4/8/90

It was another early start and another hot day but the temperature was kept down by a cool southerly breeze. Ann left me the manuscript of a book she has written called 1700+. It is a book of old recipes and remedies along with poems and old adages. It was very impressive and I’m sure that now would be a good time to publish it with the number of people leaving the cities to live in the country. Here is one of her poems:

SHEEP’S BELLS
OVER THE HILLS OF ENGLAND FLOATS
A CHEERFUL JUMBLE OF CHANGING NOTES
AS FOR YEARS BEYOND NUMBER THEY’VE CLANKED IN TUNE
FROM HALLOWEEN TO HARVEST MOON.
TELLING THEIR NEWS OF THE FLOCKS THAT GRAZE
TO MEN WHO WERE MODERN IN ANCIENT DAYS.
FOR WHERE THERE ARE SHEPHERDS THERE’LL EVER BE BELLS,
LONG MAY THEY LIVE ON OUR HILLS AND FELLS.
MORE DEEP IN OUR HEARTS THAN WESTMINSTER CHIMES,
MARKING OUR PASSAGE FROM DISTANT TIMES.

Footnote: Ann’s book was published in 1995. Before we left England in October 199, she gave me an antique sheep’s bell, with the initials HxR and the date 1877 carved into it’s smooth timber neck. It came from a farm in Wiltshire where Ann had worked as a shepherdess during WW2 and had been worn by generations of sheep on the Wiltshire Downs.

3/8/90

Richard and I were out of the field by 5:30 am to get the first load before the heat of the day came on. The sun rose scarlet and malevolent, promising a day of hellish heat.

We worked all day in the oppressive heat which lay like a molten blanket upon the land. It reached 38°(!!!) In parts of Southern England. After tea we took another load of straw over to Frome.

1/8/90

I had a hell of a night with asthma and hayfever so I only got about two hour’s sleep. We had a 5:30 am start so I got up at 4:15 am and pottered around the cottage then walked down to the farm through the cool, misty, first light of the day.

We took the tractors up to the paddock and while we loaded up the trailer I watched the beautiful sunrise display spread out in the east. The valley was full of thick, grey mist with only the largest of the trees visible above it. In the sky, the delicate pastel shades of red and orange were spread out across the pale blue background. High above, a jet aircraft arrowed across the stratosphere, it’s a vapour trail curling away in small curves like the signature of an artist daubed in silver on a finished canvas. Soon the scarlet disc of the sun appeared and set light to the furnace of the coming day and before it’s heat, the mist quickly vaporised and disappeared.

We spent the day slogging it out in the heat getting in five loads of straw before we knocked off at 9:30 pm.

THE END OF A DECADE

*****

And that, my friends, is the end of my first decade of working life. At the beginning of September 1980, I left school and began to work at DW Scarlett and Sons’ farm in Cattle Valley, near Fairlie, on the South Island of New Zealand. Now, 10 years later, my girlfriend and future wife are in Wiltshire, England. I wonder where we shall be in September 2000…

*****

The last entry I made in the journal I kept from January 1990 until now. My next diary begins on September 3rd, 1990.

30/7/90

A Day For the Queen¹. It had rained all night and was still showery in the morning so after we had unloaded the trailer-load of straw we got in yesterday afternoon, I took the rest of the day off.

Ann and I went for a drive over to the town of Frome and back via Warminster. Linda rang in the evening and we had a long talk. It was great to hear her voice again!

¹When I was a shepherd back in New Zealand, this phrase was commonly used to describe a day off due to wet weather.

A letter I wrote to my brother from Corton that day.

29/7/90

It was a changeable, showery day but we managed to get three loads of straw in from a paddock called Barrow Hill at the edge of which there is a tree-covered mound which is believed to be a Roman funeral tumultus.

27/7/90

Richard and I started at six and went over to Upton Lovell to cover a haystack against the forecasted rain then loaded up a trailer with hay at  Corton. We spent the rest of the day carting hay except for a couple of hours when it rained and we filled in that time shifting cattle.

26/7/90

I went around to Sundial Farm and we began carting hay. After we had unloaded a tractor and trailer-load of hay already there, I drove their MF135 with front-end loader around to a paddock behind a small village about 3 miles away. 

After we had loaded up, we went back for lunch. I had a pint at the Dove Inn at Corton then some lunch at Ann’s cottage. After lunch we unloaded the two trailers of hay and went back for the rest.

After tea we went over to another village called Upton Lovell and carted some hay into a stable for an obnoxious lady, then went on to a village called Boynton to collect some hay from the grounds of a mansion where the Countess-of-something-or-other lives. When we got back to the farm we had a drink then knocked off.