I’m starting to think that our trips to Saltaire for our annual purchase of seed potatoes are somehow, well, cursed. Perhaps we should have known that we were in for more trouble this year when Monica, who had offered to drive her car and trailer over there, managed to hurl herself at Carole’s path in the week before the event and ended up with a wrist and hand broken in four places. It was because of this first calamity that I asked my brother if he’d be willing to be our driver for the day. The new plan was that us and my mum would get the potatoes in the morning, then we could have some time to look around Saltaire in the afternoon. It was meant to be a nice day out.
It’s fair to say that things didn’t quite go to plan. To cut a long story short, what actually happened was that whilst I was rushing around weighing our potatoes, I came back into the main hall to find my brother collapsed on the floor, beyond pale and clearly disorientated, and my mum looking on in panic.
It was pretty horrible and I don’t much want to talk about it. But I do want to say something about the dozen small acts of kindness (some of which weren’t so small) that got us through an otherwise frightening day.
A man whose name I don’t know had already quickly and calmly begun administering first aid. He asked all the right questions, then swiftly sent for an ambulance.
Carole brought a cup of tea for me and my mum (although I didn’t actually succeed in getting my mum to drink hers).
When my family went off in the ambulance, leaving me 20 miles from home in floods of tears with a pile of 2,000 seed potatoes (not an eventuality that I’d ever planned for), a lady whose name I don’t know put her arm around me then quietly went off to locate several wheelbarrows.
Whilst I drank my cold tea and tried to gather myself together, I looked at my phone and found the photographs of daffodils that Janet had sent me to cheer me up. Not because she knew anything of what was happening that day, but because she’s a kind and thoughtful person, every day.
Peter, one of the event organisers and the person who has helped us to start our own potato day, was in the middle of working out our owings and locating some booklets for us when the calamity had happened. On finding out that the casualty was my brother, he pitched in with the wheelbarrows and went to fetch my brother’s car to within staggering distance. Not only this, but Peter said not to worry about getting back home as he would drive the car for us. I don’t know him all that well and it seemed like an extraordinary and humbling act of kindness to me.
John came out to help shunt the potatoes too, and we quickly filled the boot of my brother’s car. He entertained me with stories of how they’d been left with 700kg of unsold potatoes one year because it snowed (I say “entertained”, but this huge heap of potatoes was already feeling like a bit of a burden).
There was a lot of waiting about and agitated phone conversations after that, whilst the event gradually wound down and people began to sweep up. Whilst I sat looking forlorn in a corner, yet more of the organisers stopped by to ask if I was ok.
As soon as they were done packing up, we drove in convoy to the hospital, with Peter’s wife Sue and a lady who knew where she was going in Peter’s car, directing us to the hospital.
When we finally found somewhere to park, I went to investigate the parking meter (which promptly spat my money out) and a man ran across and offered me his parking ticket, with two hours left to run.
I didn’t enjoy sitting around waiting in the A & E much (not least because there was a sign for the children’s area that was missing its apostrophe). I dashed past it when my phone rang, heading towards the door so that I didn’t get into bother. On the phone was Andrew (my councillor and fellow food grower) who’d seen a tweet about me being stranded in Saltaire and wanted to know if he could help. It’s an amazing thing to me, being someone who very much “doesn’t travel well”, to know that people will go so far out of their way to help me.
We decided that Sue should drive back home instead of all of us waiting about, then we just had to figure out how to get Peter back from Newsome to Kirkburton when we finally got back to Huddersfield. Thankfully, we weren’t waiting around for much longer, and my brother walked out of the hospital a bit slowly but otherwise in one piece, with no nasty findings from the hospital tests. And Peter drove us safely back to Newsome, where Cherry was patiently waiting to receive our potatoes.
Having piled all the spuds into their “secret location” (we don’t want to say where in case the mice are listening) Mike put his coat on and willing gave Peter a lift back home. And I put the kettle on.
I spend a lot of time talking about how important the connections between us are – how people who get to know each other will help each other, often without thinking about it. Some of the people who helped us on this day are people who I’ve got to know (and am getting to know) through growing food together. Others are strangers, people whose names I don’t know, who did something kind.
Thank you one and all for being my daffodils on rainy day.