Monday, 1 October 2012

Bucolic

We spent the weekend at the Beddington Collective Farm (comrades are requested to ensure their innoculations are up to date and must sign this 38 page personal injury waiver before starting work). It is a very long way to go for the weekend, especially if, on the return leg, some idiot forgets to turn their headlights out on the Eurotunnel and gets a flat battery, blocking you in for a further hour, making 9 hours total return, with only 2 sausage rolls and half of Gloucestershire's apple harvest between you and, well, mild hunger. It probably felt even longer for the dog who injured both his front paws within minutes of arriving in entirely inexplicable circumstances (he went outside, ran around for a minute, yelped and came back in limping) and was unable to do anything other than sit on the sofa and look pained. Poor dog. He is a very good traveller, lying limp and flat and uncomplaining under the children's feet for however long he needs to, happy simply to be travelling with the pack. Of course on arrival back home, he leapt out of the car so precipitately he catapulted my Kindle into the gutter, thereby dissipating all my warm and fuzzy feelings towards him. It was ever thus.

I get as misty as the weather at this time of year: it makes me nostalgic for some golden rural childhood I'm fairly sure I didn't actually have. I love the leaves on the turn and a low pale haze on the lawn in the morning and the brambles getting fat and dark and my father's apple trees bent with fruit, the Sunsets and the Lord Lambourne's and the tiny deep red Spartans. Yes, I hate the country, but for a couple of weeks in September I conveniently forget about that and go fully Marie-Antoinette, hello clouds, hello fields, hello rotting carcasses, hello taciturn farming types pondering the slow but inexorable destruction of your way of life. Not even the spiders the size of ponies and the crushed pheasant guts littering the road and the pervasive smell of manure can put me off: it is beautiful and when the sun shines (which it did for a full 8 hours), I can entirely see the point of it.

My father didn't even have any interesting animal corpses to show us this time: instead we picked apples, and then we crushed apples in his primitive Heath Robinson crushing machine. Here they are, all three of them, cackling over machinery as they made a special protein enriched cloudy blend of stick and mud and weevil apple juice:


And here are my children roaming feral, which is always pleasing, since it gives me time to hide in the corner and read the papers and drink wine, issuing instructions like "go and find me six identically sized sticks" when they get too close.




Lashes kept his hood up all weekend, in the manner of a slightly shifty Grim Reaper.







Then we ate most of a pig and the children bought and then "performed" crap magic tricks. On Sunday we went to the Shipston on Stour Harvest Fair, where we failed to whack a plush rat, watched a man whittle a chair leg and Lashes won a Union Jack teatowel in the tombola. I was bamboozled into buying a bag of cobnuts for £2.50 from a man with incredibly bushy and persuasive eyebrows even though I don't know what cobnuts are or whether I like them (ok, apparently they are hazelnuts, I have looked it up. I don't like hazelnuts). A good time was had by all (except the dog, and even he perked up slightly following the pig leftovers).

Apart from the bag of cobnuts, we have brought home: 800000 apples (and probably about twice that number of resident earwigs and spiders), a mountain of chard, a few tiny anaemic heads of sweetcorn, some bacon, a WI Rhubarb Sponge Pudding, 320 Yorkshire Gold teabags, a couple of packets of jelly, some mini Cadbury's Caramels and a Lyle's Ginger Cake, for which I have a periodic nostalgic yen. Ah, Lyle's Ginger Cake, mon amour, my madeleine. My dad used to give me this highly processed vaguely ginger flavoured stodge for breakfast when I stayed with him in the holidays in the Yorkshire Dales when I was little.  On special occasions he would even bring it to me, with a cup of tea in his big spotted teacup with the cockerel on, in bed. That was my ultimate luxury: a morning in bed with Josephine Pulleyn Thompson or Agatha Christie and Lyle's Ginger Cake, under the beady gaze of a balding stuffed duck, then a trip into Leyburn to go to the cattle auction and Coke and a packet of Seabrook crisps in a pub, or a ride on Sonny the homicidal hairy strawberry roan pony. Simple pleasures. Well, when it wasn't shitting down with rain for the 25th day running and I hadn't lost my dad's watch or we hadn't had a fight about me being a surly brat.

