Saturday, 18 December 2010

The big thaw

I love watching a really big thaw, it reminds me of the end of the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Right now it's only snowing here if you stand underneath the trees. We had about six inches overnight, a proper snow where everything turns white, and now the sun is melting it. It was uncanny at about three in the morning: the moonlight reflected on the snow so that it never got dark, and the light shone in through my curtains all night.

We have an arrangement in the village about newspapers. No one is going to deliver papers around here, not least because none of the streets have names and the houses don't have numbers. But the nearest newsagent drives out every morning with our paper orders, and they get left on a table in the women's loo at the pub. The pub's loos open onto the street -- you have to go out of the pub and a little way down the road to get to them. Everyone picks up their paper in the morning when they walk the dog or whatever. The newsagent politely tucks my Saturday Guardian inside the Daily Telegraph so that my father doesn't have to feel embarrassed carrying it home.

When I got up this morning it was quite clear that none of us were going anywhere, and that the newsagent would not have driven up Cork's Hill with our papers. But just now we got a phonecall from Trevor Underhill, saying he'd taken his tractor down and collected the papers himself. Trevor Underhill is a proper old-style farmer. He's been retired for years, but he can't stop doing farmery things, and he cuts the hedges and brings in people's hay for them. He has a Devon accent as thick as clotted cream, and relatively few teeth.

If we ignore what Thatcher did to the Tories and what Blair did to Labour and think back to older political divides, even though I still think that we have a duty to care for each other because life is too random to assume everyone can make it on their own, I can see the attractions of the Tory way because it's how people live here. If something gets broken or stuck here, the farmers fix it. In the last big freeze one of our outdoor taps broke, and the farmer who has the next field rummaged through his box of random useful bits and pieces until he found just the right fitting to mend it. So next time my mother went to Mole Valley Farmers she bought him a replacement, but it meant the tap was fixed quickly and without fuss. When my parents ordered some concrete and the idiot suppliers sent it in a 32-ton lorry which unsurprisingly got stuck in the field, Trevor bought his tractor down, and called a friend, who called another friend, who called the man with the biggest tractor in the village, and with those four tractors they dislodged it. That sort of pugnacious attitude to problems is probably the only way to keep going as a farmer. You can't be a farmer and expect the government or any sort of central authority to help you out.

I'm going to walk down to the pub now and get my Guardian. Hopefully Trevor has not discriminated but brought them all -- unless he felt that Guardian-readers have no right to profit from acts of private enterprise. Later I'm going to help my mother with alpacas, so I'll try to get some pictures.

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