This is an interview at the Home of Mr and Mrs Phillips at the …
Barbara The Dinosaur Farm.
Lisa The Dinosaur Farm, that’s right, yeah, I can’t remember the name of the farm. What’s the actual name of the farm?
Barbara Lower Sutton Farm
Lisa Lower Sutton Farm, Brighstone, and it’s the 14th March, and this is our second interview here after we enjoyed the first one so much, I thought we’d come back and have a chat again about some of your memories.
Barbara Thank you.
Lisa Barbara, shall we start with you, because I know this is your family farm, and tell us a bit about sort of growing up here.
Barbara Well, the farm was part of the Seeley Estate. I’m old but my great grandparents were actually living here in the 1800’s. We didn’t own it then of course, because it was I say, part of the Seeley Estate. My Grandfather was born here. I wasn’t actually born here, I was born just down the road, but I’m the fourth of six generations to be associated with the farm here. The house, the old house was like two houses, so over the years there’s been many people, different families, that have actually lived there, and we still now get families come back that have had previous fam … you know, family members living here in the past. It was very different even in my time. My Grandparents talk about you know, when the Military Road …there was like just gates across and we were walking and horse and carts, but along here was not much of a road at all was there? There was no road from the Military Road down to here. My family put that in. Oh gosh …
Lisa How big was the farm when your parents had it?
Barbara About 80 to100 acres. We haven’t increased it an awful lot have they?
Geoff Well no, not really.
Barbara We did buy one more field, yes. But it hasn’t been a farm that’s been handed down to us all. We’ve had to buy it. We had to buy, put another field, put the buildings up. It’s kept us poor all our lives. We’ve always had, like anybody else, had a mortgage and it’s … but it’s been a wonderful way of life. We’re so far out that when we were young, when we were younger, people didn’t know where we were. An emergency, they never found you here. You coped with it on your own. If you saw anybody at the military road, you went out and asked them did they want help, which mostly they did, they were either broken down or lost, and again you gave them a lift here, you helped them. It was wonderful because you were really out here on your own. It was absolutely wonderful, but it’s very different these days.
Lisa When your parents had the farm then, when you were very much younger, was there much machinery used then?
Barbara No. My dad didn’t like machines at all. They had a very old lorry apparently, after the War, but not much of it up there at all, but nothing, no roof, no front windscreen, but at least it got the milk churns up to the military road ‘cos there was a little bit of a gap between the farm and the road up there, but …
Lisa And did you have horses then?
Barbara No. My dad didn’t plough any fields or anything up. We had cattle and grazing, so we didn’t need that, but he finally got a tractor but he didn’t like it much but of course when I … I married Geoff when I was sixteen so we went to school together and I got married to him very young, too young too, but Geoff was in all the machines, so when Geoff was here well then Geoff was the one that got various machines and that here, down at the farm.
Lisa You mentioned about school. How was … You said about how school, the school year was … for farming families.
Barbara For farming families, the children … you didn’t expect … you didn’t see the charming children in the summer terms because they were home helping, working, helping at home. And it was accepted that that was … the schools frowned on it somewhat but it was still accepted that you know, harvest time, haymaking, the children weren’t there, they were home helping. They were driving the machines and all sorts.
Lisa And did you have to do that? Did you help in …?
Barbara Not so much with that because we weren’t doing the harvest work the same, we had the cattle, but yes I was helping at various things and we had things like … The chicken house was across the field. Why didn’t you have it close, but no, it was the other side of the field so I had two very heavy metal buckets and I had one full up with food and one full up with water and I had to carry this. I had to get, to go across the field to let the chickens and that out, carry the foods and the water across. If you upset it or dropped it, you had to go back and get some more. Then you had to go back and pen up later. They worked hard. Some of the ones worked hard, unnecessarily I think, but …
Lisa Geoff, you mentioned about …
Barbara May I just briefly, before … and another thing, you were saying about you know … food. The Camps. We had the Camps here, and you know, our little Camp, Brighstone Camp, and one or two sort of hotels, you know, bits around, but of course the food then was used for animals, and so one of my jobs also, as a young person about fourteen, was to go with somebody else who drove, and we had big like dustbins, very heavy, and they were at the camps. They would have something like half a dozen of each one and they’d … all the food that was left would be scraped into there, so if the farmer was going on and I had to lift all this up and I learnt to be very strong ‘cos if you had it close to you it doesn’t half upset it, it was smelly, so you held it out a long way, but bring it back and then we had big coppers and it was all put in there and cooked up and then when it was all cooked well it was fed to the pigs, so you didn’t have the landfill like you do now. It was all … the food was actually used. It was a very smelly job but it was it was worth doing.
Lisa You mentioned, Geoff, about the Land Army. So what are your recollections of that time then? Were there many women working in the fields?
Geoff Well yes. At the tail end of the War I was only a nipper but you had the land girls doing a lot of the work then, because the men had gone to war hadn’t they? There was a few older men about, and a few younger ones, but the majority of the work was done with the Land Army, yes, and also you had prisoners of war on the land, helping. You used to have so many to a farm, and that went on right through … The land girls, I suppose, some of them were 50, 50’s I suppose, the last ones was on the land, but some of the prisoners of war, they stayed on after the War and they married some of the local girls and there are some of the lads now. That’s how it was those days. It’s carried on through, but the land girls done all the veg and stuff and the harvest and anything like that, ‘cos there just wasn’t any men about, not till after the War, when the War finished. Then you got … a lot of the troops come back, and come back on the land, but up to then it was all the land girls. All that lot’s changed, yes. And it went on from there, with the men and the machines and everything else, and it’s come to the modern day, but then there was all the land girls done all the work, harvest and everything, yes, and the prisoners, yes. It was good.
Lisa Where were the prisoners living?
Geoff Well they had different places where they went and stayed overnight, and then they were delivered off next morning on the farms, yes.
Barbara My family had a couple of Germans, prisoners of war like that, and they got very friendly with them and stayed in touch with them after the War, until really, they all died, so … They were decent people, be like anyone else. Your government tells you you’ve got to go and do that, but they were really nice decent hard working people.
Geoff They also, when things, the land girls gradually got less and less, some men, when the early taties came in, you had convicts from up prison. You used to have a gang of them picking up the taties, all that. Of course they wouldn’t do that today would they? But that was a regular thing those days, when the new taties came in, you had a gang of convicts from up prison, and they used to cook up their own food on the job and like that. You don’t get none of that today.
Lisa I wonder if there were any that tried to escape.
Geoff Well they had to get off the Island didn’t they? Because they used to get out different times.
Barbara Let’s be honest, there was not many men about, and they were very attractive young men apparently, so the local girls …
Geoff They was doing all right.
Barbara I’m not old enough to have been involved but I’ve heard my family talk about it.
Lisa Were there many farm workers from other countries that used to come to the Island to do farm work?
Barbara Not like they do now.
Geoff Not like they today, no.
Barbara The Island one’s used to do it ‘cos I too used to go out working on the land. You know like they have the foreign ones come over now. I used to go caulli cutting, potato picking and all the other work on the farms that was accepted then.
Geoff Now of course travel is easier today, there wasn’t the travel like those days like you’ve got today. Now that’s why they have the prisoners and Land Girls and all that done the work. Yeah, it was good fun really wasn’t it with all that lot going on. You never knew what was happening from day to day really (laughs).
Lisa Well one thing I thought I’d like to talk to you a bit more about, because I know you like your tractors, is a bit about sort of technology with tractors and how that’s changed from the first tractors that you remember. What were the first types of tractors that you started driving?
Geoff Well like the old ones down in shed. The old Fordsons, you had Fordsons and … well there was various old things there was really. You had the Alice Chalmers and Internationals, they come over during the War. Caterpillars, the D2’s but there was no technology on ‘em, it was all straight forward tractors. You had your engine and your gears, nothing much else really but today you’ve got satellite navigation in ‘em, you can go round the field and it tells you where you’re going to start and all this and what acreage it is and everything else, so there’s a big leap forward really, but whether it’s the right thing or not I don’t know. I don’t think there is the pleasure in it like you used to get with the old machines really. You used to take a pride in your work those days. I don’t know whether they do so much today or not but the old machines, they could be a torment but it was good fun really, yeah. The modern ones, if you get a bulb or something going on then and it stops, you’ve got to the man with a computer to find out what’s wrong with it (laughs). Otherwise you’ve had it (laughs).
Lisa So you can’t fix it yourself then? Like with your old one?
Geoff No, the old ones you could fix but the new ones you’ve got to get the man with a computer and plug in to find out what’s wrong with it and I’m afraid that’s how it is now.
Lisa And the size of them is obviously a lot different?
Geoff Oh, terrific isn’t it today. The big ones, I don’t know if there’s one now on the Island, big one, he goes about 15 tonnes in weight. Well that’s terrific really isn’t it? That’s just the tractor, without the implements. So therefore they’ve got to have big field to do it all, haven’t they? I suppose they need satellite navigation to steer it, but yeah, that’s what they call progress.
Lisa What about other sorts of machinery like combines and that kind of thing? How have they changed over time?
Geoff Well going back with a combines, you had … I think there were two big ones on here, two or three big ones. They come from America to start with and I think they were put together at Shaw Plant at Buckingham and that was the Massey Harris but there were little ones that you towed with a tractor. There was quite a few different ones of those about and you used them, but as the years went on, there was the self-propelled ones were more developed then and they were made in this Country and they gradually got more and more. Everybody went to the self-propelled instead of the ones you towed about but they got round it all but what they didn’t cut with a combine they used to cut with a binder and put it in the barn and thrash it with a threshing machine. As the years went by, it got less and less and the combines took over the whole lot. Now if you do any with a thresher, it’s just for a demonstration today, but the combines changed completely to what they were originally. The modern ones today, what are they, 24 feet cut all headers on them. Terrific to what they … ‘cos if you had an 8 foot or 10 foot you thought you were somebody but today I think they are about 24 foot I think, the headers on ‘em so completely different isn’t it? All press button. You haven’t got to set the thing, you’ve got a computer in there you programmes it all in and it does it all. Years ago you used to have to get in the back and set the sieves and the wind and everything else, but it’s all done now on a computer. That’s how it’s changed.
