When The Guv’ner was in his sixties, he developed a lump in his groin which of course he never mentioned. One day, Sid’s mother found him doubled up in pain on the wooden settle in the kitchen, his head on the table, groaning loudly. She was terrified enough to send for “the chap” as they referred to a friend called Frank Bradley, to go and fetch the doctor. The doctor was a dapper little Welshman called Price who often called in at the farm on his morning rounds. Purely social his visits were as he was well acquainted with the presence of the pewter jug in the kitchen cupboard. On these visits he would stand with his back to the fire, a glass in his hand and try and convince Willum that the world was indeed round and not flat as Willum firmly believed.
On this visit however, he quickly diagnosed a strangulated hernia which required urgent attention. The family were united in refusing to allow The Guv’ner to go to hospital as people died there, so it was decided that the urgent operation must be carried out at the farm. The front parlour was rapidly prepared, furniture was carried out and clean sheets were spread about. The large kitchen table was carried into the room and scrubbed until it was spotless. All the spare oil lamps were assembled in the room as there was no electricity in the house. Every utensil was filled with water to be boiled on the kitchen range. The Guv’ner undressed and put on his nightshirt and in due course, an eminent specialist arrived along with his registrar, two nurses and an anaesthetist. This major operation was then carried out on the kitchen table with absolute success. The Guv’nor made a complete recovery and lived on for many years.
Another eccentric member of the family who Bess recalled was second cousin Lily who was a dress maker by profession. She was of medium height with black, frizzy hair which she washed with a paraffin rinse because she firmly believed that this action would stop her hair from turning grey. As she was rather fat and perspired freely, she did not smell as sweetly as her name implied. Lily favoured floral material for her dresses which usually had four pointed cuffs, sashes and lots of frills. Her face was pale and full, like the moon and she had a large brown mole on the side of her nose. She had lost a tooth here and there but she was an incurable romantic and never lost hope that one day, a handsome young farmer would come along and sweep her off her feet. Sadly, he never did.
To watch the daily ritual she undertook in preparation for a meal was a feast by itself. She would lift a seat cushion and then take two elastic bands and a copy of the evening newspaper. She draped the points of her sleeves over each wrist and put a band on each one. This was to prevent the cuffs from trailing in the gravy. She then took a folded sheet of newspaper and cut a large, ‘U’ shaped piece out of it. This was then opened and placed over her head like a huge bib. The object of this was to catch any bits of food that fell from her fork because she shoveled her food into her mouth with amazing speed.
On summer Sunday evenings when the family were all assembled, Lily, wearing one of her latest creations, would go into the garden and pick as large a flower as she could find, usually a full blown rose or a deep red peony. The flower would then be pinned to her ample bosom. She played the zither quite well and sang in a high, sweet voice. The family were then treated to a recital of ballads such as ‘Pale Hands I Loved Beside the Shalimar,’ ‘The Sheik of Araby,’ or maybe, ‘Where My Caravan has Rested.’ The songs were accompanied with many elaborate hand movements as she played the little harp.