It’s odd to bring up a child born in that place saying “we are not from here” but by the time I was born in Yorkshire, my parents (both southerners) had been there for years and their experience was that “others” were not easily accepted. They made me expect not to be. But like all children I have private memories of my childhood (as well as the shared family ones) and when I saw a new book entitled called Apple Tree Square (Louise Doughty, Faber& Faber) I saw only the first two syllables and I thought of Appletreewick.
During WWII my mother made friends with Mary and Cicely Waddington who drove the equivalent of HGVs to deliver whatever wherever, two women in men’s overalls pulled in tight at the waist, with all the trimmings – makeup, pretty hair, jewellery, high heels and perfume – which announced unequivocally
“female and perfectly capable thank you.” Later both married, Cicely to Jim, Mary to Walter.
I was born in 1944 as the war ended, sickly and pictures of me down the road of a lung shadow show why my parents worried. They longed to get me away to the healing countryside, which is how I was invited to Appletreewick, where Mary and Walter lived. I don’t remember getting there but my first sight of the original farm kitchen opens before my eyes as if it were yesterday.
It was a big square room you entered at the corner. On the left was a window and sill sunk into a deep wall, covered with plants. Beside this was a table and wooden chairs. To the right was an open fire framed with a full set of kitchen regalia – trivets, hobs, hooks, bread ovens and meat ovens, beautifully blacked and in working order. In front of this lay a red and black rag rug, reflected in the copper kettle. A tall clocked ticked in the shadows and above my heads hung great bunches of lavender and other herbs, drying and things, wonderful things … There was a modern kitchen added at the left but I didn’t give it more than the time of day. I remained fascinated by this room, its depth and shape and the focus of this wonderful factory of a fireplace. Alone, I ran my hands respectfully over every bit I could reach.
I also remember that the lavatory was an Elsan in a hut across the yard and along the field. The paper was Izal, which never knowingly dried anything, and I had to be dissuaded from sitting on the larger of the two openings with the risk of falling in. There was a black and white collie called Chippy round whom I wrapped my arms in the back of the old jeep when we went to Grassington or Fancarl and we hiked to the side together as we went round corners, as if in a yacht. I watched a man drink milk from a cow’s teat and when he playfully spurted me with it, I was shocked to discover it was warm. “Blood heat,” he said knowingly. While another man, a householder down the road whose wife ran the sub-post office, handled with wary pride a fierce pungent creature, my first ferret, and bar the red eyes, remarkably redolent of Demi Moore.
Upstairs I discovered a green enamel hip bath and it was suggested that I might like my bath in it, in front of the fire. I was seven or eight, with long coppery hair which was pinned up for me (oh the glamour) and pans of hot water were emptied unstintingly into this bath – only as an adult do I appreciate the effort. I was transported, a queen with my own flannel and new soap. There I sat in the warmth while the firelight flickered on the surfaces and the wind blew, Chippy sighed where he lay and the logs shifted and murmured. For the rest of my life, luxury is an open fire in a bathroom and Appletreewick more than a small village in the Craven district of Yorkshire is an incantation to joy.