15 minutes 34 seconds
Barbara When he refers to the header, he means the width of the cut, in one go.
Lisa And the combines now then, they do do all the processes?
Geoff Yes, they thresh it all out, goes in the tank and you unloads into a trailer or a lorry as you go along. Yes, it’s all done, you just sit in there and keep going.
Lisa And I wonder back in the days when it was all done by hand, the production must be massive now compared to then? It must have taken so many hours to do all that by hand?
Geoff Yeah, but you had the labour. You had the manpower and the labour was cheaper those days and you had the men to do the jobs. Through the years, the labour prices has gone up and so therefore they’ve got more machines and cut down on the labour. Labour was cheap in the beginning, but now labour is dear.
Lisa I can’t remember if I asked you before what your pay was when you first started working a full time sort of working week?
Geoff Only a few pound I think … it would have been two or three pound I think ‘cos back in ’61 or whatever it was, I was only getting £7.10 a week then which would be …
Barbara When we got married, you couldn’t get a man’s wage until you were 21 and he was under 21 so we were living on about £6 or £7 a week. Which even though this is all relative, no it wasn’t, you were jolly poor (laughs). The young ones now say … they haven’t got a clue. Make do and mend, that’s how we’ve always done what we have done because we’ve never had the money, we’ve always had to make do, mend, repair, poke two together, patch.
Lisa I suppose back then when you first started working, there weren’t the sort of holiday … you didn’t get holiday pay I guessing, or sick pay or anything like that.
Geoff Not like that, not what you get today, no.
Lisa If you didn’t work, you didn’t get paid.
Geoff No, you never got it. But it’s all changed now. If you’re sick you get sick pay don’t you? That part of its better, change for the better.
Barbara He was doing pretty well seven days a week when we first got married, then it went to I think, you know, Sundays off. Wow, that seemed alright and then sort it got to like Sunday lunchtime wasn’t it and then Saturday lunchtime and then when it got that it was finish on a Friday night, wow, didn’t you have a lot of extra time (laughs).
Geoff Yeah, it changed like that, yeah.
Lisa Have you ever been involved in any sort of farming … Young Farmers or farming associations or anything like that on the Island?
Geoff No, there is a Young Farmers Club or whatever you call it but I never had time to go and do anything like that really.
Barbara We actually were working.
Geoff Never had any transport much to get anywhere so you never done things like that then, but they do today. I think there’s a Young Farmers thing on the Island now I think. I think they’re struggling but I think it’s still going at the moment.
Barbara Well now I don’t think there’s the number of farms. I mean you went through a spell when, like with us, you didn’t go to anything, it wasn’t there. Then it was quite popular but now there aren’t the actual number of small farms with all the young people to need to go.
Geoff It’s all bigger farms now isn’t it? Shame really in a [inaudible] way I suppose eventually again.
Lisa Of course, what we spoke about before and I know that you’re passionate about is the ploughing and the ploughing matches. Is there one coming up soon?
Geoff Yeah, we’ve got one this month, the 26th on a Sunday I think it is, down at Alverstone at Kern Farm at Alverstone for charity.
Lisa And are you going in for that?
Geoff Oh yeah.
Lisa What are you take?
Geoff Take me old one, go and do that. Yes I think it’s for the Helicopter one, not the Air Sea rescue, the Ambulance one. It’s a good cause and it’s good fun, so make a day out won’t it? Yeah, be alright. Getting ready for the charity one a week later. We’ve got three in a row. We’ve got the one at Alverstone, we’ve got the charity one and then we’ve got the Easter Monday one so we shall be alright, yeah, good fun.
20 minutes 35 seconds
Lisa And that sort of brings me in to the farming year really because obviously there’s certain things that are done at certain times of year aren’t there, and we’re kind of coming out of the Winter now.
Geoff Oh yeah, that’s right. It all starts to happen now in the Spring don’t it? Be on second potatoes and all this thing, Spring corn, whatever cord they put in and that happens now. Getting the ground all ready for that won’t they? That’s the cycle of farming again starting isn’t it? Off they go and do all that.
Lisa What’s your favourite time of year in terms of the farm?
Geoff I like the Spring of the year because everything starts to move and happen again doesn’t it?
Barbara Also if you look at nature there’s a lot of lovely things happen with each season. We’re very lucky in this country because you do get the seasons. In the Spring, all the leaves are coming out, you know it’s beautiful. There’s something nice in each of the seasons.
Lisa What’s your favourite Barbara?
Barbara Well as I said, I enjoy something in each of the seasons, you know, so I don’t mind … it’s just nice to see the changes.
Geoff We like the Spring in the year because in the Winter, the sun’s right back up over here off Blackgang in the Winter.
Barbara 21st of December, if you look out there the sun rises until rising off that Gang and 21st June, it’s off out behind the television mast and in six months, it goes that distance, so every day we get up … we’re always up early, well before six aren’t we, every day of the year. “Oh, the sun’s got to so and so now” or there’s, you know, … silly isn’t it but we really enjoy seeing where the sun gets to and how … it’s amazing how fast that can move along without you realising.
Geoff Silly things like that but …
Barbara You’ve got to stand in the same place. A few feet either way is no good. It must be exactly by the back door. Exactly where it is and I photograph it. “Oh it’s got to so and so today”, you know?
Geoff Yes it’s just a silly thing but it’s one of those things. We like to do it.
Barbara I’ve also felt, oh since 1980, I’ve kept a diary. It’s not a personal diary, it’s a farming diary so it tells us when we were doing various things … I’ve got pretty well … minimum temperature, maximum temperature and the weather each day and then what we were actually doing and you’d be surprised how often you need to refer back to that. When did we do so and so? When was that happening? I’ve kept that diary all these years but haven’t got quite so much to put there these days but it’s surprising how things are changed.
Geoff Oh yes.
Lisa So you started that in 1980?
Barbara Yes, I don’t know why it was 1980 but it was 1980. I think it was when I was doing … I started doing the trees then too ‘cos in the mid ‘70’s, we had the Dutch Elm disease and then I did try and get advice but nobody knew then what would grow along here so then I got a Hillier’s Manual and iI read up on it and I got into Latin names and I, you know I did all this planting but I think along that time was when I started the diary and I was putting all the different things down. I’ve got a photograph there to show you about the difference … [searches for picture] I had it here just now, about the trees. Yes, here we are. This will show you why I got in to conservation. That was what we had, and this the same view, and the pole there is that pole there so it just shows what you lose. And that’s when I started to … but now we’ve got enough grown back that it’s not so noticeable but when you come down through the driveway, that was when all these trees along here were just little ones. Out here nothing grows very well, so I had to water them, foliar feed them, we had the rabbits in. When we had the snow, the rabbits would even come up on the snow so that could reach up a bit higher to chew the trees off but I find if I put in enough for long enough, some will survive, and they have done. Oh it’s lovely to see all the wildlife back, it really is ‘cos when I was young, there was so much around everywhere and in my times I was growing up, it was disappearing. Hedges were taken, I don’t me us, but hedges were taken out, copses were taken out, all sorts of things because the farmers were being encouraged to grow more, produce more and oh, it was so sad. And then, the Dutch Elm disease, that was just the cap on it, so I did all of this because I fell in love with the farm when we had the trees and the hedges and the wildlife. It was beautiful here and then we’d lost it all and it was desolate, horrible, so I planted, not for me, but so others would love it like I’ve loved it as they’re coming on behind me, but I’ve lived long enough to see, you know, the results. For me to go and see a bird nest in hedge that I’ve planted, that’s really something for me.
26 minutes 14 seconds
Lisa This is beautiful isn’t it? This view here?
Barbara That’s the view from our cliff, our high point. It’s absolutely fantastic. If you feel down or miserable, oh you go up there you feel you can breathe, you get skylarks, you get everything, wildlife. I think it’s one of the best views because you’ve got this uninterrupted view really 360 degrees all the way round. Oh it’s absolutely gorgeous up there.
Lisa Have you got animals grazing right up to the cliff edge or is there a fence or …
Geoff We run an electric fence down on to the sheep just to leave a footpath for the people. Otherwise you’ve got people and dogs everywhere mixed up with it all, but with an electric fence, you keep them separate.
Lisa And you said you were losing this land, year on year?
Lisa How do you know how much you’ve lost?
Geoff Well you’d have to measure up again and start like that. What do they reckon?
Barbara About 3 foot a year. This is our cliff, and you can see how rugged and wild and fantastic it is out there. Now when I was a child, there’s an area out there that we called Cheeks Works and before me, before our time, they used to haul shingle up from the shore, and there was a cutting out there. I suppose it was a Chine I guess, so it would have started off then …
Geoff Well unless they dug it out.
Barbara and although though it wasn’t doing it in my time, there was some tracks there like railway tracks. They had little carts that they’d haul the shingle up from the shore, I think for the road buildings …
Geoff That’s where Cheek’s brothers, later [inaudible] it was a [inaudible] , that’s where they started down there. They used to pull the shingle up didn’t they?
Barbara But when I was young, we used to go up and down there to get wood from the shore, or go down to the beach and it was … although they weren’t using it then, the cutting was there, and in my time, it’s all gone completely. Well you think the height of that cliff, how far back that cutting was to have had like tracks going up and down, and there’s nothing left there now, so it’s come back in many feet. And also you can see on the ground there like where we have ploughed or done things in the past , and it’s gone. So you know it’s coming back. There’s various things out there, there was like bomb craters and things from the War you know, they’re not there now, you know, they’ve gone over so you do know there are ways of realising how much you’ve lost. That’s a photograph … you know I was saying to you about the Military Road? That was looking down towards the farm but you see there was no bungalow, no road down there, but I’ve also taken a lot with my family when it was just like a track along …
Geoff 1952 that was.
