My Weekend Up North.
Last weekend I was honoured with an invitation to Tom’s parents’ farm. They don’t really tell people where they live usually, and have been known to escape through the living room window when visitors unexpectedly arrive (his siblings go through the window, that is, not his parents. Though I think they were jealous). Seeing as I’m marrying their eldest son next May, however, I am slowly being let into the fold (Tom tells me this caution results from their not wanting to frighten me off, given that I am favourable breeding stock. I’ll take that compliment).
The wonderful thing about owning a farm is that there are lots of toys around like tractors and chickens to play with. Owning swathes of the countryside also means that you can potter around in complete privacy, and not have to worry about strangers wandering past and telling you you’re not allowed to set fire to/ destroy/ do that. I was lucky growing up as a teenager, as my parents’ house is in the middle of nowhere surrounded by farms, most of whom we knew well and so gave me permission to wander or even ride across their land. We’re very much intending to buy land ourselves one day, even if it’s just a couple acres of woodland to play with (I suppose we should probably buy a house first though. Sigh). In the meantime, we’ll make do with the playgrounds our parents own.
Me driving a tractor. Well, sitting in it. (I’m not even trustworthy behind the wheel of a car – can you imagine how much damage I could cause with this bad boy?)
Tom’s younger sister, Katie, and her pet cow. “Aren’t all cows on farms technically pets?” I hear you ask. No (I reply) because most of them are mental. This one, however, is very pretty, so has been granted pet status.
After looking at all the cows, messing around with the tractor and sniffing all the cats (I miss cats a lot. They smell SO good) we headed out into the fields with a barbecue, food, copious amounts of cider and logs. We collected a huge pile of kindling from the hedges, dragging dead branches out of the trees and undergrowth to be broken up and put into piles (and yes, archivists I used to work with, I catalogued it according to size. See what you have turned me into).
Katie providing the barbecuing expertise, Tom took on the role of High Commander, ordering us all around (everyone ignored him), and Jim provided the muscle and brute strength.
Tom sawing up logs in front of the AMAZING fire we built. It got bigger, as the night seeped across the landscape and the cider flowed, but here looks quite neat and civilised.
Man chop log. Make fire.
Me sawing up logs. It turned out I was a lot better at this than the boys, thanks to my dad training me to help him in the garden/ with DIY since I was a toddler. Some would call this slave labour. Dad calls it spending quality time together (I actually loved it, to be honest – I still get a real kick out of using saws, hammers, axes, brush-cutters, drills, electric sanders etc, and being good at putting flat-pack furniture together. Winning.)
Jim and Katie trying to work out how to use the barbecue.
Look at the size of that beast! More Australian training from my dad.
“Get off my land”.
Once we’d piled on the heavier logs we – eventually – managed to chop up, the fire gave out more than enough heat to keep off the night-chill. As dusk set in we watched a barn owl hunting around us, its wing beats completely silent, only its pale colouring giving it away. Tiny bats flitted through the sky catching insects, and we settled down to UFO (satellite) spotting. Food always tastes better outdoors, especially if it’s a bit smoky, and successfully building a fire that keeps you warm all night feels like a far greater achievement than anything you could be paid to do.
I warned you about the countryside in my last post. Strange entertainment is to be had there. We spent the afternoon with a few of Tom’s old school-friends, in… wait for it… the Lancaster Antiques Warehouse. I’ll write a post at some point about the dos and don’ts of shopping for antiques/ tat, but this place is a whole experience in itself. There are so many rooms filled with dusty items for purchase that it is fully possible to get lost, and the objects available are… indescribable. I’ve included ten examples below, just to give you a taster of the wonders and delights you can unearth.
Object No. 1: a chewbacca rucksack.
Object No. 2: A peacock fireguard, incomprehensible when not splayed. Whole minutes of fun possible.
Object no. 4: an oak… bucket. Modelled by Tom.
Object no. 5: clothes perfect for a night out on the town, modelled by – a delighted – Dave and Chris. I came around the corner and discovered them literally tearing these on in glee.
Objects No. 6, 7 and 8: a full-length white fur coat, (broken) wooden tribal spear, and a porcelain cat with freaky eyes (we bought the cat).
Object no. 9: Tom found a pimp coat, lined in tangerine satin. And some second-hand (third-hand?) children’s toys.
Object no. 10: my favourite find. A submarine uniform cap.
All in all, we had a wonderful weekend, and were very sad to return to London.
You might also like: