Sunday, 6 February 2011

Bash it down Bernard...

My grandfather coined this nick-name for my father when we first moved to "the Farm". The year was 1960. My father had found out about the farm from one of his customers - he had a workshop where he made gates and railings and welded broken council lorries. He decided that having built our bungalow and lived in it for 4 years it no longer seemed like a home for life because a whole estate had been built in the fields next to us.

Dad bought the farm and we moved in. August 1960. there were a few small renovations he had to do but he had sold the bungalow so we had to move.

There was no electricity, no indoor plumbing - the only tap was out in the yard. There was a lavatory at the end of the garden, the old earth closet type where you waved the spider stick around before entering and after you had done what you needed to do you shovelled a small coal shovel full of earth onto it - does that conjure up a good picture? good, because cameras were not thought of then.

The oldest part of the house had been built around 1600, at least that's what the expert on roof beams and stuff told us. He thought it had been a Welsh long house originally but had been "modified" somewhat.

We had to live upstairs while all this was going on and my grandparents lived in a small caravan in the yard.

Pretty soon we were all involved in the work of building new walls inside the walls to prevent the damp and fitting a bathroom! Still no indoor plumbing or electricity though.

My grandfather would come into the house every day and look around him. then he would say "I wonder what Bash-it-down-Bernard will knock down today". He would sometimes make calculations on a scrap of paper and once, after a lot of scribbling and tongue-out-of-the-corner-of-the-mouth moments he took us all to the kitchen and pointed to the pantry wall that was being built "see that," he said, "come with me"

He took us out into the yard where he paced from the wall of the house to a point not far from the middle of the yard "If he keeps on building that wall as he is this is where the arch will land"

We looked at the X he had scuffed on the ground, looked at each other and then all trouped back into the kitchen to look at the wall.

He was right.

One day as they were scraping the old plaster off the dairy wall Dad discovered a window that had been blocked up - Please bear in mind that as the building was so old the walls were over five feet thick at the bottom. At five feet one inch tall I could lie on the window sill with the top of my head against the window frame and my feet did NOT hang over the edge of the sill.

He decided that we should have a window where the blocked up one was because it would "shed a bit of light on the sink when you are washing up, love" My mother thanked him for his thoughtfulness. There were barrow loads of stones and rubble in that window space and it took ages to get it all out. finally there was one small jagged piece of stone to be removed from the top right-hand corner of the now empty window space.

Dad reached up and tapped it with the hammer and everything seemed to go into slow motion.

There was a brief silence after the hammer tap then there was the sound of stone grinding on stone and as we all took a pace backwards everything above the window space fell down in the sort of dusty, tumbling, crunching, grinding roar that hollywood reserves for earthquake movies.

We staggered outside, coughing and gasping because of the clouds of dust that followed us out through the doorway. We looked at one another covered from head to foot in grey dust and we realised that we would be making an unscheduled trip to the public baths - they still had baths that people could pay to use in those days.

Dad led us around the house to see what the extent of the damage was and we could see that the whole of the wall, up to the roof line had collapsed because that little jagged rock was holding a huge square block of stone (later it was weighed and it was 2.5 tons) in place and this in turn had held the rest of the wall.

We stood in silence for a while, just staring at the HUGE hole in the wall. My Dad turned to Mum and said

"We'll have a window upstairs as well, shall we?"

and we did.


This is part of the Storytelling Sunday experience thought up by Sian why not pop over there and see who else has told a story for Sunday.

8 comments:

Jimjams said...

Oh dear - I can't imagine what your mother said in response to that! Great story, thanks for sharing!

Ruth said...

Oh, great punchline ~ I guess your mum was the unflappable sort ...

humel said...

lol!! I can just see it all happening, you tell the story so well :-)

scrappyjacky said...

It makes a great story....but was it so great living through it????

Sian said...

You always conjure up such a wonderful picture! This is a completely captivating story with a truly memorable punchline - I loved reading every bit of it.

Thank you for Storytelling Sunday today :)

Ladkyis said...

My mum's usual response to Dad was to say "Oh, you!" and then laugh. She was unflappable her mother too so I hope I have inherited the knack.
It was great fun living through it all. even when we all had to climb up the scaffolding and in through the new hole to go to bed it was exciting and great fun
Thank you Sian, I am already forming the story for next month

Gail T said...

LOL - you tell it so perfectly that I can see it. Sounds like there was never a dull moment when your Dad got to his renovating.

miriam.rogers said...

You tell such wonderful stories, thanks so much for sharing them x