It was, alas, almost the end of Easter. The Photographer and his Assistant stood at the entrance to the back field, where the hamlet’s inhabitants had created a well worn path along the uneven field and down its steep hill to the stream below. They were watching in silence as the blonde head with the woolly hat and the bobbing tail disappeared from view. It had been a lovely day with good food and wine, but it was over. The daughter and her dog had disappeared from view leaving the two alone on the hillside, thinking of what to watch on the telly as they gently snoozed the evening away. All around the hamlet guests had left or were leaving, some to go back abroad, and some to big cities. The whole place had the feeling of desertion and solitude. Never mind, it was only two weeks to the next Bank Holiday. Who knows who would arrive then?
Back to normal and no more food, probably forever, from the look of the weighing scales.
The next morning, the Photographer was surveying the sky for much needed rain when over it flew in the most casual of manners. It was that wonderful throw back to an imagined dinosaur age. We had a heron in the hamlet, flying straight over the houses. What a magnificent sight, not so for anyone with a pond, of course, but just glorious all the same. He was the shape of a modern plane, with those giant legs drifting majestically behind. He appeared every morning for two or three days, flying from the river and on to an unknown destination. He was followed a few days later by a hovering helicopter. It flew around and around. It was out of sight at first and all sorts of thoughts came to mind. Did someone need the Air Ambulance, a frequent sight heading for the little town’s school playing fields, but it wasn’t that. It had gone on for too long. Possibly, someone was missing or injured higher up on the Moor. The Photographer got his long lens out and, there was much relief when the helicopter turned out to be surveying the electricity cables for any faults. An amazing display of flying took place. You just couldn’t take your eyes off it. What skill!
Having surveyed the water butts, and giving regard to the bore hole, the household embarked on what was usually a summer occupation; water conservation. The blue bucket was lowered into the kitchen sink and stayed there. Washed hands, washed vegetables, coffee grouts and old tea and anything that wasn’t toxic was now carried into the garden on a rota basis. This water kept most of the plants alive, including the lovely pots of tulips, which had bloomed for some weeks now. Next the Photographer kept a daily eye on the oil tank read out. They had turned the oil off, except for heating the water, some weeks ago, the oil price had begun to be prohibitive. The mark had been on three for weeks, but now, it was down to two. The oil supplier arrived in a day and filled the tank. This tankful had just lasted 14 months, which was pretty economic. The installation by Vince, the plumber, had worked. He was determined to help the Photographer install a condensing boiler system, no matter what problems arose, granite walls etc. He had succeeded and they had gained an extra three months oil usage out of this system. All of this meant nothing to the Assistant, who just loved the steam, which came out of the outlet and reminded her of her obsession with the steam train. She thought that the disturbance was worth it just for that!
There may have been a shortage of rain, but, here was the perfect excuse for all types of work out of doors. Compost, which had been left for a year in its bin was now released and the Photographer turned to with a will. He sieved and sieved, until a cup of tea was really necessary. The two looked down on the compost in awe. Usually, the compost was mainly straw and the clearings from the garden stream Piled up and left for a year. It had never been sifted. They could not believe that the new bin used for kitchen waste, egg shells, waste veg, etc, could produce such a fine product. They decided to bag it up and keep it for very special plantings.
There were some spare tomatoes in the greenhouse and the Photographer could not waste them, so he put them up on the little town’s Facebook page and they were gone almost instantly. He particularly liked seeing a small child and her mother carrying a couple away. This page is the life blood of the town. Everything that you can think of goes on this site.
Next, the Photographer turned his attention to dismantling and rebuilding a new smaller fruit cage on the veg plot. They both agreed that this would be sensible considering their age! They did, however remember various incidents in the cage. The cage, which was supposed to keep out deer, rabbits and birds, did no such thing. The local squirrel and his family would be regular destroyers of the netting, particularly, around the vulnerable edge of the frame. Naturally, any bird could now enter at will. The Assistant, being the most illogical creature on earth, would stand and just scream at the cage. Marcus, one of the most famous local spaniels, was then in his youth, and was severely distressed at the site of his mistress screaming at animals that he could not get in and catch. What was to be done? A friend offered what appeared to be the only possible solution with strawberries now disappearing almost before they were ripe. He offered a squirrel trap. It would be humane and the squirrel would be caught and could be released onto some other part of the Moor. Yes, that was naive, but we were just starting out! The trap was laced and baited with strawberries. Marcus danced about so much that it was felt he could destroy the cage. He was put indoors. A squirrel was soon captured, but it became obvious that anyone picking up the cage would be severely wounded. A fully licensed shot gun was produced by a helpful local, as per DEFRA guidelines, but do not worry, the squirrel bounced about so much that it wasn’t worth letting a shot off. Anyway, we south easterners weren’t used to that sort of practical solution and weren’t keen. It was decided to let the squirrel out in order to have a rethink. The spaniel appeared, having worked his way out to see where his mistress had got to. He gave his mistress a brave look and barked, Leave it to me, and disappeared over the horizon after the squirrel. Death was swift and the squirrel was swiftly disposed of without ceremony. What can we say?! Marcus was always keen to help in these matters. His love of squirrel chasing never subsided. In his old age, he would cry when he missed one. He is buried very close to where the squirrels now roam free. Poor Marcus! Incidentally, he came close to being the Best Dog in the West, but never quite made it. The best dog, when he was alive, was a resident of Wiltshire called Bilbo, a gentle man amongst dogs, not given to chasing vermin and always an adoring and not a deserting animal to his mistress. Currently, the Best Dog in the West is Finn, another fine and loyal dog. You might think that the Daughters dog, the ever glamorous Marilyn Monroe of the dog world, would qualify, but her appetite for anything, particularly whole lemon drizzle cakes, has ruled her out.
We are all hoping that this weekend does not produce the madness of the last Bank Holiday where the speed limit on the Moor was continually broken. The top speed on the monitor was 117 miles an hour. This is not a holier than thou attitude, as you know the Photographer is a devout petrolhead, but hit one of the many animals frequently sleeping in the middle of the road, hit it fast and you are dead. That means the Air Ambulance has an unnecessary call out and lots of people are sad. Please be careful! That said, have a happy holiday, out there in the wild, perhaps take a walk with Dartmoor’s Daughter, not to be confused with our very own “The Daughter” whose main preoccupation is now raising funds to help the Chagford Swimming Pool open on time this season.
Watch this space for more news on The Pool
Any similarity between characters in this blog and real people, products or events is entirely co-incidental
Any similarity between “The Little Town” and Chagford is entirely deliberate, Click on this link to find out more. Visit Chagford