The village had once been a collection of large farms, the villagers mostly farm labourers or servants in the "Big" houses. There had once been two pubs, two shops, two tea-rooms, a Post Office, and a forge. By the time we came to live there all the working farms were turned over to grazing land for horses, it only had one shop, a post office (amalgamated with the one remaining shop), the forge, one pub and no tea-rooms (we actually converted the old bakery at the side of the shop to become the new tearoom). The village was in the London Green Belt and a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty so no development could take place, all very well for the people who wanted to preserve middle-England, keep the price of their property high, but the employment of youngsters with no new businesses? The villagers mostly commuted elsewhere to work and the youngsters moved out taking the next generation with them.
One of the few employers in the village was Wainey - he ran his own firm of Landscape Gardeners. It was here that most of the village lads turned to when they left school and where our own son trudged off to during the long summer vacations when he was at university. The boys laboured on big new developments in nearby towns, mowed lawns, cut back footpaths for the Council, strimmed hedges and planted flower beds. They would all meet at Waineys barn around 7 a.m. then be driven off to the various locations to put in a days work, before being driven home again. On the way home they were all dropped off at the village pub, here they had a couple of drinks and then tired from a day outdoors and a couple of beers they wandered home. My son claims it was the best job he ever had! He came home one day proudly announcing that at last he was a man - tentatively I asked what that meant ... "It means that like workmen the world over I leered at women (any women) as the truck we were all sitting in hurtled past them." I'm not sure that pride is actually what I felt as I heard these words.
One Saturday afternoon Wainey was driving past the pub in his truck and he spotted a couple of the lads who worked for him hanging around the entrance; he pulled over to pass the time of day - but he didn't pull over far enough and the car behind him was forced to stop - the horn was tooted. Wainey got out of his truck slowly, he was a brawny, weather-beaten individual, who imagined himself to be much taller than he actually was - hours of sitting on his drive along mower meant he always walked a little as if he was John Wayne. He swaggered over to the car that had tooted, leaning on the bonnet, he asked (a little bluntly) what the problem was. Well the problem was no-one could pass him. Wainey grinned, apologised but as he turned to go back to his truck a sudden urge to kick the car crept over him ...
... the driver sat passively, he was dressed in his best bib and tucker having just left the Church, the wedding of his brother in fact. He said nothing, waited for Wainey to move then drove quietly to the wedding reception.
Some hours later Wainey was sitting at the bar of the pub, pint in hand, discussing racing tips a bar stool crashed over his head. And that was the start of the Great Fight - between the Landscape Garden Boys and the Boys From The Wedding Reception (nobody asked but it must have been an Irish Wedding). Eye-witnesses describe it as being like a scene from Bonanza; participants re-counted their parts in the brawl with pride - it seems the local lads came off best, but only just. The funny thing was that Richard (the well-hard man child I wrote about earlier) sadly missed the whole thing - well he would have wouldn't he? Hiding behind the hedge across the road, invisible to those falling around inside the pub - but not to those sitting in the Beer Garden outside.