A beastie on the wood pile and a pee on the floor

Having recently discovered the merits of dumper ownership I set my sights at getting me a dumper. My first hurdle was to get Cindy ‘on side’ she needed to understand that our limited budget had to stretch to getting me, (I mean us) our very own dumper. My ace in hole was that Cindy wanted a stable block which would need a concrete slab so ALL that HEAVY concrete would have to be hand barrowed from the road to the site ……. First hurdle cleared.

One of the perks of being a printer on the local paper is that you get a head start on the rest of the county when it comes to responding to the classified ads. With the ink still wet on the page and the sun barely above the horizon, I called the owner of a dumper advertise for sale, and arranged to see it.
We found the address deep in the country south of East Peckham. A cluster of varying sized natives approached, all white shirts, belts, braces and boots. The smallest shirts on chopper bikes ( remember those) and the oldest shirt in his slippers, sulking behind him a skinny lurcher cross, with a limp and an attitude.

Over the ear piercing barks of chained dogs, who were hurling themselves at us being halted in mid air and dragged back to earth by being literally being at the end of their tethers. We managed to established that we were not from the council, but had come in response to the advert for the dumper.

At slipper mans bidding one of the younger shirts disappeared. A few moments latter we could hear the quickening putt …… put…… putt….. putt…. putt… putt.. putt. putt. puttputtputtputt of a diesel engine awakening. Then around the corner steamed a dumper, a big dumper, a really very big dumper.
Having just recently made friends with farmer Tony’s little red dumper, I was expecting to see a beastie of a similar stature. Before us was a massive yellow dumper with a swimming pool for a bucket which was caked in dried concrete. It had four wheel drive, hydraulic steering and tipping, big tractor type tyres and throbbing engine which made the entire beastie shudder and gentle rock in harmony with the engine.

Over the cacophony of dogs, kids and exploding diesel, a shirt shouted that I should try it out. I knew he was right, but with my track record with stuff mechanical I knew the odds were in favour of me making a knob of myself. I would have preferring to be a knob on my own patch with nobody there to witness the event.

I got up on the drivers platform. It was like when you first got to ride your dads bike, you couldn’t sit on the seat and reach the peddles at the same time, when you did get on the saddle, all the controls were at the extremes of your reach and the ground seemed a disconcertingly long way down. A shirt gave me instructions as to the gear locations. I engaged a gear (first, I think) lifted the clutch. Yellow Beastie lunged forward throwing herself and me down the dusty track like one of those lizards running on hot sand, one front tyre did not touch the tarmac for twenty feet or more, and when it did, it was with such force that it nearly bounced me out of the seat. It was then I discovered that to stop the brakes literally had to be stood on and you had to apply additional leverage by bracing hard against the steering wheel. Which is when I also discovered the seat was not a fixed other than with a single bolt so it skewed sideways in an attempt at tipping me out the side. I managed to stop,turn around, and did a repeat ‘sand lizard’ performance. The shirts looked away, skinny dog took his attitude and limped away.

It was so powerful, so big, I loved it, I wanted it, I (we) brought it.
“ Foor anoveer score, heel dliveer it ome” said slippers . A young man, who should have been at school, then negotiated my Yellow Beastie neatly and smoothly up two ridiculous narrow planks on to the back a ridiculous small lorry. And with scant attention to roping Beastie down, we gave the shirt a lead back to Forsham Cottage.

Over the next few weeks we tentatively got to ’know’ Beastie. Manual dexterity with the starting handle was required to wake Beastie. You had the get the engine turning over at speed with the handle, then, whilst still turning the engine at speed, flick over a little lever on the top of the engine. Sometimes it started and sometimes it stopped the handle dead, which had the effect of ripping your hands off. Even though Cindy had to use both hands to swing the handle she actually got the hang of this. I went to get an X-ray.
Cindy did have trouble braking, she had neither the strength nor body mass to apply the pedal pressure required to stop, especially with bucket full of horse poo. The situation was aggravated when she had the bucket so full she could not see over the lump preferring to hang out the side. (like steering from the side car). Without faltering, Cindy, the dumper and dung run up onto, and then over our trailer, rolling back the mudguard like peeling the lid off a Sardine can.

