Wednesday, 29 February 2012

The Scrap Ruck

I'm looking for a bit of metal, the size ta mend a gate,
Seen some in the scrap ruck, but I can't locate,

Am I the only one to have a scrap ruck, one that you go to every time you have a breakage, for a piece of metal, or to add another lump of metal to it.
The balance is usually on the "add" side, and as there is more than one ruck, it does not look so untidy, until you look round the next corner.

The Scrap Ruck

I got a pile of scrap iron, and it builds up real fast,
And another round the corner, where I dropped it last,
I save it just in case, nothings ever chucked away,
Piles of it every where, It might come in one day.

Broken bits of tractor, and its off cut bits of steel,
Some is thick and some is thin, and some a bit of wheel,
Angle iron in six foot lengths, some point was a bed,
Other bits chucked into the rucks, some still painted red.

Nettles growing through it, and it makes a nesting site,
For rats and mice and vermin, who are only out at night,
Disturbed they run like mad, get away from you or me,
And where do they head for, their scrap ruck home with glee.

I'm looking for a bit of metal, the size ta mend a gate,
Seen some in the scrap ruck, but I can't locate,
Remember when I chucked it, don't know which pile it's in,
Turn each pile over and see, praps neath that pile of tin.

It's rusting in the winter, when the snow and rain soaks in,
It's rusty and it's flaking, and its no use for welding,
Don't know why I saved it, cus the price of scraps sky high,
Have to have a clear out, home for rats and mice deny.


Every now and them I get a rush of blood to the ed, and start to think I will tidy things up a bit. This usually amounts to a big hammer and a fist full of six inch nails hammered into the workshop wall, to hang tools and spare parts and grinding discs and the like.
One of the longest serving six inch nails has only ever held one thing for the last thirty years, and that is mothers old Electrolux Hoover. Back when we were kids she used to dry our hair with it (the pipe would screw on the other end and after a few minuets it was warm air coming out).

 I had kept it for sentimental reasons, and bring it off its nail every time we sweep the kitchen chimney, it still works and still had a good vacuum, but now resembles a rusty ship wreck at sea, and the nail rusting along with it. When the nail finally gives way the dust bin will be there for it to drop right in.

Then at one time I decided that some brackets on the wall. welded in my notably lumpy welding ( pigeon siht welding they call it round here) and nailed it up high with three shelves so to speak. It worked out well when it was first loaded and the floor area clear, then when repairing an emergency, you never have time to stack the half used metal back on the rack.

I Made me sen a Bracket

I made me sen a bracket, to hang my useful metal on,
All the bits and pieces, that, can get lost and gone,
All along the back wall, it will look so neat and clean,
And keep my workshop tidy, then find a new routine.

But you know what its like, when your always in a rush,
Ya cut a bit of metal off and into the rack you push,
Or sling the metal back inside, doesn't reach the rack,
It piles up inside the shed, till ya shins ya crack.

So the rack its owldin nothin, don't why I put it thee're,
Metal that I'm looking for, is under the pile somewhee're,
Spreading out all around the floor, no room ta walk about,
A scrap ruck outsides what I want, of which can't do without.


Quote  Guilt upon conscience, like rust upon iron, both defiles and consumes it, gnawing and creeping into it, as that does which at last eats out the very heart and substance of the metal.


Monday, 27 February 2012

I Remember the Neck and Earhole Wash

Mother always told us, to wash behind our ears,
Neck and earhole what she called it, in our early years,

The only soap that we had at home as kids was the old green square tablet of carbolic soap, it came in double length pieces with a groove across the middle to either break or cut into two.
Mother had a bar of soap of her own that was scented, but she kept it hidden.
 As the carbolic soap was warn down with use almost too small to use and then was put in a big glass jar with a bit of water.
 This melted it down to a jelly, and over a period of time it built up, then on a washing day all or some if it was tipped into the dolly tub, or later into the new washing machine.

It was used on our hair as shampoo, and in the bath, if soap was needed it was carbolic, and always when we had our ‘neck and earole' wash.

