By “The Photographer’s Assistant”
We woke up this morning with the sun pouring invitingly through the window. The night had been exceptionally cold. We do not have a thermometer for fear it would introduce mass panic in the household, but we know by the arm test. If you stick your arm out of the quilt to gain purchase on your pillow when deeply asleep at night, it gets cold and wakes you up. On creeping downstairs to make porridge, the AGA says, “ Sorry Mate, it’s Dartmoor and I’ve dropped a degree” that’s the other way you know. On the subject of porridge, the Artist has now clued us up on the latest version. The Photographer, being a great traditionalist and fully paid up member of the middle classes has always had Golden Syrup on his, while the Assistant, being slightly working class, has a small spoon of sugar. The Artist introduced us to new porridge when we had a coffee with him in the cafe. Modern porridge has loads of stuff on it. It has colourful fruit and nuts and pumpkin seeds, anything you like. There you are, Photographer and Assistant utterly gob smacked!
The Photographer and the Assistant have now started to go to bed extremely early in due acknowledgement of the time of year. We are going to bed early due to exhaustion! Dartmoor in the winter is very exhausting! It is incredibly busy.
Two weeks ago, The Photographer was to be found in a large Supermarket near the Moor. He was mulling over packets of luxury dried mixed fruit, figs and dates. He was so excited that the Assistant was able to sneek a large bill through the till without being noticed. The Photographer was going to make Christmas puddings, while the Assistant was going to make the cake. It is estimated that this was last done twenty years ago and it needed trying again.
A huge quantity of food raw materials now arrived at the cottage and The Photographer spent no time at all in ordering The Assistant to make the cake. The smell of brandy and luxury fruit was almost too hard to bear, as the kitchen filled with Christmas. The AGA meanwhile sat looking truculent as it observed the amateur proceedings. Like Michelle Roux on Master Chef, it assumed a look of deep worry and consternation as it eyed the forlorn proceedings. The dog turned over in his basket reconciled to a short walk for that day.
The Photographer and The Assistant had a long list of jobs for wet weather and the days were divided up in military style. Mornings were spent by The Photographer deep in out of date paper work, never a strong suit of his, while the Apple sighed at the huge overload. The Apple is used to days idly sitting in the study enjoying the sun light and leisure. The Assistant, meanwhile dragged herself, still recovering from the flu, around the AGA, which was now looking mean. She produced more apple crumbles than their friends could possibly eat. Another pumpkin pie attempted to break as it was heaved from it’s pastry case. Summer goosberries, very good for you in the winter, but hardly adored, were duly stewed for lunch. The Photographer hates gooseberries and attempts each year to leave untreated those bushes infected with mildew, but the Assistant is eagle eyed about these matters, so here they are neatly presented as a healthy pud. Who wants a healthy pud in winter! The processing of winter veg continues.
Upstairs lies a job too terrible to be discussed. The beloved daughter has moved in with the very best boyfriend. The loft left untouched for twelve years needs clearing out. The Photographer has had to send his best camera for a service, so there really is no avoiding the job. The Photographer explains to the Assistant that most parents leave a loft like this for their children to clear out when they have died.This would be unfair. The loft takes several weeks to turn out and it has to be said that The Photographer bears the brunt of the job. He doesn’t even pause when he twists his neck when lifting heavy boxes. Questions are asked on the telephone and one daughter appears, concerned that the parents may be keeping too many of her Cindys, after all she points out, she has now grown up. She is amazed at the Dallas style of the eighties and thinks her dolls are charmingly dated. “Out” she says, and Dad is secretly a bit sentimental, so he puts them back up in the roof. After all, he thinks to himself, as he admires his daughter’s glamorous appearance, immaculate make up and flowing blond hair, there is a similarity between the daughter and these dolls. The Assistant, having never been anywhere near glamorous herself, meanwhile admires her own scruffy filthy appearance and sighs.She dwells on their other scientific daughter’s simple request for a Meg and Mog book that they used to read together and feels a bit sad.
The other factor about living on the Moor in the winter is the social life. There most definitely is one. You may have a wobbly digital screen and not be allowed a satellite dish by planning restrictions, but you won’t need all that. Esther Rantzen has just set up a line for lonely old people. The only thing that can happen to a sociable old person here is that they die from too much activity. There are all sorts of intellectual challenges, meditation classes etc. Take this week. On Friday we attended a film club, which was free, everyone brings something to eat or drink. It was held in a swimming pool building, now defunct for the winter, the owners only wishing to contribute something to entertain the community. The highlight of the evening was the charming flight and appearance of a resident bat, flying majestically around the room. Saturday was a harp concert in aid of the little towns church. We met friends and the harpist was of world class, here in this tiny place. On Sunday we went to friends for coffee and a chat, Monday is catch up day. Tuesday we are going to some dear friends for supper, Wednesday is Blood Doning, where we will meet more friends and on Thursday we will meet The Artist for afternoon tea. You could also attend a Dickensian Christmas in a near by town and “Open Mic” night at a local pub, and next week is just the same.
In brief, if you live out here you have to keep fit to keep up with it all!