Been a rather crazy week here at the Amesbury house and despite the great weather I haven’t been able to get out detecting. Here’s a throwback that Stephen Grey was kind enough to write for Stout Standards in July of 2016….
A CITY BOY IN THE COUNTRY
by Stephen Grey
I’m a city boy born and bred so I am . I’ve lived all my life in an English shipbuilding town . I have a craving to be out in the countryside however any spare minute I get . Although it is good for my health and the scenery is beautiful these are not what drive me . It’s all about that next elusive signal . I’m a metal detectorist you see and I’m constantly searching . If you asked me what I’m searching for I couldn’t rightly tell you . I’m not overly anxious to dig another coin or relic .
The greatest high I get is when I hear the faint audio of another signal , another target . I’ll quickly sweep my search coil over the area until the audio confirms that I’ve found what I’m looking for . That’s what it’s all about for me , all about the beeps as I say .
Another huge bonus is the friends and connections I make in this hobby . Because I run detecting groups on Facebook and have a YouTube channel I get out many times meeting friends and making new ones .
Although I really enjoy looking after my father who has dementia the hobby provides me with a window on a whole new world . A world of constant learning , of history and most importantly of comradeship . I regularly travel across the country to meet up with my buddies far and wide . I like the open road and the possibility of adventure . Although I am rooted in my home town still I have spent many years on the road working from the highlands of Scotland to way down on the south coast . So to get in my car and drive four hours to find that next target is easy for me . A little joy ride and another pleasant day in good company .
People like myself would not have a hobby tho unless the farmers we asked graciously gave us access onto their fields . The fields of glory as I often call them . Not so long ago I didn’t have access to many of my own farms . One day saw me 30 miles from home in the Cheshire countryside . Not In search of the next signal but in search of the keys to the kingdom , friendly farmers who would give me permission to search their fields .
I’d had a few refusals for all the right reasons , many farm houses were also empty when I came calling . A couple of hours go by and I turn down a small country lane . One house from the 1800s stood on the side of the road . It looked a little lived in to say the least . A spry cheery looking figure sat atop an old Massey Ferguson tractor nosing out of his drive way . Aha goes my detecting brain and before I know it I’m out of my car and walking over to this old boy . He looked to be in his eighties , cheery looking but also wise . The type of person it would be pointless being anything but yourself with because this chap would see right thru anything not quite right .
I said hello and went thru my spiel of what I was about and how he could help me if he so chose to . He listened patiently with the occasional nod of his head . Then just asked straight out if I was a decent sort of person . How could I not but take an immediate shine to my new friend farmer Derek ? I laughed heartily and reached into my pocket and pulled out some silver coins from the 1800s . I crossed Derek’s palm with silver and so our friendship began .
Many times I would go up to that area to do some detecting and spend a good few hours chatting to Derek instead about days gone by and also looking at his amazing selection of ancient tractors . Some belonged to Derek’s father and Derek himself was 84 when we first met . He told me of his father’s time during the war years . He carried on running his farm whilst serving in the home guard and patrolling the ridge at the back of the farmhouse . No doubt some of the shell casings me and my friends found harked back to those dark days .
He told me how to keep rabbits from making even more of a mess of the local graveyard and its tombs . He used to put ashes down the holes that were literally sitting on top of his families graves . He told me how to kill vermin and swore me to secrecy . He alluded to so much more but most of the time that wry smile would appear and he’d say he’d get into trouble if he told me any more .
We would have a good laugh then and move on to the next subject . Tractors , vermin , country characters long since gone . Such was the time we spent chatting together . Sometimes I’d see him cutting his hedgerows or chopping wood on a band saw run from a belt on the back of his tractor . Eighty four years young and so full of life .
Time passed and Derek helped me get five of his neighbours farms . Myself and many friends have passed endless days up there after that next magic signal . For a city boy like myself I feel truly blessed to be able to indulge in my obsession in such beautiful countryside .
One day I went up for my regular chat and he came to the door not looking his usual chipper self . He said he had a gall stone problem . I cheered him up with a bit of banter and shook his hand . A few weeks went by and things had taken a turn for the worse . Poor Derek was in the wars and he mentioned the word tumour . I tried to keep him up beat and persuade him it would all be fine eventually . I sincerely wanted to believe that myself . I shook his hand again and this time left with a heavy heart .
A couple of weeks went by and this time when I knocked his lovely wife answered the door . She gave me some news that really upset me . Poor old Derek was terminal and wasn’t eating and was bed bound . His dear wife was very practical about it all explaining that he was 85 now and had lived a good healthy life doing what he loved . I couldn’t help but admire her courage although I was deeply saddened . I left that morning with a heavy heart . I had driven one hour to get up there tho and I’d brought a friend along . We went ahead with our days detecting and somewhere along the line I decided to make the most of it because that’s what Derek would have wanted .
More time passed and a disturbing thought kept popping into my mind . That because I wasn’t family I’d never get to see old Derek again . After all he was very weak and bedridden . Imagine my surprise when I next saw his wife , me thinking maybe the worst had happened . She informed me that Derek was out in his yard with his daughter and grandchildren amongst those amazing tractors where he belonged .
Such is the circle of life , they’d put him on a course of steroids that had reinvigorated him up to a point . I was so happy to see him and also to meet his daughter and grandchildren for the first time . They were highly amused when I told them Derek was quite famous around the globe these days thanks to the wonders of Facebook and YouTube .
If I never see my favourite farmer again I’ll not be sad this time . Life is a circle and it must turn . I had a good chat with him that day . I’ll never forget the look in his eyes . So wise , a real piece of the landscape up there . Like a mighty oak hit by lightning he will be greatly missed . Never will he be forgotten and I’m sure he’ll still be out and about in his ancient tractor long after I have passed on .
Be sure to check out Stephen’s Anglo Celtic Metal Detecting YouTube channel
5 responses to “A Throwback from Stephen Grey…”
any one who wears “wellingtons” is ok in my book! i’m just sayin’
as a side note: i still have my father’s pair of wellingtons.use ’em every year to “play” in the snow.in great shape, they are! look brand new,and are every day of 60 years on! .i’m just sayin’
An enjoyable thought provoking (well-written) story. A sad ending though, but as Stephen writes, it’s the circle of life.
A city boy in the country – what beautiful story – trying to get us out there and enjoy it too. The country pictures are as beautiful as the story.
most likely he’ll be gone in a few years, but he has put an indelible stamp on mr.grey’s life. a very wise old sage indeed! god bless him! .i’m just sayin’