Monday, 6 February 2017

Flies at the window. 34

Flies at the window.

Some fifty years ago we had an old uncle who died alone in his house and no one found him until two weeks had gone by.
Uncle Jack was father’s younger brother, he never got married and lived at home on the farm with his own father and his step mother, he did the day to day running the farm. As his father (my grandfather) got older and not capable of any work my father Charlie went across with his tractor doing a bit of ploughing and harvesting work to help keep things going.
When grandfather died , in the late 1940’s it became apparent the Jack had no desire to continue with the farm, so the farm was sold up and he came to live with us at The Beeches. He had his own room and had his meals at the table with our family increasing the work load that mother had to cope with, (seven of us round the table every day for meals). As you can imagine mother was not too impressed with that idea but she went along with it for about two years, during which time he worked for his brother Charlie on our farm.
Eventually Jack got a job at the town’s sewage works, where it turned out,  he was the only one who could use a scythe (before the days of strimmers) to keep the whole site clear of long grass and weeds round the filter beds. At the same time he bought his own house in town a terraced house, where father used to go and see him most weekends.
Two or three years on.-- This one weekend when father went to see Jack he could not raise him by knocking on the front door or ringing the bell, and thought he must be out shopping or summat. Next weekend came and the same thing happened and thought that’s strange, so went round the block of houses up an entry to Jack’s back door, which was latched but not locked.
On entering he found his brother collapsed on the floor dead, he had obviously been there for over a week and possibly two weeks. He was not a very talkative man and would not mix with his neighbours very well, and being brought up on a farm you never had close neighbours (shoulder to shoulder so to speak) in his life like you do in terraced houses.  
All the authorities were told and investigations found he had died of natural causes, but it only goes to prove how important neighbours are, who, had he got to know them, might have looked in well before my father did.

In the 1970’s I had a scare with my neighbour Reg, that’s the neighbouring farm. I was carting small bales of straw (big bales had not been invented in our part of the world then) and two field back away from the road Reg had driven his combine twice round the field of corn and was stopped with the engine running with a slight blue puffs of smoke from the exhaust. And hour later it had not moved so I unhitched and shot off round the lanes to see what had happened to him.
He lived and worked on his own and nearly always had his brother come to help at harvest time, but this day he had not come. So pulling up in a great hurry, I startled Reg who had broken a section on his blade and dare not stop the engine as it had not got a good enough battery to be reliable. I explained what I had seen from the distance, thinking he had fallen off the top of the combine or fallen onto the header and reel, you see it was one with no cab. However it was great relief to see he was okay, and he was pleased to know I had noticed and acted as I did.
It was around that area that a farmer who lived on his own, other side of town to us, one evening was getting out his potato harvester out, servicing and greasing it ready for the seasons work. He was found the following day, the tractor still running and the potato harvester being run by its power take off (PTO) and him underneath jammed in the tines and rotating machinery not able to get out and died before he was found.

All this was brought back to mind last week when I had got up around 7am and opened the upstairs curtains, and started to do a bit of work on the computer. You see I am in my retirement house in the middle of the village and having all the farm records and other stuff which had got to be retained for a few years I commandeered the small front bedroom as my office.
Normally, I would have gone down stairs and opened the front curtains, but the day I got engrossed in writing (a bit like I am doing now) and stuck at it and lost the sense of time. Then to bring me back to from my thinking, there came a loud knocking on the front door and the door bell ringing, it was 9am. It was a young lady from down the road who was just taking her two children to the village school and noticed my front room curtains still closed, and on her way back came to see if I was okay. Jumping up from the computer I opened the upstairs window and looked out to see her looking at me with great relief, “Are you alright” she called, then I had to tell her how grateful I was, and nice to know I had got such very good neighbours who would notice things out of the ordinary, and act on the spur of the moment.

There is a chap named Dan who owns and manages a large herd of milking cows, they now run over the land I gave up a couple of years ago, a number of farms being amalgamated to make a big dairy unit.
 I get on very well with him, I offer him advice and he in his modern unit thinking ignores it in a tongue in cheek sort of way, he always tells me he is keeping an eye on me, every time he runs up the village (quite a few time every day from one unit to the other) on his quad bike or on the tractor he looks to see the curtains have been opened.
 I in turn told him that “dunna leave it till windows are full of sodin flies as that would be too bloody late”.
It is very reassuring to know that I have very good neighbours, my daughter and Barry only lives a couple of hundred yards/metres down the road by the church, so I feel very comfortable among a village full of good folk.

