Dad

Inevitably as Father’s Day approaches my thoughts have turned to my Dad who is no longer with us. A very likeable man who adored children and had very few flaws. In comparison to much more volatile, but equally as caring, Mum he was a saint. It was a great shame that one by one we let him down. Let me explain.

Very much the family man he imagined a thriving family business, the farm, with all of working together with him permanently at the helm. I think it would be unfair to imagine that he purely thought of his five children as a cheap workforce although we certainly were. He actually enjoyed working with us.

His big mistake was educating us well and raising us all to be strong minded and independent. If he really wanted to keep us on the farm he shouldn’t have married Mum who passed on her dogged determination to us as well. 

I have really happy memories of my pre school years with Dad. I was often sent out with him in what would now be a Health & Safety nightmare land of a working farm. It was good fun with the horses and cows and Dad singing lots of old ballads as we clip clopped along. “A Farmer’s Boy” and “If I were a Blackbird” being but two of my favourites. The latter regularly belted out by Grandpa as well. 

My school years broke the bond a bit as we mostly saw each other in passing and when we were together he was usually having a nap in his chair.

I got to know him best and admire him most when we worked together. He was old, slow and in ill health but he knew more about farming than I ever would. I may have been young and fit but I didn’t have the endurance he had to see manual jobs through from start to finish. 

He also had lived through such changing times and had a wealth of stories to tell. He could describe the reality of an age that no longer existed and with such enthusiasm that no matter how bad things sounded he described them in a glass half full way. Extolling the joys of digging out the privy or describing the exhilaration of washing under an outside tap in the middle of winter just endorsed the message of the good old days.

He did expect a lot from us. For instance when I contracted adult mumps, it wasn’t my cheeks that were swollen, I’d never felt worse in my life. I was in pain and running a very high temperature. I soldiered on and milked the cows but by the end I could hardly walk. I almost crawled back to the house where I did collapse on the kitchen floor.

Dad comes in looking for me and sees me in distress. He suggests that if I just wash the milking parlour down and clean the milking machines I can have the rest of the morning off. It seemed uncaring at the time but to be honest he was in worse health than I was. 

Then one day, like my four siblings before me, I broke his heart by heading out into the world on my own. I dealt the hardest blow because I was the last one. Hard for me to realise the impact at the time but now I’m a similar age to him I appreciate how comforting it is to have family close.

I do miss him but I’m comforted by the memories and particularly his one line life lessons which have and still serve me well.

“You’re as good as anyone, probably better” and “No one’s going to get off a galloping horse to look at you” have served me well over the years.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. You were a good ‘un,  I’ve tried to be like you but found it was impossible. Thanks for making me what I am today (with a lot of help from Mum). 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Mum’s Doll

mumTina Turner was blasting “When I was a little girl I had a rag doll. Only Doll I’ve ever owned” from out of my radio. I immediately thought of my mother and her doll made from a tea towel.

Mum had a very disadvantaged childhood. Her father died in a military hospital a few weeks before she was born in 1916. Granny already had 3 other daughters and only a small war pension to live off.

She also had or developed a drinking problem which didn’t add to the families prospects at all. Her Grandfather, James Mitchell, did look out for the family and for a time was the father she never had because of World War 1. He was a distinguished, well known and well liked man but he also had to work as a very old man to earn his living. He was also taken away from the family when he fell down the stairs and never recovered from his injuries.

Times were hard and the modern benefits society didn’t exist then.There was no money for toys. Christmas was about new clothes and shoes not playthings.

Mum’s Grandad showed her how to cleverly fold a tea towel to look like a sleeping baby wrapped in a blanket. That became her toy, her friend in harsh times.

Many times over the years I saw her unconsciously fold a tea towel to make her little doll and give it a sly hug before flicking it out to dry the dishes.

Decade after decade she made that doll continuing right into her ninth.

Comfort can be found in the most prosaic of items.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Phantom Cosmonaut on BBC Guernsey

Tom Girard

A rare post regarding my musical alter-ego now as, to round what has been an extraordinary year for The Phantom Cosmonaut, I made my live radio debut on Tuesday 3rd December as the guest of John Randall on BBC Guernsey.

Across the half hour session I played my songs Penglais Hill and Lady Dreamer live in the studio as well as covering a whole bunch of things in the interview from playing all three of the Bailiwick’s main summer festivals this year to supporting Wilko Johnson, Norman Watt-Roy and Teaspoonriverneck.

Anyway, you can listen to the whole thing on the BBC iPlayer or through the BBC Guernsey radio pages until the afternoon of Tuesday 10th, just click the links and scroll through to an hour and 34 minutes.

If you want to hear more of my music you can do so on my Soundcloud page and here is…

View original post 6 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Little Red Trike Part 1

trike

Feminism has always been a strange concept to me. I never grew up thinking that women were an underclass who were being exploited by men. My mother was certainly not a downtrodden house wife without a mind of her own.

My sisters as well were treated no differently to the boys and Dad expected them to be able to do as much farm-work as any man. Family are much cheaper workers than employees and will work longer hours in worse conditions. Camps Farm didn’t have an HR Department.

