and even some of the girls ,and they were throwing the paper plates with some of the jelly on at each other.

This was making the house look a real mess, Eddies parents were looking at the mantel clock and each other, and looking skywards, they decided it was time to bring out the leaving cake this was square and had the outline of Britain on in green marzipan on the blue icing off the cake, by the time this was cut into slices some of the kids parents had arrived to pick up their offspring, and were trying to persuade the Walton’s not to go, in the end most of the kids and their parents were in tears, except Eddie who was grinning a lot, but he always did.

I hope they all had a good live in Australia, because we did miss that family in South Newington North Oxfordshire.

Tale Courtesy AW Prescott©

 

The Big Crash.

Staring in no particular order. 

 Sgt Vernon "Bomber" Harris.

 The Choir from the Whykam Arms ( now Duck On the Pond)

Fred Williams (the Hero)

 Bob the driver (for causing the incident)(And giving Bomber a excuse)

Vet Walker,( We wish he had not been needed.)

Miss Parfitt (for trying to educate me.) don't know if it worked?

Pete Page for the tale and teaching me the North Oxfordshire Accent.

 and Mother for being Mother.

On Thursday night there was one hell of a commotion out side our front door at Turn-Pike Cottage South Newington,

I think we were just about to go to bed my younger brother and me; we had just finished our nightly Horlicks, at about eight o’clock on a cold November night in 1953-4.

We wiped the condensation from the steamed up windows, which was turning to ice, to see out to what was happening, the windows kept freezing over again so it was a job to see. But we could see there were three or four cars parked in the turnpike, torches were flashing and people were chattering and shouting, and we could here cattle lowing.

I heard some shout “They’ve sent for the vet”.

Then I heard the David Brown tractor start up, it was driven from the tractor shed up to the orchard gate, and down past the cars in the turnpike and down to the bend by Grange farm. We were sent to bed but kept listening, the commotion carried on for the next two hours with banging and crashing and could hear the tractor revving and really loud scraping noises in dispersed by even more cattle bellowing and some loud bangs.

I eventually got to sleep cos I had had a hard day at school making raffia mats and learning poetry with Miss Parfitt our part time teacher from Milcombe, and we had also planted some bulbs for the spring and Hyacinth bulbs in jam jars full of water for Christmas presents.

I ran over to the farm the next morning before mother could stop me, as soon as I had put on my school uniform, to ask Pete what all the commotion was about last night.

Pete shuck his head like he does when he is worried and got to spend some money.

“ Are it were a bad job” he said, “and not one I want's to see agen in me life time, spose you ull find out cos you allus do, so ill tell yer.

“Well one of Venvills old brown Leyland cattle lorries came a bit fast into the corner and skidded on the black ice, it wer overloaded with cattle they allus putts to many on the blighters, and the cattle all fell over to one side, and the truck tipped over on to its side.

The cattle were all trapped inside the lorry and we had to pull the ramp open to try and get um out with a wire rope tied to the “David” “Did you get um out” I said.

“Are it were a blessed job, they were on top off each other, and scratting to get to their fitt”(Feet).

“Old Fred come out in his pajamas to give us a hand, and it were him that managed to get most up on ther fitt. And we turned um into the yard by the house”. But ther were two or three we couldn’t get up and old Walker the vet who “Bomber” and sent someone to get, had to shoot the blighters, cos um had broken legs”, we towed um up the drive with the “David” (are that’s what the brown tarpaulins are over the heaps up the lane). Venvills sent another lorry this mornin at seven to pick the good cattle up but som-a- them were so lame.(shaking his head again,)

“How did you move the lorry then” I said “ it looked like we wer guna ata leave it on its side, un old “Bomber” wer panicking and threatening to lock old Bob the driver up for dangerous driving”. “Was it is fault then”? Well it were, for loading to many beasts on the truck but they allus did.

“Anyway we wer goin ata drag it with the “David on its side by the milk stand out of the way. Fred said we should set light to the bleeder, but he never did like Venvills arter one of the drivers dropped the ramp on is foot and he still blames them for his limp.”

“Well we had just hitched the rope on and Bomber was shouting his orders, when a rowdy bunch from the Wykham Arms came up the road, to see what had happend,singing at the tops of their voice, Silent night, you knows the “Bomber” version.”

(Silent night, Holy night, “Bombers away, so we can-have-----a-fight: four in the morning, we wunt be a snoring,------we-ull be drinking another pint;Yesss! and more”)

"well they were all well drunk, but as strong a ox’s with the drink, and after a few attempts and me pushing with the “David” we righted the lorry and old Bob jumped into it an it still run, and he limped of up the road with it with “Bomber” following on his bike. and parked it on the top bend.

The next day the council lorry had placed a heap of grit on the side of the turnpike just above our cottage, mother said “nothing like shutting the door when the hoss as bolted”.

