02 Oct COUNTRY FOLKS
Everybody strives to have a perfect lifestyle but what is that? If you work in a town, it makes sense to live in the town. You take leisure time in the countryside, then a yen develops to live in a village, with only one shop, a church and of course a pub! Townie’s moving to the countryside has been going on for many years. We did it in the nineties moving to Cold Aston in the Cotswold Hills.
Our neighbours were John and Beryl, a retired couple born and bred in the village. John had left only to go to war and Beryl stayed in the village working in the shop. We leaned on them a lot in our efforts to ‘fit in’ but it was hard work. In order to even begin to be accepted you had to have at least two generation’s in the graveyard!
Village life was laid back and simple unless you got involved in ‘politics’ which we tried to avoid.
Our first ‘good idea’ was to get some chickens. Just a couple would be sufficient wandering round the garden laying eggs and being – well – chickens. Through our good neighbour John, a hen-coop was located in the village. It was a sort of long triangular shaped construction with two hand grips at each end, like a sedan chair, which you could move around the lawn that way the grass got good healthy manure. You eventually ended up with a chequered lawn of strong and weak grass.
Off we went to a Domestic Wildfowl Centre buying all the parafanalia required to keep chickens. Two Wyandot bantam hens were obtained and they were instantly christened ‘Mabel’ and ‘Paxo’ and were apparently on point of lay, whatever that meant.
Every morning we let the chickens out and they strutted about all day then every evening we had a mad half hour catching them and putting them to bed. After about a week of this, John leaned on the fence, tipped his cap on to the back of his head and said.
“Can I tell you something?”
Eager to learn and thinking that maybe a cap like that would suit me, I leaned on our side of the fence with him and listened.
“If you leave them chickens alone tonight, they’ll put ‘emselves to bed. You just get yourselves a beer and a glass of wine and watch ‘em”.
So we did, and they did. We really had a lot to learn about chickens.
The one thing that town folk have difficulty dealing with is the death of an animal, especially if it had a name and a personality. The first death of one of the chickens hit us hard. Mabel was found in the garden with no apparent injuries. She had a habit of sitting under the exhaust outlet from the oil fired central heating boiler where it was nice and warm. The comb on top of her head instead of being bright red was dark purple.
“That’ll be them fumes from the boiler, you won’t be able to eat that now” said John over the fence. That’s another difference between townies and country folk.
The soil cover up on the Cotswold plateau was only about a foot deep then you hit stone, such was the case in our garden, so a ceremonial burial was out of the question. We phoned the local vets practice, who were very sympathetic but said that they would deal with it for us.
Putting Mabel in a box, I set off for the veterinary surgery. The waiting room was quite full so I approached the receptionist with the box.
“Name?” she barked
“Adams” I replied
“Pet’s name?” she barked again.
“Mabel” I replied “But I only…”.
“Take a seat” she said
“But I only…”
“Is it a life threatening problem?”
“No” I replied truthfully
“THEN TAKE A SEAT AND WAIT YOUR TURN” she yelled at me indicating with her hand where they were.
I sat down with the box on my lap, among dogs, cats, rabbits and all their concerned owners.
“What’s in the box?” a man asked, stroking his cat as we all waited.
“Chicken” I said.
“You haven’t got any air holes in that box”
“Not necessary” I said.
“Oh” was his uninterested reply.
Eventually the vet came out and with a loud voice called.
In I went with a heavy heart carrying the body of our beloved chicken.
“What can we do for Mabel?” he asked stopping abruptly as I opened the box to reveal her lifeless corpse. Taking a deep breath and in my best countryman’s voice I said
“Not much she be dead!” I’m glad he didn’t ask me to repeat it. I explained about the receptionist and all I wanted was a decent disposal of her body.
“Don’t worry she will have a dignified ending” he patted me on the shoulder and showed me out.
With a heavy heart and a few tears I drove home.
John and Beryl proved to be a mine of useful information for us and told us all about the village and the people who lived in the big houses. How they got their money, how they lost their money, etc. etc. In fact once you got them talking about the good old days, you wondered how you were going to get away!
According to John, every one of the houses in our row had a huge water collection tank under the back lawn. The water was raised by a manual pump long since redundant now that mains water was supplied by the Severn-Trent water company. This information inspired me to investigate further. I had an idea!
Grubbing about in the flower bed, I found a cast iron cover, and upon lifting it and sticking my head down with a torch, there it was – a huge tank of water under the lawn fed by rain water from the roof.
Plans were made to construct a feature, with a cast iron village type water pump, to raise the water for irrigating the garden. It was fairly easy to locate a pump from a garden centre and once the area was paved we had our own source of natural water.
“Can’t see the attraction meself” was John’s comment when it was finished.
“Me and Beryl couldn’t wait for water to come out of the tap on the wall – it was like a miracle, You wouldn’t have enjoyed bath night or washing day drawing the water then boiling it up in the washing copper”
I tried to imagine bath night in front of the fire, kids first then Beryl and finally John. That was country life before the war.
But we were happy with our little bit of ‘Modern’ old traditional England.
1132 words Michael White 2020