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A Childhood in Badsey - poem by Evelyn McKanan-Jones

This is an extract from a poem by Evelyn McKanan-Jones. The full poem, a work of some eighty verses, tells of Evelyn's childhood in Badsey during the early 1900s. Evelyn was the aunt of local artist and historian, Michael J. Barnard, who has illustrated verses from the poem.

We're apt to dream in our later years
Of those far off days when we were young
When all our cares were little ones
And all our hopes were yet unsung

Our village then, a homely place
Each knowing all our joys and sorrows shared
The village school, the Church, the Rec
Those were our interests, for those we cared

There we could ramble to the mill
And by the stream to Wickhamford
Across the fields we stopped to hear
The song of the lark as high it soared

In the meadows deep with buttercups
We played the Summer through
In early morn we trod the fields
Fresh with the morning dew

So many footsteps wore the paths
Through shady haunts that did abound
The sparkling brook, the old Monks Bridge
That echoed with our every sound

On Monks Bridge we carved our names
Sticks under the bridge we played
Searching for fossils in ankle water clear
In the mill stream, for hours we stayed

The orchards along the wide High Street
The houses large not one the same
Wheatley's long wall, where, worn away
Was the hollow, chipped by our marble game

Over the wall, on the southern side
Hung bunches of luscious grapes
Those gardens were very much out of bounds
They were not for us children to traipse

Along with his children we'd managed to creep
Alongside the Poplar's shop wall
Then through the garden gate, trembling with fear
Lest upon us their father's fury would fall

Across the road in Cull's bakery
The crickets would wake us at dawn
We'd rise to the clatter of baking tins
Heralding another busy morn

Alongside the bakery, a tiny shop
With its little tinkling bell,
Our dog Rover would go with a penny wrapped up
To him, Mr. Jones, biscuits would sell

Next to this shop, Mr. Stribblehill lived
With his spinster sisters, two
On what was he always hammering away
'Twas ages before we knew

Flanking my home a row of old cottages stood
Alongside the old cider mill
The Reading Room there with the dusty old books
A place of mystery where we browsed at will

Another bakery, up Brewers Lane
Owned by cousins, the Brewer family
With folks coming and going and so much to do
It was quite another world to me

At the end of Brewers Lane lay our acres of land
With several greenhouses and sheds
We grew asparagus there, tomatoes too
And long rows of strawberry beds

Lanket Lane on each side, a hedge, quiet and dark
Where sweethearts met
Under the spreading chestnut tree
We chatted; and sheltered from the wet

Up the Green and along the 'Top'
So many times did we go that way
As we made our Sunday afternoon walks
Carefree, young, happy and gay

Beyond the heavy door of the Stone House
Was a museum, we approached with awe
Among the strange relics lay a skeleton
On a cold slab, in the gloomy hall

At the shop next to the Stone House
Nearing school, our sweets we bought there
Mr. Salter was the blind shopkeeper
With his wife, they made a fine pair

There were peacocks in Stone House gardens
We climbed the stile to see
They strutted around behind the tall wire fence
Their beautiful plumage a delight to me

So different indeed was another fence
That surrounded the Manor grounds
'Twas not the peacocks that strutted there
But German prisoners who made their rounds

Some of them worked for my father
While my brothers fought in the War
Some later returned, deploring with us
Yet another such war two decades more

Few buses and cars there were at that time
Most owned a bike, not everyone
We could play outside, without a fear
From early morn 'til the setting sun

The games we played, I remember well
The Whip and Top game down the long High Street
Bows and arrows, Hoop, and Tip Cat
To win at these was quite a feat

The arrows we shot cleared our tall house roof
And into our garden they fell
Aware of the danger there could be
My family, we first had to tell

We made a Toy Shop in that orchard of ours
With a little house too, next door
We played there with friends for hours on end
We could not have enjoyed ourselves more

'Til later, we laid a tennis court
On the very spot where we played
Our teenage years were spent at that game
And what happy gatherings it made

When tea was laid neath the old pear tree
'Mongst the borders of scented flowers
The laughter and chattering midst the tinkling of cups
Were some of our happiest hours

There were almonds in the front garden
And a magnolia of sheer delight
Deep hedges, well shaped and always trim
A mighty Ash tree, of towering height

Pears carpeted the lawn in Autumn
Walnuts grew thick on the tree
The crunchiest of small crinkled apples
And hazelnuts in the shrubbery

In the far corner the chickens were hatched
Amongst those shrubs hidden away
In the tiny hut with the high latched door
We spent many hours of the day

Tomatoes in the greenhouse
Grapes climbing those glassy walls
Soft fruits in abundance
All these, I well recall

Those were exciting days
Being allowed to sit
Perched high amongst Dad's produce
On a dray, drawn by Kit

He was one of our horses
To pull the loads
With Captain and Blossom
They sure knew those roads

Out of the village
To Blackminster
With us, wedged between the hampers
Not able to stir

