Off track

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Poptop2, Apr 5, 2019.

  1. Poptop2

    Poptop2 Moderator

    It sounds like a terrible place to live now, but it wasn’t. In all honesty there was seldom much grief there at all, but sometimes a newcomer like Big John had to stick their chests out. That’s just people in general, but a few months down the lane soon chilled them out!

    We didn't know it then, but he and his extended family were to influence more Birmingham people of that ilk to buy places over the railway line as they were very reasonably priced residences. Over the next few years more and more people sold their houses in Brum and came down to the lane and bought a way of life for peanuts. They also brought their city lifestyle with them and things began to change.
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2019
  2. Poptop2

    Poptop2 Moderator

    How not to fall out with a newcomer.

    Tommy the Yorkshire man arrived in the lane one day off the train. He wondered around, and decided he liked the place. He met Tom in the lane and they got chatting and Tommy said he’d love to live there and there was a drink in it if he could find him one on the bottom meadows.

    Tom wasn’t over enamoured by Tommy the Yorkshire chap, but took his number and mentioned it to me.

    Our friends Nigel and Caroline owned a cabin on the lane that was in dire need of work.

    During a refit of a new AGA stove they had discovered a lot of rot in their kitchen, and after a further inspection by Tom were upset to find there was an awful lot more all around the cabin. The bottom foot of the entire thing was rotted in such a way that there had to be new walls built. Not a nice discovery when that was your home. Tom suggested doing one whole wall at a time, but then the floor was rotted too, so Nigel took the decision to tart it up with paint and sell it.

    On the face of it the place looked okay, picturesque and cosy and in the winter the light shining out of the stained glass Windows and the green of the building surrounded by conifers made it look like a Christmas card scene, but in reality it needed lots of work.

    The place was leasehold as the owners had never bought the land and paid ground rent to the farmer. It wasn’t a lot, but it affected the resale value. They had gone up a bit by then, they still weren’t expensive and at £45k was probably still a snip for the place and a way of life.

    They struggled to sell it though, and as a last resort Tom suggested Yorkshire Tommy might be the best bet to sell to. I don’t think Tom wanted to suggest him, but they were our friends and needed to move. Tom phoned him.

    Tommy did buy the place and within a few weeks he was down bending our ears about doing it up and what he could and couldn’t do: telling us his plans and all about his divorce and his properties up north etc etc. I must admit he did get on my nerves a bit.

    He was a tall bloke in his early sixties with a slight stoop and a very mole like grumpy face. He had a way of staring at you as if he didn’t believe what you were saying and then grunting when you’d finished speaking. It was very unsettling and made you want to avoid getting in conversation with him.

    He had obviously weighed us up and decided he should have a ‘ proper builder’ do his place as he didn’t want us yokels messing up his plans. We waited and watched. This would be fun.

    The trouble with town builders coming down the lane was the uniqueness of the place and the local area. There were land drains and overhead cables that went from one property to another and all sorts of other things to mess up a build. The council had unusual rules on things too, they insisted they were painted green or brown, at a push white. Then they had other obscure rules that just made building there a mine field at times.

    The local knowledge Tom had and I was learning was the key to a successful conclusion.

    Anyhow Tommy got in a friend of ours Terry from town to give him a quote. He seemed satisfied and Terry set about clearing the site. I don’t know exactly what went wrong as I was busy doing other stuff of my own at the time, but I heard there was some sort of disaster on the clear out and they had a massive row, Terry said the place was a mare to work on and the bloke was an idiot. Tommy said Terry hadn’t got a clue and had sacked him?

    He then approached Tom cap in hand to take the job on.

    Tom came to see me and asked if I wanted the job. I didn’t, but we had a chat and decided we’d take it on together. Tom would be the gaffer and me and his lad Bob would work for him on that job.

    In the meantime he Told Tommy he would have to get the conifers removed by someone before we started in a months time.

    The conifers were massive. Nigel had planted them ten years ago, too close to the house in places and too many in the garden. Leylandai look great when they’re small, but let grow unchecked they are a mare. Tommy had a problem. He came to see me asking how to do them. I suggested jokingly he should set fire to them. I was joking!

    The next day the fire engine was down the lane putting the fire out in the tall conifer next to Tommy’s back door. Jeez, the idiot had only stuffed a load of paper into the bottom branches and set it alight. He was adamant I’d told him it was the best and only way and told the fire fighters it was all my idea. We laughed about it later, but shook our heads an awful lot at the time.