Barbara That’s the man I fell in love with (laughs). He’s very handsome isn’t he?
Lisa What a handsome fellow he is (laughs) … with his thick mop of hair.
Geoff Yeah, it’s all gone now (laughs).
Barbara Well he’s weathered better than I have (laughs). That was when I was saying to you the other day, that’s the ‘Piggy Porker’. He stood out on Geoff’s lap in front of the fire. That’s him with his partridge and that’s how he used to [inaudible] onto the farm. I think I was telling you last time about the calf, was I? Again that’s my mother but it was in a box in the kitchen here and then this one is … that’s our daughter and she’s holding a very, very tiny lamb and that’s a normal sized lamb, the same age, and again we raised so many things, you know. We saying about teams of people, well that’s an example. That was when we were doing the hay making, how you have like a whole team of guys that would go round, you know, helping. They’d go from us to another one, others. Again that’s family with sacks and that when they were doing harvesting. Then there’s things went on by a little bit more. That was … I was telling you about the trailer and the hay bales. This wasn’t me obviously, but that was a bit later on wasn’t it, Geoff made up this loader to put the bales up rather than pitching it, you know?
30 minutes 55 seconds
Lisa So by pitching, do you mean sort of throwing it up?
Geoff Yes, with a pole. I made the down loader and all that up. I was ahead of them on that (laughs).
Barbara That’s the picture you see with the prong.
Lisa Is that loose, …
Geoff Sheaves we call those.
Lisa That’s sheaves.
Geoff Cut with a knife.
Lisa And these are rectangular bales aren’t they?
Geoff Those were sheaves of corn.
Lisa And that doesn’t look that long ago?
Geoff No, that’s when we …
Barbara Again you did it for some demonstrations and that so yes it wouldn’t have been … it’s not old. That’s another one of Geoff with his partridge.
Lisa That’s a brilliant photo, I love that.
Geoff He was a pretty old chap he was.
Lisa So you’re not nursing anything at the moment then, in front of your fire?
Geoff No, not at the moment, no.
Barbara That’s a photo of us two but nothing in particular. But I don’t have hardly any photos of me because I’m always behind the camera rather than in front. Sorry I’m probably making a lot of noise with your machine there. I see on here you were saying about what didn’t you like, what was difficult or something … worse jobs.
Lisa Yes, worst jobs to do.
Barbara All I can think of is … as I say we were living here but he was going out to work and so we were farming early and late to do it all, but when Geoff was on the diggers, we’d get bad Winter and you get like a lot of snow and that, but Geoff would have to leave here by 6 o’clock of a morning to go off to wherever he had to go and if it was frozen, we’d be down there in the milking parlour trying to get things thawed out overnight. And you’d get … it used to be cold enough that you put your hand on the gate, your hand would stick to the gate. I’ve milked down there when it’s been so cold that the hot milk for the cow would freeze before it got to the floor. I’m talking it’s cold! And we had to try and thaw it all out down through there before he went to work and of course as fast as we were going down through thawing it out, it was freezing up again. That was some hard times and he had to leave at 6 and what he hadn’t got done by 6 o’clock, it was my mother then and I, we had to cope and do that. That was hard. And then we had like the churns, 10 gallon churns and the transport box wouldn’t go quite up to the height of milk stand up there so I had … because he had to go to work, he had to go on, I had to lift these 10 gallon churns up and then when I got up there, I had to lift them up over again. You had to do all of that before … he had already gone to work and then I had to go and do a full days work on another farm and we’d come back and do it all again later. That was quite hard.
Lisa Hard physical work as well.
Geoff We done it didn’t we? We had no choice (laughs).
Barbara Another time when …. again this wasn’t the farming bit but it’s just an odd bit of interest, when there was a lot of snow, and Geoff was driving diggers at that time and he was called out late at night, about midnight weren’t you and we were told to go and rescue some people up at Chale. Well, I mean I’m a woman! What I thought I was going to do I have no idea. I said, “I’ll go with you” because the conditions were so bad, it wasn’t fit for him, I didn’t think, to go out on his own so I went with him. As we were going up the Military Road, the snow was coming in, the snow was so bad it was filling up … you had the bucket down to free it so we could get along, we went by several parked cars didn’t we and then there were some nippers in one car …
Geoff Yes, four wasn’t it? Four of them in the …
Barbara … and he tried to just clear the snow ahead but it was snowing so much the car couldn’t follow behind the digger even though close it was so really bad so they came in the digger with us. And we went up to Chale, we left them at the school at Chale. Well then we had to go along to what they call like the Stile up at Chale Green and the snow there was so deep that you couldn’t get up the hill so we went into the Stile and anybody that had been abandoned … they’d all gone in to the Stile … it was a Pub then, so they were all alright so we left that. We then went on to Blackgang, wasn’t it? Well we never did get up over Blackgang. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world but the experience … you couldn’t see the front of the digger. And when I say you couldn’t … you could NOT see the front of the digger. We were just in this world … it was only the fact that he was a fantastic driver, really we could have gone down over and we could have been lost but we managed to turn round and we came back down didn’t we?
Geoff Yeah, we got down to Whales Chine.
Barbara And then we hit the snow there. Whoosh, the blooming digger stopped dead but what the devil do we do now? But he did manage to get it going and as we came back down the Military Road you couldn’t see any cars or anything but luckily we must have missed them ‘cos we don’t think we hit them and we got back here and it took us six hours and all we did was get to Chale, Chale Green, halfway up over Blackgang and back and it took us six hours to do in that snow didn’t it? I wouldn’t have missed it for the world, it was awful.
Lisa And what year do you think that was?
Barbara In the ‘70’s. Early ‘70’s I think. But what I thought I was going to do I’m sure I don’t know.
Geoff ’73, ’74? Somewhere round that wasn’t it? Cor it was deep wasn’t it?
Barbara But if he hadn’t been the driver that he was, we would never have … and now you see on television now, “Oh they can’t cope with …” He had a Himac at that time which is a tallish digger and the snow when we got to Whales Chine was up level with the windows. I’m talking really deep. Gosh that was cold wasn’t it? That wasn’t farming but it was interesting.
Geoff I say on …you get the other side of what we call the double bend, you get to Whales Chine. My God, that’s a bad bit of road ‘cos it’s open country and it sweeps across there. You can’t see, well a hand in front of you really. If you don’t know the road, you’ve had it. That’s what it was like, you know.
Lisa You must know these roads and fields like the back of your hand now, after a lifetime of living in this area.
Lisa How much have things changed? Have the villages changed?
Barbara My husband’s home was like a few houses and you knew everybody and everybody knew everybody. You always knew everything about everybody too, but now there’s so many new houses put up, new people have come in the village. We can go down the village now and people will very nicely come and you know, introduce themselves to us and think we’re new to the village. Well no we’re not, we’ve always been here, and it seems like you know, people object to other new houses being built now. Well, we felt like that when their house was being built all those years ago, but things change don’t they?
Geoff That’s how it goes, innit? Brighstone village is what, five times, six times bigger than it used to be?
Barbara We don’t mind people moving in as long as they don’t want to change everything. As long as they accept our way that … you know, let us get on with our way of life.
Lisa So when you were young then, what did Brighstone have? Did it have a village shop, did it have a pub?
Geoff Oh yes, it had a village shop and the pub was there, yes. ‘Cos the village shop … well there was two shops wasn’t there, in the village there? One of them used to have the petrol pumps outside. I can’t remember when that went, but, well the paper shop and the village shop, there’s two shops there now. Oh, they’ve got hairdressers there now, too, haven’t they? Still got the pub. That’s still more or less the same, and they had a tea garden didn’t they?
Barbara Yes, it was opposite.
Geoff Opposite. But that’s gone, that’s all been built in now and gone, but yes.
Lisa And the school’s been there for a long time, hasn’t it?
Geoff Yes, the school, yes. That’s bigger, ‘cos they shut a lot of the other schools and pushed them all into that school now, so they developed that school and it got bigger.
Barbara There used to be a school at Shorwell as well, but they closed that quite some years ago.
Geoff And Chale, yes.
Barbara That was down at Chale, yes. I went to Shorwell.
Geoff It’s all changed, that part of it. There’s not many locals left really. Most of them died out. There’s a few families still, the older ones.
Lisa Was there a village policeman?
Geoff Yes, you had a local copper, yes.
Barbara On a pushbike.
Geoff Yes, right up till … when would that have been … I suppose …
Barbara A few years ago.
Geoff In the ‘70’s wasn’t it? ‘Cos they used to come round and sign the cattle movement book and all of that. Now we got on with you. She knew what was going on and what was happening and it was alright those days.
Lisa Oh, tell me a bit more about that, the cattle movement.
Barbara Well when you sold anything or bought anything, you had to …
Geoff You had to enter it in a book.
Barbara … in a book.
Geoff And every so often the local copper would come along and …
Barbara Check it out.
Geoff Check it all out and make sure everything was above board and everything.
Barbara And sign it.
Geoff Then we’d have a cup of tea and a yarn and pass away an hour and then off he used to go again, and if there was anything going on anywhere, he’d let you know, to keep your eyes open or anything, yes. But now we don’t get anything.
Lisa Have you ever had any problems over the years, with things going missing or anything like that?
Geoff Odd things occasionally but nothing drastic, touch wood. Not too bad, ‘cos I suppose in the dark nowadays, most people’s frightened to come out here in the dark, so not too bad.
