Dylan Thomas wrote in ” A Child’s Christmas in Wales” ….”I plunge my hands into the snow and bring out what I can find.” And thus he began a memoir, magical and familiar that has been loved by many for long years.
Yesterday, I had my own childhood memory awoken by plunging my hands into a bin of grain much like those in my grandfather’s hay and corn shop. He made his fortune during the First World War selling supplies to the army. In a time when war ran on live horse power there was money to be made in keeping livestock well fed. He dabbled in futures without really knowing the term. He bought crops in the field betting that the notoriously bad Welsh weather would hold long enough for a good crop to yield him a profit. He was known in the district as ” Honest John” because good crop or bad, the farmers were paid in full and at the agreed time.
After the war horse power was quickly replaced by cars and trucks and John Wybron’s shop had to change. All sorts of animal feed, seeds, pigeon peas for local bird fanciers and pet supplies appeared in the front of the shop. Spot, the terrier, still ruled the big warehouse down a steep hill behind the business. By the time I was old enough to remember visits my grandfather had died and my two uncles ran the shop, one keeping accounts and the other driving the lorry to pick up and deliver as far as Glouchester. A great distance in those days!
Yesterday, as I absentmindedly plunged my hand into a bin of grain in a shop here in Southern Spain, I was transported back to those days when, as a little child, I would let grains or dried peas run through my fingers. I could smell the dusty mix and hear the crackle of a paper bag being filled. I could feel the rough wooden counter under my bare legs as I was lifted up to sit next to the old fashioned cash register. What is memory, after all, that it can be triggered by the simple touch of grain on a hand?