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Muriel Wells

Fairs are not really "my cup of tea" or street markets either, as I seem to lack the ability to bargain! Auntie Florrie and I were the oddities in our family as Mum used to love them, my brother and sister do, and I have some masterly bargainers amongst my descendants. The gene, it appears, just skipped ME!

We travel to Nelson occasionally and my family tote me around the large Saturday craft and produce market. For anyone touring NZ, Nelson is a good place to visit --- location good, lots to see and do and it has a very cosmopolitan populace and atmosphere. Arts and crafts are very strong in this area and they have preserved much of their cultural heritage and historic buildings. A nice place to be!

Getting back to fairs and markets, I can remember the ones when I was a child, in England. Coventry had some big ones --- one, I think was on Hearsall Common, was a crock fair. You were penned in the crowd whilst Mum listened to a man haranguing everyone whilst he put up "Lots". Whether you really got bargains I don't know, but folk got carried away --- and as the old family members would have said, "Fools and their money are soon parted!"

The noise and fumes of diesel engines running to provide lights and motive power for the roundabouts were some of my main impressions. I suppose I was very odd, as though only a child I always detected the cheapness and tawdry aspects of it all --- and not the excitement and glamour.

The prizes you won weren't to my taste except the goldfish! (Not literally "taste" as I never sampled them!). When I was older the arm that you could manoeuvre also managed to evade the coins and notes of larger denominations! And those who fancied their skills at shooting at targets were "sheer out of luck" as it was odds on that the sights were "way out" Oh happy days --- remembered with nostalgia all the same.

Street markets used to be such a feature of my childhood and youth. Bedworth had one, Nuneaton and occasionally Birmingham another. Coventry had its proper site and my mother, of course, frequented or haunted them --- take your pick of the word to use!

There were compensations for us --- a tram ride to Bedworth and back --- great! With Smith's (a small department store), having a system of shuttles whizzing overhead along wires, to take your money to the accountant, who sat high in her eyrie, to intrigue us.

An extra purchase of peas to eat surrepticiously in Coventry market --- and seeing jolly "Auntie" Mab, a family friend, chatty and friendly whilst manning a hosiery and underwear stall there.

A Midland Red 'bus ride to Nuneaton, and after browsing the street market perhaps tea in Smith's restaurant sited over the River Anchor.

In Birmingham the excitements of a large city, the smell of the fish market --- from whose vicinity I must hastily be removed, and the anticipation of Dad's reaction when Mum once more succumbed to the temptation of day old unsexed chicks --- a baker's dozen always being given. We were never disappointed as Dad always pretended to be utterly horrified. Afterwards there were days of tending them --- indoors, until hardy enough. And do you know even such little balls of fluff had distinct personalities --- the cheeky ones, the timid ones and those who sensibly got on with eating!

Ann you are not alone in being a scaredy cat --- I was the world's worst! I was mortally afraid of cows and in Bulkington went miles out of my way to avoid them, when they grazed in the recreation ground. The short-cut path ran through it. When cows were in it --- I wasn't! I took the long way round and often the bull would be in a field beside the road and would try to break through the hedge! My feet had wings!!!!

Of course Fate has a way of getting at you and I found myself driving cows down to our little bail, when I lived in the Sounds. "Here is a new chum --- and she's scared --- lets have some fun" was the prevailing attitude! Well I was told to carry a stick, and it didn't matter if it was only a twig, as the badge of authority worked until I overcame my timidity. I learnt to hand-milk, so could help out when necessary. Some were co-operative, some held up their milk and others had a great game of leaning on you or swaying backwards and forwards. But the naughty ones "let go" and you were lucky if you escaped unscathed. Mind you they never tried this on Keith and the milk hissed into the bucket with commendable speed when he milked.

And did you know cows love music? If we had the radio still on whilst we cleaned up, the cows would saunter down and stand in a half circle listening. I remember one time particularly, as it was the New Zealand Correspondence School break-up ceremony, which I didn't want to miss, and it had a very appreciative audience! How did we run the radio in our fastness? Easy --- although it was before the time of battery powered transitors ours was connected to a 12 volt battery which was alternated with the one in the tractor, to keep it charged. Our first 9 inch TV was a dual powered one, too.

It opened up the world for us, as we only got to town infrequently.

As to winter weather Ann, what I remember about the winter of 1947 was the intense cold, queuing for coke and getting it home on whatever could transport it, and the snow piled high in the gutters, with walkways cut through at intervals. And salt being put down regularly to keep the footpaths from icing up. Our lavatory was an outside one, but attached to the house. I remember the need to peer out cautiously to time the drips before you ran out when the thaw began --- or to avoid the consequences when a whole roofside of snow descended with a flump!!!

Written by Muriel Wells