Old man Watton was a very old man, at least as I remember him when I was young. He was grizzled and grey and said very little. But he was so strong. In his hands the heavy hammers and pliers of his blacksmith’s trade were like a child’s toys.
When I close my eyes I can still recall the sound of the hammer striking iron, the huge black bellows that he operated with his foot, the intense heat from the coals and the fierce hissing when he dipped the red-hot metal in the water. I went to the forge may times as a child, usually delivering eggs to old Mrs Watton, sometimes taking a piece of metal thatmy father needed reshaped for the farm.
A typical country smithy
A honeysucle bush in full bloom
The smithy was at the end of a narrow lane. It overlooked the town and was not far, probably no more than ten minutes walk from our farm. On the right of the entrance was the tiny cottage of the Dallas family with their beautiful vegetable garden and opposite there was a spring, with a metal cup hanging from a hook. That water was so pure, so cold and refreshing. And at the end of the lane was the smithy.
But progress and modernization have marched on. The spring had been covered over and the lane turned into an asphalt road. The old Irish cottage of the Dallas family has been replaced by a tasteless modern bungalow and the vegetable garden is now a car park. The smithy has disappeared and the honeysuckle bush has long gone.
These days I know more people in the graveyard than in the street.
And sometimes I feel that it would be better never to return again, just to remember it as it was.