© 1998 - 2006 Charles Ivermee
a rural year with Sam
Sam Thrundal is a familiar name to readers of the Wymsey Chronicle which has featured his 'Down Our Lane' column for a number years (nearly two, as it happens). He is a countryman through and through who has only been to London once. "And that was when I got on the wrong train at Swindon." Today, Sam rarely strays from his beloved village of Wymsey although he does spend Christmas and a week in the summer at his sister's bungalow in Swanage.
Sam's recent book 'From My Gate' has gone down well in some circles, one reviewer wrote, "Reading this booking can be likened to riding on the back of a turtle who has just stopped carrying the world around. It is the perfect antidote for those suffering from urban blues and those deluded souls who hanker after a cottage in the country with roses 'round the door."
"this little book changed my attitude"
Easter! A fertile time in the village as nature rampantly thrusts herself all over the place. This morning, as I leant on my garden gate talking to Vera Snodging, her with the gin problem, I was amazed to hear a pair of tofu calling to each other at the bottom of the orchard. This bodes well for the Easter Monday tofu hunt which is the first of the season.
As usual we have rabbit trouble in Wymsey, the little beggars are everywhere - I found a pair of them under a pot in the potting shed so it's rabbit hot pot for me tonight.
Don't forget to get those early potatoes in this weekend, if you are short of compost then line the trench with newspapers (broadsheets are best - I use the Guardian which has high moisture retention capabilities). By now you should have that greenhouse working hard for you, give it plenty of ventilation in the day but close it up at night - the same goes for your cold frames.
If you don't find an Easter egg at the bottom of your garden perhaps you should consider creating a fairy-friendly corner - it worked for us.
Well, that's Easter over and good riddance I say, what with the egg hunt and the tofu hunt it was all a bit too much for me. Not that I begrudge anyone - far from it, just you ask Vera Snodging. Talking of which, the poor old dear nearly got trampled to death on Easter Monday by the Leader of the Pack as he reversed his horse in the lane outside my cottage gate. His mount was obviously upset but what the horse lost my roses gained. Can't be bad. Vera had to beat a path to the Crown & Thorns for a swift pint of gin and being a gent I couldn't let her go alone.
Now's the time to get those salad seeds in, put out your cloches a week before you sow. How are your chickens laying? Increased daylight should be bringing you more eggs - a bit of yellow food colouring will improve the look of your yolks no end, Me, I uses tartrazine. Watch out for foxes.
The hedgerows in the lane are looking grand right now, white with blackthorn atop and a mess of tractor treads below - it's Snorter Smith's formula one Fergie that does it, something to do with the steering linkage he says - bad driving I say.
Now's the time to get weeding those salad seedlings - watch out for hail storms, we've had three this week. You should be picking your first radishes by now, I know I am. 'Tis a good time to take out a trench for those courgette thingies and get some compost in there but don't put out the plants for another week. Slugs are a blooming pain at the moment, I've just bought a gross of common toadlings which should do the trick - if not I'll be looking for more hedgehogs.
So, that there eclipse came and went but that do be in the nature of these things. Vera Snodging she went to bed at 11.20am, the poor old sot and came over to tell me that she had got up at daybreak - must have been about 11.25 - and said she was going to do it more often. Me, I was in the henhouse keeping an eye on me hens but none of them fell off the perch so I let them beauties out at 11.30 and they was blinking I can tell you.
Got a postcard from me nephew, Clarence, from that Edinburgh Festival - dam lovies do take themselves somewhat seriously as I sees it. Seems the dumbo is up there busking - according to his mum, that's me other sister Sienna, her what lives in North London, Clarence is good on animal sounds. Me, I can believe that. Not my cup of tea, is that.
So how's the garden then, had any blackberries? I have. Watch your drainage this month 'cos August is the rainy month - we measures it megagallons we does. Have you got them leeks out? I knows I have.
What about that Edith Chompsky then, silly chump she is, got herself a goose. Should have got hens, them geese is too pushy by half. Poor old Vera Snodging won't go in there anymore so I has to get her pension of a Thursday.
