After spending some time in the West Country last week, my thoughts have returned to childhood on the moor.
A Village Prose Poem
They called it Udecombe, the Anglo Saxons, digging their ditches and mounding the moors and finding their way up from the river, steep and solemn and slow. And that was long before Arthur Clardle welshed his way over the Bristol channel, praying for tin and building the chapel; and long before the Reverend Bansey became the last vicar to ride between his parishes, boozey Bansey that he was, before and after the fall; and it must have been before Mr Pugsley was the last to brass his horses, although Mrs Pugsley polished her knocker long after, and Irene Pugsley had the brassiest knockers of them all.
It wasn’t all over ‘til the fat lady sang: the Rest and Be Thankful had skittle nights and bottle fights and cider tight collapsing sights and from the crossroads to the cottage was starlight only and uphill all the way home. And it can’t have been long before Mr Dandy and his Dalmatian incame, gave lifts up over the top to Dunkery and down to the co-op in Wooten Courtenay which meant they were forgiven their spots by all except Mrs Hetherham, who had a telescope for a garden path and whose budgie turned out to be stuffed. Ned was one door down from her and he lived to a hundred and five and when he died they said they’d use his beard for bailer twine. Turps was two up the other way and lived slightly longer than his name would imply, whilst poor old Rosemary only made it to forty three which was the same as her waist - and co-incidentally the same as the number of marrows left at the harvest supper the year the pig broke in to the village hall.
The front of the gate to the side of us was owned by two doors down and the shed on the end of the barn to the right of us belonged to them up over the way. And Lower House Farm was higher than Higher House Farm, and New Farm was older than Old Barn and The Forge was the name of the B&B and the Blacksmith had moved to the sea. It was an upsidedown cake of a village, the like of which the Saxons could never have dreamed of, and when we feasted on Ms White’s bread and butter pudding we could count the currants on the fingers of one hand; but on the other hand, if we broke off a beech bough and prodded the snowdrifts at Easter, we would find lambs.