Chatty Man

April 12, 2013

A new character might have to be added to the blog’s dramatis personae to replace the hens – for the last couple of weeks whenever I’ve cycled down to the papershop I’ve noticed a chap standing or walking along the back road to Papershop Village. Unusually, he doesn’t have a dog with him, which makes him stand out in these parts, especially as he’s generally to be found quite far from any actual houses. I’ve already learned to my cost that he’s one of those people who treats ‘how are you?’ as a question requiring an actual answer* and that he’s not someone who responds to any winding up sort of remarks in a conversation, so that after I unwarily slowed down to respond to a pleasantry, I ended up having to just ride away from the resulting monologue. I do occasionally enjoy teasing my inner Londoner by getting into conversations with strangers, but preferably not potentially endless ones, so although I know quite a lot about him from his entire medical history to his opinion on people who still live with their mothers in their twenties (not favourable), I still don’t know what he’s doing wandering around the back roads and I’m not about to risk asking. I shall just have to wonder and form increasingly elaborate theories – while making sure I respond to any future conversational gambits from him without breaking my cadence.

I’m reminded of the time when we lived in Maidenhead in a house without a washing machine and every weekend I used to load up the week’s wash into a huge backpack and walk down to the laundrette for a service wash and then hike it back in the evening. I must have done this every weekend for two years, and fully laden hikers are not a common sight in that part of the world. It was almost the last time I did it that someone finally stopped me in the street one evening and burst out ‘What is in that backpack?’ I was only sorry to have to disappoint him with the sad truth that it was just laundry.

Sometimes it’s better not to find out …

*suffering from diabetes, heart disease, a poorly mended dislocated shoulder, and in need of a hip replacement as it happens.


The Rural Mysteries Continue

March 23, 2010

I’ve read my Uphilldowndale – I know that the mole catcher puts his kills up on the fence, to show how good he is at his job, and possibly to act as a deterrent to others. It’s just one of those not-so-pleasant aspects of country life, like slurry and black plastic and Range Rovers.

So I wasn’t that surprised to see a pathetic little furry body impaled by its ears on a barbed-wire fence as we went down to check the level on the ford (about 3 inches, as you ask).

Only …

…That’s not a mole. It’s a – well, I’m not entirely sure what it is. It looks malignant though.

As it happens, I still have my stuffed-toy kermit from when I was a child. Do you think if I nailed it to the front door it would keep the frogs at bay?


Funky Chicken

February 22, 2010

There’s a place, halfway to Nearest Village we’ve been calling the Chicken Ranch as that’s basically what it looks like. Apparently – according to local gossip – the owners had applied for planning permission to build a holiday cottage there. When that was turned down, they erected some fencing – the kind you use to keep curious children out of building sites – and turned it over to chickens. At first it was just one enclosure full of hens, then another was added, then some ducks and geese, a caravan for the chicken farmer (any suggestion that this is all some cunning plan to get planning permission for an agricultural worker’s cottage would be entirely cynical) and finally, a peacock.

A what? I hear you cry

Yep, passing down there on the bike this morning, I saw that one of the enclosures was now housing, along with some rather bewildered looking hens, a peacock*. What can it mean? We don’t go much in for banquets in these parts, at least not the kind where anything other than haggis is the pièce de resistance. My hope is that they’re planning on seriously upgrading the sort of game that gets released around here for merchant bankers to shoot. Not only would a bunch of peacocks running wild around here cheer up the countryside considerably, but they’ve got to be less stupid, and less suicidal, than even the brightest pheasant.

* My first thought was that the free-range egg business was going seriously upmarket**

** I know, I know, my second thought was realising why that one wasn’t going to fly


More Pinkification

September 16, 2009

Ah, I’ve just remembered what I was going to blog about, only this time it’s not as a rant, but in puzzlement. Over the past few months, I’ve noticed one house after the other in the area being painted pink. When we moved here, there was a cluster of houses in one valley that were all pink, which we put down to the eccentricities of a local landlord. But then, on the road to Papershop Village, first a whole farm (cow byre, tractor shed and all) and then a nearby house, got the rose-coloured treatment. And then, in the past few weeks, two houses in Nearest Village have succumbed. They’re all the same shade of pink – a sort of sugar-almond, sweetly pretty colour. And it’s not gentrification, either – the farms at least are all rufty-tufty working farms with the smell of slurry to match. The traditional colour for houses round here is either white and black, or one of the many depressing shades of grey that pebbledash goes when it is permanently damp. Either way, the pink stands out.