Them bends were bad in South Newington and still are.

We had an accident at least once a month on one of them in the fifties mostly people running out of brakes (What Brakes). But there was hardly any traffic then.

Tale Courtesy AW Prescott©

 

Vauxhall Cars, Simonize Wax, and Toothache.

 Staring in no particular order 

Frank Hazelwood, Garage proprietor.

Peter Page ,hoarder of fifty pound notes.

Billy Nelder, as the one and only.

Jones , the "pull-it boyoh."

Father-H-Prescott, at doing what he did best, being a father.

 

Photo Courtesy Graces Guide.

 

Now Pete (Peter Page,) did not want that much out of life, down on the farm at Grange Farm, South Newington, in the fifties.

All he really wanted to do, was count his pillowcases full of fifty pound notes, and have a smart car to impress the widows, and other girlfriends that he went out dancing with at weekends.

So the “smart car” was the second priority after the fifty-pound notes that he collected.

The first car I got involved with was the maroon coloured

E, series Vauxhall Wyvern. This was locked away in the galvanized sheeted double garage that Pete had constructed, the end-to-end type for two cars. This usually only had the Wyvern in it, unless there was another Austin A40 pick up in the throws of being got ready for service, this usually meant getting a pair of new bench seats, the back and front part because they always seemed to be ripped when Pete bought a pick-up even the A70 one.

The other task was to usually fit new floorboards into the pickup back and then dose them liberally with creosote; this would then stink for the next twelve months.

Well back to the car.

My job on a Saturday was to wash and polish the car, and remove and shake the floor mats, and some times, even clean the seats with saddle soap. This did make them smell nice.

So the car was pulled out for me onto the concrete, just in front of the garage, and next to the diesel and paraffin tanks,

I struggled round from the kitchen, or the boiler in the diary with a huge pail of hot water, with some dairy soap added. I had to get my wooden egg-box to stand on, to reach the roof, to start with the sponge from the dairy and wash the car all over, finishing with the wheels and a dairy brush.

Then pail after pail of cold water from the tap by the cowshed were thrown over the Wyvern, washing the soapy water down the drive into Lithgow’s back gateway, it was alright because “Tooty” Williams did not come to do there garden on a Saturday and I think one of the Stevens boys fed there hens and bantams.

The next job was to leather the car down with the large chamois leathers that Pete used to fetch for me from the market on a Thursday.

Wringing that out on a cold day used to freeze my hands.

So it was back to the kitchen for a cup of Hubert’s tea, and a piece of whatever tart or pie he had been baking.

Pete was usually out until three on a Saturday foddering the stock on his own, and then nipping up to the Rogers cottage at Hook Norton to see if he had a dancing partner for the evening.

If not he would take a route around the other villages where some of the widows he visited on a regular basis lived, to see if one of them would accompany him at that nights dance.

Back around to the car, to now earn me keep by putting a shine on it, with me tin of Simonize wax and huge roll of Mutton Cloth that also came from the market, I never see many farmers cars that looked as clean as Pete’s, they were usually caked with mud.

I recon it was a trait of the Page family to have a clean car if you were a farmer, cos Pete’s cousin Phillip alus had a clean and polished car too. But saying that cousin “Long Tom's” was always a rust heap.

So polish on, polish off, was the routine for the next couple of hours doing a foot round section at a time, and then finally buffing the car until the dust stuck to the static electric that I had caused polishing her.

Next the tin of chrome polish lid was prized off and every bit of chrome on the car was treated to a polish, the tricky bits getting done with a old tooth brush that Pete used to polish his dentures with after they were removed from the glass in the kitchen window, where they had been fizzing all night.

Every thing done except painting the white wall tyres round if they looked too shabby. And the car was done for another week.

This was a weekly routine for me, even if it was pouring with rain, the car was then washed out side with me wearing me sow-wester that father had found, he said laying in one of the gentries drives, he said, “that family was alus at sea”, and that was not a bad joke for him.

So I had to then nip round to hopefully get Pete to run the car backwards into the garage for me, so that I could polish it.

If Hubert had to do it for me that was a long job, it took him half-hour to get into the car with his arthritis and made me hold his two walking sticks, while he revved the daylights out of the car, and graunched it into reverse, Do you know I don’t know to this day whether Hubert ever had a car license.

If anyone else was down the farm when I wanted it moved back, I allus asked they to move it for me, Hubert was the last resort, and I never told Pete how I got the car back into the garage, he ud a went mad if he knew it were the old Man.

The Vauxhall Wyvern was replaced with a Vauxhall Velox six cylinder in black, after, a trip with the Wyvern to Warmington, for a service and a new fan belt.

Billy Nelder had introduced Pete to Frank Hazelwood at the garage at Warmington; this was the one on the Mollington road a green colored round Nissen hut type building.

