A Bargain Assortment of Bads and Goods

I’m sat here deciding whether to compare myself to a busy bee, an army ant or a blue-arsed fly. Whatever. You get the picture: me, insect, scary hybrid, yes?

My exoskeleton bum has not touched the ground much. I have actually got going properly with my cards since returning from that thing I loosely termed a holiday, and have finally turned over my first thousand quid. This is money I can keep all to myself!  must share with the Inland Revenue  must give to John, who pays my credit card  must use to pay Harry’s nursery fees will never actually see, but it’s highly satisfying to have my own funds in my wallet, nevertheless. John keeps asking hopefully when he can retire.

Tomorrow afternoon we are off to hear how desperate – or not – my FSH levels and all my other assorted bloodwork gubbins are. I am taking my ultrasound report: the bad one. I think it’ll either be cameras or knives next. Bring ’em on.

Harry has passed his exams, bought a car, left home and got married since I last posted. Or… something very much approximating to it, anyway.

I have explained here before that Harry, in addition to a walloping great speech delay, has a further communication block with the concept of ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. He can’t say the words, does not understand what nodding means, and has only recently begun to shake his head occasionally, when he wants to emphatically and imperiously reject something actually being physically held out towards him.

Over the last couple of weeks John and I both felt that his understanding had moved up a gear; that, in subtle and indefinable ways, he was much more au courant with our conversations and activities. On a hunch, I crouched in front of him last Sunday evening, gained his eye contact and spoke up clearly:

‘Harry! Yes or No? Would you like an ice cream?’


Cue much, much jollity. I wasn’t sure he’d do it again, but he has, he has, he totally bloody well has, every day since, although not quite yet every time. Sometimes the word isn’t recognisably a ‘yes’ – it can default to ‘dat!’ or ‘giss!’ but that’s not so important in the scheme of things. Even more encouragingly, a day or so afterwards he began to shake his head in response to spoken concept choices. Predictably, the first instance of his demonstrating this was our asking him if he would like to go to bed; there was an icy, considering stare, followed by a determined shake. He promptly slithered off the sofa and beetled off at high speed to hide in the kitchen. John and I laughed like a pair of blocked drains, and he did, in fact, buy himself another 20 minutes of play time with that shake.

This is, obviously, several different and fetching shades of Complete Awesomeness.

He is still dribbling buckets and has his fingers permanently jammed in his mouth. I was convinced the dribble must be low muscle tone until I peered inside his mouth during naptime earlier today and found that 2 of his secondary molars were erupted – and obviously have been for quite a while – and the two remaining baby teeth are bulging at bright red and white gums. That’d be a Maternal Observation for Dummies: Module One FAIL, then. 

I also spotted that this peculiarly yellow, calciferous-looking tooth

Harry tooth

harry tooth 2

has not improved any since the last time I had a squint at it. The rest are all pearly white and smooth, but this one popped out of the gum bright yellow and obviously has something strange going on. I know enamel irregularities are rather more common amongst premature children, but I don’t like the look of it  – or the sides of his rear tongue – much. I don’t expect it’s significant, but I’ll show it his Paed in any event.

What else? Ah, yes, physio. I wrote a stinking email to the head of Paediatric Physiotherapy, challenging their refusal to treat Harry if I supplemented his treatment with private care; I mentioned in passing his other professional care input. She rang me back to apologise for the ‘miscommunication’ and freely admitted she had not prioritised Harry: his Paediatrician’s referral had made no mention of the fact he also recieved Speech Therapy and Portage from the multi-disciplinary team, merely that his parents had concerns regarding his mobility. I knew this to be perfectly true – I have a copy of the referral – but I rather thought the fact that they do all work for the Integrated Disability Service was significant. She explained that the involvement of other professionals generally rang warning bells for them, and that Harry would now be seen within a fortnight. Result. Of course, if I had listened to John and asked Harry’s Portage key worker to hurry the physio referral along on our behalf, he’d have been seen a month or more ago. My bad.

