The Observer Magazine recently ran a weekly column where you could write in with a 250 word ‘thank you’ to anyone/people important in your life. I submitted a piece but never heard back. Having already written this, and concisely [not always a strength], I now post here:
A quick note to say…
Thanks to my farm worker friends.
My first full-time job was in the mid-70s as a 19 year old agricultural labourer on a large farm in Suffolk. I worked there for three hard but wonderful years.
I learned to drive tractors and use farm implements; lay irrigation pipes and operate new irrigating machinery; riddle potatoes then fill and stack in 112lb hessian bags; muck out cow pens by hand or with a tractor and loader in large sheds; feed sweet maize silage to livestock in barns; work a straw bale grab and stacker; operate a fork-lift truck; hand-harvest sugar beet, and significantly more.
I was taught these skills and a work ethic by fellow labourers. Friends like George, my main working partner, tough as a bull and full of energy with endless patience for the job – and me. Inspirations like Arthur, my mountain of a foreman, who encouraged with such a gentle, innate leadership. Bob for the craft of wooding and fencing and being a still-point of authority; Ricky for my understanding the purpose of a keeper’s gibbet and other farmers’ arts.
This period shaped my life, much into my teaching career of thirty years where their collective wisdoms informed what I should value personally and convey in my own ways with students and others. I am forever privileged and grateful to have known them.