The Idler Magazine

A Country Diary – 33

Posted in Tom Hodgkinson’s Country Diary on 10 November 2005

10 November 2005

FOR A WHILE NOW, I have been entertaining idle fancies of owning a Land Rover. My American Day Van doesn’t seem to fit down here any more. It’s too bourgeois and townie. Too flash. Land Rovers, however, are possessed of a special something. In embracing total utility, they created their own very attractive style. Imagine my joy, therefore, on seeing a lovely 1976 low mileage long wheelbase specimen for sale at my local garage. It has three seats in the front, two long bench seats facing each other in the back and a canvas cover. Truly, you will be in closer contact with the elements, which is good. I’m not into comfort any more. I’m into hardship. So, it’s certainly a fine vehicle, but I have been having problems justifying it. Apparently Land Rovers are heavy petrol drinkers, which was one of the downsides of my van. And although we live on a farm, it’s not as though I need to drive across fields and through muddy fords, rescuing more pathetic vehicles with my winch. But it is a wonderful-looking car. I have been discussing my dilemma with friends. Mark said, “you don’t need to justify an indulgence.’ Alan said, “one justification I can give you is that it will not lose its value, so you can sell it after six months.” Alan also said that he would be insanely jealous, which naturally provided an additional powerful motivation to buy the thing. Another justification comes from the fact that my van is probably worth about three times the cost of the Land Rover, so I would also be in profit on the whole deal. Then there’s the horse issue: maybe we’ll need to drag a horse box around one day? And the cost: It’s £995, it’s done only 70,000 miles and as it’s been kept by a garage it’s safe to assume that it’s in good repair. Land Rover here we come.

I HAD AN AMUSING ENCOUNTER WITH A SHEEP. I was round at Alan’s the other day to pick up a load of old timber that he was throwing away. I’ve been using old bits of wood to build a sort of shed with the kids in the vegetable garden, the idea that being that they will frolic around me as I work the soil. Anyway, he explained that a loose sheep was running around his land and would I help him chase it down the drive and over the cattle grid. He gave me two sticks and showed me how to wave them at an approaching sheep. It all seemed a bit elaborate: surely two men could outwit a daft animal? Well, this sheep was less stupid than it looked. At first we were lucky. It absolutely bombed it down the drive when Alan ran at it. But then it stopped by the cattle grid. Alan stood in front of me, waving his sticks. “Get behind me,” he commanded. “And if it runs at you don’t let it past.” I really couldn’t believe that this sheep could get past me, especially with my two sticks. Anyway, the sheep decided that it wasn’t going to go over the cattle grid, and remembering the nice juicy grass it had just been munching, turned around to face us, and then started belting down towards us. I’ve never seen a more determined sheep. In size and tenacity it reminded me of my eleven month old son, Henry, so we christened the sheep Henry. Anyway, undeterred and unfrightened by Alan and his sticks, it dodged pasty him and then started running straight at me. Like Alan, I crouched down and waved my sticks, but it easily ran past me and disappeared back to its field. Then Alan chased it through a wood while I waited by a gate. No luck again. Eventually I heard Alan shouting, “all right, all right. You win. I give up.” We retired defeated to the house.

I UNDERSTAND THAT seaweed is full of good things for the soil, so twice in the last week I have driven down to the beach with a couple of sacks and filled them up with seaweed. The second time I did this, I aroused curiosity form local holidaymakers, who wondered whether I was going to use it for a bath. Anyway, I adored slicing the stuff of the rocks with my little knife, while Delilah picked up loose-lying bits of seaweed. Real peasant stuff. Good living. Then I went home and spread it over two of the beds among the brassicas. Apparently it’s a good compost activator, too, so I might put a nice layer on the compost heap, which is stone cold as ever. Another idea is to put a bucket in my bedroom. If called upon to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, you simply use the bucket instead, saving a trip down a freezing cold hall to a freezing cold bathroom. Then simply empty the bucket on the compost heap in the morning. I stayed at the Crass house in Essex the other night, and this is what they do there, and a very sensible idea it is too.

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