I Remember the Neck and Earhole Wash

Mother always told us, to wash behind our ears,
Neck and earhole what she called it, in our early years,
This is where she always looked, for grime not yet reached,
It'll end up on the pillow, that is why she always preached.

At the sink with bar of carbolic, soap to those don't know,
Lather on your hands and flannel, sleeves rolled to the elbow,
Watched that we made good job, never did she miss,
Must admit it felt so fresh, we went to sleep in bliss.


Father was a dab hand at cutting our hair, but it was not something we ever looked forward to, particularly if he was tired from a hard days work. We had a high stool that the youngest of us sat on at the table, this was what he used while cutting our hair.

The hair clipper were hand operated, the head looked like small sheep shears ( cutter and comb ), and to operate the blades were two handles at the back like miniature scythe handles with knobs half way up to stop his fingers sliding while working them.

Sheep clippers probably work at a few hundred shithers a minuet,these at there fastest would be about fifty or sixty, or how ever fast they could be squose and released with his fist. The other equation in this job was how fast they were pushed up the back of your neck, too fast and its pulled out some of ya hair instead of cutting, and him thinking he was getting on with the job.

He nearly always started with the youngest, the one who would not keep still, so with a free hand would be firmly gripping his chin and face while he cut up the back with the clippers. His patience was often a little frayed by the next one, and so on until the last one had to bite his lip and hold tight to the chair as the clippers raced up for the short back and side job that he did.

I must say he was very good at hair cutting, but he never did anyone else's hair, he did it with pride in his job, if it's a furrow or drilling wheat it had to be straight, if it was hedge laying or thatching his hay or corn stacks they had to be well done and tidy, and so it was with hair cutting. (Even if it was sometimes done in a hurry)

I Remember father Cutting our Hair
It would be around 1946 we went to Seighford school

At the beginning of every, new school term,
Father said with long hair, you'll not learn,
So out with his scissors and comb and clipper,
And lifted us into the old high chair, start with the nipper.

Clippers are worked, by squeezing the handle,
Must be worked at a speed, more than an amble,
He oils them as if, he were clipping the sheep,
And expects us to sit there, without a peep.

He started with clippers, on back of your neck,
And clipped up to where, the cap fitted by heck
Pushing them up faster, than he was clipping,
Pulling your hair by the root, now started blarting. ( a local word for crying)

When he had finished, around sides and ears,
Quake as the comb and scissors appear.
Combing it back, to make it stand up,
And do it again, as if to warm-up,

Gauging the length, one finger neeth comb,
Cut off all sticks through, all over your dome.
Stand back to see if, it's even all round,
Snip to the lock that he missed, falls to ground.

No time for a cloth, round the shoulder or mirror,
Next one he lifts into chair, his turn to quiver,
Only five minuets it takes, as he sweats,
As with sheep, more you do, faster he gets.

The hair cut we had, when we now look back,
Was very much the same, as his corn stack,
Thatched on the top, trimmed up the side,
Old habits' never die, he does it with pride.


It's not white hair that engenders wisdom.
Menander (342 - 292 BC)

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Brin, the St. Bernard guard dog

It was back some forty or more years ago that this incident happens in the next village. On the western outskirts of that village, was a large new house that backed onto field, the last house along that road out of that village, in fact he was the owner of a building firm that built most of the new houses in that village.

The house strands 50 or so yards up away from the road in an elevated position, and being on its own they were aware of the dangers of intruders. To put unwelcome guests off he had a St. Bernard dog that lived in its kennel at the top of the drive.

The man who did the gardens for him also took the St Bernard, Brin, for a walk twice a day for exercise, when anyone was thinking of going up the drive you could hear the dog barking on the end of his chain in a deep slow and loud bark that could be heard half a mile away.
 It must have been on one of those occasions that the dog was testing the strength of his chain, and realised that he was able to go further than usual on the drive, It was the kennel that was moving, and must have given someone a nasty shock that he had come half way down the drive, obviously no one was in at the house.

