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Sheaves of memories

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As often as the round the clock care for my bed bound husband allows, I try to visit my elder brother, who is in a residential care home.

On my last visit I asked him if he would like me to pick him up the following Sunday and take him to the Harvest Festival service, in the church he previously attended, in the village where he had once lived.

Taking him would entail quite a momentous juggling act, arranging care for my husband, fitting in with meals etc., but my brother was so delighted, and so excited, that it made all the effort well worthwhile.

His village was more of a hamlet, a truly idyllic place by the river, with the tiny, ancient church in its centre. Quaint is a word which describes both the building and the setting, so fitting for a celebration of Harvest.

My brother clearly had beautiful pictures in his mind of sheaves of corn, wonderful plaited loaves, the worshippers’ offerings of lovingly polished apples, washed carrots, beautifully arranged in baskets; piles of fruit painstaking arranged on the font, with strings of onions and garlands of hops decorating the window sills and pew ends.

What a cruel disappointment awaited him. The crestfallen look on his face, when he saw toiletries instead of turnips, packaged goods instead of peas, and pears, and potatoes, will haunt me forever.

I found it so difficult to explain to an elderly and very confused person that our needs change, society’s needs change, the world’s needs change.  All he wanted was to enjoy the beauty of yesteryear.

It doesn’t seem much to ask. If only it were possible to protect our loved ones, especially those with dementia, from the harsh realities of the present.

I confess to being hopelessly sentimental, so to remind myself of the need for these changes,  I have (with tongue in cheek and apologies to Matthias Claudius) re-written the words to 'We Plough the Fields…', our much loved, ancient Harvest hymn.


We scour the shelves and scatter

the loo rolls in our trolley

the after–shave and soap and gel

instead of sprouts and cauli.


Jars and tins and bottled stuff

are sent with brotherly love

and thankfulness, from those of us

who have a roof above.


The homeless need our bounty

and help, that they might have

at least at night, some shelter,

hot bath, and indoor lav.


So bring baked beans and tea bags,

whatever you can spare.

Toothpaste and jam or pasta sauce,

all go to show we care.

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Steve Clifford

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