Don’t you just wish you could go back in time? To see those life changing moments in history when the world did a cartwheel and turned civilization on its head would be amazing! It certainly would, but I would happily settle for the ordinary, every day events and activities which made up the humdrum lives of our ancestors.
Unfortunately, time travel is still confined to the fiction writers, but the next best thing is a direct link with the disembodied spirit of a feisty ancestor which is what I have in the shape (or should that be shade?) of Aggie Smeeton.
A recent run in with the NHS prompted this conversation!
Aggie: Yer mean t’ tell me you ‘ave to wait eighteen wiks to see a doctor?
Me: Well he is a specialist, Aggie. You can get appointments for every day aches and pains in two or three days. Some times a day if it is urgent.
(Aggie dissolves into a fit of laughter, not a pleasant experience I have to say as she sounds like a drain coughing up flood water!)
Aggie: Yer call that progress? You didn’t ‘ave to wait no eighteen wiks to git a cure in my time. If yer couldn’t fix it yersen your took yersen off to the cunning folk, they’d soon git yer sorted.
Me: Cunning folk? Is that a colloquialism for doctors?
Aggie: A what? Never ‘eard of colloc … collocis … whatever yer call it. Cunning folk don’t be physicks. You ‘ad to ‘ave money fer them and they weren’t a sight more use than anyone else. No, the cunning folk were the ones you went to when you were badly.
Me: Oh, white witches!
Aggie: You didn’t never ‘ave to call ‘em that! Likely they’d put a ‘ex on yer if they heard ya! Most folk thought on witches as bad, evil creatures and cunning folk weren’t like that. They didn’t never do ‘arm and most on ‘em wouldn’t tek money fer what they did. You paid ‘em with a bit of snap.
Aggie: Aaarh. Cheese, bread, bacon, ‘am summat like that. Fancy you bein’ descended frum me and not knowing what be snap!
Me: Of course I know what snap is Aggie, it was just my subtle way of getting you to clarify it for the sake of my readers without interrupting the narrative.
Aggie: Well yer’ve just done that now ain’t yer?
Me: Done what?
Angie: Interrupted yer narrative or whatever yer call it!
Me: Er … yes … I suppose I have where were we?
Aggie: I wuz tellin’ yer about cunning folk. They wuz common then and alwuz ‘ad bin frum what I ‘eard. Joe Dancer’s fayther and grandfayther were cunning men and if I recollect rightly, so were one o’ ‘is aunts.
Me: I thought you said the cunning folk didn’t do harm? If you’re telling the truth in the Digfield Conjuror, Joe seemed a pretty nasty character to me.
Aggie: Well there always be exceptions to rules and Joe ‘e were one. ‘e were the seventh son of a seventh son so ‘e were ‘specially powerful and a lot of folk used to goo to ‘im fer all sorts of things ‘cause ‘e generally got the raight on it.
An’ anuther thing, cunning folk, they did low magic, but Joe, he were more eddycated than most on us and he could do ‘igh magic, like read the stars fer instance.
Me: Wow … he was an astrologer then?
Aggie: Ar, reckon you’d call ‘im that, but it weren’t all in ‘is ‘ead. ‘e ‘ad this book which used t’ impress folk. ‘e called it Grimry. When you went to see ‘im, ‘ed alwuz say summat like …
“I do ‘ave the very thing fer that missus, but fust let’s ‘ear what Grimry ‘as to say.”
He’d then fetch out this little leather book and shuffle through its pages ‘till ‘e got to what ‘e wanted and then ‘e’d tap the side on ‘is nose wi’ ‘is finger and say …
“Ah, thought so, Grimy say oi be raight!” ‘e then mix yer up summat or mebbe gi’ yer a charm.
Me: Grimry? How amazing. I wonder if Grimry was a grimoire?
Aggy: Grimwar? What be that then?
Me: A book of spells, charms, magic.
Aggy: Ar, it were that all raight, but more ‘n that. There were recipes in theer fer coughs an’ fevers and things.
Me: How wonderful! I wonder what happened to it?
(Aggie chuckles and gives me a pitying look).
Aggie: Oi do ‘ev a pichure on it, but as to where it be now, me thinks you be well advised t’ read The Digfield Conjuror agin!