Monday, July 13, 2009
A PIPE STORY
"What do you want now?" she said. "Can't you see I'm trying to do the bloody washing Richard? Get out from under my bloody feet before I give you a four-penny one."
"Can I go over to Spencers' place?"
"Please, may I go over to Mr. Sharps, is that what you mean?"
"That's what I mean."
"Little children do not call grown ups by there first names. How many bloody times do I have to tell you lad. What's the matter? Do you have wax in your ears?"
"No mum. I don’t." Had I have said yes she would have taken the corner of the towel, twisted it into a point and shoved it in mi ears and twisted it around two or three times in each ear.
"Well, can I go or not?"
"Go on then." she said. And mind your manners while your there. Oh! And by the way, if Mrs. Sharp asks you if you would like a biscuit, say, "No thank you Mrs. sharp I've just eaten, thank you". Are you listening to me Richard?"
"Course I am. I'm all ears mum."
"You'll be all bloody, red ears in a minute lad. Go on, bugger off before I change mi bloody mind."
"Thanks mum I said, you're great!"
"Don't tell your sisters where you're going or they'll want to go to. Make sure you're back here at four O'clock, do you hear?" she said.
"Yes mum." I replied, as I ran out of the farmhouse back door and through the chicken barn at full speed. "Look out!" I yelled as chickens scattered everywhere. The old rooster eyed me with suspicion as I tore past him. He had buckleys chance of catching me today. Tomorrow might be a different story.
Spencers' farm was a four-minute run from our front door. I'd done it many times before. The only thing that could slow me down was one of the other farmers walking their cows down the dirt lane. Were that to happen, I'd have to slow down otherwise I'd spook them and the farmer would yell at me or swing his stick at me. No cows today in the lane so I made it to Spencers in four minutes. As I skidded to a halt in mi old clogs, Spencer and his dad were standing in front of his mistle door.
" 'Ows ta goin' Richard lad?" said Spencer as he put his hand in his top pocket and pulled out his old pipe.
"Good, thanks Mr. Sharp." I said.
"How's your mother keeping?" said Spencers' dad as he belched a large puff of smoke out of the side of his mouth.
"She's all right. She's doing the washing so I thought I'd come over here, out at way or she would have made me turn the handle on mangle while she fed the sheets in."
"Good thinking." said Spencer, as he tapped the bowl of his Billiard out on the heel of his hand.
"That's womens' work." said Spencers' dad as he struck a Swan Vestas and lit up a shorter looking straight-shanked pot. "Ya better off with us for afternoon. You can help us muck mistel out. That'll put some muscle on your arms and hair on ya chest. You'll grow up big and strong just like our Spencer.
Spencer laughed and said, "Don't go putting too many bright ideas in his head, dad or
his mother won't be none too pleased with us."
Spencers' dad was a big man. He always wore a flat cap and a long brown smock coat, moleskin trousers and Yorkshire clogs. Spencer was a clone of his dad and a bit taller as his dad was stooped over slightly, owing to his age. He looked like he was in his late seventies. That said, he always worked a full day on the farm along side of Spencer.
"Are ya gonna' fill ya pipe up?" I said to Spencer.
"I'ye, there's nout but ash and dottle left in it."
"Can I rub ya 'bacci up for ya, Mr. Sharp?
"I'ye ya can Richard lad, just be careful and do it like I taught ya and don’t over rub it."
With that Spencer pulled out a stick of Black Twist from his smock top pocket. He then opened his small, silver two- bladed knife and proceeded to cut off three small slices. "Here ya go lad, and don't tell your mother your rubbing up pipe tobacco or she'll be after me."
"No way Mr. Sharp! I don’t tell her stuff like that, she'd give me a thick ear."
"How old are you now Richard said Spencers dad."
"Six." I said. "How old are you?"
"Me? Almost eighty."
"Have you been smoking all your life?"
"I'ye I have that lad. I've gone through quite a few pipes in mi time and never had a days illness in mi life."
