Uncle Simon

This is again from ‘Old Oak’. It is rare to find descriptions of old farmhouses as they fell into disuse as farming changed and labourers increasingly lived in their own cottages – or at least those that were not driven out.

HIs sister Sall and he lived in a large, lone, thatched cottage that stood on the edge of an orchard. They always had a wood fire on the hearth of their living-room, and half way up to the top of the wide, open chimney hung flitches of bacon and hams, which had been sent by their wealthier neighbours to be smoked and died. Around the window the opened from the chimney-corner into the garden there were built into the wall a number of old Dutch  tiles said to have once belonged to a mansion that had vanished from Silson centuries back in the past, possibly the royal residence  i have already mentioned. The shelves were loaded with the choicest of old china, while here and there hung a time-stained print depicting a battle-scene. when I was a boy, it was one of the greatest delights of my life to drop in on them of a winter’s night, when the wind was howling among the trees outside and the sparks were flying up the chimney to lose themselves i the darkness above, and hear them tell their stories of bygone days. … Simon used to sit on a low, flag-bottomed chair, his body bent forward over the hearth so that he could better replenish the fire. Sall, with her lace pillow before her would jangle her bobbins and place her pos with her long, bonds fingers in the light of a tallow candle whose rays passed through a tall water bottle and fell softly on her parchment The two knew all the legends and traditions of the countryside and it is from the I gleaned many of the incidents I now relate 60 years after.

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