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The Idler Magazine

A Country Diary – 46

Posted in Tom Hodgkinson’s Country Diary on 7 June 2006

7 June 2006

THANK GOD for the hot weather at last. I was beginning to grow extremely miserable. The endless winter was very depressing. Is this strange weather something to do with global warming and climate change? I sometimes ask a friend to explain it all to me but it never really sinks in. The vegetables seem to be enjoying it, in any case. Things are growing. The broad beans are five feet high although their leaves are still dotted with little brown spots, chocolate spot fungus as I believe it is called. The potatoes, Duke of York variety, are two foot high. I reached in among the stems and pulled out a little tiny spud — and it had red skin, which was quite a surprise. I have just transplanted 12 cabbages and planted them here and there in the garden. Four are among the french beans. Three are a in new patch which I’ve cleared (and not dug). There are a couple in the wild patch and the rest are in the same bed where they were sown. These cabbages are called Marner Early Red and I guess it’s now time to sow the next variety. We’re aiming for vegetables all year round here. What is strange, though, is that while everything seems to be blooming, we have not yet eaten anything from the garden bar a dozen radishes and a handful of rocket leaves. I wonder what we should be harvesting right now, if we were self-sufficient, or would be still living on stored produce?

THERE HAS been a lot of animal-based violence lately. First there was the cock fight. Our neighbour’s cock strolled down to our yard one morning, looking for a fight. And he got one. Delilah, Henry and I watched this battle, awestruck. They wheeled around each other, shoving each other in the shoulder, and the one would fly up and attack the other. At one point the rival lay on its back while our cock, Combusken, trampled on its head and pecked at its face. But then rival cock, Helleborus, suddenly flew in the air and attacked Combusken. They moved to the barn and I suddenly realised that we were watching a cock fight. Hmm. Things really are getting medieval around here, I thought. Maybe I should invite the neighbours over and take bets. After gazing at this spectacle spellbound for five minutes, I thought that perhaps I’d better split them up, and tried to do so, but of course they ran back together again. It seems that our cock won. I saw him later on, strutting around the yard, battered and bloodied but alive. Helleborus was spotted once the next day, and after that simply vanished. Then Helleborus’s four remaining hens wandered down to our yard where they are now clearly the property of Combusken.

THEN WE HAD a terrifying visit from two terriers and a whippet called Albert. Lucy, their owner, had warned us to put away all bunnies and cats before she arrived as the dogs were likely to kill them. Well, I thought I had thrown out both cats but while eating dinner we heard the most awful caterwauling and rumpus. There was poor Mandy on the back stairs, with all three dogs at her throat. Lucy ran shouting at the dogs and I grabbed Mandy and pulled her off the canine brutes. She lashed out at me with teeth and claws, covering my hands in deep scratches, and then bolted for freedom. Lucy made jokes about returning to London and I tried to appear nonchalant although my hands were in agony. The bunnies survived the weekend safe and sound. Felicity shot down a drain hole into a barn when pursued by Albert. But on Sunday afternoon I looked out of the kitchen window and said “oh my God!” Albert had Combusken on the ground. We ran outside. The dog scarpered but the cock lay there motionless. His eyes were open but other than that he seemed a goner. But then Lucy strolled up to him and pushed him over with her foot, whereupon he simply got up, shook his feathers, and wandered off to find the harem. He is now somewhat tatty in appearance, having had loads of feathers ripped out, but other than that seems perfectly well. And maybe a little stronger. Mandy, on the other hand, has yet to come back to the house although I have seen her hiding in the wood barn, the poor traumatised thing. I think she has moved up to our neighbours, who appreciates her presence as she saw a rat in the bath.

FAR FROM BEING a country lad, Arthur likes staying in and he has found an Internet computer world called Habbo Hotel, and seems to want to spend all his time on it. In Habbo Hotel, you wander around a hotel and decorate your own room. But you need real money. One pound of Daddy’s money buys you ten credits, with which you can buy “cool, stylish rugs” from the Habbo catalogue, or pets or various other trinkets. Arthur bought a dog which he has called Tom. Some days I think the whole thing is quite sweet, and that we should not diss his interest, and then other days I see it as a sinister plot to indoctrinate children with the empty values of capitalism, always wanting more stuff. And I get enraged and pull the plug out of the machine and send Arthur out into the sunshine. Arthur is now saving up to join the “Habbo Club”, a sort of VIP area which gives you special privileges. So now he is learning about elitism. The kids on Habbo Hotel also send messages to each other, but they are written in that awful illiterate textspeak. “c u ltr” and that kind of thing. This morning saw the message “u r sexy?” pop up. Should I worry?

WE WENT TO THE local fete which is always very nicely organised. There was a fancy dress parade and Victoria had the genius idea of dressing Arthur as Luke Skywalker, Delilah as Princess Leia and Henry as�Ķ you guessed it, Yoda. So we bought some green face paint and Spock ears from the toy shop in town and I constructed a pair of green ears for Henry which fitted over his head on a piece of wire. We covered his hair with flour, painted his face green, put a little cloak on him, gave him a stick for a light sabre and – hey presto! – Yoda. We got second prize. The first prize was taken by a family who did Doctor Who, with the most amazing Dalek and K9. Bastards.

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