In an entirely different Not Listening to Hubby (My Bad) episode: my friend had a old summerhouse she wanted rid of, which was the precise size and dimensions that I have been hankering after and scouring Ebay unsuccessfully for. We agreed on giving her £20 for it, and I booked Hubby + trailer + strong right arm to come and dismantle it from her garden last Wednesday.

John was dubious about the whole idea, and said so. He was excessively mentally scarred during a dilapidated greenhouse dismantle-and-reassemble project that his Mother talked him into, a decade or so back. John’s unprecedentedly savage response to the absolute piglet job she had landed him with (some of his muttering was, apparently and unusually, actually audible and decipherable) has remained the talk of the family ever since, and he has entered a firm nolle prosequi to assorted proposals of garden buildings removal ever since. I have, however, been banging on relentlessly about wanting a summerhouse for a couple of years, and we haven’t been able to afford so much as a dog kennel, so he cautiously agreed.

Readers, he was nasty to me when he saw it. Admittedly, it was rather more rotten than I realised and the roof was larger than the estimations I had given him by a factor of roughly 350%. He attacked it brutally with a crowbar, ignoring my yammering protests when aesthetic or vital bits splintered and ricocheted off in all directions. I kept a low profile for the rest of the day. I have no idea where it currently is: John drove down to the farm with an expression that indicated the only place he was considering parking the trailer was by the burning heap. I haven’t asked after its fate.

The day after that, John and I managed to miscommunicate badly, with the net result that he thought I was aware he had left Harry downstairs watching TV, and I was in the shower thinking Harry had gone with John to the farm. After 30 minutes of blissful leg-shaving-hair-drying-toenail-painting-me-time, during which I had been strangely puzzled by the odd thumps and bangs from (I presumed) our tortoise, given that we were supposedly alone together, I arrived downstairs to encounter – horrified – a totally naked small boy, a puddle of wee (these first two items are common encounters) a torn £50 note, a wallet emptied, plastic and coinage contents scattered to the winds, and a number of ‘don’t touch that, please, Harry!’ items where they shouldn’t have been. Our bad.

I have made jam.

The great jam massacre

Lots and lots and lots of jam, nearly all of it either under-or-over boiled. Damn you, £6 Lakeland jam-thermometer. Bloody thing. It tastes fine – I didn’t burn any of it this year, at least – but most of it needs bringing out of the jar with either a chisel or a spoon. I have 2kg of preserving sugar left, and probably ought to go and relieve the groaning trees of their plums – fnarr, fnarr – but I’m not sure I can face the inevitable jam carnage again.

I was going to do a post about dozens of things this week, and had time for none of them, but I want to write a little about about our local ploughing match, despite the fact that I was flustered (due to downstairs-alone-toddler) and took no camera – without which I can’t do the event justice. A shame, as it was held this year in fields perched high above the River Arrow valley with simply glorious views. There are proper, old-fashioned Bilbo-Baggins eleventy-first-party white marquees, built with huge centre poles and hemp-type guy ropes; men with ancient tractors roaring away industriously at their rich, dark, straw-scattered furrows 10 feet outside the marquees; the hedgelaying competitors turning a straggling, leggy length of centuries-old hedge into – well, I never quite understand how they judge hedgelaying sections, but it certainly looks neater when they’ve finished; the Shire horse pairs with their gleaming flanks, braided manes and tails, fluttering head plumes and polished show harness; the 100-year-old traction engine and threshing drum making an almighty racket as wiry old men feed armfuls of wheat into its maw, and honest-to-God agricultural types who turn up in tractors and battered 4x4s wearing a green-to-dun spectrum assortment of boiler suits, cotton checked shirts, boots, wellies, flat caps, waxed hats and Barbours, complete with a thick scattering of farmers’ wives, who bring splashes of pastels and bright pinks to the golden straw-stubbled field. There was a light breeze, scattered clouds, bright sun, a fresh smell of straw, liberally mixed with horse shit and tractor oil – and I was unusually and fabulously happy. I do love this event, even when it’s pissing down with rain. As I was, for the first time, working as opposed to visiting, I was inside a marquee selling cards with tractors on for most of the day, but I was by the door and could see over the main field and valley beyond. My Mum bought Harry along in the afternoon and he went potty with excitement over… just about everything. A good day. A really, really good day.

