Wednesday, July 12, 2006

smallholding

I must. Because of their paddock. I’ve got everything I need. And today’s all right.

He meant that although it was dry there was a waft of air, but not too much. Inside the shed it smelt shadowy; along his legs the tube coiled, stiff metal. Because of the slope you’d have to walk it with a pack on your back.

I’m meant to have a certificate.

They went on talking about it. The plants were rising tall out of the crumbling bank, green spreading yellow.

- But Mum might.

He burst out laughing. Likely!

I mean she's allowed. Born before 1964, see? She’s exempt.

But I’ll do it all the same.

Ask her!

No. I’d best get on with it.

Hold the nizzle downwind.

He made an unhappy chuckle. I know how to piss in the wind.

Aileen was like a truck. Her voice was so centred he curled up and slept in front of it, his brain did.

*

She panted up to a shoulder; there on the far-off clouds it was still gold over Winscombe. It had been fine when he was here before tea; now it was sombre and puffs of wind rose. That was his lookout. Aileen was her daughter, but. If anyone should happen to ask, perhaps you might tell them... He just thought... Her face twisted. Though she was alone on the bank, it twisted with his whining and her distaste. Well, you know what thought did, she said to him now. She stabbed at the trigger, and blitzed.

How had it got to this? Were they not supposed to be greenies, for Christ’s own sake —. Even he said so, but if Aileen weren’t about he’d no doubt change his ways.

So now, the ragworts were taking a double dose.

She saw their silhouettes, most of them still the right shape. Where many a bee may sip, she thought sadly. And why after all was she bothering, having him stare out anxiously from the kitchen into the dark? (Oh, he could keep a lookout for her, he had X-ray vision these days.) It was so easy to brew in a guilty man. What a mess their lives were, nothing really clean or in its place. However, that was Mr Tompsett foxed; she really had done it like she'd tell him.

But the task dragged on and she was getting careless. The pack was a monster, the bank was cow-poached and riddled with warrens too. Blah – the spray wafted up to her eyes. She started to sit down and was not stopping, blacking out and coming back up for grey. That was a close one. It wouldn’t do to snap a bone... Almost a grandmother after all. How he held her arm so gingerly after the check-up. Aileen at least didn’t know; that was a mercy. When she went inside, she would say something kind to him. In fact she'd say this: you missed a few, it’s as well I did go over it.

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2 Comments:

At 11:29 am, Blogger Yves said...

Is this about spraying ragwort with herbicide to prevent it being eaten by grazing animals? I've wondered about this as I have seen young cattle and sheep in pastures full of ragwort this year. They left it untouched.

 
At 1:28 pm, Blogger Michael Peverett said...

Yes. Most aspects of this subject are controversial, but this is what I think is reliable... Animals don't normally like the bitter taste of ragwort, but deprived of good grass (e.g. in August of a hot dry summer) they may eat it. Horses in particular sometimes get a liking for ragwort and are generally the most vulnerable livestock. It progressively destroys the liver, but you need to eat it habitually. Dried ragwort in winter feed is therefore the biggest danger.

 

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