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Thursday, August 3, 2017

On the farm........................

When I was first starting school I was introduced to Margaret Dryden, her mum knew my mum because my mum worked in a village shop. Grove Farm was located down Bidwell Hill past the Thorn turn and at the bottom of Lord's Hill. They had 1/2 mile driveway to the road. Well to catch a bus into the village to go to school they had to walk the drive and wait at the end and flag down the bus. As it was usually the same drivers they knew to look for them. The morning bus came too early for school and so it was that Mrs Dryden asked my mum if Margaret could come to our house to wait and walk to school with me. So began a life long friendship.
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Margaret would also stay at my house until it was time to get the bus in the evening to go home again. Rather a bleak walk up that drive come winter but that's the way it was. During the school holidays and weekends I spent a lot of time down on the farm. I could walk down there, maybe 2 miles and stay all day before walking back home again. Sometimes I would catch the bus. I learned so much during those times. Margaret's Dad never left the farm. He had lost a leg some time and he had a cane. I can see him now with his cap and boots, waistcoat and looking like a typical farmer. He never spoke to us kids, nor us to him. That included his three younger kids. Margaret had an older brother Brian and two younger siblings, Jennifer and Roger. I never heard any of them speak to their dad. I am sure they had to at some point but not in my hearing.
Margaret, Jennifer and Roger.
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Margaret and Me
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Mr Dryden did buy them a pony, named Lucky. It was a Welsh pony and seemed wild. He he.......well it sure didn't want to be caught and they would spend quite some time chasing Lucky around with a rope. Once in awhile Lucky ran out of luck and got saddled. I rode him once and off we went up the drive took me half way around a field to turn him back to the farm. Thank goodness Lucky didn't feel like running otherwise I would have been done for.
Margaret and Lucky.
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Roger holding Lucky so he doesn't run off with me. I had never been on a horse before and Lucky didn't know what he was doing either.
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We had all kinds of adventures. We got to raise baby sheep when rejected by mum, they would be brought in and sleep in front of the fire in the living room. Giving them a bottle and a snuggle was so sweet. I saw a lamb being born one day..........we loved to collect eggs from the resident chickens. The kids were able to keep any baby chicks they found and raise them to then keep egg money later on. It was free range and so we would get the eggs from nesting boxes from under hens sometimes and also search for those who lay elsewhere. The hay stacks and hay barn were prime locations.
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We loved playing in the hay barn. The big old beams were great to walk on when the barn was full and swing on when not. We would hide kittens when we found those so the dad would not drown them. He would not do that once they were old enough and have their eyes open so we would hide them till then.
Some years he had baby cows, must have been veal but we knew nothing of that...........he sometimes kept cows probably for meat later but again we didn't know any of that stuff. We were indeed innocents. The sheep would get dipped and shorn and someone would come in to do that. Fun to watch. Then the sheep went to market along with our little wards.
Dunstable Market. I was so naive as a child and loved the cattle market days. Now not so much. Dunstable was a market town and had a great market every weekend.
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Brian, the older brother worked all his life on the farm, he would only go as far as the Red Lion about a mile from the house. He had a friend Andy who also worked on the farm. We thought he was gorgeous and I think all us girls had a crush on him. Funny thing is when we were older he hit on both of us telling the other to not tell anyone. Margaret ended up marrying his brother Eddie. Anyway I don't know what happened to Andy I lost touch and heard he died quite young.
Margaret and Eddie's wedding. I am bridesmaid
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I loved Harvest time. We would get to help. The combine would cut the corn (wheat) and the straw would get baled and we would ride on the baler and shove it off the back. We just liked being with the guys out in the fields. Summers were heaven for us. We could walk for miles and never be bothered.
Not us but something like this.
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Mr Dryden would go about his work and we seldom Saw him, but his work was never done. Fixing the hedgerows and ditches when there were not animals to be cared for. The English hedgerows are a work of art. The ditches had to be kept clear of debris and the hedges so thick that no animal could escape through them.
