Write What You Know.

‘It’s just like Tetrus, really,’ my eldest niece, Fi, said, turning a straw bale sideways and fitting it into the gap that I’d just decided I would have to leave.DSCF5043

I had to smile.  Who would have thought that an electronic game would apply to something as mundane as stacking bales in a barn, a job I’ve been helping with all my life, and never managed to master.  Set me on a trailer and I’ll square the load up, or throw the bales off, according to need.  Neither job requires too much thought, or even, believe it or not, much muscle.  That side of the job is about stamina, and lifting techniques.  I’m just happy to slog along, settling into a rhythm of work that tones up my muscles in the fresh air while setting my mind free to roam.

Building a stack in the barn that will stay square, and be safe enough for someone to clamber about taking bales away from over several months without needing to wear a safety harness, that’s a skill.  Perhaps the reason I never mastered it was because it meant concentrating on each bale, and really I’ve never been keen on building, even with lego blocks.

The kit I owned as a child was for a bungalow.  I remember seeing it completed once, but I don’t think it was me who did it.  I generally got distracted before I reached the roof stage.  In fact, the most distinct memory I have is of discovering that most of the tiles had gone missing the one time I achieved gutter height.  I expect my younger brother, who had all my share of interest in lego, had incorporated it into one of the massive projects he was always building.  The aircraft that he constructed bore no relation to any kit I’ve seen, then or since.  How he managed to make squared blocks into cylindrical bodies is still beyond me.  But that’s another story.

Generally, I tended to try for so many windows in each wall of my bungalow that the brickwork could only be constructed as pillars, which always bowed out before I’d got them finished.  I faced up early to the fact that I was never going to be a bricklayer, and was not disappointed.  I left the lego indoors and returned to climbing amongst the bales where it always smelled like June and August.

I love haymaking and harvest time.  I could give you a lyrical turn of memories about sunsets, trailer rides, the camaraderie and the joys of an icy beer after a long day, that spans back several decades. But the thing is, for something like that all my senses go into overdrive.  My need to paint the picture accurately overtakes all else, especially that thing I’m always aspiring to, economy, and generally that’s not good for story.write what you know

So I prefer to take my nostalgia and apply it to a character, a fully rounded personality with their own set of drives and desires and responses in their own setting.  The scent of mown grass; the way the leveret squealed when Fi picked him up from amongst the bales and carried him to the hedge; the dry heat in the top of the barn and the sight of the children running to catch a lift on the empty trailer, these things I can transfer to another time and place with a little imagination and a willingness to let go of some of what I remember.

As for Fi, despite being good with lego, and Design Technology, she’s not planning to be bricklayer either, just another casual volunteer for the fun side of farm work.


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