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U3A Writing: Caldicot

...The beautiful St Mary's Church, where the pupils of the Church school were marched up to commemorate all the Saint's days. The Church inspector visited the school regularly. The pupils practised the catechism every morning and were word perfect for the auspicious occasion of the scripture exam...

Shirley Sperring recalls her village as it was more than five decades ago.

Just conjure up an image of a small village, one main road, terraced cottages, old pubs, one school and a beautiful church and castle. This all surrounded by lush green fields and yes, you have the Caldicot of more than 50 years ago.

A small main road, but a wealth of shops. Two grocers, two hardware shops, two haberdashery shops, a fashion shop, a chemist, garage, electricity and gas showrooms. A post office. Police station and a labour exchange, not forgetting two bakeries and a real - fashioned sweet shop. A coffin maker, the door of whose shop the school children hastily peeped in and then out again, probably the original ghouls!

The board of the Registrar fixed firmly over a small cottage door, indicating times when one could legally enter those born and those dead.

The religious needs of everyone were taken care of by the various religious establishments.

The beautiful St Mary's Church, where the pupils of the Church school were marched up to commemorate all the Saint's days. The Church inspector visited the school regularly. The pupils practised the catechism every morning and were word perfect for the auspicious occasion of the scripture exam. This was held in the morning and a half day granted if all went well.

The catechism was a good memory trainer for future exams and no doubt hearing it today, one can cling to its stability in an ever changing world.

The tiny Catholic church next to the Post Office almost out of sight and yet displaying an aura of reverence. Perhaps a small oasis in an area which was quite busy. The Church was near the roundabout where the crossroads met. The roundabout not subject to today's traffic pollution, provided a meeting place and an ideal refuge for the inebriates at closing time. The White Hart and The Cross pubs being close neighbours.

The little Jubilee Church (which is now a take-away) where the singing was tremendous on Anniversary Sundays. It rejoiced in the nickname of "tickle belly" chapel. Why? No one seems to know.

Then the Methodist Church in the centre of the Village. What memories, the Sunday School Anniversary, the flowers everywhere, even flower heads on all the window sills and ledges (a little cruel to the flowers). The overwhelming perfume from them all and again the singing.

The Nativity plays. Good Friday cantatas, the fetes, bazaars and Oh! My goodness the Sunday School outing to Barry. The children clutching meat sandwiches (of doubtful origin) and a sixpence. The first one to see the sea was the Champion, the sun always shone and the sea was so blue (nostalgia may have blurred the edges of reality somewhat).

The one village Church School, which was rather a bleak building, with outside loos and an air raid shelter, ready to accommodate the pupils and their gas masks. The big coal fires surrounded by strong guards, where the children took turns to warm their hands and bums. The window sills covered in jam jars, which in the Spring were full of bluebells, cowslips, primroses and violets from nearby fields and woods. The posters on the walls warning of booby traps, bombs and all the paraphernalia of war. The crates of one - third of a pint milk bottles, jostling for space in the damp, humid atmosphere of the School porch. The children accepted it all, as they do.

The most important part of their lives were playtime, Sports Day held in the Castle grounds and those who could dance were allowed to hold the gay ribbons of the Maypole. And of course dinnertime at the British restaurant just down the road. There one could feast on exquisite rissoles, meat pies, and custard that has not tasted so good since.

Next to the British restaurant the Y.M.C.A. a large rambling hall divided into two, a dance or concert hall and a billiard room. The height of sophistication in the dance hall was a large crystal ball in the centre of the ceiling. As the dancers waltzed or jitterbugged the ball revolved and glistened like a million diamonds in the lights.

Time has moved on in Caldicot as it must, but progress sometimes seems quite negative. Villages turn into towns and towns into cities. Green fields are eaten up by greedy bulldozers and made into concrete jungles.

But we must look and be thankful that Caldicot still retains its beautiful landmarks. The Castle and its lovely grounds, the beautiful church of St Mary's. The Methodist Chapel a beacon amid the hustle and bustle of modern day traffic, pollution and sometimes the anonymity of harassed shoppers.

If only the bluebells, cowslips, primroses and violets were not so far away!

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