Tuesday 9 September 2008

Through the gate

A variation on 'over the hedge', 'through the gate' is pictured in rural France, not a million miles from St.Sauveur en Puisaye in The Yonne. Here there are still a goodly number of aging tractors doing sterling service. This little group comprising a Grey Fergie, Nuffield and a little International nestle behind the gate. There appears to be a plough of the 'towed' variety there too along with the obligatory but thoroughly modern wheelbarrow. All it needs to complete the scene is a blue-jacketed farm worker with a Gauloises drooping from the bottom lip. He will have come to work on his heavily abused Mobylette moped via the village cafĂ© where breakfast probably meant a strong black coffee and a small glass of chilled red wine. As a treat there might be a tartine, but not if madame at home has any say in the matter, for this stuff costs money and it's still quite poor in the northern Yonne. Situated roughly mid-way between Sancerre and Chablis the area is known for its pottery and clay products although the local brickworks closed some time ago, it still sustains a commercial ceramics factory. Agriculture prevails here with viniculture taking over some forty miles to the south west or north east. The long straight road that leads to Auxerre almost smells of the Romans as it drives arrow-straight for kilometres whilst meandering tracks to left and right offer the most charming diversions through farm, village and hamlet. Here an old lady in the uniform of flowery pinafore and ankle boots, there a knot of elderly men with their large flat caps discoursing beneath a Plane tree - the place is timeless. Very occasionally these days we see a heavily laden 'deux chevaux', its portly driver transporting his seed potatoes or a few chickens, arm nonchalently out of the window and pipe smoking vigorously. 

And all this, just 'through the gate'.

Saturday 6 September 2008

Pub with no beer

This and another painted piece on the chimney are all there is left to tell you that this now fancy dwelling was once a proper pub. The 'HH' stands for Hampshire Hunt and is in the village of Cheriton close by Alresford in Hampshire. My dear old dad-in-law took his family there in the early 1950s and though returning to Sussex they spent two very happy years in this pretty spot. Trade wasn't what you might call brisk in those days and they competed with two other pubs in the same village, but such was the character of the old man and his natural empathy with country people that what little there was soon gravitated to the 'aitches'. The children grew up in an idyllic atmosphere where even at this late date horses were still kept for use on the local farm. Life and soul for the menfolk was generally kept together either through agriculture or working at Freeman's timber yard. Despite the lack of ready cash there was always enough for a couple of pints and a game of 'rings' in the well scrubbed wooden bar - if your fancy turned to other sports there was a skittle alley at the back in its own building. A good  old sing-song was always encouraged and there were some fine singers in and around the area - Cheriton's 'star' being one 'Turp' Brown, BBC recordings of whom are now safely lodged with the permanent library of The National Sound Archive.
Sadly, on a visit earlier this year we saw that Freeman's yard is being developed for housing. There is just one pub left, The Flower Pots with its admirable micro-brewery and there is the lasting legacy of that family from the HH Inn - ducks as far as the eye can see.