Saving Fruit, Lynda Plater
Wayleave Press, 2020 £5.00
Manual work brings pain and joy
Lynda Plater’s second pamphlet — a family story spanning the years between 1911 and 2018 — is beautiful in its spareness. It’s almost a diary, so there’s no table of contents and no page numbers. On the last page, however, she offers us details and dates of the three generations because she wants us to know her people by name.
These Lincolnshire folk work on the land and in the North Sea. The rhythm of work (growing, harvesting and preserving food; gathering and selling cockles; maintaining horse and house) is what occupies the hands and the lives of Plater’s great-grandparents. It takes its toll on the body.
‘Monday, February 1908’, for example, is an ordinary washday. But ‘Wringing out water / made the skin / of her hands flayed.’ Chapped hands are visible in the family photograph. In ‘Laboured Hands, 1951’, harvesting the greens in cold weather means: ‘he can / no longer hold cutlery; / has to palm the cup.’
Still, there are moments of joy and beauty. Husband and wife sing at the pump. Plaited onions hang decoratively in the shed. And there is sensual gentleness — sucking samphire, for example, and when Lucy lays a kiss on her husband’s neck. And in the title poem ‘Saving Fruit’, there is the way (late at night in the feather bed) that the more intimate way of addressing a spouse is used, spare and beautiful:
where the moon hangs. She lays
cold feet on his thick calves and
he murmurs Thou art cold, lass
Lynda Plater painted one single apple on the front cover, a watercolour. She offers us the fruit of her own two hands to revere the pain and joy of her ancestors’ lives — those ingrained influences we are born with, whether we know it or not.
They worked hard so she could be here.