What is it with all this spying stuff, get's my goat it does, I spend my whole life spying I do. It's what makes me life worthwhile, leaning on me gate and watching the goings on - not that I sells it to those blokies at County Hall or to them Chinese for that matter.
So, did your tomatoes get the blight? I know mine did, dam rotten shame as I was planning to dry 'em under me sunlamp and send 'em up to North London to pay for me Christmas shopping.
I don't mind if we declare independence meself but I knows Vera Snodging is worried about the health service , says she has never been abroad and doesn't want to start having to go to a foreign hospital if she has an accident and what about her pension. So I tells her that if Wymsey joins the European Union then the British Government will still have to pay her and she won't have to pay for her hospital treatment. Anyway, as I told her, it's all talk at the moment.
Well, we've had the first frost, expect you have too, and that was the end of me courgettes - thank goodness, don't those damn things just keep coming. Don't you forget to turn that compost heap and cover it with a bit of old carpet - don't go using plastic, it won't be able to breathe and will turn into soggy silage.
Makes me laugh, it does, 'cos I reckon them Frenchies is the best friends we ever had - look at all the other things they've given us like that book Frenchmans Creek, the Foreign Legion, courgettes, pette poir, Fransoise Hardy and Oh la la! All this warmongering and posturing gets my goat I can tell you.
From where I stands - my garden gate - winter seems a bit slow this year and there's those that says it's down to that there global warming stuff but me I reckon it's got more to do with memory than much else. Anyways, don't forget to check those veg you've stored away for the winter rot spreads like nobody's business - as recent events show.
I remember my old granny saying, "Never trust a man with holly in his pockets." How right she was! She was one of the last wise women and certainly fey, sadly such people just faded away after the war with Hitler.
Poor old Vera Snodging fell over again last week, me I'm getting fed up with it. This time she got away with a bifurcated thingy but it means I have to be over there every five minutes which takes me away from me hens.
Have you been and voted in that there Independence Referendum? I know I have. Last I heard it was going at 10 to 1 in favour.
'Had a begging letter from me sister, her what lives in North London, said she couldn't get hold of the latest Fransoise Hardy CD and that life was becoming unbearable. So I wrote straight back to her saying as she and her friends up there had made their bed without the French and they would just have to lay in it. 'Seems to have silenced her, that has.
Well, global warming or not, me late rocket and coriander is looking pretty healthy still. Did you put in your garlic, I know I did and beggar me if some damn cat didn't go and dig it all up so I've put me name down for one of them Glasgow Dingo pups with that Flora McFlora cos I reckons if they're so good with the weasels they ought to give a cat a thing or two to think about.
Still that American gnome woman has some good points by the looks of her but then, as Vera Snodging says, I have a soft spot. Talking of Vera, the old sot has been told by the doctor that she has to give up the gin on account of it affecting her balance. Just shows what seven years at medical school does for you.
It's gone a bit quiet on the independence front what with the English prime minister having a baby and the French still throwing up into the Channel at the thought of getting BBC disease from British beefburgers - god bless 'em I say!
So, Christmas is coming and I'm going to spend it with my sister in Swanage, her with the bungalow. I'm only going 'cos I likes the beach when it's stacked up with seaweed rather than ice cream wrappers and fat old men with pink bellies and fluff in their navels. Me I can't stand all that being jolly and smiling at strangers and kissing Vera Snodging under the mistletoe - gets me every year she does. Did you read about that Edith Chompsky's goose going, bet that will be looking good on someone's table come Christmas Day. I did tell her to watch it but no one takes a bit of notice these days, everyone thinks they know best but there's some that do and some that don't.
Me, I'm sitting by me fire with old Shep snoring on the rug and me thoughts are turning to the homemade Elderberry wine under the stairs and other great years for Elderberry wine. That would be 1994, 1990, 1985, 1980 and then me memory starts to fade with each good year spilling into the previous one - that's time and Elderberry wine for you me dears.
Still it's a boon not to have to be out there turning the soil, weeding, planting and reaping the harvest - damn garden, can't see as to why I does it except that I lives in the country.
