Tuesday, 28 October 2014

What is a Ghost?

I find it sad that these days the shops are filled with so many ugly masks and skeletons, must haves for Hallowe’en.  Who now remembers that Hallowe’en means the evening before All Saints day?   When I was a child the night before All Saints Day was party time when we had toffee apples and other goodies and if one of the grownups was good at telling stories we gathered round the fire and shivered with pretend apprehension remembering the Cornish Litany ‘From ghoulies and ghosties and long leggedy beasties, good Lord deliver us.’  And here I have to confess I'd got it wrong, in my memory I had confused  Hallowe'en with All Souls Day celebrated on 2nd November when those who have gone before us are remembered, hence this editing.  Hallowe'en was originally the pagan festival of Samhain marking the death of summer. The spirits came out, the elves and goblins, good fairies and bad fairies. People dressed up so as to blend in with the occult creatures astir. Food was left outside, on one side of the door for the good spirits, on the other side of the door for the bad spirits, that is the origin of treat or treat and the tradition of handing over food to those who come to your door.  Thank you Jude - it is wonderful to have a well informed friend.
        For years I wondered whether there really are ghosts, certainly there are buildings and particular places where some will say that they feel uncomfortable, claiming they sense past evil while there are other places which seem filled with a sense of peace and well being.  Perhaps we really do leave something of ourselves behind which others who come after may sense if they pause as they pass by. 

Unseen Reality
What is a ghost?
A thought – a song – a sigh
Upon the wings of time
That echoes down the passages
Where you and I first met
And others who pass by
Will wonder why they pause and smile
Unknowing that the peace they feel
Was born in our content. 

© Carenza Hayhoe 1974

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Memories Beget Memories

I know that last week I promised to go back to my earliest memories and tell you about life at the beginning of the war but thinking about my time as a house maid reminded me of a day when it really was good to be alive.  Mostly the PGs were middle aged FCO families home on leave from the Sudan or young naval bachelors who drove Triumph TR2s.  You probably don’t know what TR2s were; they was low and fast, built between 1953 and 1955 and were followed by TR3s.  The breed were known as good tart traps and the owners would boast happily that they’d taken a corner a bit fast last week and rolled the beast but they all seemed to lead charmed lives because I don’t remember anyone getting hurt and I don’t recall ever seeing a dented TR2.
At last, just after I had said ‘Yes please’ to George a young couple arrived at Cleeve.  He was a submariner commonly known as Bone Dome and once you got to know him it became obvious why.  His wife Mary was the same age as me, very beautiful but looked as though a passing breeze would blow her away.  She had developed appendicitis when she was three months pregnant and a brilliant surgeon had removed her appendix and saved the baby.  Mary hated having to take life quietly, it wasn’t her style at all; she was also a passionate horsewoman so when the hunt met in Ivybridge though she was still supposed to be convalescent she longed to follow, but how?  She managed to persuade my cousin Sally to lend her an ancient rust bucket and give me the morning off but once we were in the Land Rover it was apparent that we had a problem.  I couldn’t drive and Mary’s six month bump was such that she couldn’t reach the gear lever.  It was long before the days of seat belts or any thoughts of health and safety and we thought ourselves indestructible, we were young and filled with imagination and determination.  It didn’t take long to work out how Mary could drive and operate the clutch and while I worked the gear lever.  A clear chill November morning on Dartmoor must be very near heaven, we bumped over rough ground, stalled and laughed and stalled again as we hurtled across the moor after the hounds.  We were alive and life was wonderful.  Mary became the best friend anyone could ask for; for a while she was a highly regarded breeder of Welsh Mountain ponies but died of heart failure when she was only fifty two.  I miss her still.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

