Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Who said in a Country Existence Nothing Ever Happens?

    On the wall of my 'bar' (granddad's restroom, an old man's folly, the old man's retreat) call it what you will, there is a brass plate. It reads 'In 1765, on this spot, nothing happened'. Meant as a joke, at times it makes me wonder. As most of my readers know, I live, not for the first time in Derby, England, population around 250,000. I was born in the area, went to school roughly in the  area and likewise worked at various set ups over a number of years. An unimportant, anonymous sort of existence surrounded by many of similar 'working class ilk'. Surrounded by people, knee deep in people; except for one spell of four years.
    We, my wife and I lived for four years in Lincolnshire, in one of only four houses next to a farm and house. The house stood empty, we spotted it driving around prior to attending college. (The farm employed sixteen men before the war, now three only.)  No street lights and one bus a week.(Saturdays.) No gas main and no mains water (We did in fact have water from a tap but it failed miserably whenever a nearby golf course was watered.) Heat was from brick interior storage heaters (needed at least twelve hour notification of change in weather) plus paraffin delivered for paraffin heaters and coal fires if you could afford the coal. ( A Swedish girl stayed one weekend. I noticed she never took her coat off!)
  Television a godsend, no ariel needed, TV wired into metal window frame. Rats in the outhouse, mice heard chomping sweets indoors. Resulting in acquisition of cat, resulting in kittens. Dogs appeared spasmodically belonging to Irish itinerants. Collected when they moved on. True Romany gypsies plus horse drawn home stayed a distant apart from their travelling Irish compatriots. A generally unusual existence, but surely uneventful and thus boring? Nope!
    We had usually six neighbours, never more than eight. You fell out with anyone at your peril. One weekend Paulette arranged to go shopping in a nearby town with Bob and Alice. (Not their real names for reasons that will become clear.) Only at the last minute Paulette wasn't able to go; so the     foray went ahead, minus Paulette but plus Eric, recently returned from a spell incarcerated at Her Majesties Pleasure in a not too distant borstal. Quite influential was son Eric, so much so than a shopping trip became a distinctly organised shoplifting trip. A not very successful shoplifting trip, and all were 'nabbed' so to speak. Friend Alice was bailed fairly quickly, the menfolk were not so lucky. I seem to remember collecting Bob from prison at the end of a not too long prison sentence at a
non too distant prison. Ex- Sunday school teacher Paulette finding the whole episode distinctly mesmerising!
    Hare coursers on a Sunday Morning were another spectacle not available in our previous 'life', the participants (invariably travellers) intensely feared and hated in equal measure by most country folk.
    The blood thirsty antics of the shotgun brigade shooting pheasant, again on a Sunday morn. Birds so stupid, locally reared, that cleared the guns and landed not too far away, to await another salvo another day. The whole affair  reminiscent of the Alamo.
    One Christmas we were burgled whist we were away. As was our neighbour, 'Pop' an elderly farm labourer and Bob and Alice. Pop's mattress was destroyed in an apparent search for cash. Bob and
Alice's gas meter was raided but the 'burglar' was apparently a kind soul. He  fed coins through the meter so that Bob and Alice would have a fuel supply in what was after all the festive season! We seemed to have lost nothing in the raid; I was after all a very poor student at the time!
    On Boxing Day a visitor with two suitcases knocked at the farm requesting the use of a telephone to phone for a taxi. The kind farmhand, realising the difficulty the visitor was in, ran him to the station in the town. The burglaries had not been discovered at this stage! It turns out the 'burglar' had in fact been staying with Bob and Alice, having nowhere else to go. Country folk may not always be the brightest, but kindness is seldom lacking.
     One final bizarre memory stays in the mind from our stay in the country. One quiet, unexceptional  
weekend, (weren't they all) friend Alice knocked on our door to show us a perplexing letter she had received that Saturday morning. From a friend of some years standing, it stated that, by the time Alice would receive this letter, the writer would be deceased. Alice showed us the letter; it shared the dilemma without suggesting a response. In a way 'what to do' was there in front of us; we did nothing. The body of the young man, who incidentally was addicted to a type of cough mixture available at the time was found in the week ahead. Did Alice, Paulette and I do wrong by doing nothing; I've often wondered.
    We carry fond memories of our stay in the countryside. Both our children were born in this period of our lives. A special time in many ways; forever remembered.


Helen Devries said...

It always astounded me that townspeople thought that life in the country was dull...more like never a dull moment!

Melinda said...

My goodness!! What an exceptional, entertaining account of a past memory. I wish you would write a book! I absolutely love reading your posts!

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