Tales from the Vale

This is a True Story | Tales from the Vale

This is a true story.

It is the late 1970s, or early 80s, on a farm in Dorset. The hunt is close by.  But something’s afoot. There are far more mounts than usual, and far more followers. And the followers aren’t dressed in the usual well-worn tweeds and wellies. They’re in their Sunday Best.

‘What the hell’s goin’ on’, says the farmer, ‘all they buggers wha’s never been out before, all done up to the nines, looking like they’m the bees’ knees, wha’s goin’ on’.

‘Damned if I know, dad,’ the son says, who’s surprised to spot the local baker, a keen anti-hunt campaigner, happily among the followers.

‘Well, it must be sum’it, I’m tellin’ ee. It gotta be sum’it,’ the farmer paused as a new group of riders appeared, and added, ‘I ‘spect these daft buggers comin’ now are lost. Reckon I’ll have to tell ‘em where to go. Load o’ they buggers from town, I ‘spect, won’t ‘ave a clue’.

The first rider reined to a halt. ‘Good morning, gentlemen,’ he said, in a very posh voice.

‘Mornin,’ farmer tersely replied, heaving a bale.

‘I wonder, by any chance, could you possibly tell me which way the red coats have gone’.

Pausing, to relish his centre-stage position, farmer said, ‘Well, I’m gonna tell’ee, zun, which way they red coats go. The silly buggers ‘ave gone down thic lane, and all they other silly buggers followin’ on like sheep, have gone down thic lane, too. Now, I can’t make out why they’ve done that, ‘cos they ought to know by now they can’t cross old railway line’.

Pausing for breath, farmer continued, ‘the only way to get out of they grounds is to come back up the way they came. So, your best bet, me zun, is to trot up to the top of the road and wait, ‘cos, I’ll tell’ee, as sure as pigs’ ass is pork, they’ll all be tearing back up thic lane any minute now.’

The rider’s companions did not look pleased. There was great unease among all but the farmer and the rider. The latter gave farmer a genuinely warm smile, almost seeming to try not to break into laughter.  As opposed to his companions, he seemed delighted with this exchange.

‘Thank you very much, indeed, Sir, I am much indebted to you, for your vital information,’ and touching his cap with his whip, added, ‘I shall await they silly buggers’ return,’ and with a friendly nod, the rider, and companions, trotted back up the hill.

‘Well, ‘ee seemed a nice young fella,’ said farmer.

‘Yes,’ said the son, ‘but then again, he ought to be.’

‘Oh, why’s that’un, zun’.

‘Because, that, father,…was…Prince Charles’.

***

There are, I am knowledgeably told, life-altering Dorset sayings. ‘Love many, trust few, always paddle your own canoe.’

Well, I get that: be loving, but cautious, and tread your own path.

And here’s another. ‘When ‘ee d’ go shoppin’, always buy two’. 

With some things, that’s reasonable.  Socks, a pint at The Antelope in Hazlebury Bryan, a Fender Stratocaster guitar.

It makes a little less sense with the example given by the farmer keen on the ‘buy two’ quote.  

He said, ‘I went to buy a Land Rover, I beat ‘em down in price as much as I could, then when they agreed, I said, how much each if I do’ave two’.

The other farmer asked, ‘Yeah, but trouble is, you’ve now got two Land Rovers, and do ‘ee need two?’

The philosopher answered, ‘no, but t’were worth it to get so much off’.

My wife Kae was born in Dorset. She’s instinctively grasped this logic – and has improved on it. She’d returned from ‘a little look around the shops’, before I’d got home.  She proudly appeared in a stunning dress. She looked awesome.  After a few days, I discovered on the back of a door in a spare room, two other new dresses, different colours, same style.

‘I’ve got 28 days to return the ones I don’t want,’ she said.

Three months later, they were still there. ‘So they are,’ Kae said, with unconvincing surprise, when I pointed this out.

***

I’ve been given the manuscript of a book of reminiscences of a local farmer, my dear friend Brian Trevis.  He is the son in the above anecdote with Prince Charles.

Another of his chapters begin, ‘I was just easing myself into a luxurious deep bath of soothing hot water, fizzed and frothed to perfection by my usual, half a cup of Surf and a squirt of Fairy Liquid….’.

Well, we all take personal hygiene seriously, but this was rather an industrial approach. But, I did point out to my wife, who’s seen it as her duty during lockdown to keep Amazon couriers busy, that maybe we’d have a bit more spending money (and room in the bathroom) if she didn’t keep buying shampoos, bath oils and body lotions.

‘We could probably afford a country mansion, with a deer park and helicopter landing pad,’ I suggested.

‘We haven’t got a helicopter,’ she replied, not even looking up from her laptop.

***

As I write this the radio tells me that an American craft has landed on Mars (I can imagine the farmer above saying, ‘what be they doin’ there then, they silly buggers should sort out this planet first’), so I was going to cover that, but I’ve had a look at the Blackmore Vale area on the Editor’s hard-hitting new Media Pack (very worth a look blackmorevale.com), and find that Mars isn’t in our planned readership area  In fact, it’s further away than Wimborne, and that’s as far east as we go. Mars is about 40 million miles further, in fact (turn left at Marnhull).

Won’t get there just yet in your electric car – no charging stations on the way, or even when you get there. Need a diesel for that trip. After lockdown, obviously, as going to Mars isn’t really an essential journey.

***

I had a chat with a mate who lives in France.  He’s received his vaccine appointment. It’s March, 2022.  I told him I’m having mine a year before him. At a time when even Germany’s biggest newspaper (Bild) carried the front page headline, ‘England, we envy you’,  we’ve got to applaud those who are making Britain’s vaccine roll-out the envy of the world.

***

I want to end on a funny. I mentioned to a friend that I’m editing a book for a literary agent and it’s agonisingly exacting work, and takes forever.

My friend said, ‘Oscar Wilde was asked, ‘done much writing, lately?’ to which Oscar replied, ‘I spent the entire morning putting a comma in, and I spent the entire afternoon taking it out again’.

It’s a bit like that.  

I can picture our farmer, saying, ‘call that a day’s work. He b’aint done a day’s work in ‘is life.  Not a bead o’ sweat be on ‘is brow.  Sittin’ at a desk wi’ his spectacles. That b’aint work. Farming be work.’

To be fair, he’d have a point.

Andy Palmer

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