As a child, I lived in a hamlet. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a hamlet is a small village, especially one without a church. Everyone in our hamlet without exception waved, smiled and greeted everyone else. We all had to be patient as despite there being very little in the form of shops, garages and buses there was always a queue and often a long wait. In the Summer one of the local houses sold ice-cream. They had a long, white, crunchy drive and you could smell the vanilla for at least half-a-mile away. The corner shop sold most essentials. There was goat’s milk for which you needed to produce your own jug; bacon and ham, some of which was grown at the back of the shop in the form of three beautiful lop-eared and very friendly pigs that were housed in a stone walled sty; eggs that contained both feathers, mud, straw and poo on their shells; potatoes, carrots, parsnips, turnips and swedes that were all covered with the local clay from the fields; spring cabbage, cauliflower, peas and beans when in season; cans of several varieties on the back shelves; tea, sugar and other dried essentials; biscuits some of which were sold loosely; chocolates, sweets and ice lollies – milk lollies being my favourite. I was allowed to choose a milk lolly on grocery day, which was always a Friday.
We had a village hall, sturdily built of stone; a church annex which most would call a chapel it was set off the road and secluded in a small wooded area that contained several pine trees the smell of which crept through the open door along with the sunshine. The vicar wore a large round smile and white floating smock that flapped in the breeze like a field poppy.
Now as a youngster, I was encouraged the same as all other children at that time – ‘to be seen and not heard.’ We would sit on walls and make daisy chains whilst adults talked and talked and talked. We would climb the small thick boughs of trees and straddle our legs either side swinging them backward and forwards as though we were driving a donkey to market. If no other children were about we would eavesdrop on what was being discussed.
On one occasion whilst waiting in a queue I happened to be standing next to a lady who appeared quite elderly to me but she was probably still short of fifty. Passing the time of day I asked her if she went to church. A twinkle came into her eye and a smile teased her bright red lips and she answered in words something like this: “Goodness me no, I gave up doing wicked things a long time ago and so don’t have the need of visiting a church any more!” ………. haunting conversation.