Hospital-clean, the cold-washed concrete floor drains towards the middle, flushing muck to sluices. Wide galvanised sliding doors hang on corrugated wall panels tucked under impermanent eaves. Strip lighting — and hydraulic noise from electric pumps attached to numbered livestock sucking liquid milk to multi-gallon sumps — offends against the sweet smell of the dairy.
The shed is full of moisture-laden breath, gleaming Friesian hides, bulging curves and eyes. An exhausted kindness, rich and homely, gains the upper hand; nature’s gentle strength comes by and wins with lowing lullabies.
ilm Dafydd ap Goronwy Griffith (15 May 1934 – 15 April 2020)
Pictures of Dafydd on the Talyllyn Railway with George and Mariella; and then at Merrow with my Mum and Uncle (his cousins), my Granny (seated) and James and Mary (my brother and sister.) It was taken in October 1977 about the same time as The Dairy memory recalled in the poem. Dafydd was the dairyman.
As winter ends, winter starts again. Late March warmth lies with coughs and fever, face-grey shadows darken longer days, and high-sky sun shines on windowless wards. Hospital green is the season’s colour.
Garden foxes play in rose-dawn light, rising doubt hangs in latent streets, odd wasps drift between blossoms spreading and seeding unwanted fruit, and the numbers explode like purple globes of allium blooms.
Thoughts of renewal are not what they were: first-cut strips of grass mask earth beneath and, at a safe distance, tender leaves grieve. Summertime begins. Winter starts again.
Nights are the worst: dark acres of time are unfilled with anything but low noise as cars burr along the northbound carriageway.
Mum is cold, anxious in unsettled grief. There’s no point getting up: without him there’s nothing to do. Days see diversions but now, why does sitting there beat lying here?
Wide awake in darkness she heard herself say: “Dada?” and reach out her hand. He used to take it and warm it. This cold, Dada-less night, as she reached for him again, he warmed her again. The sheets softened, the noises dissolved and she stopped thinking. She felt him, she knew he was nearby and she slept.
I am remembering my Uncle Iolo with a bitter-sweet chuckle. The letter dates from 1940, as does the photo, I’d guess. It begins: “Now that our British Winter has set in, campaigning is less than ever a picnic. Well keep your bowels open and keep as dry as possible. A good motto for the dark days . . .”