What can be behind it, do you suppose? A meme? A rebranding exercise so subtle it’s escaped me? A mix up? The mark of Cain? Or just a particularly good deal on masonry paint at Homebase?


Back on the Bike

January 22, 2009

I haven’t been on the bike for over a week, partly because the weather has been beyond atrocious – ludicrously awful with gales, sleet, snow, fog, bucketing rain and at least half an inch of hailstones yesterday. Partly also because I’ve been trying to get my driving going again which meant some practice sessions in the new car with the other half. These did not go particularly well: the best that could be said for my first outing was that I didn’t hit anything. As for the rest – well by the end the other half was only going ‘Jeeeeesus Christ’ three or four times a session, which I count as an improvement, although it could have been because he had his eyes covered and was cowering in the back. But anyway, I have done the driving that I needed to do and today, it being fine and breezy, I was back on the bike to the relief of all concerned.

My route took me past the scene of the mysterious pipe and bucket combo, and I can now report that there have been developments. The bucket has gone and been replaced with …

mystery (partially) solved

mystery (partially) solved

… a water feature.

Now you might think – given that this – rather impressive – construction is effectively in the middle of nowhere and certainly nowhere near any house or garden, that the mystery continues. But, having had to give directions around here it makes perfect sense to me. You see the landscape around us, while beautiful, consists of the same few elements – drystane dyke, church, cottage, farmhouse, barn, field, plantation forest, bridge, stand of trees, hill – repeated over and over. The roads are almost all un-named and un-numbered and the signposting tends towards the erratic. If you see a sign to where you’re going at one junction then you can be fairly certain that at the next junction, there will be no mention of your destination, and half the little roads around here get no sign posts at all. Directions tend to be of the ‘go 3.8 miles along the road until you come to a track, go up it and take the ninth left, and if you reach the sea you’ve gone too far’ kind. A couple of weeks ago, in the fog, we had to go out and rescue someone who had got so lost trying to find us that she had almost given up. And she had lived in the area for years…

So if you live down an un-named road, off another un-named road, off a third un-named road, in the land that signposts forgot, then building something like this at the end of your road makes perfect sense. Because with ‘Turn left at the big water feature’ there’s  no chance of there being another one of those around. Or at least until the idea catches on, and everyone has one.

I still don’t think it adequately explains the bucket, though.


Stick it up your Jumper

December 12, 2008

I was back on the bike after a week’s absence today, and it felt as though it had been rather longer. Certainly the hills felt tougher, the headwinds windier, and the various squeaks and rattles from the bike squeakier. And there was something else not quite right, I thought as I pedalled my way through the bends, although I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Something I’d forgotten. Something important. It was only as I rounded the last corner and started down the last hill that I worked out what was missing: my bag. It was going to be a long ride back with the paper clenched firmly in my teeth…

Fortunately, I had a better idea and, like the professional cyclists cresting the top of an alpine pass*, I managed to stuff the paper down my jumper and make it home without strewing the Film and Music supplement halfway across the countryside. On the plus side – as the pro cyclists know – I found it made a pretty good windbreak on the downhill stretches. Although, on the downside, a damp and sweaty Guardian is even worse than normal at lighting fires**

But I leave you with another rural mystery. Spotted on a post-it note outside the shop was the following inscription:

Papershop*** Village Shop: Short One Fairy

Eh?

*only with a considerably crappier bike and rather more slowly.

** and it’s not just me – there’s a lively correspondence going on in the letters column of the Guardian about making it more flammable.

*** except it had the real name of the village, obviously, not Papershop Village, which isn’t actually its real name. In case you were wondering.


Why is it…

November 24, 2008

…that the sheep that regularly panic whenever I cycle past – Oh my God a monster! A monster on two wheels! And it’s looking at us! Run away! Run away! – don’t turn so much as a hair* when the military jets shriek overhead at 300ft?

I’m not even wearing my scary yellow jacket any more.

* or whatever the sheep equivalent would be. Wool? Strand? Curl?


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