Monday, May 07, 2001

Close the door, close the drapes, pour your self a glass of wine, sit down and read:
It is now 19.45 on a wet Saturday night, I should have been going out tonight, but when I look from out of the window it is hissing down, no stars in the sky and it is as black as Newgate knocker, (A very old London prison) you have to realise that where I live out here in Tunstall we have no street lights, the nearest lamp being at a guess A quarter of a mile away roughly, so therefore when one steps out of the front door there is absolutely nothing there to see, just an occasional glimmer of light from a neighbours home, it is as if someone has blind folded you, now when there are no stars to light the way one has to be guided by instinct with just a very small light pollution coming from the area of Sittingbourne, about two and a half miles away maybe three miles, This is a time when I take Lady out for her walk, I usually take a torch with me, not only to stop me walking into any dogs faeces but also to allow Lady to see where I am as well. It is so much off the beaten track out here that one never bothers to pull the curtains (Drapes) as it is very rare one see's anyone walking about, unless they live around here, that is why on New Years eve I was very suspicious of those pikies that came knocking on my door asking for petrol, but as usual I had my stun gun handy when I opened the door to them, it pays to have some form of protection these days, especially when one lives in a out of the way place like this, as I have already had my shot gun convesated, I suppose if I was to have this stun gun taken away I shall have to resort to a bloody bow and arrow. ha ha, any how as one leaves my front door one has to climb a slight incline for may be twenty five feet taking in three stone steps, this leads one to the flat parking area where the double garage is situated at the side of the drive way, Then when one has climbed the steps and walked across the drive way one reaches the main drive from Girlies home which is on my left hand side, looking from my front door, Her drive cuts straight across the end of my property and this is the only way that cars and visitors can approach my home, as this is a private drive way and is owned by Girlie I had to have a legal document signed up stating that I have a right of way across her property, a right of way with out any contribution to the maintenance, just access to and from my home, this works out very well really as her driveway that I have to use to leave my home is tarmac covered and goes along for maybe one hundred yards from Girlies home to the main roadway.
When I turn left from my home and travel along the driveway I reach the main road, A road that is a little wider than the conventional lanes around here maybe thirty feet wide compared to the lanes being twenty feet wide. If I was to turn left at the junction I have a very steep hill to go down for maybe >fifty yards to the beginning of a rabbits warren of all the country lanes>around here, and if I was to turn right, I go up a hill for a very short way >to the top where one can see all over Sittingbourne in the distance and all the way to the island of Sheppey, maybe 10 miles away as the crow flies. You >look out from this hill on a winters night and all one can see are the >lights from Sittingbourne and then the lights from Milton, and nothing for a few miles till you come across to the island, this island is a bleak and dismal place, a place where the sheep inhabitants out number the people by about 10 to 1, a place that is looked upon by the civilised people from the mainland as the back of beyond, somewhere people never walk alone after dark, a place where most of the Japanese cars industry import there cars to the local docks. A place where the dock lands are ridden with foreign sailors, prostitutes, and other weirdoes of life, a place that I only usually visit on business maybe 3 or 4 times a year, (Not being a punter I hastily add), Ha, Ha, This island houses two prisons, one called Elmley and he other one is called Eastchurch, Sheppy is joined to the main land by a road/train bridge which has to rise to let ships pass underneath it, when this happens it normally takes about 20mins for it to lift and fall back into position again, causing no end of traffic hold ups, but at least if a convict does escape from the prison the bridge is quickly raised and the guy stands no chance of escaping over to the main land, so he has to resort to either surrendering back to the wardens straight away or spending a few days in the wet and cold marshes sheep shagging, realising the predicament he is in, and then surrendering to the wardens, so in a way the bridge safe guards us here on the mainland . The bridge is a Swale logo, I believe that you must have a copy or picture of it somewhere on a newspaper that I had sent over, and it resembles a four-poster bed with four large towers that support the bridge its self. Let me know if you have not seen it and I shall look out a picture for you. As I turn left from the shared driveway I walk east towards the main part of Tunstall, maybe three quarters of a mile away, a group of little houses, some dating back to the mid 1600’s, all there are in Tunstall is a church, and a village school. There was once a little inn but that has closed down a while back, you see at the centuries progress people have better modes of transport these days and so drive into the main towns for shopping and what other requirements they need in life.
