A weirdo caveman

I have a theory based on no sociological theory whatsoever, other than my slightly distorted perspective on the world, and just about everything. I think, that buried deep in some of us there is this gene that has its origins from way back when a weirdo caveman decide that running about with a spear trying to harpoon dinner was too much hassle. The weirdo thought it made sense to build stockade around a hut, call it ‘Dunhunting’ and breed his dinner in the back garden, which at the time was some pretty radical thinking.

My weirdo gene was running riot, I needed to build my stockade using stout chestnut posts (cut from the forest). Secured with chicken netting (from the farm supplies shop). I wanted my stock tamed, corralled and safe from the wild beasts. (well that’s my theory)

Before we acquired the extra ground at Forsham Cottage we had already established a vegetable garden and chicken run in our existing garden. The location and size of this first chicken compound was dictated by a combination of ignorance and geography. If ignorance is supposed to be bliss, then I was blissful. I had no comprehension of the potential hassles of a permanent chicken run, let alone one plonked twenty foot from the kitchen door. And geographically because the only area in the original garden for a run was behind the garage. The area was shaded by the building and 50ft tall popular trees so never got the sun. Plus the soil was clay and a concrete slab that caped the cesspit was only a spade depth down.

To get the stockade started I went to find Cindy’s Uncle Bob. He was (and still is, ‘just’) a woodcutter, and literally had stacks of posts in his little fencing yard. Uncle Bob is as wide as he is tall, and he is not very tall. His donkey jacket came down to his knees. He has shoulders like a bullock and is as strong as somebody who spent their entire life reducing trees to logs, would be. If Mr Attenborough had every sighted Bob in the woods he would have the sequel to the silver back episode.

(Coincidentally I was once reading an account of the doodlebug raids on London during WWII . It told that a lot of the V2’s fell short of the capital and splattered Kent. The author mentions an incident during the raids when he discovered a woodman (guess who) dragging fallen V2’s out of the woods to get the scrap value of the copper wire they were apparently full of.)

My run was going to be constructed of neatly aligned posts, with wire pulled thigh and buried deep, to keep the fox out. I was going to have functional and secure chicken house. Feisty hens being attended by a vocal cockerel. And produce so many eggs I could sell them over the gate and pay the mortgage.

My neatly aligned posts were not neat and not aligned, tree roots, builders rubble and a cesspit cover hindered that. The tight wire, was baggy because the posts weren’t straight. And digging a trench around the lot to bury the wire was abandoned on the grounds that if I could not dig it, then nor could a fox.

Those eyes said it all .. and it wasn’t thank you!

Thanks to the spell casting prowess of Cindy (see, I married a witch). The field that was adjacent to our garden was now part of the garden of No3 Forsham Cottages. We paid way over the odds for what on paper was agricultural land. But we were not buying agricultural land we were buying garden and DTS (Despite The Spell) our farming neighbour did not actually want to sell land, so a classic case of a seller’s market.

Like a couple of seventeenth century homesteaders we started to clear OUR land of its Logan and Blackberries. This we did before the ink was even on the deeds, let alone dry. We were excitedly anxious to claim our patch and had a notion that the more we stripped out the evidence of cultivation, it lessened the likelihood of bloke next door changing his mind.

There was a lot of posts, a lot of wire, countless fencing staples, and multiple hay stack size mounds of sadistic, bramble briar’s in three acres. Usefully we found a lot of bagging hooks (local term for a sickle) and various pruning tools in the pickers shed which had come as part of the deal. Other than that we had very little in the way of tools and absolutely nothing that could be deemed agricultural machinery. As the plot was ‘land locked’ with the only access being via a six foot wide alley between our house and garage, we were a bit snookered as far as getting any mechanised help. And as we were in yet another one of our ‘dosh free times’ buying or hiring was not an option.

Our tractor and trailer was an old tarpaulin with ropes tied to the corners, on which we stacked the ‘fire fodder’ and manually towed it to the bonfire. So that Cindy could carry on ‘towing’ when I was at work, I made her a ‘lady size’ towing sheet…. those eyes said it all .. and it wasn’t thank you!

