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A day to remember.

p.risboy

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#1
A day to remembmer

Fred was awakened by his son Frederick, who was excited at the prospect of going to work with his father on the dray. Fred could hear his wife preparing breakfast in the kitchen underneath the bedroom.
He checked his pocket watch, which sat hung on the bedpost, near his head. A few minutes past 5 o’ clock in the morning, and his day had begun. Fred swung his legs from the bed, and rubbed his son’s hair with vigour, and sent him downstairs to draw water from the well. He pulled on his trousers, and socks and went down the stairs to the kitchen and slid on his gleaming black boots, and kissed his wife before going up the garden to the toilet. By this time, young Fred had placed the enamel bowl on the stand near the back door, and filled it with water from the well, as mother tipped a small pan of hot water to take a good bit of the chill from the cold water.
Hilda, Fred’s daughter, was busy preparing her fathers and brothers lunch box, with cheese & bread, a lump of ham, and four apples. The contents never varied that much, but was wholesome all the same.
After Fred had done his ablutions, he came into the kitchen to sit with his family, and the big steaming pot of oats sat on the table. His wife sat with her back to the range, so she could gently turn, and toast some bread to complete the breakfast. After a short prayer, the family tucked in.
Fred & Frederick wiped their mouths and arose from the table and pulled on their jackets, to get ready for the walk to work. It wasn’t that far, maybe nearly a mile into the centre of town. At the back door, Fred kissed his wife and daughter, and gently held Fredericks hand and walked across the yard, and down the side of the terrace of cottages, before crossing the road to the footpath to the Manor. They approached church lane, and they walked through the churchyard, so they could tip their hats to their father and grandfather’s grave, as they walked through.
Up to the Market Square, where the posters were asking....... ‘Your Country Wants You’. Young Frederick gazed intensely at the posters, but fathers gaze was fixed on the gates of the Lion Brewery.
Through the gates they walked, and singed in at the office and headed for the stables, where the horses had been groomed a few hours before by the stable lads.
Frederick carried the lunch box over to the dray, and placed it under the seat, ready for them when lunch time approached.
Fred had picked up the harnesses and laid them on the benches either side of the dray, in readiness to tack up the horses, and there was four of them today, as the load was heavy, and some deliveries were uphill today. The lads brought out a horse each, and backed them up to the rails, where their days work would begin. Fred slid the harness collars over their heads, and and continued to attach all the harnesses and bridles to the first two horses, as young Frederick collected the bag of oats that would be fed to them through the working day.
The second pair of horses were brought to the dray, and the process of tacking started again. It didn’t take Fred long, as he was well practise by now, after 6 years as a drayman.
Frederick gave the horses a couple of handfuls of hay, to keep them calm as they were being assembled. He stroked their heads, and pulled the ears gently as he stood on the rails of the dray.......’he had the touch’... it was said.
Fred climbed onto the seat, and his lad clambered up on the back of dray, and put his hands on his father’s shoulders, and peered past his ear. Driving the cart forward to the loading bay, side onwards, he waited for the barrels of beer to come rolling out. The ramps were laid down on the side, and the barrels came rolling out, thick and fast. Fred and son, collected the barrels and stacked them tidily, the order clerk gave Fred the final lift with the last dozen or so, as it was a bit tricky with the dray being so full.
Frederick dragged over the leather bag of sand, and Father jumped down and hoisted it onto the back of the cart.
They both climbed up and assumed their usual positions, this time, young Frederick was sat on the barrels but still peering over his father’s shoulders.

