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A Shout From The Attic: Medomsley Days

...Like most country folks, they could not cut their farming ties and so they kept a pig to fatten and a yard full of hens. It was a small quaint house built of small red bricks made in ancient times. What remained of the farm had that comforting smell of permanence and the tangible memory of deep roots, settled customs, and country manners...

Ronnie Bray recalls a joyous boyhood holiday in County Durham.

To read earlier chapters of Ronnie's autobiography please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/a_shout_from_the_attic/

When I was about thirteen, I went on a week’s holiday to Meadomsley near Consett in County Durham. I stayed with relatives of my stepfather, Tommy Scott. The house was an old farmhouse whose people had retired from farming to enjoy their old age.

Like most country folks, they could not cut their farming ties and so they kept a pig to fatten and a yard full of hens. It was a small quaint house built of small red bricks made in ancient times. What remained of the farm had that comforting smell of permanence and the tangible memory of deep roots, settled customs, and country manners.

It was a sunny week and the people were nice, gentle, and not demanding. I enjoyed the sunshine, watching the hens, sketching the house, and stroking the pig whose name was Bonny. It was a place where I enjoyed that strange feeling of ‘otherness’ that always came when I had escaped by distance and custom from my own home and family. Consequently I have always loved to travel and experience the freedom of being unknown and unjudged.

For a whole week, Meadomsley was a springboard to other joys. Country walks began just outside the house door. Leafy lanes invited me to walk along them and gawp at the sights. The country church, older than living memory, had been the place for the rites of passage for those of simple faith whose ancestors had wrested their living from the land round about, and were now laid to rest in that fertile soil.

Walking through the countryside on sunny days was the nearest I ever got to timelessness. I have felt this in different places and different lands when life’s demands have been eased for a time and duty briefly laid aside. The pleasant warmth of the sun is akin to being caressed: an important event for those who need to be caressed and touched as confirmation of their humanity and worth, however small that worth is felt to be. It is for a stolen moment ‘to be’ and to know that one ‘is,’ and is, perhaps, a foretaste of true heaven.

Those sun-bathed days spent within the kindliness, patience, and generosity of an old couple I did not know, and whose faced have long since slipped from memory, but who selflessly extended their simple benevolence to an unattractive town boy they did not know, stand as some of the few truly Golden Days of an unhappy childhood.

All too soon, the week was gone. I was wistful on the journey home. The nearer I got to home, the more the dark clouds gathered themselves about my head, plunging my thoughts once more into the fearful mode that was normality.

Yet, like Wordsworth with his daffodils, I had a treasured memory that permitted at least temporary escape from the harsh realities of my unhappiness, back to a time of sweet, sweet peace in another place, in another time, under the gentle eyes of people who were at peace with themselves and the world. Thank God for such places. Thank God for such times. Thank God for such people.

Even now, as I slowly climb the foothills of old age, the recollection of my Meadomsley Days fills me with the glowing brightness of timeless sun-filled summer days, when tranquil the silence of God’s wonderful countryside was broken only by the gentle sound of bees about their work, and by the sweet songs of birds praising their own days of plenty. Then I feel again the peace of those placid hearts; the warmth of simple kindness remembered; and the miraculous genesis of a half-glimpsed vision that life could be good, And my heart sings with gratitude to God, who makes all things possible.

Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing:
Thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness.
Psalm 30:11

I have felt this in different places and different lands when life’s demands have been eased for a time and duty briefly laid aside. The pleasant warmth of the sun is akin to being caressed: an important event for those who need to be caressed and touched as confirmation of their humanity and worth however small that worth is felt to be. It is for a stolen moment ‘to be’ and to know that one is and is perhaps, a foretaste of true heaven.

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