Thursday 17th May, 2013
You know, if I’d never met Cyrus and Ruby, it’s very possible that I might never have realised that I was born to go WWOOFing. I met them in July 2010 and we drank firewater and I had a little weep. Then Ruby set me up with her friend Heidi and that was fun for a short while. Then when Ruby was having a baby in the autumn of last year, I looked after the other three kids when things got complicated and both Cyrus and Ruby needed to be at the hospital. So we have become close over the years.
And it was after spending time with them, and working with them on their old house – particularly a few days taking down and building from scratch an old barn roof (see above) – that I realised how good I feel when I spend time outdoors, working with other people on whatever needs doing. And then I remembered that WWOOFing exists. And now here I am, back at Cyrus and Ruby’s, warming up for the off.
The house here is great. Cyrus and Ruby had the brilliant, and as far as I know, completely original idea of turning an old house and a bunch of barns into a gite, which they can then rent out to holiday-hungry Francophiles. They saw a gap in the market and they went for it. When the gite is ready to rent, they intend to go travelling with their kids (and piano and drums) in a huge Mercedes bus, which is currently sitting in a barn, waiting its turn.
They’ve got another year before its ready to rent out.
In the meantime, all kinds of stuff is going on. Poultry. Flowers. Bulldozers. Diggers. All kinds. And for the past few days I’ve been digging too. Under the patio there’s a space filled with rocks and roots, and it needs to be turned into a chilling-out-after-a-bathe area when the pool’s finished. Unfortunately, there’s insufficient access for a mechanical digger, so it all needs to be done by hand. It’s a great job though. The earth is wicked. I’m with Alice Walker on that.
Pick-axe, wheelbarrow, shovel and hoe. These are my tools. My John, Paul, George and Ringo. I am Brian Epstein, making them sing. I am also George Martin. And Mal, the roadie. I do most of the work to be honest, but I’d be nothing without them.
Obviously, no amount of photographs – even better photographs – could really give you any idea of the arduousness of the task, but here’s a little taster…
Now, later, as I sit here, aching brilliantly in one of the lovingly refurbished bedrooms, lying propped by a large pillow on a lovingly made bed, I am wearing a clean shirt on a smelly body and my stomach sits in front of me like a prize tripe-mound. It looks huge to me, partly because it’s pushed up by a tight belt, partly because it is actually fucking huge. Relatively. I grew it deliberately while I was in Mansfield. I cultivated it. I did very little exercise – a fair bit of walking but nothing else – and I ate Hob Nobs and Magnum Minis and bacon and sausages and single serving fruit cocktail trifles from Morrison’s.
And it was good.
I ate with gleeful abandon, happy to put on a stone or two, knowing that I’d be working it off come the summer.
And in the meantime, here I am, digging.
And it is good.