Swapping academic life for a spell back on farm at short notice was a shock to the system. It was business as usual for big chunks of the time, with work carrying on apace, but it’s also been frustrating and illuminating.
Here are some of the things we’ve learnt, realised or remembered.
1. Social animals
Shaking hands, eating together, hugging – we soon started missing all these things. Having swapped bumping into dozens – perhaps hundreds – of people every day for a more individual existence, we remembered we humans are social animals.
Starved of such encounters, it was tempting to take desperate measures – trying to engage the postman or the delivery driver (who was fast becoming your new best friend) in conversation through the window…
2. Home truths
After a prolonged spell in a student flat or house, home seemed suddenly very luxurious. You don’t have to wait to get in the bathroom only to find there’s no hot water.
It’s tidy and clean. It’s a bit like a hotel, in fact, without the mini-bar. Even the fridge is well stocked. You could get quite used to this…
3. Put to work
Your parents had a long list of jobs prepared for you before you even pulled into the drive. Exams could wait – lambing and silaging couldn’t.
As the youngest employee on the farm – and the farmer’s son or daughter – you weren’t going to get the glamour jobs either (rolling, anyone?).
Still, it needed to be done and was a great way to earn some cash, assuming Mum and Dad were happy to cough up…
4. Key workers
Many town and city dwellers have come to realise their food doesn’t appear on their tables by magic. It’s thanks to the skill and hard graft, day in day out, of farmers.
When the shelves were empty, the nation saw the truth in this – it was a nice feeling. Let’s hope it lasts…
5. Quizzing wizards
Even those who are normally not fans of quizzes have joined in.
Whether it’s General Knowledge (“How many stars does the state of Texas have on its flag?”); Arts (“Which novel begins with the line ‘Call Me Ishmael’?”); or more specific ones related to college and uni facts, figures and gossip (“Who did so-and-so snog at last year’s May Ball?”) they’ve provided hours of entertainment…
6. We miss family members
Spending some quality time with the folks has been lovely, but we’ve missed family members we haven’t been able to see, reminding us how much our nearest and dearest mean to us – particularly grandparents.
We’ve even found ourselves looking forward to seeing Great Aunt Hilda (who smells of margarine and has always preferred your cousin to you)…
Take pubs, clubs and the student union bar out of the equation and the old overdraft is suddenly looking a bit less overdrawn.
That said, our online purchases have shot up in a bid to stave off the boredom. And having to keep paying rent on places we weren’t even living in felt plain wrong…
8. Social media
Snapchat, Facetime, Zoom – they’re great, but after a while we’ve realised they’re an alternative not a replacement for being with friends.
The content and “conversations” have been very different in lockdown – more about documenting our individual lives and showing them to each other, rather than recounting shared experiences. Photos of farm blunders certainly got shared a lot on Snapchat.
9. Fresh perspective
Sure, living in the countryside comes with downsides (a 30-minute drive to a petrol station and rubbish wi-fi, for example) but you’ve been lucky to able to spend time outside during lockdown so never again will we be even remotely tempted to take fresh air and space for granted.
10. Dietary improvement
At home, there is this thing called fruit. It’s brightly coloured and has this thing in it called vitamin C. You eat a lot of it, along with lots of fresh veg.
Not a single kebab was consumed and our internal organs had a well-deserved rest as our booze consumption plummeted.
11. Hirsute horrors
While what hairdressers and barbers do might look easy (basically if you’ve got a pair of scissors and can ask someone about their holiday, it’s job done, right?) but don’t you believe it.
We’ve seen pictures of guys virtually scalped by friends, relatives and partners – looking like they’ve stepped straight out of the 11th century. And have a dreadful tropical disease…
12. Doing the delayed
Whether they were round the yard, in the house or in the garden, there were certain jobs we never quite got round to doing. Well finally they have been done.
Sheds have been sorted and garages cleared that people haven’t stepped in for decades!
Thanks to those student who helped with ideas for this piece, including Alex Worth at Newcastle university and Emily Rix at the Royal Agricultural University.