My parents had three tranches of family. Firstly, Dennis born in the 30s and Ann in 1940 then Alan and Sue in 46 and 47 then finally me as the obvious mistake born in 1954.  Sue was the closest to me in age and often had to keep a reluctant eye on me. I think she still does.

Sue was something of an action hero in the day and had many exciting adventures starting from having a fist fight when she was 6 to recover a school library book from an older bigger boy who snatched it from her. She won.

That wasn’t the last time she had to resort to fists while she was growing up. There may be one or two readers of this blog who will recall the drubbing given them for trying to take liberties.

Those who know Sue as the hard working, much admired former Ladies College girl may be surprised to read of her past.

When she was sweet seventeen she was driving along in her new Ford Poplar along the front when she noticed a horse drawn milk float galloping out of control towards the Longstore. The milkman had left the horse while he delivered the milk door to door. A sudden backfire from a passing car startled the usually bomb proof mare who decided to go home at top speed without waiting for her owner.

Sue immediately decided to try and get in front and stop the horse before she damaged herself or passers-by. That wasn’t as easy as it seemed when the horse turned into the Bouet rather than staying on the wide open road.

Sue followed as close as she could but just couldn’t get past. Then the horse turned up Mont Arrive, presumably still trying to follow its usual milk route to get home. With some skilful driving Sue managed to get past the horse. We have to remember she had only just passed her test and wasn’t exactly Stirling Moss.

With a bit of a head start she pulled up at the Tobacco Factory, got out and stood in the middle of the road ready to face down the bolting horse and the heavy milk float. Being very used to horses Sue waved her arms out as wide as she could and gave no indication that he would move.

This wasn’t really enough to bring it to a halt but she managed to grab the side of the bridle and digging her heels in brought the rig to a dead stop.

Sue, like all real heroes, plays this story down by saying the horse had probably run out of steam by then and was easy to stop. No matter, not every girl would have done what she did that day.

And she’s my sister.

Posted in Camps, Carriage driver, Guernsey, Harness, Hero, Horses, Memories | 2 Comments

At the End of the Day

endofday

My big brother, Dennis John Camp, was born over nineteen years before me in 1935. He enjoyed four idyllic years as the literally blue-eyed son of two loving parents. He grew up running free on the farm and spending many happy hours with a doting father.

Dad spent much of his time on the road with the horses and rigged up a hessian sack arrangement attached to the front of the horse van to swaddle Dennis in safely. I’m sure Dad’s idea of safety in the 1930s would not be considered so today.

The young Dennis could milk cows by the age of three and had his own to look after. In fact he made both the local newspaper and the Daily Mirror for being the youngest farmer in Britain.july1939

From birth until June 1940 had an everlasting impact on Dennis and shaped the rest of his life.

The idyll ended abruptly when he evacuated to Stockport with Mum leaving Dad behind. Who can measure the impact on a child to be taken from a rural paradise to be dropped into a war torn, urban nightmare. He suffered the nightmare of the Blitz and long periods of serious illness. He shared a hospital ward with maimed Dunkirk veterans and towards the end of the war trekked by himself from the South of England to Stockport to get back to Mum after running away from the hospital.

His education was near to nothing for the whole of the war and he struggled with literacy for many years.

He saw so many things that a child should never see and all before he was ten years old. The war years increased the loving bond he had with Mum and all the time he was away he never forgot the blissful days with Dad.

Five years is a long time to be parted and the little boy of four who left was not the ten year old boy who returned. Somehow the bond between father and son had been broken and the two of them had a loving but never quite the same relationship they both wished they had.

Just another tragedy we can blame on Adolf Hitler.

The young Dennis now had two strong life memories. One of the farming in Guernsey and the other of war torn Stockport. He loved them both. On the one hand he spent his life attempting to replicate his earliest environment and on the other longing for his war time home.

He lived a full and active life always on the very edge of making a living but in a way that was true to himself. There are many stories to be told about Dennis and I will try to tell some of them.

At the end of the day when the Sun sets in the West the farmer unhitches the horse from the plough and takes him home for the night. I like to think that is where Dennis is now, resting after a hard day in the field. He has seen to the horse before himself and has now gone to bed ready for an early start in the morning.

dennis

Rest in Peace, Big Brother.

Posted in Camps, Carriage driver, Evacuation, Guernsey, Harness, Hitler, Horses, Memories | 2 Comments

The Hat in the Track Lane part 4

haywaggon

July is hay making time and July 2013 has been perfect weather for hay though a tad too hot for me. All the Summers when I was a boy were sunny and warm with never a drop of rain.

Hay making was always a big thing at Camp’s Farm. Hay making machinery is used only once a year and though some would carefully grease all the working parts and put it all lovingly away at the end of the season that wasn’t Dad’s way.

All equipment be it a shovel or a plough were all left where they were last used. Neglected and forlorn they lived in overgrown hedges or convenient corners with never a sight of a grease gun or even the wipe of an oily rag.

