The rich dialect and humour of the Cotswolds is in danger of going the way of so many of our rural voices and becoming a neatly homogenised version of what it once was. We welcome you to enter the often hilarious world of country boy Martin Aris… and please do read out loud if possible.

Unbelievable! A Working Country Life, by Victoria Walsh, is a humorous illustrated biography of a real Cotswolds character, called Martin Aris. Martin was born in Chipping Campden and grew up there in the 1950s and 60s, before moving to Wiltshire to become a farmer and river keeper. Unbelievable! tells Martin’s entertaining story, with his thoughts on the countryside and life. However, the book is a little unusual as it’s written phonetically, in his Cotswolds-Wiltshire accent.

Great British Life: Farmland near the Gloucestershire market town of Chipping Campden. Photo: Getty ImagesFarmland near the Gloucestershire market town of Chipping Campden. Photo: Getty Images

The following passages are taken from the first part of the book, which covers Martin’s early life, in Chipping Campden. The Arises didn’t have a lot, and times were hard; nevertheless, mischievous little Martin knew how to have fun. You’ll notice that this is not the Queen’s (or King’s!) English. In Victoria’s book, there are a few footnotes with a ‘T’ for translation if you need them, but the trick is to go slowly: slip into country time and into Martin’s Cotswolds childhood... and if you’re really struggling, you’ll just have to get your hands on a copy of the book. We thoroughly recommend it!

The book portrays actual events and is as accurate as Martin’s memory permits, but some names/details have been changed for privacy.

Great British Life: Victoria Walsh with Martin Aris. Photo: Victoria WalshVictoria Walsh with Martin Aris. Photo: Victoria Walsh

Bush baby

I come from the Cotswolds – God’s country – Chipping Cam’den. We lived it a place called Longl’n’s House, an’ there w’s a farm there. That w’s between Chipping Cam’den ’n’ Hidcot’. Well, tha’ w’s a li’l village up there, righ’ out in the sticks. ’N’ I w’s born, nine’-een fifty one, under a goozb’ry bush!

Great British Life: Chest of drawers. Pic: Alex CrumpChest of drawers. Pic: Alex Crump

Sleepy siblings

My firs’ mem’ry is sleepin’ in a draw at the bo’-m a the old chest ’f draw’s. Times w’s hard – we di’n’ have a lot. Tha’s why you appreciate wha’ you go’ now. A lot ’f people don’.

Well, I w’s in the bo’-m draw, an’ then, me sister Suzanne w’s in the middle, ’n’ me brother Lesley (he w’s older) w’s it th’ top. Be-cuz the chest ’f draw’s got big, ’n’ then star’-ed goin’ smaller ’n’ smaller. My dad made tha’ chest, yeah. I remember tha’, cuz we never ’ad a bed!

But, as we got older they ’ad t’ get a bed, ’n’ it w’s a bluddy old iron thing – oh! Me sister used t’ sleep on the big landin’; me ’n’ me brother used t’ be in the same bedroom. ’E used t’ blame me for f’r ev’rythink. He’d wee the bed ’n’ tell me dad it w’s me, so ’e wouldn’ get a good ’idin’. Yeah!

Great British Life: Egg basket. Pic: Alex CrumpEgg basket. Pic: Alex Crump

Child labour

When I w’s eight, I used t’ go ’n’ work f’ the Kite brothers, just up the road from us. ’N’ I used t’ go in there on a Sat’d’y mornin’ ’n’ a Sund’y mornin’, ’n’ I used t’ collect all the eggs. I used t’ get ’aaf a crown , f’ tha’.

You’d go in the big old larder – a big room – cold – ’n’ you’d aff t’ do the butter, all the time, where you just add the salt. I used t’ bring that ’ome, ’n’ I used t’ aff t’ give me mum a shillin’, save a shillin’, ’n’ ’ave sixpence t’ spend. ’N’ that w’s a lot a money then, sixpence.

I always remember, we’d go t’ Chipping Cam’den with me mum, ’n’ she’d ’ave Wolf, our dog, ’n’ she’d take the pram t’ put the shoppin’ in. Be-cuz if you f’got somethin’, well, it w’s two ’n’ ‘aaf miles to the shop. ’N’ we used t’ go t’ wh’ they called the Black Kettle Shop – big old kettle used t’ be above it . We used t’ go in there ’n’ be fascinay’-ed, looking it all them sweet jars on the counter, ’n’ I used t’ buy a bag a broken biscuits f’r a hayp’ny . I’ll always remember that. ’N’ old Wolf, ’e’d sit out by that pram ’n’ ’e wouldn’ let no one get near that!

Great British Life: Wolseley 444. Pic: Alex CrumpWolseley 444. Pic: Alex Crump

Hot wheels

Me dad used t’ ’ave a mo’-a-bike with a side car, ’n’ we used t’ get in tha’. ’N’ I’ll always remember, ’e had a Wolseley four, four, four. We used t’ go f’ picnics, ’n’ me ’n’ me brother ’n’ me sister used t’ stand on the running boards as ’e w’s driving, ’n’ cling on t’ the handle. Cuz there w’s no cars about – that w’s up the lane, ’n’ tha’ w’s it. Ah, it w’s brilliant! Yeah, a lot ’f kids used t’ do that, if you ’ad a car going along in Chipping Cam’den, they’d hop on it; ’ave a lift. If you ever got caught… oh! But there w’s no police around then, ’an we lived two ’n’ a ‘aaf miles from Chipping Cam’den then, see, so it di’n’ matter.

