15th April 1871
What was to be done on Good Friday? There were cheap excursions to Clevedon and Weston-Super-Mare, and there was the widely celebrated tea party at Chapel-ed, which should I choose? Certainly not the excursions for there is always some draw back about them, some sticking on a mud bank, some bewilderment of a steamer in a fog, some getting left behind or unable to reach home until an unreasonable hour.
And then I had already “done” Chapel-ed and the charm of novelty had worn off. I was rather inclined to stay home for a change, when, strolling undecided down the road towards Pontymoile and wishing myself with some Surrey friends, who, I knew were sailing joyously down the Thames at Richmond, I was hailed by a party of young men who wanted to know whether I was not going to Chapel – ed. Of course they were going. And lots in front were going and lots behind were going. Everybody seemed going. And I went. And having gone I know a great many will be disappointed, if I don’t give account of my experiences.
Alas this time I had not the pleasure of moving about incognito. We called to have a needful drop of beer at the Wainyclare inn (and, faith, it’s hoping that I am the busybodies who are meddling so much with the poor man’s pint of beer, while they themselves get gloriously drunk on wine at their dinner parties will some day find that the poor man won’t stand to much humbug and a couple of rustics in a corner began discussing my style of writing in whispers, but as audibly that I was bound to turn my head and have a quiet laugh.
And it was the same throughout the day. Everybody had my name as pat as possible, and a hundred times did I hear the remark “he will have us all in the paper.” The lady in the blue dress who loudly expressed herself to that effect will here find that she has won that public mention which she invited.
No. I am not going to repeat the “ten-a-penny” joke. I know how to spell the name of the place now. Penplenny. It looks simple enough in print, but it is an awful mouthful pronounced by some people. At Penplenny there was the usual merry making in the orchard attached to the inn, but no band mustard courage enough to attend this year. And the memory of the “swipes” which was sold there twelve months ago deterred me from calling. I am told that this house generally supplies what is good and wholesome, and perhaps I happened to meet with an unlucky tap.
The narrow lane leading from Penplenny to Chapel-ed was thickly studded with primroses and purple violets and it was impossible to resist putting a few in one’s button hole. The little chapel gleamed white and fresh in the glorious sunshine beneath the cloudless blue sky, and a few loungers hung about the gate leading into the tiny graveyard.
In the adjacent field comparatively few folks had assembled when I arrived. One knot of youths was playing rounders and another was leaping over sticks, but their sport seemed to lack vitality, and the girls went wandering up and down in twos and threes in a very moping and dejected manner.
Turning back I went to the chapel in quest of tea and found all the pews closely packed except the one at the very front row. In that were two acquaintances looking as innocent as angels and consuming tea and cake in an earnest minded manner. With them I obtained a seat and gave myself up to creature comforts under the eyes of the pastor and a row of buxom young ladies who filled the cups and saucers.
I don’t know how much my companions had stowed away, but the merry-faced young gentlemen who waited upon us seemed staggered and turned them over to another waiter. The tea was so good and the cake was so good, and the long walk brought on such a thirst that people didn’t seem able to stop themselves. I plead guilty of having swallowed five cupfuls and the waiters (who were most obliging and deserve thanks) apparently thought that everyone had unlimited capacity for cake.
We got into the open air at last, and by that time the folks in the field had increased in numbers hand plucked up more spirit. The lads had joined the lasses and were playing at kiss-in-the-ring merrily, a damsel in a scarlet jacket taking up a good deal of the running. A few joined in a very insipid and milk-and-water game called twos and threes, but that soon came to an end.
Eh! What! Was it possible? A harp in the field? Sure enough! The veto against music had seemingly been removed, and a good job to. Two harpers made their appearance, but one did not strike up. The other did not “take” at first but some young men joined in a quadrille, Spurgeon –style and danced it very well to; and after the dancing went on in earnest and I failed to see any wickedness about it.
Rounders and jumping were vigorously carried on, but the most popular movement was decidedly kiss-in-the-ring. One ring was by no means big enough to accommodate the lovers of the game. About half a dozen, and large ones to were in full operation at the same time, and I should think that some of the girls had so much kissing that they will not require any more for the next twelve months.
Capital girls for fun are those Goytrey girls; blooming as hebe; swift footed as Camilla; and praise be to them all the best eschewed chignons and wore their own hair and some of them had such a wealth of beautiful natural curls as would have sent Hovenden the famous barber into ecstasies.
As for their running, I have cause to remember it, for after resisting a thousand invitations I did at least join one charming circle, and was fairly winded the dead-beat in about a quarter of an hour. And what made me join? Did you ask Mrs Grundy? Well, just this some very nice ladies were much afraid that I was closely related to you, looked upon me as a sort of bug-bear, I believe, although evidently dying to join in the fun were afraid to do so in my presence. And so, just to convince them that it is always my wish to promote sport instead of spoiling it, I led the way into the ring, and quickly had the satisfaction of seeing them enjoying themselves to their hearts content, and am inclined to think that there was real gratitude in the taps which afterwards the lasses showered upon my back.
All pleasures must have an end. The grey shades of night closed in; the stars twinkled forth one by one; and I bode adieu to the field. A homely pint of beer at the Nantyderry refreshment room was most acceptable and I was glad to see that the proprietor looked better after his change than he did last year. The arrangement to prevent confusion at the railway station were again most creditable and praiseworthy. We were rather overfull in our carriage, but if the lady who rode to Pontypool on my knee did not mind it, I am sure I did not.
Glad am I that I did not return by the road as I abhor seeing disturbances and think it very foolish that a pleasant day cannot be ended with friendly feelings. The same sort of silly prejudice which gets up the “town” and “gown” frays at Oxford led I am told, to a “town” against “railway” row at Wainyclare. This is both ridiculous and deplorable. “Town” is rather indebted to “railway”, the only thing on which it had to depend on for trade but a few months ago, and this ought not to be forgotten.
The railway officials in this neighbourhood are a civil, orderly and well conducted class of men, and, for goodness sake let there be no unfounded jealousies and beginning of a lengthened feud on part of the “town” boys against them.
As I came back by rail, I could not call on my worthy friends at the Horse and Jockey but I hear that old John the ostler is doing wonders again in the gardening line this spring and must go and see them.
W H Grundy
John Williams of Goytre charged with riding i a waggon without reins – fined 10s
Sale of the estate of John Gwynne Herbert Owen solicitor, late of Oak Cottage Goytre
Thomas Prosser charged with assault on Isaac Wilks at Goytre – fined 24s
Mr Prosser also charged with breaking into the public house of Ann Price Mamhilad – fined 12s or 7 days hard labour.
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