It was some time later that the gardener got a phone call from the station master to say that Brin was in the middle of the main road on the road junction by the railway bridge. He was just sitting there with his kennel almost a quarter mile from his home, and no one dare to go near him to move him to one side of the road.

So as the gardener eventually arrived, he was able to handle Brin and return him and his kennel back home, no doubt with the kennel well fastened down.

He was only doing his job of guarding the house, but got carried away so to speak, may be on the track of would be intruders, he continued to do his job as house guard for quite a few year on from that incident.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Eric farmed at Cooksland Hall Farm

Sometimes he drove his car on business, a coffin to deliver,
It had a rack across the back, black cloth draped to cover,

Eric was a quiet man, one who never got into a fluster, nothing troubled him, and did not let others trouble him. He always "wore" his pipe and seldom saw him without it, and had his peak cap square on his head if anything tipped forward over his eyes.
Eric took over the farm from his father; a brother ran the local garage or Filling station as they were then called, and he also charged up batteries, the accumulators that you had to have to power the big old wireless, now called radio. Another brother was an estate agent selling property.

He always told the story of him going to his old barber in town, the barber he had gone to for years, and it turned out his barber had just acquired his first electric clippers. Eric got settled in the chair and the gown put round his shoulders, and the barber picked up the new clippers. This was okay but the barber was worse for ware for having had a little too much to drink at lunch time.

He bent Eric's head down forward, put the clippers to the back of Eric's neck, and clipped up the back of his head and right over to the front (like a Mohican cut in reverse). At this Eric jumped up out of his chair, paid the barber, and proceeded with his cap firmly pulled on ( to hide the stripe over his head) to another barber in town to sort out his hair cut. I would imagine he would be highly embarrassed trying to explain what had happened and often wondered if anyone was in the second shop when he went in.

Eric Bennion ( 1900 - 1978 or there abouts)

Eric farmed at Cooksland Hall Farm, next to Seighford Hall,
Walked his cows to pasture, through the Lea Gate as I recall,
In that field was a sports field, with iron rails fenced in,
From the hall played cricket, Eric mowed it for hay, there in,

Nothing ever flustered Eric, he never got in a spin,
His ever smiling eyes tell you, don't worry again begin,
Wore his cap square on his head, and S shaped pipe he chewed,
A waist coat with a thumb he lodged, to problems he allude.

He stands to talk feet slight apart, knees a slight of bend,
Fills his pipe and lights, puffs his smoke while talking to a friend,
Shortish man of stocky build, his boots they're loosely tied,
Trousers match the waist coat, old suit to work applied.

He had a big old car, that he drove so stately past,
His wife could not drive it, but she had a sister Allis,
She had learned to drive OK, and took them all to mass,
Eric got out the chauffeur's job, all he said was "pass".

Eric had a daughter, who went with her mother and aunts,
They all went all over the place, Elizabeth to dad she cants,
Very young just started school, told her dad what happened,
"Allis ditched the car dad", turf and soil beneath she becond.

Sometimes he drove his car on business, a coffin to deliver,
It had a rack across the back, black cloth draped to cover,
Collected from the wheelwrights shop, Jim Clark had just made,
Lined and ready for occupant, to house few days displayed.

In war time we had rationing, can't sell black market then,
Police were on the watch out keen, contraband sold by men,
Half a pig fit unlined coffin, moved it to the next village,
Past the local bobby who, saw a coffin, paid it homage.

This they had so often done, so a pig they wouldn't suspect,
Then had to go be lined and late, to diseased and pay respect,
Both had black caps, and both smoked a pipe,
Salute the law when driving past on a winter's night.

Reg Flower worked for him, the Fergy tractor drove,
Eric drove the shires, behind them he always strode,
Doing all the steady jobs, talking while they work,
Feeding after toil, then back to graze into evening's murk.

Eric bought a hunting horse, to follow the local hunt,
It grazed his pastures with the cows, with halter he affront,
Had rested all the summer long, fresh and keen was he,
Took two of them control at first, to stable they agree.

On with the bridle and the saddle, but still he played them up,
Took him to a ploughed field, where Eric mounted set to gallop,
Horses feet they sank in deep, made it heavy going,
Soon tired and calmed down now, for hunting now needs shoeing.

