Of all the places in the world, they had spent their only day off - like gold dust at the moment - on a potato farm. Familial obligations, a bad case of the flu for Uncle Richard, and a willingness to get out of the city had led them to this point, trying not to bash their heads on the ceiling of the car as they drove down a driveway seemingly made of very inconvenient and very small mountains. The harvesting needed to be done, and somehow that job had gone to them. To be fair, at the time he had not minded, had even been slightly excited at the prospect of a day in someone else’s shoes, living someone else’s life. His partner had mentioned his plans for the weekend over dinner one day, mentioned Uncle Richard’s poorly head, and he had decided he could probably go and offer his help. Not that he was very experienced with the skills required to harvest potatoes, or life on a farm at all, but he figured he could stand around and do as he was told, perhaps carry sacks back and forth to a picturesque barn, with the sun beating down on them and a cold beer waiting for them inside along with a hearty homemade meal, one deserving of being served on a British farm. Something to warm the cockles.
It was not looking promising. The farm was small, although he could not be sure quite how much of the surrounding land belonged to them, the buildings, in his opinion, were lacking. No large painted barns one could find on a postcard of the area, just one rusted metal structure that he could not quite bring himself to call a barn, and a yellowing house with those windows that are just too small for their own good. It looked cold, unwelcoming. He rather anticipated being told they had turned down the wrong driveway but as they reached the end of the long strip of small mountains, his partner tucked the car neatly away to the side and stretched his arms out in front of him.
“You can get out of the car now sunshine, you’ll be of no use here unless you plan on standing around looking pretty all day.”
He planned on grunting in response to that but he found he was too full of foreboding to even bother to give the expected response. Instead, he followed instructions silently, looked at his watch, calculated how long the journey back was probably going to take, decided at what time of the evening would be the latest they must leave, and gritted teeth at the knowledge that they could be here for the next twelve hours. In some fields in the grey and the rain in the middle of nowhere, being cold and damp and playing in the mud. Why he had thought it was a good idea to tag along, he could no longer remember, would not be surprised at this point if Auntie Maggie brought them out some dry fruit cake to ‘keep them going’ and he ended up catching Uncle Richard’s flu to top it all off. That would be a lovely reminder of the trip in two days time when he had done his best to move on from it, it would at least probably provide him with some more days off work, not that he would enjoy them much though. Any fruit cake were to appear, he decided, he would ensure he shared it with his partner. Could not have him suffering through some quality time with potatoes and then suffering through the flu, only to watch his persistently flexible partner make the most of everything in his sight, happily whistle to himself over some good old spuds and inevitably avoid the plague.
The tools provided for the job at hand seemed underwhelming, but he suspected the best had been tucked safely away in the not-quite-barn. No big red tractors for them to drag around the field with their non-existent training or understanding. Instead they were going good old fashioned and staring at a pile of wheelbarrows and spades and forks. Evidently Uncle Richard planned on being up and at it very soon, or else his twelve hour estimate might have been overly optimistic if they were expected to harvest every potato they could find with their own hands. Less and less reason for him to be here. He was even less delighted to observe his partner who was already making plans on how best to share the labour, should they form a chain of some sort, both dig as they moved along, one person dug one person walked wheelbarrows back and forth. He did not think he cared at all, had long since settled on just doing whatever someone told him to do.
“Pick up that shovel there, the one with the green handle. That’s it, chuck it in your wheelbarrow and lug them out here, we can start in this corner.”
He hated him for being so happy, so jaunty in the rain and the cold and the misery of a run down farm in wet fields of brown as far as he could see. He wished he could adapt too, be faced with a situation and find the good things in it. This time it seemed there was just too much bad to fight and he settled comfortably into being miserable. Perhaps it would do him some good, he was sure there were probably other things he was miserable about in the world that he would unlock and remember as he unveiled Misery. It might be that it reaches the end of the day and he has had all the time he could need to solve all those pesky problems, all the silence and mindless work he could need to dwell on anything grating at him from the past few weeks. He would make a list of the things that made him miserable, and just what he would do about them. Top of that list was old yellow farms with no barns and too many wheelbarrows and potatoes.
“I’m never going out with you again.”