The early 1950s were in many ways the fag-end of the war. I lived in Sandhutton, a little village outside Thirsk, where my mother was head of a two-teacher school. I was with the under eights, while she taught the nine to fifteen year olds. Few pupils aimed to pass for Grammar when life as a farm labourer awaited. The school photo confirms my memory. Everything was beige and grey.
Sandhutton School, c.1952, just before I started there as a pupil. My mother is the teacher on the left, and my teacher, Miss Burnett, is on the right.
Sweets were almost unknown, and we were happy to supplement our adequate-but-dull diets by marauding the hedgerows for blackberries and rosehips, or by getting up at four in the morning to go mushrooming on the now-abandoned airfield.
Perhaps that dinginess is why my memory of that meadow is so vivid. Not far from our house, it was where we’d go sometimes when, during the long school summer break, my mother put together a picnic . I enjoyed running wild in the fields, while she managed a rare daytime doze in the sunshine. What I remember is flinging myself down in the grasses which then rasped and tickled my bare legs. I was searching, among the vetch, the buttercups and the poppies for daisies or other small flowers that I could make into a daisy chain. I wasn’t very good at it. The stems would split and mash, and my chain would tumble apart before it had even reached bracelet proportions.
I remember the fuzzing and the droning of the bees and flying things that murmured and hummed about my head; the brief sting of one of the single-minded ants out to seize any of our stray crumbs. I think back to the vivid colours of the meadow flowers – yellow buttercups and vetch, blue cornflowers, white meadowsweet blushing faintly pink or yellow, and the delicate papery petals of scarlet poppies. It smelt – well, green – and wafting from the next field was the sappy smell of recently cut hay. In the early afternoon there were no birds singing. Instead, the whirring of insect wings, the rumble of a distant tractor.
Directly above, as I lay in the grass, were no threatening clouds at all – of course there weren’t – just puffs of white cumulus, or ethereal streaks of cirrus in the perfectly blue sky.
Distance lends enchantment to the view. But it really was like that.
This miscellany of photos doesn’t come from Sandhutton at all, but from bits of North Yorkshire, from Shopshire, from Franconia …. anywhere that has a meadow. Click on any image to see it full size.