Speaking of which, Harry had a good time at nursery last week. I stayed with him for the Tuesday session, but he flew the nest alone on Thursday with barely a wobble when he saw I wasn’t staying. I bawled all the way home; he had a marvellous time. They are still getting used to his wobbles, and he came home with an – unmentioned – small red welt under his eye which later turned into a shiner, but that is unfortunately almost a bi-weekly event for Harry in any case. I’m not surprised they didn’t mention it, they won’t have noticed him do it. On Tuesday, I was asked by one of the junior staff if Harry’s tolerance to pain was ‘like, insanely high’?

Sigh. Oh, he feels it, all right, luv. He’s just used to it.

He’s off again tomorrow morning, and I have the unaccustomed luxury of deciding what particular household or business activity I want to apply myself to. Last Thursday I had an order for a birthday cake to keep me (very) busily employed (fun to do if you can spare the time, but hugely unprofitable unless you charge a small fortune – and absolute murder on your back) (the first person to tell me that the Union Jack is missing some bits gets a poke in the bloggy eye. It was late, I was tired, I was aching, and John is still blinking);

Suitcase cake 1

Suitcase cake 2

but tomorrow I am free to choose what I do in my toddler-free slot. 

Reading with your feet up is a household activity, surely?

Scotch Mist

We re-trod some old (ish) ground on Tuesday, and found ourselves in the Centre for Reproductive Medicine’s waiting room, staring at the same notices, the same fishtank (the same fish?) and the same magazines. The same, yet blissfully and very thankfully different. The sickening undertow of bleak emotional darkness is not a sensation I miss. I could read it on the other faces in there, and I ached for all of them.

When I arrived at reception, the admin assistant rootled through the stack of patients’ notes, and to my complete lack of surprise, mine were 4 times the size of everyone else’s and exceedingly dog-eared.  My appointment was with a new consultant – my old one has been bumped up to medical director of the whole place – who blinked a bit when I regaled her with some of the odder aspects of my previous treatment (I started writing a precis for you but only got as far as miscarriage number one, the writing of which made me cry, so I stopped. Even the summary of my reproductive history is long, complicated and tedious). but she seemed to grasp the overall picture pretty well.

She (and, it must be said, John also) was initially of the opinion that my right uterus has the better track history of the two, on the basis that it has carried a baby if not to term, then at least well into my third trimester. My left uterus is the sad scene of 3 failed first-trimester pregnancies. And I see their point of view. I do, really. I’m planning to pay no attention to it, however. 

My right uterus (shall we call it Cameron? for ease of reference?) for no reason that anyone could discern, proved to be highly unstable Harry-housing. I started to spot (from Cameron, worryingly, not the non-pregnant left uterus, which I shall now term Blair) at 9 weeks, and the bleeding and cramping increased throughout my pregnancy with Harry. He was frequently (by which I mean, daily) heard to be having intermittent distressed heartbeat patterns, but by the time I was pushed down to ultrasound he had always recovered his cool and no abnormality of my placenta or cord could be detected. I felt – and still feel – he was hanging on by a thread in Cameron. It was a tense 5 months.

