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
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?