Having to construct a new boundary fence, as part of the deal, we recycle the posts, wire and staples that were serviceable. Cindy was the post holder, I hammered in the posts whilst standing on a kitchen chair and swinging a nine pound sledge hammer. When in full swing, and beyond the point of a controlled stop, I just had time to say … “the heads coming“……… before the head parted company with the shaft and hit Cindy in the stomach. I know cavemen are reputed to have clubbed the lady of their choice and drag her back to the lair. But in my case a nine pound sledge hammer head in the belly did nothing to impress!

Tracey (daughter) or as we called her ‘the Kidlet’ was very young at this time, and feral. Her wardrobe consisted of red wellington boots and a miniature tractor suit (overalls) or when she went casual, just red wellies and her pants! The Kidlet spent hours doing nothing, I say “nothing” because whenever you asked what she was up to it was always ‘nothing’, or in her parlance “nutink!” One day whilst doing ‘nutink’ she managed to find some white stuff in an old sack which had been long buried in the tangled grass of the headland, we found her slightly foaming white at the mouth, with a white chalk face pack which extend down to her hand smeared white chest … and she now had fast going white parents …………. she lived.

A really nice local farmer called Bob, delivered some hay, ‘Bob the farmer’s wife’ emerged from the old transit van (she was nice as well) and asked Cindy if she could meet our little girl. We whistled her up (which worked with the dog well) in time our little darling came around the corner. A bit miffed to be called up, because she had been washing her hair in a puddle, golden blond curls were liberally smeared with an Anita Roddick style blend of wet clay and oak leafs, she looked like a cherub version of the Green Man Green ManSurprisingly, Kidlet did have her tractor suit on, which went someway to lessen the shock, when the feral Pellett kid met the nice Mrs ‘Bob the Farmer’.

I had an affair … with Felicity Kendal

Way back when King Arthur held court, I’m talking Scargill here, not him with the round table. I had an affair … with Felicity Kendal. To be fair she didn’t know about the affair, but my wife did. When Ms Kendal and that really ‘up himself’ Tom bloke were rotovating their lawn and making Margo’s life a misery the Pelletts (that’s us) were also strutting their stuff. We had goats, chicken, ducks, horses, dogs, doves, pheasants  cats, a log pile, a poo heap and the ubiquitous vegetable plot. We weren’t exactly self-sufficient more self-satisfied. We never crochet our own Wellington boots or turned bottle tops into buttons. We did produce eggs, milk, cheese, chicken, the odd duck, goat meat,vegetables, salad, copious amounts of cider, in fact it could be argued, (but not by me) too much cider. But I stopped at 200 gallons so I can demonstrate a modicum of self restraint…… I just know Felicity would have been impressed.

We even had the same rotovator as the Goods from Surbiton. A monster machine called a Howard Gem. We never got around to converting ours into a car. It was a great orange beast of a thing which was an absolute animal and when you got it started, it became certifiable. Once it got a grip and a bit of a speed up I was often left hanging out the back, having to break into a trot to get back in touch to change gear or stop the bugger. After time I got good at catching up, but not before the monster had hurled itself into the duck pond. I did try to let go, but a combination of pride, panic and forward impulsion ensured I joined it in the pond. Oh how I laughed as I sat there up to my chest in duck poo soup!

Another time I got the spinning tyres hooked in the lower strands of a recently erected raspberry wire, in less time than it took to say “what the ******”. it had wound yards of fencing wire around the tyres dragged a couple of fence spikes out of the ground and attempted to pummel them into kindling wood.

Howard (YES I gave it a name) was also prone not to start and I am also prone to not be having any patience with things mechanical. I have a limited tool box (I mean spanners) and an even more limited desire to read a workshop manual or to find out what a valve guide is. One morning after numerous attempts to get Howard to ‘wake up’ I finally flipped, with frustration boarding on tears I ran to the log pile grabbed a suitable bludgeon, ran screaming back and battered the bugger. What I did not know was that our neighbours (posh but nice) overlooked our plot they had an old aunt who was deaf and whilst she sat with her back to the patio window oblivious to the Neanderthal goings on in the background the rest of the family were being treated to a Basil Fawlty moment …..

