Sunday 15 February 2009

A Cotswold Ballad: The Cottager's Reply

Frank Mansell was a man bred of the Cotswold hills, (even though his actual place of birth was London), his spirit, if not his body, remains forever in the village of Sheepscomb, probably mostly poking at the cricket pitch there.
Frank repaired and installed telephone lines as his job, but he was also a poet, writing "Cotswold Ballads".

Perhaps the most iconic Cotswold writer of the twentieth century was Laurie Lee, whose book "Cider With Rosie" is a lasting delight.

('It's cider,' she said. 'You ain't to drink it though. Not much of it, any rate.' Huge and squat, the jar lay on the grass like an unexploded bomb. We lifted it up, unscrewed the stopper, and smelt the whiff of fermented apples. I held the jar to my mouth and rolled my eyes sideways, like a beast at a water-hole. 'Go on,' said Rosie. I took a deep breath ...
Never to be forgotten, that first long secret drink of golden fire, juice of those valleys and of that time, wine of wild orchards, of russet summer, of plump red apples, and Rosie's burning cheeks. Never to be forgotten, or ever tasted again ...
Cider with Rosie, 1959 )

Laurie met Frank in The Woolpack, in Shad, and the two became great friends, with Laurie encouraging Frank's writing.
"Laurie and Frank met one night at the Woolpack in Slad and struck up an almost instant friendship. Laurie helped his fellow wordsmith to publish his first collection of verse, which they delivered in cardboard boxes to rough-cider taverns up and down the valley. They shifted 2,000 copies of Cotswold Ballads in a week, extraordinary for a part-time poet whose day job was mending telephone lines for the GPO. Laurie said: "You never knew where you'd run into Frank. Either stuck up a lamp post or coming out of the ground spouting poetry.""
Laurie paid for a plaque in Frank's memory at his beloved cricket pitch, -In Cider with Rosie, Frank the bowler appears thus "At first only the outfield was visible, then you'd see the top of Frank's cap. Then his flushed face and great heaving shoulders until gradually, like a galleon, he'd come billowing into view and loose his fast, furious ball like a shot from a cannon."

Recently, singer Chris Wood recorded a great folk album, Trespasser. He was voted Folk Singer of the Year, and Trespasser was Best Folk Album of the year at the BBC Radio " awards ceremony, 2009.

Chris Wood link, Myspace, more music and information.

Here's Chris Wood, singing Frank's ballad, The Cottager's Reply.