INKLINGS # 5.

Medbourne, nr. Market Harborough, Leicestershire.
Medbourne is, or was back then, a small village a few miles north of Market Harborough in Leicestershire.  My father, a sickly boy of 12, was sent there in 1923 by his parents to stay with friends, George and Nellie Jeffreys. George had been in service with my grandfather, both of them butlers to the diamond millionaire Sir Julius Werner’s household at Luton Hoo in Bedfordshire (only just down the road from where we live now). Subsequently my father, usually accompanied by his younger brother Frank, spent the greater part of every summer at Medbourne until his early 20s. As children, my cousin Linda and I were taken there for a long weekend every summer, the journey made initially in the double sidecar of my uncle’s Ariel VG500, with my father riding pillion and subsequently in Uncle Frank’s Jowett Javelin.

The farmhouse is built of raw red bricks. It is square and functional, with four metal-framed windows and a blue slate roof.  It sits, isolated amongst its fields, on the broad, flat top of Nutbush Hill above Melbourne. The front yard is hard mud studded with flint. Chickens flutter and peck, watched by a gaggle of geese in the lee of the gooseberry bushes. A tortoiseshell cat with matted fur is curled up asleep on the lid of a rain-butt. George’s border collie Jess tugs against the limit of her frayed rope. House martins swoop and skid around the shallow eaves and far above and almost always out of vision skylarks circle, their distant call like squeaky wheels…

The night is clear. I can see a shaft of stars in the gap where the curtains are not quite closed.  After a long, hot day, there is no wind, nothing to shift the crowding leaves of the beeches that line the lane up to Nevill Holt.  A screech owl lifting off the chimney stack splits the brief silence; I hear its wings beat as it curls away to the east.  I breathe deep, listening through the half-open window to the shuffling and cropping of the black-faced sheep slowly orbitting the house in the darkness like dim clouds…

Then suddenly all sound comes from within. Downstairs, in the tiny parlour, they are gathered late around the piano. Auntie Nellie plays – big-fisted chords, plangent & unornamented – and they’re alls singing, Auntie Nellie, Uncle George, his son Malcolm, Uncle Frank and Dad. There’s a long, long trail a-winding, into the land of my dreams. As I enter the margins of sleep, a dream gathers for me too. There’s the complex signature fragrance of the animal shed, the harvested barley, tarry wood blocks burning in the range, the damp undersides of the rhubarb leaves with their cargo of slugs, the frying of bacon early in the morning, sense memories that linger still…

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Dad, Uncle Frank and their friend Jack Almond

medbourne_2

Medbourne.

About Dick Jones

I'm a post-retirement Drama teacher, currently working part-time. I have a grown-up son and daughter, three grandchildren and three young children from my second marriage. I write - principally poetry but prose too, both fitfully published. My poetry collection Ancient Lights is published by Phoenicia Publishing (www.phoeniciapublishing.com) and my translation of Blaise Cendrars' 'Trans-Siberian Prosody and Little Jeanne from France' (illustrated by my friend, the artist, writer and long-time blogger Natalie d'Arbeloff) is published by Old Stile Press (www.oldstilepress.com). I play bass guitar & bouzouki in the song-based acoustic/electric trio Moorby Jones, playing entirely original material (https://www.facebook.com/moorbyjones?ref=aymt_homepage_panel + http://www.moorbyjones.net/). I have a dormant blog with posts going back to 2004 at Dick Jones' Patteran Pages - http://patteran.typepad.com - and I'm a radio ham. My callsign is G0 EUV.
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