All I can put Harry’s troubles down to, is that Cameron has a consistently crappy endometrium – lochia aside, it’s never bled red in my entire life, just a dark sticky brown. As Cameron is producing this feeble output alongside Blair, which simultaneously produces copious amounts of bright red blood, this cannot be hormonal in origin and smacks to me of poor quality lining and oxygenation in Cameron. I was awed that an embryo had managed to attach in Cameron at all, but Harry was spontaneous, and chose his own spot. All my previous pregnancies were from embryos replaced into Blair because the endometrium was visibly much better over there. And yes, I lost the two IVF pregnancies in Blair, but my endocrine system was staggering horribly under the chemically induced strain. The IUI embryo (which sneakily implanted following a cycle we had actually abandoned after poor follicular response) looked so wonderfully promising to begin with, with a heartbeat at 6 weeks – I feel sure that the genetic flaws that account for so many early miscarriages was to blame for that one, not the housing or the hormones.

I explained this rather convoluted point of view, and she agreed that low blood flow to Harry sounded awfully likely, although I’m not sure whether I made my point about never ever wanting another pregnancy in Cameron. I hope I did, because the sad fact remains that Cameron’s ovary is a whole lot livelier than Blair’s. Which does rather dictate IVF, which I don’t really want.

Confused? SO AM I!

Anyhoo. I went on to explain that Warwick’s consultant radiologist had diagnosed some fairly nasty-looking adenomyosis last month, hence my prompt appearance in her office. She said that a laparoscopy sounded like a good idea to her. Which it absolutely does, if you’re not the one who curls up in horror at the idea of a knife in her bellybutton. As I do. Shit.

I have a small stay of execution, however: my last bloodwork was 2005, so she wants to repeat the usual bundle of cycle day 2 blood tests first. I am absolutely dreading my FSH being something truly bloody awful. I was also bundled into a scan room to check that there was no sign of endometrial tissue on my actual ovaries. Which there wasn’t.

There was no adenomyosis visible anywhere, either.

Now, I’ve had a lot of ultrasounds. Seriously many ultrasounds. Rather more than 100, I reckon. And while I can’t quite drive all the buttons, and I’m a bit foggy on… the fog, when the probe stops moving, I can identify a uterus – particularly ones containing big white lumps that scream ABNORMALITY. I saw the screen last month, and my uteri looked ugly. On Tuesday, they looked like textbook smooth curves, with the white blips all having gone and done a total Lord Lucan. There is now talk of hysteroscopy (THEY CAN PUT CAMERAS IN THERE! AWESOME!) and having a better look, because WTbuggeryF, adeno?!

The NHS will not fund any actual treatment cycles now that we have Harry, but the state is stoically stumping up the bill for all this preliminary exploratory work. I am going back for further discussions on 22nd September armed with blood test results and a up-to-date semen analysis, as (rather to my dark satisfaction) Hubby received a demand to visit the room containing the (so he says) scary German porn. His samples have always been ok, but his last analysis was 4 years ago, so he gets a bonus one off the wrist next month. Lucky chap.

I noted without surprise, given the vague twinging this week, that I have a 15mm follicle growing on Cameron’s ovary. Wrong side, alas!

And aside from all that, I’ve been busy getting round to all the stuff I should have done when the in-laws were here, and didn’t. The cyclic gastro bug I was calling ‘long-standing’ on the 2nd July is still with us, and inducing intermittent belly-cramps, eggy burps, nausea and diarrhoea in both Harry and myself. The lab is currently poring over another turd sample; the first one came back clear for everything. I am officially puzzled about what this could be – and reasonably pissed off with being kept awake for nights on end with bellyache and miserably confined to the bathroom, clutching a bucket, on a regular basis. Harry does not enjoy suffering 10 dirty nappies in under 90 minutes, either, poor lad, so our GP will be made to step up his enquiries if the next lab report is uninformative. I haven’t been able to use the gym since mid-June because the creche won’t take Harry with a runny belly – hence I have gained 4lbs. Amazingly, I have missed going, and the thought of wasting my gym membership money is highly irksome.

The weather has been pissing awful, as is becoming usual for July and August, although a short spell of dryer weather is now forecast. John has been putting combine-pedal to the metal while Harry has been doing the same with his scale models. When he draws his combine up alongside (John’s old metal toy) trailer and extends the little augur out, he looks up expectantly at me – as if to find out what button to press next in order to make the grain come out. I took pity on him and put a spoonful of grain in his trailer, which I then watched him attempt to shove up the augur in order to play at decanting it back out. Bless the child.