The End of The Beginning

As school days come to an end the question is what next?  My mother had been brought up to believe that girls should not be educated for ‘blue stockings are a bore they have no small talk’.  She decided that I should go into the hotel trade as a cook and entered me for a course at a college in Gloucester.  For the first time in my life I rebelled and announced that I wanted to go to agricultural college to learn about pig keeping so, escorted by both my parents I was interviewed by the Principal of Kingston Mauward College and entered as a farm student for Autumn 1955 subject to first spending a year working on a farm.  The opportunity for that came when I overheard our cousin Sally Sparrow, who had inherited a big house and two small farms near Plymouth, say she needed help.  It wasn’t long before she discovered I was most useful as a housemaid and general odd job girl so I found myself taking tea to her PGs (paying guests) in the early morning, hoovering acres of floor and sweeping mountains of stairs, washing sheets and all by hand for she had no washing machine in those days.  I led a double life because Sally tried to maintain standards of another era where staff lived and worked behind a green baize door; there I made some real friends but because I was family I ate in the dining room with Sally and all her guests.
To make ends meet besides running the two farms Sally took in young officers who were ‘standing by’ submarines in refit in Devonport, as well FCO families on leave from the Sudan.  Behind the house was a big walled garden where she grew fruit and flowers for the London market so I helped there as well which is why a young submariner found me under a gooseberry bush one warm July afternoon.  Under a gooseberry bush?  Yes, for how else would you pick the biggest fattest gooseberries that grow in the middle of a very large bush other than lying on your back and wriggling right into the middle?  Before long George Hayhoe and I were ‘walking out’ every evening accompanied by Bung, a small and vociferous Siamese kitten who hurled abuse at us if the grass was long and wet as he struggled to keep up, and Sally’s very old labrador Commodore who would amble ahead and then turn clearly thinking ‘what, you young things at it again, come on – catch up.’ 
At supper one evening early in October George leant across the supper table and in front of about twelve of Sally’s guests and said, ‘Enough of pigs, I’ve thought of another job for you,’ but no amount of questioning would persuade him to say what it was for three long days.
To celebrate my birthday on 10th October the submariners took me to The Sportsman’s Arm in Ivybridge and toasted me in champagne – I remember wondering why anyone should enjoy it; I said it tasted like Enos fruit salts.  The moon was full and when we got home it seemed too early to go to bed so I offered to show George a trap door in the attic which opened onto the roof.  In a valley between two gables, under the stars George asked me to marry him and, being a nicely brought up girl, I said ‘yes please!’
Next time I’ll go back to the beginning of the war when the Free French Fleet sailed into Falmouth Harbour.

ps.  Did you spot the spelling mistake?  Never trust a spell checker! 

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Pigs is Equal

I believe it was Winston Churchill who said ‘Dogs look up to us, cats look down on us but pigs is equal,’ but there was one cold December night, it must have been in 1949, when I knew for certain that pigs have a will of their own and are definitely superior, you cannot drive a pig.  We were sitting in the warm by a log fire toasting crumpets – they taste so much better when they are slightly smoked before they are buttered – when my mother looked up, ‘Is there someone at the door?’ she said and then shouted, ‘Boots on everyone, that damned pig, she’s out again!’  Outside the front door a large black and white saddle-back sow was happily grunting and digging up the lawn searching for slugs; from bitter experience we knew that left on her own the front garden would be a ploughed field by morning.  Armed with walking sticks and an umbrella kept by the door three of us, arms spread wide formed a half circle round her and with a chorus of ‘Pig, pig, gidover,’ and other encouraging cries we slowly eased her back towards a hole in the hedge and the sty in the paddock next door, my mother clanking a bucket half full of pig nuts walking in front.  The only light came from a handful of stars and a one wobbling torch, it was bitterly cold and once through the hedge the ground was very muddy, squelching at every step.  Only a few steps further, ‘Pig, pig, gidover,’ we called more gently. My mother gave the bucket one more encouraging rattle and put it down just inside the sty.  Susana was a big pig, she wasn’t going to be hurried.  She stopped for one more snuffle and grunt, decided she wasn’t ready to give up her freedom and turned, the light of the torch caught the glint in her eye as she gather herself up and charged for freedom, running straight at me and that was the night that I shall always remember as the night I rode a pig – backwards.  My ride was short lived for I lost my grip and my dignity and landed horizontal in the mud!