|More Locals and a Very Good Friend
Later I also got to know some of the locals at Gastard through my friend Val Prinsep. He was in Painting in the Pre-Dip year and only joined Graphics in the first year of the main course. Val was in digs above the Harp and Crown at Gastard and the landlord and his wife Joan looked upon him as a sort of son – “Our Val”. Val came from Jersey and of course spoke very good French. We both had the same trouble understanding what the locals were talking about and sometimes complained about it. Said we needed a dictionary. The response was, “Wat yer fucken’ taaken’ abowt? Et’s you laat as needs bluddy translaten’ for!” Our main contact with the locals was a chap called Trevor, a good friend of Val’s until he or one of his mates stole Val’s girlfriend. She was called Fran and I never quite understood what Val saw in her. A bit plump with very curly blonde hair (which I think she helped a bit) and fat hands, a feature which I have always found most unattractive in women. I thought the incident said more about Fran than it did about Trevor. Strangely I remember that Fran used to drink halves of Worthington E, ladies’ halves with a foot.
Val was very much a ladies’ man, sometimes had trouble remembering what he had said to whom and occasionally double-dated by mistake. I believe he got his face slapped more than once! One of his earlier girlfriends was a rather nice brunette called Cherry Wigley. There’s a very bad picture of her on this website, one of Graham Day’s pictures on Your Page 19. But the picture doesn’t do her justice at all – she had a certain sparkle, so I saw what Val had been on about. I was Val’s ‘shoulder to cry on’ whenever he was having woman trouble. And he was mine, although I was considerably more seldom in his predicament. I was more constant to my womenfolk and, although the downhill patches were few and far between, my depressions were consequently deeper and Val was a great help in cheering me up! We were very good friends.
In early November 1967 the locals at Gastard were busy building an immense Guy Fawkes’ bonfire. Trevor’s dad was a mechanic and owned a “garridge” over there. There were a lot of old lorry tyres, several barrels of dirty sump oil and they had been cutting down some big trees just nearby. All of this was to go onto the bonfire and Val and I were helping. We stopped for a smoke and were watching the others toiling. Then we heard a shout coming from the ever-growing pile: “ ’Ere ye, skrip they ther baarjens ep’n thik ther gert ’ip ’n’ ge’ aan wi’ e’!”
This was all quite beyond our understanding and for a few moments we just stared at each other with a blank expression. It turned out that the message, using more-or-less standard spelling, was: “Here you, scrip they there bargings up on that there great heap and get on with it!” Scrip meaning to Scrape or Gather and Bargings meaning bits of wood, branches and stuff. We were merely being reprimanded for not pulling our weight!
When the bonfire was lit a couple of days later it was a terrific blaze. The lorry tyres had been pumped up to full pressure and produced a white heat when thy exploded. And the sump oil produced a pall of dense black smoke that wafted over in the direction of Corsham. I heard later that the fire brigade had been notified, though they never bothered to turn up at Gastard.
A Friendly Cuppa