I was going to kick this off by comparing us all to a different dwarf  – à la Snow White – but as soon as I really began to think about it, I realised that we are actually all Grumpy and Sleepy. I leave you to apply a judgement re: Dopey, yourselves.

John is grumpy because it has been raining on his grass, and some of his tractors are poorly sick. I feel I don’t blog often enough about farming: perhaps I should bring you up to date. His current excuse for not fencing the garden or digging out the steps is haymaking and silaging. This involves, firstly, praying for dry weather, secondly, mowing dry grass (if you are pollen-sensitive, cue: Sneezy), thirdly, tedding it about while praying really hard and meaning it for more dry weather, and lastly, dashing out with your baler mere minutes ahead of the towering black cloud and driving at breakneck speed around your field. Naturally, this injudicious speed results in a bunged-up baler, so you must repeatedly crawl underneath and perform grass midwifery. Off you go again, only to hear a sinister thunk followed by a symphony of tearingly unpleasant machinery noises. The rain begins to fall faster.

If you are the wife of the owner of said machine, this is where you quietly disappear.

The core priority is to remove your stricken object back to the yard as soon as possible; you must, if you value your reputation, conceal the affliction at all costs from your farming neighbours. Apple, let me assure you, has nothing to teach UK agriculture. 

These type of mishaps can presage a lengthy spell parked in front of the workshop. Panels are removed. Exploratory surgeries are undertaken. Hands blacken further in filthy oil. The mechanised equivalent of femoral head pinning is discussed. Dog-eared parts manuals are consulted. Phone calls are made. Wives are dispatched to collect the Vital Transplant Organ.

Of course, if your yard is already populated with agricultural engineers who are repairing the tractors that you don’t actually have time to tackle yourself, then your chances of keeping the latest twist in your machinery misfortunes quiet are pretty much nil. Hubby has, I believe, one key tractor due to be broken open into two halves in order to fix an oil leak, and another yard tractor parked up sans steering ability, awaiting fettling. He came home Friday lunchtime to find that I had given Harry a toy tractor to play with that was a scale replica of a rather swish new model – a distinct improvement on any of John’s current collection. I caught him looking wistfully at the New Holland website a few minutes later (he is a diehard blue-tractor man. Speak not to him of green ones, even if they are the only company servicing the farm-mad toddler market) and sure enough, he has now announced that he wants a new one. These things can cost £50,000+ for a used one. And the farm profit is currently our only income. Yikes.

I am grumpy because I have a gynae hospital appointment tomorrow afternoon with a Mr Sorinola, as opposed to Mr Steven Olah, the other consultant gynae, or Mr Savonarola, the 15thC Dominican monk I initially confused him with. There was a time when I used to whip my undercarriage out for medical inspection with nary a qualm, but this will be the first time someone has looked – I am discounting my GP’s vain attempts  – at my cervi since about 2 hours before Harry emerged from one of them, and I have gone a bit Bashful. I’m also rather nervous about what he will be telling me.

I will be obliged to schedule a lengthy and awkward session with the the razor around my sadly uncared-for pubic area later this evening – lengthy because of the sheer level of neglect, and awkward because, despite 2 weeks of dieting savagely and exercising like a demented thing, I have only shed a measly 4lbs. Hence, I still cannot see what I’m actually doing down there.

Harry is grumpy because he has had intermittent diarrhoea for a couple of weeks which is worsening; he is being carted to the drs tomorrow. We have gone 22 months with hardly a day of nappy rash, but over the course of today his poor beleaguered bottom has gone, yet again, from delivering a turd the consistency of a housebrick, to shooting out spoonfuls of watery squits; his skin has gone from palest pink to abraded and ever so sore. He is a tough little shoot when it comes to bumps, cuts and bruises, but he’s coping badly with this.

