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A Shout From The Attic: Farnley Tyas

...All my few memories of the all too brief hours spent at the caravan are of sunshine and smiles, as the normal cares of life were for an hour or so, forgotten, and it was possible to see occasional flashes of humanity in those who ruled my life...

Ronnie Bray recalls with affection visits to a village some miles from the Yorkshire industrial town in which he grew up.

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

A few miles out from Huddersfield is a small village that stands beyond the height of Castle Hill and exults in the name of Farnley Tyas. My Nanny buying a caravan there brought about my first association with it.

The caravan, a rounded-roof plywood affair painted outside in domestic green, stood in the top left-hand corner of the sloping field, at the right hand side of the Anglican Church. In hot summer days, a visit to the caravan for a few hours was a refreshing break from the dusty town days. The only problem was that the field was home to some Friesian cows.

These animals were bigger than I was and in spite of attempts to assure me to the contrary, they frightened me more than I frightened them. One got itself behind the caravan, which was close to the wall, and then decided to turn around. My mediaeval mind thought that the end of the world was upon us. The caravan shook and creaked with unexpected violence. Nobody laughed. Them was serious days!

Nanny also bought a Wolsey motorcar whose radiator mounted lozenge-shaped badge lit up when the lights were on. It was modern then, but very old-fashioned now. It had the unmistakable smell of leather that breathed the spirit of another age.

One of our lodgers, white-haired Luke, a soft-spoken man who slept in the big attic, was its driver. Mother was supposed to have lessons from the Holmes School of Motoring that kept its solitary car in a garage that ran down the track at the bottom side of Gabriella’s Milk Bar. Apparently, Mother did not take all her lessons and what she spent the money on was never disclosed. It caused a bit of a scene when Mr Holmes was summonsed to 121 by Nanny to find out why Mother had not passed her driving test.

The Wolsey was garaged in a lock-up at the side of 78 New North Road. The entrance to the garage was up a very steep ramp. This could cause problems for, as it was explained to me, if the car dallied on the incline too long the flow of petrol was interrupted. The fuel tank was mounted in the engine compartment above the engine, where a low level of petrol, (fed to the carburettor by gravity) and the long tilt-back combined to starve the engine of stuff to burn, and the car stopped.

It is at the caravan that I remember Uncle Joe Burgess from Stoke on Trent, where Nanny’s family came from, and Mary, his second wife. He was a tall, big built man with one leg. His shoulders were broad and powerful from years of using crutches. Mary was a small, slight, and pleasant woman given to wearing those hats from which by style and choice, women have thankfully abandoned. Most girls today do not know what a hatpin is.

Uncle Jose suffered from consumption, as tuberculosis was called in polite circles. He once played with us, putting a Ping-Pong ball in his mouth and blowing it out. He encouraged René and I to do it, and so we did, until he met with Nanny’s voluble disapproval for risking infection. He had a nice chubby face with an ever-present smile. I wonder what happened to him.

In those days, no one spoke loud in Farnley Tyas, and most of those who spoke at all were nigh on impossible to understand. Farnley Tyas was a ‘Broad Yorkshire’ speaking village whose hard working inhabitants held to country ways and country values long after other villages succumbed to customs that are more modern. It was, and still is, a good place to find an outstanding meal in its ancient hostelry.

When I was fourteen, during one of my voluntary absences from Spring Grove School, I broke my back in a potato field at Farnley Tyas and was diddled by the farmer who, no doubt briefly abandoning his honest country ways and old fashioned moral values, paid me far less than he paid the other lads. This taught me that it was just as easy to be diddled in the country as it was in the town where all the rogues were supposed to live.

All my few memories of the all too brief hours spent at the caravan are of sunshine and smiles, as the normal cares of life were for an hour or so, forgotten, and it was possible to see occasional flashes of humanity in those who ruled my life. It was sad to know the time had come to empty our cups of Ben Shaw’s yellow lemonade, and trundle back into the town and back into the old routines. Farnley Tyas, I will always remember with sweet sadness.

The potato farmer I will remember in quite a different way!


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