School Days, — June 6, 2009 15:35 — 0 Comments

Dead-Eye Dick

Walking into Cross one winter’s day I saw some boys throwing snow balls at a tree. They were aiming at a hole where a branch had rotted away. The tree was about 10 feet from the road and the hole was about 8in wide and 12 ft off the ground.

When I scoffed at their efforts they challenged me and, so as not to be called a ‘cowardy custard’, I had a go.  The snowball went straight into the hole without touching the sides. Challenged to do it again I refused, knowing a fluke when I saw it, and I sauntered away secure in my superior skills.


The monthly fair day in Cross in the 1940s was a colourful event. The large square was packed with market stalls selling everything from clothes and footwear to household goods.

There was a cattle and horse fair at the same time and the place was full of farmers and dealers haggling over prices. Negotiations were accompanied by a great deal of humming and hawing and hand slapping.  Deals were struck by spitting on the hands before shaking on it. The pubs did a roaring trade.

Occasionally there were performers – an escapologist would invite people to strap him up in a straight jacket and bind him in chains, a strong man would allow men to break rocks on his chest with a sledge hammer – a dodgy enough enterprise if the hammer wielder had a few too many in the pub, a bare-chested character would lie on a bed of nails and invite people to stand on his chest.

… more later …

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