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Green legs and Mother Die.

I always feel it's a good idea not to go too far into the countryside, or better still not to leave the car park. In other words, for safety's sake, stay with the crowds and don't go near the view.

Views can be dangerous especially ones you can fall off or down. The view is always best left in the distance.

While you're walking towards the view, you have to go through all sorts of unpleasantness - nettles, brambles, thistles and thorns.

On top of all this, everything in the country leaks - from machinery to cows. You're always in danger of being bitten, stung or trampled on.

My Auntie Edith lived with her brother my uncle Wilf in Meltham.

When Auntie Edith dusted, she didn't just use one duster - she used two, one in each hand.

She dusted with the right hand and the left one she used to lean on so has not to leave fingerprints.

Her cellar was super clean, gleaming and snow goggle white.

In it were lots of Uncle Wilf's, bottles of pop. Meltham is close enough to Huddersfield for a horse to walk there and back so Uncle Wilf had a cellar full of Ben Shaw's pop including the local yellow lemonade.

Uncle Wilf always seemed to be dressed in a brown lab coat and wellies.

He was constantly cleaning eggs in a bucket with a damp cloth. I remember once meeting him on the road with his empty bucket, probably going for more eggs. I don't remember any coal in Aunt Edith's cellar. I think coal would be too dirty for her to have on display.

I was alway on my best behaviour because I knew, fastened into landing ceiling, were some of those mysterious scary hooks like the ones we had in our cellar. What were they for? Hanging naughty kids on.

Auntie Edith always gave me the feeling that my very existence annoyed her. When I was a student she would constantly ask me: "When are you going to get a job?"

Later when I was earning money she'd ask: "When are you going to get a proper job?"

This was of course a hard job, one you didn't like and didn't pay well because your final reward was in heaven.

My other, much nicer auntie, Ida, Cousin Rodney and Uncle Bob also lived in Meltham, on the edge of the view at Upper Owler Bars Farm.

My Dad was born in Meltham so he had no problem with the countryside and it's ways.

He'd wring a hen's neck, pluck it and gut it, chucking hands full of entrails on the fire, no problem.

Dad would then scare us by pulling the exposed tendons on the severed hen's leg this made the claw open and shut as if alive. I don't think he found this at all macabre.

He was a fund of quaint little country ways. On the pleasant side he would put a hairy grass seed head or an ear of barley up your sleeve and later you'd find it had crawled up the sleeve and was now mysteriously in the opposite one.

He knew how to make itching powder out of the hairy stuff inside rose hips.

The best thing for nettle stings, I know are nettles but he reckoned rubbing dock leaves on the stings relieved the pain.

All it did for me was give me a green leg. He showed me you could eat young Hawthorn leaves.

When out walking Dad would point at a plant everyone called Mother Die, he'd cross his arms on his chest like a corpse and look up to heaven, shake his head, warning us not to touch it. Kids who'd had a good smacking from their mams, would, intent on revenge, furtively pick it, thinking just picking it would evoke it's mortal, mam magic.

The plant was actually quite harmless, cow parsley mistaken for Hemlock. I don't remember a single mam dying, they all lived on to smack another day.

We'd pick dandelion clocks with impunity to tell the time by counting the number of puffs it took to blow away the parachute fairies.

This method was completely inaccurate but it did help to spread the dandelions.

Dad would put a blade of grass between his thumbs holding his hands as if praying and blowing through the gap and the grass would produce a sound.

He couldn't hear it but he could feel the vibrations. He'd would pluck a snapdragon flower head and lightly squeeze it so it opened and shut like a mouth, silently talking.

Cows are not as daft as people think. Most folk believe that cows follow their leader cow into the cowshed.

This isn't true. The boss cow is the second cow in the line. The boss cow always allows another cow to go first, just in case there's any danger lurking ahead or behind the door. This could have been the original concept of allowing ladies to go first.

If a clever cow is so distrustful of the countryside I feel my apprehensions are justified ...
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Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Jul 27, 2005
Words:848
Previous Article:Work on road soon.
Next Article:Wilf Lunn.


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