Is that all right Mr. Sharp?" I said, as I handed him a bowl of black twist.
"Perfect, couldn't have done it better misen."
He proceeded to load the black twist into his old Billiard. After this was done he struck a small Swan Vestas and held it over the bowl. After the twist started to smoke a bit he tamped it down with his forefinger.
"Doesn't that burn ya finger?"
"No, I've got a hard callous on it from years of doing it."
"I wish I could smoke. I love the smell of it!"
Tell ya what I'll do with ya." said Spencer. "I'll give ya one of my old burnt-out pipes but I'm not giving you any tobacco to go with it. You're too young to start smoking.
"Oh great! Thanks a lot Mr. Sharp, I'll look after it. I promise!
With that he fired up his pipe again and headed for the farmhouse. You're a lucky lad said Spencers dad. "Spencer didn't get his first pipe until he was eleven years old."
"Did you buy it for him?"
"I'ye, I did. He kept sneaking off with one of my pipes so it was easier to get him his own."
A few minutes later Spencer came back outside and said, "Here you are, its old and burnt-out but it was a good old pipe in its' day. I've had many a good cool smoke out of her."
I took the pipe from Spencer very carefully, "Thanks again Mr. Sharp. I'll look after it just the same as you did. I won't drop it and break it. I'll be real careful with it."
"Come on then lets go and muck out yon mistle while the cows are still in the field."
"How do mum!" I said, as I casually strolled into our farmhouse with mi new pipe hanging out of the side of mi mouth, just like Spencer did.
"What the bloody hell is that thing hanging out of your mouth?" she said as she turned around with a look of disbelief on her face.
"It's mi new pipe that Mr. Sharp just gave me."
"Get that disease ridden, bloody thing out of your mouth, you bloody imbecile. Who knows what the hell you'll get from it."
"It's mine and it's not disease-ridden. If it was, Mr. Sharp would be sick and he's not!" "Throw that stinking thing in the fire! That’s all it's good for!
"No! It's mine! Mr. Sharp gave it to me."
"All right lad, soon as you go to bed tonight I'll chuck it in the fire misen. Smoking a bloody pipe at your age, what's this bloody world coming to. Where are you going?" she said, as I ran out of the house.
"I'm just going to play around in fields!" I yelled back at her.
"Don't be long! Ya dinner will be ready soon and you'd better not let ya dad see that stinking pipe or he'll light fire with it in morning!"
Once I got away from her I headed off down the bottom of our field, out of sight, I already knew what I was going to do so I started looking for a loose stone in the wall. At long last I found the right stone that I could carefully remove without the wall collapsing and squashing mi new pipe. Once the stone was out of the wall, I gently put mi new pipe in the hole, made sure nothing would fall on top of it and carefully put the stone back in place.
'That's it', I said to myself. 'No one is going to find it there. It's as safe as houses.'
"You won't want to know what our Richard brought home today." said mi mum, as mi dad walked into our house.
"Don’t bloody tell me, wench, I would not be surprised what that bloody village idiot of a son of yours has been up to."
"You're in a lovely mood George. Have a bad day at work then."
"Bring me a pint pot of tea wench. Bloody kids! He said as he sat down in his armchair and unfolded his newspaper. ''Bloody kids'' he muttered again from behind his paper. "A man must need his head examining, never a moments peace with kids in the house."
The next day I took off down the field to check if my pipe was still where I had left it. I soon found the place in the wall as I had marked it with a lump of grass. Very carefully, I eased out the small black wall stone shoved my hand inside the hole and grabbed hold of the stem. Carefully inspecting it, I then stuck it in mi mouth and gripped it with me back teeth just as I had seen Spencer do. Next I took it out of mi mouth and started to talk to misen and at the same time I pointed and jabbed the air with it to make a point. This done, I stuck it in me mouth again and walked around the field a few paces. Whilst I was taking a long imaginary drag on it, I got a bit of black twist caught in the back of mi throat. It tasted putrid so I hacked it up and spat it out. I then did a relight, as by this time it had gone out. After an hour or so of 'make believe', I was getting bored. I needed something more authentic so I put on mi thinking cap. It wasn't very long before I came up with the bright idea of Brook Bonds tea leaves. That should give me a good strong full-bodied satisfying smoke. I put the pipe back in the wall replaced the stone and made mi way back to the house. Mi mother wasn't around so I gave her a good loud shout 'Mum, hey mum! Where are you?"