Barbara I remember when we had like, you know, cows, cattle, we were quite used to that, you know, night time, because you know, you’d got to be up in the fields or down the farm. You know, if you were needed, because you’d go out and check them. So we were quite used to wandering around in the night, you know. And getting up and going and doing it all, and you were saying about the illnesses. Well we’ve had … one cow in particular, some years ago, that … let me see … if she’d have fallen down she would have split her … I don’t know what you call it …
Geoff Yes, she hurt her pelvis didn’t she?
Barbara Yes, and we had to make sure that she kept her feet together and didn’t go and sort of get straddled or hurt, so we used to take turns to stay with her and we used to have a rota didn’t we, and we even did that like at night as well, you know, make sure that she didn’t … we got her back well again didn’t we?
Geoff Oh yes, ‘cos she … we calved her didn’t we? She had twins didn’t she? Calved her, and a day or two and we got her up on her feet again didn’t we, and saved her, yes. Those sort of things, yes.
Barbara Had to make a … you had to make a sling didn’t you?
Geoff Yes, I made up a … yes, used to pick her up in the digger, let her take the weight off her feet and that and …
Lisa How …? this might seem like a funny question. How do you go about getting your cows pregnant?
Geoff We used to have the A.I.
Barbara A man in a bowler hat.
Geoff The man used to come along and do it and … we never kept a bull did we?
Barbara No. You ring up the A.I. and say what it was that you wanted. You’d have a good choice of a … what kind of calf …
Geoff What breed of calf you wanted, yes.
Barbara In fact you could choose the name of the father couldn’t you?
Geoff Yes, oh yes.
Barbara And he’d come along and inseminate her.
Lisa So you didn’t keep a bull.
Geoff No. They can be a torment.
Barbara In the past, in my Granddad’s time, you see he got … he wasn’t killed but he got tossed by a rogue bull but luckily it was a very big bull but luckily it tossed him in the middle of my gate and Granddad landed the other side of the gate so he was OK.
Lisa I suppose back then it was all done naturally was it?
Barbara Yes, you brought the cow to the bull (laughs).
Geoff They could be a real handful some of those bulls, not one of the better jobs.
Lisa And then how long is the cow pregnant for?
Barbara About 9 months, roughly like a woman, so …
Lisa And do they generally give birth unaided or do you need to help them out?
Barbara If you can, you let them calve naturally because obviously it’s best, but there are times when perhaps the calf has got its head back or leg wrong, laying awkwardly and they can’t so we’ve assisted in all sorts you know?
Geoff Yeah and you’ve got to get there and sort it out.
Barbara Yes and help pull … you’ve got to know when to pull. Wait until she sort of pushes and then you do it ‘cos at one time we had one , I don’t think I said it the other day but ‘cos I haven’t got the weight that he has, I put a rope around my body, around my bottom there you know, to pull to make it … we were pulling with one and we got the calf alright you know but afterwards I had rope marks there and I said to Geoff, “Now look if I die now, you tell them what that is ‘cos they’ll think I’m into bondage” (laughs). But we also try to choose nice size bull. The young heifers and that we’d always put Angus on for two reasons. One, was you had a smaller calf which was better we think for the first calf, and we used to find the Angus were very good. They’d get up and they’d get on and they’d drink quite well. Some of the calves they’d hurrr, they just won’t drink. You’ve got to get there and you’ve got to, you know, encourage them and get the milk from the cow and feed them.
45 minutes 52 seconds
Lisa What happens if they can’t feed or won’t feed?
Barbara Well you usually get them … you just work with them until you get them to drink.
Lisa What happens if the cow dies?
Barbara Well you raise the calf anyway…
Geoff Yes you’d raise the calf alright.
Barbara …. but touch wood we were very lucky. We never lost a cow that like but then I think it’s … now they have some of these continental ones you can get very big calves and the poor cows …
Geoff You can get problems, yeah.
Barbara … you can get a lot of problems but we always chose the smaller bull for our cows so …
Geoff Well you operate on the day if they get a big one like that …
Barbara I suppose they get the caesarean …
Geoff … get the calf that way, yeah. It cost you money though didn’t it?
Barbara But we were small, we were small, it was only like having … I mean you’d expect a schoolteacher to know her class. Well we did with our cows. We had about forty so we knew them. We knew them individually. We knew the mothers, the grandparents, you know, the grandmother. You know, we loved them and we used to look after them like you know, as you would, but they were all individuals. We knew … You know, we knew them so well so we did our best to look after them.
Geoff Yes, oh yes. Yes, it was all part of the job wasn’t it, really?
Barbara It’s lovely too. You get one … oh dear yes. With … occasionally there’s a calf. I know we had a special boar we put on some of them and the first calf, oh we kept an eye on it, kept looking ….. Oh I was heartbroken I get down at the calf, she’d calved and the calf was dead. A little bit of the skin, the birth thing, had got over its nose and that’s all it was. It was just a few minutes, but no we couldn’t, we couldn’t save it. But otherwise, if when they’re calving they’re looking pretty sick, we’ll work on them …in the hope … like a vet or … and we’d get them breathing and yes, we really did … we really worked hard with a lot of them. Looking after them … It’s lovely too, and we used to enjoy, you know you’d sort of … they’d been penned up for a while and you’d let them out and … jump around and it was … I’d say, “Don’t let them out yet, wait for me to get there. I want to see them go.” It was lovely.
Lisa When they calve, do you keep the cows and the steers go off?
Barbara Yes. We used to keep … have like the right bull, so we’d keep the heifer calves and then … but unfortunately the little bull calves had to go to Market, so then we’d put them in the back of the van after a week or fortnight.
Lisa Oh, a week or a fortnight. So they’re not very old.
Barbara Yes. But now they do it in a lot shorter time, but you know we did about a week … You see the market was once a week, so it depends on when they were born, as to you know, when you’d sort of take them there.
Geoff Well, how strong he was. You might want to keep ‘m another week to get ‘m stronger and make a nice calf.
Lisa Right. I expect they miss their calves don’t they, when they go?
Geoff Oh yes.
Barbara Oh yes. Yes, they do. But then you see they don’t produce milk without having had a calf. People seem to think cows just give milk. Well they don’t. It’s natural. They’ve got to have a calf before they will produce milk, and then they’ll have a spell when they’re not producing milk, when they’re dry, have a rest, before they have the next calf.
Lisa So you mentioned … I mean you obviously do a lot of looking after the animals by yourselves, and its things that you’ve learnt over the years, I’m guessing.
Geoff Oh yes, yes.
Lisa Have you ever had times when you’ve needed a Vet to come up?
Geoff Oh yes, yes. You’d have the Vet at different times. If you couldn’t manage a job yourself.
Barbara No, we’ve never … we’ve always believed in having a Vet, yes, if there’s anything that we’re not sure of or you know, different things you have to have done. The animal welfare is very important.
Geoff Especially with cows. If they had a stone in their foot, always got on to the Vet for that ‘cos if it gets kicked, it was them and not you (laughs). But that could be a job though. It wasn’t too bad in the milking parlour because you’d get ‘em in the parlour, you had the rails and that. Put in the stall, so you could get a rope on the leg and on the metal, you could haul them, but in the stable was a hell of a job sometimes, to haul that leg where they was getting the stone out, whatever, but it was all good fun. At the time you didn’t think so but looking back at it, yes, we thinks it was alright (laughs).
50 minutes 43 seconds
Lisa And has it been different Vets over the years or has it been the same Vet? The same Vets for this particular area or ..?
Geoff No, been various …
Barbara Well we go to the same group of Vets if you see what I mean, but we …………..he left didn’t he? We saw Mr Green come in as a young man and now he is retired, yes.
Geoff Some young ones, they done the time, then they move to the mainland don’t they? Yes, there’s been quite a few different ones.
Barbara But from the same Practice.
Geoff Same Practice, yes.
Barbara But the trouble now is that you get more women doing it. Well we’re not against the women doing it, but you get the big animals and at times a man’s strength is a bit more use, but there you go.
Geoff Yes, want a bit of hauling sometimes don’t they?
Barbara Yes. Also, with the cattle, Geoff always looked after his animals well and he had them really quite quiet, ‘cos the first time that you have like the A.I. and that, the animal doesn’t know what’s going to happen and they can be rather wild can’t they?
Geoff Oh yes.
Barbara But Geoff would sort of get down and sort of ruff their back, and they’re used to him, and he could catch them and they could do it.
Geoff Yes, I’d catch them and hold their head and he’d do whatever he had to do and I’d let ‘em go. He couldn’t believe it to start with. He said he never … anybody to hold them like that. I said “Well if they’re quiet you can catch them and hold ‘em.
Barbara It stops them being stressed rather than have to go into like a crush and frighten them, you know.
Lisa Have there been changes … I’m just looking at this question here. Changes to the types of livestock? The sorts of breeds of cows on the Island?
Geoff Oh yes, yes, yes, because you had the Herefords and the Angus early on, but then latterly they had the continental ones, which had more meat on ‘em I suppose. Bigger animals, and we had French ones and Belgian ones and all like that. In the latter years it’s all changed, the breeding side of it. Or, the Brown boys, their Grandfather would have been … see, he had several farms this way and also he had Isle of Wight Fruit and Produce, and all the veg and stuff he used to go off into Newport and they used to deliver to the schools and shops and everything else, those days, see, yeah. That was …
Lisa Is that Browns that are still going now?
Geoff Yes. That would have been their Grandfather, yeah.
Lisa Yes. ‘Cos Browns … Because I live in Arreton and they’re all …
Geoff That’s right. Yes, they got land down through Arreton, yes. Yes, that would have been A E Brown that would have been then. Had Pyle, Bellingham, different farms all through here. I suppose he took them over during the War, or something I suppose and run ‘em. A lot places was those days, yeah.
Lisa So they were big names. You know, when you were younger, they were people that had big farms, were doing a lot of production?
