I’m now officially old and young people in shops call me sir. I’d like to say 60 is the new 40 but who am I trying to kid? Gravity is taking its toll, my bald patch is getting bigger and my pubes are turning grey. Looking on the bright side I now get free prescriptions and free eye tests, potentially saving me a queen’s ransom as, health-wise, it’s only downhill from here. I also get 25% knocked off fruit and veg every Tuesday at the local farm shop.
To paraphrase an old saying to bawdy effect…
You’re only as old as the man you feel.
Well, I’m feeling a 59 year old so that really doesn’t help.
I was born on a Sunday 60 years ago in utilitarian army digs in Canterbury and according to the nursery rhyme…
…the child who is born on the Sabbath Day is bonny and blithe, merry and gay.
I guess that makes me a handsome, carefree, drunken old poof. Well, if the cap fits…
So there it is, my card was well and truly marked from birth. No wonder I developed a liking for anything dashing in a uniform. Now I’m official past my use by date, I’ve decided to become a grumpy old git and shout loudly at the telly whenever someone says something stupid. That’ll keep me busy.
When I put food out for the birds, I don’t expect a big fat pheasant to waddle along and scoff the lot. Bold as brass it was. Where’s the pheasant plucker when you need him? I feel a tongue twister coming on.
I'm not the pheasant plucker,
I'm the pheasant plucker's mate,
And I'm only plucking pheasants
'Cause the pheasant plucker's late.
I'm not the pheasant plucker,
I'm the pheasant plucker's son,
And I'm only plucking pheasants,
Till the pheasant pluckers come.
He might be cock of the walk right now scaring off all the little birdies but, if he’s not careful, he’ll soon find himself hanging in a shed ripening for the pot.
We’ve all got bills to pay and everyone everywhere has been forced to adapt quickly to the new reality of these troubling times. This is as true in sleepy Loddon as it is anywhere. A case in point is Rosy Lee’s Tea Room. For many years now this tiny café has thrived on passing trade from sailors and cyclists stopping off for coffee and cake. The delightful owner, Caroline, is a bit of a local celebrity who, more than 20 years ago, floated down the River Chet, liked what she saw and stayed. But now, social distancing means the café can only accommodate one customer at a time. So what was Caroline the tea lady to do?
Extend the little secret garden she has created tucked away by Loddon Staithe*, of course. We got the call from Tom, the nice young man who renovated our cottage and sold it on to us. Would we help out? Hell, yes.
Tooled-up Tom with his broad shoulders and impressive equipment did all the butch work, constructing tables and erecting metal poles. All we really did was mow down the bramble and hold things while he wielded hammer and drill. In the meantime, Caroline kept us fed and watered. I can recommend the bacon sarnie.
Now lycra’d bikers can gather in gangs (of no more than six, of course) in a secret grove to rest and replenish with enough space to keep an eye on their fancy cycles.
Yes, that’s Liam and me with our backs to the camera. We were pleased to do our bit for a village institution.
*A staithe is a landing stage for loading or unloading cargo boats. That ship sailed long ago round these parts. Loddon Staithe is now used by those who like to muck about in pleasure boats.
Despite a charming and traditional appearance, Loddon Village comes with all mod cons – well, almost. A decent mobile phone signal would be nice. So imagine our surprise when we stumbled on this classic thirties Austin Seven in the church car park.
A few days on, feet up and glasses clinked, we settled down to watch the newly rebooted ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ on the telly box. Imagine our surprise when we spotted this classic Austin Seven taking centre stage.
Must be a rural thing.
All Creatures Great and Small is based on the books of the British country vet Alf Wight, writing as James Herriot. The hugely popular original series was made by the BBC and ran from the seventies all the way through to the noughties, so the Channel Five remake has a lot to live up to. So far so good – classy and timeless, just like the cars. And it wouldn’t be the same without James Herriot’s arm up a cow.
All masked up, Liam and I jumped on the bus to Norwich to take a gander at In Memoriam by artist Luke Jerram, flapping about in Chapelfield Gardens. The installation premiered in Belgium and is now on tour across Europe. Made up of bed sheets arranged in the form of a red cross, In Memoriam is a tribute to all those health and care workers who risk their own lives caring for the sick during the COVID-19 pandemic. We meandered through the forest of sheets in grateful silence. Lest we forget.
We wear face masks when required – on public transport and elsewhere – not because we want to. No one wants to. We wear them because it helps protect us and those around us. That’s the socially responsible thing to do, the civilised thing to do. We don’t think wearing them is any more of an infringement of our civil liberties than, say, wearing a seat belt or stopping at a red light. So my message to those ignorant refuseniks who think they’re striking a blow for freedom, don’t be a twat, wear a bloody mask.