Monday, 18 February 2008
In search, as ever, of the obscure, I came across this wonderful piece of the vernacular - this time set in the Cotswolds - which I will repeat in full, as it should be out of copyright (dates from that 1938 copy of The Countryman again).
When, towards the end of June, the cherries begin to turn colour on the slopes of the North Cotswolds, there are the birds to be thought of. The wise grower enlists the services of an expert 'minder' - in the Chipping Campden district, Ninety Griffin or Jimmy Teapot. They frighten the birds away with ear-splitting noises, calculated to scare anything from a sparrow to a lion - guns are seldom used, for the tendency nowadays is for both farmers and minders to object to the birds being shot, for at another season they render their service. But here is Jimmy Teapot on his art and mystery:
Some folks thinks any sort o' covey can do a bit o' cherry-mindin', but they be wrong. The fust thing I got to do is to get me six or seven sheets of corrugated iron and some chains and fix 'em up in the best places in the orchard, and then I got to tie strings to the chains leadin' to the outside of the orchard. Some of the strings goes one way, and some the t'other so that I can pull 'em easy as I hobbles around. Then I gets out me old coco-nut rattle - the same as you siz 'em using at the coco-nut shies at the mops. I got a very good rattle, master.
Now I be all set, and I guz a'kyolloping round this yur orchard a-swinging' me rattle and a-shouting', and when I comes to one o' they strings, I gives him a good pull and then another 'un, until they birds whum come to scrump the churries be in such a mugglement they don't know whether they be a-flying or a-swimming. And just when they be settlin' down agyun, round I comes with me menajery until they birds be fair hopping mad. In the finish they be that fammel they guz off for some maggotty-pie somewhur else.
We bird-minders be paid two pound a wick. Our union wunt let us take less. It ought to be more. I starts at fower in the marning - the birds be early risers - and I kips on hobblin' around, backurds and forruds till eight at night. A cherry-minder needs a good pair o' legs and a good pair o' lungs. I be getting a bit wombly now, but they birds soon knows when Teapot's about.
No man can work proper without summat to yut. For breakfast I likes two pound o' bacon and a small loaf. When it comes dinner-time, give me two pound o' beef and three pound o' fried onions done over the devil. I does 'em myself, then I knows they'll be to me likin'. For supper, just a nobble o' cheese, about the size of a brick, and the bottom of a fower-pun loaf and a quart o' scrumpy (that's cider) with a dozen eggs broke in him, if somebody 'ull pay for the eggs.
There's plenty o' work in summer, but it's very okkurd in the winter. I does a bit o' faggottin' yur, and feeds the pigs for Louis Smith and people be good to me. So what's the use o' worrittin'; I be the only Teapot except him that stands on the hob.