When I was a kid, this old boy Kemsley had his chest caved in by one of his carthorses. They look so placid, but some on ’em can be right mean old buggers. Old boy was killed, can’t recall what happened to the horse.

By the time I was through with National Service there weren’t no carthorses left on the farms round here - only two real old ones in the field opposite. They’d stand for hours head to tail under that big old oak that broke in half in the hurricane. You could always see ’em towering over the cattle, they was that tall. Don’t remember when they went. Reckon old Whitehead must have had the knacker come for ’em one day.

Course these days you get to watch ’em parading at shows, all done up like they never was for proper work, and there’s Shire Horse Centres and such where you can go and see dozens on ’em at once. Martin took us to one down near Hastings, it was quite a sight, and a nice place for tea afterwards.

Whitehead had this bull, nasty-tempered red and white thing called William. One day he took it into his head to lift that big old gate right off its hinges, come down the road with it on his horns and the cows following behind. Devil of a job they had getting ’em all back. Chained the gate up after that.

Pedigree bulls, they’re mostly numbers on plastic bottles in some freezer – you send in the order and it comes in a special container. They keep a load of dairy bulls at these AI places to get the stuff out of ’em for freezing, and a few farms like us have the old Herefords for serving heifers first time round. Our old boy’s gentle as a lamb, and no horns any more, naturally. Wouldn’t turn my back on him though – you can never tell what’s going through his head.

Nowadays it’s all this intensive stuff, always having to do overtime no matter what, with the quotas and grants and what have you. Not a lot of hops now, but plenty of everything else. And us lot working all hours just to keep up. That’s how I missed what was going on with Jenny. There was the ploughing and the potatoes and the winter wheat, then straight into the logs and Christmas trees. So when she said about giving up the allotment I just put it down to her rheumatism, didn’t really give it another thought. After all it’s not as though we couldn’t afford to buy stuff, though it’s not as nice as fresh from the soil.

It was only at New Year I saw she was looking ill, unnatural like, kind of waxy. Before that there’d been the kids round and all that cooking, not surprising she looked tired, and a bit flushed from the sherry. But this was different.

Turned out it wouldn’t have made much odds if we had of known sooner, not with the kind of leukaemia she’d got. They did all they could. Sometimes she’d seem to get better, but not for long. When her hair fell out it was strange, those big brown eyes all young-looking in her peaky little old man’s face. Not fair, really.

When they couldn’t do no more she just stayed peaceful at home. I took my holiday then. Martin or Gemma popped in every day and there was this nice young nurse to do the medicine an’ that, but I stayed with her all the time. Couldn’t of stood it if she’d gone when I wasn’t looking.