Geoff Oh yes, yes, that’s right, yes. You had Walmsley and he had … rented that off the Colonel here at Kingston. He had North Grounds, Appleford. Yes, a lot of land. His farmers, I think he had something to do with Dunsbury or rented Dunsbury at that time ‘cos a lot of ‘em took a lot of these farms over during the War and run ‘em, yes.
Lisa Have there always been certain farms that are sort of known for certain types of produce?
Geoff Yeah, on the different land there’s like going through Arreton they grow veg and all this stuff don’t they and spuds and some of these other farms it was better to grow the wheat for bread and all of that ‘cos they had to grow as much as ever they could during the War for bread and things, so they was all doing their share of food production in those days, yeah. It was … oh Fred Trims in Newport, they used to deliver veg from Walmsley’s lot that would have been, all round the different places but I don’t know about the other side of the Island. I dunno who used to do it over that part of the Island but this way, that was the two main ones. Brown’s and Fred Trims. All gone isn’t it now?
Lisa So would you say most of what you could buy when you were younger was locally produced?
Geoff Yeah, it was those days, yeah.
Lisa If you went to get meat from a Butcher, would it mainly be from the Island?
Geoff Yes because they had their own Slaughterhouse over here didn’t they, up at Heytesbury, yeah. Pigs, at Wroxall they had the bacon factory. Used to do all the pigs over there, bacon and pork and sausages and all that sort of thing over there. ‘Cos the old bloke at Allerfield, old Reg Jury I used to work for as a nipper and that when I left school, he had a few cows for a dairy herd, but his main thing was pigs. He had, I don’t know, several 100 I suppose there at the time, yeah. He used to rear all those and they used to go off over there for bacon and pork, yeah. Yeah, they all used to do their bit but now it’s all … I suppose there’s somebody does pigs on the Island, I don’t know. Used to be alright rearing those old pigs.
Barbara Like a lot of things, the money seems to go out of the market you know and people can’t afford to carry on producing different things so they stop and they change.
Geoff Well he died so it all got sold up and whatever yeah.
Barbara My mum and dad used to, you know, fatten pigs but again the money went out so you stopped doing that you know, you do something else.
Lisa When did the Slaughterhouse go?
Geoff That would have been in the ‘80’s I suppose. Yeah, I suppose it would have been. Late ‘80’s, early ‘90’s when that went, yeah.
Lisa So everything has to be taken over to the Mainland now, and then comes back?
Geoff Yeah, shame really.
Lisa Must be lucrative for the Ferries?
Geoff ‘Cos you had a casualty you see, you could whip ‘em up Slaughterhouse and they’d see to it, but now it’s put down and goes as knacker I suppose nowadays. Waste really like that isn’t it? So now all the main stuff goes to the Mainland now. Different Markets and whatever.
Lisa That was interesting what you were saying about the local sort of producers. Fred Trims is a name that’s come up somewhere. I’m sure I’ve got a photo of one of the lorries.
Geoff Yeah, they had lorries. I’m just trying to think where they had their storing depot. I can’t remember the name of the road. I could take you there. And A E Brown’s is where the supermarket is, opposite where the Bus Station was, what’s that one there? The supermarket opposite the Bus Station.
Barbara You mean … not Morrison’s do you?
Geoff No, this one back up this way. Oh dear.
Lisa In Newport?
Geoff In Newport, yeah. That multi-storey one there. What’s the name of that one?
Barbara I’m trying to think.
Lisa The Co-Op?
Barbara Yes it is somewhere along there isn’t it? Yes, I don’t know …
Geoff Isle of Wight Fruit and Produce used to have their Store in there. I remember that, plain as anything, yeah.
Lisa What about eggs, just thinking about hens. I mean you’ve had hens have you over the years? Have they always been free range?
Barbara Yes. ‘Cos I mean with the farm and that, yes …
Geoff Used to have an egg thing didn’t they? What was that? Egg Packing Station was it?
60 minutes 11 seconds
Barbara It was, yes.
Geoff Can’t remember where that was in Newport. Somewhere in there wasn’t it? All the eggs used to go off …
Barbara But we’ve never been into it, not in a big production like they do now, so they were all free range.
Lisa So the Packing Plant or Station, you could take your eggs there and they would sell them for you?
Geoff Yeah, well a local Carrier used to take ‘em in didn’t he? Arthur Sprake wasn’t it?
Barbara Yes, but we usually sold them to like little local shops and things like that so we’re talking small amounts, not large.
Geoff Not thousands like they do today.
Lisa And of course there’s lots of other eggs that are popular now aren’t there? Duck eggs and …
Barbara Oh yes, do you like duck eggs?
Lisa No (laughs).
Geoff Seeing what they eat (laughs).
Barbara I wouldn’t touch a duck egg (laughs).
Geoff People do.
Lisa And all the different breeds of hens. I saw blue eggs in the supermarket last week.
Barbara The ducks used to watch the cows didn’t they and they used to go up when the cow lifted her tail, the duck would be there, or something like that … (laughs) … and sift all through it. Repulsive! Dear oh dear.
Geoff Clear that lot out, enjoyed it.
Barbara You were talking about Tradesmen, yes you used to have all the businesses and that for farming business. We used to have men would come round to take orders, didn’t they Geoff?
Geoff Oh yes, from the Millers and all that they used to …
Barbara Used to send the blokes round …
Geoff Travellers used to come round, yeah.
Lisa What did they sell you?
Geoff Yeah, to get the order for feed or whatever they was …
Barbara Animal foodstuff and things like that, you know?
Geoff Nobody comes round now do they?
Lisa I suppose it’s all done on the telephone isn’t it or by email?
Barbara I daresay, by emails and …I’m going back somewhat now but we used to have a Traveller with … my Grandparents did that things were so sort of laid back, didn’t used to knock the door and that, and the Traveller often he’d be very late at night and the family would be gone to bed and he’d come in, make himself a cup of tea, get something to eat …
Geoff Pick up the order.
Barbara … before going on but it was a different world, it really was.
Geoff Oh well it worked alright didn’t it?
Barbara And again, it’s nothing really what you need, but there was a Post Man because just down the road there it was like the end of the line for Chale or Ventnor and the Post Man, I’m going back quite a long, when I was young, and where we were was the end of the line and he had to wait two or three hours before he had to turn all the way back again. Grandad used to get him to go to Yafford and he’d … ‘cos Grandad had perhaps been getting rabbits and … but this Post Man would go up there and he’d pick up dead rabbits and all the rest of it, ferrets and things and bring them back down to the farm and then the Post Man he also had a like a little food round, didn’t he? He got produce from different farms and he’d sell it on his rounds. It was the Post Man I’m telling you. It was so different.
Geoff Everybody should buy a bicycle.
Lisa Were they the days when you could hold a flag out and the bus would come by and that meant you wanted something collecting or …
Geoff Yeah, good old days like that (laughs).
Barbara And we’ve got, as I say we’ve got a bus stop here now and that was through my mother because at the time she was down, just about half a mile down the road there wasn’t she, and she was coming here to milk and she old coats on, hat, because it was raining, wellington boots, you know real old, sack back you know, really old farmers sort of type thing and anyway there was a bus stop there so she caught the bus ‘cos the family said, “Why don’t you get the bus to drop you off here” but there wasn’t a bus stop but then it’s the time when you could have … but he wouldn’t stop and she had all this on and he took her to Brighstone and she had to walk all the way back from Brighstone which is several miles in all this old gear (laughs) so at least she got a bus stop put in then. But she was expecting him to stop ‘cos they used to but he wouldn’t.
Geoff Yeah, he was an awkward one wasn’t he? Dear oh dear.
65 minutes 6 seconds
Lisa So you’ve had to diversify haven’t you over the years? You’ve set up your Museum here?
Barbara Well even back to let’s say my Great Grandparents and that, the Dinosaur fossils have been coming out of the cliff for several hundred years that we’re aware of, the family were aware of, but then in about ’91, ’92, they found the Brachiosaur Dinosaur in the cliff and there was nowhere to work on it, it was very fragile so we opened up to the public, didn’t we in conjunction with the Museum at Sandown, the Geology Museum at Sandown and it was very popular. But I’ve always been interested in Dinosaurs and I’ve always known about it and you know … but we’re not Palaeontologists, we’re farmers so after a few years we stopped but one of the chaps that used to be a Manager for me, a very good young man, he does a similar thing but his own thing here. And where you are now, you’re standing on them. They’re literally … the strata comes all the way back through here. If you back to Reverend Fox which was the Reverend in Brighstone in the 1800’s that preferred to his parishioners, he used to collect and several things have been named after him and he was collecting along here then when my Grandparents were here, Great Grandparents were here you know in those days, so it’s been happening for a long time. But they’re not supposed to take things out of the cliff like that, unless they’ve got the Landowners permission. It’s really theft but unfortunately they do. We own part of a Brachiosaur … a third of a Brachiosaur Dinosaur.
Geoff He’s down the Museum at Sandown.
Barbara He’s at Sandown.
Lisa So you’ll be getting ready to open again to the public.
Barbara Well we don’t now because as I say Oliver, he runs Dinosaur Expeditions and yes, he is getting ready to do that. We’ve got two or three holiday caravans so we’ll be getting those ready.
Geoff He’ll be open Easter I suppose won’t he?
Barbara But he’s not open every day, so you have to make sure if you wanted to visit him, you know, on his open days, but it is interesting. You do get hooked. I mean you think that was a living, breathing Dinosaur, you know, it’s quite … yeah, you do get hooked. It wasn’t Geoff’s thing, I must admit.
Lisa Well as you said, you’re not Palaeontologists are you, you’re farmers and your farm happens to be in this area that’s rich in fossils.
Barbara You can only go so far. But I think if it had been found and it wasn’t us here, then it wouldn’t have taken off and carried on because it was only the fact that I was so interested that we then did something about it. Otherwise it would have just gone to Sandown and that would have been it, you know?