Owd Fred

Laws are spider webs through which the big flies pass and the little ones get caught.
Honore de Balzac (1790 – 1850)

Saturday, 21 January 2017

I Remember Killing the Pig

I Remember Killing the Pig

We watched when we were kids, fingers in our ears,
Then bang the butcher shot him, cut its throat mid tears,  


I never knew who owned the pig bench but it went round all the village to who ever had got a pig ready for killing.

I Remember Killing the Pig

About once a year the butcher called, for to kill a pig,
Scrubbed off the pig bench, it was heavy and big,
Don't know whose it was, but around the village it went,
To lay the pig on when it's killed, four wooden legs all bent.

Starve the pig from day before, empty belly they need,
Then the butcher prepares his tools, then the pig to lead,

By a noose round his snout, mid squealing protest struggle,
Took three men to lift on bench, to hold it on they grapple.

We watched all this when we were kids, fingers in our ears,
Then bang the butcher shot him, and cut its throat mid tears,
It happened fast, the kids will learn; catch the blood in bucket,
Kicking stopped, and bucket full, into pantry put it.

Very hot water poured all over, and scrape the hair all off,
 He scalded the hooves, with a hook ripped the hoof clean off,
This was the worst when he opened it up, all put into the barrow,
Save the heart, liver and kidneys, same sequence always follow.

Then with a "tree", like a big clothes hanger, lifted pig to beam,
 Left to set almost week, butcher returns, to watch were keen,. 
The head comes off to make the brawn, boiled in a great big pot,
The rest is quartered, for to salt down, onto the setlas brought.

Some fresh pork saved to use right now, take the neighbours some,
Other do the same as well, almost every month a treat become,
Two hams in muslin bags are hung, on hook in pantry cool,
The bacon too is done the same, enough to make you drool.

Mother makes the faggots and black puddings from the blood,
Nothings ever wasted, fat is rendered down, the scratching's good,
Lard for frying and cooking, stored all in big stone jars,
Lined up in the pantry, all the work done, by our poor old m'a.

Owd Fred

Mother would not kill off a hen that was young and healthy, or an old one that was laying, it was always a chalky arsed one, that was almost spent out. They were never aloud to die, she would get them just before that get it plucked and in the pot never having gone cold.

 Mothers Mid Week Chicken Dinner

In mid week we often had, "chicken" for our dinner,
Tough old hen more soup than meat, always it was a winner,
So after breakfast mother went, to feed the laying hens, 
On her way she would note, the one who's still in pens,

If it looked as if not laying, she would ring its neck, 
Hang it in the coal shed, all flap and no more peck.
Pulling on the old tea cosy, well down over her ears,
And an old mac kept for this job, doesn't matter how it appears.

Feathers and the fluff do fly, and also mites do run,
This is why she's well covered up, as it is so often done,
With the news paper on the table, to be drawn it is now ready,
And out with good sharp knife, off with legs and neck all bloody.

Nick below the parson's nose, with hand the guts she pulls the lot,
Saves the heart and gizzard, also neck to make the stock,
Into the pot this tough old hen, no time for it to go cold,
Steamed for a good two hours, till lid is hot to hold.

Into the pot goes all the veg, and a heap of part boiled taties,
Given another half hour simmering, before it hits the platters,
We all come in for dinner time, lunch to someone posh,
Plates piled up, our bellies to fill, we loved our chicken nosh.

Owd Fred

In the kitchen at the Beeches the kitchen floor sloped from east to west, with the fire place range on the south side. (Get the picture)
It was a blue brick floor the same as in the stable, and the walls were the bare bricks painted, one colour usually green half way up and a lighter colour round the top usually green, to the side of the chimney brest  was mothers new Jackson electric cooker, where she cooked the bacon or porridge in a mornings before the range had properly got going.
I remember the porridge would lift the lid with cooking and spill down the sides welding the pan to the cooker, Porridge had to simmer for an hour just to cook, no instant heat and eat, like the two minuet porridge of today, they were rolled raw oats.
To the other side of the chimney brest was a built in cupboard with a half bottom door and half top door stable door style if you like to call it, there was some hot pipes running through this cupboard and the Kellogg Cornflakes were kept to keep dry, along with the sugar and flour. This was a cupboard that was often raided by mice but they disappeared up into the ceiling following the pipes.
To the north side was a large cupboard with four draws at the bottom, and two big opening doors on the top half, on the top shelf dad kept his pipe and bacca  though he did not us it that regular, us kids tried it out one night with dried tea leaves, cus we could-na find any bacca. We all had one good drag and it literally spun us off our feet, and I never ever smoked again, perhaps a good lesson learned early.
Also on the top shelf was the shot gun cartridges, quite a few boxes, stacked as these were used to get our rabbit dinner once a week, and occasionally a poached pheasant. In the rest of the shelves were the bottles and jar that had been opened and part used like jams and pickles and that posh word for salt vinegar and pepper, a cruet.

