The Deckmaster

One of the advantages of working from home is being able to enjoy the summer weather so I decided to take full advantage by obtaining quotes to have part of my garden decked. Subsequently, I contacted four contractors but as is the case here in Britain only two bothered to turn up.

I selected the company I had previously used for a small fencing job and as they had appeared to be fairly efficient arriving early, bringing along surplus timber just in case and speeding through the job. However, as he initially said he wouldn’t be able to start the job for some weeks I was amazed when he turned up one morning unexpectedly and told me that he’d had a cancellation and was able to start. A bit flustered I reluctantly agreed and that was when he asked me for an advance to pay for the timber delivery. Now that should have been the first red light but he was a small business and he had been very vocal about his marriage break up and child custody problems, so we agreed that he could have access from early the next morning.

I have to admit to being a tad disappointed that he didn’t arrive until mid-morning the next day citing family problems. It was then I noticed he was on his own carrying all his tools in a supermarket carrier bag so I enquired about his partner to be informed that he had left and was now working alone. I have to admit to being very concerned at this point but as I had paid for the timber I felt that I had to run with it but later that morning I was horrified when he asked which bus he should catch to the local hardware store as he had run out of screws.

The job progressed but I was seriously disappointed, it sloped and when it was finished it looked like something a first year woodwork student had cobbled together totally lacking the professional finish which I had asked for. The two steps I specifically requested onto the garden sleepers with incorporated ramp for my hedgehog visitors which I had provided a sketch for was frankly an amateurish eyesore and I had received a handful of splinters from the handrail alone. I realised that the works displayed on his website were clearly earlier projects when he’d been working alongside his former colleague or “borrowed” from google along with the reviews. The final straw was when he asked if I could lend him a level so I ordered him off site. Barbs, my bestie, told me to have a couple of vodkas as it would look better in the morning; it didn’t!

My not-so hedgehog friendly ramp

May All Who Come As Guests Leave As Friends

I may have mentioned before that two of our rescue cats prefer dining alfresco irrespective of the weather and that I usually am the one to sprint onto the patio to present them with the Table D’hote menu usually just after 5am when I’m getting ready to depart to work.

Hobo has always been a fussy diner but Charlie is not quite as discerning although I think it’s fair to say that he possibly may just love food more than life itself. After wolfing down his own platter he will usually sit inches away from one of the others drooling until they submit and walk away leaving him to the spoils.

The other morning I’d dished up the day’s specials when both Hobo and Charlie shot into the kitchen as if they were being pursued by the Hounds of Hell. I thought that perhaps a fox or badger had slipped into the garden and went to investigate.

Imagine my surprise when I spotted the cunning culprit gripping the edge of one of the bowls happily munching away. It was a little hedgehog!

As some of you may remember a couple of years’ ago I purchased a hedgehog house on a whim which was eventually placed between two of the larger lavender bushes because it was sheltered and protected from the cats. It became something of a standing joke with my family as they were certain that it would never become occupied but I remained optimistic.

Last summer I couldn’t help but notice the rustling in the lavender bushes and the cats lying in wait for hours but I didn’t explore further fearing a rodent encounter. I should just mention that Milo is the biggest scaredy cat of all, Hobo’s best friend is a house rabbit whom he sits alongside for hours, hasn’t much time for other cats unless they’re kittens and Charlie’s first and only love is a tin of Felix. I even caught a baby magpie using him as a step-ladder last summer to reach the bird feeder whilst he napped (his other favourite occupation).

Since then I have noticed a mother and baby hedgehog wandering around the lawn scavenging for peanuts and slugs. My Dad’s delighted with the presence of his little “Gardener’s friends” as they protect his precious dahlias by keeping the pest population at bay.

As I suspect the hedgehogs are fattening themselves up for the big hibernation, they have become regular supper and breakfast guests lining up alongside our feline family for both breakfast and supper. Of course, at Dyson Abbey we operate an open house policy and a twenty-four hour running buffet so we’re only too happy to oblige.

It’s hard to imagine these precious little creatures which have been such a large part of countryside folklore are under threat; fifty years’ ago there were thirty-six million now there are less than a million. With the hedgehog population in dramatic decline rest assured there will always be a welcoming dish of cat food for any of these enchanting wee folk here at Dyson Abbey.