I didn’t know my heart could wring itself into such a sad little shape until I saw him waddle towards me, knees bent, clutching his sore little bottom in waily distress. His skin has deteriorated astonishingly quickly: he was left in a dirty nappy while we were at my parents’ house early this evening – possibly for the best part of an hour, because the contents were weirdly undetectable by nose – and that has unfortunately been responsible for his skin breaking open. I have kept his nappy off since and slathered him in Bepanthen once his skin was dry- despite his violent, heart-rending struggles and hoarse shrieks – but the poor little lad kept pooing every 20 minutes and undoing my good work. Sigh.

Hopefully he will have a quiet, crap-free night and I will attempt to sneak a dry nappy onto him when I go to bed, too. Which may not be late, as the little bugger decided that 4.30 was the new 7am this morning, hence we are all Sleepy. And probably Dopey.

PS. John wants me to tell you that he is actually a Brand New dwarf called Frisky. And I am not the only one with a neglected undercarriage, hint-hint.

That is all.

Hairy Farmer with Nuts

It has been a good week here at Hairy Farmer Mansions.

Firstly, we had a lovely Sunday. The morning was spent happily sheep-bothering with Harry, who hung out of the Land Rover window and squeaked excitedly at our sheepdog’s demented attempts at round-up, hammering his little fists in joy-overload. I made a picnic in the afternoon and we drove over to Broadway Tower (complete with detour for John to look at some wheat, rumoured to be pancake-flat with 6-inch green shoots) and ate it on the fragrant grass in the warm sunshine.



I think it’s the first time this summer that I’ve actually felt pleasantly warm. Baths don’t count.

Secondly, Harry is eating well – and starting to walk. His first proper steps were a couple of weeks ago, and in the last day or so he is really managing to string several together before wipeout. This means that one day soon-ish, we shall be able to take him places again. He loathes the push-chair with the force of a thousand suns, and only wants to travel under his own steam. He seems to feel the need to put some serious work in on his speed and stamina, mind you, as I can’t keep him from clambering onto my (dusty) cross-trainer machine lately.

Thirdly, John had a begging phone call at lunchtime today from Farming Neighbour, whose uber-pricey combine harvester

has come off atrociously in the sludgy conditions. FN began the year by boasting about the prowess of his brand new shiny 100k acquisition. By mid-August he was complaining bitterly that the mud was collecting ominously under the wheelarches. Today he has admitted that it has sustained repeated damage, cannot cope with the conditions, and would Hubby please bring his 20 year old machine

round to finish some fields for him?

This does not please me personally, you understand (meaning as it does, that John will now be too busy to take Harry to his swimming lesson tomorrow), but Hubby’s glee is virtually palpable. I think it was only the fact that we had guests to lunch that precluded him launching into a full-on Snoopy dance, in fact. (Speaking of which, does anyone know a long distance moving company in the area? Friends are looking to move and can’t find anyone who’ll take their belongings all the way to California. Let me know!)

Which brings me nicely to Fourthly, and hold your breath, coz it’s a humdinger…

May and H came to lunch.

There! Told you it was exciting!

I have been thrilling at the prospect all week, and had dressed Harry up in his very best togs specially. I was utterly consumed with nerves and had been widdling anxiously like a small puppy all morning, but they are both just so bloody nice that my bladder control managed to reassert itself. Harry promptly worked off his excitement at their arrival by playing an enthusiastic game of pat-a-cake in the dogs’ water bowl, thus neatly managing to shed the best togs within minutes. Meh.

People, if I could have kept them both here permanently, I would have. They are extraordinarily delectable, lovely individuals whom I should totally be permitted to see every week, dammit! And even if I could be persuaded to let them go home with good grace (which I can’t; exceedingly bad grace is all I can manage) then I feel that Harry is immovable on the subject. Whilst May and I nattered away (Now, as you would confidently expect if you read – and of course you do! – her blog, May conversed cogently, fluidly and enthrallingly, whilst I, predictably, interrupted haphazardly and incoherently.) Harry quickly decided that H was simply the best thing since sliced bread (a very credible belief, too) and there was much chuckling and chortling. Although distracted by the twin lure of a trike ride and hen feeding, the wail he let out upon seeing their car disappear down the drive was one that spoke loudly of unending woe.

