John and David run the local woodyard. It is full of wood, unsurprisingly. As well as lots of ancient Fordson tractors, two-man chainsaws, hand tools of no known purpose, froes, axes, engine parts, tyres, bark peelers, band saws, and assorted other ironmongery.
A man drove into the yard the other day. The conversation went like this…
Man: You got any branches?
John: No. This is the only one.
Man: No I mean branches. Off of trees.
Man: Why not?
John: Because we don’t keep branches. Just posts. And logs. Do you want them?
Man: No. I want branches.
John: What for?
Man: To put on my roof.
John: What do you want branches on your roof for?
Man: To keep seagulls off.
So John grabbed his chainsaw and hopped over the fence into the wood, lopped three fifteen foot branches with lots of twiggy bits on them, dragged them back and strapped them to the roof of the man’s small saloon car. £10 lighter, the man drove off, his car invisible underneath waving branches.
I’m convinced that wading through knee deep mud while carrying buckets of water must be having some sort of positive effect on my legs and backside?! To this end (no pun intended) I’m thinking of bringing out my own fitness dvd. It’ll mainly show me doing the chores here at Swallowtail Hill Farm in my glamorous farm-wear and wellies.
I’m going to include some cardio exercises involving pushing a laden wheelbarrow up and down hills, some stacking hay bales challenges and some jumping over farm hurdles moves to hone balancing skills. There will also be a free weights segment which will involve the ability to turn an 80kg sheep on its back in one swift action. The advanced session will involve chasing (or being chased by) goats around a field at top speed. The cool-down will feature a series of careful stretches (patented by me) which I devised as a consequence of being stuck on a fence when my trousers caught on some wire in an awkward place.
The rise in military style boot-camp classes hasn’t escaped my notice. I reckon there must be a gap in the market for farm-fitness? Obviously I’ll need to bring out a range of clothing to accompany this. I figure my waterproof trousers are an obvious must have – with a choice of design options – chickenpoo/dogdribble/mud/extramud. Baling twine hair accessories are also bound to be popular. Monogrammed pototo sacks to keep you wellies in will be de rigueur also.
You’ll be able to do this in the comfort of your own back garden, but I’ll be able to supply trailer-loads of mud at a discount price for those who want to achieve the most authentic experience.
Any takers? Don’t all rush at once…..
In most things the husband and I are like chalk and cheese. Especially when it comes to things/stuff. I don’t like too much stuff. Christopher loves stuff. I think stuff is annoying and requires putting away, tidying up or dusting. Christopher attaches sentimental value to absolutely everything he possesses and never wants to chuck anything out even when it is broken.
At this point you will no doubt be thinking I’m a heartless and cruel wife who cares little for the memories attached to possessions. Really I am not. I’ve a box containing several decades worth of cards and letters from loved ones; scribbles and doodles I’ve stolen from notebooks of friends when they weren’t looking; beermats and ticket-stubs from wonderful nights out; gifts crafted by the children of friends that are largely made out of dried pasta and glitter. I am, at heart, a romantic. I’m not talking about significant stuff. I’m talking about common-or-garden STUFF. It’s this kind of STUFF that has value to the husband and we are running out of room.
Pieces of interesting wood, oddly bent nails, old foreign coins that aren’t legal tender, corks from nice bottles of wine, an entire museum of old mobile phone chargers through the ages, bits of old souvenir tat – you name it – Christopher will put it in a draw and keep it sacred. Soon, I fear there will be a documentary made about the fact that we can’t get in the house unless we crawl in on our bellies through the catflap because of all of his STUFF.
Worse still he’s taken to keeping some of his stuff on show because – in his words – ‘if I can’t see it, I forget that I’ve got it’. Based on this principle I now feel I ought to remind him of my name and job title every time I re-enter the room, just in case he’s forgotten who I am.
Tidying up after him is pointless because then he can’t find anything and so I’m forced to spend my time locating his possessions for him as and when he needs them. Although I must admit there is a certain pleasure afforded by this process – for example watching him rediscover his favourite fountain pen which he thought he’d lost because he hadn’t seen it since yesterday (it was in his desk drawer).
I’ve tried covertly chucking things out but he craftily seems to go through the bags designated for the bin / charity shop / recycling and just re-homes the items again in the barn which is apparently no-mans-land for STUFF and therefore afforded some kind of diplomatic immunity.
The other week I threw out some clothes that were so very old and worn that even the charity shop would have declined them. I was going to take them to the clothing bin at the recycling centre but they went missing. Of course I found them in the barn where they have been recommissioned as cloths to mop up oil spills when doing tractor repairs. I’d be ok with this if the aforementioned items didn’t include nightwear and if our tractor maintenance wasn’t also done by a range of Christopher’s male friends from the village. Call me a prude but it seems wrong that they’ll be wiping their dipsticks on my nightie.