Want to help the hedgehogs in your neighbourhood? Then you’ll find some useful information over at the British Hedgehog Preservation Society.

hedgehog

Save The Last Dance For Me

My Dad’s allotment has been part of our family folklore for as long as I can remember, inherited from my Grandad who had also lovingly tended the plot for his entire lifetime. My Dad would become so immersed in his labour of love that he’d frequently forget the time so as a youngster I used to cycle at breakneck speed down the lane at the back of our house to drop off a packed lunch for my Dad or remind him that it was time for tea. I’d done the journey so many times that I knew every single bump in the road and even now the scent of wild garlic transports me back to those hedgerows covered in Bluebells and Queen Anne’s Lace. Apart from the time I misjudged a pot-hole, tumbled across the handlebars and ended up in casualty; I still have a slight scar across my eyebrow. In recent years it’s been more of a stroll often accompanied by One Speed Hobo, our elderly rescue cat; who enjoys a good excursion.

I’d help the old fella tidy up but not before we’d have a quick waltz amongst his prize-winning flowers bathed in the rosy hues of the setting sun to Nat King Cole or Frank Sinatra which would be blaring out from the old wind up gramophone or more recently a CD player. As a small child we’d do the father and daughter dance where I placed my little feet over the tops of his and he would mark out the steps for me. Then we’d both walk home arm in arm as we had always done, giggling together over some private joke.

During the winters we’d take refuge from a downpour in the shed where we’d lounge in the dusty old armchairs warming ourselves by the small camping stove nursing mugs of hot chocolate in our chilled fingers and in the hot summers we’d have home-made lemonade to quench our thirst. It’s provided us with somewhere to escape from the world and the rain and has been a haven for various wildlife over the years including a feral cat with her kittens and on occasion a traveller during harsher winters. My Dad’s caring endeavours are evident throughout; on the shelves which house his gardening books, the potting bench where he cultivates most of his seedlings and the boxes holding bottles of his home-made Blackberry and Elderflower wines.

It seems however, this golden chapter in our life has now come to an end and it’s time to hand the keys over to someone who’ll nurture our little horticultural paradise as we have done. Since Dad’s stroke we’ve struggled to maintain it but it’s tough watching your much-loved piece of heaven become overgrown and neglected. It’s going to be so hard saying goodbye to such an enchanting place and several lifetimes’ work. You see the thing is, it’s never been just an allotment to us; it’s been a magical kingdom sprinkled in pixie-dust. Somewhere dreams were dreamed and memories made in our fairy-tale castle where dragons were slain by white knights who wore flat caps and made Dandelion wine. I shared my first kiss there, had my first (and last) illicit cigarette and precious encounters with fey wildlife creatures. My journey from childhood into adulthood has been vividly measured there by the coming and going of the seasons; from the planting of the winter flowering bulbs, the shrubs laden with summer fruits to the tender preparation of the dahlias for the village show to re-starting the process all over again for the following year.

Inevitably its going to be harder for the old fella to lock up for the final time but we’ve come to realise that life is a dance which you learn as you go; sometimes you lead and sometimes you just have to follow the music.

For those of you finding yourself in the same situation as my lovely Dad, don’t struggle on alone contact the Stroke Association .

The Old Fella's prize winning dahlias

The Old Fella’s prize winning dahlias

The Great Escape (Part Two)

If you missed Part One you can catch it here

The following day Barbs and I discussed strategy over a hearty breakfast at the local organic café as my mother insists on giving us porridge, muesli, prunes to keep us “regular” but superheroes can’t march on granola alone and neither would it help hone my cat-like reflexes ahead of our stealth invasion.

As soon as we had finished our Big Girls’ Breakfast we returned home to gather “intel” for the covert mission ahead. Two discarded Toy Story walkie talkies were retrieved from the loft where the kids had left them a fair few years’ ago. The fact that they were now in my possession suggested that they were some toys you never outgrew and some adults who never grew up.

With the batteries replaced they were as good as new and the range so clear that I could probably have safely guided a Boeing 747 in to land on my Dad’s lovingly cultivated lawn.

Barbs’ late mother used to knit balaclavas which would have been ideal for the job in hand but sadly as she was no longer with us I had to make do with one of my Dad’s old gardening hats but as I picked up the scissors to insert eye holes my mother snapped “Deborah, don’t be using my good scissors for those” As opposed to the naughty ones!

We spent the next couple of hours assembling our outfits for the covert mission ahead and agreed on our radio pseudonyms; Barbs would be “Roller Chick” and I would be “Lawn Mower Girl” for use over the airwaves. We giggled as we finalised the details of our cunning plan and envisioned victoriously retrieving all our lost booty. We waited until midnight or the witching hour, which as you know is when Barbs and I do our best work.

