I started the weekend with an (always thrilling) trip to the garage to get my car fixed - nothing serious, just a new pump for the screenwash. It was a cold morning and absolutely pouring with rain, which (quite literally) dampened my enthusiasm a little. However, to my pleasure, as I left the garage the rain stopped, and I had time for a wander around the shops in Wells. That was a little confusing, as I used to live there, so it's all familiar, but I haven't been for a while, so some of the shops are different....
I enjoyed a lovely lunch at the Fabulous 'Old Spot' restaurant (chicken & Tarragon terrine, followed by Chestney & Radiccio risotto - Nom, Nom, and Nom again!)
And then, on to J's home. J & I were in primary school together - her parents had the farm opposite my parent's house, and when we moved there, when I was 1o years old, we became friends, and we still are.
Five years ago J married another local farmer, R, and now lives less than a mile from her parents, and next door to her in-laws, with other relayives almost as close, and gravestones in the churchyard marking the past 150 years of the family. I am not sure that I would want to live in quite such close proximity to my (extended) family, but at the same time I do have a degree of envy for that rootedness and sense of belonging.
J&R have a wonderful 3 year old son. Last time I saw him, he was rather shy with me, but this time, after a brief period of careful observation he became very chatty, and insisted on taking me on a guided tour of the house, introducing me to the old collie and to the nearly-new labradour puppy, and would have taken me on a tour to meet each individual chicken, turkey and cow!
J & I spent the afternoon catching up with one another's lives and preparing dinner - of which the only parts which were not home-grown were the carrots (apparently it wasn't a good year for carrots) - the roast pork was from a l
Another neighbour was also there for supper - an older gentleman who has retired to the village.
We enjoyed some local rose cider with our meal, and remained talking until very late. At some point, we got onto the subject of homemaking, and ended up rooting through some old books (one of hobbies and handicrafts, published in 1935, and the other a book of cookery and household hints, which was undated but which we determined to be of a similar period.)
We have decided that the hint about soaking blotting paper in saltpetre and then burning it to cure asthma is *not* one we shall be trying, although J did claim to be tempted by the advice about fire-proofing one's children (or at least their clothes), although R seemed oddly unenthused by the suggestion that one could captivate one's husband (or desired husband) by knitting him a golf-jerkin or cricket jumper (incorporating his school or club colours, if you feel adventurous) and that one can also knit ones own alluring underwear (with ribbed cuffs) Be still my beating heart . . .
There was a wonderful section about planning a house and kitchen to minimise housework, which included the always-useful recommendation to ensure that you have a system of speaking tubes or telephones, for efficient communiction with the kitchen to avoid the maids having to run around the house . . .
Of course, neither 3 year-olds nor milking cows take account of late nights or the clocks going back, so we had a rather earlier morning than I am accustomed to on a Sunday morning.
before heading home, I helped to feed the chickens and turkeys (and have bespoken a Turkey, for Christmas, although not a specific, individual one) The turkeys are very free-range, but not, apparently, very bright.
I came away clutching some new laid eggs, wild mushrooms and a pheasant, as R had been out doing a little rough shooting on Saturday morning, and apparently one gets bored of pheasant after a while. It is now hanging up maturing (and being ignored by Tybalt, who, it appears, does not recognise meat when it is still covered in feet & feathers and things) and which I intend to roast next weekend.
Meanwhile, I have been admiring the beautiful feathers (it's a cock) and hoping that I can remember how to pluck and clean it. It's a reminder of how far removed we normally are from the way our food starts out, that this is only the second time I have had anything which needed that kind of prepararion. (The first time was a pheasant given to me by a farming friend, too!)
J & I are determined not to leave it so long before meeting up again, and I am hoping that she will finally make it over to mine before too long (She's never actually visited my house, partrly because until my parents moved I tended to combine meeting up with her with a visit to them, and partly because as there is only one of me, it's easier for me to go there than for her to organise a husband & small child to come. But I'm not giving up until I've managed to return her hospitality!
Altogether, a highly enjoyable time.