“You can’t wear them jeans on your first day at your new job Mary!” exclaimed Mum as we all stood around in the kitchen with tea-mugs.
“It’s a factory job mum, you can wear what you like; anyway even Princess Ann wears jeans now!
I laughed, “Yea, only while her stable lad is mucking out her stables no doubt!”
“Oh well, they’ll probably put you into an overall when you get there anyway.” replied mum. Then the cockerel began crowing over his hens again.
Mum continued, “If Shirley don’t get down those stairs real soon she’ll be late for school; are you going today Don?”
“No Mom, Dad needs the two acre done while the sun’s still on it; he reckons it’ll rain tomorrow.”
“You’ll never get your “O” level English like that Don!” teased Mary as she stood by the by the yard door waiting for me.
“No he won’t”, said mum, “Our Shirley will get it before he ever will”
“Are you taking me now Don or what?” said Mary petulantly.
“Yea, come on then Mary!” I said and as I passed her she put her arm up on my shoulder and with a pout pleaded, “Would you lift me Don?”
“Christ, what did your last servant die of!” I jibbed, cupping her bum in my arm and lifting her up. Then I carried her through the white mud of the yard that she was so eager to avoid spoiling her black jive shoes. Her eyes danced with mine as she murmured, “I’ll reward you in the cave this evening, ok?” “OK” I said, dumping her into the truck and she squealed with glee.
Getting behind the wheel, I released the handbrake to get the truck rolling down the yard before letting-in the the clutch to jerk the engine alive. Hens flapped in all directions as I gunned the motor with glee, causing Mary more laughter.
Dad was down by the gate scowling: the army jacket he lived in, so pickled in oil and muck that it had become waterproof. It was turned-up at the collar, giving him the appearance of the hero character in ‘Ice Cold in Alex’ that had been on at the cinema recently.
Mary and I both laughed spontaneously and as I pulled up alongside of him he issued an instruction,
“Before you start on that field you can stop off at Harris’s and pick up a posting drill; that’s all Don.”
He gave one of his grimaces to Mary that conveyed a blessing before turning back to the his task. I drove off up the lane towards Clanfield where Mary was meeting the works bus that would take her on to the factory.
I was nearly fourteen then and Mary had turned sixteen.
Whitedirt was the smallest farm in the Meon Valley of Hampshire. This was partly due to the ancient chalk quarry that bordered our top field, forming a natural barrier. They reckoned that it’s location could have been a site for ancient cave dwellers.
When Dad initially secured the farm tenancy he’d married mum who had lived in the village.
Although Whitedirt was not big enough for grazing livestock it could comfortably accommodate a few horses alongside producing grain and ground crops.
First Mary, then myself and Shirley were born and raised at Whitedirt Farm. I think it’s fair to say our parents produced three very attractive kids. Our childhood pass-times outside of school were the horses and the old cave at the chalk-pit. The cave was ours; a place to lose ourselves from the world; exploring the cave and each other. Mary invented a game; ‘In Hospital’. Later it progressed into ‘love, kiss dare’ in which eventually Mary lost her virginity to me. Shirley was mostly a bystander until later.
But little else had disturbed our lives on the farm - until Mary started working at the factory in Petersfield. She had become an adult in the outside world. Mary’s appearance changed; her hair now in a pony-tail that she constantly brushed and flicked. She became figure conscious and began losing interest in the horse-riding we’d both loved.
Before long she was talking about her new boyfriend at the factory. “Jonny Myles was twenty years old; he looked like Robert Mitcham and had a fast motorbike!” Yea ... a big cock too, I thought sourly.
But Shirley found it so exciting, “Oh your so lucky Mary! How did you meet him? How tall is he? Have you kissed him yet?” Shirley enthused over it all with Mary but I felt left out. I was jealous of course; I was losing Mary, who I had thought of as mine.
The first time Jonny brought her home on his motorbike, I saw it was a Bonneville! The bike that was every lads dream; a thing of power and beauty; and Jonny was an impressive looking chap too. Tall dark and handsome; he really was! I found myself getting on surprisingly well with him; talking about the Triumph Bonneville. In no time I was also under his charming spell. Mary spent all her time out and about with Jonny and her horse-riding became a thing of the past; her fine gelding Temple, left grazing in the meadow.
Things had become easier on the farm somehow with a post-war regeneration and the old man began looking almost content with his lot. Shirley took over Temple; a stronger horse than her pony and now we began riding the downs together.
Later I introduced her to the isolated pond where you cool off the mounts and yourself. Shirley boldly shed her jodhpurs to wade in up to her thighs; so in a show of bravado I skinny-dipped, causing her to blush as my todger became extended. Drying off on the bank together, we snogged some; before Shirley pulled on her jodhpurs rather hastily.
Later that summer Jonny took me for a ride on the Bonneville along the hill road. I’d had only a shirt on. We reached such a terrible speed that I almost lost my grip around his waist.
All I registered was the scream of the engine and my eyes streaming in the freezing slipstream. As we pulled up in the farmyard where the girls had been awaiting our return. Jonny declared that coming down the hill we’d ‘done the ton’. Shirley came up to me all agog; asked me what it had been like. Suddenly I saw how sexy she’d become. At fourteen her figure had formed and her lips luscious. I tried to be casual, “ It’s like I expected Shirley, fast and dangerous.” “Would you ask if he would just take up the lane Don?” she implored with her hand on me. I had to resist an urge to take hold of her and kiss her. In a knowledgable tone I explained, “ To dangerous Shirley, you haven’t got the weight needed to balance the bike you see!”...
We were getting into winter and I recall it being a Sunday afternoon When I realised our lives were about to change. Mary had come in from being out all day with Jonny. As I came in from the barn she was into a bad argument with Dad. It sounded like it was something to do with sex. The tension was awful. The row then reached shouting level and Mum was openly crying. The old man was also distressed.
Shirley looked to me for guidance; I saw she needed to escape the tension of it all. I led her away to the stable where we saddled up and went for a ride along the Downs. We eventually stopped to rest the horses, miles from anywhere and suddenly we were kissing passionately. It was the first time but we’d known it was going to happen. Fortunately we did avoid going the whole hog but we had set something in motion that would need resolving before to long.
Mum later broke the story to us. Mary and Jonny wanted to get married and set up on their own. Dad insisted she was too young at sixteen and refused to consent to a marriage before she was eighteen. This event that ruptured our lives at Whitedirt Farm.
They did get married while Mary was still sixteen although we never saw the actual wedding; just a photo of them outside the Registry Office in Petersfield. Dad had said attending the service would have condoned it. They got a bed-sit flat with a shared bathroom that was near the factory. We never saw them together again at the farm. Mary and Jonny and the Bonneville were gone.
I took over Mary’s room at the farm as it was more spacious than mine at the time. Much of her stuff had been left behind and seeing it all around me was a sad sight. On the window-sill was the old clay pot that she always claimed she’d found in the cave.
I was fifteen when I abandoned school to work along side the old man at Whitedirt.
There no thought of a wage, just working through the seasons, which the old man said got into your blood.
He was a stoic figure with that Ice Cold in Alex attitude; refusing ever to admit defeat. He felt the farm was there to be mastered. We worked well together. We didn’t speak a great deal until we got into the pub at the end of the day. On Sunday’s we’d drink like fish in the village pub until they chucked us out; then we’d trudge or tramp up through the chalk pit and down into Whitedirt. We’d crash into the kitchen with laughter; mother always shouted to us from the parlour where she was listening to the radio, “It’s in the oven!” It made us choke with laughter. And we’d wolf down the meal in the kitchen; then sleep it all off in the parlour with mum.