Friday, 19 August 2011

Verse to theThe Wheelwrights' Shop

This was the first I'd seen dead body, and shook me dam well ridged,
Out with his tape and pencil, see how big to make the coffins image

This verse/blog follows on from the earlier blog about the village wheelwright

These men Jim and Bill were the same age and era as my parents, they both retired in 1985 when there was no more call for traditional wooden carts and wagons, metal gates were being peddled by Gypo's in Transit trucks, and the tractors were matched up to three ton hydraulic tipping trailors. The age of the "thimble cart" ( a tipping cart with shafts and five foot wooden hooped wheels) some of these had been converted with a tractor drawbar, but they only carried just less than a ton.

The Wheelwrights' Shop

The wheelwrights' shop, was run,
by Jim Clark and his brother Bill,
A wonderful smell of new sawn oak,
varnish glue and paint as well,
Soft under foot with the sawdust,
and shavings that drop from his plane,
Inside of its door was painted like rainbow,
cleaning paint brush yet again.

The timber he needed he fetched,
Henry Venables Castletown saw mill,
Oak and elm, Beech and ash,
all were rough sawn to plane and drill,
Wheelbarrows carts gates,
and wagon wheels, all were made or repaired,
Some that his father had made
years before, nothing to compare.

On the way home from school,
we'd call to see what he was making,
And watch its progress each day,
 how and when and why we were asking,
From the fist piece rough timber,
 laid on his trestles to start,
To when he'd finished painting it,
name of the farm lettered and smart,

Jim he was tall with slight stoop,
 he's broad on his back and shoulders,
His cap was square on his head,
sept tipped back a bit when he ponders
Always a smile with his pipe in his mouth,
loved to have a natter,
It wore a groove in his teeth,
 and wobbled about when he chattered.

With bib and brace overalls,
and laced up leather tipped boots,
Short overall jacket hangs open,
 all washed and cleaned like his suit,
Minie his wife took pride in his turnout,
 never a scruff at all has he been,
She loved her garden not like Jim,-
Tarmac it over and paint it green.

Bill kept twelve cows and some calves ,
cowshed on the yard by the road,
Jim helped with the milking,
and mucking out to the ruck he barrowed,
Milk was carried up to their White house,
the lean to a dairy it was,
Three or four milk churns rolled to the kerb,
 hand over hand without pause.

Bill was quite short and stocky,
and smoked his woodbines all day,
Permanente smile and a grin,
always a joke and a pranks did he play,
He was in village cricket team,
wild batter and runner was he,
Other batter often got run out,
umpire he'd decry with loud plea.

He'd gather his cows on his bike,
six o'clock in the morning with woodbine,
Afternoon milking was three thirty,
back to the field at five for bovine,
He had to go down to the Floshes,
count his heifer on the meadows,
During the day he helped in the shop,
he painted the trailers and barrows.

At dinner time mid day both crossed,
 the road their houses retire,
For Bill he had an hours sleep,
on the heath in front of the fire,
He was the youngest of large family,
and slept cause there wasn't a chair
This habit remained with him,
curled up on the rug and comfy there.

Jim he drove their Fergy tractor,
on Satdee morning carted the muck,
They both loaded onto the cart by hand,
 in field they made a ruck,
In the summer they mowed their hay,
Bill he rode on the mower,
Clearing the blockage, pulling long leaver,
 that to lift and lower.

Jim he also made the coffins,
 for any villagers who died,
He was the first to know,
he lay them out and measure applied,
In one small cottage with not much room,
 he lifted off the pantry door,
With no one else about he asked,
for me to help lift body off the floor.

This was the first I'd seen dead body,
and shook me dam well ridged,
Out with his tape and pencil,
see how big to make the coffins image,
With his pipe in his mouth still puffin,
he talked to the person by name,
Eggcup under the head, big toes tied together,
hands on chest what a shame.

Coffins he made in the evening,
 the tapping his hammer till late,
His mother and wife they lined it,
now ready to load in his mate,
Bill in the meantime he dug the grave,
down to the previous coffin,
It'd been a few years since I was down hear,
bump with the spade to waken.