    I did take his conifers out in the end though. He came to see me and asked if I could. I said yes £25 a tree if he got rid of them I’d take them out. There were about 12 and he readily agreed.

    There is a knack to getting them out roots and all, they aren’t difficult if the bottom is accessible you just dig a trench around them cutting all the little roots with the spade as you dig and then dig under the main root ball in the direction you want the tree to fall and move sharpish as they start to topple. Easy when you know how!

    The day I went to take them out he met me at 8 o’clock in the morning and went off out in his car saying he’d be back by 2.

    I cracked on and by lunchtime they were out and lying on the ground. The soil was easy soil to dig on that plot and the rootball easy to get at as Terry had cleared the slabbing and garden walls before he left the job. It was the quickest £300 I’d earned since I’d been in the lane.

    Tommy came back at 2 and was amazed to see them all down. He asked me if I was still charging him the full amount as I’d done the job so quickly and was most annoyed when I said yes, that was the deal! He called me a few names and begrudgingly paid up.

    Then it was onto the build. Tommy wanted the floor replaced first. He wanted the building supported and a new brick and concrete base laid that the building could be sat back down upon and he suggested that would straighten the building up. It was an awful lot of work and an expensive way to do it, but that’s the way he wanted it, so that’s the way we did it. We knew it wouldn’t straighten the building , but he was paying the bill!

    Tom’s co worker was a lad called Bob. A top lad, very quiet and considered in conversation, but fully switched on with a wicked sense of humour. He had a bit of a condition that affected his walk and speech, so he looked and sounded a bit older than he actually was. With his slow speech and considered response Tommy made the assumption Bob was somehow backwards and treated him accordingly. In fact he was downright rude to him. I lost track of the number of times he called him ‘thick’ or stupid or slow and said us Worcestershire folk were backwards during the course of the job, Tom and I were waiting for Bob to thump him, but Bob just smiled quietly to himself and kept on taking his money. Fair play Bob.

    After the base was built and the building such as it was dropped back onto the new base Tommy decided it was beyond repair and asked if we could support the roof and renew the wooden walls one side at a time. Of course this was possible and we set on to renewing them whilst insulating and weather proofing them at the same time. We built in new plastic windows and doors and the place was plasterboarded entirely inside. It was skimmed and had all new woodwork. Outside was a master board skin and render. It looked very nice, but the roof was still uneven!

    Tommy asked if we could put on a new tiled roof. So we did. The only thing that was left of Nigel and Caroline’s home by then was the new AGA in the kitchen, everything else was new. The place had cost him a fortune in build and furniture and he still had the lease to buy if he could.

    On the very last day of the job, Tom and I were laying the final ridge tiles and Bob was painting the new back door when Tommy turned up to inspect the final touches. He waved briefly to Tom and me on the roof and headed for Bob. I don’t know what he said initially, but within a few seconds we could hear raised voices. Tom and me prepared to get down lest we miss anything and were just getting up when we heard Bob say “ I might be effing thick mate, but I never paid £45k for an AGA!”

    Tom and I had to hold onto each other to stop us falling off the roof as we were in hysterics. Bob was right, he’d paid £45k basically for an AGA, for that’s all that was left of the original building and he never owned the ground. Classic!
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2019
  3. Priceless
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  4. I love the randomness of your stories and the fact that they don't need to slot into conventional boundries, they're just snippets of a time of your life, keep up the great work! I'd like to see you name your stories though like "The Yorkshireman" it would be an easy way of identifying sections of your past :thumbsup:
    Mark Darby, Ermintrude and Poptop2 like this.
  5. Poptop2

    Poptop2 Moderator

    Yes. I think that’s what I was getting at earlier when I asked for feedback. It definitely needs structure and the heading idea is a goood one. Thanks :thumbsup:
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  6. Such a good story - love the punchline :)
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  7. Been thinking about the cabins Malc, how much do they sell for nowadays?

    Keep the episodes coming- as said previously, so easy to follow that way.
    Bulletooth likes this.
  8. Poptop2

    Poptop2 Moderator

    Not sure. I have seen small ones over the railway up for £120k. The buildings have changed considerably on the bottom meadows now though, I’ve heard of people spending that amount on rebuilds, but they seldom come up for sale. My old one came up a year or two back for about £160k, but it had a strange owner that ruined it for any future buyer by letting the garden overgrow and butchering the build to accommodate his aged wife, you know, disabled loos and old people’s handrails, just made it look unfriendly but usable for them. I guess he had to accept a lot less in the end, when in reality it was probably worth £40k more.

