My father came in to breakfast one sunny morning in August and announced that the barley was ready to harvest.
“I can’t possibly combine your barley today,” said our contractor when my mother phoned him. “Definitely not today.”
So for the first and only time, my father declared a day at the seaside. We’d fed and watered the livestock so he drove us to Worthing, the closest beach, and we splashed and swam and built a sandcastle when the tide went out. I was 10. I had never seen my father swim before, and was entranced to find that he could float almost sitting up, with his toes and his head and shoulders out of the water. I tried to copy him, but I couldn’t do it, and I never have since.
We left the beach in plenty of time to feed the pigs and chickens, and my father drove us home quickly. As we turned into our lane, we met our contractor and his big combine pulling out.
“I’ve done it, after all!” he called from the driver’s platform. “Hope you can get it in. It’s going to rain.”
The pigs had never been fed so quickly. My mother made sandwiches, almost unheard of in our house, and my brother and I were still eating ours as we hitched up the trailer to the tractor and set off across the farm to collect the piles of sacks dotted round the barley field. By then it was seven o’ clock.
I drove the tractor while my brother and father loaded the sacks onto the little trailer. Back and forth we went to the barn while the August dusk gathered. By the time we picked up the last sacks, the stubble was damp and the moon soared above the quiet land. A fox trotted brazenly across the field, jumping over the lines of straw, and we watched him as I drove us all back to the barn with the last load.
I remember my mother was waiting there with fruitcake and a jug of cider, and we sat on the sacks we had unloaded and ate and drank. I remember too how I ached as I climbed the stairs to bed.
Derwent Reservoir Near the dam wall of of Tip, a faithful in Derbyshire is the grave his dead master sheepdog who guarded 15 weeks. in the snow of 1953 for Curious England