There’s nothing like doing a bit of research down on the farm is there? Except I’m not a real born and bred country girl as many of you may have already worked out. I’ve spent the past eleven years fighting a constant battle with wood lice, mice and spiders. Give me a lizard any day and I am fine. But a slug in the kitchen is my biggest nightmare. But I have decided the next novel is to be set on a farm and that my research can easily be done on the internet and via emails with a lovely farmer that I tracked down. Not so. Andrew thinks differently.
Last week he surprised me by saying.
‘I’m taking you away for the weekend’
Those immortal words every woman dreams to hear.
‘To a working farm in Cornwall, where you can see the milking and get up close to and smell the dung,’ he continued.
Not the words every woman dreams to hear.
All the same it sounded like a good idea. Nothing like experiencing the real thing now is there? So on the Friday morning we left our builders with their tea and doughnuts (oh yes the builders and the extension are a whole other blog) and began our drive down to Cornwall. I learnt it was down from a very irritated Andrew after I had mentioned to a few people that we were going up to Cornwall to stay on a farm. Up or down I can’t see as it matters but it seems it certainly does. Of course we had forgotten it was the school holidays and the traffic was a nightmare and the service stations were completely packed. You know the kind of thing. You revert to a Cornish pasty from the van outside because the queues are unbearable and the loos look like they have been raided and all that was worth stealing was toilet roll. There isn’t a roll to be found for neither love nor money. I found myself sitting on the loo with hand dryers going like no tomorrow frantically searching for just the smallest piece of tissue in my bag. I was desperate and finally rummaged to the bottom to find something (I’m not telling you what, but it did what was needed)
And so we continue and finally arrive at the farm where the sheep dog Molly greets me with a leap up my trousers. It has been pouring with rain in Cornwall. Everywhere is muddy and so is Molly and now so are my trousers.
‘Good boy,’ I say good-naturedly.
‘I think you mean good girl don’t you?’ asks Andrew. ‘Especially with a name like Molly.’
Okay, so I’m a bit tired. But Molly didn’t seem bothered. In fact she jumped all over me again in gratitude.
We are shown to our room with a promise of a farm tour the next day.
It rained all night and all the next day. But a farm tour I got, or more a tour of mud and dung.
Pearl, our lovely B&B lady told us to wear our old clothes. For her that was an old boiler suit. For me it was the only rain mac I possessed and my wellingtons over an old pair of leggings. I’m not a country girl remember. Andrew however looked well at ease in his old jeans, wellies and jacket.
Well, I cannot begin to tell you. I was the one with the camera which seemed a little unfair as even in my Wellington’s I am gingerly moving through the mud while trying to snap away. Pearl and Andrew forge ahead while I am slurping my way through muddy fields and several times almost went head first in the mud to comments of,
‘You okay with the mud there? From Pearl before she surged ahead.
And from Andrew,
‘You’re okay you’ve got your Wellington’s on.’
This isn’t mud this is quicksand. Even Molly is no help. She just keeps pawing me for more strokes. Talk about me, me me.
I slosh my way to the milking sheds and sigh with relief. Hopefully now we are in the dry I can relax. I take more photos and slap down Molly’s muddy paw for the hundredth time.
‘Let me show you the dung heap. That’s the dung spreader you can hear,’ says Pearl proudly.
‘We had to hire the spreaders. As we have twelve months of dung to spread we will need to work as long as possible to make the most of the hire. We only have them for four days.’
Holy Crap! (As one might say in ‘Fifty shades of Grey’) Twelve months’ worth of shit? She is seriously taking me to see and of course smell twelve months of shit? I am seriously thinking there are many places where the novel could be set and perhaps now is the time to tell Andrew I have changed my mind. But before I can he is again forging ahead with Pearl through the mud, slime, and now the dung. I slip and slide all over the place and I feel sure I cry out at one point but hey who is listening to me. I’m only the writer. The smell is now overpowering and there in front of me is the dung heap. It is fascinating. Pearl tells me how they will take the dung and spread it over the fields.
‘Fascinating,’ I say and it is but not so fascinating that I want to stand for fifteen minutes hearing all about it. Andrew, however, who has to leave the room if I should ever so much as dare to fart seems happy to stand all day in cow shit with the rain pouring on him. I am beginning to find it quite sexy. If you believe that then you will believe anything.
But it is quite amazing to watch I have to admit. I have never seen so much dung in my whole life.
We finally leave the smell, and sounds of the dung spreader behind us and head for the fields. Well Andrew and Pearl headed for the fields. I just kind of sloshed my way along. Then we’re in the farm buildings and facing me with wide eyes and wet noses were the cutest calves ever. Pearl explained that the female calves will be kept for milking. We were silent as I coo cooed over a male calf with unusual markings and then asked ignorantly.
‘What happens to the male calves?’ I asked
‘They go to the slaughter-house,’ said Andrew.
Right there right then, of course, I wanted to rescue every calf on the farm. In fact every calf residing in Cornwall I could have rescued at that precise moment. But like everything I quickly forgot. Had she offered me roast beef later that night I’m sure I would have thought nothing of it. As it happens it was roast chicken.
A quick trip into the fields or in my case more a quick slip and slide and we were heading back the whole time listening to Pearl’s wonderful stories of farming life and life in the farming community.
With an aching back and aching legs probably from all the tension I built up in my legs trying to stay upright, I made hundreds of notes. Andrew then took for a wonderful cream tea. Seriously it was one of the best cream teas ever. The scone was huge, the jam was runny and the clotted cream was divine. If you are ever near Bude do find the Lavender tea rooms. I can’t recommend them highly enough. It was just warm enough for us to sit outside overlooking the lavender fields. Heaven indeed.
Nothing like a bit of dung research to get the juices flowing, so to speak. Let’s hope it worked. 15,000 words into the new novel so can’t be bad…