It was a clear crisp night with a full moon and having disconnected our security light we snaked over to the privet hedge. I tried to persuade Barbs as the littlest and most lithe to venture across the great divide but she wisely declined which meant that I was going to have to be the one to defend the family honour.

“Now be careful with that garden shed; it was put together on a wing and a prayer like all his other DIY projects. One slight tap and the roof’ll fall off” hissed Barbs.

As I struggled to heave my ample bottom over the hedge I couldn’t help but think it would have been a damn sight easier if we’d got the local WICCA coven (one of the members makes jam with the old dear at the Women’s Institute) to create some potion or other for us; one that involved a good deal of discomfort, of course.

Sitting astride the hedge with the blackberry brambles ripping me to shreds, Barbs handed me the walkie-talkie and as I slid down into enemy territory, I nodded “See you on the other side” as they do in the movies.

Having landed safely on Turbo’s decking, I crawled across to the shed. Crouching I gingerly reached up for the handle and carefully opened the door.

“Lawn Mower Girl calling Roller Chick, come in Roller Chick” I hissed into the walkie-talkie “I’m going in”.

I sneaked into the shed to retrieve as many familiar items as I could and handed them across the hedge to Barbs who was stood on tiptoe on the other side. After locating my Dad’s last spade, I whispered into the handset “mission accomplished Roller Chick, I’m coming home”. However, my excitement was short-lived as suddenly there was a creak followed by a large groan and the shed collapsed leaving me holding just the door handle.

Immediately the light in the upstairs window came on and I hightailed it back to the safety of the hedge. Across the airwaves, Barbs dulcet tones screamed “abort, abort”.

Well aren’t you a little late to the party, my little vertically challenged friend I thought as I scampered over the top of the hedge. I was literally one minute away from being undetected when the bedroom window swung open and a torch was shone in my direction.

“Who’s there? Dallas, is that you?”

Cringing with embarrassment I recovered quickly informing him that we were doing a little blackberry picking as a surprise for the old fella’s breakfast. He asked if I’d seen any intruders and with a sharp intake of breath I shook my head unconvincingly.

Hedgehogs” I exclaimed “loads of them around this time of year looking for somewhere to hibernate”

Without missing a beat that’s when my partner in crime piped up “they’d have to be ninja hedgehogs on steroids to bring a shed down”. After throwing me under the bus, she giggled softly “told you to be careful, didn’t I.”

Turbo scratched his head and said “Can’t understand it but the instructions were in Japanese so I just bodged it when I was putting it up. I’ll get your Dad to give me a hand with it in the morning.”

Relieved that we’d dodged a bullet, I  realised I was in dire need of  some fortification so we had a shot of my Dad’s dandelion wine but after Barb’s flagrant display of disloyalty I decided to save the good stuff until she’d departed for home.

hedgehog

No Hedgehogs were harmed during the writing of this post

The Great Escape (Part One)

Most of our neighbours have lived alongside us for several years in relative harmony where we’ve seen their children raised and move away from home to make their own way in the world. We’ve shared in their family celebrations and tragedies as they have in ours. So it is always sad to wave goodbye to family you’ve grown with but always nice to welcome new friends both young and old into the area. That is until Turbo moved in!

For some time now I have become increasingly irritated by our neighbour’s bad habit of borrowing items from us and never returning them. As a single long-distance lorry driver and aptly named (as he manoeuvres even slower than one speed Hobo) he moved into the house next door about three years ago and has regularly “borrowed” everything and anything from tools, tin groceries, portable heaters, garden and power tools none of which are ever returned. He assembled a shed about a year ago and asked us to lend him the necessary equipment which none of us have ever seen again. My Dad’s garden spades, forks and rakes, which had been lovingly cleaned and oiled over the years, have all been thoughtlessly abandoned in the rain once borrowed and when we request their return he tells us he is unable to locate them. One morning at 5.30am he rang the doorbell to borrow clingfilm and whilst I was already awake for work, the rest of the household were less than impressed.

Another source of constant irritation since wearing out the batteries on the doorbell is that he now bellows across the fence should he wish to catch our attention which is frankly going to drive the old dear to drink. I truly believe that if he heard we had nits the kleptomaniac next door would want to borrow them.