The cows were sometimes allowed in the woods. Just a small spinney but we loved playing in it. The back field was on a hill and at the back of that a lane went all the way back to Sundon Rd. There was a dump back there and lots of rubber that would be set on fire. No idea whose that was but one day me and Roger had a long piece of rubber that was burning in the middle well we both pulled on the ends and it broke splattering burning rubber on my forehead. I have a small scar to prove it.
Margaret and myself at the Norfolk Broads one summer
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Farm life was fun, some years the Gypsy's would come to the village and camp across the road from the farm on Thorn Turn. I remember getting a set of pram wheels out of the hedge one year from stuff they left behind. These days they call them travelers and they have campers not horses and gypsy caravans. Every miss deed was always blamed on the Didicoys who would come house to house selling pegs from baskets, ladies in long skirt and head scarves. The men would sharpen knives and things like that. They always seemed to leave a mess though and are still resented and still show up in the village now and then, but now have assigned places to park rather than in farm fields.
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The Washbrook was a small clear stream that ran under the road at Bidwell, there famously my Uncle Alan was washed of sewage when he fell in with his Sunday (wool) suit on while birds nesting. We would catch tadpoles and newts and paddle in it.....not so adventurous as my dad was. We also played down the Blue Waters and caught Sticklebacks. We would climb the shear chalk cliffs and look for fossils. Apart from the farm I would walk miles and miles on my own all the way to Tebworth and back down Lords Hill sometimes stopping in at the farm for a drink of water. We would stop at anyones house or farm when we were kids and ask for a drink of water. The ladies would always give us one too. I remember getting stung by a wasp and knocking on a farm door to tell someone. My finger was swollen and the farm lady put a blue bag on it to take the swelling down. I have no idea who she was and she didn't know me. That's how it was back then.
Vacation time again at Yarmouth with Margaret, the year I met Graham.
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When we reached our teens things changed. We discovered boys. Margaret would come away with me when we went on holiday. We would go to the Norfolk broads for two weeks every summer and she always came too. Then once we were working she spent most weekends at my house instead of me at hers. We would go to London and most weekends go dancing. We would go to concerts and see all the big bands of the day (the 1960s we were soooo lucky) dancing and boys took over from farm life. We enjoyed it all. I left school as 15 (only just 15) because Margaret was already working by then and had money. I needed money not school so that's what I did. Silly me. Eventually Margaret got married. I went to live in London for a time and life moved on. Margaret and I are still in touch. I saw her last when we went home when Mum died but thanks to Facebook we can talk any time we want.
Grove Farm
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Life long friends are the best.
Norfolk again. A small village called Wroxham.
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Maybe I will write more stories. Always good to remember friends These were taken when I went home when Mum died..............I think I will always have to visit the farm when I go home. Cant forget those good times.
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Diana Kosmoski said...

OMGOSH- I read this quickly and then went back and re-read every word. I hope you print this out so that your grandkids can read this someday. We, too, lived a life much like yours with farming, harvest, walking for miles, and never feeling afraid to approach a farmhouse. How things have changed now. Just such a loss of innocence.

I used to love going to the stock market with my dad-and watch the cows/other animals get auctioned off. My dad was friends with the owner so we would always sit up in his office and watch the sale from there. There was a wire strung up and when something was sold the man down in the stock yard 'show area' would clip a large metal tag onto that wire and with a hard push send it up over the tiered seating area. It would come right through the window into the office and the owner would mark down who bought the animal and accrue it to the right account. I played "office" for years going there.

Hope you have a great weekend and I really LOVED reading the story of you and Margaret's long friendship. Nothing better than an old friend that has known us the whole of our life. xo Diana

Magic Love Crow said...

What a great post Janice! Thank you for writing it! I love all the pictures too! So much fun!!!
(My friend, the post you commented on my blog with, was a while ago. I have posted a lot since then. I'm doing excellent! Painting, gardening and exercising! Thanks for asking!) Big Hugs!