Things Long Ago

Jimper Reminisces on a Lost World

Once on Romney Marsh not so long ago, it was a very unhealthy place to live. There was a dreaded thing that was called the Ague, a disease we now know was a type of malaria, caused by the mosquito which lived in the water that covered a lot of the flat land. The local remedy for the Ague was said to be to swallow a spider, whole, wrapped up in its own web. The sheer thought of doing so must have made many people suddenly recover from the illness rather than take the cure!

Other things that have changed in my lifetime are more to everyone’s liking, I hope. Such as where have all the old men gone with their sandwich boards? You never see one even on the seafront where they used to thrive. Ice cream parlours are another thing that have vanished from our streets. The other year my big brother and I took a trip by train from Rye to Brighton on a nostalgia trip. The highlight was to be a knickerbocker glory ice cream. Alas, even in a city like Brighton, no one knew of such a place and we had to settle for a cornet of instant ice cream on the sea front! Hardly the thing we had been looking forward to!

When I was a lad and helped my father lamb the sheep, it was my job to gather up all the afterbirth from the field. This he sold to a doctor and it was made into medicine for pregnant women. Now chemicals have replaced it the woman reader will be pleased to know!

An awful lot of the garages in England have closed and now vans run around the countryside all hours of the day delivering spare parts as they are ordered. There was little of that in my young day. Our local garage standing on the corner alongside the A259 used to get their spare parts delivered within the hour. An account was set up with the main distributor and from then on, a simple phone call was all that was required. The next bus from town would pull up and your spare part would slide across the forecourt as the conductor lobbed it out. Now even the conductor has gone, a faster service and regular.

I sometimes wonder where the humans are going. Only the other year I had to go to Ashford to buy some bee frames from a fellow who worked at the rail station. He was a keeper of bees and in his home ran the local Society’s depot. This house stood on a nasty corner and it was unsafe to park. I bought over one hundred pounds worth of gear and with his wife in the road warning the oncoming traffic, swiftly loaded the items in my car and drove home. It was an hour later while unloading that I realised a certain item that was critical to the frames was missing, so I phoned him up to catch him just as he was going to work. Yes, he had found the small box that weighed one kilo. It was on his kitchen table as I drove away. The small box of grip pins was in his view as he spoke to me. I asked him if it was possible to take them to work and put them on the next train to Rye as he was going to work the platform that night. He was sorry; the only way nowadays to send parcels by rail was to send them by Red Star and that meant them going all the way from Ashford to London then back down via Hastings as that was the nearest station to do the service. I could not believe my ears! Once, the guard off loaded any parcel at its nearest destination. Now sadly, that too has died.

Those days of glue in a pot with a wooden handled paste brush and most men wearing a hat of some description are long gone too.

“Rye’s Own” July 2005

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