Having got Howard back after its second , if not third trip to have ‘it sorted’ I thought it was time to let Howard go. I sold the beastie to a couple of old lads who asked all-sorts of questions about compression and stuff, I just pleaded ignorant, which was not far off the mark. But things got a bit tricky when Howard was being manhandled into the back of their lorry and mum in-law drove up, clambered out of her little battered mini and without drawing breath shouted to the new owner’s “has it broken down again”!

Years later we did actually sell an Ark to Penelope Keith, so can claim to have sold a chicken house to Margo Leadbetter. (name dropping, of course I am ……. get used to it)

Next time. Let me tell you about the time I got run over by my own dumper truck, and I was driving.

Hardcore & cider

As we swapped shifts Ron shouted over the clattering roar of the printing press “do you want some hardcore Joe” ( my name’s Rob, but they called me Joe) “no thanks” I said “our video’s on the blink, we need a new one“. “No, not porn, you pillock*, builders rubble” (*old printers term for esteemed colleague).
Ron’s boy had some hardcore to ‘dispense with’ but it HAD to be done the next day. We didn’t actually need any hardcore, but it was a bargain and hardcore is always handy! (but perhaps that’s just me) plus it was on some distant agenda to make a ‘hard walkway’ from our old garden into the new field, so I paid Ron and sealed the deal.
I got back off that night shift about 4 or 5 am on Saturday morning, and went to bed, only to be disturbed a few hours later by the aggressive hissing of air brakes. I heard Cindy and somebody talking in the lane outside, then the sharp hiss of releasing brakes and the lorry drove away, assuming it was somebody asking directions, I went back to try and get some sleep.
I had not had the chance to tell Cindy about the pending delivery, to be honest I forgot, so she was a bit taken aback by the question “were d’you want this dumped” from the driver of a Really Big Truck fully loaded with hardcore. She woke me, I tried to explain, “you’re a nightmare” herself said disappearing back down the stairs. I would have liked the change to have a sodding nightmare, shift work had destroyed my so called ‘body clock’, sleep was something I couldn’t even dream about!
The RBT was too big to turn around in our little lane so he had speed off to find a turning place. More than an hour later RBT returned with a less than calm driver. Son of Ron had tried to turn around in a junction with a grassy island. A local farmer had to drag him off with a tractor. The grassy knoll was left trenched and ready for main crop spuds.
On returning RBT hurriedly backed into our little lay-by, tipped his load and drove off. Leaving us to admire our new rockery which partially filled our section of the lay-by and spilt out into the lane. The next time(s) RBT came he reversed the quarter mile down our lane around the narrow blind corners, good driving but not conducive to other road users AKA neighbours, who as they reversed in convoy back past us and then had to wait for the RBT to shed its load glared at us, not brave enough to confront the driver of a RBT. Cindy asked “how much of this stuff have you actually agreed to buy? “some” was the best estimate I could offer ……..“nightmare!” said herself.
Over the course of that Saturday morning RBT came back four times. He filled our drive our lay-by our ever suffering neighbours lay-by and partially blocked the lane.
The only way available to us to ferry the hardcore ‘around the back’ was a wheel barrow. After several hours I was wilting, it was hot, I was tired, the loads were heavy, Cindy was ‘little’ and bless her could only offer minimal assistance. Some of the lumps were so big I had to sledge hammer them into lift-able chunks. We only had the one wheel barrow, which one mad collie dog accompanied back and forth on every trip barking insanely and trying to bite the tyre, which on some occasions could be deemed funny.
Tony, the farming neighbour pulled up in the lane, he looked at us, looked at the lump and looked at the wheel barrow, shook his head slowly and drove away.
A quarter of an hour later Tony returned at the helm of a smokey, noisy, and seen better days, little red dumper truck (with a damp flowery cushion to guard against piles). I can’t recall the exact conversation, but “I can’t watch you crazy f****er’s” was the gist of it.
I do not have an empathy with things mechanical. It’s mutual, I hate them, they hate me. But in this instance I was prepared to let bygones be bygones. That little red dumper took a bit of mastering, the steering needed two full turns of the steering wheel to take up the slack in both directions. The clutch was a bit ‘snatchy’, but the brakes were fine, once, but not in our time! Having watched me remove part of the external rendering from our kitchen wall, failed to stop in time and crashed into the lump and stall multiple times, Tony walked back up the lane, still shaking his head. Me and the dumper became mates! By tea time we had shifted the lump, swept the road, and collapsed with a mug of chilled cider.
Whilst slowly drifting off into a cider induced coma, I concluded that we didn’t actually need a new video …what we needed, was a dumper truck!

