We had the partridge. Now all we needed was the pear tree. At least that’s what I thought until Liam pointed out that the big fat bird wandering around our small garden to feed with the bully-boy crows was, in fact, a pheasant. Not as colourful as our usual pleasant pheasant with its red, gold and blue livery, but a pheasant all the same.
I’m told that pheasants aren’t the sharpest beaks in the aviary. I had this one practically eating out of my hand. A very friendly pheasant it was. Friendly enough to hop straight into the pot if I’d asked nicely. Friendly but dumb.
Before the miracle of modern medicine and universal health care, life for most was plagued by illness or the fear of it. People croaked in their beds from mundane diseases that today we pop a pill for. Many a cottage stairwell was too narrow for a coffin so some featured a trap door between floors called a ‘coffin hatch’ (or sometimes a ‘coffin drop’, for obvious reasons). This allowed the dearly departed to be laid out at the end of a bed in their Sunday best for the procession of mourners who came round for tea and sympathy. And it provided a more dignified exit to the graveyard. Much better than bouncing a stiff down the stairs.
Our cottage may no longer be an unsanitary hovel with cholera in every cup, but we’ve still got a coffin hatch, though not an original. It was constructed by the previous owner when he moved the staircase to a different part of the house. This modern hatch is just the thing for hauling up and down the big and the bulky. We’ve even hit on the idea of using the hole for a lift, as and when the stairs get too much. We’re rather taken with the thought of dying in our sleep – from old age we hope.
A few more lockdown restrictions were lifted this week and we were able to enjoy a bottle or two in the garden of our local hostelry. It was pleasantly sunny to match the mood of our hosts and fellow punters. Relief all round was the order of the day.
The weather’s been unseasonably cool of late despite the spring sunshine, with a definite chill in the air. But, after over three months under house arrest, a force nine gale wouldn’t have put us off. We supped well-wrapped in thermal long johns and bubble jackets accessorised with gloves, hats and scarves. It was like après ski but without the ski.
Last summer, Mr Mole was that unwelcome guest at a party who refuses to leave. We tried everything – organic repellent, castor oil spray, coffee grains, stomping and wailing too – all to nought. Mr Mole simply moved home to a different corner of our small plot. In desperation, we invested in an industrial strength sonic spike to drive the little bugger out. Despite plenty of hard evidence to the contrary, it worked. Rather than buy a pair of ear plugs, Mr Mole upped sticks to greener, less noisy pastures.
Chances are it’s a lost cause. We’re surrounded by fields and thickets littered with molehills. Flat, wet and fertile, the land serves up a juicy banquet of bugs and grubs – enough to fatten an unholy legion of the pesky pests. Our weekly constitutional takes us across Chedgrave Common, a boggy meadow punctured by muddy mountains of stone and soil, an obvious sign of the city of moles that lies beneath.
This is their party and we are the unwelcome guests.
Fleeting spring warmth, the partial easing of lockdown and the Easter break brought villagers, young and old, out onto the streets to make the most of the fine weather. And we were no exception. Downing tools for the day, we trotted off to Pyes Mill for a spot of lunch by the sparkling waters of the River Chet. The most direct route to the waterside clearing is across a boggy field which the owner has since barred after (allegedly) irresponsible dog walkers allowed Fido and Rover to trouble his cows. These are the same cows who troubled us the first time we ventured across his field forcing us to run for our lives. Just saying.
So we took the circuitous route via graves ancient and fresh, a tunnel of wild foliage, a babbling brook and a couple of country lanes. Pyes Mill was less busy than expected, though there was a swan having a good lick (and who wouldn’t if they could?), a few young families mucking about on the grass and a gang of naughty lads sharing a spliff. Liam can smell a joint at twenty paces.
We found a bench among the molehills and unpacked our picnic. When I say picnic, it was a meal deal from the Co-op. After months under house arrest, alcohol was first on the menu. Drink was drunk but rather too quickly. We regretted not picking up a second bottle when we had the chance. Lesson learned for next time.