Sunday, 10 June 2012


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.


kristieinbc said...

I love this post! It made me think about my growing up years on a grain farm in northern Idaho. We spent our time in our treehouse, at the nearby creek, or wherever we could find outdoors that seemed like an adventure. My favourite thing was riding in the back of the grain truck out in the wheat fields during harvest. And yes, there definitely weren't any health and safety regulations. :-)

Anonymous said...

I think they were idyllic, time spent on and in the brook, up the mountains, in the lanes, always busy and always with friends. Always sunny too, in the summer

Joanne Noragon said...

Thank you for remembering all this. We made chains of clover. Now I'm sorry daisy's didn't grow in our yards. The stems would have been so much longer. I just remembered the steam engine that went by.

Pondside said...

It hardly ever rained, and when it did, we played board games for long afternoons. Mosquitoes never bothered us and we'd spend hours in the woods by a creek, 'building' a cabin and playing 'house'. Meals were an imposition and bedtime meant a continuation of the fun in a room full of bunks - that was summer at my grandfather's summer bungalow on the Bras d'or Lakes when I was a child.

Maggi said...

I remember so many of those things too and how much fun they were. I feel sure that the seasons were more defined back then, although perhaps it was just that we didn't feel the cold or bother about the rain so much when we were young.

ArtPropelled said...

I hated school but holidays on the farm were idyllic. We spent hours at the river swimming or catching tadpoles, climbing trees (a tall handmade ladder was always propped up against a giant oak.... to this day i don't know why it was there), exploring caves and horse riding for miles. Life was certainly simpler on the farm.

MorningAJ said...

And popping lime leaves, and catapulting plantains, blowing dandelion clocks, piping on grass spears, hunting for four leaved clovers, sucking the nectar out of clover flowers, we really didn't need 'stuff' to enjoy ourselves.

Heather said...

What lovely memories your post evokes Pat, though I never rode on hay wagon or saw the Flying Scotsman. My cousins and I did just about everything else - made dens in hedges and is it the white campion which swells after flowering and if you pick it you can make it pop against your hand.
It did rain - I vividly remember coming home like a drowned rat after a school picnic, but most of the memories are sunny ones.
We didn't need Health and Safety in those days - we were reared on common sense.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

This is so beautiful.
Funny, I never remember it raining in summer when I was a little girl.

John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

Thanks for the memories! But when I think back on the crazy things I did when I was that age I can't help but wonder how I survived!

Titus said...

Yes, yes and yes to the above, with the exception of decorating pets!

My best summer was the one I read that horsetails take up gold from the ground. All the ditches round our fields were beset with horsetails.

I deduced that if we pulled them up and burnt them, there would be nuggets of gold in the ashes. We were rather filthy, smoky and disappointed children that year.

Dartford Warbler said...

Wonderful memories Pat!

I love the Walter de la Mare poem too and always identified with Jane, the country girl. I still prefer spending my time with a wheelbarrow of hay .....

ChrisJ said...

Done all of those things above and loved every moment of them. Though they are gone the memories of happy contented days still remain. It was those days that contributed to who I am now. On rainy days we would use scotch tape, paper and scissors to make all kinds of things. It would always irritate me that often no one could find the scissors or a pencil just when I needed one. Now I have at least one pair of scissors in every room, not to mention jars of pens and pencils.

Hildred said...

We used to have wonderful flower balls, making gorgeous gowns out of hollyhocks with bits of clover for the lady's coiffure. And when I visited my cousins on the prairies we put lassoes around gopher holes, and waited patiently, but I never remember catching a gopher. I do remember cartwheels across the prairie though, and spectacular thunder and lightning storms. The days seemed endless and always full of such imaginative things. Rainy days were for reading.... Thanks for a lovely memory post, Pat.

ArcticFox said...

hmmmm we used to get some of that grass that you can slide your thumb along the stem and strip the seeds from the end..... it leaves a rough comb like device that you can twist in someone's hair and then yank a huge chunk of hair out of their head.... very amusing..... we used to call it the Chinese haircut..... don't know why!! Oh the fun we had!!

Elizabeth said...

We did all of these things except the grain up the sleeve.
Plus I made 'rose-water-perfume' by steeping rose petals in a jam jar on the front steps where it was warm.
Mum liked this --or said she did!
Some rough boys I knew used to chuck school caps into the nettles.....

Elizabeth said...

Just read about Arctic Fox's 'chinese haircut'
Yup, we did that too!

Gwil W said...

This is, so far, the worst summer for weather I can remember.

The Weaver of Grass said...

What super memories everyone has of their childhood. I do hope today's children have similar memories. Thank you for contributing.

Cloudia said...

Such a lovely caravan of memory that anyone with a heatbeat will sigh over; then you wallop us with that amazing & powerful memory.

Now I can see the Flying Scotsman from atop a wagon of Summer hay!
Ah the smell of hay and stirred dust and TRAIN!

Thank you

Aloha from Waikiki,
Comfort Spiral
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