Today's verse was told me by a melancholy man whom I picked up at Leigh Delamere on the way to London and who spent a long time sniffing before he recited these verses.
The fields beside the motorway
Are often full of straw and hay,
Though which is which I do not know
As I am an urban so-and-so,
So ignorant of different crops
I can't tell maize or flax from hops,
But yet they make a glorious sight,
These fields, when they are coloured white
(Which means, I think, the flowering broad bean)
Or blue (is that flax?) or just plain green.
In springtime, when it's brilliant yellow,
"Rape!" is what you'll hear me bellow.
In autumn, when stubble smoke drifts by,
"Bloody farmers!" you'll hear me cry.
Not that you often see a farmer,
On foot or in his tractor's armour;
These fields are always empty of folk.
A lonely ash or big old oak
Is often the only thing you see
Breaking the field's monotony.
Except in summer, when they place
Those huge great sprinklers on its face
To shoot out loads of water - whoosh! -
And give the thirsty plants a douche.
(It seems as if they never can
Be subject to a hosepipe ban.
How can farmers get permission
For such endless water emission ?
Perhaps it's easier to make an oasis
If you've got friends in higher places...)
Yes, when I'm driving down the M
And suffering from motorway tedium,
I often let my eyesight wander
And play upon the great, green yonder,
Away from the road, where it should be,
And roam around the scenery
In search of pleasure for the eye,
In fields of wheat or oats or rye,
Rippling like the far-off prairie
Or full of cattle for the dairy...
But there's one field I can't abide.
A field past which I quickly slide,
A field from which I avert my gaze,
A field which fills me with malaise,
And that's the field which now stands bare
But once had a horse, and jumps, in there.
A field where a rusting petrol can
Shows where the horse jumps once began
Shows where a teenage girl and horse
Lived for jumping round the course.
Betjeman country! Thelwell land!
Where horses are lovely and girls are grand!
Where a groom is a chap that holds the halter
And not a man who stands at the altar,
Where the horse is centre of the universe
And parents are glad it's nothing worse.
For while a girl is keen on horses,
There won't be marriages and divorces.
Ah, this is the stuff of girlish dreams,
Where the hay lies thick and the harness gleams!
Once the grass was short and kempt,
And the pony was groomed, and dreams were dreamt
Of horse events and three-day shows,
But now the seeded dandelion blows
And the poles lie rotting on the ground,
Awaiting in vain another round.
The grass grows long and the horse grows stout,
And the teenage girl is no longer about.
No longer the pairing of girl and pony,
For she is off with her boyfriend, Tony.
At this point the man broke off and burst into tears. When I asked him gently if he, too, had lost a daughter, he said no, but he had lost several thousand pounds equipping one with horse and fields and jumps, and every time he saw one of these abandoned fields he sobbed at the thought of all that money wasted.Reuse content