Friday, 27 May 2016

The Old Teagarden

Assuming that Google Blogs allows me to upload a photo without spending all day on it, the above is of a little cottage near Bradford on Avon that I once lived in, but I was there about 120 years after this picture was taken. Some of you have seen it before, but some haven't.

John has reminded me of village life, but this place was more of a hamlet than a village, set at the bottom of a very - very - steep hill, and centred around a sweet spring, locally known as 'The Green Man'. We still got tourists who would occasionally turned up looking for a quaint little pub called The Green Man, having been sent there by a traditionally xenophobic farmer. You know the sort - the ones who deliberately turn road signs the wrong way because it amuses them to think of the trouble they have caused.

We had the whole spectrum of society in this place - rich and poor, famous and obscure, the devout middle-class - the Alpha Male literally overlooked my cottage, as he lived about 30 feet above me, half-way up the hill. He could not bear to watch me cutting my lawn with a sickle (hard work, but a lovely, sheep-nibbled type of finish), so he would bring his petrol strimmer down and wordlessly (it could not have been anything but wordless, so loud was it) attempt to take over until I told him to turn the bloody thing off. He had to retire due to heart problems. Not enough physical exercise, I suspect.

A little higher than him lived two lesbians - one young and one older - who seemed to spend most of their time engaged in bitter, public arguments. It really was straight out of 'The Killing of Sister George', and not 'Whatever Happened to Baby Jane' as I wrongly said on John's blog.

There was a very pleasant but very reclusive lady on the other side of the road, and we only communicated with her at the Christmas get-together. The rest of the inhabitants wanted to keep themselves to themselves, so - observing village etiquette at close quarters, we let them.

Right at the top of the hill was a couple whose daughter was - and still is - best friends with H.I.'s daughter. We didn't see much of them either, as he would leave very early in his Porche, in the never-ending quest for riches. His wife continually campaigned for urban street-lighting around the dark little lane, but was kept down by the rest of us. She would almost scream with panic if I approached her in the lane at night, so I would have to coo, "It's only me..." to calm her down.

The largest dwelling in the place was named after the spring, and housed the couple who were the main instigators of the Christmas parties. To one side of their place was a large chicken-run, and my cottage overlooked it.

I would hear the lady of the house clattering around at dawn with metal buckets full of feed, before she went to work as a nurse. She had the brown skin and black hair of a true Cornishwoman, because this is what she was. I knew she fancied me, and I knew that her and her husband were on the point of parting company, so I tried to stay out of trouble - an uncharacteristically prudent bit of behaviour on my part.

My immediate neighbour was Chris Patten, so there was a constant but discreet police presence in the lanes most weekends. They had already checked me out, which allowed me to drive home at night slightly - just slightly - over the limit, just so long as I didn't ram their cars in the narrow lane.

Almost every Sunday, I would have friends round for a roast lunch. I would prepare the food whilst listening to Mozart's Clarinet Concerto, and I can never hear it now without being taken back to the smell of the roast and the sight of the garden through the open door.

A few years later, I tried to move back to the same area, but it didn't work out. You cannot go back in time and expect to find the same people waiting for you as if no water has gone under the bridge at all.

If you could, then that old woman would still be serving teas, aerated waters and ginger beer.


  1. I love that rickety old table laid out for tea. Was it still part thatched when you were there?

    1. No, the thatch had been replaced with tiles. That wooden porch had gone too. The owner had a barn-type door made which opened in two halves. That was great in the Summer with the top half open.

  2. I wonder if life in the village was as interesting as when you lived there. There was something slightly 1920s about your description (apart from Chris Patten) but I suppose you weren't there in the 1920s were you. I wish I knew a bit of what had gone on in our house which was built in 1888 but nobody ever took any photos of it as far as I know. By the way it is not only farmers who turn road signs around. Someone has made it their lifes work to turn around cycle route signs all over Britain.