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Who was the Countryman?

 

The Countryman was my dad, Peter N Walker (aka Nicholas Rhea), who died on 21st April 2017 from prostate cancer.

He was a full-time writer for more than 35 years, and before that, wrote in his spare time from his job as a policeman. He wrote stories based on his experiences and they were turned into the hugely successful TV series Heartbeat. But he also wrote much more, including crime novels, detective novels, short stories, local history books, collections of folk stories and tales, and also columns for local papers.

When he was younger, he used to read the Countryman’s Diary in the Darlington and Stockton Times by a well-known writer and local history expert, Major John Fairfax-Blakeborough. The Major had always been an inspiration and source of encouragement to my dad, who dreamed of taking over his column, so when he passed away, Dad was thrilled to be invited to take over. He continued that column for 41 years, and another (Rural View) for around 30 years in the Malton Gazette and Herald. Despite his success, he had a huge sense of loyalty and would not give up the weekly columns, continuing right up until a couple of weeks before his death, although towards the end, they were a struggle for him.

After his death, I began to wonder what would happen to his columns, and felt it would be a shame for them to simply disappear after so many years. With support from my family, I called the editors of the papers who readily agreed to my taking them over, even though I don’t have Dad’s writing pedigree, nor his extensive knowledge of all things country and Yorkshire. But, as my brother pointed out, I do have access to my dad’s archive, 40-plus years’ worth of columns to draw upon.

So I decided to take each column from the same week 40 years ago and see what I could use to inspire my column for today. What I have found is not only a wealth of material, but that it is bringing back some memories that were long-since forgotten, memories of my dad, and of our family, of which he was so proud. And it feels like I am getting to know my dad in a way I never expected nor thought possible. It’s an honour to be able to do it and, step by step, week by week, it is helping me make my way along the long road of grief that his passing has left behind.

Sarah xxx

A storyteller to the end

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Dad was a great storyteller right to the end

Us Yorkshire folk have a reputation for being quite straightforward and even blunt on occasion, and many of us have an uncanny knack of describing things in a direct yet humorous way.

In his column from 16th December 1978, my dad highlights this reputed characteristic, declaring that the Yorkshireman or woman does not always see the humour in his or her words that others do, as to them it is just a logical reply or comment.

He recounts the tale of a local reporter interviewing a Dalesman in his cottage. The reporter asked: “Have you lived here all your life?” to which the man replied, “Not yet.”

He also included another tale which had me giggling, and I hope you don’t mind me including it here.

A couple of Yorkshire locals were discussing birth and death in the pub. “Was thoo born ‘ere?” asked one.

“Nay, I was born ower ‘t’ill in Rossdall. Mind I’ve lived in these parts for maist o’ me life.”

“Thoo’ll likely die here, then?” suggested his friend.

“Now I can’t be sure o’ that. If I knew where I was gahin ti die, I’d keep well clear o’ t’spot!”

My dad was a brilliant storyteller, not just in print, but in conversation too and possessed a seemingly endless mental library of good Yorkshire tales to share. He was one of those people that, should a new visitor come to the house, he would soon put them at ease with his chatter and anecdotes.

I’ve mentioned before how he continued to write until he was too sick to use a keyboard or pick up a pen. But even then he continued his storytelling to anyone with the time to listen.

When it was obvious the inevitable was not far away, one of the worst things for me was knowing that I would never again be able to listen to him telling his stories. I’d heard many of them a thousand times before, and yet would have given anything to hear them a thousand times again.

I very strongly wanted to preserve the sound of his voice and because I sat with him for long periods towards the end, I started to record what he was saying on my iPad. It gave me great comfort at a time of utmost difficulty knowing that I would have something to hold onto when he was no longer here.

Having said that, I am yet to pluck up the courage to listen back to those recordings as even though he’s been gone for 20 months, it still feels too soon and too raw. But at least I know they are there, and when I’m ready, I’ll play them back.

Not long before he died, Dad and I were working on a book together, rather ironically, all about death and he recalled some of the cases he’d come across while he was a bobby. It was a very ‘Heartbeat-esque’ collection, some funny, some mysterious, some moving and others just downright bizarre.

But one of my favourites was an oft-told local tale which we were going to include in the introduction, and it made me howl with laughter. It is so typical of my dad, and so I think it is right to share it with you:

When a Yorkshireman’s God-fearing wife died, he asked the undertaker for a special line on her gravestone. It was “God, she was thine.” Eventually the stone was installed upon her grave. But there was a mistake. The sentence read, “God, she was thin.”

