But seated grandly in the centre of the picture, wearing his white whiskers in what was known as a Chiswick beard, is my great-great-grandfather, John Barnes. I remember Granny telling me about him once. Apparently on Sundays he would go to his front gate and there he would attempt to balance his walking stick in an upright position. Of course he never succeeded in this task but the direction in which his stick fell would determine whether he walked to chapel or to church. Sometimes he carried this novel means of navigation to its logical if lunatic extreme and took long random walks by consulting gravity's effect on his stick at every junction. He would often be gone all day, causing the family endless consternation.
In my childhood I remember old Mr Lander who lived at the Post Office and who must have been the oldest telegram delivery boy in the country. I remember him chiefly for the strong smell of tobacco which hung about him, the extreme hairiness of his ears and for his very elderly dog. This dog, the owner convinced us, could talk; for Mr Lander's party trick was ventriloquism.
Bill's gateA little further along the road stood Old Bill at his garden gate, on constant watch lest Brod should glean a priceless piece of news and become sole owner of this little nugget of truth (or exaggeration!). There were others too in the succeeding years, Perce, One-Legged Roy,
Apple, Mr Muggleton, all willing to talk endlessly on any subject.
And it came to pass that the council decided to put in a new sewer. Sage old heads shook wisely in the street and in the pub. "They'll 'ave trouble there," they confidently and cheerfully predicted, "There's an underground stream 'long there somewheres 'n' if they hits it there'll be water everywhere, you mark my words". It seemed pretty unlikely; the geology was all wrong for it, it was midsummer and the surveyor from the council seemed to know his business.
After the pumps had been running day and night for a week trying to empty the trench, the prophets of doom enlightened us further, "The water runs through the gravel, it does, 'long the Coton Road then be'ind Charter'ouse Terrace. Used ter be wells at the back a them houses an' the womenfolk used ter take in washin' from the colleges in Cambridge, dry it on long old lines in the Meadows."
Back a Charter'ouse Terrace