“That’s disgusting, what would Louise have said”

“Come and push down on the goats bum to see if she wants to mate”. That’s a welcome home greeting that only a select few would have had.

Coming home after dark from a late shift I found Cindy and the goat bathed in the light radiating from the back door. Gert the goat was very animated, anxiously shuffling from side to side, bleating persistently and waging her tail like a child with a flag. Having consulted the books Cindy reckoned this behaviour meant our Gert was on heat, but she needed conformation of her prognosis by having me ‘act the Billy’. Feeling slightly self-conscious I stood behind Gerty and pressed down on her hips. Gerty registered her ‘requirement’ by bracing herself for some ‘nooky’ action. My remonstrations that I was too tired, and she’d have to wait till morning, got me ’THAT’ look from Cindy and her mum (who I didn’t realise was there) went back to the telly, muttering something about “that’s disgusting, what would Louise have said” (Cindy’s gran) .

We understood that the second morning of the three day season was the most fruitful time for mating. I can’t remember how, but we had the contact number a lady in Biddenden (ten miles south) who had a suitable stud Billy goat that would ‘do the deed’.

Early next day found us heading toward Gerts ‘Mr Right’. Gert was a big goat so when she stood ( she didn’t want to lay down) in the back of our old Cortina Estate her head and neck came over the back seats and pressed tight against the roof lining making her ears protrude at right angles from her head. Gerts restrictions and contortions did nothing to quell her persistent bleating, which was now at our ear hole level. We had to open the car windows when Gert gave up on bladder control and started a torrent of wee which went on for miles, most of which found its way into the spare wheel well. Exposure to warm goats pee in the confines of a moving motor vehicle must surely contravene some road traffic act or other. Going through the road works in Headcorn High Street earned us some bemused looks.

Having found the place, a smallholding in the ‘back lanes’. We introduced ourselves to a very serious lady in a once white dairyman’s coat. Stud lady was not interested in any attempt at small talk . This was SERIOUS and things had to be done correctly. Cindy and I obviously knew about the ‘plumbing aspect’ but the protocol of having a goat mated was another matter. Stud lady disappeared behind the house to get her prize Billy. I had a preconceived idea of what a stud billy goat looked like, this based on the illustrations in the Billy Goat Gruff book Mrs Taylor read to us in class two at primary school (Cira 1959). I wanted the stallion of the goat world, a big powerful beast with a flowing beard, massive sweeping horns and a look that would kill. I was thinking Arnold Schwarzenegger, I got Albert Steptoe.

Albert was small, only about two thirds the size of Gert, sported a matted nicotine yellow stained white coat. Protruding from his head was a pair of distorted horns one pointing north the other east. He had a steady dribble of ‘stuff ’ coming from the ‘nether regions’. The smell of Albert and his ‘stuff’ is beyond any words I can conjure. To complete the picture smelly Albert was salivating, had a puckered top lip, which was twitching, as was his nose as he savoured the essence of Gert, this was no Schwarzenegger.

However Albert was well up for it, he did the sniff the bum bit (Gerts not mine) Then he let out a loud bellow, ran and up and banged himself against Gerts rear in a clumsy leap frog action which had him jumping clear over Gerts head. The whole ‘action’ was over in seconds. Stud lady said “we’ll leave it a few minutes and then do a second cover”. I was not aware there had been a first cover. The second time was none the less intimate, loud bellow, leap frog over the head, but this time on landing Billy raised himself on his back legs, spun on the spot and with head cocked crashed it down on Gerts crown. My comment that “Albert was not much of gentleman, gets his end away and then head butts her”, was not well received by the serious stud lady.

We took Gert home, this time she laid down, she stopped bleating, she smelt ………as did we and the Cortina.

Son of Albert was a good looking kid, but he ended up in the pot……..