Lisa I know other farmers have had to diversify as well and have got holiday lets and have converted barns and have caravans and that sort of thing over the years.
Barbara It means that you love your place but you share it for a while and it means you can stay there so it’s worth it isn’t it? But also a little place like us, we meet some lovely people ‘cos the one’s that come out to us are really nice people so we’re very, very lucky. In fact we’ve had people coming years don’t they, 30 years or so and you know some of the older ones are sort of going on, their own grown up children will come back with their children.
Geoff We’ve got several lots like that haven’t we?
Barbara In fact when I was young, people would do … you get like the teachers and that and they’d have a six weeks holiday. They’d come for the whole of the school year, and then it got down to a month and sort of three weeks and then a fortnight and now more people, they just want a few days. I think they have their main holiday elsewhere, abroad or something. We still get some come for several weeks don’t they? But they love it here and what we didn’t realise until they told us was, the skies here, we have wonderful dark skies and they tell us, you know, the stars they can see here … well we know that in the Winter and that we get like a starlit night and you can walk about, you don’t need a light, you’ve got the moon and the stars and you know they tell us about the views and the birds so …
Lisa There’s no light pollution here at all is there because you’ve got nothing around you.
Barbara Just here, nothing.
Geoff Nothing, it’s lovely without all that yeah. You look away over the Downs to Newport and you can see …
Lisa ‘Cos where I live in Arreton, you can see the lights from the Salad Factory and they’re really bright at night.
Geoff Can you?
Lisa Yeah, really bright now. As you come over the Downs, you can see it lit right up and I think as they’re expanding and putting in more and more greenhouses, they’re all lit up through the night for keeping everything growing.
Geoff Are they really? Well get all that lot, yeah it spoils the stars doesn’t it? I didn’t realise that.
Barbara Are you nearly out?
Lisa No, it’s still going (laughs).
Barbara Is there anything else you wanted to ask us?
Lisa Did you write some things down?
Barbara I’ve just got odd bits but we’ve covering most of it anyway, yeah. Do you cut out … I assume you don’t have the whole thing going. You just pick out odd bits do you?
Barbara So if we talk about something else, it doesn’t matter ‘cos you can cut that bit out.
Lisa Yes, we wouldn’t use the whole of the interview, we just picj out snippits of different things which is why I make little notes of when we were talking about certain things.
Barbara When we were doing like, you know the Dinosaurs, we used to have different ones come here you know filming and different things, yes, and you could be there hours going up and down. They’d do it again, one more … hours you know and when you poof, blink and you miss it (laughs). I’m not joking (laughs). And in fact with the Dinosaurs, it was interesting because the BBC did a program here, ‘Life on Dinosaur Island’ and we were headquarters here. Wasn’t very lucrative but it was for …
Geoff It was good fun wasn’t it?
Barbara … Oh gosh I can’t think of the words, yes, it wasn’t the money that we earnt but it was the people being of interest here wasn’t it, but we had Adam Hart-Davis, Edwina Silver, who else did we have Geoff? I’ll tell you when I can think of it, it’s terrible getting older. And machines, they came with lorries, two wasn’t it and the sides came out and they let us look in there and it was jam packed with all these instruments and everything. I think each one was something … was it £100,000 or two or three hundred thousand pounds per vehicle. Oh it was fantastic, it really was.
Geoff They had the ground staff didn’t they? Put up a big tent up there, a marquee or whatever you call it and they had the cook in there to cook all their food. It’s alright, used to get a free dinner (laughs).
Barbara They did some digging down on the cliff but there was a lot of controversy at the time about it but they didn’t do anything very bad, they were only down on the scree. They didn’t do anything very much and after … and they said they’d put it back and they put it back as it was before and they did. People were just being, you know, very …
Geoff It never hurt nothing did it?
Barbara But they didn’t find much here because it was 10 years after they’d found the Brachiosaur and an expert that had seen a little bit before said they should dig there and we said, “It wasn’t found there, it was found over there” and they wouldn’t take a bit of notice of us. They dug where the so called expert said and they found nothing, but I mean we know our cliff, we know how it changes every year and you felt that like with cattle and that you’d be going out there a couple of time a day, you know, but they wouldn’t believe us so they didn’t find much but we didn’t expect them to. They were in the wrong place.
Geoff Well they were there wasn’t they and it was over here they should have been (laughs).
Lisa Does it get exposed … you know when you have a landslide and it’s fallen away, is that a good time for looking for fossils?
Geoff Oh yeah, ‘cos you’ve got fresh land then gone down and the fossils come to light.
Barbara If they fall on …
Geoff You get ‘em all out there then when you’ve had a rough tide and one thing and another.
Barbara If they fall on the beach, then theoretically it belongs to the Crown and it doesn’t matter if you find it but you’re not really supposed to go digging holes, you know, in cliffs but then you don’t normally find a whole Dinosaur, you don’t usually find a big bone, you just see a little piece sticking out and you’ve got to know what you’re looking at and looking for and then you know…
Geoff It’s a good laugh with some of those people wasn’t it? Dear oh dear, they ain’t got a clue (laughs).
75 minutes 3 seconds
Barbara Haven’t got a clue. And it gets wet and slippery down over there and you saw like an expert with his wellington boots. We said, “Don’t walk through …” no, he walks through, mud up to the knees you know? (laughs).
Geoff They were filming a bit there one afternoon and there was two or three women up …
Barbara Bill Oddie, that was one the other ones. I was trying to think of his name. Bill Oddie.
Geoff … up on the top of the cliff there and one of the women was saying … there were two of these other women, “All the rabbits been making these holes up along here” and I looked and I thought to myself, that’s not rabbits and any rate she carried on and explaining all this and I said, “Well it’s funny rabbits.” “What do you mean by that?” I said, “Well, that’s a horse been up along here and when the ground was wet, it’s where his feet went down in the ground, nothing at all to do with rabbits.” (laughs)
Barbara Geoff, who was the wildlife young man too, he was the fourth one, was it that sort of wildlife one that …
Geoff What the tall one?
Barbara Yeah, tall and slim. He was stood on that bit … gosh talk about looking out, not looking … they got him to stand on a little bit of the cliff falls away and it undermines, and it falls away. They got him to stand on a bit that had dropped a bit. There was nothing much under there and he had to go and just stand on there. Well dangerous just wasn’t the word for it, we hardly dare look. And then he had to stamp his foot. Well, they could have killed him!
Geoff I can’t remember his name.
Geoff Simon somebody was it?
Barbara Oh I can’t remember it, I’m so sorry I can’t remember his name but yeah, these so called experts they’re not very …
Geoff Practical (laughs)
Lisa One of my questions actually is quite relevant because I know you’ve had a bad eye recently. What sort of accidents have you had over the years as a farmer then? What do farmers do to themselves?
Barbara He broke his ankle.
Geoff Oh I broke me ankle.
Barbara He jumped out of a tractor, landed on the stone and broke his ankle …
Geoff Yeah, that one, the left one.
Barbara … and at the time we had cattle in one of the barns down there that had to be fed with the digger and take the food in there and there was only like a couple of inches either side. This digger bucket only just went through there. Now I could drive the digger out in the field but I wasn’t good enough to do that so when he had this bad ankle, I used to bring up a two wheeled cart, load him into the cart, wheel him down to the digger. He drove the digger using his good leg and a crutch. He used to feed the cattle and then I’d have to wheel him home again (laughs).
Geoff Yeah, God that was a job wasn’t it? Broke me ankle, tore the ligaments. How long did that go on for? Quite a few weeks wasn’t I?
Barbara Some of the things we’ve done together has been … we’ve got over it, we’ve got round it, we’ve done it but I think Health and Safety might have had a bit of a fit if they’d seen and known …
Geoff Then I had me thumb …
Barbara He burnt half his thumb off, yes.
Geoff … the other year. Took the end of him off with a winch wire, on the trailer that was. That was me own fault, nobody else’s, I got it wrong (laughs), and took the end off. I thought by Christ that hurt.
Lisa I bet that must have hurt Did it come clean off then or was it hanging?
Geoff No it took it off.
Lisa Oh, good grief.
Geoff Well, it was the end of the winch wire actually. You’ve got the hook on there and then the eye bit where the wire and hook is made on. It was me own fault. I picked the hook up in me right hand, spun it round and round so it was like a coil, chucked it on the floor of the trailer. Then I thought, what did I do that for? I was winding him I because he’s electric operated one, so I puts me foot on the wire, picks the hook and that up in this hand and was winding it in. Forgot one thing, course winding it in this lot wound up so like a fool I hung onto it, takes me foot off that lot and of course it went like a spring and it snapped round and took the end of me thumb off and I didn’t quite realise that, I thought, “Coo that hurt” and carried on winding it in and I thought, “Christ that do hurt” and then I looked and I thought , hang on a minute, there’s something wrong there and cor, what do I do? I thought, well I better go up the bungalow I suppose so I walks up and comes in here, stuck it under the tap, then you was in the other room wasn’t you? I said, “I’ve been and cut me thumb.” So she comes out and nearly had a fit, didn’t she?
80 minutes 20 seconds
Barbara Cut his thumb, it was missing! So we had to go back down the farm and look for the end that had come off and luckily it was on the trailer, luckily the chickens hadn’t had it because if they had seen it they would have gone off with it. So we wrapped it up, I drove him to Hospital ‘cos someone said about an ambulance. Ambulance, they don’t find us out here, I took him to Hospital …
Geoff Quicker to drive up there wasn’t it?
Barbara … and they sewed it back on but then the next day we had to go to Odstock and they took over at Odstock, but although they sewed it all back on, ‘cos it went down to about the knuckle, and although they did sew it all back on, the end bit died so they had to have an operation to take the last bit took off …
Geoff To sort it all out.
Barbara … again but he’s got more that he would have had if we hadn’t had found it. But then afterwards he had to have … to ease it a bit and it zig zagged.