The final straw for me was when I was doing a spot of weeding during Barb’s visit. I was enthusiastically attacking the nettles whilst the lazy trollop was lounging in a deck chair supervising my endeavours. Turbo looked over the fence and asked whether he could “borrow” my gardening gauntlets after I finished as he had an urgent gardening project. Over the next two days I watched the lack of activity in the garden next-door and fumed when I realised that I again been duped. I decided there and then that I was going to carry out a midnight raid (think Expendables style but with less dynamite) ably assisted by my right-hand (wo)man and take back what was ours!

And if you want to know whether Turbo gets his comeuppance you can catch Part Two here 

I'm going in!

I’m going in!

Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?

Most of you will know that the garden and the old fella’s allotment are wildlife havens although my Dad has had to install deterrents for the Herons arriving to lunch on his Koi carp. Anyone on either two or four legs is guaranteed a meal at Dyson Abbey, even the birds eat A La Carte on the rare occasions when any of my mother’s homemade baking is left to go stale.

So one unbearably humid evening last week as I was trying unsuccessfully to grab some sleep before my alarm clock woke me at 5am, I heard this rather loud snuffling sound coming from the garden directly below me. I thought it might be one of the cats being ill, as we live in the countryside and it’s not uncommon for cats to fall foul of rat poison that farmers have distributed to eliminate the growing vermin population.

I grabbed my trusty old Star Wars torch (another classic birthday gift from the old fella) I reluctantly left the comfort of my bed to pad downstairs and opening the patio doors I crept into the garden. I quickly scanned the garden with my light sabre to determine where the noise was coming from and whether I would be making a mercy dash to the local veterinary hospital.

I refrained from switching on the industrial security lighting which my Dad had installed mainly because it had enough power to light Wembley Stadium and I didn’t want any low-flying aircraft mistaking our lawn for a runway.

To my amazement there was a mother and baby hedgehog eating the remains of Hobo’s supper. To our intense frustration Hobo insists on dining al fresco during the summer months and I’m guessing with the lack of rain that we’d had the soil was probably rock hard preventing the little folk from foraging. My Dad is always pleased to see a Hedgehog who after all is a gardener’s friend and it may well have been that this adorable duo had been visiting our garden for some time completely undetected.

I was totally enchanted by these fascinating creatures and even more thrilled when I opened another small tin of cat food and the baby, obviously very hungry, boldly ran across the lawn to dine on chicken and vegetables. Mum who was three times the size, was a little more reticent and hung back until I made my way inside the house.

Since then I’ve noticed that they arrive regularly every night to dine at the four star Dyson Bistro and arrive in crocodile formation walking the same route up and down old railway sleepers and eventually onto the patio to partake in the evening’s menu. As our rescue bunch who as strays were accustomed to scavenging bins have developed champagne and caviar taste since coming to live with us, we always have a substantial amount of surplus cat food and can usually accommodate the most discerning palates.

The past few evenings the little folk have out foxed me by arriving at different times but the other night I noticed that there were four of them so clearly our reputation as a four star wildlife catering venue has reached the rest of the local hedgehog community. We’re not complaining though as there’s something very special about hedgehogs and its a privilege to be able to share our time on this earth amid such enchanting creatures.

The earth has music for those who listen – William Shakespeare

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The Quiet Place

Each of us has a quiet place, somewhere where we go to write, reflect, create or just be alone. Of late I seem to have lost the key or forgotten the combination to the door of my secret place. Overlooked or misplaced either way I am struggling to find my way in where previously the door had somehow always been left ajar.

I envy my father in that way, that the second he plucks at a weed or picks up a shovel he becomes blissfully immersed and emotionally invested in his joyful occupation whilst the worries of the world just slip away. I seem to have lost my way to my own happy place and writing no longer beckons me or offers me solace in the way it has before. I envy those that find comfort in much-loved pastimes but I have always struggled to write if my soul is in disquiet.

Maybe all I really need is a little faith, trust and pixie dust but there again it might be that old familiar thief called time has stolen away my happy place when I wasn’t looking. What will help me find my way back? I’m not sure but when I find that magical road map, I’ll let you know.

So wherever you are today, I hope you find your quiet place and spend it doing just what makes you happy.

And then there were four!

And then there were four!