    I had a drive down there yesterday and was quite shocked at the changes. It’s lost it’s quaintness and the building no longer seem to blend into the background like they used to.
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2019
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  9. They say that you should never go back - but would you?
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  10. Poptop2

    Poptop2 Moderator

    No. It’s too densely populated with people living there now.
  11. Poptop2

    Poptop2 Moderator

    It has changed. Here's a few from yesterday's trip down there.

    This is how I liked to see them, and this one 'Lawson's' is still as was, thankfully!


    These are changing a bit


    The far green one on the right was a fantastic railway carriage cabin when I left.


    The cricket pitch has a road through it now.


    The phone box that started it all for us.


    The halt is still the same


    The top field views are still fab


    And the cattle drink hasn't changed at all.

    I'm pointing at the barbel hole



  12. Bloody wonderful
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  13. Just lost 1 of our dogs and you have me blubbing like a big soft southern jessie......bugger, where's the damn tissues.
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  14. Poptop2

    Poptop2 Moderator

    Sorry to hear that :hug:
  15. Ditto!
    It's a bit like some railway books I've read, written by old railwaymen reminiscing about their lives. Each chapter describes a separate incident, character or occasion and it doesn't really matter what order you read them in. Just a collection of great short stories.
  16. Merlin Cat

    Merlin Cat Moderator

    Top story telling Malc. I shed a tear over Ratty and Merry - why do folk do such things? I’m right off Yorkshire Jack :mad:

    I’d love to live in a place like that. I’m not that bothered with conventional houses and places to live tbh so it would be my ideal. I’d live in a shed and be happy as long as it was warm ( Sarah would not!)

    I like the sort of stand alone, but inter connected characters style of writing. It feels like I’m getting to know them all bit by bit.

    Waiting eagerly for the next instalment:)
  17. Moons

    Moons Moderator

    Keep it random...underpinning it with the chronology of the build is enough for the reader to make sense, the offshoots are really good.
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  18. Poptop2

    Poptop2 Moderator


    Inevitably when you live near a river like the Severn you have the constant niggle of flood at the back of your mind. We didn’t worry as we had chosen our property safe in the knowledge we were at least 40ft up from the low summer level. We’d also asked about flooding in the lane that may cut us off from town and been told the lane never flooded.

    It was quite different for people with properties on the riverbank though. Some flooded yearly, like Barbara and Trev’s, some never flooded, but became an island adrift in a sea of brown murk, even though they were right on the riverbank. It always struck me as odd how that should be, from a distance they all looked as if they were sat at the same height, yet one would be flooded throughout and the next door neighbours perfectly dry. When I sat and looked at it properly though, I realised there was a dip in the field of some 6ft and most of the bungalows on the bank were just high enough for the high water to flow around them and down into the field to form a 6ft deep 100 ft wide second river that emptied out back into the original river some three quarters of mile at the far end of the meadows. It was a sight to behold in full flood, not nice if you lived on the bank side, as the force of it made it almost impossible to ford even in a good boat.

    The winters of 90 and 93 saw the worst flooding of the Severn valley for nearly 30 years. But the October of 98 was a real high mark flood.

    Luckily with the Severn at Bewdley you do get prior warnings of flooding because Shrewsbury gets it a day earlier, Bridgenorth half a day earlier and you have time to prepare. Bewdley now has a flood barrier system on the north side of the Bridge, and have plenty of time to implement it with the warnings from upstream.

    I digress. Our first taste of of the meadows flooding was in 1990, it came up overnight and burst its banks slightly that year, but it subsided quickly and was merely an inconvenience for a day. In 1993 it was a similar story, but in 98 it was a different story altogether.

    There had been severe warnings through the day. People on the riverbank began moving stuff out to places of safety. It was odd to see how people prioritised their belongings. To a man the first thing they would put in safe keeping would be their pets, the second thing ‘ every time’ was their wine and drinks, you could bet money on it. Then they would save clothing and cars, the rest would be put up high on something inside and left to be claimed on the insurance.

