Summer at Weirdstone

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Naked and Funny

You want a coming of age story set in the now forgotten old English countryside. Forget Cider With Rosie. Forget Larkrise to Candleford. Laura Punt's child is coming to Weirdstone.

"Oh Mama!" I expostulated, "surely you cannot mean that I must live with Great Aunt Piddleton in her hovel in Weirdstone!"

 

"I'm afraid you must dear. Your dear Papa lost his all when the business collapsed."

 

"You mean he lost everything Mama!"

 

"No - he lost his awl. And when you are a cobbler you cannot survive without an awl."

 

"But how did the business collapse!"

 

"The roof was too heavy and the walls weren't strong enough. I told him corrugated cardboard wasn't the same as corrugated iron but he wouldn't believe me."

 

"But the people in Weirdstone. They are so...." I hesitated unable to bring to mind the word I sought.

 

"Peculiar?"

 

"No Mama. Not peculiar. Like peculiar but not peculiar."

 

"Strange?"

 

"No."

 

"Odd?"

 

"No"

 

"Bizarre?"

 

"No Mama," poor Mama was running out of synonymic epithets, which was painful at the best of times.

 

"No Mama. They are weird! And Great Aunt Piddleton is the weirdest of the lot!"

 

So while Papa went to throw himself under a train having lost his awl in the great crash, I boarded the 10.16 to Weirdstone Halt and my new life with Great Aunt.

 

It was a pity that it was my train that Papa decided to throw himself under, as it meant that I was three hours late arriving. Poor dear Papa. Never could get anything right.

 

No-one else alighted at Weirdstone Halt, a desolate place set in the desolate countryside of the fens. Everywhere I looked an endless succession of turnips met my eye. As soon as the waifs stopped throwing turnips at my eyes I peered around. A small dogcart was waiting, on the driver’s seat sat a small dog, and next to him a large man, fast asleep.

 

I went over and shook him by the shoulder.

 

"Awake good sir," I expostulated, "are you by any chance Tranter Dick?"

 

"There be some as calls me that," he replied.

 

"Well Tranter Dick," I expostulated again, "would you be willing to trant me to Weirdstone in return for the sum of one penny."

 

"You be one of them then," he replied.

 

"Be one of what?"

 

"Them as calls me Tranter Dick."

 

"But surely Tranter Dick, that be, I mean is, your name."

 

"No it baint," he answered in his comic dialect, "I be Joe Grundy."

 

"Then why did you say you were Tranter Dick."

 

"I said there were them as calls me Tranter Dick. Anyway the fare's five pounds plus VAT."

 

“I understand,” I expostulated, “that Great Aunt lives alone in her hovel,” I asked of Tranter Dick as we rolled over the cobbled streets of Weirdstone.

 

“I wouldn’t be as one who’d be callin’ it a hovel,” he replied.

 

“What would you call it then?” I enquired.

 

“It be more of a pigsty,” he replied enigmatically.

 

“And she lives alone?”

 

“That she do. Her first husband Old Seth, he were chased over a cliff by a dog.”

 

“And her second husband.”

 

“Oh, Old Seth. She lost Old Seth, it be nigh on twenty yearn ago now.”

 

“How sad. Was he chased over a cliff by a dog as well.”

 

“No, as I said, she lost him. It were in a game of ludo with old Squire Trelawny. She were always a betting woman were your Great Aunt. Sadly she were none too good at ludo.”

 

As we drew up in front of Great Aunt’s pigsty the old lady rushed out to meet me, and an ancient specimen she was too. She must have been nigh on 45 years of age. She grinned at me, displaying a gap where once a set of fine front teeth might once have stood, had Squire Trelawny not paid to have them removed as a wedding present.

 

“Laura Punt’s child!” she whistled (the gap in her teeth proving singularly apt for the purpose), “Come to my arms Laura Punt’s child and kiss your old Great Aunt!”

 

I paid Tranter Dick his five pounds, plus VAT and a handsome tip of a penny three farthings and he went off grumbling in that inimitable way of country folk. She led me in through the door of the old pigsty. Fortunately the pigs were out for the day, so there was enough room for the two of us.

 

“Critty Punt!” she cried (for all the family call me that, my given name being Christine), “my how you have growed these many years.”

 

“Tis likely I have Great Aunt,” said I, “seeing I was but three years old the last time you saw me.”

 

“Sit yourself down Laura Punt’s child,” she said, “and take the weight off those pretty feet of yourn.”

 

“Great Aunt,” I expostulated, “is there any place where I could wash and bathe, for the dust of the roads lies heavy upon me.”

 

“To be sure,” said she, “the old horse trough lies in the centre of the High Street, and if you do but give a penny to Daft Jake he will pump up the water for you.”

 

“But Great Aunt, surely I cannot bathe in a horse trough in the middle of the High Street.”

 

“But if you give him tuppence he will surely give you a rub down with a pumice stone.”

 

That was an offer which could not be gainsaid and in ten minutes I had divested myself of my garments and stood in a state of nature and the horse trough as Jake wielded the pumice stone.

 

Squire Trelawny waved as he passed by, “Aha! Be you Laura Punt’s child, Critty Punt?” he enquired.

 

“I certainly am aaaaaaah!” I expostulated, the latter noise indicating that the pumice stone had at that time been applied to one of the more delicate areas of my anatomy.

 

“In that case I must take you for my wife,” said he.

 

"But will your wife want me?" said I.

 

"You misapprehend me," said he, "I mean you must then marry me."

