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The ' BOWSTRIDGE BLETHERER '
Long Memories – Short Stories
' Sugar Plums ? ' - ' Anxious Mums ' - ' Keeping MUM ! '
During WW 2 because so many of our Merchant Ships had been sunk by German U boats ,
the Country was unable to obtain the necessary ORANGES by which to make pure Orange juice for expectant Mothers .It was therefore decided by the Authorities to resort to ROSE HIP SYRUP
School Children were therefore asked to collect as many Rose Hips as they could .
This meant scouring the Local countryside during late Summer armed with buckets , hunting high & low for WILD DOG ROSES from which to collect the ROSE HIPS , - these were then handed in to our Schools to be sent away for proper processing to begin !
Every year around late August into September we would all go BLACKBERRYING !
My aged Aunt would accompany us .We would take an old ' outgrown ' pram , and all the wicker shopping baskets we could handle . We would then walk right through the village of Chalfont St . Peter heading towards our 'Secret ' ? Blackberry Hotspot !
Along the Lower Road we would turn left & cross the River Misbourne using the wooden Bridge
there being no Village Bypass at this time . Looking down I noticed a 6 seater rowing boat
now abandoned in the dried up River Bed , at the end of a Private garden !
We pushed our Pram along the footpath & out into the Golf Course , turning left up the grassy slope
& into the outskirts of Hogtrough Woods – mentioned in the Domesday Book of William the Conqueror as being the home of 900 Swine !
We would spend all day picking the Blackberries – only stopping for a brief picnic & refreshment .
All the dead wood we could find , we would break up , & stack neatly into the Pram and also underneath it . At the end of a long hot sticky day , we would begin the long trudge home – our arms aching from carrying the heavy baskets of blackberries , with the remainder stacked high up on the Pram ! On the way home , we would also pick up handfuls of fallen Hazel nuts – which would be put away for a Christmas Treat !
When we arrived home - first thing , was to stack our wood , outside – under cover, to be used as
Firewood during the coming Winter .
The blackberries would either be weighed out make Home-made Blackberry Jam – or bottled up
into sealed sterilised Jam Jars & put away into storage until ready for use ( Freezers merely a dream in the future ) .
In the depths of a Snow Bound freezing winter , my Mother would be up & about early & outside in the cold to collect our sticks of Firewood , lovingly collected on a sweltering Summer's day , in order to get a fire going to heat the house & keep the family warm all day ! ( No Pushbutton central Heating here ! )
All Fruit was SEASONAL ! - there being no such things as REFRIGERATORS or FREEZERS
to store them in . One year there might be a GLUT of Fruit , whilst the following Year it could be very SCARCE !
It was therefore decided that - a few hungry School Pals and I - were in a desperate need of adequate SUSTENANCE !
A plan then emerged that the obvious answer was to do a spot of SCRUMPING !
So a small group of us , headed off for a well known PLUM orchard adjoining a little used Footpath off Narcot Lane – near Chalfont St . Giles
Our 'Leader ' decided to climb this particular Tree , absolutely 'Groaning ' with gorgeous looking VICTORIA PLUMS , whilst we would keep watch beneath .
There we were , quietly amiably chatting amongst ourselves – when suddenly a voice from nowhere bellowed out “ Got you – you little urchins ! “ WE jumped out of our skins , only to turn round & find that the Local Farmer – had stepped out of nowhere & caught us all 'Red Handed '
WE desperately tried to convince him , that actually we were lost , and had been trying to find the footpath that would lead us back HOME ! Obviously he did'nt buy that one , & carrying a big stick roughly 'ESCORTED ' us out of the area .
Naturally our minds were concerned with our CHUM ! We waited nonchalantly until the Farmer had disappeared , then doubled back to the Plum Tree & desperately called up our School Pal , - who just managed to GASP out a reply !
He'd been hanging up there SILENT & all alone - & both his arms had gone NUMB !
As we manhandled him down – he crashed to the ground – his bulging shirt burst open , & scores of plump , juicy , Victoria PLUMS cascaded out all over the grass !
Naturally - being perpetually hungry , we shared them all out between us - and devoured them greedily all the way home !
Needless to say , over the next few days , we all had the 'RUNS' and our Mothers considered calling in the DOCTOR – using the big Red Telephone Box in the Village centre – ( no Mobiles around in those days ), & convince him there was something 'Going Around ' but then she hesitated ,there being no NHS at the time – and a doctor 'ON CALL OUT ' would require the expenditure of his FEE to be paid in CASH !
Naturally we could'nt let on now could we ? - we had to - ' KEEP MUM ! ' - so we were forced to stagger around , holding our tummies , gritting our teeth , & vowing to ourselves - NEVER TO GO ' SCRUMPING ' AGAIN !
There are plenty more Yarns queuing up if they are of interest
Bryan Stanley 'Bowstridge ' Ward
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