The night before lambing
Standing in the bank queue today, I overheard Gwenda the clerk say to one of the customers that her lambing starts tomorrow, i.e., the 15th of January. Like many Radnorshire women, Gwenda works to support a family farm. Farmer’s wives are still as involved with their farms as ever, but now that involvement usually means working outside the farm to generate income, as well as doing all their farm work. Since the average Welsh hill farm makes a loss of about £10k a year, the women’s contribution is vital. Once I got to the front of the queue, I asked Gwenda how she knew that lambing would start tomorrow. How could they get it so spot on? She told me that the tup had been put to the ewes on the 21st of August; and that therefore, the lambs could be expected from tomorrow onwards.
Humans, of course, find it hard to be so accurate. The doctor will give you a due date, but it can only be a guesstimate. Charley, my eldest daughter, was due to be born under Aquarius, on the 28th of January 1980. At that time, we lived in Brighton, (Hove, actually). Rowan, my wife, had been working part-time at American Express, whilst I worked for Mecca Bookmakers. By night I played in The Airtight Garage , a spectacularly unsuccessful band. God knows we needed a lot of practise; but we usually only managed one night a week. We rehearsed in a dank basement underneath a hairdressers in the Kemp Town district of Brighton. Rowan didn’t come to the rehearsals (as what respectable rock widow does?); but on the 14th of January 1980, 29 years ago tonight, she said that she didn’t want to be on her own in our flat, and would we mind if she came along to rehearsal? Since our audiences were tiny, we jumped at the chance of anyone coming to hear us play; of course she could come.
I can’t remember anything about that rehersal, other than Rowan. She sat on a ledge, which was raised about a third of the way up the wall, with her legs dangling a couple of feet off of the ground. She was wearing a green woollen maternity dress; and green tights. After the band had finished playing, we walked home together through night time Brighton; across The Steine, up North Street and along the Western Road back to our flat. It was frosty and clear and still; and a long walk for a heavily pregnant woman. It turned out to be my last night before fatherhood, the night before lambing; Charley was born at 5.45 the following afternoon.