When I was a little girl, the end of August was the time when it was back to school, Miss Lillicrap marching up and down the aisles between the desks and hitting the likes of poor John Hall between his shoulder blades and calling him a “Duffer”. Sadly, John Hall was a “Duffer” and he was also far bigger than he should have been at the age he was and how that happened I do not know as the rest of us were wiry.
I recall very few fat people when I was a child. Everyone in my village worked hard, grew their own gardens and raised their kids in the same way.
My father and maternal grandfather took great care to grow food.
I recall going down to the beach after a storm with Daddy and a borrowed horse and cart to watch him pitchforking great piles of seaweed on to the cart and the dear old carthorse clip-clopping up back the lane to the house where it was unloaded. Daddy and I would then return the Dobbin to the farm where he would un-hitch and groom the horse, get everything ship-shape, tack, cart and some of the seaweed for the farmer’s garden and then we’d hop into Daddy’s Standard 8 and go home to a great pile of seaweed that would be forked into the trenches he’d prepared for the growing of the best vegetables I have ever tasted.
Runner beans, potatoes, cabbages, onions, carrots, all the things I loved.
I still do but they never taste as good these days.
The reciprocal arrangement for the farmer, who was known to be a tightwad and nobody’s fool was that he lent the horse and cart out to many families in the village to go down to the beach to collect seaweed for their gardens and the deal was that all of these families and their kids would be out there to help him with his haymaking.
As anyone who grows anything knows, when a harvest is ready, it’s ready and it needs to be brought in and, in the high summer and warm evenings children really don’t want to go to bed so make staying up fun. Haymaking.
All of the families the farmer had lent out his horse and cart to would show up to return the favour to make the hay.
It was such fun and we all worked even though it didn’t seem like work as everyone chatted and laughed as we made the stooks.
We all hoped for weather that would dry the stooks enough to be piled onto hayricks.
I loved those long summer evenings when I was a child. I thoroughly enjoyed what we, the village, all did together, making hay as a barter for the horse and cart to gather seaweed to make the vegetables grow and thrive.
That was a true community of friends and neighbours.
A wonderful memory.
© Barbican 2020
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file