From here to Canterbury one can either go via the main road of the A2 (Sited upon the old Roman road from the year 55 BC when the Romans invaded Britain commanded by Julius Caesar) or one can go through all the country lanes avoiding, the heavier traffic, maybe twice as long but on a fine day it is a real pleasure to do.
>The road from here to Canterbury goes through many country villages, and just the one Town of Faversham, a small market town which once used to have a market day like most Kentish towns once had, but these days the town has gone the way of so many other country towns from up and down the country, modernised it self too much and driven the old customs out of the area, gone and never to return, but having driven the old customs away and modernised their high streets they have all found that by doing so they have stopped the average sightseer from visiting as well. No one wants to visit a country town that is virtually a replica of many other modernised towns, places where all the household named shops have set up business, most towns all have the same stores, all built in the same manner now that to go shopping in one town looks so much like another town, unless wants to go through the back streets of towns and then one can see the natural architecture and other local historical buildings, so we start our journey from Tunstall and begin our trek to Canterbury,. The first village we come across on our journey is Rodmersham, again so much like Tunstall but at least they have a little village pub and a shop that sells every day items like papers, bread and milk, I do not know how they manage to survive but they appear to, must be because the owners are elderly folk and have not got many years till they retire, and then possibly the shop will close for good, it is such a shame but its a fact of life, the little corner shop has been virtually annialated by the big multinational companies, travelling through this village of Rodmersham one goes down a steep hill skirting the local village green, I do not know if you have these over there but they are a designated May dance and in the summer season all one can hear on a still summers day is the thwack of a leather ball being hit, hopefully by the batsman's willow bat ,a most relaxing sport to watch when one has had a few jars of English ale and having eaten Sunday lunch, to walk across to the village green to show support for the local side, that is if one is still awake, as you see if you do not know the rules of cricket then it could be the most boring game in the world to watch, but to myself and to most true English men to sit in a canvas deck chair under the hot sun sending its heat to the unfortunate beggars below whom are lazing there in all their glory fast asleep and slowly getting redder by the moment and then by the end of the afternoon being burnt rather badly., AS I was saying to sit there and just manage to keep ones eyes open having had a few jars, is a most enjoyable way to spend a Sunday afternoon if one wants to just relax and watch the world go slowly past. You sit there in your chair and all one hears is the occasional clapping of hands when a batsman is out or the most annoying sound of a renegade Wasp who has nothing better to do than to start harassing us guys who all we want to do is to have a rather quite and pleasant afternoon watching cricket, it buzzes around ones head tormenting the bloody life out of one, and you start off by half heartedly try to swot the little Perrisher with a slow swish of ones hands and when the bugger keeps up a persistent attack one has to stand up and enact a demonic dance of chasing the blighter away, much to the delight of other more fortunate souls who are sitting a little way off from your self.
