“The world is too much with us late and soon; Getting and spending we lay waste our powers.”
Those of a generation ago do not quite appreciate our modern custom of each taking a few days’ or a few weeks’ absence from work as a means of recruiting our strength for the year’s labour.
One I know who was country-bred in good Scotch fashion is fond of saying — “Ah wunner tae hear folk crack aboot their holidays! In ma young days, ah never h’ard o’ sic a thing.”
On inquiry, we learn that in those days that are “young” to them and “old” to us, the parent pair would occasionally indulge in an “ootin,” clothing themselves in their best, and yoking the “canny aul’ meer” to a cart — if they possessed no finer vehicle — would leisurely jolt along to some neighbouring parish, where a sister or brother dwelt.
There, for two days, they would inspect the parks and the kye, criticise the “crud” (crowdie) and the ripe cheese. The women would compare each other’s latest gowns and mutches and discuss family matters. Then their worthy beast would bring them as quietly home again to the same round of monotonous duties. Not so much for any selfish need did they take this holiday, as in the interests of social intercourse with their kindred.
Every mode of life has, however, its accompanying evils against which we have to guard. One of the temptations of the farmhouse is the difficulty we have in escaping from thoughts of our work. It is constantly with us — morning and evening, Sunday and week-day.
There is one aspect of the holiday question that has a peculiar interest for us country people. Friends and relations come to us for their holidays. Our labour provides them with a never-ending, ever varying entertainment which possesses an instructive charm for young and old.
From the bursting of the leaves till their fall we are never secure of being alone. Any morning’s post may bring a brief note announcing that, if we are not too busy, the writer would like to come, perhaps a family of them. It is better than golf or mountaineering for them to watch the gathering of horses and men in the morning, to carry tea to the hay-workers, to watch the cow-boy with a wild Indian whoop call the cattle across the river and to scent the delicious fragrance that hangs about every rafter of a farm house in summer.