Har­vest Mem­ory

This England - - Contents - Les­ley Par­doe

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

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