He wants them back, and so do I.


The very talented Helen at Everyday Stranger expressed the definitive opinion to have about Summer 2008. ‘Our English summer this year – like last year – has sucked a clown’s balls.’ 

And it has. It really, really has.

The combine and grain trailers keep getting stuck in the sodding mud.

We can’t even attempt some fields because, although not precipitous in themselves, they are too steep to negotiate on slippy ground. Combines are not excessively stable machines.


Hubby cheerfully announced last night that at one point he’d been sliding, sideways, toward the brook, in the dark. Arrghhh.

The grain itself is partially buggered where it has begun to chit where it stands. It is most unlikely that many of you will be munching bread or biscuits from Hairy Farmer flour this year. We have hundreds of tons of wet wheat backlogging up and the dryer takes about two hours to dry nine tons. Keeping wet and dry separate has meant we are essentially out of grainshed space. The dryer is a thirsty beast and has consumed thousands of pounds worth of fuel in short order.

Every time I stick my nose out of doors, in hopeful expectation of a baking evening walk through the golden straw stubble, the wintry blast sends me rapidly back inside. The leaves started falling off the bloody trees a week ago, FFS. It’s never been so damn soggy! This is the second year I have been deprived of my beloved harvest summer walks, and I’m properly pissed off about it.

I should point out that the above photos are courtesy of the thinly populated Farmers Weekly ‘Wreckers Yard’. No actual Hairy Farmer disasters have ever been caught on film, aside from the barn fire that I was able to surreptitiously snap from the safety of the house. 

You see, it is Not Done in agriculture to immortalise your little wee accidents. Publicity is shunned. For instance, Hairy Hubby has torched at least one combine and one loadall that I can think of – although most farmers have toasted something at some point, as oil and straw and electrics are a tricky combination. He has also reversed a combine into a landrover, mightily wounding its cosmetic appearance. Now, I’m pretty sure this is not actually his full charge sheet, yet my polite enquiries for more details have just been met with inarticulate grunts and whingey tired sounds. He does not sound keen to share with you, I’m afraid. After all – there may be (gulp) another farmer reading.

Perhaps this would make more sense if I tell you that farmers take a jubilant, elated, prurient pleasure in each other’s little disasters. They will travel miles – miles – to look at another farmer’s calamity. It’s often the highlight of their year.

The hedge margins of the field by my parents’ house were once sprayed for weeds, but the chap accidentally had the nozzles along the whole sprayer boom open, instead of just the very tip. Consequently, a decorative ten-metre strip of dying yellow wheat was shortly to be seen around the entire field. I’m telling you, they came from three counties away to laugh. They parked up on the verge in their dozens. They virtually blocked Mum and Dad’s drive. And dear God, they looked happy. Farming doesn’t get sweeter than when you’re leaning over a gateway, gazing enchantedly at someone else’s mistake.

Burning machinery is slightly less of an embarrassment, consisting as it does of a hefty helping of bad luck rather than ineptitude, but nevertheless, it is still indubitably farmer-porn. We are privileged in our view here at Hairy Farmer House, and Hubby is occasionally able to spy an interesting inferno or a curious column of smoke and pile hurriedly into his car in time to be in at the actual death. He has also been known to drive randomly round the countryside late into the evening on the strength of a rumour coming through on the jungle drums that somewhere, a piece of machinery is meeting its fiery end.

Even a motionless tractor minus its operator in the middle of a field is sufficient cause to anchor up, and back up to the gateway for a closer look. ‘He’s stopped right in the middle of the row, look! He’s broken down! God, you’d think he’d have tried to make it back to the headland at least.’

