By “The Photographer’s Assistant”
The thatcher arrived a month ago. He stood above our world, looking down upon the Moor. He sees incredible beauty every day, but not many of us would like to take on his toil.
The thatcher arrives at 8.30 each day, often with another supply of thatch that he has just collected. He may go home at 5 or 6 o’clock, and in between, he works with the devil at his back. He dreads all weathers. If it is hot, he is roasted and coming from the Moor, he is not used to hot sun. When he has his sandwiches, he sits under a tree and watches the suns menacing progress across the blue sky. If it is cold, he keeps working to keep warm. If it is raining, he will have to put “wets” on, which are restricting and slow his progress. Sometimes though, the rain will be his friend, it will help him bend the stiff reed to his will, so that he can shape and mould it easily over the ridge: the craftsman at the peak of perfection.
Sometimes, the thatcher will take a break with us, his hands filthy for fear of soiling our basin with his toil. He will sit and eat the home made sandwiches, which his wife has made each day, and he will eat with relish the love that she has put into this carefully prepared meal. He will talk with The Photographer, a fellow country boy, of times lost and times recreated in the land, which they both love. They talk of all types of farm machinery, types of crops, blowing in fields fitted between the hills. They will summon up memories of The Royal Show with its sweep of machinery, trials plots, and for the Photographer’s Assistant, the fantastic sweep of floral arrangements in the Flower Tent and incredible cakes in the W.I. one. Memories with our tea.
The weeks sweep on with a man on the roof and our toil to help with painting and guttering and, at the end The Photographer gives this other hard worked man a humble hand to take down the scaffold that has so surrounded our lives and place it on a trailer, so it can be driven home with care.
After the careful combing and placing and shaping of thatch, we have a wonderful looking roof. People look up as they go by, wondering at this sudden apparition. This is what our cottage once really looked like. It has lost that old roof of ugly blackened straw, it has shrugged off the darkened old moss, and vast holes made by Magpies, and acquired that real chocolate box beauty that we dream of for a holiday. When we go to bed at night, we have a warmer room and a cosy view through the thatch. “Must have cost you!” some people say. No, this is Moor, so the Thatcher didn’t exploit us, he charged a fair price, but the greater price was paid by him with pains in his body and weather roughened skin. Admire this tradition while you can. While he was here, he made no noise, unlike some, who now get up on your roof with powered garden machinery to shorten the days toil.