The Strid

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Happy river, singing, tossing,

Threads of diamonds to the sky,

Heedless of the waiting monster,

Crouching ready to devour her,

Drag her to the hidden caverns,

On the surface rising bubbles,

Gurgling breaths of dying victims.

;

Peering down the oily deepness.

Of the dark and boiling cauldron,

From the fearsome fascination,

Of the horror that would draw me,

With the erstwhile happy river,

Flee blindly up the hillside,

Crushing bluebells in my panic.

Sentimental Journey – 1980s

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I looked but couldn’t find the house where I was born,

Bulldozed down it was, the ground allscarred and torn,

Four square it had stood, welcoming all men,

The inn, home of my parents, I had wished to see again,

At six, Dad served the night-shift from the foundry near,

A tot of rum and coffee – a striped pint mug of beer,

Either was only tuppence, unless you were the “class”

Who drank their beer in the best room. At threepence a glass,

There on some mornings was put out a tray,

Cheese, bread and onions – nothing to pay.

Scotch whiskey came in kegs, pungent it was strong,

My father would mix and bottle it while I stood along,

Side of him, setting his instruments out,

Hydrometer, thermometer, weights, ladle and chart

Helpers we had, they were not far to seek,

“Live as family, all found, four shillings a week”,

Mum ran the house, in the bar did her share,

Cared for us kids, and always was there.

A close loving family with trusted and tried,

Servants who loved us, and stayed until they died.

I gazed on the site of my home once so dear,

Can’t show people round, that’s abundantly clear,

When asked for my birthplace, in truth I must state,

I was born on the Bradford New Trading Estate.

 

Royal Wedding – 1981

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We’re going to the Wedding, my buddies and I,

Of Bonny Prince Charlie and the fair Lady Di,

We’re watching the whole of the magical sight

From the first Good-morning, to the last Good-night.

My room bright with flowers of red, white, and blue,

Chairs placed so that everyone has a good view,

Hearing-aids tested, specs polished high

To give the first glimpse of the sweet Lady Di.

I’ve a bottle of Plonk, the young couple to toast,

And dainties to prove I’m a fairly good host,

A Plum Cake I’ve baked, of expense I’ve been ruthless,

I’ve even provided Jam Sponge for the toothless.

See the overnight crowds with their joking and banter

The gallant young Guardsman, their horses a-canter,

The Windsors, the Spencers, guests aristocractic,

Th lofty Cathedral, serene and dramatic.

The hush there inside when along comes the Bride,

The Prince steps to meet her, they stand side by side,

The thrill of silence frompeople around,

As Heads of the Church read the service profound.

“ I Will” spoken up firm and clear like a man,

We shan’t hear the Bride, its seldom one can,

With hands joined together I’ll think of the day,

When someone took myhand in just the same way.

And so down the aisle the Bridegroom and Bride,

Eyes bright and shining, smiles wider that wide,

But we choke on “ God Bless Them” my buddies and I,

As we take up our hankies to have a good cry.

Church bells are pealing, the pigeons are wheeling,

Cannons are booming, o’erhead planes are zooming,

Charles, Heir to the Throne, with the trust it entails,

Presents his Diana, now princess of Wales.

Then home to our bedsits to put up our feet,

And back to the telly to watch the repeat,

And at bedtime with Christopher Robin to say,

“Thank You, dear God, for a wonderful day”.

 

The Other Side – 1970s

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“Lucky that Landlord, its closing time soon,

Nothing to do till tomorrow at noon!”,

But you and I know,

That this is not so.

What washing-up and cashing-up,

Stocking-up and locking-up,

Swabbing tables, ash-trays too,

Check that no-one left in the Loo

At midnight doing the hardest chores

After the pub has closed its doors.

When I called my “Retirement Time”

The customers’ views at once became mine,

With nothing to do, what a life I would lead,

I’d breakfast in bed, the news I would read.

Fine days I would take a stroll in the park,

Watch T.V. in the evenings dark,

But this was not to be.

No! Siree!.

You hardly have time to draw your pension

Before you are asked for support and attention

To Meals on Wheels, and other deals

At Hospital Teas show your expertise.

With so much charity work I’ve found

There’s hardly time to turn myself round.

I think I’d better “un-retire”

And go back to work.

It’s easier.

 

Summertime – 1914

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One overgrown garden, an old cab, a family of four lively children, plus as many neighbours’ kids as could be collected, a shallow bit of the river roped off by my father, two loads of sand tipped beside it (2s 6d a load) and tents made of old curtains.

These were the basic ingredients of our summertimes during the Great War.

There was no money for seaside holidays, and no one to take us anyway as our parents were busily occupied making meals for horse-drawn wagonette parties. Thick home-fed ham, one, two or three eggs, as much home-made bread and butter, jam pasties and as many cakes as one could eat (1s 6d).

With the river our sea, the sand our beach, the tents our dwellings, the cab our transport, who wanted a seaside holiday. In imagination we travelled hundreds of miles as cowboys, prospectors explorers, you name it.

