Ted and Dave were two farm labourers I worked with in 1967. They worked the Suffolk fields all their lives. The one thing that seemed never to happen was conversation. They would meet on the *Beet fields at six in the morning with their hoes, grunt at each other and start work. As a casual labourer I would start about eight. Often I would interrupt a long pissing session, half-moon slashes rainbowing over the beet, and this sometimes went on for five minutes or more The strange thing about this was that they would start together and finish together!
Around about nine another phenomenon would occur, this was snot clearing, described by Dave as, ‘puncture tyre boy?’ They would walk over to the ditch at the edge of the beet field and disappear! I would hear the most awful nasal rattling accompanied by farts and strangulation sounds. What was happening? This was the time when they would clear the snot out of their noses. Ted would hold the end of his nose between his thumb and forefinger, and discard buckets of snot into the ditch, Dave would do the same. After the first time I went to the ditch and witnessed this, I couldn’t face a banana sandwich for a month!
During those long working days they never once raised a word of complaint, in fact, words, were very seldom if ever, spoken. Like Robots programmed to the sunrise and sunset, they were faithful to the farmers land like a beloved wife. When it rained there was nowhere to shelter, Dave had a waterproof Macintosh that he kept on the back of his bike, and we would huddle under that till the rain stopped. Once it rained so hard that the farmer came to the field in his van, there was just enough room for Ted and Dave to squeeze into the cab with the farmer, the van had an open carrier, and I noticed a tarpaulin so I threw myself under this and almost immediately went to sleep. I woke in great shock to find sacks of reject rotten apples being piled on top of me! As I extricated myself from this onslaught a large woman screamed, (I later found out that it was a apple picker called Mavis, who was a Spiritualist!) believing me to be something from beyond the pale?
The farmer’s wife a kind Jewish lady took me into the house and gave me a towel and ran a nice warm bath for me, the stench of putrefied apples stays with me to this day. Well folks, they say that truth is stranger than fiction, and in this case I think you will agree that it is? I can’t go past that field these days without thinking of Ted and Dave, if God has fields they will be together tending them.
Dave died first, Ted went to his friend’s funeral and was heard to say; ‘Boy was good with the hoe, but he couldn’t keep up with me mind ya!’
* See YouTube: Sugar Beets 1940’s film 15662