So: you do not precisely broadcastyour little debâcles. Not that it matters: truth will out, and the word of your adversity will hit the village sooner or later. So if you are, say, a HFF Wifey who is pretty out of practice at driving tractors, there’s plenty of pressure not to balls it up. I avoided grain carting last year (childbirth) and this year (small appendage to look after) yet I feel that over the coming month there will be polite pressure to park the youngster with my mother and get on a tractor for a few hours. I haven’t driven one for two years, so with that and the mud, it could be compelling viewing for spectators. If I fuck up in high style, I will endeavour to quietly capture it on film. Even if Hubby shakes me down for proper cameras, he can’t confiscate my mobile phone: I shall inevitably need it to call for help when I get stuck in the sticky stuff.

If you are out there basking in record sunshine, please don’t tell me about it. I am obliged to remain here, sodden. I cannot transmigrate to where you are instead. I must learn to like our global warming.


Fields of Gold

Today is our anniversary. Not of our marriage, or our first date precisely, but just the start of… us. Six years ago today – or possibly tomorrow, I’m never quite sure – John and I were, to quote his Best Man’s wedding speech, alone together in the dusty confines of his combine cab.

We had a reservation booked at a local restaurant for Sunday dinner, but we cancelled. I was up most of the night with Harry, who desperately worried us early this morning with his continuous heartbreakingly thin threnody of single-note wailing. I’ve never seen him look so pale and ill since NICU, and he was writhing about, obviously in pain. He finally vomited a good pint or more of undigested milk all over me, soaking me right through to bra and knickers. Heaven only knows where he’d been keeping it all. The poor lad had been breastfeeding for comfort all through the night and early this morning, and had obviously digested not one drop. 

Of course, we galloped him up the drive to be prodded at by the Delightful Doctors Next Door. They get no peace from us whatsobloodyever, poor souls. Harry took a long whiff of fresh hill breeze en-route, and visibly decided that he was much happier with his life minus the milk-belly; the little rascal perked right up. Once frog-marched back down again in disgrace (as it’s the third time he’s pulled that particular recovery trick now) he went promptly went worringly limp and inconsolable again. Grrrr. He’s improved again this afternoon; has eaten a tiny amount, and is now tucked up quietly in bed, although I am pessimistically not expecting much in the way of rest in the small hours.

We agreed that there are far worse ways to spend an anniversary than nursing and coddling a much-adored, much suffered-for, long-awaited son. John managed to dash out between the storms to combine for a couple of hours earlier this evening, so I put a reasonably cheerful Harry in the car, and drove down the track and across the fields to show him the combine – a newer one, as it happens – and the place where his parents’ story began.

He cried. Silly young bugger.

Blind Baking

My chaps are both loaded with cold and acutely miserable. They have both demanded, in their distinctly individual ways, Extra Boob as a comfort. Harry’s snot is flowing so unstoppably that I have been reminded of a greenly mucosal magic porridge pot; right up until he lies down to sleep, whereupon it promptly mutates into superglue and chokes him. The poor lad is so hoarse he cannot cry loudly enough to make himself heard in the next room; whilst I can feel the first ominous tightening of my own throat. Arghh.

John has managed to combine a few acres today, although it’s now pissing stair rods, so that’s him done for the week. I pounced on his wrist with a loud cry of triumph yesterday, ripping back the sleeve despite his yammering protests, to reveal the first unmistakable blotches of the harvest-stress eczema he repeatedly attempts to deny he suffers from. Hah!

I must scuttle off to tend and succour, but I will leave you firstly with a photo of the cake I made for my friend’s 30th on Saturday, which I was not entirely displeased with. Cough. Dunno why I don’t just come straight out with it and jump up and down clamouring Praise me! Praise me! Praise me more!

I also want to share with anyone who has had a cake Gone Bad (and do post some links if you have immortalised your special culinary moment) this wonderful site. I have had my baking disasters (aesthetic and poisonous) in the past, but these… these are truly awesome.

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