The husband rang the undertaker to complain, saying, “You’ve missed off the ‘e’.”
The undertaker apologised and said his stonemason would correct the error immediately. A few days later, the husband went to inspect the new lettering. Now it read, “Ee, God, she was thin.”

On the subject of gravestones, we have discovered that deciding what to put on a loved one’s permanent memorial is no easy task. It’s only a few words, but when you know that it is going to be there forever, you really do have to think carefully about what you’re going to write. We decided to go with very simple wording to remember both Dad and my sister. Dad might be a bit disappointed that we couldn’t fit a typically humorous Yorkshire line on his gravestone, but I hope he’s happy with what we chose in the end.

Visit my blog at countrymansdaughter.com. Follow me on Twitter @countrymansdaug.

ENDS

This column appeared in the Darlington & Stockton Times  on 7th December & the Gazette & Herald on 5th December 2018

In gods we trust

In the village where I grew up, St Hilda is a prominent presence. We have a church, a village hall, a school and a street all named after her. She was reputed to have been an extremely kind and devout woman who devoted her life to teaching and the inclusivity of ‘ordinary folk’. She became the founding abbess of a monastery on the cliff top at Whitby in 657AD and its reputation as a centre for education spread internationally.

Most of what we know about her comes from the the Venerable Bede (672-735AD) who wrote: “All who knew her called her ‘mother’ because of her outstanding devotion and grace.” In fact her reputation was such, that myths and legends grew about the divine powers she possessed.

In my dad’s column from 9th December 1978, he talks about her connection to ‘adder stones’ that can still be found if you look hard enough along Whitby’s beaches. They’re called adder stones because of the pattern of a snake imprinted upon the surface.

The legend went that the town was plagued with poisonous snakes and St Hilda prayed for them to be thrown into the sea. The deadly serpents all gathered on the cliff top by the monastery and Hilda lashed them with her whip, severing their heads, before driving them over the edge with her wooden staff. The snakes coiled themselves up as they fell and, upon landing, were turned into stones.

In the pagan tradition, they use the term ‘adder stones’ for any which have a naturally-formed hole in them, and they are associated with witchcraft. They are also known as hag-stones, witch-stones, holey stones or mare-stones, and people used to hang them around their homes to ward off evil spells.

Of course, thanks to the advances in science, we now know that Whitby’s adder stones are actually ammonites, fossilised remains of long-dead sea creatures. It fascinates me how, in times gone by, we humans created our own explanations for the inexplicable. It was a way of easing our worries against things that we did not have the power or knowledge to yet understand.

As a former student of Ancient History and the Rise of Christianity, I was fascinated how the ancient tales surrounding the Greek and Roman gods came about. Can you imagine what it must have been like to experience an earthquake when you had no understanding of the nature of tectonic plates? Or the eruption of a volcano a couple of thousand years before vulcanology became a thing? Or how do you explain where a terrible hurricane comes from when you don’t even know there’s such a thing as weather?

Well, if you were a Greek living in about 500BC you’d know that if the earth was shaking beneath your feet, then Poseidon, god of the sea, was having an almighty spat with his arch enemy Athena. You’d also know that the volcanic eruption was merely god of the underworld, Hephaestus, forging new weapons for his king Zeus. And Poseidon was at it again when a hurricane came around, as he was also responsible for the wind and in fact most weather-related phenomena.

All the gods and goddesses of the ancient world had associations which allowed people to explain to themselves why mystifying life events occurred, to make sense out of times of confusion.

These ancients beliefs which passed from the Greeks to the Romans actually formed the basis of much of the founding beliefs of Christianity, and you might be surprised at how many of today’s Christian tales and practices actually their have roots in the myths and legends of Ancient Greece. For example, the story of Pandora opening the forbidden box to allow evil to spread into the world is similar to the tale of Eve biting the forbidden fruit, which is the biblical tale of original sin.

Greeks put a lot of time and effort into appeasing their gods, and being brought up Catholic, I knew how important it was to keep our God happy. I went to Mass on a Sunday and I lost count of how many times I had to apologise for fighting with my sisters or not keeping my bedroom tidy at weekly confession.

There may or may not have been worse things I had to confess to, but I think I’ll keep you guessing as to what they were.

