Saturday, 2 August 2008
Listening to: Empty (The Cranberries)
Struggling to get into: Viking, Odinn's Child (Tim Severin)
I'm hanging on for dear life as the small platform on skis I'm standing on bumps across the field. Being a fat bloke with skinny bloke's legs, balance has never been a strong point and now I'm more painfully aware of the fact than usual.
We're getting the hay in. I'm actually dead excited. The place feels like a real farm with a couple of tractors and - for a change - some real farmers about.
Marcus cut the grass a few days earlier, Mike had already been up once to turn it and now it's time to bale it up. Marcus is driving the tractor, pulling a 30-year-old baler with the ex-1976 Winter Olympics sledge thingy on the back.
Richard takes first turn, standing confidently in the manner of Nelson on the quarterdeck - although, with just the one arm, Nelson might have struggled with pulling bales out of the back of the machine and stacking them on the five prongs behind him.
I'm stuck in a sort-of cheerleader role - trying to look useful by gathering up missed clumps of hay and holding the bales steady as the little pyramids are unloaded from the back.
Richard can tell I'm itching to have a turn and hops off at the end of the next row, leaving me to jump aboard the moving platform in the manner of a 1930s western movie hero swinging himself out of the saddle onto the train where the bad guys have the heroine hostage.*
Anyway. . . I'm now fighting forces that are threatening to throw me off, while at the same time trying to grab and stack the bales in the same effortless manner that Richard had shown moments earlier.
It's a hot day and the sweat is running into my eyes by the time we come into the third row. It's not a pretty sight, but I'm managing. I have to get the stacking right first time because once one bale has been stacked, there's another being thrust towards me. Twice I get it wrong and a bale gets stuck under the platform, so I have to shout and wave for Marcus to stop so the now triangular bale can be retrieved.
With the sun glinting off the sea and a stiff southerly breeze, it's brilliant fun and there's nowhere I'd rather be. Even so, it's a relief when, some time later, Richard takes over for the last shift. My arms are aching and my elbow has reminded me it's not at all well.
A couple of hours later we have about 200 bales - not bad for a field that has had no dressing this year. Marcus takes 100 and we stack the rest in the barn, unsure exactly what we're going to do with it.
* In hindsight, I wonder what happened to the horses abandoned in the desert, not to mention several hundred quid's worth of tack.