Did you get some socks then? Me, I got three pairs - all grey they was - from me sister, her what has the bungalow in Swanage. The other one, her what lives in North London, she sent me an email saying as she was not sending any cards or presents this year but instead would be donating £5 to the Millennium Cleanup Fund and how I was to do the same. Always was bossy. Tightfisted too but maybe that's how she gets to live where she does what with her three cars and a pass to Hampstead Garden Suburb.
I took a look at me hens this morning and they're still laying imperial eggs so I reckons that there millennium metric bug thing was all tosh. They do say as how a lot of them computer jonnies have taken early retirement like what I did when I left school but I did always know a thing or two before most people.
Me garlic came through, did yours? Little green fellas they are, poking through about an inch. And what about your leeks then? Mine have gone crazy putting out leaves like tentacles - scared to go near 'em I am, I reaches out with a long bamboo stick and hits 'em a bit before I dig 'em up, that's what I does.
So, did you get the flu then? I knows I did - laid me down rotten it did. You know what gets my goose, you tells a person and he says there's a lot of it about. Have you noticed that? Damn me, there I am with them virus thingies swimming through me veins and turning me lunch to slime and everyone else is the same. Where's the sympathy in that I asks meself.
What about that Gordon Chumpley then, I had to laugh - bet you did too. I knows him well, went to school with him - always a bit on the clever side he was - we called him Chump and he used to call me Drain. Not so clever when he married Zennella Spritshift though - Chump and Frump as we used to say - seeing as how she ran off with that writer chappie, him that ran amok among them girlies at the University. Still that's education for you, just another excuse for fornication I says.
That Rev Chester Rutland is a case I can tell you, one of them evangelicals he is - blooming menace they are if you ask me. Spreading the word on that damn great Japanese motorbike, looks like the devil in all that black leather I reckon. Not like our vicar you wouldn't find him biking for Jesus I can tell you.
I loves January and February I does, you can't get into the garden on account of it being mostly bog plus the smell of the compost what turns to a rotting mess. I read all those books about compost making I can tell you they are all talking cobblers about steaming piles and loamy compost what you could put in your muesli. It ain't like that on the coal face I can tell you.
One good thing about this time of year is the way that nature sleeps, shuts down she does. Come the spring and she's rampant, drives me mad it does - birds singing, lambs gamboling, every blooming thing on the go. 'Can't understand why all those townies want to live in the country, bet they think it's all bluebells and robin redbreasts, silly chumps. Which reminds me, some of you folk have asked if Sam is me real name and what the rest of it is. Well me dears, Samuel I Thrundal is me full name though I don't often bother to use it.
Meanwhile, a reader wrote and she said what could she be doing in her garden during January, silly chump. If you got money me dear then you forget your garden and go to Australia for a couple of months, if you got lots of money I'll come with you and we'll go dingo spotting. If you ain't got any money then you wants to get under the duvet like what I does.
So, no more Austria then, can't say as how it bothers me - all those fiddly little alpine flowers what you has to get down on your damn knees to see and that music - umpah, umpah or is that Bavaria. Still they all wears those silly little shorts with leather and dance like that chump Kidworth Hardcourt and that yodelling - can't say I'll miss that. Bet you won't either.
Did you get any valentines cards then? I knows I did - three I got, soppy stuff. Give me a night in with me Elderberry wine anytime, you knows where you are with that - well you does until about halfway through the first bottle. 'Tis a powerful little blighter is my Elderberry.
Funny month is February, you get glimpses of spring then the skies open and it all freezes overnight - love it I do. Some silly chumpies like spring - not me my sunshines, oh no! Spring means work hereabouts, digging and seeding, turning the compost, taking a bath and then you have to start weeding - hates that I do. What I does is cover every spare bit of ground with old carpets which gets the Parish Council going I can tell you - puts off tourists they says. Well, I don't plan to have any tourist in me back garden, bet you don't either.
So, did you chuck all those seed catalogues? I know I did, all those bright pictures and everything looking perfect, depressing that is.
What with spring on the way, I decided to give me gate a lick of paint - bright yellow it is now - and there was half the tin left so I painted the door of the chicken house too which Vera Snodging says will cheer me hens up. She don't improve - the poor sot.
Watch out for any temptation to get out in the garden, I do I can tell you, it's that glimpse of the sun what does