Sad ? Who ? Me!?

I am well aware that many of my friends and visitors develop an involuntary shaking of the head, a bemused look of sympathy, a raised eye that students of non-verbal communication will tell you stands for “Sad B…….d”  I’m not talking here about out on the hill whilst I’m building walls, oh no, I’m talking here, in the emporium of my sheds and barns where languishes one of the finest collections of agricultural bygonorrhea ever amassed.  And if that is sad, then so be it, it gives me immense pleasure …I think !  However, every now and then I need some reassurance, firstly that I’m not alone in this affliction and, secondly, there are actually some who are even sadder !

I recently felt the need for such an uplifting experience so I headed off to a little place where I knew ‘a fix’ would be found.  I headed off to the annual Kington Vintage show, a two day extravaganza in the small Herefordshire town ( a mile from the site of the old United States 2nd WW military hospital at nearby Hergest), which is one of the best in the show season.  I went along with my old pal Les Smith who took his rather magnificent Norton racing motorbike of 1950s vintage which always gets many admirers.  It has been a few years since I went and immediately I realised I had been remiss.

There is one person who is guaranteed to erase my self-doubt, he is by far the ‘saddest’ collector I have had the pleasure of knowing !  Strangely, he and his wife are some of the nicest folk one could hope to meet.  As it was a few long years since we had met I was rather suspecting he would not have remembered me but a loud shout across the aisle containing a variety of interesting exhibitions of tools and memorabilia, did away with that notion immediately !  He was so pleased to see me and greeted me like an old long lost relative; this rather suggests to me that he views me in the same way that I view him, “the saddest collector I know”!!  But look, surely anyone who collects Electricity Insulators must come first in that competition !  He has the most amazing collection (numbering into the thousands) of insulators – you know, those white or brown china things that are fixed to electricity poles and houses to carry the wires – and worse still he knows the name, type, nomenclature, number, manufacturer, user, date of production, size of production run, end of life date etc etc etc. Can you believe he goes to the U.S.A. to a convention of like minded folk …. yes people, a convention of like minded folk !!  And you think I’m sad !!??

insulators for electric cables

Is this not just the most bizarre but most fascinating collection ever !?

But I’ll tell you what, it is a stunning collection of pieces of ceramic art, each insulator has delicate curves and shapes and represent the twentieth century miracle that was electricity.  There are even text books and catalogues about the subject …. my collection doesn’t have those so I cannot possibly be the saddest, can I !?

Kington attracts an excellent variety of all the usual exhibits from classic cars, tractors, engines, both steam and stationary and dozens of individual collections ranging from milk bottles and hot irons to dinky toys and oil cans.  There are all the usual ‘rusty spanner’ car boot stalls (my companion stands accused by his daughter and grandchildren of being obsessed with the items) which, quite naturally, is the first port of call for both of us.

Milk Botles at Kington 2015

This nostalgic display of milk bottles and dairy items caught my eye. The butter churn is rare !

We generally lose track of each other once we enter the melee that is the car boot sale.  We have some common interests and hence will gaze at the same stalls for a while but eventually he gets drawn to some motor-bike junk and I to a book stall !  Indeed I picked up two excellent little books (as if I need yet more !),one a copy, still with its dust jacket, of a collection of poems by the famous ‘Shropshire Lad’, A.E. Houseman.  It’s not, alas, a first edition but it is pretty rare to find in the condition of this one and with its dust jacket AND for the princely sum of £1, yes, that’s one pound !!  For those of you not familiar with Houseman – shame on you  – next time you watch ‘Out of Africa’ with the delectable Ms Streep (you know “I had a farm in Arrfreeka”…) you will hear one of Houseman’s greatest poems at the funeral of Dennis Fitch-Hatton as she stands forelorn and heart-broken on the mound..

“The time you won your town the race we chaired you through the market place; man and boy stood cheering by, and home we brought you shoulder high. Today, the road all runners come, Shoulder-high we bring you home, and set you at your threshold down, townsman of a stiller town.  Smart lad, to slip betimes away, from fields where glory does not stay and early though the laurel grows, it withers quicker than a rose”.  I can hear her reading it now, and that tragic stuttered ending, “and round that early laurelled head will flock to gaze the strengthless dead, and find unwithered on its curls a garland briefer than a girls”.  Dear me, no wonder my pal leaves me to wander alone !  My other book was acquired from the stall of the Kington Historical Society (a thriving group who have an exceptional area in which to be historical !), again for £1 and a real gem it is.  ‘The Diary of a Farmer’s Wife. 1796-1797’, it is what it says on the cover; the diary of a lady named Ann Hughes who farmed in a remote area close to Chepstow at the bottom of the Wye Valley where it enters the Severn Estuary.  It makes fascinating reading indeed:

Feb. ye 14. ‘This be Saint Val’s day and this morn I did see Sarah cum in from milkin’ looking all red about the cheek and her cap awry.  I bein curious did stop her, and she did say Carter True’s son did say he was her Valentine, and she had said yes.  She did giggel a great deal and I did tell her to get on with her work, and not to be a silly wench; but I fear me there will be much whispering and kissen going on, they bein both young.  I must be watchful of Sarah and see she do not neglect the calfs and piggies and hens, which do now lay good egges; which is good for me as John do let me keep hen monies for my pokett, which do suit me much”.

It is such a fascinating insight into the late eighteenth century country life.  A wander along the car-boot is a good start to any day !

