The more, the merrier

my tatties

Among my earliest memories of my father, a quiet, hard-working, decent man, is going down with him to the vegetable patch he worked and cultivated, in the south west of Glasgow. For although he spent most of his life in Glasgow, he was of Hebridean stock, and the crofting and the growing of things was in his blood, and in his father’s. I remember one late afternoon, it would have been in the late summer, around five decades past now, he went down to dig up some of his tatties. And it was one he’d to keep a wary eye on, living as we were in a place where neighbours would send their children out at night time to dig up and steal it for themselves. The rain poured down that day, and I was drenched, asking him with boyish impatience if it was time to go home yet. He looked up at the rain plummeting down from the gray noisy sky, pouring over us and soaking us to the skin, looked up at me, then with that funny, lop-sided grin, said “The more, the merrier!” And he carried on digging and lifting tatties, until his work was done.

I don’t remember how cold or wet I felt that day, nor do I remember much of the rainwater down the back of my neck or the wet socks in my shoes that would have been like sodden sponges, so long had I stood in the mud and the rain. Time changes what we see is important. What I remember is his bright smile and the cheerful way he just carried on putting his back into it, and then the sight of all those tatties, which our dad had planted, our dad had grown, our dad and tended, and dug up for us. And whenever it has rained hard, and the heavens have disgorged seas of stormwater, I’ve looked up and remembered him, “The more, the merrier!”

It is half a century now since that day ; and this afternoon, as I stood looking out of the window, the rain came down, battering at the shaws growing in my tiny little vegetable garden. So I took my fork and my spade, and went out, and dug for my own little harvest of tatties, planted in the spring. The rain came still down, but it didn’t matter, and as each forkful brought up more of the golden and rounded potatoes, and the rain soaked into my arms and neck, I heard myself saying aloud to him, “The more, the merrier!”

I understood a little more about my dad today.