Visit my blog at countrymansdaughter.com. Follow me on Twitter @countrymansdaug.

ENDS

This column appeared in the Darlington & Stockton Times  on 7th December & the Gazette & Herald on 5th December 2018

Plenty of food for thought

I’m writing this two weeks before you’ll read it and we’ve just had the commemorations for the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One. What an emotional time it has been, and I was pleased to see so many of our local communities put great thought and effort into their own ways of remembering the fallen.

Three things particularly stood out for me. The first was the arresting front cover of the Remembrance weekend Yorkshire Post, which forwent any news stories and instead had a full size black and white picture of soldiers amid the war-ravaged landscape of Passchendaele, alongside a special prayer from the Archbishop of York. One BBC reviewer stated that it ‘swept the board’ of the national front covers marking the Armistice. He also said: “Of all the regions of our great country, Yorkshire seems to pride itself on taking most pride in itself.” Yes, we certainly do.

The second thing was the TV coverage of the Festival of Remembrance from the Royal Albert Hall. I don’t often watch these kinds of events, and came across it while switching channels, and then couldn’t leave. The personal stories of people affected by war, past and present, were brought to life in such an engaging way, and I found the event extremely moving.

The third thing that stood out for me was the film ‘They Shall Not Grow Old’, directed by Peter Jackson, best known for the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Having spent many months trawling through century-old footage from the BBC and the Imperial War Museum, he compiled a mesmerising film that told the story of WWI based upon the voices of the people who were actually there. He used expert lip readers to analyse what those in the silent footage were saying, and then their words were brought to life by current serving soldiers. Using state-of-the-art technology, Jackson made the whole thing extremely vivid, and there is a jaw-dropping ‘wow’ moment early on in the film (which I won’t spoil for you), but from then on, my youngest son and I were transfixed. I would challenge anyone else to make the telling of the story of the Great War equally captivating for my generation and for that of my 16-year-old son.

Of course, while commemorating the Armistice and WWI, we also remembered those affected by the Second World War and other conflicts. As children, my parents lived through WWII and food rationing affected them for some time afterwards. In his column from 2nd December 1978 Dad explains that late November and early December used to be ‘pig killing time’ for rural folk, many of whom had raised their own pig in a sty in the back garden. Indeed, the old cottage in which I grew up had an ancient shed outside which I’m sure would have been used for keeping a pig or two in days gone by. A pig would be a good investment as the animal would provide food for the whole family all winter. But during the war, if you had a pig you had to register it and when it came to slaughter, you had give half of it towards the communal rationing supplies.

Groups of people were encouraged to set up ‘pig clubs’ where those that joined the club pitched in to raise the swine, and the community would support the effort by donating their kitchen scraps to feed them. Club members would then benefit from the produce once slaughter time came around, after the local authorities had received their share for rations of course.

It was hard graft butchering a pig and producing all the foodstuffs and very little went to waste. There’s an old Yorkshire saying that goes ‘There’s nowt wasted on a pig except it’s squeal.’ You had to make lard, pork chops, pork joints, bacon and black pudding and the bladder would be hung from sturdy hooks in the kitchen or pantry, alongside massive joints of ham. Our old kitchen used to have hooks in the ceiling beams which we believe were used for this purpose.

Dad also mentions “scrappings made so crisp and tasty with salt”. I presume these were what I would know as ‘pork scratchings’, one of my guilty pleasures today. Have any readers raised their own and pig and made their own pork scrappings, I wonder?

Visit my blog at countrymansdaughter.com. Follow me on Twitter @countrymansdaug.

This column appeared in the Darlington & Stockton Times  on 28th November & the Gazette & Herald on 30th  2018

Not just any old jumper

This column appeared in the Darlington & Stockton Times  on 23rd November & the Gazette & Herald on 21st November 2018

I have a favourite old grey jumper that I wear a lot. It is rather baggy, a bit worn with a hole in the sleeve. Some people point out the hole, and wonder why I choose to wear such a thing. But this jumper is rather special, as it belonged to my late sister and was one of her favourites.

After she died, we had the difficult but necessary task of clearing out her flat, and wondered what to do with all her things. The flat was only small and she had relatively few possessions, and yet there still seemed to be so much. Sorting through her clothes was especially poignant as we could remember the occasions she wore certain things, and knew the pieces she liked best. She had an abundance of scarves too and myself, my mum, my sister, her close friends, and her nieces were all able to choose one from the collection.

