The lime pit.

My dad had built a lime pit in front of the house. I don’t know the details of what the lime was used for but I do know that it was for the cement we used for building the house. This lime pit was an above ground structure made of bricks and was about six foot wide by eight foot long and no more than two feet deep. At the time it was about half full of a mixture of water and lime, about the consistency of a slurry. There was no driveway at our house. We didn’t need one, because we had no car. Such a thing was an undreamed of luxury that only wealthy people could afford. Just a grassed area in front of the house that was open to the road. Most of the time. It wasn’t lawn, and the cow was let out on it occasionally to keep the grass down. It also kept it fertilised!

One day I was riding back from school coming down the ‘big hill’ as we used to call it, as fast as I possibly could. I had ridden home from school in Armadale at the John Calvin School in Little John Road. This was quite a ride for a boy of about six or seven years old. The year would have been about 1958 or 1959. I had an old bike that had been restored by my Dad into a rideable condition. I had a carrier on the back with the usual spring loaded clip holding my school case on. It was one of those little brown cases made of compressed cardboard and it held my lunch tin, a pad and an exercise book and may be another book or two.

The ‘big hill’ was a couple of hundred yards on the right of the house, and the ‘little hill’ was in the other direction, towards the railway line. This was in Third Avenue Kelmscott, roughly opposite where the Kelmscott Secondary College is now. Both the ‘big hill’ and the ‘little hill’ were big for us kids on our old bikes and stuff to negotiate, but when we recently visited in our car they seemed insignificant.

Anyway, I came tearing down ‘big hill’ on my bike with the intention of coming racing into our yard and jumping off the bike while it was still going and then running inside. Except this time Dad had decided it was time for the cow to keep the grass short and to keep the cow in had strung a single strand of fencing wire across the entrance to the yard. It caught me across the chest at full speed and I was flat on my back gasping for air wondering what the heck had happened! And my bike went careering on until it hit the lime pit and bounced right in to it. It must have been quite funny to watch but unfortunately there were no spectators at all. After a while I must have regained my breath and then I fished the bike out of the lime pit and washed it off under the tap under the kitchen window. The damage to my school books was more permanent, though! That was the only giveaway to my Mum that something had happened because she was inside and hadn’t seen anything.

I can still feel that feeling of being winded and gasping for air, with that desperate feeling of not being able to breathe, now, more than fifty years later. Years later I was able to calm my mother down when my brother fell out of the peach tree when he was pinching peaches when we were living in Harvey about 100 miles further south. She thought he was dying. I knew the feeling of being winded and recognised it.

© Copyright Willem Schultink