The Kitchen Floor it sloped.

I remember when we were kids, kitchen floor it sloped,
Sat down at meal times, mother to top end coped,
Kitchen table vinyl cloth, also it did tilt,
Father down one side, safe from anything that spilt.

Always there is one, who's clumsy as a kid,
Put him at the lower end, own mess he is amid,
Tip the water over, or a cup of tea,
It runs down the table, straight into his knee.

Four of us took it in turns, not to be so clumsy,
Other three would laugh, all sitting dry and cosy,
A dam good lesson that it was, with instant results,
 Chair at the lower end, reserved for bumble foots.


We had visiting mice in the house from time to time but mother was crafty, and they did not last long, She always had a couple of mouse traps and a lump of stale cheese pressed onto them, being thrifty the same piece of cheese would often catch more than one mouse.

A Mouse in the Cupboard

Sitting in the kitchen one night, by the kitchen fire,
Mother knitting father reading, us lads getting tired.
Then we heard a rustling, in the cupboard by chimney brest,
It was Kellogg's corn flakes trickling, a mouse the little pest.

He had sat and chewed a hole, right through cornflake box,
Found food for his little belly, where our mother keeps her stocks,
He disappeared up round some pipes, still the flakes they fell,
Keeping warm and well fed, if we find him give him hell.

Set the mouse trap on the shelf, loaded up with cheese, 
For this it would attract him, one bite would make him sneeze,
Spring will slap him on the head, teach him not to steal,
Wasteful little blighter, to us it was our meal.

Owd Fred

A crust eaten in peace is better than a banquet partaken in anxiety.
Aesop (620BC-560BC)


Thursday, 12 January 2017

Blast from the past 32 Jack of all trades

Jack of all trades and master of none

A job well done (If you try harder)

Over my lifetime there are not many jobs that I have not tackled, and as with every job, the more you do of that particular job the better you get at it.

On the domestic side
Take hair dressing for example, not that far fetched from sheep shearing, or cattle clipping, when we were kids (four of us lads), father used to cut our hair with clippers that he had to squeeze with his hand to operate the blade.
The problem was when he was in a hurry, (and it was always the first day of a new term), which he often was, he would push the clipper up the back of ya neck faster than what he was operating the blade, the result was he was pulling our hair by the roots.

 He did make a good tidy job, and many compared it with how he thatched his ricks of hay and corn, combed down to the eves and clipped up the sides.

On the workshop side 
Take welding, unless you get a bit of tuition, and then get plenty of time to put into practice what you have just learnt, its no use. In my case it’s a matter of tapping the rod onto the metal until you get a spark, then keep melting the rod into the joint. In reality, the rod more often than not gets stuck and welded to the job. After a vigorous twisting and pulling it breaks free, peeling and cracking the coating off the rod making it impossible to strike an arc to get going again.  Must admit, my welding has been called and likened to pigeon shit welding. So I get by on doing repairs that are not too crucial or to essential, just bog standard welding.

I’ll never be a “sparkie”
All things electrical are very mystical to me, as soon as a wire disappears into a wall, it come out a different colour at the other end. Two way light switches, for example,
they beat me every time,  its okay to fit a new bulb holder, or new three pin plug and simple thing like that.
Another thing that is always awkward for me that does not crop up very often is the trailer light sockets and plugs, with , is it seven or nine wires to connected in to  correspond to what the vehicle wires want to convey.  Wiring looms, alternators, and the back or the inside of  a vehicle dash boards are way beyond my comprehension,  Fuses I can manage, but on the modern tractor there can be thirty or more, thank goodness for the instruction book, it lists and numbers them and what strength of fuse to use.

I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody
Bill Cosby (1937)