Every time I put on her jumper, or wear her scarf, I think of her, and sometimes I have sad thoughts, and other times, the memories are happy. But very personal keepsakes like this are a simple way of holding that person close, even though they are no longer with you.

In my dad’s column from 25th November 1978, he talks about old superstitions that were associated with the wearing of dead people’s clothes. There was a saying which, bearing in mind my special jumper, seems rather apt: “The clothes of the dead always wear full of holes.”

For some, the wearing of such clothes carried unwanted stigma, and they preferred to pass them on to the poor of the parish. There was an ancient belief that clothes once worn by the dead would soon perish, and therefore should not be kept. In Denmark, there was a stronger belief that if someone was buried in a living person’s clothing, then the living person’s health would deteriorate as the clothes rotted in the grave.

There are specific Yorkshire superstitions relating to clothing. For example, if a married woman’s apron fell off then it foretold that something annoying was going to happen to her. If an unmarried girl’s apron fell off, then that was a sign that she was thinking about her future sweetheart. Another one was that if a girl’s petticoat showed below her skirts, then it was a sign that her mother did not love her as much as her father. How bizarre, and one wonders how such a belief could possibly have come about!

In his column, Dad remarks: “I wonder if this has anything to do with the current fashion where petticoats deliberately peep below the hems of skirts?”

My dad wasn’t particularly known for his fashion expertise, and I don’t really recall a proliferation of peeping petticoats, although I do remember that for smart social occasions, dresses were full length, usually high-necked, and often with a large frilled hem around the bottom.

I was not a fan of skirts and dresses, and spent most of my days in trousers or shorts. If ever my mum wanted me to put a dress on, I would have a proper hissy fit. I recall having conversations with my best friend while watching Miss World on TV where we declared that if we ever entered that competition, we wouldn’t be seen dead in those dresses they wore. We would proudly wear our scruffy old jeans. I’m sure the judges would have seen past them to our natural beauty.

I was most disgruntled when, having been invited to a family friend’s daughter’s wedding, I was made to wear a full-length frock. To add insult to injury, we had to have our photograph taken in the back garden (see above). I wasn’t happy at all, and failed to appreciate that my mum had spent hours and hours making the dresses for us. In fact, in those days, she made many of our clothes and I used to think it was because she loved sewing. It was only later in life that I discovered she did it out of necessity because she and dad could not afford to buy us all new clothes.

So, apologies Mum, for being such a pain, and thank you for all your hard work at the sewing machine. I don’t know how you did it.

Visit my blog at countrymansdaughter.com. Follow me on Twitter @countrymansdaug.

The art of the riddle

This column appeared in the Darlington & Stockton Times  on 16th November & the Gazette & Herald on 14th November 2018


In Dad’s column from 18th November 1978, he reports that it was unseasonably warm, a bit like it has been this year, which prompted him to mow the lawn behind our cottage one last time, a full month later than normal. He also battled with the bushes and shrubs that needed a good tidy up and, as a result, ended up with a healthy pile of logs which would come in use for our open fire over the winter.

A real fire is one of those things that we all love to enjoy on a cold dark evening. The sound of the crackling embers, the glow of the orange flames, and the warmth thrown out by the burning logs cannot be replicated by an artificial fire, no matter how realistic it looks.

Sadly, the house I now live in doesn’t have a real fire, and I do miss one, especially now that winter is so close. In my last house, we installed a multi-fuel stove and although it was expensive, it was possibly one of the best things we did in terms of making our house feel like a really cosy home.

But if you are going to use a stove, then you do need to learn how to manage it, what fuel to use, how to keep the stove glass clean, and also to master the art of ‘riddling’. Some of you might remember (or even still use) solid fuel Aga and Rayburn stoves, like the one in my godmother’s kitchen. The warmth emanating from that custard-yellow beast was something else, and when I stayed with her, she would read me bedtime stories sitting in front of it.

She was an expert riddler, which is the word for sieving out ash and embers from the bottom of the fire to enable the air to flow through. Stoves have a special handle for this, while my dad used a poker to do it on our open fire. If you don’t riddle enough, then air can’t circulate, and your fire won’t last. Over-riddle, then you allow too much air flow, which can also put your fire out, so you have to master the art of the riddle.

