Friday, 16 October 2009


Some time ago now I spotted a nice framed and glazed oil painting in a charity shop which we have handed over to be auctioned. I was curious about the location of the subject – Winterbourne, Avon and did a “google” on it. If you click on the link or copy and paste it into the URL bar and then scroll down to the article headed “Annual Visit” and read what this person has to say about their memories of this area I hope that the nostalgia invoked makes you smile as it did me.

It made me think of our family excursions down to Wiltshire to visit granny and grampy at Liddington near Swindon. These early memories came only shortly after the hostilities of the Second World War had ceased and austerity and ration books were constant reminders that there was still much to be achieved before normal life could resume. But as kids, my brother and I were in our element – there was so much here away from the town to explore and experience. Grampy had a smallholding and kept pigs, ducks and chickens all of which had to be fed twice a day. My Uncle John had a beat up little Ford van that he used to drive round the local villages – Chiseldon, Wanborough etc. to collect swill that people had saved for him. I'd go with him when I was able, their was no passenger seat as this space was normally reserved for a swill can but this was temporarily chucked out and replaced by a wooden box for me to sit on. The swill was tipped into butts in the back of the van. The smell inside the vehicle was something to be experienced and the whole inside of the rear end of the van was encrusted in a dried biscuit like coating from the splashed swill. Absolutely disgusting! But Uncle John with his foot hard down on the gas and going at suicidally breakneck speeds round the little country lanes – foul smelling pipe clamped firmly between his teeth – was probably only thinking of Phyllis, the lady (she was probably only 15) on the racing bike I had seen him with the day before.

Once a week, grampy would hobble of on his deformed foot, this time with me in tow, where we would head for the shed on the smallholding. Inside were large kegs containing cornmeal and the tin walls were hung with gardening tools. The floor was hard packed earth and in one corner stood a brick built affair which had had a large bowl like vessel let into the top; a wooden cover sat on top and at the bottom of the brickwork was a little fire hole - this was the swill boiler. Once a week - or when it was needed, the boiler was filled with swill from an old oil drum outside, all the veg parings and leftovers from grannys kitchen from the previous week were also added. A little coal fire was lit underneath and soon the grand boil was under way. I can still smell the earthy, primitive smell of the swill boil and even now as an old bloke I can time travel back if I get a whiff outside of someone’s jacket potatoes or burnt cabbage. I loved it when grampy allowed me to stir it all up with an old wooden bodger. When the whole mess had had a good boil it was left to cool. Then twice a day it was mixed with cornmeal and fed stodgy to the poultry and runny to the pigs. There's nothing quite like watching a half dozen pigs competing for a trough full of sloppy swill – pure magic!

Incidentally, granny had an identical “swill boiler” in the bathroom which was used for heating water for the bath and boiling clothing on washday. There was an old range in the living room which cooked our occasional roast dinner. There was gas lighting in the kitchen, no electricity upstairs (we took a lighted candle to bed), lino covered floors and a jerry under each bed. In the winter the wind would blast down from Liddington hill and moan through the draughty Critall windows but tucked up in bed on a flock mattress and snug under blankets and an eiderdown I dreamt of another lovely day to come.

Enough of that for the mo – out and about recently and snapped this snazzy little confection of a Smart Car in its Liquorice Allsorts paint job – it made me chuckle!

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