Bon Voyage Jingle Bells

On Bank Holiday weekend Dad and I had made arrangements to spend a few hours tidying up the allotment; Dad as the Director of Operations and me as the general labourer. Now some of you may already know that my Dad’s allotment shed is the luxury hotel version and it has always been a bone of contention with us, that my Dad insists on leaving the shed key under one of the plant pots. Over the past few years a “gentleman of the road” and his Lurcher has had the odd overnight stay there during some of our harsh winters. Many years ago he was one of the migrant seasonal workers that helped out as a farm hand but still continues to roam the county eking out a living doing odd jobs for a meal or a few pounds. Both he and my Dad were born in an age when a handshake was as good as a signed contract and whilst I don’t think they’ve exchanged more than the odd word, they acknowledge each other with a nod of the head which is enough for the old fella. His guest is always long gone before any of the other gardeners arrive and everything is left as tidy as he found it. To be fair Dad has enjoyed playing host ensuring there’s plenty of gas for the stove, batteries in the radio and my mum had grudgingly allowed him to launder a couple of old blankets in her precious new washing machine. He’s left the odd flask of tea and packed lunch there and I also suspect his part-time tenant is one of the few that truly appreciate his homemade wine.

As we pitched up for a spot of weeding, it was apparent that someone was still in residence and my father fearing the worst asked me whether I’d brought my mobile phone with me but we needn’t have worried as it was a different guest altogether. My eccentric uncle Bill, or Jingle Bells as my nieces had called him when they were very young, was holding his own pyjama party. Apparently my long-suffering aunt had had enough and thrown him out. He’d clearly spent a few nights sleeping rough in the shed and as his biting sarcasm rubbed others the wrong way it was unlikely that many would be laying out the welcome mat for him, my mother included.

As is the Dyson way, tea was brewed before a conversation started in earnest and as my Dad poured it out into three mugs my uncle proudly revealed that he had sold his estate car without consultation and invested their savings in a beast of a motorbike which had left my aunt less than impressed. To be fair his children had long ago grown up and moved away so a family size car was no longer an essential but not to include his wife in the decision-making process was a big mistake and one that he was currently paying for.

I couldn’t help but notice as my vest-attired Uncle finished his shave in an old hand-mirror that he appeared to sporting a new and very sore looking tattoo proclaiming “King of the Rode”. When I pointed out the misspelling, my uncle, always quick to save a few quid, explained that he’d had it done cheap by a Romanian tattooist; clearly a wise move! He quickly remarked that he was going to have it amended to say rodeo at which point I enquired whether he would be trading in the motorbike for a mustang. I was also pretty sure that whilst this wasn’t my uncle’s first rodeo I suspected it would be his first and last tattoo.

“Well, she’s got another thing coming if she thinks I’ll go crawling back and now that I‘ll be able to entertain the honeys in my new love shack…”. As we surveyed the “love shack” which currently included a make shift wardrobe and a small television with set-top aerial hooked up to an old car battery, I pondered whether insanity was hereditary. In view of the fact that he had also been married for the past thirty years one wondered if there were many women out there who were equally as mad as a box of frogs and would be happy to be romanced a la allotment style.

“In fact, as I am so contented here” he said surveying his surroundings “that when I go don’t bother burying me, just nail up the door and torch it” as that had been my Dad’s backup plan, I knew that this situation would now be resolved with lightning speed. Before the sun had settled over the yard-arm that day, my Dad acting as a go-between had negotiated a temporary stay of execution and my uncle resumed residence at the family home.

I have since been reliably informed that a compromise has been reached and a customised camper van named Priscilla, has been purchased for a round Europe road trip a deux.

The open road is the school of doubt in which man learns faith in man
Pico Iyer

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From The Cradle To The Grave Underwear Comes First

Last summer the village had its very own crime wave although the local community constable felt it unnecessary to consult with Scotland Yard. There had been a string of petty thefts from many local gardens and always the perpetrator made away with the same booty; knickers.

It would seem that the local lasses had attracted the attention of a criminal mastermind who had taken to trophy hunting. No house or garden was off-limits to this determined & adept individual who’d scale walls to pull off a heist and soon became known as the Phantom Knicker Picker!

I’m ashamed to say that even Dyson Abbey fell prey to this cunning criminal but frankly anyone brave enough to remove my mother’s newly laundered smalls from our washing line must have had a death wish and/or balls of steel. During a daring dawn raid my titanium re-inforced party pants (my deflector shield in my continued fight against the dark side) were also snatched. It would seem our robber baron did not discriminate in his choice of victim or undergarment and clearly had no shame either.

Until the bandit is apprehended Chez Dyson knickers for the time being will remain secured being dried in our utility room courtesy of Mr Zanussi and not gently caressed by a Devon spring breeze.