Then, at the station we waited
As the gates opened wide
And into the goods yard we entered
Where our homes were tied

The hampers of produce
In the wagons stacked high
For their journey to Liverpool or Covent Garden
And unloaded there for townsfolk to buy

There were other treats we so enjoyed
In quiet contentment as the horse jogged along
Once a year, in the summertime
Children climbed on with laughter and song

Wending our way through the village then
Gathering them all for their Sunday school treat
Along open country lanes to Bents' field
Where we rollicked and raced, and had good things to eat

Those summer days those long hot nights
Seemed longer then, than now
As oft we watched the men at work
The horses at the plough

No village hall had then been built
Parties held, were in the Old School
Many's the concert and dance were held there
Fun and jollity, was the rule

The children's annual concerts held in this school
Were the highlights of our childhood years
All were staged so wonderfully
By Maud Bird and Mrs. Sears

A dress I remember of pink tiered net
Was edged with pink ribbon and flowers
The song we sang, I'll never forget
And recall in quiet hours

We held our Sunday school parties there
Mr. Binyon, Misses Sladden, Canon Allesbrook too
All joined in the laughter, fun and games
With the Ballards and Pethards to name but a few

At the sad time when their sons passed on
The whole village mourned, as one
Their names now live on in the Church they so loved
Their lives had barely begun

The Sladdens who lived at Seward House
Sisters, Ethel and May
Did so much for the village
But few remember them today

The village school was very well known
As one of the best in the county
The standard was good, the discipline too
In the care of the Amos - McDonald family

Those were the day when winters were cold
And the Aldington brook froze deep
Well wrapped up with poles, lanterns and ropes
We skated, oft times fell in a heap

The annual Fete, Badsey Flower Show
Was a chief event of the year
Entering schoolwork, as well as wild flowers
We ran races with all there, to cheer

In the month of May, the asparagus grew
A crop that would wait for none
It meant work every day from the crack of dawn
'Til the season was over and done

They found time though to hold an Asparagus Show
An event they held with pride
Choosing the biggest and best of asparagus buds
They made bundles, at least a foot wide

And once a year, on a Sunday morn
The growers brought the best buds they could get
And together they made for charity
The biggest hundred yet

Outside our barn, a happy gathering then
As on hampers they sat in the sun
Sparing a few moments from their toil
Happy in work, well done

Then came the plums and apples too
For days on our way home from school
We would linger long at the cider mill
For new cider, refreshing and cool

My father made a dozen barrels or more
Stacked them round the barn side by side
In the heat at Payne's headland, with bread and cheese
'Twas a drink the gardeners enjoyed

Oft laced with ginger and sugar, in a huge black pot
Brought to boil on the kitchen hob
To ward off colds in the wintry depths
It certainly did the job

There were days when we'd stand long to watch
Mr. Caswell at anvil and fire
Our horses so still as he tapped in the nails
We could but gaze, and admire

I wonder how many remember the day
When from school to the Rec some were taken
To plant trees there in the field so bare
Christening them with cider, well shaken

There in winter we gathered to watch Badsey Rangers
Who so thrilled us all
Such names as Bandy, Benbow and Payne
They were wizards with the ball

In later years, helping friends with teas
At the cricket team's Saturday game
Cucumber sandwiches, iced cakes and hot tea
These teas were always the same

The merry peals from the eight church bells
Were memories so vivid to me
I would watch my father and hear 'the call'
A campanologist I longed to be

The Sunday school classes were held in church
A goodly gathering too
Later, I taught children there
In the first and second pew

The village chapel, where once a week
We children were invited to go
To join, the Band of Hope evenings
We enjoyed ourselves, very much so

And so, with many more memories
Which would really fill a book
I just content myself these days
By returning to take a look

At the place of my birth
Where I can recall those days
Sadly, so much has changed, and the folk of yore
Have gone their different ways

Gone is the cider mill, Wheatley's long high wall
Lanket Lane hedges as well
The chestnut tree no longer stands
The old brigade mourned when that fell

Monks Lane, The Green, they're not quite the same
The orchards, lately ours, have all gone
My home still there with the passage of time
Is for me, a remaining bastion

I suppose as a big family we were fortunate to have
Parents, loving and wise
Nurturing within us, that finest of gifts
The joys of family ties

Looking back, they seem wonderful days
We had little to fritter away
But we made the most of simple things
And were happy enough, I'd say

And if I've given but a tiny glimpse
Of those days long ago
It may help others to recall
The happy days they used to know

We now are old and are but few
We dream and talk of days gone by
Our children's children grown to man and womanhood
It will not be long before they too will dream and sigh

For life is just another page
So quickly read
And we, the players in it
Woven like a thread

The illustrations used with Evelyn McKanan-Jones's poem are by Michael J. Barnard. They are taken from the Badsey Millennium Tea Towel. For another illustration from the poem see Down Memory Lane.

If this poem reminds you of any memories you have of your life in Badsey, then please let us know. A memory shared, is a memory saved.

Will Dallimore