Then the highlight of the long holiday – Bingley Tide. A ringside view, the arrival of the “Cockerels” and swings and, oh pinnacle of envy for the girls at least, two glamorous girls who danced a sort of can-can to lure visitors to the “Bioscope”.

The Funeral of Edward VII came year after year compared by a stentorian-voiced attendant who announced the identities of the mourners. I never knew there were so many kings!

No money but we had what so many of today’s children lack – room to play. And our cup over-flowed.

 

A Day In The Dales – 1912

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This is an account of a day getting to The George at Thoralby. Nowadays the Dales can be reached from the West Riding in about a couple of hours, but in 1912, the date of my story, it was a day’s journey.

Our destination was Thoralby, near Aysgarth and our party consisted of Mother; children; 10 and 8 and myself (12); plus an old english sheepdog.

Living in Keighley, then a town of foundries, textile mills with tall mill chimneys emitting smoke and smog day and night, my Dad had the idea that fresh country air would be beneficial, so we set off by train early onemorning. Our luggage consisted of a large basket in two pieces fitting one inside the other. This held an enormous amount of clothes and raincoats: tennis racquets etc. were carried.

On arrival at Skipton we embarked on a local train to Grassington. There we had lunch at a pub, and waited for our next mode of transport. This turned out to be a large open coach, a folded hood at the back which, in case of rain, had to be dragged over by the driver and passengers, and fastened with straps.

During the journey to Buckden we ran from one side to another, enchanted by wild roses in the hedgerows, dog daisies, campions and cranesbill. We traced out the baby Wharfe flowing alongside the road. The Driver gave us a demonstration of the famous “Kettlewell Echo” by honking on his rubber-bulbed horn.

Arriving at Buckden we waited for our transport for the next stage. This was a small horse-drawn wagonette, very high and wobbly. To his great delight my brother was allowed to ride on the box with the driver. Occasionally we had to walk up a hill, and enjoyed scampering along the road, exclaiming at the little streams sparkling in the sunshine. Rabbits scuttled out of our way, and clusters of hazelnuts in rosettes of leaves promised future delight.

Eventually we reached the village and our destination, The George, where we were welcomed by our hostess. and Mother bought beer for the very thirsty driver which was fetched from the cellar in a jug. Mother and Mrs Beck then elegantly toasted each other with a wine glass of Port: the in drink for ladies at the time,

A huge cooked meal with the local Wensleydale cheese and curd tart laced with rum rounded off our “Day in the Dales”.

 

Wash Day – 1910

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I was taken to live at Bingley in the first decade of the century, when my father became landlord of the “Ring of Bells” which is now the Church House.

Washdays as I remember them really started on Sunday night. All the clothes we had worn during the week were put to soak in the big wooden tub filled with hot soapy water. On Monday morning my mother and the little housemaid were up at crack of dawn, sleeves rolled up, a lovely warmkitchen with a delicious small of steamy soapsuds in the air.

The fire was lit under the brick-built copper in one corner and while the water was heating up the clothes were sorted into heaps; bedding and towels in one heap; tablecloths, serviettes and covers in another; and what the maid called “body-clothes” in a third. Becoming more refined she later described this last group as “personals”.

The white clothes were always washed first, put into a tub and pounded with a “posser”; an article like a thick wooden muffin on a stick. This she operated with great vigour. Stubborn stains were rubbed on a rubbing-board which are now used as a musical instrument in certain types of bands. Stubborn places like shirt-necks, collars and cuffs merited special attention. During this time a large bowl of starch and another of blue water were being prepared. Blue-water was made from a small block of blue powder wrapped in a piece of cotton material tucked around a small peg – his was known as a “dolly blue”. After rinsing there was the arm-aching job of the clothes being put through the heavy wooden rollers of the mangle, and finally, weather permitting, they were pegged out on a clothes-line in the back yard. It was considered the mark of a good house-wife to have her “whites out before breakfast”.

Sheets and towels were not starched of course, shirts only slightly, but collars and table-linen came in for real good stiffening.

My mother washed her blouses and children’s garments, lace doilies etc. by hand, using a special brand of soap I have never encountered since those days. It was called “Preservene” and was supposed to come from Australia, and bore the trademark EEEE (Four Es). The other clothes were washed with bars of Watson’s Matchless Cleanser, which I believe was a Bradford firm.

The drying time was a long process in bad weather; a tall clothes-horse in front of the fire and a rack worked by a pulley slung from the ceiling. This was called the breadrack because oval pancakes of Oat-Cakes were spread on it to dry – although not, of course, among the clothes. Small articles were spread out on top of the brass-railed fireguard when the children were at school – a very tedious time-consuming process.

Then came the folding, often a second mangling, lastly the ironing, and airing on the Breadrack.

The daily Washerwomen usually finished her part by about 4 o’ clock, and counted herself well paid at 2/- per day including dinner, tea, and Dad’s contribution at elevenses of “half o’ Tets”.

These were known as “The Good Old Days”.