Back home, there is no furious strawberry roan pony in a boggy field down the road and no trip to Leyburn cattle market but there is the now slightly squashed Ginger Cake, which I have unwisely placed on my desk. I am whittling away at it, much like that man with the chair leg in Shipston on Stour. It is as delicious as ever, especially the sticky, dark bit that gets stuck on the paper case, and which has to be scraped off with your finger, absent-mindedly. When I do that, I'm back there in my damp Dales bedroom in a faintly mildew scented fug of electric blanket and junk shop books, waiting for life to happen.

I now find myself wondering if my own children will have similar misty feelings about Old El Paso fajita mix. What did your childhood - real or falsely remembered - taste like?


15 comments:

mountainear said...

Bloody kippers, herrings and hot pot. Grey food full of fiddly bones. Bleugh.

SusanJane said...

Thin pink slabs of forbidden bubblegum, sweet enough to make your teeth cringe. My Mom's truly heavenly pot roast. Creamsicles. And then there were the starchy, leathery canned lima beans, for balance.

Patience_Crabstick said...

Old El Paso fajita mix! LOL!!

My childhood tasted of graham crackers dipped in chocolate, my mother's extra-hot peppers that she put into EVERYTHING, homemade peanut butter on Arnold's white bread from the bakery thrift store with which we would completely fill the trunk of our Oldsmobile and then store in an enormous freezer in the basement. That's about a six-month supply of bread for a family of five.

Emily said...

I'm *sure* you're not knocking Old El Paso. (Were it not for those mixes, I would have starved to death after the birth of each of my children...)

Bytowner said...

My grandmothers shortbread, fresh corn on the cob ( i believe this is what you referred to as sweetcorn?)
But also green peppers which i detest, in many forms but never disguised enough
What lovely photos!

Barbara said...

You are the most wonderful writer. Wonderful.

Waffle said...

I am absolutely not knocking Old El Paso, Emily. I was telling M recently that I think it is my signature scent. Old El Paso "Fajita" pour femme. As opposed to Old El Paso "Burrito" pour Homme.

Anonymous said...

Liver in gravy, home made crinkle cut chips (my Nanna had a special cutter) and peas every Saturday for lunch with my grandparents...(and don't worry - the hood won't come off for the next 3 years.. we are hoody central..)

frau antje said...

If there's a soundtrack, I hope it's more Belgian, less guns.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmtkfyGzBZo

Helen said...

Vegetables straight from the allotment, my mother's amazing scones, Granny's mint imperials, roast on Sunday.

When my older brother was in Reception at Primary School, the teacher asked the class what mummies and daddies drink. He replied "gin". Good job the teacher knew the family or I think Social Services would have been round for a word...

DES said...

Hate to bring down the tone of things with my hideous American (Midwestern, no less)recollections: a horrid business known as jello salad, featuring luridly colored cubes in an orangey 'dressing,' aka mayonnaise. Fish sticks (I believe you call these fish fingers?). Plenty of ketchup. And don't forget Tang, a day-glo orange beverage with the nutritional value of strontium-90, which was supposedly drunk by American astronauts. It tasted like liquid tin, and stained one's mouth and tongue.

Anonymous said...

Your writing is magnificent. That is all.

Anonymous said...

My childhood tasted of fresh pork from our hog Wilbur, sausage and eggs, and biscuits with that delicious country gravy that my dad made ever so slowly, and stale beer that my mom would use to wash our faces in the car before we went up to anyone's door.

Candace

Anonymous said...

Roast lamb with lots of roast veges, the smell of mum making marmalade, and dad extracting honey from his hobby beehives.
Heather (NZ)

Scunder said...

Everything in my childhood was orange including the food( baked beans frozen findus crispy pancakes, fishfingers, birdseye supermousse).The 70's were a predominantly orange decade dotcha think-Discuss.