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Childhood Memories of East Garston

 

 

If I told you a secret would you keep? Would you tell?

Dare I trust you.  As I hope you’d trust me

Tho in my weakness as I write my pen may some names spell

To illustrate my meaning don’t you see

For I am going back now, fifty years or so, perhaps more

And relive all those years when I was a lad

And I would like to tell you although we were very poor

How rich we were in things that made us glad

Always I was by nature so romantic, soft at heart

Sometimes I’d weep when someone told me that

All there was needed to complete and make me look the part

Was a feather, or a straw, stuck in my hat

Well never mind it’s got no part in what I have to say

For other things were closer to my heart

And I remember them, as I reflect on bygone days

When motors took the place of horse and cart

Tho I have travelled far and wide my memories vivid still

Of little things you would not understand

The things I loved in childhood days, so many books would fill

My first love was of course my native land

For in this valley where I live, the village here was known

As Argosson but some had disagreed

Esgarston was the proper name said someone well renowned

Because they thought is sounded so refeened!

And down through this grand valley flowed what’s known as Lambourn Brook

And where, as boys, we’d sail our little ships

And in imagination we would harbour in some nook

Made by the rippling waves or floating sticks

You sail with me and I’ll point out the landmarks as we go

We’ll start where Jim Whale lived, right at the top

There on the banks are cottages, so neatly in a row

And further down the well- known Blacksmiths Shop

How often I had in my youth seen sparks fly from that forge

And wondered vaguely, dreaming as it were

Was this the Village Smithy where Longfellow wrote his poem

Under the spreading chestnut tree the village smithy stands

Cart horses from the many farms nearby

Were shod by Mr Denton’s large and strong sinewy hands

That was the scene when I was just a boy

Often alone I’d wander around that spot so loved by me

The charm of singing birds up Rogers Lane

And thrushes, nightingales and tits all sang in harmony

The scented flowers, perfumed by April’s rain

But sad I was one fateful day to miss the song I’d heard

For as I listened all seemed strangely hushed

And glancing down to my dismay I saw my little bird

Bleeding at mouth and wings so cruelly crushed

What pleasure had it given some great lout to do this thing

To slay God’s creature singing sweet in June?

And killed that melody I’d loved when trilling on the wing

They’re lost chords now and my world out of tune

Maybe the crack of rifle shot was music to the ears

Some thoughtless brute who needlessly had slain

My feathered friend and left it there heedless of cries or care

And I was mute with sorrow, grief and pain

The village church All Saints stands hard by Manor Farm 

Where I, in solitude, now often go

To tend my parents grave, to shear the grass and leave the flowers

Tis fitting as they are so, I should do so  

And as I look around I see the names of those I’ve known

Each one would bring to life some memories

Some good deed done, a life cut short, why had God called them home?

And we are left – Such are His mysteries 

But come back to the Smithy’s forge we left anon

For nearby there stands a noble cross

Where sacred to the memory of those lads who fought and won

Are names of childhood playmates written on

I too had played my part with bayonet fixed and with them shared

The mud and Flanders blood where poppies bloomed

I only know too well but for my Father’s earnest prayers

I would be lying there sharing their tomb

We’ll leave them now as on we go, we see the chapel door

Through which as boys we’d enter sacredly

To hear the preachers and my Father kneeling on the floor

In prayer to God to save humanity

Our little brook flows gaily past meadow and workman’s cot

To Middle Bridge where locals stood and yarned

And there’s School Lane where stands the school right at the very top

And further on you’d come to Jimmy’s barn

What memories the mention of those names bring to my mind

My governess was Victorian prim and straight

She taught us the three R’s, the way to win the Bishop’s Prize

To live and learn from others “who were great”

And there were other days I find so easy to recall

Like Garston Feast, the fair and pancake days

The simple games like Erky Tip cat, hoops and playing ball

‘Twas all so different in my day and age

There was Amos Townsend, Old John Bags and dear old Tommy Snob

And Stivvy Bush, who on us boys would frown

For when we played at marbles we would say “you stick him up”

Then we would choose one hand and knock him down

Then there was Isaac Early to whom rabbit skins we’d take

Sometimes he’d say, in very kindly voice

“He’s not a very good ‘un must abin thin as a rake

I’ll give you a penny” – so you took your choice

There’s one thing more I think, that stands out in my memory

The ‘Magic Lantern’ and the stories told

Of how our soldiers fought the Boars away across the seas

And pictures showed them marching brave and bold

That was the saddest story perhaps, twas titled “Nellie’s Prayer”

How still we’d sit to catch each spoken word

For there were Mothers who had husbands fighting over there

The pictures showed them charging with their swords

Gentle Jesus meek and mild safe guard my Daddy dear

And send him safely back home again to me

Oh how we tried so hard to stem those quickly welling tears

While sisters sobbed we’d hug them tenderly

They showed us Nellie praying as she knelt beside the bed

“Don’t let the Boars take Daddy” she had cried

“I’ll be so good, I’ll try so hard” those were the words she said

But in the cause of freedom many died

Sometimes the picture man would put the slide in upside down

Then how we’d roar and laugh and dry our tears

Especially when a mouse or frog on shadow screen was shown

We’d stand and shout with joy as well as cheers

As we sail on we’ll see the artists with their magic brush

Painting with  colours mixed some placid scene

A willow tree or tufted grass. I’ve marvelled at their touch

Artists like this to me were joy indeed

But just one moment ‘ere we pass the place where standing still

Is Bridle Barn and Goldhill House from which

Those better off would throw us coins and then we boys and girls

Would scramble legs in air into the ditch

Then off we’d race down to the shop. Twas Pocock’s then you know

Where they baked bread, sold oil and lollipops

And you could buy your cheese and bacon, also lumps of coal

Twas all mixed up in these village shops

Nearby there’s still the sycamore, now old and so forlorn

Its branches, once so strong, we used to climb

And then sometimes we’d fall and – horror -  find our trousers torn

That meant two things, a scold and smacked behind

   

We’ve nearly reached the bridge at Mabberleys Lane

Where farmers made a water lock in which they dipped their sheep

And where my sister fell when playing games

I was the hero of that day for, without thought I plunged

Into the powdered slimy sheepwash deep

But God had, with those unseen hands and from a sure death wrung

Brother and Sister -  saved from deaths long sleep

 

If we would take the footpath on the way to Maidencourt

Four hundred yards or so, you’d see a place

Shielded by willow trees, high banks – the lock wherein we’d sport

Twas our selected spot in which we bathed

In innocence we boys and girls spent many happy hours

Now please, don’t blush, for we were unashamed

As often we were caught by Mr Hughes all in the nude

And chased by him through meadow lands and lanes

 

We’ll leave the running brook which forms the nucleus for your scribe

To pen his thoughts, as often old men do.

Retracing steps, recalling times when youth was in its prime

And pondering which was best, the old or new

Those fleeting years, the joys and tears we know they were ordained

Not all was sad though they were hungry days

Sometimes we’d find a ducks egg and to Mother we’d explain

“We’ll share the egg, all six of us” – but how and in what way?

 

Our brook flows on,  but I remain and still join in the fun

And by God’s Grace – for I know he has heard

In his good time to meet again my childhood friends and chums

My pets and dogs and perhaps my little bird.

 

The End

 

W. Frankum  (Frankham)  

Ivy Cottage

East Garston

Nr. Newbury Berks

1970