Isn`t it funny how one thing can trigger a flashback, and a rapid trip down memory lane?

Whilst on holiday I had such an experience.

Sat on the hotel verandah, with the bar behind us, I was given a shandy.

With the afternoon sun beating down, I was suddenly transported to the annual event of baling.

Usually the last week of July, just after we finished school for the summer, and just before the Royal Welsh show the local farmer would announce that our hay was being baled. They used to bale it during the day and bring it straight to the yard on the flat bed trailers. Lessons would finish early, and the ponies turned out early so that we were ready and waiting, sitting in the barn in anticipation.

The tractors would arrive and we`d jump to attention. Scrabble into our gloves, and climb the wooden stairs into the granary. Hay was stored on the left hand side, so we would make a chain of human from the back to the tallet door on the far side. The younger ones were always reminded not to go too close to the edge. The lorry was parked close to the barn wall, and then the boys started throwing bales in through the open door. There was always a rush to grab the first bale, pick it up and toss it as far across the barn, where the next link in the chain would pick it up and repeat the process. At the back one of the adults would supervise the stacking.

Bales were stacked from floor to ceiling, left to right, over and around the rafters. The smaller of us had to climb up the stack to push bales over rafters so that not a square inch was left free.

Every so often one or two of us would be instructed to rest. But it was a competition. Who could keep going the longest; who could pick up the heaviest bales (whilst informing everyone that there was a dead body inside it was so heavy); and who could throw the bales the furthest.

As the granary was filled the younger of us, the asthmatics, and the older ones were helped out of the tallet door and onto the lorry, until eventually the bales reached the doorway and we climbed down the ladder onto the flatbed trailer. Loose hay was swept into the empty stable to be used up and then one of the Yard Mums would come out of the tea room with a large cake and shandy.

As a teenager, you always felt very grown up sipping shandy amongst adults, and there was a mutual respect. We were all equals; for us teenagers had done the work of an adult, and the yard community grew closer. There was a shared feeling of tired happiness at having achieved a shared goal; the hay for winter had arrived, but we were dusty, grubby and our muscles ached. I never really liked shandies, but after shifting five hundred bales of hay nothing tastes better or is more refreshing than a shandy in the evening sun.

Then in the second half of August we would go through this ritual again when the straw was delivered, and once more enjoy shandy and cake in the evening sun surrounded by friends, enjoying that satisfied feeling of a job well done.


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