Tuesday, 29 July 2008
Through grey reminiscences of childhood – a childhood spent in dark mornings, driving rain and frozen fields – I remember The Farmhouse.
The Farmhouse was the name we gave to the little cottage at the edge of the farm buildings that we used to rent out, of a summer, to the kind of people who prefer not to go abroad for their holidays.
Sometimes they were older people, retired and content with a slower pace of life, or they might be couples without children, wanting a brief escape from their busy city lives.
We gave them a chance to experience the life, the world we had created for ourselves, chiselled out in this little strip of Devon countryside. They gave us their money, in return.
Whenever a new couple arrived I liked to sit on the gate, in the afternoon when most of the farm chores were completed, and watch and wait for them to come out. Sometimes they would go for a walk and I’d say hello and open the gate for them. Other times they just climbed into their blue cars and drove away. I’d hear them coming back later, when it was dark.
One man hit his head on a wooden beam inside the cottage and said he was going to sue my dad. Another man thought he’d seen a ghost in the upstairs bedroom.
One time a woman sneaked her cat into The Farmhouse and kept it there for three days before it escaped through a window and got onto the roof. My dad had to retrieve the cat from the roof with a long ladder.
Though he told the woman he was within his rights to kick her and her husband out of the cottage without a refund, he let them stay and I even got to fuss the cat (Mr Rufus) and give it water to drink. My dad was impressed that the cat had managed to kill three mice during the week it had been staying.
The people who owned the cat were Gill and Jimmy and they became good friends with both my parents, after that. They used to come and stay for two weeks every summer for five years. Later, they all fell out around the time my mum and dad separated, and I never saw them again.
I left with my mum while my dad struggled on with the farm. He bought a cat to keep the rodents down, and I suggested he name it Mr Rufus, but he said he couldn’t as it was a female cat. Instead he called it Lotty, a name he would sometimes called my mother.
Eventually, dad was made an offer for the land and buildings. The farm was pretty much finished anyway, so he sold up and moved to Canada. All the farm buildings and some of the barns were turned into holiday cottages.
I moved out, last year, and got a cat for Christmas. It was a female but I called her Mr Rufus. My plan is to save up and one day I’ll take her away with me, on holiday, for one week.
We’ll stay in The Farmhouse, look for ghosts and sit on the gate all day and watch the other guests as they come and go in their silver cars. Just me and Mr Rufus and The Farmhouse.