Two Hundred And Counting

A priori, I must insist that I never set out to collect anything. I confess to a hoarding instinct, but the collection that dominates is entirely independent of my volition. I swear I do not collect them; they arrive by themselves. The trouble is, once people have noticed them, they think, “Aha, that’s a good idea for a present! Problem solved – I’ll give her another one for her collection.” And so their number swells.

They are everywhere in my home, little figures made of wood, china, pottery, cast iron, pewter, rubber, soap, wool; pictures, postcards, birthday cards, Easter and Christmas cards, tea towels, even books.

I don’t know how it started, nor even which was the first one to arrive. It must have been well over thirty years ago, though. They crept up on me, and suddenly there was a multitude, a host, a flock – of sheep. They are all presents, all with sentimental associations, scattered throughout the rooms, some more apparent than others, some hidden away discreetly in drawers (tea towels, for instance) or on shelves (books and magazines).  Counting them is always a good way of keeping bored children occupied for a while, because when they come back after half an hour and say “157” I can point to a drawer or shelf and say, “And what about those?”

I must admit that I myself have lost count. At least mine stay in one place and don’t scamper about. My sympathies are with the shepherds out in the English moors and dales who must have spent many hours keeping a tally, using the old Celtic system of “yan, tyan, tethera, methera, pimp, sethera, lethera, hovera, dovera, dick …”, filling their pockets with pebbles as they reached a score, and running their fingers along the notches on their crooks. If you want to know more about these, this site is very informative

Apparently, some grandparents kept count of their grandchildren in the same way. And in my old home region, the English Black Country, I understand that coal miners used a similar system. It may have been brought there by Welsh workers, swapping their sheep for the mines, and using the same system to count the bags of coal. At least two of my great-great-grandfathers fall into this category, having moved from the Welsh borders two hundred years ago or so. I have no idea where I acquired this particular bit of trivia, but the Black Country coalmine count goes as follows:

1 – Ainy
2 – Tainy
3 – Tethery
4 – Fethery
5 – Fim
6 – Sithum
7 – Lithum
8 – Dithum
9 – Darum
10 – Dik
11 – Ainy dik
12 -Tainy dik
13 -Tethery dik
14 -Fethery dik
15 – Bunkit
16 – Ainy bunkit
17 – Tainy bunkit
18 – Tethery bunkit
19 – Fethery bunkit
20 – Jaggum

PS I must find out how my grandchildren would react to being called Ainy, Tainy, Tethery, Fethery and Fim. Fim, being only a few months old, would surely have no objection. Now, does this look like a Fethery?


3 thoughts on “Two Hundred And Counting

  1. Pingback: Hogg, Gimmer or Teg? | catterel

  2. Pingback: Hogg, Gimmer or Teg | catterel

  3. Pingback: Ram In A Thicket? | catterel

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