By the Photographer’s Assistant
It is a Saturday night and it is most definitely heralding the last embers of summer. It is quite dark and seemingly silent, but across the river and through the valley, there is the sweet sound of music ebbing its way into the corners of the house. The window is open just a crack. The weather is indefinite and we are not sure that the Moorland wind will leave us alone. There is a comedy scene if we get this one wrong. At some small hour of the morning the two will be woken by the enemy. It will be like the scene from “Wuthering Heights”,where Cathy hears tapping on the window pane. This is guaranteed to so terrify the Assistant that the Photographer has to anticipate the terror and grab a pair of socks to wedge them in the door! The music, though, is lovely and the two drift gently off to sleep. A tasty Devon steak and a bottle of wine from the Little Town have been consumed. Eleven hours later, the Photographer awakens to the bubbling noise of the Assistant’s chest. She has a sweet little smile on her face and is perfectly still, but the bubbling must not go on. He creeps off to get the necessary antidote, which is an enormous mug of really hot tea. When she is awake, it will be all go and action. If he is really lucky, the Photographer will reach her before the Sunday morning News programme, which could produce a rant about the state of Britain, which he really can’t do anything about. He sighs as he listens to the kettle, which has recently begun to sound like a jet engine. That’ll be something else, a new kettle, but not today and just for the moment he can be alone enjoying that wonderful feeling of absolute stillness. He hasn’t drawn the kitchen blind. He is just standing there enjoying his Sunday.
While the Photographer stands in the kitchen, the Assistant rattles herself awake. What’s on the radio? There is usually a Sunday homily, which she only listens to if Will Self is on. He is a particular favourite and his homilies often chime with her own cynical view outside the paradise in which she lives. She has lived so long in this beautiful valley that mostly the outside world feels a treacherous place. Now, the Assistant is wondering where her tea is, and she is not too sure about how much she wants to know about the Artic Tern, information about which is now being broadcast. What about the birds in the garden? They are endlessly fascinating and she is not sure if she will ever come across an Artic Tern. Her mind is straying, which is good. The Photographer arrives just in time to turn the news off with the excuse that he doesn’t want to hear who won the Formula One race, because he is watching it later. The Assistant is happy and the two have a silent cup of tea until the news is over when the Sunday morning programme plays this weeks meditative sound, which always pleases the Assistant, and at the end of which, she arises to make breakfast. She rants at the newspaper review over a frying pan and the bacon. She can’t make up her mind between mushrooms and tomatoes. Meanwhile, the Photographer impedes her progress by emptying the dishwasher around her. She is wondering now whether to eat breakfast outside. She stands for some moments in the doorway, and decides that it is actually too hot outside, so it will have to be taken inside after all. As soon as the Photographer sits down, he is up again. She wants him to make coffee. He is beginning to feel tired again. It is only ten in the morning. When is she going to calm down in life? He makes the coffee and peace descends. While she reads Saturday’s Guardian, he reads the Financial Times, and that, he thought was the nub of their relationship. They always had a great deal to discuss. Basically, she wanted social justice and he wanted to recognise reality and that had made for a life time of debate, which actually took them back to the beginning, the college debating society, where they had met.
As the Assistant disappeared to organise something which actually didn’t need organising, the Photographer thought of the pleasant week which they had both enjoyed. On Monday, they had had their usual breakfast outside Blacks, where Jim the Artist had joined them, and several other people had arrived to have a chat about the weekend, which was always eventful in the Little Town. Christine talked of her new love of sewing and a late discovery of an appreciation of classical music, which was fuelled by the purchase of CDs from Proper Job, the recycling centre to which the music was always returned so that some other customer could enjoy it. Everyone was pleased that the dearly loved retired priest had managed a holiday with his wife, so that he didn’t have to struggle with mowing his friend’s lawn, as referred to in the previous blog. The Assistant reported that the Husqvarna mower was a real bargain and all agreed that we could underestimate old machinery at our financial peril.
Later on the Monday, The Beauty and The Brain rang. They had been to the swimming pool and wanted to swing by. This was welcome news as The Brain had been away with lions, and all sorts of animals in Africa, treacherous terrain had also been involved. The Beauty had been enjoying working while he was away, and the Assistant had pictured her surrounded by her beloved runner ducks, and playing the piano in her church all to herself in the evening to bring a quiet and meditative end to her day. How pleased the four were to see one another after so long. Much news was discussed especially Africa, which always seemed a romantic place to the Assistant since she had seen Out of Africa all those years ago. The Photographer having worked in Africa had an optimistic but practical alternative view
On Monday evening the two had gone to see friends for supper. They sat outside on a perfectly warm evening, which was the idyllic. They enjoyed listening to the river at the foot of the garden. The friends had a large garden, which grew grass to a productive level, so that on this evening, it stretched out cut into windrows ready for the local farmer to come back and bail, so that it could be of some use. The hay was a green and golden colour. In her mind, the Assistant arranged it into a scene from Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd. She pictured celebrations with pipe and fiddle playing at the end of a good harvest. How romantic! The Photographer dived into the windrow and immersed himself in that most evocative smell.
They had also had a delicious meal of chicken at The Farmer and The Professor’s house on a colourful tablecloth with such attractive flowers. What a treat! Later in summer they had wondered at one of The Farmer’s cow’s, which at the age of twenty-one was still, literally enjoying motherhood! She loves The Farmer and the little town. We will miss her so much when she is gone.
So August roved on with visits to and from friends in the most relaxing way, though the garden had begun to look a little unkempt. Most wonderful of all was the visit from the Assistant’s niece, her husband and their baby, who was the most content of babies. The baby bubbled and chatted to its heart’s content, and those of you who regularly read this blog, will be pleased to know that it has a terrific interest in food, even accepting and excellent piece of pear to accompany its dinner. There will be no trouble getting him to Blacks for a decent bacon and egg butty. We can’t wait!
The Little Town continued on its way with a good summer and a pleasant atmosphere. Coffees and teas were served and there were a few times when it was overrun with visitors, who everyone did their best to absorb.
Now, we are near the end of this most gentle of seasons. The swifts and swallows have been chattering away about departure, always a tricky decision. An animal has taken up residence somewhere in the structure of the house ready for cold nights. It is a pathetic creature, awaking at six in the morning, storing some food, which is being scrabbled away, it’s possibly a squirrel or a mouse. It isn’t causing any harm, but its arrival anticipates colder nights, The fox and badger vie for space in the garden. The badger has been digging holes and feeding on oil beetles. The tits are wearing their boxing gloves all the time now and have no mercy on any other small bird that dares to cling to their feeders. It’s hell out there in bird land. Which bird is really going to finish the apples which the two had been looking forward to eating? Damn it! Most extraordinary of all was the visit from a mining bee, which took a good deal of time to mine a hole in the cracks in the patio. The Photographer was very excited and reached for his camera.
The real sign of the little town’s summer’s end has been the closing of the swimming pool, which has shut with a BBQ and cake event. Now all the committee have to do is spend the winter raising funds so that it can open next summer, but how proud they must be of all the write ups it has had in magazines and in the national press. What a catastrophe it would be if the pool users and supporters failed to raise the necessary cash and it didn’t open ever again. Donate now on Just Giving Just Giving Donation Link for Chagford Pool
That is what the Little Town does best. It punches way above its weight on all fronts and makes a continuous and massive effort to keep going against the prevailing weather. We are all massively proud of it.
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