Already this rainy season is much wetter than last year. I am typing this in socks and a jumper for the first time in 16 months! Bizarrely, I am also drinking mulled wine, thanks to a carton of the only wine available and a sachet left over from Christmas. The rain has been falling for 6 hours and to start with was of monsoon proportions. Pupils were trapped in classrooms with no light, of course, and the sky was “as black as your hat”. P3 sat in the dark telling stories and riddles, waiting for the torrent to subside. A small stream was percolating through a crack in the wall and spreading across the floor. As soon as we could see from one side of school to the other, the children said prayers, very quickly and dashed off home.
All this rain is of great hope to everyone as they are all farmers. Any small area of land is being dug up, weeded expertly by small boys with short hoes and sown with something. Almost an acre of school land was ploughed with one of a few very busy tractors in the area for the sole benefit of the headteacher. A perk of being the headteacher on Catholic church land! The tractor may have turned the soil but the weeds are still lying there. They need to be dragged out and either removed or left on the surface for the sun to scorch dry……….if the sun is in evidence! I offered my services as you’d expect and, despite the comments about soft white palms and the expectation of blisters appearing within 10 minutes, I managed to wield a hoe for a very short while until a group of likely lads arrived and entered into negotiations with the landlady over rates! The young boys around these parts are probably raking it in (pun!) weeding fields for people. They usually work very hard for their few cedis too.
Anyway, the long and short of it was that my farming duties were curtailed as my hoe was requisitioned by someone much younger and a whole lot fitter. 6 of them agreed to weed half an acre for 20 cedis (£8). The gang did work hard whilst we sat at the Spot over the road supervising from a distance over a chilled shandy. Before long it was almost dark and the sound of hoes slicing through soil could still be heard. The boys were frantically trying to complete their duties in the day. During their activities they unearthed some lizard eggs, small rubbery things that have very strong skins and a toad was disturbed from its earthy bed.
Finally, we all had to go home with the job not quite complete. Nevertheless, a great deal more was accomplished than if I had been left with the task. The following day was wet almost throughout so the farm boys were released from duty with their dues honoured. The other half of the field is still lying there full of healthy weeds thriving wickedly whilst we sit with maize ready to sow watching the rain fall relentlessly. At least the ground will be soft to work with, eventually.