Sunday, 7 November 2010

Village character 'Old Tommy'

This is about an old man Tommy who lived and worked about the village all his life, he lived with his sister, and farmed a few acres made hay for his three cows and their calves.
He had a big garden where he grew mangols for the cows, along with all the normal garden household produce. Tommy was in his sixties when we were growing up, and always came to help with singling the beet, though he was a bit slow, and helped to build the stacks and bays of wheat and oats, and then again when the thresher man came to the village, he followed that round all the farms. For the younger readers it took nine men to operate the old threshing box before the days of the combine.

Tommy was often the butt of tricks, one of which was when he and Nelly had their first television, ( mid 1950's) and had a new aerial put up on his chimney. We would be in our teens, and Tommy was "crowing" about what they had bought and about the expense. We also knew that he kept his now disused bowler hat on a peg just inside of his back door. So one dark night before he had locked his door we got hold of his bowler, brought up a long ladder from the farm, and with the aid if Nelly's washing line prop, hooked his bowler on top of his new TV aerial. Well he could not get it down and there it stayed for quite a few weeks until a strong wind dislodged it.

I know this is a long poem about him but you will get a fair idea of the kind of man he was and how cheerful he was every day . He would be born in about 1890 (its on his grave stone) , so very old fashioned and traditional, hence his carpet bag

Owd Tommy Abbotts

Owed Tom Abbotts lived in a cottage, with his sister Nell,
They kept three cows and calves, and a few old hens as well,
Cattle grazed across four acres, the rest was mown for hay,
In his garden he grew his mangols, fed in short winters day.

He helped his neighbours, when they're short handed,
With drilling hoeing weeding, with others he was banded,
At harvest time he stacked bays, till in the roof was bound,
Longest ladder then was cast, him get back to ground.

All the years I knew him, he always had some wit,
Smoked a pipe and chewed tabaca, and showed us how to spit,
He had a bike sit-up-and beg, handle bars reached his chest,
On Friday went to town on it, his hat he wore his best.

His shopping bag hung on his bike, a long carpet bag it was,
All stitched up on either side, flat by front wheel because,
When it was loaded it was safe, hung by strong loops of cord,
Should it be carried in his hand, it almost dragged with the hoard.

As a young man stood up straight, he'd be all of five foot eight,
Old and stooped and round of back, shorter still as life dictate,
Feet a splayed for easy stance, and knees a slight of bend,
One thumb hooked in waist coat pocket, tuther to pipe distend.

He always had a cheery smile, his eyes were almost closed,
When he had a dam good laugh, tears ran down his pointed nose,
His face was brown and ruddy, from working in all weathers,
On his nose and chin could see, red veins mapped his features.

On his feet were black boots, well up above his ankle laced,
His trousers had a gusset, hold his expanding tummy braced,
It was a different colour , and could see when he bent over,
And buttons of his bracers , straining hard to cotton anchor.

Waistcoat matched his trousers, a suit some point decide,
Ten buttons some were missing, four pockets two each side,
One it held his pocket watch, secured to button hole with chain,
Another held his match box, England's Glory was it by name.

His jacket didn't quite match, been stitched around the collar,
Pockets drooped like open mouth, weighed down as if to cower,
In one was his bacca pouch, top pocket reserved for pipe,
Pipe was mostly in his mouth, not always did he light.

He carried a little pocket knife, his baccy Twist to cut,
When he rubbed it in his palm, into his pipe he put,
With cupped hand around his pipe, he lit it with a match,
Puff and suck till it was lit, mid curls of smoke detach.

Eventually it went out again , and back into top pocket,
Out with the Twist and cut a knob, chew into old tooth socket,
This is where he learned all us kids, to squit with baccy juice,
It went with long streak so far, to reach his poor old goose.

Tommy had a bowler hat , kept on peg inside of his back door,
As kids he let us try it on, and asked him what it was for,
It was used to go to town in, now for only funerals touted,
He kept it brushed and steamed, though it become out dated.

Now it was only flat caps, that he was nare without,
Into town he used his best, to walk around see whose about,
One was used to milk his cows, grease and cow muck plastered
And one used round house and village, not so much it mattered.

Tommy's ears were large and thin, for a man so short,
Ragged round the top edge, frost bite they must have caught,
They tucked back nice and even, his cap they're there to hold,
His head he kept it nice and warm, ears out in the cold.

His garden always nicely dug, and cow muck spread a plenty,
Grew his household veg and spuds, and runner beans a bounty,
The biggest plot was that of mangols, for his pampered cows,
The three of them all bedded up, roots chopped for them to brows.

We called round my dad and me, and Nelly made us a cup of tea,
One of Tom's cows had calved, the others had dried off you see,
Milk she poured all rich and yellow, beastings from his old cow,
She had to stir most vigorously, tea too rich to drink right now.

In winter time when he was younger, Tom he carted coal,
Picked it up from Bridgeford Station, Seighford was his goal, ( distance just over a mile)
Brought it over Bridgeford bank , with donkey and a cart,
This it filled the time o'er winter, before drilling corn did start.

So it was that he got too old, to work about the farms,
Even gave up his cows and garden, that he loved and charmed,
Then he lost his sister Nell, and lived a few more years alone,
He himself succumbed to life, both in Seighford neath headstone.

Countryman.

Young men, hear an old man to whom old men harkened when he was young.Quotation by Caesar Augustus (63BC-14AD