Somewhere Else Writers now have a slot in Cirencester Scene, a monthly magazine delivered to 12,000 homes in the Cirencester area.
Trinity Mill by Graham Bruce Fletcher
After my seventh birthday in summer 1959, that July – when temperatures hit the nineties – I walked the Churn from Seven Springs to Ciren with my notebook and camera, making a holiday journal as homework for my boarding school.
Between Perrott’s Brook and Baunton I met an old man, as wizened as polished burr-walnut; skin darker than his brown cotton warehouse-coat. He stopped me passing by his gate, trying to rejoin the stream which flowed under what I took to be his house.
“Good afternoon,” he said, “are you lost?”
“I’m following the Churn, sir. Your house is in the way.”
“It’s not my house; it’s a watermill. My name’s Barker. What do they call you? Do you live round here?”
Introductions exchanged, he invited me to see inside. I accepted enthusiastically. He showed me the millpond and sluicegate, and said it hadn’t been long since it last produced flour. There’d been a watermill here since the Roman Cirencester. Later it had been used for treating woollen cloth with Fuller’s Earth, when rearing sheep made Cirencester rich.
For a moment I imagined he could remember those days – he looked as old as the mill itself. Inside everything was ready:- undershot wheel, drive shafts, stones, lifts and hoppers, but it must truly have been ages since they’d last ground corn here: flour was crusted, grey with dust, where cobwebbed walls met the broad-planked wooden floors. Under its ancient stone tiles the mill was still dry. The sun through dirty windows and cracked doors, cast steep, thick buttresses of light from the dust our movements disturbed, projecting pools of heat down to the floor. In the sharp-edged shadows, the dust settling in cooler air forced coughs from our chests, despite the orange squash we were sharing, washing down a piece of shortbread.
“Would you like to see my goat?” he offered, pointing outside.
Back in the fresher air, I asked if he milked the goat.
“I don’t think William would like that!” he laughed. “You can stroke him, if you like, he’s quite tame.”
William obligingly lowered his head, and seemed to nuzzle me, as I stroked his hard forehead. I asked why his eyes had such odd pupils. I knew nothing about goats.
“All goats have eyes like that. It’s just how they’re made.”
I took a photograph of Mr Barker standing with William. It was the eighth exposure, which meant I could take the film out and get it developed. I felt I should have a spare print made to give to Mr Barker, to repay his kindness. I’d nothing else to offer in return for the squash and shortbread he’d given me. And for teaching me about things.
As I walked home I noticed all three leather buttons were gone from my jacket.
William had eaten them.