Jim and his father made many cart wheels,
 hubs spokes and fellows and all,
The hubs were made out of elm,
spokes and fellows were ash I recall,
When they were ready were
wheeled to the blacksmith,
He made the hot metal band,
to shrink round the fellows forthwith,

As the years went by, and cheap metal gates,
 trailers for tractors came in,
This cut down his work fancy gates did he make,
along with repairs within,
They both retired as age caught up
 and wheelwrights shop it closed,
An era had passed when they sold up,
 into history they were reposed.


Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with he time, we have rushed through our life trying to save.
Will Rogers (1879-1935)

The Longest Swath

The longest swath or the longest furrow is always the one round the outside of the field.

I seem to walk and work about the farm these days in a reflective daze, half looking back, and half looking forward, with every thing starting to overtake my way of working.

(This is the interview I gave and aquired the badge of Featured Farmer of that week  )

I look at the trees and hedges some of which I planted over my life on the farm, and how we used to mow and plough right up to the edge of every field. After all the longest swath or the longest furrow is always the one round the outside of the field. We cut the hedge banks by hand and trimmed the lower branches of young hedge row trees and trimmed the hedges with a brushing hook.

Looking now we don't have the same labour force, but is it so hard to cut that last back swath of hay/silage right up to the ditch or plough that last furrow and plough out the corners properly. They have the excuse now that it's for the wildlife, but back then we had far more wildlife than we have now, or so it seemed.

I see the balance of the countryside gradually changing over the years, and reflect on what it looked like sixty years ago, but then memories can be selective.

When growing up everything around you is the "norm", you take it all for granted that that is how thing have always been, when in reality, your parents and grand parents went through or have gone through modernisation and change over their years. The situation we have today in farming and the world of farming in general is just the "norm" for all those starting up a farming operation now. It's all I suppose what they call progress.

I don't think my father had an overdraft in his life, what he bought he saved up for, worried for days if his cash flow ( the word cash flow is too modern, never heard of it until I went to farm college) was running low.

Friday mornings were the crunch day when mother came home from shopping after calling at the bank for the wages for the men, (about twelve pound a man). It was like a big bank roll stuffed deep in her handbag, and quickly transferred when she got home into father's desk and locked up for the night, wages being paid out on a Saturday mornings.

Money had been very tight for my parents in their early days in farming, and they knew how to run a tight ship, nothing was ever spent if it did not need to be spent.

There had always got to be a guaranteed return, and this habit never left them in all the years of their life, whether it be the first fertilizers ever purchased onto the farm (nitro-chalk, basic slag, Humber fish muck) or whether it be knitting wool for knitting all our socks gloves and jumpers, which eventually became working garments and were darned and repaired many times before they were too holey to repair.
Thrift was the by word then, and we seem to have lost that word from the modern day vocabulary, it's become a throw away society now, nothing is repaired, if it don't work chuck it, and get a new one.

Maybe that's why I still have a couple of old tractors in the shed, still in good working order, but not anywhere near as comfortable as the modern ones, still got an old scythe hanging up and a brushing hook, you never know when you might need them (you silly old Bugger), I probably haven't got the strength now to work them now anyway.

Mother Always Worked So Hard (1945)

Mother always worked so hard, to rear her brood of kids,
As we grew bigger and in our teens, we must have cost her quids,
Four of us lads and our dad, Uncle Jack as well,
Looked after all of us, knitting socks and jumpers she excelled.

Big appetites we had, and thrifty she had to be,
Most things grown about the farm, including all the poultry.
Eggs and chicken, more often old hen, regular we had,
Potatoes beans and cabbage carrots, all grown by our dad,

Rabbit pie most every week, killed a pig and cured,
Only thing she did buy, big lump of beef well matured.
Bottled all the fruit she could, and salted down the beans,
Got the meals and baked the cakes, did washing in between,

Baker came three times a week, six loaves every call,
Corn flakes she also brought, lot of boxes I recall,
Through the war and rationing, never seemed go short,
Well fed, we all worked hard, and not much time cavort.


Nature is the most thrifty thing in the world; she never wastes anything; she undergoes change, but there is no annihilation, the essence remains - matter is eternal.Horace Binney