I slept very little last night and have a great deal on the BBC World Service about the parlous state of the world economy. The American Senate approved the President’s proposal to increase the lending level by $1.4 billion in order to avoid them defaulting on their debts. I shudder to think what effect it would have had on the world economy had the Senate failed to vote this through. I look at the problems that exist in Europe with Greece, Portugal and Italy and realise that we are still very much on the edge of unknown territory. One mistake and the world could be plunged into something far worse than the depression of the early 30’s.
We must just pray that the politicians know what they’re doing but I’m not holding my breath on that.
Being Tuesday I should have gone to golf today but when we looked out at 8.30 this morning it was pouring with rain. Coupled with that I had not resolved my constipation problem so the combination of the two was sufficient for me to cancel my taxi. As it happened the sun came out shortly after and shone all day and the other issue did not turn out to be a problem, so I could have gone after all. Fortunately, ‘my lovely’ was kind enough to put me into my electric wheelchair so I was able to sit in the sunshine in the garden for a couple of hours in the afternoon.
Yesterday, I wrote about the little booklette entitled Clavering Remembered which was written to commemorate the life of Fred Samford and is organised by the Clavering Oral History Project. I understand from one of the voluntary organisers of this project that they intend to feature Eggie Abrahams next year to commemorate his 50 years as chairman of the Parish Council. In the meantime I thought it might interest readers if I were to record one or two other anecdotes from Fred Samford’s life in the 30’s.
We heard how there had been many ,many times when Fred had been really hungry. He went on to describe that sometimes the local gamekeeper would give him a bit of rabbit and his mother would then make a rabbit pie and perhaps after that some rabbit soup or perhaps he would be given a pigeon or even rook but never a pheasant, as that would be illegal! He recounts one occasion when he was in a shop and a newcomer to the village asked one of the local girls if her father was a poacher. She said “who wants to know? The newcomer said “so, well is it true? Complete silence for a moment and the little girl said “I’ll tell you one thing, we never went hungry. Does that answer your question?”
Fred talks about the gypsies who would come round pea and potato picking on the various farms (what we have today is tens of thousands of Eastern Europeans because our own people are not prepared to work for the modest wage offered for this work and are even discriminated against in favour of these hard-working people who have come halfway across the world looking for work). Fred recounts how occasionally they had problems with these gypsies in the local public house. When it happened the landlord would reach for his 12 bore under the counter, put in two cartridges t and say “the door is over there”. Apparently they looked at him in astonishment. The landlord will burn cock the safety catch at and say “I’m not joking. You either go out of the door without lead in you you or you go out with it in your.” He never had any more trouble in the pub. Sadly such behaviour would be illegal today.
Fred told us how he started work at 14, on a farm, for a wage of 7s 6d (37 Â½. p) a week. He started at 6 a.m in the morning until 5.00 at night and to midday on a Saturday. If you were given a rise it was always on your birthday. They used horses to plough the land although this was about the time tractors were beginning to be used. He graphically describes bringing in the harvest before the day of the combine. The corn was put into sheaves to dry then later these sheaves were put onto a threshing machine.
(Even I remember haymaking, long hours in the sunshine and travelling back in the hay wagon, thirsty, hungry and tired but very happy)
Fred met his future wife, Jesse, at the local public house The Swan, (
sadly no longer with us) where Fred went every night with his mates to play darts. Jesse was living with a local woman called Molly Hancock who were newcomers to the village but they wanted to join in so her family took her down to the pub in her wheelchair in the evenings. They married in 1948 and rented a caravan for 18 months before moving to Surrey to live with Jess’s father until he died 18 months later, they then returned to Clavering.
Fred recounts the birth of his daughter Elaine and how she ‘bettered’ herself by going to Harlow College for secretarial training. Fred’s last job was caretaker at the village hall which he had helped, many years earlier, to raise money to build. He loved this job but health problems made him give it up in the end. He was saddened at how village life had changed in the last of his 10 years â€“ not all for the better, mainly because of the newcomers who he wondered if they were shy. (I suppose Alice and I have to be included amongst those newcomers although we’ve been here for the best part of 50 years). However, towards the latter years of his life Fred was known to all of us and we would never pass him by without stopping to have a chat. He was a lovely man and this small piece of social history recorded for posterity is extremely important and ensures that people like Fred and the life that they led, will never be forgotten.