Eric never got round to retiring, but past the age he was,
Died in harness so to speak, had slowed down to a pause,
Farm chattels sold at his farm sale, to adjoining farms land split,
His Mrs. moved to a bungalow, with village people as befit.


Beware of the young doctor and the old barber.Benjamin Franklin (1706 - 1790)

Saturday, 18 February 2012

I had a Good Old Bike (early 1950's)

The brakes were none existent, and rims they had a dent,
And wobbled as I rode it, and the wheels they were bent.

When ever cattle were move up the road to another field, or when they were first turned out in spring, the younger stock always broke into a fast sprint, which the men could not keep up with them. So it was always done when us kids were at home, they got us to jump onto our bikes and over take the running livestock on the road to make sure they did not go where they were not supposed to.
It was about half a mile to the further summer pastures, with four road turn to either block off or turn them in off the road, and about four more gates to stand in or shut the gates.

The dairy cows were used to this walk to the distant day pastures but at night they stayed on a night pasture close by the cowsheds. If we were off school we were sent to take the cows up the road in the mornings and bring the cows down again in the afternoon , this we did on our bikes.

In the early autumn the laying poultry were taken out onto the wheat stubbles in field ark pens, about fifty to a pen, these were on little cast iron wheels and shoved up the field every few days until they had gleaned over the whole field of stubble. The grain got shaken out in the loading of ripe shoffs of corn that had stood a fortnight in the fields to ripen (two church bells). Wheat was bindered at least two weeks earlier than we do now with a combine, other wise grain would be lost in the cutting and stooking.

Back to the hens, this was another job that we did on our bikes, the hens had to be let out in a mornings before we went to school and then shut in again at dusk. In the summer when we had double summer time (early to mid 1940's) it could be as late as 11 pm before it went dark, and no amount of driving would make them go up the chute into their ark.

The eggs were collected into galvanize buckets, old dented buckets, ones that would not hold water. We put a bit of hay in the bottom and hung one on each side of the handle bars, they held around seven dozen in each bucket, On this one day, I had got a good speed up coming down Bridgeford Bank, the same that we did every day, but I lost control and came off my bike eggs and all, I grazed my knee and elbow what I thought was quite badly, cleaned up most of the broken eggs off the road and those still in the buckets I slung them over the hedge.

On reaching home, no consideration was made as to how my elbow and knees were, but got thoroughly chastised and scolded for breaking two buckets full of eggs. We had cycled with buckets full of eggs many times and as long as ya missed the pot holes the road was quite smooth and very rarely broke any.

I had a Good Old Bike

Remember years ago, when I had a good old bike,
Its mud guards loose and rattled, a new one I would like,
The brakes were none existent, and rims they had a dent,
And wobbled as I rode it, and the wheels they were bent.

The seat was ripped and torn, springs were showing through,
A Saddle bag was hanging, off two little straps askew,
It had a carrier on the back, with long and snappy spring,
A clip to hold my jacket down, save tying it on with string.


The Puncture outfit

I had a puncture outfit, in a tin four inches long,
It had a pack of patches; they didn't look very strong,
A tube of tyre solution, there to glue the patches down,
Sand paper to roughen, and talc in glue it turned brown.

I often had a puncture, when I went over spike or thorn,
Turned it upside down to find, the tyre is well worn,
Off to fetch two table spoons, out of the kitchen draw,
Just to use as tyre leavers, see that mother never saw.

The tyre off the spoons they bent, muck and dirt abound,
Pulling out the inner tube, the hole it must be found,
Clean it up and roughen, peel the patch and stick right on,
Blow it up, only to find, we've only got another one.

Tyre mended blown up hard, now to have some fun,
Standing on the peddles hard, make the old hens run,
Up a hedge bank down a track, riding through the wood,
Good job it's just an old one, sliding through the mud.