Billy used to take his father-in-law Clifton’s little Morris eight, green van there for repair, Billy had taken over the little van with the oval back windows and brass handles.

Frank, had found Billy a F-type Vauxhall, the sit up and beg version. And after buying this through Frank, and being divide of any trouble. Frank’s reputation spread even as far as South Newington. So he became the man to see if you needed a change of vehicle.

Pete was not stupid! Well he took the pick-up for Frank to service, and fit a couple of town and country tyres on the back, to see if what Billy said was right.

Frank was quite a portly figure of a man, but always had clean brown overalls on, and a smart brown necktie. Although he did all the work in the garage himself. He also had a hobby of collecting crisp white fifty-pound notes, and Pete ended up removing some of his from the pillowcase, to add to Frank’s collection.

Not more so than when the Vauxhall exchange happened.

As I say the car was Pete’s second priority in life, because he thought the smarter the car he was seen to drive about in, the smarter the woman he would end up with on his arm.

The Black Vauxhall not only sounded better with the six-cylinder engine, but after I had polished the black paintwork nearly until the primer, it did shine and was the envy of most.

Frank had it back over to fit two Town-and-Country tyres to the back wheels on this, so that Pete would be able to go dancing even on a cold and frosty snow covered night.

Later a steel visor over the top of the windscreen was fitted by Frank, and a drawbar, so that Pete could hitch up the pig trailer on with its rope net, to take the old bore around to the widow’s farm’s on a Saturday, to increase the widow’s livestock, and add to Pete’s collection of the white fifty pound notes.

 

 

Going back to the little green Morris van of Billy’s. I alus remembers that van because it took me for one of the worst journeys of me-life.

I had been suffering chronic toothache, at school with one of me back teeth, mother had got doctor Meihcle, who was the Nelders doctor to make an appointment with dentist Jones at Hook Norton (on the Sidford road as you goes out of the village.) at six thirty on a Wednesday evening so that father could take me to see him.

I had been hiding over at the farm, but he came over and found me, and with some difficulty with me screaming and kicking, him and Billy Nelder somehow managed to stuff me into the back of the little green van, and slam the door shut,

moving off quickly so that I could not try and jump back out.

I tried every trick in the book to try and get them to stop the van. Pretending to be sick did not make a blind bit of difference, they were on a mission and I was that, to get me to the dentist.

As we drove around the bends through Hook Norton I made one last desperate attempt to open the back doors and escape. I thought better I get a bit of gravel rash falling from the van, rather than having this tooth pulled out.

But I just could not get the things open. We arrived outside the dentists, and the engine stopped. The brilliant white of the Keck (Cow Parsley) is all I could see through these little oval shaped windows.

With Billy on one side off the doors, and Father on the other, they turned the handle, I pushed the doors and made a run for it, down into the Keck covered ditch, but I was too slow and even though they were both panting like a horse that had just won the Grand National, they grabbed me and led me again screaming and kicking into the back door of the dentists house.

The smell in these places is the worst thing, and Jones being a Welshman did not help, it was said he had learnt his trade pulling teeth from sheep, and I was just as slippery as one of these to catch.

I eventually with all three of them manhandling me into the dentists chair, with me landing a well positioned kick into the nether regions of the dentist, was strapped in like a turkey at Christmas.

But there was no way dentist Jones was going to get his large syringe full of anesthetic into my mouth, let alone me gums. I had already chewed on two of the little wooden lolly sticks he tried to get into my mouth and spit um out onto the floor.

Father tried holding my head still but I bit him too, he threatened to take his belt off and give me a good hiding, but the dentist said he couldn’t do that; it would upset the cats that were running around his feet.

Bribing me with barley sugars did not help either, and I did like them little blighters.

Talking me around only got has far as showing me the pliers, and telling me they would not hurt as he demonstrated their use, on a brazil nut out of the bowl.

Yes I thought no way, you keep your nuts.

After half hour it was mutually decided, that unless they knocked me out with Joneses cricket bat that stood in the corner they would have to give it best, and all he could do was give father a hand full of asprins from a large jar on the side of his desk. Do you know, I don’t know whether they were meant for father, Billy, or me.

When I got home and had been sent to bed with me Horlicks, that toothache had mysteriously vanished. And I carried on reading Twenty Leagues under the sea.

Tale Courtesy AW Prescott© 

Moving to Milcombe.

It must have been 1957 when we had to up-sticks and move from the “Turnpike Cottage” at South Newington to a new council house at number four Bloxham Road Milcombe.

The old cottage had been condemned as not fit for human habitation, because there was no bathroom and the only toilet was the bucket in the outside shed.

Me grandmother was already knocking on at eighty plus, so I think this swayed the decision.