It also helps to know the best wood to use, as different logs behave in different ways. Ash is one of the best, as it dries quickly and produces a steady flame with decent heat. Oak can also be a good choice, but needs at least two years to dry out. It burns slowly, so is best if it is mixed with faster burning wood, such as birch or ash.

In 1978, we didn’t worry too much about the moisture content of logs. If they felt dry, they ended up on the fire. But the logs that my dad mentions from his garden would not have been any good for today’s wood-burners, as they wouldn’t have been seasoned for long enough.

‘Seasoning’ means drying out, and there are several reasons why you should buy properly seasoned or kiln-dried logs. Wood that contains too much moisture won’t burn as well, it will release higher amounts of ‘particulates’ that pollute the atmosphere, and, as the moisture is released, tar and soot will not only coat the inside of your stove glass to obscure the lovely flames, but they will also coat the inside of your flue or chimney. If this is allowed to build up, it can lead to chimney fires, so you should have your chimney cleaned once a year, even if you do use properly dried out wood.

Beware of those that claim to be seasoned, but haven’t been dried for long enough, and the easiest way to check for this is to use a wood moisture meter which you can buy for less than £20, a worthwhile investment if you have a stove. Properly seasoned logs have a moisture content of less than 20%.

It isn’t difficult to season your own logs as long as you split them and stack them correctly. They need to be raised on something like an old pallet so that the air can circulate. Cover them on three sides, leaving one open, but try to ensure they are not exposed to the elements. Once your moisture meter reading shows your logs have less than 20% moisture, then they are seasoned and ready to burn.

Visit my blog at countrymansdaughter.com. Follow me on Twitter @countrymansdaug.

ENDS

The pride of Yorkshires

This column appeared in the Darlington & Stockton Times  on 9th November & the Gazette & Herald on 7th November 2018

For what, in your opinion, is Yorkshire most famous? Obviously, I would put Heartbeat up there, along with the Yorkshire Dales, Herriot country, Captain Cook, cricket, cycling…I could go on.

But at the top of the list has to be Yorkshire puddings. Can anyone who is not a born and bred Yorkshire person make them quite as well as us? If my attempts are anything to go by, then the answer might be ‘Yes’, as my success rate over the years has been hit and miss, and my Nana Smith will be turning in her grave knowing that her granddaughter is a bit rubbish at producing consistently decent Yorkshires.

My nana, who hailed from Egton Bridge on the North York Moors, was a pudding master and, unlike me, my mum has inherited her skill. When I was little, Dad would tell me that Nana Smith made the best ones in the whole wide world, which of course I took literally, and boasted about this international accolade to all my friends.

In his column from 11th November 1978, Dad talks about a visit from some Americans, and he wanted to show them how fine our county’s most famous food was. They explained that they had eaten it already somewhere down south, but that it hadn’t impressed them.

“That experience must have been horrific to say the least,” writes Dad, “because the Yorkshire pudding had been served with the main course; worse still, it had been a flat, thick, rubbery substance which might have been useful for soling shoes or upholstering chairs.” Oh dear.

He was eager to restore its reputation and took the visitors to a local hotel known for its excellent puddings. Like my nana, it served them in the way they were supposed to be, which is as a starter with gravy. The guests were instantly converted, and bestowed the greatest of compliments by asking for the recipe.

But simply knowing the recipe isn’t enough. Us natives understand that making great Yorkshires is an art that has to be perfected over years of practise. You don’t just need the right ingredients; you also you need the right tins, you need to know the foibles of your oven, and above all, you need experience.

The mistake many people make is to think that the rise of the Yorkshires is the most important element, and although some can look fabulous on the outside, they often taste like bland doughy buns. This is usually because they have been made with (brace yourself) self-raising flour! This is a cardinal sin, and you should never be tempted to go down that route just to ensure a rise.

I’m pleased to report that of late, I’ve nailed it, and my Yorkshires have come out perfectly risen, crisp on the outside, with a satisfyingly deep well in the middle. It’s taken years of trial and error, and so here are my tips on how to get the perfect Yorkshires (As for quantities, I can’t help as, like my mum and nana before me, I do it all by sight).

