The second world war was well under way when they came to work on our farm.
I can remember it was a lovely sunny warm day in august, one of the longest and driest summers we had had for years.
There was always lots to do and Ifan had said that the help would be most welcome, especially as if was unpaid labour. He was a typical tight fisted welsh farmer, who penny pinched, but then times were harder now with the war in full swing.
Italians they were, moved out here from a overcrowded camp in Yorkshire somewhere.
To this small camp set high in the North Wales Hills, nestled away amongst farms and small villages.
The language here as strange and as foreign to them as they were to us, with their dark complexions and wayward black hair.
‘The look of Romany’ my sister had said. Already having her eye on one of them. Her husband had been sent to fight the year before, and there had been no word from him in over six months. Sad as it is too safe, relief had swept over her when he left, for although she loved him, he was typical of all the men in our times, cold and unemotional, driven by work and the pittance they so craved.
A women’s place was in the home, in the kitchen. Looking after the kids, keeping the men’s stomachs full on what ever we could muster and then laying on our backs while they had they’re way with us. Treating us, with no respect that we really deserved.
If you were lucky you would find a man that you really did love and he loved you, but that didn’t happen often. As soon as you were old enough, you were expected to be married off, and more often than not the women were.
But the war all changed that. My sister loved her now found freedom. She was a Land Girl now, working the farms in overalls and headscarf. First time she had worn trousers and covered her legs. I looked after her baby, just two. She had a freedom I hadn’t known. She mixed with the women that came form the cities, London, Liverpool and Manchester. Learned their city ways, spoke English much to the disapproval of my father, and went dancing in the mess hall at the camp.
‘Drinking and dancing, kissing strange men’ That’s what Ifan played hell about.
“She’ll end up in trouble, you mark my words’ He was waiting to be proved right. He would scorn and mock at me, for letting her have it so easy, when she came to live with us. But she was a great help to have around, and her stories of Woe made me laugh and filled me with excitement for her.
Ifan was one of the lucky ones. He escaped the front line. His back had been bad for years, since a accident as a child in the cow shed.
It had suddenly become worse when call up was announced. But he wasn’t totally useless, as the farm was doing well, working the land.
We had tried to plough the rocky terrain, working all night just to be ready for when the government officials came. They cleared our small patch, suitable for some kind of crop, and then ordered Ifan to plough his best field, his only field. The field he put the cows out to pasture on. This annoyed him so much. Much to my sister, Seren and I amusement.
Although this didn’t last long, as he drank all day and night, after they left and then took his anger out on me with his fists.
That wasn’t the first time he had done it.
Seren called in the troops, and they ploughed the field laughing while working up a sweat. How she knew, the only way to get him back, as he watched and seethed.