Home & Shop Companion #0012
letter from a small corner of far away
Dear Lynn, dear Everyone,
At last we have had some rain. Last Sunday it rained heavily for two hours, and two days later we had gentle rain all day, but despite the accompanying cloud it has been the sunniest April on record. The rain has also brought forth the weeds, so as soon as it is dry enough and I can see the rows, I’ll go down the rows with a horse and cultivator.
The day before it rained I did manage to ridge up the potatoes, which I had rolled flat a week earlier to break down some of the clods, and soon I will go down the furrows with the cultivator to loosen the soil so I can ridge it up again to keep on top of the weeds.
After doing the ridging, I took Lucy to our little wood to drag out some firewood. She had not been in the wood before, and her reactions showed she wasn’t so sure that it was a good place for her to be. So, I tied her to a willow tree on the edge of the wood while I went in a little way to move some branches to clear a path to get the logs out. Once I had done that, I led her further into the wood and tied her to a birch tree while I continued to work, still within sight, and talking to her most of the time about something and nothing while she went round and round the tree. After a while she settled down, as I continued to move further out of sight, talking occasionally. It is in situations like this that I am glad to always have a halter on a horse, under the bridle, because without any danger of the mouth being damaged, you can tie up a horse securely. For the horse, it knows from experience that the pressure on the poll from the halter, or the nose band, means it has to stay where it is. Usually this is in a place where it is happy and secure, and perhaps that also helps them become calmer. For the teamster, it is also a bit of a time out, because you don’t need to keep a constant eye on them, or keep tight hold of the lines and continually switch from a reassuring tone to keep them calm to an emphatic one to stop them from moving. Once she was calm, I drove her out of the wood, back in again with gentle encouragement, then in and out a couple more times without any hesitation before attaching a singletree and choker chain and steadily pulling out the logs, every journey becoming more relaxed and more normal.
The other thing I did before the rain came was to go for a bicycle ride. During lockdown we can go out for exercise, not that I really need any additional exercise, but after four weeks I did fancy a change of scene. There’s nothing better on a warm spring afternoon than pedalling down narrow hedge-lined lanes, with the fruit trees all in blossom and the oaks just starting to open their crumpled leaves. With very few cars on the road and scarcely a vapour trail in the sky, I was reminded of my childhood, and the air, even in a rural area like this, seems fresher than normal.
Something I hadn’t thought about, and so hadn’t expected to see on my bike ride, were the handmade posters stuck in many windows, even though the postman and the occasional cyclist would be the only ones to see them. There is one near here, typical of thousands, perhaps millions, all over the country; it is a picture of a rainbow, a heart symbol, and the words, ‘thank you, NHS.’ After months of divisiveness and division in Britain surrounding Brexit, the posters demonstrate a profound change brought on by the Covid pandemic. Here and now, there is a remarkable degree of unity, most people accepting the lockdown with patience, stoicism, and a respect for others, especially for the people who work in the health service. That, by the way, is what NHS stands for, the National Health Service. It came into being in 1948, when, after the sacrifices of war, everyone thought that we deserved something better than what went before. So our NHS, and most people do think of it as our NHS, is free at the point of use, so when you are sick you don’t have to worry about how to pay. [We do pay of course, through our taxation system, throughout life when we are well enough to do so.] But perhaps the greatest demonstration of positivity through this difficult time has been the weekly applause for the health workers, when, at 8pm every Thursday, people stand outside their front doors and applaud. Some cheer and whoop, a few bang pots and pans to let off steam, while others share a few words with neighbours; but all stand in support, with admiration and thanks.
Although this is a really hard time for many, it is also a time for reflection, a time to review how we live our lives. In lockdown, we have come to realise the value of music and drawing, of baking, gardening and the natural world, but most of all we have come to appreciate our friends, our neighbours and our families, because in the end, what most of us value most highly is each other. The last weeks have reminded us of what many had forgotten, that the best way to protect and support ourselves is to protect, support and care for each other, not just because we need to, but because we want to. After all, no matter whether we greet each other with ‘Buenas Dias,’ ‘god dag,’ or ‘good morning,’ the next thing we say is, ‘how are you?’
“Maybe I have missed a few installments, but please tell us who is William Castle and where does he live?” – JB
William Castle is a violin maker and farmer who lives in Shropshire, England. Over the years he has contributed many important and beautiful articles to SFJ. When we first launched our Home & Shop Companion email series he got in touch and offered to write an occasional ‘letter’ from across the sea to include in it. We’ve been thrilled and honored to present them. – LRM