Fred has his delivery list, but he decided to make a slight variation of his route, so he could lighten the load to the maximum, before heading up hill. The breweries stable of horses, had been reduced by nearly two thirds, due to the number needed for the war effort. This route would take two hours longer, but would be less strain on his team. The first 4 drops, were at pubs on a downhill slope, not much, but it would make a difference. The Red Lion, The Sportmans Arms, The Duke of Wellington, and finally The Old Pigeons, before travelling along a level road to The Swan. This was nearly 3 miles away, but the road was good.
Young Fred leapt off the side, and ran to the door of the The Pigeons, and gave it a hefty knock with his boot. He walked back to his father, as he had pushed off the leather bag, ready for the drop. The bag was squared up, ready for the first barrel to drop.
George Stallwood, the pub landlord, walked out bleary eyed and started counting out his delivery. One by one, young Fred rolled them to George, who then proceeded, to roll them down his hatch to his cellar, where his two sons were waiting to receive them. 16 barrells despatched, and singed for, the empties were then loaded up, and off they went to the The Duke. This pattern repeated itself, until after they approached the bottom of the hill, after the previous drop to The Swan.
The hill started gently enough, but a short way up was a hump back bridge, which was recently built for the branch line railway, and this had proved tricky to negotiate. Fred would climb off the dray, while holding the reins, as his young lad would wield a small twig he had pulled out of the hedge. Waving the twig was all that was required, but it had took a while to work out this method without stressing his horses.
They reached The Bernard Arms, which stood at the top of the hill. Just over the road, was the western entrance to Chequers, where two soldiers stood guard, and young Frederick stood in awe for these two smart individuals. His father never looked their way, just got on with his job in hand. The usual boot at the door, was supplied by the young one, as the next delivery was prepared for the drop.
Successfully completed, man and boy mounted the cart, and made their way to the next pub on the route. But not before the young man had waved at the guards at the gate.
After a short climb uphill, the road gently gave way downhill to The Black Horse. The reins were relaxed and the boys took time to have a small lump of cheese, and piece of bread. Fred got out his pen knife, and sliced off a piece of ham for his young worker, who slowly nibbled at it, to make it last longer. The horses plodded along in their own time, so everyone was quiet relaxed byt the time they got to the pub.
The landlord was waiting impatiently, as his delivery was nearly an hour later than usual. When Fred explained why, his anger soon abated. The usual large mug of tea was handed to Fred, who shared it with his young one. Frederick had hung the bags of oats under the horses noses, and they gently munched away, as he filled a bucket from the trough to give them a drink for afters. They rested for 20 minutes, before the next drop, which was up the worst hill in the borough for deliveries.
Fred had worked out a slightly easier route, but was still arduous. But it did give some relief to the horses. Casdean Hill was short, and it took them up to the beech woods, which gave shelter from the sun. A short walk, and some time to catch breath before the worst of it. Up Peters Lane was that hill, and it was relentless, nearly 2 miles, and no chance of stopping to rest. Again, the lads dismounted, and slowly and surely they coaxed the horses, step by step.
Upon reaching the top, he quickly unhitched the team, and led them to a small field and let them rest, and have a chew on the grass for half an hour, before they tackled yet another hill. This time it wasn’t as bad, but still and effort.
Through Green Hailey, and on towards Hillock Wood, and finally to The Pink & Lilley. From there on, it was totally downhill to the town.
Horses hitched back up, they were on their way again, with the young Fred walking in front as some sort of encouragement for the team. The dappled shade of the trees was pleasant enough, and it took the heat out of the sun to make life more bearable for the horse.

The team pulled well, and were strong, so the last few hills went by quickly until they reached the ‘The Pink’.
Mabel walked out to greet her cousins, and her delivery of beer. She embraced Fred dearly, and a gave the little fella a kiss on his cheek. Her sons came out to unload the wagon themselves, while Fred went inside the pub.
He didn’t stay long, just time enough to have a glass of cordial and a chat with Mabel. Frederick was still busy, feeding and watering the horses as his father came out. He shook the hands of his cousins, and a manly hug and back slap.
They mounted up once more, for the final leg of their delivery, all downhill and an easy trip of 3 miles or so.

They travelled down Woodway, and emerged from the under the canopy of trees, to reveal a gorgeous blue sky. The reins were relaxed once more, and the team walked along at their own leisure, with only the occasional use of the brake, to keep the dray at an even speed, and to save the horses becoming overrun.
Down the Pitches and into Parkfield, and to their last drop of the day, at The Bird In Hand. Which, handily, was next door to the boys home in Station road.
Frederick ran indoors to his mother, to inform her of their arrival, while his father unloaded the last of the beer. Twenty minutes later, Fred walked in to a cup of tea and a piece of fruit cake. Young Fred had already eaten his, and had set about drinking his mug of tea.
Fred gave his son three pence, and told him to nip off and play with his mates in the street, and he duly obliged. But not before he’d given the horses half an apple each.
Fred mounted his wagon, and took off for the brewery. He checked his pocket watch, and was quite surprised at the time, expecting it to be a lot later in the day. He moved his team on, and stretched their legs for a short while, until he reached the top of the high street. He slowed them down to a walk, and headed down to the market square.

He turned in through the gates of the brewery, and onwards to the barn. He reversed the dray inside, and climbed down to unhitch his friends. The stable lads came running in, but he despatched them to other duties, as he wished to stable them himself.
He walked them in and shut closed their stable door, and returned to clean the tack and equipment from his days work. That done, he strolled back in the stable, grabbed handfuls of straw and gave his charges a rub down, and then proceeded to brush them one at a time. He gave their heads and neck one last gentle rub with his hands and headed out, and with one last glance over his shoulder, he gave them a wave.
The Market house clock, chimed six of the hour, as he walked towards the office to hand in his last batch of delivery notes for the last time, at least for a good while.
The lads shook his hand, and wished him well, and watched him slowly walk down to the church. Fred stepped inside, and said a brief quiet prayer, before walking out to the churchyard to tip his hat once more.
He pulled back his shoulders, pushed out his chest and strode back home, down the footpath he had walked twelve hours ago. He looked more closely at every tree and bush, at every flower in the hedge row, and took in all that he could see, and had seen these last six years.
He arrived home, and closed the gate behind him as he walked to the back of the house. His dear wife was sat in the sun, waiting for his arrival home.
She had packed his case, ready for the train in the morning, that would take him and his pals to London, and then on to Plymouth and who knows where.

He sat next to his dearest, and they reposed quietly in the evening sun, not a word said, just listening to the evensong.
 
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