Geoff Last time … ‘cos it was a women done the job and I couldn’t open me thumb proper and when I went back for a check- up I said to her about it. “Oh” she said, “I can do that.” I said, “Look, if you can’t, leave it as it is” I said, “I don’t want to be messed about.” “Oh no” she said, “I can do it” and she did didn’t she? I went back up one day and she opened all that up and done it.
Barbara Well they did say they would have given him a graft and done it differently, but his hands were so bad they didn’t think the graft would take so they had to do it with a zig zag.
Geoff They kept me in … 10 days was it, 10 days? Because me hand was covered in black grease and oil and everything else, and they said there might be a germ. I said “Well we’re used to those” but they wouldn’t let me go. They kept me there didn’t they? Give me these pills and everything and kept me in there 10 days.
Barbara But considering what he’s done over the years, he’s been very, very, very, lucky. Touch wood, yes.
Geoff When you look back at some of the things …
Barbara He was using a chainsaw up a ladder then they were cutting the branches off a tree.
Geoff Yes. That was an elm tree that was, wannit? A big bough, and well your father was here then wasn’t he? He said, “Wants that bough cut off, nipper.” “Yeah alright, we’ll do it one evening.” One evening I said, “We’ll do that bough.” “Alright” he said, “I’ll get the ladders.” He gets the ladder and gets it up there and I said, “Oh I’ll go up with the chainsaw. I’ll nick it underneath and we’ll come down the top, and we’ll have ‘m off.” So I gets up there, nicks underneath and “Yeah, that’ll be alright” so I starts cutting, heard this bough crack. I thought oh, that won’t be long. Well, it wasn’t long. It come right off, ‘cos we had the ladder in against the trunk of the tree, and he sheared off there, and of course I had this blinking chainsaw, and I chucked the chainsaw and ladder went that way,I went that way on my back and wend down on the ground. I thought, ‘Christ, am I dead or am I alive?’ I thought ‘I don’t know.’ I pinched me leg. I remembers … I thought ‘Yeah, God, I’m still alive.’ And when I looked round, there was a big anvil there, and I’d gone down right by the side of this anvil. Yes, I just laid there for a second. I thought ‘Christ, am I dead or am I alive?’ And I pinched me leg. Yes, I was alive. But God …
Lisa That was a close shave.
Geoff It blinking was, yes. Gor, dear oh dear, yes.
Barbara The bit he was cutting was okay. Where he was cutting was okay, it was just ….
Geoff It sheered off, off the trunk, yes. Dear oh dear. Oh, when you look back, some of those things, like tractors and that on the hills, running away. Had one or two of those as well, when I was a nipper really.
Barbara Yes, but you had one at Dunsbury, Geoff, ‘cos I wouldn’t let you go back there anymore.
Lisa What do you mean, running away? What, it goes too fast and you can’t stop?
Geoff Yes. It slides and you can’t stop it.
Barbara On a hill.
Geoff On a hill, where it’s so steep. I got banned going to Dunsbury.
Barbara But the grass, if it’s on a grass field …
Geoff It’s slippery, see, grass.
Barbara … and you get sunny weather, it can go like ice, very, very slippery.
85 minutes 5 seconds
Geoff Yes. Some of those hills at Dunsbury are steep, and I used to go there, dropping rubbish off, and … I’d been there the day before, and went back the next morning, went up over, like you do, turned at the top and come along, and started dropping down over the hill and I thought to myself ‘hang on a minute, we’re gaining speed here’ and I thought ‘Christ, what can I do?’ and any rate we was, we’d gained so much speed I couldn’t … I had to go with it and I couldn’t get it out, I couldn’t do nothing else, I had to go with it, and we hit a bump somewhere and to finish up with it drove me head up into the roof and I was stood up, hand on the steering wheel, and going there, and I thought to myself ‘I’ll turn this thing in a minute’ because there’s a hell of a drop down the bottom. I thought ‘I don’t want to go over that lot otherwise I’ve had it’ and I thought ‘if I can ease to the left a bit’ ‘cos there was another field on the left. I thought ‘if I can get over to the left, and when we got to there, I’ll spin the tractor hard left, and the tractor will fall uphill’, which I done, and I was stood up, holding the steering wheel, and there’s a glass panel here on the cab, and I was looking out of that, and the grass was down there. He’d stopped, everything was like slow motion, and … point of balance I suppose it must have been. I thought ‘this is it’ and then I felt the tractor coming back down again, and it bumped down and it started going, so I put me foot on the clutch and stopped ‘m and it was ‘oh Christ, better get out of this’ so I gets out and looks about and everything was there, and I looked at the big wheel on the back of the tractor and there was grass in between the rim and the tyre. That’s how far we were over, and I thought ‘cor, we’re all in one bit’ and the wireless that’s up here in the cab, he was over in the back of the seat in the cab. Where he got from there to there I don’t know. And I thought ,‘I’ve had enough of that field today’ so I stopped doing that one and I went and done another one, which was fine. Then I thought ‘we got away with that alright’. I was having breakfast here in the morning, Shepherd comes in. “Here” he said, “what happened yesterday?” he said. “Who parked down over that hill?” and it all come out then you know, and I got banned from going there didn’t I? He said, “I’ve been up and down those hills in my truck, never had a bit of trouble.” I said, “Well I had trouble.” And about two days later he comes … “Here” he said, “I’ve had the same trouble as you had up on that hill” he said. I said, “Well there you are.” So I never went there any more did I? She wouldn’t let me go. But that was as near as …
Barbara He’s saying ‘we’, it was only him. He should be saying ‘I’. It was only him, there was nobody else with him, it was only him.
Geoff That was as near as you want to get that is. That was one too many that was.
Barbara But also when he was in the digger driver, ‘cos everybody has an affinity with something and he is with engines, tractors. He just is you know? It’s like an extension him, he was so good and when he was driving for the County Council too, if there was anything really bad, difficult, hard, they’d pull the other one out and put Geoff there and along that time on a weekend, you have to put the red lamps, light the red lamps and that for a time around different holes and different things and then he was on a different job, if it was his turn, I’d go with him and see what job … and I’d have a fit at times when I saw where he’d been, what he’d been doing, I’d have been really worried and scared to death if only I’d known, but he has, he’s been very, very lucky, he has …
Geoff I never told you, so that was alright (laughs).
Lisa Yeah, what you don’t know won’t hurt you.
Geoff No, that’s right.
Lisa I didn’t really ask you about your … the work that you did for the County Council. Do you want to tell me a bit about that? About the digging work?
Geoff Oh yeah, it was all over the Island really, different jobs you had, different gangs of chaps on different jobs. If you got caught up on one job, you was put onto another job, and I think we had about four diggers on the road, and I spent most of me time on the other side of the Island there, well with different jobs, yes, various jobs. Demolition jobs some of them. That was alright. Used to get those jobs.
90 minutes 7 seconds
Barbara What about the time you …
Geoff What, chimney?
Barbara No, the … Yes, that’s … do the chimney one.
Geoff Down at Lake where they’ve widened the road now on the … as you go down to the track, it’s on the right, the house used to come out of the farm, a big house down there, and I think it was a Friday afternoon and all the jobs, used to try and shut ‘em up for the weekend so it was all off to the pub there, and they pulled me off the job I was on. I had to go to Lake ‘cos they’d stripped this house out and they wanted him flattened, and right in the centre of the house, those old fashioned houses, big chimneys went up, and right on the top of this big chimney, well I think there was about six chimney pots, and the Ganger was there, been doing the demolition, all he said, “I made a mistake” he said, “when we took the roof off. Wanted to take one of the chimney pots off” he said, “I wants one of these pots for my house.” “Oh yes, that’ll be alright.” Well they get broke” he said, “when they comes down.” I said, “No, they’ll be alright” and was in a hurry to get this lot down, so I had a big wire rope. I said, “You put the rope round the bottom there” I said “and I’ll make it onto the digger” I said, “and I’ll drive off in a minute and we’ll cut that lot off” I said, “and that’ll come down all in one go like that”. I said, “and then you can pick the chimney pots up and do whatever you like with them. We don’t want to be messed about with that lot, we want to get that down and get on.”
Barbara And he had no idea what was going to happen.
Geoff I thought I was sent there to get it down. I didn’t care about the chimney pots. As long as it was down on ground. So I drove up, took the … and went on, and there was a big cloud of dust and it all come down and when the dust cleared I looked, and I thought ‘those chimney pots, look at that, they’re all there on the side.’ I said to the Ganger “I thought you can get your pot.” “Well,” he said, “I never knew you could do it like that.” I thought ‘well that was a bit of luck’, ‘cos I was only interested in getting the lot down. I wasn’t interested in saving any ofchimney pots.
Lisa So they all went home with a chimney pot.