 

But sadly I had to refuse him, for though he had ten thousand a year in the consoles, he was fat and ugly and I was awaiting an offer from an extraordinarily beautiful but penniless farmer and a diabolical aristocratic supposed relative (who would have to fight for me in a duel before I shot him).

 

I returned to the pigsty to find Great Aunt looking idly out the window pretending not to notice me.

 

“Where are my clothes Great Aunt,” I enquired, for I was still in a state of nature having left my accoutrements in the pigsty. It was only when I noticed the ludo board that the horrible truth struck. Great Aunt had lost my clothes to the Squire in a game of ludo.

 

"Great Aunt," I expostulated, "what am I to do without clothes!"

 

"Fear not Laura Punt's child," cried she, "for tonight be the ancient festival of Beltane when at eve of midsummer the moon do ride high upon the clouds."

 

"And..."

 

"And young village maidens do dance sky clad under the stormy moon."

 

"And..."

 

"I thought Laura Punt's child would be a-dancing sky clad under the stormy moon."

 

"It doesn't look as if I have much choice does it."

 

"Run along then Laura Punt's child, there be much to do afore the stormy clouds do ride, and what's more the pigs'll be home soon and you don't want to be around when that happens."

 

Unfortunately I was around when the pigs came home, so it was a relief when Great Aunt declared that we should hie ourselves to the ancient stone circle (which was at least fifty years old) where we were to dance sky clad under the stormy moon.

 

"Pray tell me Great Aunt," says I, "what is meant by 'sky clad'?"

 

"Aaah," says she, "that be dressed in a state of nature."

 

"You mean bedecked with flowered garlands and leafy twigs," says I.

 

"Aaaah no," says she, "that be dressed as you be upon your birthday."

 

"You mean in my white sprig muslin dress with taffeta shawl," says I.

 

"Aaah no," says she, "that be dressed in the buff pink of your own natural...."

 

"You mean you didn't manage to get my clothes back off Squire Trelawney!"

 

"Aaaaah no," says she.

 

So it was that I walked down the High Street that warm June evening sky clad as the musicians of the Weirdstone Quire played a triumphant march and encouraged me on with such cheerful quips as, "You can come and play on my organ any time" and "Show us you’re Critty Punt!" (At least that's what I think they said).

 

At the witching hour we arrived at the ancient stone circle, where was assembled the maidenhood of the village.

 

I looked round. They were largely dressed either as Wonderwoman or Spiderman. Nobody else seemed to be sky clad.

 

"Great Aunt," I expostulated, "you said all the maidens would be sky clad."

 

"Oh, perhaps that's May day," she answered, "still, you're bound to win the fancy dress competition."

 

"Fancy dress! Who have I come as!"

 

She looked me up and down, "Boadicea?"

 

"Boadicea wasn't naked!"

 

"Wasn't she. Well somebody like that then!"

 

Squire Trelawney appeared dressed in a cotton print frock. My frock! He was going to judge the fancy dress competition!

 

The other maidens of the village didn't take too kindly to my winning the fancy dress competition, if the fact that they held me down over an old tree trunk and soundly beat me on the bottom with a bundle of withy twigs was anything to go by. Perhaps Boadicea wasn't too popular in that part of the world.

 

Unfortunately the first prize in the competition was to be born by the squire down the high street as his partner in the wench carrying race. Sadly as I am 'an English maid of eleven stone two and five foot ten in her dancing shoe' (not that I was wearing shoes) and the squire was much impeded by wearing my print frock, we had the misfortune to come last in the race. As a result of this I was paraded round the market square in nothing but my Beltane costume. I'm not sure if being pelted with mud covered turnips by the village waifs and having my nipples tweaked by every passing swain was part of the ceremony as well, but I did get a twiddle on the squire's organ and that somehow made up for it all.

 

By the time I got round the village square I was covered in mud and had to pay Daft Jake with nipple tweaks get get rubbed down with a pumice stone before they would allow me into the Village Hall for the Beltane Dance.

 

I got the Squire up for a turn at the Lancers (though they objected to being turned) but I caught him in the moulinettes which was rather painful and put paid to dancing for the rest of the evening.

 

We repaired to the gaming room where the squire offered to wager my print frock on a game of ludo. Sadly I had nought to stake except my maidenly hair (not that which was upon my head), but the noble squire accepted that and staked it on the table. Unfortunately this restraint seriously affected my ludo strategy with the result that I am now totally bald in the ineffables. It would not have been too bad had the squire not insisted on pulling them out one by one and counting them. There were ninety-seven. He was mightily disappointed not to reach his century but try as he may could find no more.

 

At three in the morning we breakfasted on long wooden trestle tables, which were, I may say a sight more tasty than mama's porridge, and I returned home.

 

And I do wish the pigs would move over. There really isn't room for three in these double beds.


Submitted: May 01, 2020

© Copyright 2021 Joex. All rights reserved.

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Comments

Joex

In its poignant evocation of life in an England now lost beyond all recognition, this story ranks alongside such classics as Larkrise to Candleford, Cider with Rosie, The Blue Field and The Archers Omnibus.

Fri, May 1st, 2020 10:33am

Nder

. . . and with delightful shades of Cold Comfort Farm too. I was very amused, Sir, and relieved to learn that Joe Grundy is alive and well in Weirdstone!

Sat, July 18th, 2020 11:29am

Author
Reply

Joe Grundy seemed immortal when I wrote it and it just seemed just the way Joe and Bartleby would behave. Of course there are shades of Cold Comfort Farm and of course lots of Thomas Hardy references in there!

Sun, July 19th, 2020 10:09pm

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