Should the stolen swag and the culprit ever be discovered it will be interesting to see if all village ladies will be forthcoming in identifying their own belongings or regretting not hanging out the Victoria Secret’s or Janet Reger lingerie.

Sans my mother's newly laundered smalls

Sans my mother’s newly laundered smalls

The Show Must Go On (Part Two)

It’s been a while so here’s Part One for those that missed it!

The rain continued to lash down so regrettably I wasn’t going to get the opportunity to wear my oversize vintage Givenchy sunglasses purchased for the princely sum of £2.50 from the charity shop after all. Fat and full from the bacon buttie I’d troughed, I noticed that things seemed a little busier upon my return and a little tense amongst my car parking colleaguesdad 008 with a lot of walkie-talkie action going on. Erin identifying Tommy’s dulcet tones had grabbed hold of our handset and screeched across the airwaves “Tell Tommy I love him”. Yes Erin, I rather think he got that but there again so did the residents of the next county.

Throughout the afternoon the lovers whispered sweet nothings at each other over the airwaves until a little while later when Erin spent a little too much time chatting with one of the fit firemen. Suddenly the kissy kissy love chat and innuendo was quickly replaced with heated accusations.

“Big Wheels Postie to Car Park Princess, could you ask that fireman to take his eyeballs out of your cleavage”.

“Roger Big Wheels Postie, it’s nice talking to a man whose idea of romance isn’t spending a night in playing Mafia Wars whilst I defrost his freezer”. And so it went on.

It was during the lovers quarrel that my iPhone buzzed alerting me to a text message from Serial Shagger which just simply said “Miss Me”? Immediately followed by a YouTube clip of Adele singing what I had thought was “our song”, although in hindsight “Go Your Own Way”dad 009 might have been more appropriate. Clearly, he had been informed of my glamorous job role and breathtaking appearance by Nauseating Nigel. For a few moments I hovered somewhere between anger and embarrassment but then I looked at my calloused hands which had spent countless hours stripping & painting walls of our former home and which had been destroyed by him in a fit of spite.

So I took a deep breath and text back “I’m not Adele. I don’t wish the best for you and neither do I want to find someone like you. I do, however, want to set fire to all your worldly goods” and promptly switched my phone off.

Fired up by my heated exchange with Serial Shagger and with my tolerance level at an all time low I snatched the walkie-talkie from Erin and in the words of Bootilicious Beyonce, I told Tommy quite firmly to put a ring on it. Well if you’re going to walk on thin ice you might as well tap dance across it!

As Tommy and Erin enthusiastically reconciled, I felt that my work as a peacekeeping & matchmaking kick-ass ninja was done so I made my excuses and headed off in the direction of the marquees, as I wanted to catch the awards being presented. I got there in time to see Sid’s marrows earn a bronze and Ernie a silver for his runner beans. However, I think we were all pleasantly surprised when my Dad won a gold for his Dahlias.

In my Dad’s acceptance speech, he declared that it was the proudest moment of his life. My mother looked less than thrilled as she had been under the illusion that she had earned that accolade on the day she married him and later when she endured hours of painful childbirth to deliver his offspring.

And the winner is ......

And the winner is ……

Clearly, my Dad had either been partaking in his own homebrew or had developed a taste for sleeping with one eye open and would most probably now be restricted to muesli breakfasts for the remainder of his natural-born life. His prize was a bird feeding station and my Dad handled it as if it was a religious relic.

As we all trudged back to the car park, my Dad was deliberating where to put his prize; if he continued to talk about it that evening whilst my mother was trying to watch the X Factor, I was pretty sure she would be able to help him with that!

As luck would have it, our car had become entrenched in the sodden earth. My Dad reckoned he could ease it out of the mud if we all gave him a push. We assumed the position at the rear of the car, my mother throwing me under the bus, by insisting I stand behind one of the rear tyres and Ernie the other whilst she was better and safer placed in the middle. For some reason unbeknown to us, as the wheels spun, mud was splattered in the directionality of my mother so she was coated head to toe in Devon’s finest fertile soil. As she looked like she’d spent the afternoon mud wrestling, Ernie offered to rinse her down with a bucket of water he kept in the back of his transit van for such an occasion but as she was sporting her cherished Jaeger coat she just gave him one of her withering looks that could dissolve steel. Ernie recognizing a force of nature when he saw one wisely jumped back into his van and hightailed it out of Dodge leaving us to face the impending storm.