Thursday, 24 February 2011

The View

I recently found two pieces of writing by my late father. These were to be the first two sections of the book he was going to write about his family history.

"I had stopped the car halfway up the hill beside a gate into one of the fields and was now surveying the scene below. It appeared new and at the same time familiar to me. The contours of the fields, the hedges surrounding them, together with the wood to the right were as I remembered but where was the farm that used to nestle at the foot of the hill? Now all that could be seen were the central farm buildings. The fields immediately surrounding were now occupied by a modern housing estate. Even the stack yard, where they used to bring the newly cut wheat to be placed in neat stacks until the travelling threshing machine came to do its work, was now the site of someone's proud residence. In the distance I could see some of the familiar landmarks of the town I used to know, although here also there seemed to be differences but for the moment I could not take in what they were. Even on the lower slopes of the hills on the other side of the vale, housing estates were now beginning to spread their way up the hills where once only the occasional farm or lonely cottage would have been seen.

The scene triggered off recollections of days long past and forgotten stories of over sixty years ago. Did I really remember them or were they just my memories of family tales told by the fireside in the days before conversation and story telling were replaced by the 'telly'?

When I was about four years old, my family moved from the town to a cottage further up the hill from where I was standing. In those days, a 'flitting' was a major event, no removal firms expertly to do the work for you. Instead a horse and cart was hired and all the friends and relations 'mucked in' to do their bit. In the pandemonium that ensued there was no place for a four year old boy. It would have been too much of a temptation for his capacity for mischief. So I was put in the care of my Uncle John, a rather strange man to a four year old. He seemed to be continually sucking a pipe which gave off thick clouds of foul smelling smoke and his conversation was in the main limited to grunts interspersed with the odd 'aye' or 'naw'. I remember standing at the same gate with my uncle when there was a loud bang further down the hill from where the horse and cart were bringing the family goods.

"What's that," I asked.

"I suppose it's the piano falling off the cart," replied my uncle.

And I could almost hear a little voice saying, "But we haven't got a piano, Uncle John."

The privacy of my journey into the past was broken by a voice from the car. It was my daughter asking if I was going to stay here all day. A reasonable enough question, I suppose, since I had brought my wife and daughter on a touring holiday and the view held no special significance for them. We continued up the hill."

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