The ‘tropical’ weather that my neighbour warned me about arrived. Nothing mega but enough for me to have to batten down the hatches and the baby pumpkin plants. I haven’t yet ventured ‘up the garden’ this morning so I have no idea what has happened overnight. I’ve been as far as the chucks and then the pond and then back to the sanctuary of the house before I was spotted in my night attire by my neighbour who resides under the conifer hedge – apparently!
I’d jump up and down and moan about the English weather but how can I? The countryside is beautiful. Green and pretty. Everything looks in its prime. Buttercups are taller than I’ve ever seen them. Cow parsley fills the roadside verges, frothy and fragrant. We may have to pay for it but I can’t pretend that I don’t think it is a price worth paying.
I had a good chance to view this summertime bloom yesterday when Richard suggested we went for a ride out. Yes, I know. I won’t do the stallions frothing at the bit again. We piled into the UP and off we went, up, up and away. I was pretty pissed off with him for something (can’t remember now) so when he pulled off the beaten track and headed down a narrow road, shouldered by a sign that said Calke Abbey, I had a little strop.
‘What’s this?’ I hissed, having just finished my nutty corn flakes, which I’d taken with me to finish on the way.
‘Calke Abbey,’ he said.
‘Well, I bloody know that. I CAN read!’
‘I thought we’d go for a little walk.’
“Thought we’d go for a little walk?” Richard hasn’t walked anywhere since our border collie, Meg, died, three years ago. And it was raining. And I didn’t have a coat. And I had, at the last minute, after grabbing my corn flakes, slipped my bare feet into flip-flops. AND …I don’t ‘do’ Abbeys, Castles and other people’s posh houses that are as big as shires!
He pulled up at the entrance and handed over five pounds (to park) and then continued on his way with me hissing, ‘five pounds? Two pounds fifty each to park the bloody car?’
Silence ensued for a mile as we ventured down the driveway bordered by acres of lush green grass, trees and short-horned cattle standing with their bums towards the slanting rain. We parked easily enough – well you would, wouldn’t you? What other idiots wish to view ancient monuments in a tropical storm. The man at the gate had given us a brochure which informed us that it was another nine pounds each to view the house and gardens and that this Abbey had purposely been left in a state of twentieth century deterioration and decline. Why? I would have thought that at twenty-three pounds for a couple they could well afford to do the bloody thing up. Worse was to come.
Richard found an old Ikea umbrella from out of the boot and fortunately my walking boots were also in there, so after making a childish point of trying to unknot the laces for ten minutes, I struggled into them. We entered the area in which they had plants for sale and then moved into the shop area. Suddenly an arm snaked around my shoulder and I turned to see Richard’s brother-in-law. Can you believe it? I mean, frankly it IS believable because they are members of the National Trust and this kind of thing is like life’s blood to them. It takes all kinds! After Richard had recovered from the surprise of another man slipping his arm around me we were invited to join them in the restaurant. Brilliant! Bloody brilliant. Leggings, little denim skirt to hide my fat bits, walking boots, an Ikea umbrella, eye-liner smudged, hair in need of a wash and we had to go and sit with these people. My worst nightmare. How could a private, unseen ‘ride out,’ turn into me being centre stage, looking like something that the cat would have been too embarrassed to drag in?
I won’t bore you with the details of the ‘tea and coffee’ session other than to say I think Richard’s sister felt sorry for him. Not that he looked much better with his mop erect and a shadow beard an inch long. We actually shouldn’t be seen out in public.
Goodbyes said, Richard decided we should have a look around the old stables. I trounced after him attempting to keep the Ikea brolly over my head until we reached the old stable block. I sulked my way up to the first door and mardily glanced over … and then my whole day changed.
The stables were exactly as they had been way back then and I saw Black Beauty and Ginger and little Merry Legs standing chomping hay and a tear zoomed into my eye. I could barely walk away. The tack room and feed room were exactly the same – bathed in time and dust. There was a chaff maker and a barley boiler and I animatedly told Richard how they used to chop up hay to mix with the rolled oats and barley so that the horses had to take their time eating and didn’t bolt their food. No such thing as horse and pony nuts back then. One stable had an old wooden pail piled on top of other antiquities and glory be …on top of the pail, sitting around the rim, were three swallow chicks, fledged but waiting for mum to return. We had been staring at the clutter for five minutes before we even saw the little birds. So much other stuff to take the eye away from those little gems.
I galloped back to the car, splashing through puddles, chatting away in oohs and ahhs and oh my Gods, with Richard nodding and trying to take in my happy rantings, half of them lost to the wind. And guess what? I’ve decided we are going to join the National Trust. Ninety pounds or something similar. Bargain.
But right now I guess I’d better venture out into the garden and survey the damage.
Take care my lovelies x
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