While of course I applaud his natural ability to recycle, I feel I must curb his inner-hoarder before I wake up one morning and realise I’m living in Steptoe’s yard (possibly with Steptoe himself – don’t get me started on the vest/longjohns combo that Christopher favours at this time of year). So he doesn’t know it yet but January will see me launch the 2013 CRACKDOWN ON STUFF. It will be brutal. If it doesn’t work, isn’t useful, leaks, has holes, it’s had it.
Around this time of year at Swallowtail Hill the husband spends more time in the kitchen. This isn’t because he is cooking me gourmet dinners, it’s simply because it’s the warmest room in the house so he moves his ‘office’ to the kitchen table. This is obviously highly annoying. Not only does this mean more mess and untidiness but it also means I have to tolerate him ‘helping’. ‘Helping’ comes in various forms but most often consists of unloading the dishwasher. A simple task one might imagine. Wrong. He can ably remove around three quarters of the contents of the dishwasher and return the items to their rightful homes, but the items that cause him to panic are Tupperware boxes (other makes of plastic pots with lids are available but we all know what I’m talking about). Tupperware strikes fear into my husband’s heart. Tupperware is kryptonite to his kitchen-super-powers.
Stowing the Tupperware in the cupboard is a challenge he’d prefer to avoid. Despite the fact that the left hand side of the cupboard is clearly ‘lids’ in a neat pile and the right hand side is ‘boxes’ stacked inside each other – this system is – to him – the enigma code of kitchen ciphers. When faced with the dreaded Tupperware cupboard he adopts one of two strategies. The first (when I’m not watching) is to shove all the clean boxes and lids back in the cupboard as quickly and randomly as possible and then shut the door fast before it all falls back out again; this gets the job done in super speedy time and also provides him with comedy potential for when I open the cupboard later on. The second (when I’m watching) is to neatly leave all the boxes and lids on the worktop just above the cupboard – presumably for the Tupperware fairy to put them all away at a later point.
We’re very good at storing and using up leftovers but this requires another skill. Selecting the right size pot and finding a matching lid. This presents the husband with another challenge. The net result is that we regularly end up with one leftover sausage stored in a box that could accommodate an entire roast chicken. Or he’ll spend half an hour forcing three tonnes of leftover mash into the tiniest pot available. Most often he entirely gives up with the lids, he simply puts the pots in the fridge without an airtight cover, which kind of defeats the purpose of decanting leftovers at all but by this stage he’s usually either close to tears of frustration or swearing about the ‘stupid system’ – as though I’m involved in a high-level conspiracy with the makers of all plastic containers.
However the aforementioned provides with endless hours of amusement as a spectator. It’s so much fun I’m thinking of pitching the concept as a TV show: Man About The House. It’s going to be a range of domestic challenges for men to undertake against the clock. Round one will be blokes selecting the right size Tupperware pot and then finding a matching lid. To make it more complicated there might be added distractions like scantily clad women wandering past while the task is being done, or suddenly a buzzer will sound and the man will be required to do TWO THINGS AT ONCE.
November has been a comparatively dry month. Yes, I know. Everyone is shocked at the quantity of water on the ground; people are floating out of their homes on old doors; cars are being paddled down motorways; to build a treehouse all you need to do is swim to the nearest tree with some planks. Our dogs go for a long morning wade, and the sheep are twice their normal weight.
It’s not November what did it. It was the wettest summer for 100 years which left the entire UK like an old sponge drifting in a bath of scum. Plus of course since the last inundation, in 1963, we have cleverly built a lot of houses on flood plains. Our instinct for the high ground seems to have vanished. Except for us, of course, at the top of Swallowtail Hill, where hardy glampers have been continuing to – well, glamp. The last of the season squelched off this morning, seemingly cheerful enough, leaving us with two months of repairs and renewals in time for a waterlogged February re-opening. Sarah has given me a three page list of things I have to do. Each page is divided into three columns. Each column has 30 things. 90 to a page, 3 pages, that’s 270 things. I am in charge of things. Except where Sarah believes I have no competence, which, fortunately, is quite a lot.
I am not allowed, for instance, to wash the duvets. My job is to heft them up to the storage loft in what used to be my barn. I cannot clean the windows in the cottages, because cleaning is not a special skill of mine, and when I try it has to be re-cleaned. (Any day now this policy is likely to apply to me having a bath). I can, however, empty the compost lavatories. This involves dismantling the entire construction, hauling out a huge plastic tank, and shovelling the….the contents into a big hole. Which I will have to dig. In the sodden earth.
I am also in charge of ensuring the construction of our new tent cabins actually happens before anyone comes to stay in them. Ideally during a week when the ground is frozen solid and the air temperature is minus 10.
We are looking forward to a holiday of our own in 2025.