Shirley Prendergast, September 1998.
I look down at the great knotted trunk of the wisteria, the bulk of the house stretching away on each side, enfolding us, its fourteen rooms- kitchen, sitting rooms, dairy, pantry, bedrooms, attics- roofs and chimneys. I am leaning out the window of the room next to the room my grandparents and then my father slept in, it’s hard to believe that they are all gone now. The little oak door is set low in the wall between the two bedrooms, the ancient door of the old house, connecting. I lie down and there are twelve beams above me, rough black beams, bowed with all this time passing and the footsteps and voices of those who have slept in the attics above.
Facing my bed, shining in the moonlight, is the large framed photograph of my paternal great grandmother Flo Busbridge, and below it stands the little wooden cart that was used to carry the children around Moat Farm, the home of my maternal great grandparents, Alfred and Naomi Martin. My mother was taken across the fields to the hop gardens of Moat in this cart, and it still carries traces of dusty blue paint. Someone considered the colour: it must have looked very pretty once.
Outside a ewe calls for its lamb and frogs are coughing on the marsh. There have always have been these night sounds, as long as people have farmed here, and those who lay awake listening, wondering, meshing across time. There is a deep and ancient peace all around, and I feel the stirrings of all these people, tending animals, bringing in the hay, working and cooking, sleeping, being born and dying. The big barns thronging with horses and carts, voices and laughter long into dusk. There is a date carved on a beam of the barn- 1621. That means 350 haytimes and harvests, 350 harvest moons ago. And who knows how many there were here before 1621… and how many more to come after we leave? Not an ending after all. I too fall asleep.