We shall carry on our journey to the next little village of Lynsted, about two and a half miles away, we get there walking the country lanes which twist and turn through fields of sheep and the beginning of the more populated orchids, mainly apple. Pear and cherry, this is where the Kent country side begins to get a little more hilly going up one hill not knowing for sure what or if a car is about to come around the next bend, if a car is being driven by a youngster who has just pasted his test then get ready to jump out of his way but if it is a driver who has been driving for many a year then one will notice the slow and sedate manner to which he is driving, allowing room for the unexpected approach of on coming horses and their riders and also to us guys who all we want to do is to take a leisurely walk along these quite and peaceful lanes. Perhaps by now we have been walking for maybe an hour or more so it will be time for a cool glass of ale, so we stop of at the Black Horse the only pub here in Lynsted. We approach the front door and as we open the ancient oak, metal studded door it creaks and
Groans as its hinges once again have to be prised apart, appearing to be
Saying," let this please be the last time”, but when one takes a closer look at the heavy misaligned and twisted hinges, one knows that the end for this ancient piece of ironmongery is far away off into the future. Ouch!!! One always forgets to duck as one enters a building of such an age, its door height is just under 6 foot and as one takes a step ones body rises on the step forward and this is just enough for ones head to come in to close a contact with the once wood worm infested arch way on top of the door it self, I say once infested, because when one sees the very small holes (called Flight holes) in the wood in means that the worm has exited the wood through this hole and not the worm entering the wood at this point, a point worth remembering when one has to sit on a wooden settle (go on look this word up.) it is a very old Welsh wooden pew) as one does in these old worlde buildings. As one enters these places of ill repute, ha, ha, one cant help noticing that the atmosphere has changed from the modern day back to the time when carpenters and builders were real tradesmen, unlike most of the cowboys that masquerade as craftsmen these days. We walk the few steps to the highly polished bar and marvel at the brightly polished horse brasses that adorn the carved wood work along the top of the bar and also which decorate the out side of the wonderful inglenook fire place over there in the more pronounced part of the room. A place that is more central in the room so allowing more people to feel the benefits of a good cherry log burning fire. I love the smell of cherry wood as it burns bright and hot inside that wrought iron dog grate.
This particular inn like so many other inns over here have a nice peaceful and relaxing atmosphere about them there are normally a group of two or three old guys playing shove half penny in the corner near to the open fire in the inglenook and as one first walks through the door they usually look up with their red rimmed watery eyes but quickly go back to playing their game again once they realise they do not know you, so having arrived up to the bar I usually place the palms of my hands down upon the highly polished wooden counters, looking along the row of optics thinking of where the contents have come from, rum from the West Indies, advocate from Holland, vodka from Russia, whiskies from Scotland and Ireland, and on and on along the row thinking how strange that this little inn, over here in the deep country side of England, has such an array of drinks, to adorn its shelves.
I await for the landlord to come over and serve me, they dont always stay behind the bar, as it is like waiting for paint to dry, not a lot happening during the week day, but are usually this side of the bar talking and playing card games or down in the cellar changing over the ale barrels, but I must say that these inn keepers are always friendly and greet you with a smile upon their faces, dont know if it is genuine or if maybe they have been sampling too much of their wares Ha Ha, any how when you have been served the landlord goes back to what ever he was doing and you normally turn around and decide where you want to sit, if the weather is hot and sunny one normally takes their drink out side into the garden seating area and perches ones self upon a wooden bench. Table combination and if you feel that the sun is a little to bright one can always ask for a umbrella to be placed in the hole provided in the middle of the table, I expect you must have a similar set-up over there, but if you have been on a ramble on a winters day, it is so nice to go into these old worlde places because as soon as one enters them on a cold, snow swept day then one can feel an atmosphere of friendship and good hospitality, so where was I? Oh yes, deciding where to sit! I usually like to sit by the window and look out at the view outside and try to imagine what the peasants of maybe the 1700's saw out their, maybe fields of partly cut corn that they had been scything by hand that morning, maybe looking at the shire horses resting and eating their fodder from a wooden trough, or perhaps looking out for their women folk who shall be coming along shortly with a midday meal comprising of a bread, cheese, meats and eggs, because in those days the peasants appetite was well catered for (going by history books that I have read), any how as I was saying, having partly drank ones glass of ale I turn from the window and glance around the room stopping at the many old pictures that adorn the walls, stagecoaches, pheasant shooting parties with their beaters grouped around in a circle showing off the days shoot, dried flowers in glass cases, and their along the far wall is a row of pewter tankards hanging covered in dust and dripping with cobwebs, these are normally from people who have died over the years and their drinking mugs have been placed along this particular wall in memorial to them , they are never cleaned, so keeping the atmosphere of the place, but this small area is the only place that is never dusted, as normally the landlords keep their inns scrupulously clean and polished, when the last dregs from the glass has gone I normally take my empty glass back to the counter say bye to all within ear shot and go about my business.
