It would be interesting to see what our village was like some 80 years ago, when the population was about half of what it is today. In the street would be horse riders, horses and carts, bicycle riders, people and children, but no cars or lorries. In the Mackney Lane recreation ground two small boys would be playing cricket. The ball had gone into some stinging nettles. They would both sit down. Presently, one would say – it’s your turn to get it. No it isn’t said the other. You hit it, you get it. In the end both would go looking for it, and having found it, would resume their game. Then disaster struck. Three older boys were coming across to join them. No big ones, no big ones the young ones would wail, but with no effect. But soon they would be playing reasonably well together. Later, when both small boys were in possession of the bat and ball, they would say that it was their dinner time and would hurry away taking both bat and ball with them.
The older boys, now at a loss as to know what to do, would either climb the willows around, try catching frogs in the ditches, or go bird nesting to collect eggs. This last choice was very popular. Fathers made shallow wooden trays lined with sawdust and with glass tops in which to display the egg shells. There were so many birds to be seen in the village long ago, but today, sadly, many are no longer with us.
With no children’s bicycles, everything was on foot.. Boys would make kites with nut sticks, paper, glue and string and fly them on the recreation ground when there was enough wind. Football and cricket would be played of course. Fist fights between two boys did occur, but were rare. They were much more likely to back off and throw stones at one another. This paid dividends later when young men playing cricket, would throw the ball in from the boundary line with commendable speed and accuracy.
Very cold winters, and there were some were dreaded. Not all children were adequately clothed to combat the cold. Boys would search the hedgerows for dead sticks and so make little camp fires on waste ground. Both boys and girls would visit the blacksmith’s forge at the top of bell lane and he would allow them to come as close to the furnace as he dared to give them some welcome warmth.
All in all Brightwell was a nice village to live in and still is today.
Next time The Girls and School.
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