Well me, I just did not want to leave the cottage, I was hardly there anyway as you know, I spent every waking hour over at Grange Farm, but this cottage was my base link with this.

Anyway we were moving and that was that.

So on a bright spring morning at a weekend as I seem to recall, father had been given the use of the big Morris laundry van by “Tiddly Davis” his boss.

Journeys all day up and back from Milcombe saw the move about done by teatime.

The last load was going to be gran and her wheel-backed armchair and the cat Smokey stuffed into a large laundry hamper for the move. The big old key had been turned on the only door there was in the cottage the front come back as we called it, and that was the end of living in South Newington.

I refused to put my old bike into the van, and said if I was going to leave this village I was going to do it under my own steam.

And can remember sulking all the way up South Newington hill and getting off the bike and pushing it.

It is not that Milcombe is a million miles from South Newington. But it was the fact that we were having to leave, was the problem.

The next couple of years saw a change in my life that I was to be quite honest not ready for.

My childhood up until that time had been quite isolated with me spending so much time on the farm, and that is how I liked it.

I knew most of the kids from “Old Milcombe” as I had been at school with them at South Newington, but now there was a new bunch of kids that I had not met before most had moved into the New housing at Milcombe from the old tin huts on the Barford road at Bloxham,

Some like Joy Newth and her Father John and mother Gwen I knew as Joy’s grandmother lived next to us at the cottage at South Newington, “Miss Clifton” we always called her and spent many an hour sat by her roasting warm range fire in the flickering light of the paraffin lamps she had. A magical time.

But others had started to move in, that were not re-housed locals and did not speak with a North Oxfordshire accent.

These families were being re-housed into the Marley prefab concrete buildings they were putting up in the aptly named Portland Road.

Our next-door neighbors were the Liversage family; the father had a gate change BSA that he rode to work a lot like the bike that Skid Lewis owned.

Although the New houses had brick built sheds attached to the back of the houses there was no such thing as a garage or even a car park, most people left there vehicles outside their front doors, but this was difficult on the Bloxham road as not only was this road quite busy being the link road to Hook Norton. But our house and the two to the left was right in front of the Gibb’s Farm drive entrance. And this was the biggest farm in the village.

So father still having the dry cleaning van to use as transport back and to work at Banbury used to park the Thames van under the famous “Conker Trees’.

I now spent a divided time either riding down to the farm at South Newington. Or spending it with the kids from the “Old Milcombe”, mainly playing cow boys and Indians on the railway line up by the Hermons house or climbing trees down by the old farm cottages or the tree the back of the West’s house just up the lane where they parked the ex WD builders lorry.

There was also a tree that hung over the road at the bottom of the drive into the West’s house I think it was Number one Old Council Houses Milcombe.

Anyway come close to bonfire night one year it was decided that we, and I think it was Pete and Paul Hermon that were the ring leaders along with “Buckey” Grant, should climb the tree armed with a load of penny bangers in our pockets, and to throw them at passing cars and cyclists that were passing at dusk.

It did shock a few people but was quite a common practice at the time throwing the bangers.

Anyway what we did not see in our concentration on the task ahead, was spot Special Constable Bob Harbour from the shop in Bloxham, creep up to the tree. With a call “I know you are up there and if you don’t come down I shall call re-enforcements” and it was not “Three and Four pence”, every one up the tree started to panic, there were two escape routes over Tustain’s field, or drop on top of Bob onto the road and run. The branches started cracking and creaking as the decisions were made, the brave let go and jumped into Tustains field and legged it, after cries of pain on landing.

A couple clambered down the tree in front of bob as he got his notebook out. Thing is he knew who we all were as he delivered our groceries every week.

“I’m telling your fathers about this incident and you will have to take the consequences” he said.

I sat still up the tree along with “Buckey” we hoped he might just go away. “This is your last chance boy’s” he shouts before I call “Bomber”,( they had just been given these walky-talky things and loved there importance using them). “Buckey” slid down the tree and legged it up West’s drive, I had to come down with both hands up and I had only had two bangers because that is all I could afford when I bought them from Bob Harbour’s shop along with the other boys.

Bob grabbed me by the ear and marched me all the way home banging on the door, with mother opening it, saying, “what ever is the matter”. “Is his father in love?” Bob says. “No its darts night at the Wykham arms,” mother says, “well he has been caught with other boys disturbing the peace”, “and I need to speak to his father about it”. “Shall I get him to call in on his way by the shop tomorrow” mother said, “yes please, and send this to bed with out any tea” he said scrunching my ear as he let it go.

I don’t know what happened, father did tell me off, and threaten me with his belt. But the incident seemed to fade away until the next year when Harbours shop no longer stocked fireworks, and we had to buy them next door at the Rivers. Garage.

 

More Later.

 

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A Lot More Later, Tomorrow.