Summer Silence

It was twenty to nine, the Conyer bus has returned; the second bell at the school has been rung and the children are safely inside. This is when an eerie and peaceful silence descends on Barrow Green - a silence broken only by tradesmen purveying their wares. Once a week Mr. Silcock arrives with his horse and cart to empty the galvanised dustbins, mostly ashes from fires. Not all the ash goes into the dustbins, however, some is used to make garden footpaths.

The afternoon is even quieter broken occasionally by “Pop” Neves with his horse and van bound for the station goods yard, laden with freshly picked fruit. Three thirty sees the younger children (The Little’uns) come out of school. They play quite happily until the older children (The Big’uns) “come out” twenty minutes later. A cry, that later became a byword, can be heard. “Pick the ball up, comes the Big’uns”. All play undisturbed until nearly five o’clock when Mr. Crick comes through on his motor cycle with red box side car delivering and collecting the last mail of the day. The five o’clock train stops at the station disgorging its few passengers. Mr. Seager can be seen in his naval uniform, walking up the hill returning home from Chatham Dockyard. Ned Butler with his two horses, harnesses jingling, “clomps” his way home after a day in the fields. Silence reigns as all go into tea.

After tea in the summer, children were allowed out for a hour or two. Fathers tended the vegetables in the back garden, mothers prepared for the next day. Tony’s ice cream van arrived parking near Mrs. Miles’s sweet shop dispensing a half penny or a penny cornet to those fortunate enough to have a half penny or a penny.

The clanging of the buffers in the station goods yard where wagons were sorted for their trip to London had long since ceased. The swifts circling the station had begun to roost at the oast house. Voices on the evening air seemed to carry for miles. In the distance a dog can be heard barking. Mrs. Coulter hurries by with her jug bound for the “Tavern”.

Sometimes in the late summer gloom the “fever cart” arrives stopping outside some poor unfortunate’s house. A child wrapped in a blanket is placed in the carriage. The horse wheels, the carriage turns with its side lights winking and accompanied by the clatter of horses hooves, disappears down school hill on its return journey to Beacon Hill isolation hospital. Older children talking in hushed whispers, scamper indoors. The last train has left the station; on the forecourt of the “Tavern” friend bids friend a cheery “goodnight” as they make their different way home. The still of the night is left to an owl or maybe............ just maybe, a nightingale.