Monday was always washday
Heralded by the lighting of the copper fire
Once the water was hot
And clothes boiling merrily away
My mother would prepare breakfast.
There was always a cooked breakfast
Eating a packet of crisps on the way to school
In those days would have been looked on with horror!
The wash consisted of
Bedclothes from three beds
And our personal clothing.
Sheets were always white cotton
Blowing on ‘the line’ during winter mornings
Put the colour of snow to shame.
The plentiful supply of hot water
On washday’s was never wasted.
Cookers were cleaned, tabletops scrubbed
And floors washed
All before twelve o’clock dinner.
Now a switch is flicked and it’s
Off to the Supermarket or a ‘Coffee Morning’
Kent Electric made the ‘Oilman’ redundant,
Never again to hear the cry
“Trim those wicks and fill the lamps before it’s dark”.
His candles weren’t needed either
No more to see the candle’s reflection on an aged cracked ceiling.
A freshly snuffed candle had an aroma all it’s own.
‘Ger’ Wildash and Bill Hubbard
Scented the village with a different aroma
The smell of newly baked bread,
From their respective horse drawn delivery vans.
I helped Bill on occasions during school holidays
That smell lingers on in my nostrils.
We now have sliced bread in a plastic wrapper
Still damp from an unknown cold store.
Fred Hales delivered our milk
Twice a day, breakfast and tea times
His milk can on the handle bar of his cycle,
His measure clanging against the milk can
As he neared our house.
What ever our requirements
There was always an extra dip of his measure
To give us a little more.
If we ever ran short
We could always call at White Leaf
Our needs supplied from a churn in the back porch.
The churn covered with muslin
Decorated at the edges with coloured beads
Not a Health Inspector in sight
The only thing we caught-
Rosy cheeks and healthy teeth.
Bill French was our butcher
Plying his trade from Barrow Green
Beef from the marsh, mutton from the orchards
And pork from the plantations.
No long journey for his meat
Through avenues of flag waving protesters.
He did have B.S.E. in his slaughter house however
In the form of Arthur Lawrence
B—-ig S—trong E—-nglishman.
Ted Dalton his assistant
Made delicious sausagemeat and sausages.
My mother made her sausage rolls
From this sausagemeat
The like of which I have never tasted since.
The ladies of the village
Despite their many household chores
Found time to work in the fields.
In the spring it was hop training
The deft fingers of Minnie Watson
And her contemporaries
Trained (without breaking) new shoots
up coconut string
Three new shoots to a hill.
Strawberry picking next
From four in the morning till breakfast time
And then again from four in the afternoon
Until early evening never in the midday sun.
Fresh strawberries to the London market twice a day
No long journey from Spain in a refrigerated lorry.
The village ladies even found time
To pick cherries in between time.
Local farmers had their regular gangs
Of cherry pickers
Be it Mrs Honeyball, Percy or Theo French
Dixons or Mr Stevens
All near or around Barrow Green.
My mother would say ‘I’ll bring home a
Few cherries for you’(pickers perks).
True to her word there on the table
A bowl of those delicious peachy coloured ‘Naps’.
Once the juice from these delightful cherries
Had run down our chin
The insipid fruit from Italy and America
Never passed our lips again.
Then came apples
Those sweet Beauty of Bath have long disappeared.
A faceless man in Europe decided
Our apples were the wrong size
So into the chalk pit with them.
What took their place? French Golden Delicious!!
No fruit from Gaul has passed over my threshold.
If you resided in Barrow Green
You either picked hops for
Percy French or Frank Thomas If it was
Percy French and the field was near St Mary’s,
At dinner time the kettle was filled at a
Fresh water spring.
Returning to the top of your row
The fire was burning ready to boil the kettle
To make the finest cup of tea ever tasted.
The smell of drying hops that pervaded the village
In autumn has long gone.
Oast houses today have curtains
The wagon and horses are replaced
By a slick sports car and Land Rover.
The Oast house surround is now a paddock
With horse and stable.
The Cherries are replaced
With a subsidized crop of yellow rape.
To me the only rape
Is the rape of the orchards.
With all the trees near the railway
Leaves were never a problem.
I would lie awake on a cold November night
And hear the Railway engine protesting
Most loudly as its wheels fought to
Gain a grip on the frosty rail;
As it pulled away from the station
Toward the bridge that carried the Conyer Road.
And then faded into the night.
If you were born thirty or forty years ago
You may think some of this is progress,
If your birth date was a decade or so before this
Then you may have reservations.
As the old lady said as she fought
Against a gale force wind
“I came up that lane two steps forward
And one backwards”
I think that maybe during this last century
We may have come one step forward and ‘two’ back.
To one and all
‘A happy Millennium’,