Chariots of gold, said Timothy.
Silvery wings, said Elaine.
But, a bumpety ride on a wagon of hay
for me, said Jane.
Were the Summers of our childhood always warm and sunny? Was the hay always ready to cut by
the end of June? Was the air always full of the sound of the bees buzzing? Were all our childhood Summers idyllic - or does memory just make it seem so?
I was reading Ronald Blythe this morning about the 'grass toys' of Summer and it set me thinking. I certainly had very few 'toys' as such, once I started school. My one cuddly toy, a knitted doll I imaginatively called ' Woolly' disappeared when I was about six and when I enquired where Woolly had gone (he always slept in my bed with me) my mother said I was too old for such a toy now.
But lack of toys (Woolly excepted) didn't make me feel deprived. On the contrary, I don't think any of my friends had a great collection either (apart from my friend, Janet, who had the most marvellous farm of tin people, fences, trees, implements and animals. She still has it in a box and still treasures it. She was a frustrated farmer - and in her late seventies she still is!
But we did make our own toys in the Summer (and if you count snowballs and snowmen, then in the winter too - because didn't we always have a heavy fall of snow, and wasn't there always sledging to be had?) And it was these that Blythe reminded me of.
Do you remember making daisy chains - threading the daisy stalks together and making bracelets and necklaces and putting them on each other and on our cats and dogs who usually patiently sat and let us adorn them? And what about goose-grass? Who hasn't picked a stalk, crept up behind a friend and popped it on their back, so that it stuck there - for stick it really did, clinging with all its might.
And we would have fights with plantain heads, curling the stalk over so that we could pop the head of the plant off and try to hit our opponents. Or we would pick an ear of barley and slip it up somebody's sleeve, so that it crept up towards their shoulder.
And let us not forget horse chestnuts - conkers - roasted in the over or soaked in vinegar to make them impregnable, then strung on a string to fight contests for the best conker.
One of my happiest memories of childhood is of riding home to my Aunt's house in the village of East Markham in the Dukeries on the top of a wagon of hay, pulled by a cart horse. And the icing on the cake was that as we walked alongside the railway embankment which ran along the edge of the field, the Flying Scotsman tore past on its way to Edinburgh. It might as well have been going to Timbuctoo for us children on the hay wagon.
Were things really as idyllic as this? One thing is for sure - there was no such thing as Health and Safety Regulations.