I'm lazy. But it's the lazy people who invented the wheel and the bicycle because they didn't like walking or carrying things

Lech Walesa (1943- )

Thursday, 16 February 2012

The Home Guard Contraband (1945 ish)

The railway "lengths men" were a gang of about six men who maintained the railway tracks and fences on their length between half way to Stafford and half way to Norton Bridge based at Great Bridgeford. Father got to know them well as they were also in the home guard.
When father was cutting large field of corn (Wheat) they would hop over the fence for half an hour and help stook the corn, with a gang like that it soon got done. It was the same again when it came to loading the shoffs of corn from the stooks.
Father always took down plenty of pitch forks in anticipation, and they knew when to be working close by. No money changed hands but he gave them plenty of taters and eggs and in the case of the engine driver he got half a pig.

The Home Guard Contraband

The railway line it ran through, some of father's land,
He got to know the railway men, quite a happy band,
They were in the home guard and all the farm men too,
They often jumped over the fence, to load a wagon or two.

For this he gave them taters, or anything they hadn't got,
Often at the home guard meetings, the sergeant got forgot,
For this is where it all changed hands, just behind his back,
If they ever got found out, they'd be on the rack.

An engine driver was among them, he'd got what we want,
He slowed his train by the field, tender full of coal he flaunt,
Every morning at nine thirty, rolled off big lumps of coal,
Father loaded it on his cart, this man he did extol.

A coal house full of best steam coal, mother to do the cookin,
Big bright fire roared round flue, she was so pleased herein,
Only cost a half a pig, its contraband you see,
Delivered by dad and Eric in a coffin, the law could not foresee.


( You see the wheelwright was also the undertaker and coffin maker, and he was also in the home guard, and the local policeman never looked in coffins, so it was easy to move a contraband half a pig in that way)

The railway is a four track line that runs from London to Scotland, and every day the "Flying Scotsman" would run through at full steam at 3.45 pm heading north, and back again sometime during the night. It was said that the lines were cleared of other traffic, so as not to impede its progress, quite a number of other express trains followed including some named ones.

Local trains were diverted onto the slow lines until they had all passed. For some reason the railways, always named the tracks Up Fast , Down Fast, and Up Slow and Down Slow, it was always Up to London, and Down to Scotland. They must have an upside down map.

It was reported by an engine driver that we had had a beast on the line, we went down and a couple of lengths men were sent as well, to clear the carcase off the tracks. On arrival all we found was a half of a yearling's leg and foot, a bit of blood and guts and nothing else could be found, we just presumed it must have been hanging on the buffers of an express train when it arrived at Euston Station in London.

To us, the moment 8:17 AM means something- something very important, if it happens to be starting time of our daily train. To our ancestors, such an odd and eccentric instant was without significance - did not even exist. In inventing the locomotive, Watt and Stevenson were part inventors of time.Aldous Huxley (1894 - 1963)

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Two more Animals in our Lives

Always from behind at speed, he'd leap from five foot back,
Hit you with his bony head, your hip or thighs he'd whack.

With sheep breeding you can bet you will always have some cade lambs about, depending who has reared then, they can turn out to be a dam nuisance. We had one, who, as he got older became
positively dangerous

The Cade Lambs

Years ago had some Cades, reared around the garden,
Tame and bold and cheeky, from us we tried to harden,
But this one tup lamb hard faced, nothing put him off,
Would follow close behind, and charge you from his trough.

Out in the field when he got big, he'd look and give a baaaa,
He would let you get half way in, then start his run from far,
Always from behind at speed, he'd leap from five foot back,
Hit you with his bony head, your hip or thighs he'd whack.

Even if you saw him come, to waive him off you try,
The charge would be just the same, the devil he was sly,
Take off your coat, hang it out, he would be drawn to that,
Like a bullfighter in the ring, he loved to have a spat.

Word got round, keep out that field, cross it if you dare,
Could not see which one he was, from a distance stare,
Then without warning at full speed, to late he's got you marked,
Now it was we must know it's his temper we have sparked.


Another pet we had some years ago when our girls were growing up was April the Goat, she had been round the block so to speak when I bought her, and was more worldly wise than the children she was purchased for.
She was always one move in front of them, and found the only way to keep her in the orchard was to tether her. She would not be led out to the tether, got to be dragged, although there was ample lush grass to eat, so that job always fell to me.