Me dad used t’ say t’ me: “Wha’-ever you do, don’ open the door until the car’s star’-ed an’ we’re goin’ down through the gate.” ’N’ one day I opened the door, an’ ’it put a big dent in the door. A big dent in me aass as well!

Great British Life: The Church pub. Pic: Alex CrumpThe Church pub. Pic: Alex Crump

Off t’ church

My dad always used t’ say, even when we w’s li’l: “Ah, I’m off t’ church, I’ll see y’ lay’-er ”, ’n’ we thought nuthin’ of it. ’N’ it’d go on fer yurz ’n’ yurz . He kept sayin’: “I’m goin’ a church”, ’n’ I said t’ my mum: “Wha’ church does ’e go to?” She said: “The bluddy church with a ’andle on it!” Yeah, it w’s a sayin’.

So, me dad’s sister come over from Germany, Rita, ’n’ me dad said: “Ah, I’m off t’ church now, I’ll see y’ lay’-er.” Well, Rita never said nuthin’ f’r a bit, ’n’ then she said t’ me mum: “Never knew my brother went t’ church.” Me mum said: “I’ll show you which church it is,” so she took ’er down the pub, ’n’ ’e w’s in the pub, wa’n’ ’e ? Gawd, did ’e get a pastin’ off Rita, oh! Cuz she w’s religious. She dragged ‘im out!

Me mum always stipula’-ed, time w’s time for dinner, ’specially Sund’y dinner. ’N’ my mum used t’ say t’ my dad: “Dinner a be ready at one.” Well, ’e wa’n’t in, ’n’ this went on f’ some weeks. Anyway, me mum jus’ put it on a plate, took it down the road, to our local it Chipping Cam’den, t’ the Red Lion, put it on the bar, said: “There’s yer bluddy dinner.” She w’s a stick-ler f’ time, f’ meals.

Great British Life: Hair in mangle. Pic: Alex CrumpHair in mangle. Pic: Alex Crump

Crime ’n’ punishment

Me dad used t’ ’ave a cherry belt, cor! That w’s a leather belt wha’ you ’ave on a big baasket

when you go up the trees t’ pick the cherries. ’N’ I’d get that fer being naugh’-y.

Well, I’d try ’n’ put me sister’s long ’air in the mangler . ’E couldn’t understand why she w’s screamin’. ’N’ then I put a fork through ’er toe. An’ my brother, ’e used t’ make model planes. I used t’ throw them out the win-der, set ’m on fire, an’ shoot ’m with the air pellet. Oh yeah, tha’ w’s funny!

I used t’ aff t’ get on me mum’s pushbike ’n’ go ’n’ get the paper f’ me dad it six a’clock, so ’e could study ’is ’orses before ’e went t’ work. ’N’ I went round the bend so faast on my mum’s bike, I ’it all the gravel on the side, come off it ’n’ bent it. My dad di’n’ ’ahf belt me! Ooh, I tell yer – I went ’ome – cor, I couldn’ sit down f’r a month! Could not sit down.

But my mum… If we’d done anythink wrong, we’d tell our mum, not me dad. Cuz ’e wouldn’ understand; ’e’d ’it us . Y’ know wha’ I mean? But my mum, she w’s always there; always there f’r us. ’N’ she w’s only five foot nuthin’! She used t’ ’ave a hard life, my mum. But she loved gardening, ’n’ won a lodda trophies f’r it. Tha’s what kept ’er sane f’ years.

Great British Life: Sargeant Gay's pushbike in the apple tree. Pic: Alex CrumpSargeant Gay's pushbike in the apple tree. Pic: Alex Crump

No pain, no gain

It w’s much harder in our time, but a good ’idin’ din’ ’urt yer. Y’ know wha’ I mean? It put you in good stead when you got older – oh yeah, it puts you righ’ f’ life! I don’t stand no nonsense. But I think it w’s the upbringing, where ’e w’s so hard. ’N’ tha’s wha’s missing t’day, be-cuz if you ’aven’t got discipline in the ’ouse you’re not g’n’ ’ave it outside .

We used t’ ge’ in t’ trouble, but we used t’ do stupid things – like, when Sergeant Gay used t’ come along ’n’ go in the pub it night, ’n’ we used t’ nick ’is pushbike and put it in the apple tree. We watched him one night, go in there, an’ we thought ’e’d gawn in the bar – ’e ’adn’t – ’e’d gawn in and gawn out the back door, ’n’ come back round. He knew wha’ w’s ’appenin’, ’n’ ’e caugh’ us, ’n’ ’e said: “Eether I clip your ears or I tell your dad.” I said: “You better clip my ears,” I said: “It won’t ’urt so ’ard!”

Unbelievable! A Working Country Life – written by Victoria Walsh and illustrated by Alex Crump – is out now, as a hardback (£13.99) and eBook (£5.99 on Amazon). Available to purchase in local bookshops, including Borzoi (Stow-on-the-Wold), Blandford Books (Broadway) and The White Horse Bookshop (Marlborough). Also available online (Amazon, Waterstones etc).

Great British Life: Farmland near the Gloucestershire market town of Chipping Campden. Photo: Getty ImagesFarmland near the Gloucestershire market town of Chipping Campden. Photo: Getty Images