Geoff Yes. Dear oh dear. But you say about Health and Safety. Up at Bonchurch, on that road there, the pavement goes up, along, and down, and I think at the upper end of that I think there’s … I don’t know whether he did put a garage in, but it’s quite high there, and I dug up the ramp and one thing and another, and dug a ramp down the other side, and then they decided we didn’t dig the trench up in the garden for the sewer pipe. Well I couldn’t get back up there to do that, so they hired one of these dumper diggers off of Clint Ford’s I think it was, doing the operating, and we drove up the ramp and I backed up the digger, put the chain on, picked it up and put it in the garden, and I was going to drive this thing but then we had the lorries to load, so I was loading the lorries and the Ganger said “I’ll put a load of sharp on that.” “Oh, alright.” And loaded the lorries and I was facing this bank with the bucket up in the air, ‘cos I was letting the traffic go and all of a sudden I see a pair of wheels up above, and I thought ‘what the hell’s going on?’ and I looked and this dumper digger thing was coming out over, so I backed off a little bit, turned the bucket on the digger, and I caught this blinkin’ digger thing in the bucket, and dropped ‘n down till I could get out the digger and stop the engine, and then I backed off and put that on the ground, and all it done was bent the steering wheel a bit, so we put an iron bar in and straightened the steering wheel up again, and I said to the chap, “What happened?” “Oh” he said, “when I moved” he said, “the back come up.” “Well” I said, “you only had to put your foot on the clutch and you’d have been alright.” “Right ho.” I said, “Finished are you?” “No”, he said, “I ain’t quite finished.” “Oh, alright.” So starts him up, drives him up the ramp again, I backs up and was putting him back up on the bank, up the top. Lorry driver comes back, and he comes up there and he said, “What, you finished up there?” I said, “No, were just putting them back.” “Putting them back” he said, “I thought you was getting them down” he says. “Where you putting them back?” he says, so we thought we can’t tell him yet ‘cos they often say did all this rubbish yet, so we stayed quiet for a while before we told him. We’d have got shot, wouldn’t we? (laughs). Dear oh dear, yeah we had some fun really, one way and another.
95 minutes 7 seconds
Barbara What about the tree you planted?
Geoff Yeah, on another job with a Ganger, he had two or three blokes in his gang, and clear all this rubbish on this big bend to improve visibility and he was going to put a fence up. I said, “I’m going to lorry up the Cemetery and get the fence and gear” he said, “When I come back you can push the stakes in with the digger bucket and whatever.” “Alright.” So when he was gone, I said to one of the chaps in the gang, I said, “That tree we left there.” “Yeah.” I said, “you know what’s going to happen don’t you, another day they’re going to cut that tree down because he’s going to be in the way.” “Yes, I suppose they will.” I said, “If I digs a hole over there, digs round him and picks him up in one lump and takes him over there and we transplants him and fills the hole with and makes him look good, he’d be alright.” “Yeah.” So anyway, digs a hole, digs round this one, picks him up, puts him over there and puts him all back in ground, just so. Ganger comes back, he never notice that tree was moved and that tree is still there today (laughs).
Lisa Where was that Geoff?
Geoff Out at Bouldnor, at Yarmouth and it’s still there now, that tree, yeah. Well it was an oak tree so it was worth saving so …
Lisa So that work took you all across the Island then doing different jobs.
Geoff Well I expect most of the time they were East Wight really. From here to Bembridge, anywhere.
Barbara He was also involved in the … when they took down Fort Victoria.
Geoff Yeah, when George Weeks was knocking that down, I was down there loading a load of rubble, yeah.
Barbara One of our garden gates, a little garden gate is the grid …
Geoff Off one of the windows.
Barbara …of one of the windows from Fort Victoria. It was only going as scrap.
Geoff Yes, I had some various jobs, yeah. Ryde Front, the sea wall.
Lisa What did you do there?
Geoff They were renewing a section of it down there. Funny one down there, when they altered Ryde Front, and put those island bits in the middle, we had to do road crossings, and then you’d do a section but you’d keep sections for the traffic to go through and then when you’d done that, you would swop over. And you had the pavement on the right and they had it marked out. Digging there early one morning and we had the map with the gas main and the electric cables and all that, digging away there and digging straight down behind the digger so you was sort of digging blind, and as I lifted the bucket up, I thought, that’s strange. That dirt’s odd, so anyway I chucked it in the lorry and then I looked out and the gas main wasn’t over there, he was down over here, a big one. And I took a chunk right out of this gas main so I alerted the chaps about it and got some sand bags and put on it and of course it was in front of those Hotels so the Chef comes out, “Oh, we haven’t got any gas.” I said, “We’ve got plenty out here mate” I said, “Bring your frying pan out here.” (laughs). He was, he was a big main he was, dear oh dear. Their maps was a little bit out. You get all that sort of thing you did, electric cables, they’d light up they would and they’d be a bit hot sometimes, yeah.
Barbara What about the snow over Freshwater there, Geoff?
Geoff Oh yeah. We had a depot at Brighstone and we used to have about 300 tonnes of grit and stuff there. You had one at Freshwater and different places and I used to load the lorries with grit and that at Brighstone when we had snow and frost. They had a portacabin at Brighstone with a radio and that in, and each lorry has area then they used to do and our lorries are mostly of ‘em had done their areas and one lorry was in the yard and we had a call from County Hall that the lorries at Freshwater couldn’t get up out of Freshwater Bay ‘cos there was a double decker got up so far and he couldn’t get any farther and there was a School Bus down at Cumpton and he couldn’t get up the other way, so we decided we’d load at Brighstone, which we did and we went on the inner road to come up out of Freshwater Bay and we got up over Freshwater Bay to about 40 yards from the double decker and we were gritting as we come and we couldn’t get any farther. So we run back on the grit we’d put down and, ‘what we going to do?’ Well we’ve got to get the bus going so I said, “There’s only one thing” I said. “What’s that?” I said, “I’ll take the shovel out the lorry” I said, “I’ll get out the back of the lorry.” “What good’s that?” I said, “Well, if you gets over on the right hand side”, this is the sea side as you come up over, I said, “And get one set of wheels on that grass”, I said, “I’ll stand up the back of the lorry and grit this set of wheels over on the left hand side”. “Will that work?” I said, “Well, we’ll try it” so that’s what we done. We gritted up over and gritted the bus and everything else and come on up over and got the bus going and comes down this side to Cumpton and right on that bottom bend, there was two chaps in a car and we were gritting the middle of the road and I was still up the back of the lorry then, and as we went by, matey was in there with his foot hard to the floor trying to get this car to go and we had these big pan shovels and I shot a load grit in under the car as we went by. And he didn’t turn the corner, he went straight up the bank the other (laughs) … oh dear, good fun that was.
102 minutes 8 seconds
Barbara He was loving it so much and not …
Geoff We never stopped. What happened to the bloke I dunno (laughs). Oh dear of dear, good tales it was, yeah.
Lisa It does sound like he’s a dab hand, doesn’t it at driving and manoeuvring things and …
Geoff Do you know Strawberry Lane at all? Top of Brighstone Shute, there’s a little lane goes off, Strawberry Lane, and I was on the lorries this particular time ‘cos one of the drivers was home bad and I was coming from Calbourne and [inaudible] but some Shute and I had a message, Strawberry Lane is so bad and I had a mate with me then in the lorry and it was freezing late , 4 o’clock in the afternoon in the Winter and I says to this chap, I said, “Look”, I said, “When we gets round that corner at Strawberry Lane”. I said, “There’s no stopping whatever” I said, “We’ll go. There’s no … you ain’t got a hope in hell of stopping” I said, “Do you want to walk down to the first bit?” “I’ll walk” he said, so I said, “Well that’s fair enough.” So I stops up the top, he gets half way out the lorry. “Christ” he says, “It’s cold out here” he said. I said, “Yeah.” “I’ll ride.” I said, “You sure?” “Yeah.” I said, “Once we gets round that bend” I said, “Whatever happens” I said, “We’ve had it. There’s only one way” I said, “and we’re going down there.” So, we goes off, gets round this bend and I thought, ‘here we goes’ and he looked out the back of the cab, he said, “Your wheels are going backwards.” I said, “Yeah but by Christ” I said “We’re going forward” I said and we went down over there and levelled out and I just put my foot on the accelerator and off we went and I looked at that bloke and his face was a white as that sheet of paper (laughs). I said, “You all right?” He said, “I’m never riding with you again.” I said, “Well you ain’t getting out and walking now are you?” (laughs). Oh dear oh dear, you couldn’t you just … that was it, you had to go. It was good fun, yeah.
Lisa It’s about having that confidence I suppose, to know how to handle the vehicle?
Barbara He just is, he can. I mean just …
Geoff It’s no good touching the brakes, nothing, you just go. Good job nobody was coming the other way, ‘cos it was only the width of the lorry, that’s it.
Barbara Different things that you know, we’ve done together. You have people say to me “Oh, you’ve got confidence in him” but I have, you know. He’ll lower me over the cliff on a rope, you know, and all sorts … the things that we’ve done together but we have absolute confidence each in the other, you know we know we’re OK with the other one and we’ve had fun. You know, ‘how can we do this? Ah well, if we, he’ll say “if we do so and so” you know?
Geoff Oh yeah I’ve had some rare moments with the diggers and stuff, yeah, all good fun, yeah. Put half of Cowes out of electric.
Barbara He doesn’t seem to mind, I mean I would be worried sick about things.
Geoff One of the big mains cables (laughs). Shop window at Ventnor, big plate glass window, knocked him out. ‘Cos Ventnor High Street and we done the whole High Street right out. They, renewed the gas main and water main and all that as we come up through, dug it out and the gas main was under the kerb of the pavement, up along and we’d done a half section at a time and this particular … I loaded a lorry and the Ganger wanted something else done so I had the jib over this side on the digger, another lorry came in so I moved up and loaded the lorry and this gas main had the old lead joints. A big main it was and you could pick it up normally and drop him and he’s come out the joints, but having the jib over this side and the bucket at an angle, I eased him round and he didn’t want to come very well, so grabbed more pressure on the bucket and fetched him back a bit and that was alright. He come alright, he took off like a torpedo and he went out the bucket and there was a Camera Shop down there at the time. Of all the places there was for him to go, he had to go through this window and the poor woman was sat in behind the counter, knitting I think she was, and I seen this blinking pipe, about, I don’t know, eight or ten of him shot in through this window and all the cameras and that it was on that counter seemed to move to one side and never damaged one. It just moved before this thing got there and it plonked in there and this woman was sat there and this went by her (laughs). Oh dear oh dear. So we had to go in there and get hold of him and carry him back out again (laughs). We had a letter come round, ‘there must be more hand digging’ for Insurance. Oh dear oh dear. All good fun wasn’t it?
108 minutes 2 seconds
Transcribed September 2107