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Bonzer Words!: Down On The Farm

Peggy Blakeley recalls some of the folk who came a-calling at her childhood home on a Lancashire farm.

Peggy writes for Bonzer magazine. Fore more good reading visit www.bonzer.org.au



I can't think why Tommie Riding was known as 'Puffer' but he was a constant visitor when I was a small child. Regular as clockwork around teatime on Friday afternoons, his somewhat dilapidated motor bike and sidecar would grind to a halt by the front garden gate and he would lift a large and decrepit brown suitcase from the sidecar and haul it round to the kitchen door.

Since Puffer's visits were anticipated with pleasure the kettle would be near boiling point and the currant seed-cake buttered and sliced. Once the tea and cakes had been handed round, Puffer would settle down in the rocking chair, open up the suitcase and reveal this week's 'bargains'. Although this was his part-time job as a travelling salesman, he had a little shop in the next village and the goods on sale there were replicated in his 'shop on wheels'.

Mercifully, today's young don't have to wear, as I did, itchy combinations, a tickly woolly vest, heavy navy knickers with elasticated legs and a pinny that was a 'must' in case you spilled the custard. But these items in various sizes were Puffer's stock-in-trade, though he also carried pairs of glamorous garters maybe decorated with a silky rosebud hankies for mums and dads; bedroom slippers, pink or blue lacy hairnets and hair-slides always clipped on to a white card. AND those nit combs which augured a session of misery! Often there would be jewellery 'diamond' rings or strings of fake pearls and there might be a 'silver' bracelet and some brooches and beads to tempt us.

I suppose that Puffer rarely left without making a sale, but for wee me it was his entertainment value when he opened up his 'suitcase of delights' bringing pleasure to my Friday afternoons. Mind you, I cannot think that any little 21st century sofa spuds would swap their telly-watching sessions for a half-hour with Puffer and his suitcase.

Still, there you go that was THEN!

The Contraption

It's 'the contraption' I remember and have no recollection whatever of the knife-grinder who brought it as he was a rare caller who only came occasionally.

As I recall there was a large wheel-shaped object mounted on a sort of barrow which had small wheels and handles to steer it. This huge wheel shape was made of stone sandstone perhaps, as it was sandy coloured with a very rough surface.

It was probably my father who selected the knives to be sharpened and the grinder would take them one by one, splash water on the wheel then lay the knife's cutting edge against it and turn, first slowly, then faster before bringing it to a stop, when he would then test the knife edge carefully against his thumb.

This activity always took place in the lane in front of the garden gate, often with my father sitting on the wall with me beside him overseeing events.

I suppose that watching the knife-grinder grind knives is hardly at the cutting edge as an entertainment but then, simple things did amuse simple minds.

The Tinker Woman

I think that during the summer months, the tinker-woman came by quite often. The kitchen door would be open and she would stand there with her basket, polite and somewhat diffident, and her wares were invariably home-made wooden clothes pegs and a few lavender bags.

But it was her skill as a clairvoyant which interested my mother, who was a sucker for fortune-telling and all that stuff! So, when it came to "Cross my palm with silver, lady?" my mother would oblige with alacrity a threepenny bit. No way was I privy to the predictions revealed except for one occasion when I joined my mother at the kitchen door. Then, the tinker-woman looked me up and down and said something to the effect that "This lass of yours will go far," which, by gum, I most certainly did going all the way from 'oop North to dahn South.


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