6 April 2016

Meeting

Tootling along the lane from Foolow to Eyam, I spotted a tumbledown limestone building to the left. A hundred yards further along the lane there was a pull-in where I could park my sleek new silver chariot. Then I walked back with camera in hand.

Just as I reached the gateway to the beautifully decrepit building, a muddy old Nissan 4x4 vehicle pulled up and a fellow climbed out. "What are you doing?" he asked. 

"Oh, just taking a picture of that building over there."

"What do you want to do that for? It's shit!"

Lord, I wish that I had a photograph of that man. We chatted for twenty minutes or so, standing at that gateway. Within thirty seconds of meeting him, he said, "Are you from Hull?"

Now I left Hull and East Yorkshire at the age of eighteen. I have lived in Sheffield since 1978. But this fellow could hear something in my voice. I was astounded and I told him so. "You have got a good ear sir!"

"Don't bloody call me sir! I'm just an ignorant farmer. I can't even read and write. I'm not a bloody sir!"

And I laughed.

It was as if he had been to a fancy dress shop and asked for an authentic farmer's outfit. He wore muddy wellington boots, an old padded tartan shirt and a khaki-coloured army jacket which had seen much better days. On his gnarled and ruddy eighty year old head he wore a navy blue "Thinsulate" beanie hat that was dotted with pieces of chaff and seeds.
Shepherd's Park near Foolow
He pointed to his farm at Shepherd's Park and said that he had lived there all his life. In fact, he owned the tumbledown building I had spotted and said that it had once been a humble lead miner's cottage. "Go inside if you want. There's an old fireplace in there. The part on the left was put on years later."

He said he had no television and of course as he couldn't read, no computer. I asked him how he spent his spare time and he said that he didn't have any. "I just work and that's it.". And he told me about driving HGV's up and down the country to supplement his sheep farming income. He also told me about the accident he'd had in the summer of 2014 when a massive hay bale tumbled upon him causing injuries that put him in hospital for three months. "They treated me like a king."

He showed me his hands. They were like leather gloves - calloused and worn with white lines where the creases are. They were the living evidence of a lifetime of manual work and they made mine look like the hands of a mincing dandy in a royal palace.

Oh and another thing about this man. He told me that he is a millionaire and I can well believe it. So much land and a substantial house that alone would fetch more than half a million pounds if sold on the open market.

If only I had been brave enough to get a photograph of him. He was part of the landscape. We waved to each other when we finally parted. I tramped, with his permission to the tumbledown building as he went back to his admirably illiterate life of labour.
Inside the ruin - evidence of a fireplace

21 comments:

  1. So, tell us more about your wealthy friend, Mr. Pudding. What stories he must have locked up in his head. Does he have a family? Are they educated? What does he farm? Grain or cattle or sheep? Oh, please go visit him again and send us all a picture. (He is not too old to learn to read and you are a teacher, remember.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A sheep farmer Mama Bear... If I walked on to his property I fear he would blast me to bits with his shotgun. His main enemy in the world is The Peak Park Authority who use legal means to ensure that The Peak District remains looking lovely.

      Delete
  2. You don't often meet such characters as this guy. You had to dance a round to have a discussion with him but it was worth it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would have loved to visit his home. As we were standing by the lane a dozen vehicles passed by and every driver waved or honked at this fellow. Quite a character.

      Delete
  3. Plenty of similar characters deep in the Dales YP - and i suspect in many other country areas. There was always too much farm work to do for these chaps to go to school on a regular basis.
    Sad these little barns are falling into disrepair. We have about six on our land but none are now in their entirety. We tried to get one planning permission to turn it into a little house for us so that we could move out of the big farmhouse, but it was refused unless we made do with one bedroom and a lean to kitchen and bathroom. Not enough I am afraid.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't mind seeing those old farm buildings falling naturally into disrepair but I hate it when they are deliberately razed to the ground. They add something special to the appearance of our countryside.

      Delete
  4. There will never be another generation of eccentrics such as this old chap. What a character - a lost breed, and such a shame because they give Britain, and the countryside, such colour.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The world seems to prefer robotic individuals these days - toeing the line, accepting society's limitations.

      Delete
  5. Fifty years ago I was staying at the rectory of a large village in the fens. The family was out. A Rolls Royce drew up and the driver knocked on the door and asked for the rector. I said he was out. He gave me a letter and said "Read that". I protested that I knew nothing of the business of the parish. He looked at me and said. I know who you are. You are a friend of Master V. "Read that." So I started to read it. "Not to yourself you bloody fool. To me." It was a rude awakening for a naive youngster from Liverpool. I'd never knowingly met someone who couldn't read or write. Never mind one who drove a RR. It was explained to me later that with three crops a year on the fens many of the farmers drove RRs and saw need for reading and writing. It will not be so easy for 'your' farmer to cope with modern bureaucracy without those skills.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It might not have been easy for him but natural belligerence can take you a long way. By the way I enjoyed your story Graham. Though I was an English teacher I know for sure that literacy isn't everything. Illiterate or dyslexic people are often very clever at making up for that perceived weakness.

      Delete
  6. He certainly sounds like an interesting character. He said he was treated like a king while hospitalised so he should've proudly accepted being called "Sir".

    His fires will never be short of timber to burn if he continues carrying that chip on his shoulder! ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Even at this distance you have read that old fellow like a book. It's funny that I learnt so much about him in a short time but he wasn't much interested in my own tidbits of personal information and not very inquisitive either.

      Delete
  7. I cannot imagine a life without reading. I finished two full length novels this week alone (one of which I was up until 4am finishing because I couldn't put it down!) The thought of what that old man is missing makes me sad. I'll never be a millionaire, but reading has given me riches that can't be measured in dollars.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Perhaps he reads the sky and the sounds of Nature instead. Also he must listen to the radio because he knew things beyond that valley such as the exodus from Syria.

      Delete
  8. Like Jennifer, I can not imagine NOT to read (or write). It is such an integral part of my life. As for physical labour, I don't think I'd last very long at that kind of life. Just as well then that I am not sheep farming in the Yorkshire Dales but working in a more or less well heated office in Stuttgart!

    You know I love the tumbledown cottage, and I am glad you had the chance to go and take a picture of the inside, too!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was thinking of you when I ventured towards that ruin and then I thought of the little lead mining family that once occupied that space.

      Delete
  9. Such an encounter must have been really interesting YP...I bet you'd love to see him again and talk more wouldn't you? Chance encounters like this are often more interesting than you could imagine.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I could have so easily driven on by that old building and down into the village of Eyam - then chance brought me that fascinating meeting. Yes - I'd love to know more about him. I doubt that he likes rap music or curry and has never watched "Coronation Street" or a party political broadcast.

      Delete
  10. The dilapidated stone cottage is wonderful - a match for its owner I would think.

    If this man is illiterate I wondered how he might have got his driving licence - and then I thought further and decided he simply drives around without one. After all, he has plenty of money to pay the fines.

    Ms Soup

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. To be a driver of Heavy Goods Vehicles you need to be able to read road signs so perhaps the old man was joshing with me. After all we townies are very gullible.

      Delete
  11. Very nice encounter. Salt of the earth I guess they'd say.

    ReplyDelete

Mr Pudding welcomes all genuine comments - even those with which he disagrees. However, puerile or abusive comments from anonymous contributors will continue to be given the short shrift they deserve. Any spam comments that get through Google/Blogger defences will also be quickly deleted.