The night before lambing

Standing in the bank queue today, I overheard Gwenda the clerk say to one of the customers that her lambing starts tomorrow, i.e., the 15th of January. Like many Radnorshire women, Gwenda works to support a family farm. Farmer’s wives are still as involved with their farms as ever, but now that involvement usually means working outside the farm to generate income, as well as doing all their farm work.  Since the average Welsh hill farm makes a loss of about £10k a year, the women’s contribution is vital.  Once I got to the front of the queue, I asked Gwenda how she knew that lambing would start tomorrow. How could they get it so spot on?  She told me that the tup had been put to the ewes on the 21st of August; and that therefore, the lambs could be expected from tomorrow onwards.

Humans, of course, find it hard to be so accurate. The doctor will give you a due date, but it can only be a guesstimate.  Charley, my eldest daughter, was due to be born under Aquarius, on the 28th of January 1980. At that time, we lived in Brighton, (Hove, actually). Rowan, my wife, had been working part-time at American Express, whilst I worked for Mecca Bookmakers. By night I played in The Airtight Garage , a spectacularly unsuccessful band. God knows we needed a lot of practise; but we usually only managed one night a week.  We rehearsed in a dank basement underneath a hairdressers in the Kemp Town district of Brighton. Rowan didn’t come to the rehearsals (as what respectable rock widow does?); but on the 14th of January 1980, 29 years ago tonight,  she said that she didn’t want to be on her own in our flat, and would we mind if she came along to rehearsal? Since our audiences were tiny, we jumped at the chance of anyone coming to hear us play; of course she could come.

I can’t remember anything about that rehersal, other than Rowan. She sat on a ledge, which was raised about a third of the way up the wall, with her legs dangling a couple of feet off of the ground. She was wearing a green woollen maternity dress; and green tights. After the band had finished playing, we walked home together through night time Brighton; across The Steine, up North Street and along the Western Road back to our flat. It was frosty and clear and still; and a long walk for a heavily pregnant woman. It turned out to be my last night before fatherhood, the night before lambing; Charley was born at 5.45 the following afternoon.

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~ by Ian Marchant on January 14, 2009.

10 Responses to “The night before lambing”

  1. The Airtight Garage were; me on vocals, Bob Machin on guitar, old Perry Venus on bass (that’s him with the blond bob), Paul Hazel on drums and, not pictured, Ian Willson on guitar and lyrics. Annoyingly, the line up has been missed out from the website.

  2. You have a blog!

    Congratulations.

    Now, where are those sheep photos I was promised…

  3. This is a good point. All the links within the text appear in a slightly more intense white. Neither Perry nor I can work out how to make them more visible; nor can we work out how to make the font slightly larger. We think we might have to pay money: but we’re working on it…

  4. Nice post.

    “we lived in Brighton, (Hove, actually)”

    I think it is now officially called ‘Hove-Actually’ – as opposed to ‘Hove, actually’. Mind you, some friends of mine recently told me they had moved to Hove – when I checked their address on streetmap – it looked suspicioulsy close to Portslade station, so maybe that will become Portslade-Actually in due course

  5. I hate myself for even writing it, but its now called Thecityofbrightonandhoveactually … actually. One day people will start saying “I live in Hove, Brighton actually”.

    Very nice post Ian. It reminded me that we went for a walk on Ditchling Beacon day before our first child was born, very windy November day. And a curry at the Black Chapati on the actual night before. Did the trick, I’d recommend it.

  6. I’m jealous, because I never made it to the Black Chipati… is it still with us?

  7. sounds like its been an ex-Chapati for quite a while now: http://archive.theargus.co.uk/2004/6/16/113058.html
    I don’t remember the meal itself, I was recommending the eating of curry to induce labour!

  8. A poignant memory of Rowan. I vividly recall the last time I saw either of you at the wedding, a few months before lambing, the contrast in your figures as you walked towards Old Building. A day I also remember because I got caught drunk-driving that evening, going round and round the roundabout on Harford Square. I cannot believe that is now almost 30 years ago – we must have slipped through some space-time infundibulum. Our consolation, at least, is that we haven’t growwn up 🙂

  9. I loved this post. My kids (now 17 and 19) were both born in Brighton and it was very evocative of that heavily pregnant time, the last days of pre-parenthood that seem another lifetime away.
    My firstborn arrived on his due date, 12th October, which was very annoying as I’d been reliably assured that first babies never arrive on time and I had to cancel lunch with my friend and do all that undignified huffing, puffing, swearing and pushing business.

  10. […] from Wetherby races. I worked in a bookmaker’s shop at the time, and Rowan phoned to say that her waters had broken just as the three o’clock race at Wetherby was called under starters orders; hence Wetherby. […]

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