JOHNSTON WAS sick this month for the first time in years. He caught one of those nasty flu bugs that sent his temperature soaring and knocked him off his feet.
It”s times like these that we are so glad to be farming in partnership – the petty quarrels about which silo to open first, or when”s the right time to start feeding meal, or even the big debates as to whether we should be investing in new quota, pale into insignificance when the family steps in to fill the gap.
I can”t imagine what life would be like without a big family to call on. Stephen, our third cousin, carried on with the setting up for the visitors arriving; his nephew, Chris, stepped into the milking – despite it being a “rugby weekend”; Hilary changed out of her size 10 business suit to a size 44 boiler suit to feed the calves; while Johnston”s brother Tim did everything else.
Listening to a friend talking about her anxieties about extending her maternity leave also reminded me of the great advantage of a family so close.
I was able to work at home with my children beside me, confident that everyone”s interest was child-centred. There was no conflict about school runs, parent interviews, hospital appointments, project deadlines – someone would always cover or take the children for me.
I am sure that I worked harder and better in this environment than if I had been made to make excuses or feel guilty about my role as a mother. I am sure that we need to totally change our mindset about the importance of childcare and the shared responsibility we all must take – even if that only means supporting a mother (or father) to take time off to be with their child.
Our extended family is extending even further with at least three new babies expected this year. So, inspired by this and by an embarrassing experience with a physio, I have taken up knitting.
About this time last year, I started to lose movement in my left shoulder. This, combined with some pain – not to mention difficulty sleeping – pointed clearly at a frozen shoulder.
“A common injury in middle age,” my doctor sympathetically told me, together with the information that nothing would help or hinder the healing process – it would take roughly nine months. Nonetheless, he applied for an appointment with a physiotherapist and it eventually came up nine months later when I was more or less completely better.
I went anyway and, apologising profusely for my obvious lack of pain, I sat through the bureaucratic process of being signed on to their books.
One of the many questions was: “What are your hobbies?” Well I couldn”t think of anything. I didn”t mention reading – well everyone does that – it”s not as if I belong to a reading group. There are all my animals – but that”s my work. I haven”t got very far with my new set of golf clubs, but that”s as a direct result of the frozen shoulder after all.
So I have taken up knitting again and have proudly completed three little cardigans for the assorted expected babies. I had forgotten how pleasing it is. I can still join in conversation, watch television, listen to the radio, and generally relax (except at the raglan arm decreasing, when I need full concentration).
I am now an officially interesting person with hobbies. By the time the clear evenings are in and I am out on the golf course, I will be fully confident to fill in any form asking about hobbies.