1. Make sure the oven is very hot (no less than 200C).
2. Sieve plain flour from a height into a bowl, and add a pinch of salt and a pinch of bicarbonate of soda. Make a well in the centre, and add two eggs.
3. Whisk this up. Then add half milk, half water, until it is the consistency of cream of tomato soup.
4. Find an old greasy muffin tin that you never wash properly.
5. Grind a little black pepper into the bottom of each well (to prevent sticking), and add a dessert spoon of oil. I use plain vegetable oil (which is actually 100% rapeseed oil. I used to use lard, but I didn’t get as good results).
6. Put in the oven until it is literally smoking hot.
7. Then, as quick as you can, pour a little of the batter into each well (it should sizzle) and put straight back in the oven. Do not open the oven door again until they are well risen and golden brown, which will be about 20 minutes.

I have no idea if my nana would approve of this method, but it works for me. Good luck, and use my blog and Twitter (below) to send me pictures of your successes – and failures!

Visit my blog at countrymansdaughter.com. Follow me on Twitter @countrymansdaug.

ENDS

A night full of mischief

This column appeared in the Darlington & Stockton Times  on 2nd November & the Gazette & Herald on 31st October 2018

This week sees the twin celebrations of Halloween and Bonfire Night. I have many fond memories of dressing up and going out Trick or Treating with my young boys, although it might as well have just been called Treating, as the tradition of playing tricks on those who didn’t offer treats had pretty much died out.

I remember asking one of them if he knew why we said ‘Trick or Treat’. He didn’t, and when I explained, he was quite mystified as to why anyone would want to play tricks at all. As our neighbourhood was full of young families, we embraced 31st October with great enthusiasm, and many houses were elaborately decorated with the Halloween theme, while illuminated carved pumpkins were left outside to show us which houses would welcome the young trick or treaters.

As the children grew older and began going out alone, we made it very clear that they were not allowed to knock on the doors of houses that didn’t have any decorations or pumpkins outside, ensuring the residents were not disturbed. It’s worth taking a walk on Halloween evening just to see all the amazing elaborate carvings that people do these days. One of my neighbours used to carve intricate designs, and her house became a must-see destination. My friend Jane would turn her garage into a witches’ coven with smoke swirling outside, a hideous potion in a cauldron and gruesome challenges that the children would have to attempt before being rewarded with their treat. The children that were brave enough enter loved it.

On the subject of pumpkins, I hope today’s youngsters appreciate how lucky they are to not have to experience the sheer frustration of trying to carve a rock hard swede or turnip. Just scraping the insides out was exhausting, and I could not understand why I couldn’t achieve the same elegance and panache as those pumpkins I’d seen on TV. To be honest, I didn’t really know what a pumpkin was.

In my day, trick or treating was not very common, and unprepared householders had nothing but fruit or the odd biscuit in to give us. We were happy with whatever was handed out, but if they didn’t respond to our knocking, or had no treats, then the braver ones among us might play a trick, such as smear Vaseline on the doorknob or post leaves through the letterbox. It was harmless, although no doubt irritating for the residents.

Halloween is swiftly followed by Mischief Night, which is 4th November, and is not really marked any more. But in 1978, as my dad writes in his column of that date, the practice of playing pranks on Mischief Night was more popular than on Halloween.

“Gates will be taken off hinges, children will knock on doors and run away, slogans will be written on windows and walls, and other japes will take place,” he writes. He then goes on to talk about ‘unruly elements’ who spoiled the fun for everyone else by using the night as an excuse to inflict damage and vandalism on their neighbours. I’d heard of people putting fireworks through letterboxes and was so scared that every Mischief Night I’d make my dad tape our letterbox closed. He also used to put our absent front gate back on its hinges for the one night in the hope they would only take it off again, so deterring them from inflicting more annoying pranks, like daubing our windows with lard.

I think the event that caused the fear to become deeply ingrained happened when I was about four or five years old. At the time, we lived opposite a farm which had a large barn which was full of bales of straw for the winter. For some reason, on Mischief Night, someone decided to set fire to it. As it was bone dry, the whole lot quickly went up in flames. It was terrifying, and despite the fire engines rushing to put it out, the barn was completely destroyed.

There were mutterings the village about whether it was deliberate or not, but I don’t know if the culprit was ever caught or punished. But from that night on, every subsequent Mischief Night filled me with fear and dread.

So on Halloween night, when I see the flickering pumpkins and the happy groups of children dressed up in their spookiest best, I will not mourn the demise of Mischief Night one little bit.

Visit my blog at countrymansdaughter.com. Follow me on Twitter @countrymansdaug.