Passion strikes people in different ways. I’m not talking here about a red-blooded desire to wrestle someone behind the bike sheds, but passion for what are laughingly called hobbies. Passion that borders on obsession. Give me enthusiasts any day over people who consider themselves to be ‘cool’. If your blood is up, then so is mine and I want to know more.
People who have passions make for interesting characters, always a good thing for a writer. I like to observe and take notes, to talk to people who look as though they have something to say. So Sunday’s trip to Brampton Plough Day was a delight. Not because I like steam engines, or tractors, or little machines that bob up and down and smoke a lot in order to pump water from A to B. I don’t much (my husband does, but that’s another story).
What I love is the characters behind these machines. I want to understand what drives men, and women too, to tinker with these things all year and then drag them out on trailers to show off at displays. And what drives them is passion. Wearing their hearts on their oil-soaked sleeves, they scrub and polish their babies as lovingly as any piece of antique furniture. Black paint is deemed to have the best finish. That deep pool black that looks as though you could dip your arm in right up to your elbow.
This beautiful old seed threshing machine took my eye and so did the bunch of good ol’ Suffolk boys who brought it along. They were delighted to show it off and tell of its life on a Halesworth farm just a few miles away. Looking as though it had been scrubbed and bleached by the sun, it almost looked brand new.
“Been there all my life, and before that,” said the oldest of the good ol’ boys. They took great pains to explain how it worked, showed me the different sieves kept in the box at the end and waxed lyrical about other machinery on the farm. They were irresistible. As were the men driving ploughs across the fields. Ancient old ploughs that demanded a heavy hand to keep them straight and true, and some requiring a heavy boot to make sure they drove deep into the soil. These men were proud to tell of how they restored them from rusting heaps to working examples of ancient farming and keen to stop and have their photograph taken with their babies.
They ploughed side by side, in competition, driving forward together, each trying to outdo his neighbour for the straightness of his furrow. There was one beautiful heavy horse (the one pictured at the top of the page) pulling a hand plough. He was so patient and making a good deal less din than most of the other exhibits. At the opposite end of the scale were the great big beasts of the fields. Noisy old dinosaurs, beating the ground into submission, on caterpillar tracks so mud was no obstacle, oblivious to the heavy soil, lumbering forward and bringing the photographers in its wake.
It was a great day and I came away with not only a good many interesting pictures, but lots of stories. This was not all about machinery, but about the people behind it, the people who have a passion. And people who were willing to tell their tales to anyone who was willing to listen.