Circles within Circles

Living in a small town there is a tendency to think that the circle of people with whom one is familiar are themselves  ‘the community’, especially if you belong to different organisations within the town. For myself, Theatr Mwldan, Menter Aberteifi, Cardigan Castle, Cardigan Writers, Tivyside Advertiser, Small World Centre are quite central in my life, and then there are those where I know some of the members, Cardigan Art Society, Square Pegs, Cardigan Theatre, Opera Teifi, Allotment Society, Soroptimists, Jig-so Mother & Child, and so on. Sounds like I know a hell of a lot of people, and I do. But today was Barley Saturday a big annual celebratory day in the town’s life, and I went to meet up with four or five friends for lunch, and we watched from one of the best spots on the High Street, as the horses and ponies and tractors, went by down the town’s main street. There were throngs of people several deep on both sides of the road, and as I looked round I could only spot the very occasional one I recognised. The rest were complete strangers. So who were all these people? Obviously some would be visitors from outside. But many of them knew what they were there for, and seemed to have opinions about it, applauding the best of the horses, cheering on the man with the only donkey, calling out to one of the men leading a rather frisky looking pony and it occurred to me that today was what Barley Saturday has always been, despite us townies thinking its ours, its a day for the farming community, which actually is in a circle all of its own, and has on the whole very little to do with the town, especially since we have had a Tesco, and they no longer need to shop on the High Street. Undoubtedly many of these people come from families who have been here for generations and will consider themselves to be ‘the community’. Sharing Barley Saturday with them is one of those rare occasions when town and country come together. Watching the pride with which some of the farmers rode through on their refurbished antique tractors it is obvious that they are looking for appreciation from us all, recognising that the town, albeit not knowledgable about what it may do on the land, can and do enjoy a thing of restored beauty just as well as any farmer. For this one day a year all the circles come together, and make one big community, bilingual, town, country, old, young, man and animal, celebrating the day when the Barley Fair would have begun the hiring year for farmers centuries ago.

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