Yesterday I spent the day sweeping wheat!
At best the job is dusty and sweaty with grains that work their way down your back to nether regions best not mentioned! I won’t bore you with details of the worst. For light relief, along with the obligatory dust mask, I wear my trusty BOSE noise-cancelling headphones attached to my iPhone. I was sweeping and listening to banal music from my extended playlist, when a voice from the past shocked memories from me quicker than a lightening bolt.
Every Sunday morning in our farmhouse kitchen, almost fifty years ago, the radio would play in the background (a church service from Bridlington or similar). Over a breakfast of cereal followed by a hard-boiled egg and toast, my mother would bustle around the Rayburn while my father, just in from the farm, would sip quietly at a mug of tea. My brother and I would just quarrel!
Almost without warning an announcer’s voice would suddenly say: “Alistair Cooke, Letter from America” and the room would be filled with one of the most melodic voices ever to have graced a valve or transistor… and respectful silence would follow. Niggling between my brother and I would cease, toast would remain un-scraped and not a word would be spoken until the end of the programme.
Looking back Alistair Cooke taught me more about the land from across the Atlantic than a legion of geography teachers. He made whole broadcasts from simple events and took international and national news and personalised them in a way even I as a youngster could appreciate.
In the hustle and bustle of my sweeping day, I stood stock-still amidst the dust and noise from the grain store, silently listening to a story about Vermont and remembering simpler times and a Sunday breakfast from long ago.
Afterwards, nourished by the experience, I swept with renewed vigour.
Alistair Cooke died on the 30th March 2004, aged 95.
© Baldock Bard 2015
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