Number one daughter was doing her best to take her out one day soon after we had her and she got her down on a hedge bank, and pinned her horns into the hedge bank either side if her thighs and would not let her go. She would walk back keenly to her shed but defended her food "to the death", they had to lower the bucket of food and water on the end of a cord over the gate.

Everything centred around food once fed and full, they could groom and fuss with her, as long as she was able to lead them where she wanted to go when out on a lead. We kept her around a year until she became totally dominant over the children.

A Goat Called April

We had a goat called April, for the children bought,
As a pet to play with, to feed and water thought,
Give them a little job to do, when they got home from school,
But she was older than we thought, would not be made a fool.

She had long horns up curved, and use them she knew how,
Defend her rights and show the kids, to lead would not allow,
Grazed around the garden, tethered on a chain,
This so we'd know where she was, the only way to restrain.

Brought down at tea time, a feed of corn and hay,
Water in a bucket full, there must be no delay,
The buckets had to be lowered in, on the end of a string,
Or she'd power her way out again, past you or anything.

Leading she'd pinned Diane down, horn each side of her thigh,
Horned dug deep into the turf, not move and made her cry,
So April had to go to market, next Monday was a must,
Ethnic butchers liked her, in the pot next week we ( I ) trust.


The Misses and the girls did not approve of Aprils demise, but she had to go.

It's better to live one day as a lion, than a hundred years as a lambJohn Gotti

Sunday, 5 February 2012

The Village Pump

The village pump,

In olden days in every village, you could find a well,
Middle of all the cottages, close where people dwell,

Just about the last gathering round the village pump before mains water was turned on, this was 1945.
This pump was by the village shop, the other was on the village green by the Church. It was only a few more years that a sewer system and flush toilets were installed then the new council houses were built.

A Well in Every Village

In olden days in every village, you could find a well,
Middle of all the cottages, close where people dwell,
A big old curly handle, so shiny from its use,
Pumping all the water, cool and clear produce.

It had a wooden jacket, to keep the frost at bay,
Insulate with old sacks, sometimes filled with hay,
From half way up the front, a big lead spout protrude,
To hang the buckets on, out which the water spewed.

A sandstone trough beneath, there to catch what spilt,
Drain back into the well, that's the way it's built,
A bright green grassy bank, cept where the people stood,
Worn out by the villagers, who carried all they could.

Wells were used for centuries, before mains water came,
Then were all condemned, and filled in for safety blame,
No more well side meetings, every morning of the year,
Social gathering of women, no longer do appear.


As the villagers moved into the new houses so the old half timbered thatched houses were demolished, over the years the building plots were sold off by the estate and new private houses filled in the spaces down the quarter mile centre of the village.

New Cumbers Council houses in Seighford 1950's

We walked up past the village shop, on our way to school
Big hedge bank and ditch there was, further back a pool
Saw them cut the first sod, cut up trees burn the brash,
Fenced along the back, to build ten houses in a rash.

Dug the first foundations, buv ground built in no time,
Big gang of men there was, scaffolding soon to climb,
Next one started same again, on up to the eves,
Trusses and laths they were next, tiles to receive.

When built and nearly ready, frontage was dug well back,
Opened up the main road, kerbed with grass no lack,
New gates and fences, numbered one to ten,
Now all ready to move in, nearly all were farm men.

People in the village, they were first on list,
Empty all old cottages, on this they did insist,
New house and new garden, everyone was pleased,
Washing line erected, garden path was seized.

On the front lawns were laid and veg patch up behind,
Competition of, who's first produce to table consigned,
All could see what's going on, no hedge to hide the mess,
Hedge had just planted, for wind break we must stress.

All mature and tidy now, some fifty years have gone,
The old front wickets been replaced, although some have non,
Still are numbered one to ten, along a wide grass verge,
Only now are these new houses, look as though to merge.


Old houses mended,
Cost little less than new before they're ended.
Colley Cibber, The Double Gallant Prologue