The day would come when Dad decided it was perfect weather for hay making. Job number one was to find the equipment. Guernsey farms are not one big ring fenced arrangement of fields all linked together. Not at all. Fields are everywhere, some close and others miles away. So the question was which was the last field to be mowed last year. Was it The Long Field, or Robin’s Field or could it have been the Muck Field?

Once the field was established then the mower would be found. Probably covered in bindweed or grown into a bramble bush. The mower I most remember was a finger mower. fingermower

The finger mower was a two wheeled contraption drawn by a horse with a high seat at the back for the driver. Running out of the side was a long cutting bar containing 2 steel sharks teeth blades that moved back and forth driven by the turning wheels to cut the hay.

It was very robust but a year lying in a field wasn’t good maintenance. Plus whatever had broken the year before would not have been repaired. The first day of hay making, after the mower was found, was then spent trying to get the mower to work and rushing around to get all the spare parts needed.

Usually nothing was actually mown on day one.

Tractors soon took over as I grew up but Dad had a passion for horses and used them for as long as he could. I can picture him now perched on the precarious seat of the mower knocking down fields of hay and singing the entire time.

Dad had stopped making hay ricks shortly before I was born so I only remember baled hay. A horse was a useful tool for collecting the bales of hay. If you use a tractor and trailer then someone has to keep getting on and off the tractor to drive around the field from bale to bale. With a horse it was so much easier. It would walk from bale to bale with just a word of command.

Hay making was very hard work and a pleasant memory was walking behind the last load of hay as the horse slowly plodded up the Track to home.

Posted in Camps, Guernsey, Horses, Memories | Leave a comment

The Hat in the Track Lane Part 3

imageHalf way down the Lane was a big granite barn on the edge of , for Guernsey, a big field. Dad rented the barn and the field as his Dad had done before him.

The barn had been used for a multitude of purposes during the time of the Camps. Storing Hay, stabling horses, stabling cows, keeping pigs, storing equipment and even accommodated a big barn dance when such things were popular.

Sometimes it was in good condition and at other times it was pretty abandoned. Sometimes it was a very smelly place and at other times its walls gleamed with a coat of fresh whitewash. Mostly it was a smelly place.

Across the fields to the East of the barn is the The Chateaux De Marais, or The Ivy Castle. A very neglected ancient fortification that was a wonderful playground for us as children. It has the remains of an old moat and on its western side a douit.

The douit bordered another field that dad rented which we called Robin’s Field. In Guernsey we pronounce that “Robe in” not “robin”. I have no idea who Mr Robin was but his field had a stream that the tenant had to clean every year.

While dad was hacking away at the weeds I would try and catch sticklebacks with a little net. On one occasion while running up and down the stream in my bare feet I tripped over a piece of metal sticking out of the bottom. It looked interesting so I dug it out with my hands and became the proud owner of a short sword. Though to me it didn’t seem that short.

I loved that sword. I played with it for years. Sadly, it was my favourite summer pastime to play outside cutting down weeds with it and emulating the exploits of Douglas Fairbanks or other lesser know heroes I watched at the Odeon on Saturday mornings.

Quite a few years after I found it Mum wondered if it was worth anything and took it to the Museum together with several other “treasures” we had accumulated over the years. Including a flintlock pistol that was also one of my treasured “toys”. I’ve no idea where that came from.

She dropped them off and waited and waited for a call to tell her we were rich. The call never came. After many months she went to the Museum and asked if the items had been investigated and appraised. Imagine her horror to be told that the old gentleman she had spoken to had died and whether she had a receipt for the items. There was no receipt and the items were never found.

Somewhere in the bottom of a trunk in an unvisited storeroom housing the unwanted artefacts of the Guernsey Museum service is my beloved sword. I shed real tears for that sword.

Anyway, at one time Grandad kept several of the horses he had for sale in the field and their harness in the barn. Dad would collect some in the morning to be used on the farm and deliver them back late at night. When the nights were drawing in he was a little nervous going to the barn even though he was thirteen.

This was down to the tale of the ghostly grey stallion of the Ivy Castle that he had been told when he was a boy. It was a fine charger which had belonged to a brave knight who had been treacherously murdered by the Keeper of the Castle and the horse would often be seen roaming around on the night of a full moon seeking out his master’s murderers.

On one such night, where all around was illuminated by a full moon, Dad brought a pair of horses back to the field, slipped off their harness and let them loose. Then he hung the harness up in the barn. As he came out and was closing the barn door he looked behind him. There galloping across the field towards him was the grey stallion. Its eyes were glowing bright red and its nostrils were spewing out flame.

Discretion being the better part of valour Dad ran to the gate, leapt over it and ran at full pelt to the farm as though the Devil was on his heels. Which he was. Running through the back door he was totally out of breath and sat at the kitchen table to recover.

Grandad was there and while he was waiting for dad to be able to speak he asked.

“Did you see the new grey stallion in the field? He’s a bit wild.”

Posted in Camps, Guernsey, Horses, Memories | Leave a comment