Saturday, May 18, 2024

In The Beginning

April 14, 2010 by  
Filed under Prose

The image of the Cup and Saucer tree dominated my early childhood.

I was born in the village of Caersws in the county of Montgomeryshire on the 1st December 1919. My home was a small old black and white cottage in Bridge Streettoday. I remember little of this cottage. and is still lived in

My earliest memories are of living in another black and white cottage on the estate of that great man, Lord Davis of Llandinam. This was a tied cottage. My father and my uncle worked on the estate. The cottages were called Waterlow Cottages, they were in fact two semi-detached houses. Our neighbour also worked on the estate, looking after all the beautiful Shire horses. My memories of him are always pleasurable ones. He was usually dressed in tweed jacket, breeches and leggings, and boots all shining and polished. His children all went to Llandinam School. We went to Caersws Council School.

This was a most pleasant place to grow up in. One could wander at will over fields and woods and, on occasions, play on the banks of the River Severn. On summer evenings one could watch the big fish jumping clear of the water, to land back with a resounding splash. Then, if lucky, see otters at play, ducking and diving, as they enjoyed each other.

Gypsies camped in the lane behind the house, their horses and coloured caravans forming a peaceful scene. Their dogs were always alert and let their owners know as soon as a stranger approached.

Up on the hills a herd of Welsh mountain ponies trotting on the horizon, manes flowing, led by the herd stallion. Could these be the same ones, observed a few days later, being herded down the road, eyes flaring, mouths frothing, on their way to the stock pen at the station? Then on to spend their lives in complete darkness in the mines of South Wales?

Across the road, enclosed in two paddocks by ten foot high wooden fencing, the two enormous Shire Stallions, each in his own compound, lazily swished their tails and twitched their muscles to dislodge the troublesome flies which always seemed to be in attendance.

Swifts, Swallows or House Martins swooped in and out of the open doors of the stable in the corner. Another place of scenery to be explored, where one could perhaps see the birds at close quarters.

All this planning and pleasure of secret enjoyment had to be shared with that other necessity for children – school. But even that was disrupted for a short time, by an accident which later turned into a calamity. Falling off a box not more than a foot high, resulted in a broken arm.

This required a visit to the Doctor, who at once grabbed my arm, pulled and stretched it, at the same time turning it, to allow the bones to grate back into place. The spasm of excruciating pain this caused called for quick action – that is to say a swift kick where it hurt most, resulting in more pain. Finally the arm was splinted up, bandaged and held firmly in a sling, not to be used for at least six weeks. A dismal situation, no ‘Cup and Saucer’ climbing.

After about five weeks things seemed to be getting back to normal. If the tree was impossible, then perhaps the stable would be worth a try. A quick glance showed the stallion quietly grazing at the far end of the paddock, an ungainly hop over the stile, and I was in the stable, even before the house martins realised it. Once inside, the dark interior seemed unsafe, but a one armed climb into the manger, and then a final heave up into the hay rack above, which was half full of old hay, providing a safe comfortable observation post.

The half cup shapes of the mud nests, sticking to the beams and rafters seemed to be empty. A flash of blue and white and the parent bird was in, clinging to the nest edge now full of gaping mouths. She popped something into a mouth, picked something up in her beak, then out through the door in another flash of colour. This really was fast food service.

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