A Rainy Day in Wales
Cold heavy rain on the windows puts the outside on hold; gardening is held in abeyance and, instead, the home becomes a warm sanctuary full of thoughts and memories.
I remember equally wet days in my childhood in Wales when the outside could not be put on hold. There was work to be done. Hens would not wait for feeding and vegetables for tomorrow’s table needed collecting for mother -- now.
So I dressed for the rain.
It wasn’t possible, as now, to walk in the dry to the garage and climb into soft leather seats before driving in warmth on an errand. Earlier, there was no car and errands were not those that could use one. Instead, the hot feed would have to be carried in the rain by bucket to the chickens in the field and thrown out to them by hand, and the vegetables would be picked fresh from the cultivated rows in the rain.
So I dressed for the rain.
First, the Wellington boots. Mine were now adult black because I had just emerged from a childhood when my ‘Wellies’ were red. They were to be worn proudly even if they took effort to put on. My feet always seemed to grow when Wellington boots appeared but eventually, after a lot of squirming, I was in. Standing in triumph, I felt as if I was being held erect by the boots.
Then came the raincoat. Mine was yellow oilskin ‘known to protect our gallant merchant seamen in the worst of weathers.’ My mother seemed to think that compensated in some way for the difficulty of pulling the raincoat apart as surface stuck to surface and stuck again when you weren’t looking. By the time it was done and I was standing inside the stiff yellow tent, I was usually rosy with effort and looking forward to the outside coolness. The yellow hat, also oilskin, was placed squarely over my head so that the rain couldn’t drip down my neck – although it usually did.
Then I would clomp outside. There is nothing smooth about walking in Wellington boots. I felt like one of those large wooden soldiers with movable legs that sometimes arrived at Christmas – clomp, clomp, clomp.
Outside there was always a large puddle where the concrete path was not quite level. Now, clad for the rain, the puddle was fair game. I jumped as high as I could into it, thereby managing to wet my trousers under the raincoat. I always forgot that problem when puddles attracted.
My father would give me the buckets of food at the shed behind the garage and with a “Be careful of the cockerel” warning, would send me on my way. I would clomp up the garden driveway, thankfully put the heavy buckets down to open the gate, and then continue across and along the road to our ‘field.’ This is where our hens resided under the guardianship of their cockerel.
There was a way to deal with that old boy, though my Mother never managed it. If she had to feed the chickens she would return always swearing about the cockerel. “Diawl,” she would say to my Father, “he’s getting worse. I swear he’s the next one for the pot, Robert. Maybe we can have him on Sunday.” And my Father would smile, knowing full well that the cockerel was needed for the next broody hen. He would say, “There, there, Ada, he’s only doing his job.”
My approach would be to chase the cockerel. He was good for a few turns of the muddy field before either I fell over or he retreated around the back of the hen house. In any case, my trousers would now be thoroughly wet and my ‘Wellies’ would be heavy with mud.
Collecting vegetables, say cabbages or broccoli or leeks, would always involve leaves heavy with water and a slush of soil between the rows. My sleeves under the oilskin soon absorbed their share of ‘heaven’s bounty’ and my Wellington boots would slide along the rows. If they weren’t muddy from the chicken field, they would be muddy now. Returning to the backdoor was hardly anonymous – I always left a trail of muddy footprints on the paths meandering from side to side as I investigated snails or worms that had come out with the rain.
Then I would be undressed. It was not a matter of being independent, It was impossible to disrobe and get out of Wellington boots without help. My mother would come out of the kitchen to avoid any invasion across her newly scrubbed red tiles and we would together struggle with oilskins and boots, and even sometimes, my wet trousers, Then, newly skinned, I would be thrown into the kitchen like a newly plucked bird. I was instructed to stand still until she could hang the oilskins in the outhouse and swill the outside of the Wellington boots under the outside tap.
Looking back it sounds like hard labor when a fine day wouldn’t involve dressing and undressing, but I don’t remember the fine days, I remember the rainy days, when water dripped and ran, when there were puddles to be jumped in, when I slid madly through the mud, and when the cockerel lost its dignity in a flurry of wet feathers.
The rain outside has stopped and the sky’s grey is breaking. Perhaps the sun will soon emerge and memories will be stored again for another rainy day.
Return to the Latest Books