    That evening things got quite serious very quickly. The first clue Lou and I had that there was an issue was as we drove back down the lane one evening after a day out and noticed blue flashing lights at the cattle grid field entrance 100 yards from our house. They were the blue lights of an ambulance and the river rescue boat. People Were stranded in their homes on the riverbank, but the engine in the RIB wasn’t powerful enough to cross the field easily, they had to snake across with the help of a rope that was strung across the meadow and secured to guide them to rescue people and pets instead of zooming over. That made us stop and think. I’d be very cautious of that flooded meadow from then on that’s for sure.

    Our house became a place of sanctuary. We had house guests, or refugees whatever we chose to call them. Barbara and Trev, their two kids Arwen and Tom and their dog Jake. Old frank and his Port supply and some other neighbours Ken and Ree who were sheltering at ours while waiting for their son to collect them. Their car was stranded on their drive the other side of the meadow.

    By then we had a nice big conservatory on the front of our place and they all bedded down in there for the night. We had a sofa that the kids lay on and a pair of put you up beds that Trev and Barb slept on. I don’t know how we fitted the beds in given the amount of booze that was secured there. Yep, they’d saved their booze too. Jake was told in no uncertain terms by moi, not to even look at Lady, or he was out. I still had him in my book, grrr!

    Old Frank was picked up by relations and taken away to safety, Ken and Ree got a lift home too. In the end there was just us and Barb’s family for three days.

    In those three days I saw the devastation and heartache a flooded home brings. Poor old Barb and Trev had no insurance.

    The trips across the meadow to retrieve precious belongings were heartbreaking. There were more than a few tears shed as we found item after item ruined by the smelly brown murk. Toys, clothes, and furniture, but worst of all were the pictures. Those memories floating in the debris were like watching their history disappear right there in front of you, and it brought tears. Yes they were only pictures, but it seemed to magnify the loss somehow. Their place was in a terrible state. It was awful to see. Wading through the water I felt as if I was intruding into a personal space. I knew full well they needed help and I was only too glad to do so, but the act of going through someone else’s personal things in these awful circumstances left me feeling guilty for being there and actually going through their stuff.

    The first morning after the dark glimpses of water the night before made the urgency of the rescue boat only too real. The field in front of our cabin was a 100ft wide 6ft deep fast flowing river. On the other side of the field on the bank stood the riverside cabins, they seemed to be on high ground and formed little islands cut of from us and the lane by the torrent flowing by past my garden. Full sized trees floated by, along with small boats that had come untethered further upstream, the odd dead sheep went by and even a odd assortment of oil drums, it was interesting and bizarre watching the assortment of stuff the flooded river had flushed out and carried on its way through the field past our house. It was interesting, but poignant in a way, that was people’s property floating by, a few hours earlier it was safe and sound, now it was on its way to Bristol courtesy of a massive downpour.

    The five bar gate that David had installed as part of my boundary was submerged below the murk, the water lapped up my bottom drive to the point I had to wear waders to secure a few items I owned that were in danger of floating away. The JCB was half submerged too, but it was a JCB, it would be fine. Jason however may not have been. I glanced over to his cabin and there he was on the roof waving a pirates flag. I blinked and looked again, yep, it was Jason alright, stood on his roof laughing and waving a ruddy pirate flag of all things?

    “ Are you okay Jason?” I shouted over.

    “ Yes fine mate, perfectly dry over here, just having a laugh mate!”

    Carry on: I thought, if he’d wanted to be rescued he would have made them know the night before. I knew Jason and he was fine. He was just having a laugh.

    No one was seriously hurt or even injured that year. Their animals and booze had been rescued, most of it ending up at ours for later consumption by yours truly. Every cloud and all that.

    Barbara and Trev left after three days back to the now not flooded cabin and we all helped get them sorted regarding furniture and stuff. People helped with cleaning and all sorts of gifts, food clothes and heaters. Within a week or two they were back to their normal life. They’d been through a torrid time, but as I said before, they were hardy folk.

    These riverbank cabins had been flooded time and time again over the years, yet they still stood there. To my utter amazement they didn’t just float off, they remained rooted to the spot, and life went on.
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2019
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  19. I can barely remember what i had for tea last night well done on the memory
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  20. Poptop2

    Poptop2 Moderator

    Yeah, I know the feeling of not remembering yesterday’s tea or what I did over the weekend, but these memories are ingrained in my mind. There are probably loads more I’ve forgotten about.
    Bulletooth likes this.

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