array of the colourful autumn foliage in the small village of Cawston in
the 1950s created a picturesque landscape. The decaying leaves offered a
profound show of beauty in the entire parish. This was the time of year
for admiring the spectacular colours of golden brown, crimson red and
vibrant yellow and orange that delicately adorned the trees and shrubs
before the soft southerly winds gradually turned into cold northern gales
and the leaves fell by the bucketful.
After the long
harvest it seemed as if the parishioners were taking the first steps for
planning for the winter and preparing to live a more slower lifestyle.
The people of Cawston could be seen picking the remaining fruits in their
gardens and along the hedgerows which they used for bottling and making
jams. Onions from the gardens were pickled in vinegar and certain
vegetables and fruit were used to make home-made wines. The remaining
potatoes were stored away in the shed and apples were kept wrapped in
straw in boxes for the winter.
around Cawston could be seen starting to make the initial preparations for
the coming year. The harvests in Cawston normally surpassed expectations
which gave them the adequate resources to plan for the next harvest.
Seeds were saved in abundance for next year's planting and as a safeguard
against unforeseen setbacks.
The habits of
the wildlife on Cawston Heath and in the woods in Cawston also changed.
Squirrels were busy gathering and storing nuts for the winter. Numerous
birds were already migrating to the south and the fur on animals began to
thicken to protect them from the cold winter days.
It was the year
1952 and on a particular Friday in October there had been little cloud in
the sky. As the evening approached the glowing sun was setting over the
horizon beyond Cawston and the trees in all their colours resembled a
picturesque village painting. It was early evening and Tom, a senior
citizen of Cawston who lived on his weekly pension, returned back to the
village on his bicycle after having spent an afternoon fishing at
Clay Pit. This was one of his favourite pastimes as he had fond memories
of fishing in these idyllic surroundings with his wife when she was
alive. Tom knew all the myths about the Clay Pit but was convinced that
it had once been dug to extract clay used to construct houses in the
face that day could not be mistaken. That afternoon he had caught a large
pike, an aggressive fish that was not always easy to catch. Tom knew that
this big white-fleshed and mild-tasting pike would be easier to fillet
than the smaller bony ones. But he was now very sad as he had lost his
this big catch Tom wanted to give thanks to the Lord by visiting the
church of St. Michael the Archangel at Booton. There he would frequently
stand a long time in front of this rather bizarre and eccentric church
admiring the ornate slender twin towers and a central minaret which made
it look rather unusual in this tiny village.
forth to Booton that day he had put the pike in a safe place under tall
grasses between some tall trees near the pit; a spot which he considered
to be safe. Arriving back at the Clay Pit an hour later he found his
fishing rod, bag and stool all in the same place, but when he went to the
hiding place to collect the pike, he found it was gone. He search in vain
and wondered how it could have disappeared as dead fish cannot walk.
There was nobody in sight and no one else was fishing there that
afternoon. He searched the area for over an hour but in the end gave up
and started to fish again. A while later, as the sun gradually
disappeared beyond the tall trees, Tom packed his fishing rod and
belongings and cycled back to Cawston, but without any fish.
In the village
Tom stopped at the Post Office to buy some postage stamps and replenish
his supply of tobacco, for if he could not have the pike to eat that
evening he wanted at least to enjoy his pipe. Tom exchange words with a
few people in the shop but was too shy to mention his misfortune. As the
cooler temperatures progressed and the days became shorter, it was
noticeable that the people of Cawston had now finally put away their
summer clothes and were now seen wrapped up in home-knitted sweaters and
thick coats, many of which had seen better days.
Sitting in his
tiny kitchen at home Tom treated himself to a cup of freshly brewed tea.
Since the rationing of tea after the war had just finished he could now
even offer the vicar a second cup on his next visit, Tom thought to
himself. A few minutes later his neighbour knocked at the backdoor and
said, “Come and have tea with me tonight Tom, I have something special”.
neighbour, who had spent all day at her sewing-table with only a brief
interruption to read a chapter from “Pilgrim’s Progress”, served fish with
boiled potatoes from the garden and peas that had been bought from the
local shop. “That was a nice piece of fish”, Tom said, thinking about the
pike.“Did you buy it off the fishmonger?” “No”, she said, “My son gave it
to me. It was far too big for me to eat alone as you can see.” “Thank
you, it was a real treat” Tom said, “But where did the fish come from?”
The neighbour replied, “My son found it this afternoon lying in the grass
at Booton Clay Pit.”
short story has been written for the website of the
Society and may only be copied or published by requesting permission from
the Cawston Historical Society).