One of the quirks of Beastie was the steering. Being pivoted in the middle when you turned, the front half ( the bucket) went around the corner while momentarily the driver (sitting on the back) is left still looking in the original direction, and being dragged around the corner as an after thought. This made the art of corning at a speed ‘interesting’.
This one time I came hacking down the field ( being cocky) and had to make a tight right turn followed quickly by a left around the wood pile.
The exact sequence of events is a bit vague. I do remember falling off the seat and going down the gap between the front and back wheels. I remember being a bit shaky but still able to stand and that Beastie had staled precariously up the wood pile.
Being covered in mud, rather than go in I knocked on the back door. “ I’ve just managed to run myself over with the dumper, ” I told Cindy as she opened the door. She looked aghast at the clay tyre tacks imprinted from my left hip and up over my right shoulder, she hesitated a moment before starting to laugh, with tears rolling down her face, “I think I’m going to pee myself” she said as she doubled up and collapsed on the kitchen floor.

I went back to get Beastie off the wood pile, leaving ‘ herself’ to mop the kitchen floor!

Its offical …… I’ve married a witch

Cindy & I are born and bred Kentish, she from High Halden and me from Woodchurch (four miles apart). I am not sure if we are “Men of Kent” or “Kentish Men”, which has something to do with being born one side or other of the river Medway, apparently to some folk’s that matters! . We have never moved out of the county, I supposed that makes us a pair of stick in mud’s which given the glutinous properties of Wealden Clay seems totally apt. We had no desire to ‘move away’ we like the Kent countryside from the neck craning chalk hills of the North Downs to the big sky’s of Romney Marsh.

In about 1976 we brought our second home, an end of terrace cottage, No3 Forsham Cottage, which is to be found four or five miles south east of Maidstone at the bottom of Sutton Valence Hill, in Forsham Lane. The attraction of Forsham Cottage was the third of an acre garden and as the asking price was at extreme top end of our budget, we weren’t going to get better for our dosh.

No3 had been ‘done up’ with not a penny more spent than was necessary so was totally void of any frills like carpets, curtains, the heating was an open fire which smoked (we smelt like kippers). The garden was rough pasture consisting monster lumps of couch grass, black thorn runners, and a prize selection of brambles and nettles. It needed the repeated application of an industrial grade flymo to make it even walk-able. At this stage I am meant to say ….. “but we loved it” . We had just left our first home, a tidy fully furnished semi with central heating and double glazing so during the winter of 76-77 we had some very intense ‘what have we done’ moments.

I have told Cindy and anybody who will listen she is a witch. I love her to distraction but that don’t change the facts, she performs spells. Three hundred years ago she would have been strapped to the wet end of ducking stool. Critters love her they trail along behind her. She reckons they talk to her, which to Cindy’s perception is perfectly normal, because she talks to them. If you ever see Cindy without a dog, cat (that’s a witch thing) or horse within chatting or patting distance, then its because she’s in the bath.

She will drive towards red traffic lights and barely slows forcing them to go green. Me, I get stopped at every light even pedestrian crossing with nobody there! She pulls up at junction and practically never has to wait. I look left, no traffic, look right and I have an on coming traffic stream longer than the Toyota output but for an entire shift. Cindy drives into a car park and there WILL be a space. I try to park and loose the will to live.

Over next few years we had various adventures at No3, but they are stories to be told another day. After we had tamed the garden, built an extension, installed a wood burning stove and had a baby, Cindy went into witch mode. From the landing window she would gaze out over the garden and adjoining farm and started to insist we were going to own the field next door. It started with an odd comment like “I want a horse”. Then I’d find her staring out and plotting where the paddock fencing would go, and planning how I would convert the pickers hut at the top into a stable.

Now given that the field Cindy had her mind set on formed part of a neighbour’s long established fruit farm. Was hardly standing fallow being planted with trellis after trellis of loganberries and cultivate blackberries. Was NOT for sale, and perhaps I should also mention we were ‘ without funds’, so all in all the omens for Cindy’s equine expansion plans did not look promising.

We took ownership of the field and pickers hut a few months later. I could regale you with how this happened, but to me even now, it is still a blur. Back then I brewed cider, now I would have to seek therapy …… just go with the flow, I have to.

At this point in time we now had a mortgage, a land loan, a horse, a baby, three acres of posts wire and brambles and a wood burning stove, which did keep the house warm and got us an introduction to the Reserve Fireman from Headcorn , twice, on the same night ….. they were not happy chappies.