20 February 1998

Harvest over, now time for a wedding

HARVEST, if not spectacularly abundant, was gathered in relatively easily last summer, 10 days earlier than the previous year.

I breathed a sigh of relief when the straw was stacked and I was free to assist my sister with her wedding arrangements.

I had, somewhat rashly, volunteered to organise the cake, church flowers and the collection of her American in-laws-to-be from Gatwick on Bank Holiday Monday. So, with only a photo to guide us, we managed to find our jet-lagged travellers among the multitude streaming out of International Arrivals.

It had been raining heavily when we arrived at the airport and I wasnt looking forward to the journey home on a busy motorway. We had hired a beautiful new Citroen Xantia for the trip and with three weary people, plus luggage, packed into the car, I drove very carefully in the haze of heavy spray until we stopped halfway.

After a most welcome break Carol took the wheel, enabling me to chat to our visitors. En route to Northamptonshire I pointed out what crops were grown to Steve, the grooms father. Recently retired from a medical career, he is now running his family ranch in Oregon and has a keen interest in farming. He travels around the 250 acres (not hectares!) on horseback as some of the terrain is rather rugged.

I was interested to learn that young people in America find it just as difficult to enter farming as they do here. Setting up in business is practically impossible if they are not born into an established farming family.

On Sep 1 we began loading the first of the wheat lorries out of the new grain store. We had upgraded a barn to accommodate the extra wheat tonnage from recently acquired land. My job was painting the shed and I must say I also became quite adept at levelling concrete.

On the eve of the wedding, two daughters, one grandson and I set off for Wadenhoe Church in two flower-laden cars to do the arrangements. Our task done, we reflected sadly that tomorrow would also be Princess Dianas funeral.

Sep 6 was a memorable day. At 2pm my mother gave my sister away to be married by a lady vicar, and I was honoured to give the speech on behalf of my late father. Truly a day of equal opportunities for women.

On Wednesday I assured my WI president I would supply the freshest of the flowers and foliage for members to have a go at flower arranging. I loaded up the car in readiness.

Two lorries arrived at tea-time for wheat. I helped shovel grain in our old grey grain bins. It was dark when I emerged from the shed, back aching and eyes full of dust. It was 9pm. I had missed the WI meeting!

"Youll be all right, next year," my husband said "all the wheat will be stored on the floor".

Tell that to my president!

Maggie Harlock

These two articles were among the runners up entries in the 1997 Veronica Frater

memorial contest.