Life on Grandan's farm was one long adventure.
I learned many things; that cows mourn for their babies,which are taken away from them almost as soon as they are born. All through the night they would cry for them,in a deep sad throaty voice; it used to keep me awake.
I was shown how to teach the young calves to drink, putting my hand into a bucket of warm milk and pushing my fingers into their mouths to suck, gradually pulling them away until they began to use their rough tongues to lap for themselves.
I churned butter and patted it into neat squares,and searched the barn for new warm eggs.
Mum pulling out a reluctant Granny,in working clothes!
I was told that my very first sentence, when I was but a toddler, was the result of my seeing the body of a hen lying on a dung-heap.
All day I wobbled round saying, "Poor dead hen,poor dead hen!"
I particularly loved the pigs and the rabbits,perhaps unaware that I ate some of them for dinner.
I watched the heavy, patient horses at work in the fields,pulling harrow or plough or heavy cart-loads of sweet-smelling hay.
I still feel I am there again when I smell box hedging, which was neatly laid out around the kitchen garden;the heavy scent reminds me of those happy days
Everything at Padney tasted doubly of itself,and was perfect of its kind:the tomatoes were still warm from the sun, the cool cheeses on their moist straw mats delicately melted in the mouth,sponge-cakes tasting of fresh eggs and sparkling with caster-sugar were filled with home-made blackcurrant jam and cream.
We feasted on hams which had been smoked high up in the ancient chimney over fragrant wood-fires until they shrunk to hard brown knobs,and then, when needed, were boiled until they swelled again; they were cut in thick slices and served on crusty fresh bread with farm butter, and tasted unbelievably sweet.
Myself when very young!
Yet the production of these delights meant long hours of repetitive work,turning and skimming and mixing and beating.
Nowadays we eat from tins and packets,but avoid fat and recognise the value of roughage in the diet.
Granny served meat liberally,cooked in lard from the farm pigs,buttered bread generously,and had never heard of fibre or cholesterol;but we dined each day like royalty,and I shall not taste such excellence again.
Released from the manual labour which ate up so much of my Grandmother's time, I have been free to read, correspond,draw, grow my herbs or use my pensioner's pass to visit museums and galleries in my beloved London. The washing was done for me while I gardened, or read, or talked with friends:ironing was seldom necessary; whereas the smooth white sheets and table-cloths at the farmhouse were the result of backbreaking, patient labour on Granny's part.
Central heating, silently efficient,replaces the romantic open fire which had to be constantly fed and tended.
Yet I still think of those long,simple days with a deep longing for the special satisfaction I always felt as I helped Granny with the rhythmic pattern of the daily domestic chores.
As a child I felt that my Grandparents had been granted great riches.
I can still look at the old photos and feel the same longings. There they all are, frozen in sepia;Mum and Dad in the hammock in the orchard, Grandan at the wheel of the Sunbeam which was the envy of the neighbourhood,my mother standing nervously between two plough-horses,Granny and the Aunts,all in big hats,posing on their way back from church.
All my life I have looked at them with a strange mixture of pleasure and pain; pleasure, when I remember the happiness of those far-off days - and pain, because I was never to be more than an occasional visitor;because of a grown-up quarrel between father and son I did not understand, I had lost my place and would never truly belong.