From here I shall go to Hollingbourne, as this is a typical Kent village nestling in the north downs of Kent, a village that sits upon the old Pilgrims Way, a long trial that goes for scores of miles leading eventually
To Canterbury, but having looked upon my map I see that it would be taking me too far from out of my way, if I was to go there so another time possibly, No, I shall go on to Lewson Street, another typical Kent village, maybe 2-3 country miles from here in Lynsted, The scenery along the way is gradually changing from orcheds of fruit to hop fields, A crop that is mainly grown in this part of the Country and as you may know hops are gathered in the Autumn to be processed in the manufacture of beer .
These fields are a mass of vertical wooden poles, made from Hazel or
Chestnut trees, grown from coppices, these trees normally grow ten feet of new growth in a season. Maybe 12-15 feet tall and are used as supports for gantries of heavy gauge wire that supports this kind of crop, I dont know if you can buy hops over there but some people put them in a special pillow to be used as a herbal remedy for people who cant get to sleep of suffer from hay fever, (I think). If I remember correctly this plant was bought over to England by the Fleming’s (Date I have forgotten:-() and was at first a cottage crop and was frowned upon as a drug, but over the years it has been accepted for its value as a cheap alcoholic drink (beer).
You still awake????
When the hop plant is planted in the ground (Where else would it be planted, silly thing to say really) it grows up the pole in a clockwise manner, don’t ask me why because I just dont know why. But it does, and when it reaches the top it crawls along the wires till it gives one the appearance of a enclosed avenue of green and yellow cones which hang there ripening and awaiting to be picked in September. One can easily walk beneath these tunnels of growing vines.
Now for a deviation from our journey, I was told by a few of the older men around their that before the second world war this work used to be hand picked by families from the East of London who used to come down to Kent for a two week working holiday gathering in the hops, and by all accounts they used to make this a regular yearly holiday, it was cheap as they only paid for food as they would normally have had to back home and they were paid to pick the crop. So every one was happy. But these days they have manufactured hop-picking machines that can do the work in a fraction of the time and with less expense so another working occupation has gone. Now do I continue to where the hops go next of shall I carry on with my journey? well as I am talking about hops I might as well carry on, when these hops are picked they are taken to a oast house, (Have you seen the white circular buildings that I may sent over, they have a large wind vane (cowls) on top of the roof? Anyhow the oast house is a kiln of oven where the hops are dried, they are placed about two feet deep upon sacking laid over wooden slats on the first floor of the building and fires made from coal are lit on the ground floor. and are kept burning for as long as the harvest lasts, the heat rises through the hops and the fumes escape through the vanes (cowls) at the top of the buildings, these cowls move and rotate in the wind to maintain a constant draught As I said these oast houses have a distinguished shape and are nearly always painted white some are round and some are square, but when ever ones sees them you can never mistaken them. I shall try to find a picture some where if you have not got one, these days these buildings are mainly used for peoples homes, the square ones being ok, but the round ones being a little more difficult to furnish with them having round walls, today these pleasant buildings have been superseded by small squat sheds with oil fired burners and small chimneys not as imposing but I suppose that is progress for you,
Any how, on with the journey, from Lewson Street we still travel east to
wards Canterbury, but now we have to unfortunately have to join up with the main A2 road till we are nearing the town Of Faversham, as we enter the main road, and turn left, we notice that the peace and quite have been left behind for the traffic roars past in both directions, sending draughts of cold air fro their slip stream rushing through ones legs, We are now going down a long hill, called Judge Folly Hill (Dont know why but shall have to find out one day), we reach the bottom and over on our left hand side are a pile of stones and other building material that is all that is left from the remains of an old roman castle, a small plague tells you exactly what the history is all about, we are now going up hill towards Faversham but first we stop off at a little place called Ospringe this was once a village but now it has been joined to Faversham by all the modern day building that has been going on between the two places, this is something that is getting more and more common this day and age. I am so pleased that where I live in Tunstall it would be impossible to build any thing near to us, as I live in a conservation area,