There was much to see and many folk to talk to and there are also many miles to walk, dear me there is some walking done at these shows !  Far too much on view to attempt to even give you a flavour but I want to pull out a few of the more interesting exhibits; interesting to me that is !

Road Signage from the 1950s

Nostalgic road signs … trouble is I learned to drive with these !!

A collection of old road signs from the immediate post war period (I think) was a shock reminder of an approaching birthday …. they were the ones I had to learn for my driving test !! Halt at Major Road Ahead..  Never did get to ever meet old Major Road but I did once meet Colonel Hump Bridge, head on !!

If what it’s about is nostalgia, and I guess it probably is, it is not surprising therefore that I was stopped in my tracks by a bus !  Not just any old bus but one I most probably rode in over 50 years ago, and certainly one showing the destinations which every bus that came through my bus-stop journeyed to; it was my school route for seven years !

The eastern valleys of Gwent were served by the Western Welsh Omnibus Company and the buses I caught going to school – up the valley – usually set forth from Newport, at the bottom of the valley and headed for a strangely named place which I never actually ever saw until tens of years after leaving school, Varteg Hill.  My school destination was Pontypool and one or other of those bill boards would be displayed on the destination slot of the bus.   On the way home, down the valley, it was a Cwmbran destination or a Newport destination that needed to be boarded.  And there, at Kington Vintage show 2015 I came face to face with my past !

Western Welsh at Kington 2015

This Western Welsh is part of my late childhood/teenage years – it took me to school !

Before anyone points it out, we did not actually ever get to ride in an exciting ‘Double-Decker’ (where such fun could be had upstairs out of sight of the conductor !) because a short way down the hill from the ‘Lowlands’ stop where I got on, there was a very low railway bridge which meant we always had single deckers.  The old railway was closed in 1963 but the bridge remained for many years after, too many years as it turned out.  One day an absent minded bus driver taking a party of mums and children on a day outing, forgot about the bridge and tragedy struck, as did the bus, and the top was sliced clean off resulting in some awful injuries and although I seem to recall there were fatalities, I’m not altogether sure.  What I do know is that my father was emerging from a nearby side road as the double decker passed and immediately knew an awful accident was imminent.  Unthinking he rushed past the mangled top lying in the road and up the rear stairs of the bus.  What he saw haunted him for the rest of his days.

I had a long chat with the owners of the bus at Kington who were delighted to meet someone – so far from the towns in which the bus operated – who remembered travelling daily on them.

This I wanted to take home ....

This I wanted to take home ….

Walking around the vehicle exhibits I must have made up my mind that I wanted at least five different pick-ups and six classic cars and seven classic tractors and, and, and.

Dodge Weapons Carrier at Kington 2015

A very nicely presented WW2 Dodge Weapons Carrier was also very tempting but at around 8 miles to the gallon …

A very enjoyable and inexpensive day out at Kington Vintage 2015.  Old vehicles, old tractors, old buses, old funny all sorts of things and lots of old friends who just also happen to be OLD !!

As August bade farewell and my birthday month arrived I took myself (and some artefacts) over to the annual Hundred House Show held in (you guessed it !) Hundred House, or more accurately at the Forest Fields Caravan park just outside the village.  It’s the area I spent most of last year working in and there are a number of colleagues and customers who regularly attend so it’s a good ‘meet-up’ show.  I even had a surprise visit from a cousin whom I had not seen in a while which added a certain something to the day.

Chatting at the show

This, for me, sums up what a local show is all about – chat and catch-up

Sheep are a VERY important element of Hundred House show (as it is for my village show) and a big entry was clearly received this year.  In addition one of Wales’ best sheep shearing champions passed the day by shearing 400 lambs …. crazy S.O.B. !!

A knowledgeable eye being run over the judge's choice.

A knowledgeable eye being run over the judge’s choice.

The collection of exhibits in the vintage section is quite astounding for a small village show.  A good selection of mostly local old tractors is always assured as are many beautiful classic cars and a few odds and ends like me and some of the Llandovery Vintage club stalwarts who surprised us all by arriving, un-announced, after years of being cajoled to turn up !

“Its got an engine !?”

The crowd is always a big one and it can be a long tiring day answering all the questions that get asked about my exhibits but it is what show-time is about.   I have yet to go to a show and not glean some new information about an item, meet some new interesting farmer with a wealth of tales and knowledge to tap and always there are the new people, the folk who have moved to Wales and love to come along to their local show.

I took a small display of hand tools, different from those I took last year of course, and I was pretty much talking for the whole six hours of the show !  Sometimes it’s just a case of listening, sometimes it’s an in depth description of one or all of the tools on display.  Either way it is what it all about and whilst it’s a tiring day it is very enjoyable and enlightening.

These oldmarking irons were handled more than all the other items on my stand.

These old marking irons were handled more than all the other items on my stand.

A good couple of days which was greatly and gratefully enjoyed.  And now Welshwaller has to don the ‘organiser’ vest and get the 2015 Beulah Show tractor run organised.  It’s a day away, the route is recce’d and the trophies polished !  All we need is some dry sunny weather so’s we can enjoy the fume filled ramble through some beautiful Welsh countryside !!  Beulah Show cometh !  Now has anyone seen my tractor driving buddy from Carolina, she’s here somewhere …

The stable is getting prep'd, where is WB !!??

The stable is getting prep’d, where is WB !!??

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