Boxing Day, just after the war, and Aunt Beat and I walked the first mile into Old Amersham. Then it was up the steep and twisting Gore Hill to the Water Tower, and finally along Village Road to the Fleur de Lys where Uncle Wal and Aunt Em lived.

Down the front path, past the well on the left, to the front door. As always Aunt Em would have her hair tight back in a bun, her double chins wobbling, and would be wearing her wrap-around apron. As we went in, the Parlour was to the left, and the Tap Room to the right. Here there were two trestle tables and some high–backed wooden benches. A black range gave out some welcome heat.

Behind the front rooms you went down a few steps into a sunken cellar where the beer was kept. In the kitchen was a copper which would be heated by a wood fire on wash day. The loo was out at the back with its wooden seat and cut-out hole.

Uncle Wal and Aunt Em Wingrove were as mean as mustard. They lived a frugal life. The pub, as I remember it, was no more than a place where a few of the men would go for a drink and dominoes, with the beer brought in from the cellar by the jug. The small-holding behind the pub helped keep them going, with pigs, chickens, vegetables from the patch, and fruit from the orchard.

Once, at the table, I asked for some jam to put on my bread and butter. “That’s BUTTER! You don’t put jam AND butter on together!” And I remember, during a summer visit with a friend, how we had waited for Uncle Wal to go down to the pigs, carrying the pails on his yoke, and then made for the plum tree. As our hands reached up to pick, he had shouted across the orchard “Ay, Ay, Ay, you girls! I can sell them plums on the tree. You eat them ones on the ground.” The wasps and the chickens had made these less then appetizing!

It may have been on the same visit that I was doing hand stands up against the wall in the orchard. Aunt Em’s voice rang out “Little hussy! Look at her knickers! They don’t even cover her knees!”
One night I stayed at the Fleur. There was some gas lighting, but I was given a candle to light me up the stairs. It was very spooky, and I was scared. I think my Aunt Beat must have been with me, or I would not have stayed.

Many years earlier my grandfather brought his family over to the Fleur from Tyler’s Green by horse and cart, and when it was late and time to go home IT WAS FOUND THAT THE HORSE WAS DRUNK from eating too many windfall apples. They all had to stay the night. I think it may be that the horse was alright, but that grandfather was not.

Mary Wege (2002)

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