My job is mobile and I split my time working alternate weeks in Norfolk and Nottinghamshire. I drive down country roads, enjoying rural England through the seasons.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Country Memories

A little local history.

My customer's daughter mentioned that their vicar was leaving, which eventually led the conversation via leaking roofs due to lead theft, and falling attendances in church, to other changes to the village during the past century - my customer (EH) has lived all her life in the same village.   I mentioned that I had another customer who had lived on a farm not many miles away until the A1 Doncaster bypass came to be built, taking some if his land and leaving the remainder split into a number of unequal and now rather inaccessible parts.   So he sold up, moved away into a different life, and now lives retired in another village about 10 miles away.

My lady asked me his family name so I told her (probably a breach of confidentiality, but I couldn't see Mr L minding), and she asked if he had lived in Drayton as if so, she had gone to school with him.

"Tell him "Hello from EH,"" she said.

Naturally her daughter and I asked if she had any funny or interesting stories that I could tease him about - she said not,  he had been very quiet at school.  I laughed at this as Mr L hardly stops to draw breath from the minute I arrive.   He's a lovely chap and tells great stories of his times as a long distance lorry driver - including fantastic (although I'm not entirely sure if they're really true) tales of trips to siberia and the Baltic states hauling animal skins and furs.

EH said that they were all well behaved and quiet at school in those days - possibly a combination of fear of the teacher and extreme tiredness as they all had long walks of 2-3 miles to get to school in the mornings.  On top of that, those children coming from farming families had chores to do before they even set off.  She herself had to cycle down to bring their cows in from down Twyford Lane and milk them before having her breakfast and setting off for school.  

"Of course," she said, "I was always in a great rush to get the milking done, so I used to cycle along the cows, with one arm out on the cow next to me, getting them along.  But then one day a farmer saw me and told me dad.  "You want to tell that lass of yours," he said, "they're cattle, not race horses!"  So after that I had to go a bit slower, for a while at least."

EH will be 95 this year, born at the end of the Great War, has lived all her life in the same village, still walks up to a mile every day, and has a placid happy view of life that I often envy.

I have to admit I do encourage my customers to take trips down memory lane, especially if they relate to working on the land, or landscapes that have changed considerably in the last 50-60 years.  When I think about it, I'm a bit of a fraud; I have my iPhone and iPad, carry them almost everywhere with me, spend countless hours on the web, couldn't live without my daily hot bath, central heating, washing machine.  And still, I feel nostalgic for an England that has almost disappeared, both in landscape and in practice.