Monday, June 13, 2011
Cold Comfort Farming
Wishing that my spectacles came equipped with windscreen wipers I stand in a cold wet field. Though June it feels more like a nasty day at the beginning of November. I am reminded of the great Carl Giles vision of the agricultural idyll.
Looking out through the door of a cluttered barn grim faced farm hands survey an uncompromising deluge. A yard full of turnips or some other root. Water a foot deep. In the mud a small pig. Soggy roll ups hang from the lower lip.
In my real world it is “Open Farm Sunday” and the Snowdonia Society have organised a dry stone walling competition. Six competitors out of the promised field of twenty have arrived and the one spectator is me. Set back a little three organisers hold fort in a gazebo that has two sides closed against the rain. Bara Brith is being buttered and a hot water urn is fired up in the optimistic prospect that people will soon come to this field of dreams.
Thursday past I saw this advertised in the ‘Weekly Witter’ and was quite engaged by the prospect. I envisioned rural pleasantry in warm sunshine. I saw myself swapping hope and seeking wisdom at the hands of the masters. I have many fine walls around Hallett’s Mountain which own part of my time. While I plug away and lift the fallen sections, I am ever willing to learn.
And so here we stand. I am on one side of the tape. They are on the other. They are clearing stones of a wall in need of repair down to the quagmire of its foundation. Pegs set a metre apart mark the sections that they will raise. Each is covered from head to foot in filth. Muttered comments in the tongues of Angels are exchanged as the water runs from every beast and surface.
Whatever kind of walling this is, dry stone is mocked.
After a while there are six competitors.
The only spectator goes home to watch the Grand Prix.