I'm up stairs cleaning up the bedrooms what the hell do you want now Richard?"
"Oh nothing. I just wondered where you were."
"Go back out side and play or I’ll find you some bloody work to do!"
"All right then, see you in a couple of hours. I'm off!"
No answer. I found a small piece of newspaper and very quietly made mi way to the kitchen cupboard where she kept the tea. I had to stand on a chair to reach it but that was no problem for me. Opening the cardboard-box-lid, I poured a small amount of tea leaves into the newspaper. Next, I closed the tea box lid with one hand and replaced it exactly as I had found it. I folded the newspaper up and twisted the corners around. I put the chair back where it belonged and took off outside.
'Oh Hell!' I forgot the matches.' Back inside I go, hoping that mi mother was still upstairs. It must have been my lucky day, she was nowhere in sight. I grabbed a few matches out of the box and made another fast exit! Running as fast as I could, I made my way over the field to where the old pipe was hidden. In no time at all I had it out, in mi pocket and replaced the stone. Off I went, at full speed, over another wall and flat out to another hiding place I had. Once I reached my destination, I took the pipe out of mi pocket and threw misen on the ground, rolled over and caught mi breath. Taking the tea leaves out of mi shirt pocket I very carefully poured the contents into the palm of mi hand and rubbed them up a bit. By this time they were nearly powder so I proceeded to load up the bowl, scooping the tea leaves into the bowl and pushing them down like Spencer did. The pipe was loaded up and ready to go. I took one of the brimstone matches out of mi shirt pocket and struck it against the stonewall. It flared up and as soon as the brimstone had burnt away I held it over the tealeaves and sucked in. The pipe, unlike Spencers', lit straight away and as I sucked in the tea leaves caught on fire, and a stem full of tea leaves filled up my mouth and the back of my throat. Hacking and coughing I spit out the nasty tasting tea leaves.
Once I had coughed up all the tea leaves; I was very disappointed. I decided to give it another go. It was not supposed to be like this, Spencer did not hack and cough up his guts when he drew on his pipe. Firing up the pipe again I gave a couple of good hearty draws on it, the same thing happened again. The only difference this time was, I sneezed, and snot and tea leaves flew out of my nose, it landed on mi shirt. My face and shirt were probably a sight to see, my eyes were burning and tears were rolling down my cheeks. I decided I had smoked enough for the day; probably I'd smoked enough for two days. Wiping my nose on the sleeve of my shirt and knocking the burnt Tea Leaves out of the bowl on the palm of my hand, I made a move to get up. As soon as I exerted some effort my head started to spin so I had to remain where I was until the field stopped spinning. As I sat there, leaned against the wall, I started to wonder what it was that Spencer got out of pipe smoking. I made a mental list of a few questions that I would need to ask him, next time I saw him. Finally I was able to get up and walk around without wobbling from side to side so I made mi way back along the fields to where I hid mi pipe. As I removed the black wall stone and put mi pipe back in the hole I decided that I was going to learn the art of pipe smoking even if it killed me.
As I walked in the house mi mother was sweeping the floor.
"Where the bloody hell have you been lad? You were supposed to be home a bloody hour ago. Go feed the chickens and the pigs before you father gets home, and what the hell have you done to your shirt? It looks like you've got bloody Tea leaves all down the front of you. Well go on then, don't just bloody well stand there lad! Get moving before I give you a thick ear, and hurry up your dinners nearly ready."