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Thursday, June 13, 2024
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FoodGood Life Wife 07/12

Good Life Wife 07/12

The local pre-school is a treasured place where Groovy Youngest goes to play and learn—and give me a break from the Vale’s chattiest four-year-old philosophising naturalist.
“Mummy this is what a flower looks like when it closes up ALL its petals and goes to sleep and then, and then mummy, it stretches owwwwwt in the sun……Mummy are there nocturnal flowers, very special ones that like the moon?’
It’s also where Foodie spots—for him—an irresistible request on the notice-board looking for homes for orphan and triplet lambs. This wouldn’t have happened at the nursery in Stockwell, the biggest ask there was taking the hamster for half term. It is the first time in six years that we have lost the needs of our young for a few hours a day and now we are gaining a woolly baby in a soggy cardboard box that initially demands round the clock attention. Once again there is the dash back from the school run to feed a mewling infant, bottles in the night plus the surprisingly familiar and not wholly unpleasant smell of lamb pooh and dried milk.
I wonder why are we doing this to ourselves and whether taking up smallholding is an irrational attempt to evade ageing. In spite of the exhausting bits, having babies made us feel younger.
In the countless packets from Snappy Snaps there are repeated shots of our 30 and 40-something, beaming faces pressed to one of three peachy babies. One of the shocks of coming out of the newborn years was to stand apart again from that infant glow and realise that in those magical, albeit sleepless seasons, the clocks hadn’t actually stopped and we were definitely older.
Some social historians think the western concept of romantic love emerges alongside the novel and the new idea that an individual’s life could have a narrative. Chasing the Good Life dream is a form of modern romance (certainly in the ‘idealistic and impractical’ definition of the word) and rearing young animals, hatching eggs, planting trees, picking veg is full of the dynamic pleasures of life stories. A definite antidote for the periodic midlife heart-sink that it might all just predictably grind on from here…
The smelly box in the hall phase comes quickly to an end as the newcomer thrives and soon he’s kicking up his hooves in the front garden. He is big, bouncy and dubbed ‘Fat Sam’ (Grand Lamb Speakeasy). The children are in a Bugsy Malone phase. They are endlessly amused by ‘accidentally’ letting him back in the house to chase back out again in a Benny Hill style chaotic conga. It makes for an awkward scene when Foodie is talking earnestly on Skype to colleagues struggling with 40 degree heat on a military front line, who must also now contend with distraction by the creamy blur of an escapee Fat Sam. “What the bloody hell is that in the room with you?!”
He is a spring archetype—like Dennis Potter’s blossomiest blossom this is the lambiest lamb, curly and lusty. He attacks the milk bottle with such gusto he can knock the kids over if they don’t get it into him fast enough. I’d always heard the focus of ‘butting in’ as being a verbal ‘but…’, reflecting a more wordy, theoretical time. Now I see and understand it’s derived from a physical butting. Lots of phrases and words have literally come to life since moving from central London to rural Dorset. Pecking order. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Gone to seed….
I remember the account of Helen Keller running a deaf-blind pupil’s hands under a running tap to sign out W A T E R and think how lucky the children are to start out with such concrete experiences from which to begin comprehending and articulating life. There will be so much virtual world to come.
Bottle feeding the lamb is a top photo opportunity for friends visiting with pre-school kids but it’s not a pretty picture when Promised Dog—a white terrier bitch—tries to mount Fat Sam.
It’s a life of confusion to be a trans-species orphan and we worry that lamb thinks Promised Dog might be his bizarre non-growing twin. Not wishing him an existence that is short AND strange we find him a more appropriate companion, a gorgeous Jacob lamb that footie fan Helpful Middle names ‘Theo Woolcoat’.
Growing up in 1970-80s Lewisham was counterbalanced with holidays at an East Devon farm and in lambing season the orphaned or sickly would get intensive care in the cool oven at the bottom of the Aga. If they did not make it our farming friend would pronounce ‘not enough libido’. Fat Sam seems bursting with life-force but he sadly fulfils the sheep’s unnerving reputation for sudden and mysterious demise. We come back from a night out to discover him dead in the moonlight. Theo gets big and strong but we organise a transfer back to his original farm, it’s too lonely at our place.
Late spring brings the restorative joy of bluebells and the annual retelling of a family story about the London school mate who came to witness this floral sorcery declaring ‘I fink my eyes are tellin’ me lies’. In a large woodland clearing above the Marshwood Vale Tom Boy Eldest darts through a perfect pool of blue, animated by the visual pleasure of inversion—like one of those disorientatingly exact reflections of mountains in a glassy lake, the sky has benignly fallen in.
In Kashmir people’s eyes are often blue and the local myth is that this is not a function of AWOL crusaders but because their babies look up into such a pure mountain sky some of it is taken in. Bluebells, like Liz Taylor’s fabulous peepers, are a fugitive violet, prettiest colour in the world?
Blue and violet flowers evoke elusive shades by their names alone—Periwinkle, Harebell, Cornflower, Forget-me-not, Speedwell, Gentian… One of a never-ending wish list of garden projects is to plant a bed of violet tones to test the theory that this is the last colour we can discern as light fades into dusk.
Spring is edging into summer in a rumbustious run of breezy sunshine—ideal bunting weather and the diamond jubilee renders local villages fit for a re-enactment of V-Day. Though not big flag-wavers we do like an edible theme, best so far has been viewing the total eclipse in France with a picnic made up of monochrome spherical food: little white goat cheeses and black ones covered in ash, pots of creamy celeriac remoulade and an inky blackcurrant tart. The street party’s red and white won’t be a problem but blue food is always tricky. We could try picking some last decorative bluebells before the wind really gets up, bunting threatens to reach critical mass and Dorset sets sail, an unintentional breakaway state heading south into The Channel.

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