Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A summer in the country - part nine.

Post 577 - One of the most exciting events during my summer visit was going with my grandfather to the fair in the village of Campile. Here local farmers brought their animals to sell (mostly pigs as I remember) and the beasts and their owners all clustered around the village street for the best part of the day. The men ducked in and out of the pubs for a quick drink on a fairly regular basis and many were quite merry by late afternoon. This helped to liven up the commercial proceedings and resulted in noisy bargaining. Agreement on a price was followed by a spit on the hand and a handshake to confirm that the deal had been struck. Of course this then had to be celebrated by a visit to the pub once more. So one of the few times I saw my grandfather the worse for drink was when he returned from the fair, much to the disapproval of the women in the house. On Monday, August 26th 1940, the year before my visit, a German aircraft bombed the creamery at Campile and three local women were killed. It’s still not clear why this tragedy occurred.

Another exciting event in the village as far as I was concerned was the showing of movies on a very irregular schedule in a corrugated shed very near my uncle’s grocery store. Seating was set out on wooden benches that radiated back from the screen. The farmers who attended usually brought their dogs with them, and the dogs didn’t always get on as well as their masters. So, every now and then, a great noisy battle erupted beneath the patrons’ legs and the film would have to stop until peace was restored. This added some local color and quite an air of excitement and uncertainty to the proceedings. The door to the building moved on a big metal rail and made considerable noise when it moved back and forward to let people in or out. So there was no sneaking around without being heard and everyone turned to see what was happening whenever it rolled back with a noise like thunder. Since I had no money to pay for admittance, I joined some of the local lads throwing stones on the metal roof until we became enough of a nuisance that we were let in for free. As you can imagine, it was never a dull evening.

Another trip I really looked forward to was taking our corn to the mill at a place called Mulinderry so that the wheat could be ground into flour. This was a water-driven mill and it looked like a Constable painting. Like most other such adventures, it was usually an all-day affair to go there and back. My grandfather was pretty self sufficient as the farm provided his family with their own corn, barley, oats, flour, eggs, milk, meat, sausages, fruit and vegetables. He also had his own fowl and my aunt Stasia made the butter and bread. Fish were delivered every Friday, usually fresh mackerel caught earlier that morning by the fishing boats in Ballyhack nearby, and then brought around for sale in the back of a horse and cart. If fresh fish wasn’t available, we ate salted cod from the village shops instead. I also remember poaching salmon at night with my cousin, Matt Hart, on a neighbor’s land. We used a carbide underwater lamp to attract the fish to the river bank and then forked them out with a big Neptune-like spear. This was a very adventurous escapade as the word was that the neighbor had been known to chase after poachers with a shotgun. And so the potential danger sharpened the pleasure of the evening’s pastime considerably.

More later

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