Philip’s War Part Four

A Welsh Harvest

Despite now having to attend school, we still managed to have many memorable days. One that stands out in my mind was the annual harvest. At that time, farm machinery was very limited so all the local smallholders would have to help one another gather in the harvest or help to cut the hay. We would do our bit by helping to turn the hay and rake it in; if you were lucky, you got to lead the horse around the field. Mid morning the farmers wife would come into the field and shout “tea up” and laid out on a rug would be a sumptuous feast, strawberry jam sponges, Welsh cakes, meat pies and tea served up in the posh cups that never saw the light of day apart from at harvest time. My mother always advised me that “what you can’t eat you should put in your pocket for after”; I followed her advice to the letter. At the end of the day, we would sit in the hedge and listen to the stories that the men told as they smoked and drank cider from the big stone flagons.

Another day that I remember vividly was when Teddy and I went for a walk around the lake; we came upon a dead sheep. Her belly was all bloated so we were convinced that she was carrying a lamb. Curiosity got the better of us, so we set about a crude caesarean operation to see if the lamb was still alive. A sharp piece of slate became our scalpel and in no time an incision was made, sadly the lamb was dead. Having said that, I’m not sure what we would’ve done with it had it been alive!

Mrs Roberts had been aware for sometime that a lot of us were continually scratching ourselves. One bath night the cause of the scratching became evident. We all had dry skin blotches all over our bodies. At once Mrs Roberts got in touch with the district nurse, her diagnosis was instant – scabies! Mrs Roberts was despatched to the chemist with a prescription and came back with a large bottle of calamine lotion. The lotion however, had little effect as the scabies spread all over our little bodies; days and weeks went by but the itching and scratching showed little sign of easing off. Finally Dr Marron was called. “Now then my lovelies, lets have a look at you”. After close inspection Dr Marron took the decision to send us off to the cottage hospital. We were all packed off to the hospital where we were submerged in calamine lotion baths. Once out of the bath, we’d have to stand around until the lotion was dry. We would walk around looking like another Hollywood hero – Lon Chaney in Frankenstein! This treatment lasted for several days but eventually we were deemed fit enough to return to the farm and back to our daily duties.

Philip’s War Part Five