Friday 19 October 2012

The Rydosh Sisters

When Woodfield was first built numbers one, two, nine and ten were old people's bungalows and were all occupied by elderly people, mostly women. In number two were the Miss Rydoshes. Two sisters of considerable years. They were as different as chalk and cheese, both physically and in their general attitudes. I know not their Christians names so I shall have to refer to them as Miss Rydosh one and Miss Rydosh two. Incidentally I am guessing at the spelling of their name it could quite easily have been spelt using an I instead of the Y. I think they were both spinsters as I have no recollection of husbands ever being mentioned and there were certainly none at their Kingsley residence. They kept an impressive garden which was usually full of flowers and one or other of the sisters could regularly be seen in the front garden tending to their plants. This provided the perfect opportunity for them to engage passers-by in conversation which they always appeared eager to do.

Miss Rydosh one was a shortish, stocky and a rotund lady with a jolly disposition. She wore her grey hair in a bun and usually wore an apron. She appeared to find much to laugh at and this enhanced her reputation as being jolly.

Miss Rydosh two was altogether different, she was taller and very thin. Her hair was longer and hung loose. Her features were sharp with a pointed nose and a rather piercing gaze from eyes which regarded the world from behind small steel rimmed spectacles. Her arms and fingers were thin and boney. She seem to have a permanent sniff and was a much more serious person, seldom did I see her laugh. I remember too,that she sported a large wart on the side of her chin but I forget on which side of her face it was positioned. She was regarded by us as being witch like and her sharp eyes, long nose and strange high pitched and squeaky voice gave her a rodent like feel. Generally this lady was not particularly liked by the youngsters of the estate and we would pass quickly by when she was in the garden without making conversation. By contrast Miss Rydosh one would engage or be engaged by us when she was gardening.

I remember that on occasions we would mimic Miss Rydosh two's strange voice and this always resulted in her reporting us to our parents and a telling off and this further alienated her as far as we were concerned.

Matters came to a head and deteriorated completely one season, in the autumn, when the field behind the houses produced a huge crop of mushrooms. This is the field which was accessed by a gate to the left of the first bungalow in Woodfield and extended down behind the school as far as the footpath which ran from opposite the Cricketers in an almost straight line to the railway. The field extended down behind houses one to eight of Woodfield, past the sewage plant and on down over the brow sloping several hundred yards until reaching a large hedge and ditch. It was, therefore, quite a large field.

The thing which made the mushroom crop all the more extraordinary was the fact that the field, at that time, had been growing a crop of corn. The corn had been harvested leaving dry earth and stubble. This was so unusual that many of the Woodfield residents, my parents included, refused to believe that the mushrooms were of the usual edible field mushroom type. This, of course, because typically the field mushroom grows in grassy fields and not in stubble. However, since my chicken run bordered the said field I had spotted the mushrooms through the fence and had very soon picked a large bag full and it became quite clear that they were indeed the edible field mushroom. Word soon spread and pickers began gathering this free harvest. This, for the most part, meant the children of my age, I don’t recall adults out there collecting the mushrooms.

The chain link fencing which then separated the gardens from the field was quite high, possible six feet or so, which meant that it was easier to get into the field by using the gate beside bungalow number one, which was then occupied by Mrs. Woodward, rather than climb over the fence.

It, therefore, followed that we, the mushroom pickers, passed by the Rydosh residence. It was not long before the two ladies became aware of the mushroom crop and the fact that large numbers of the fungi were being transported passed their gate on a daily basis. Soon thereafter a small group of us were stopped by the gate of bungalow two by Miss Rydosh two … the ratty one. We were told, much like Mrs. Waters had previously, that the sisters Rydosh were very partial to a mushroom or two. The request was made for a bag to be provided for which, we were assured, payment would be made. As far as we were concerned this was great stuff, visions of a three penny bit or, maybe, even a sixpence filled our thoughts. Back we went into the field, collected a handsome bag of mushrooms and delivered them to Miss Rydosh two without delay. She received us at the door of her bungalow where she took possession of the fruits of our labour. Having subjected our delivery to her steely eyed scrutiny and the odd sniff or two she commanded us to wait. Shutting the door she disappeared into the house with the bag leaving us waiting in excited anticipation of the fortune we were about to receive. Oh the sweets it would buy ! Within a few moments Miss Rydosh two returned, in her hand she had a grease proof paper package which she proceeded to open. To our utter horror the package contained a lump of cheese. The sort of cheese which, in those days, was referred to as mouse trap cheese. I know not which variety this was but it was hard and, to a young palate, very strong. Not an item any of us would have chosen even in those austere days. Worse still the whole piece was covered in mould. This the good lady began scraping off with a kitchen knife whilst trying to reassure us that it was perfectly alright to eat and was, in fact, delicious. Having scraped the miserable offering clear of its mould, she cut it into several pieces and gave us one each. No doubt my vivid recollection of the event has been etched upon my mind by the absolute horror and disgust which I and my pals all felt at this revolting reward. Like all young boys of that sort of age, readers will appreciate, we would eat most things and were always hungry. Thus you will understand just how bad this offering appeared to us and how quickly we dumped it. If that were not bad enough in itself, Miss Rydosh two had the brass neck to tell us, as we departed, that she would be happy to receive another delivery later in the week. We all agreed that she probably had more chance of walking to the moon ……. or something like that !

Clearly not a person to be embarrassed by her miserly reward, and or, any offence it may have caused us, a couple of days later she again accosted us as we passed her gate on our way to collect another bag or two of the still plentiful mushroom crop. Presenting us with her own bag she made it clear she expected another delivery and it was obvious she would not take no for an answer. We entered the field and the discussion was all about how the old bat had done us up etc. Although only children, I well remember how we had a total sense of betrayal and the overwhelming feeling that she had cheated us.

As stated earlier, the mushroom crop had appeared in a stubble field on dry earth and in amongst the stubble and mushrooms were lots of large stones. We collected our own mushrooms and then began the task of filling the Rydosh bag. In the bottom of the bag we place as many old an maggoty mushrooms as we could find and on top of them were carefully placed a layer of stones and pebbles. These were topped off with another squashed layer and finally a few whole, but very inferior, fungi were placed on the top. We placed the bag in the Rydosh doorway and left without knocking. We were never asked to collect any more mushrooms in spite of the fact the crop lasted for quite a while until the field was cultivated again.

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