This weekend heralded the long awaited trip to Tom and Barbara’s dear little country pile. Setting off on my 3 hour journey in the car with Primrose and Poppy, I dutifully set the sat nav (Nancy). I can’t travel without it. I have no idea of how to read a map (really!) and I find Nancy’s calm robotic voice strangely comforting on long journeys. All was going well until I came across one small problem…. It appears that people in the countryside do not have proper addresses, there are no proper road names and one must look out for clues in order to get anywhere (past the chevron, look out for the orange ribbon)! Not far from Barbara’s hilly home, Nancy directed me down a small bumpy lane and then into a very boggy field, promptly adding and with a rather satisfied tone of voice I might add, “You have reached your destination”. It would seem that I had not reached my destination and was heading in the direction of Wales. Turning the car round in a very muddy field had its challenges but mission completed, I finally reached the farmhouse before nightfall. I realised from the moment I exited the car that this would not be a weekend for wearing my little suede pumps and Boden trench. Strictly wellies and waterproofs only.
The warmth emanating from the kitchen drew me in and there it was, Barbara’s pride and joy: the Aga. Draped in the washing, it not only proved itself to be a thing of beauty but an essential part of country living. The sound of the whistling kettle heralded the all important cup of tea, another countryside staple, and an unctious casserole was bubbling away in preparation for supper. I will admit to a touch of the green eyed monster at this point. I have always dreamed of an Aga and I feel that no countryside home would be complete without one. Never mind that it can be temperamental, that it takes a little longer to boil the kettle, that most people who have an Aga also have another electric oven too. Oh no, what could be more perfect than toasting bread on the Aga top, leaving meat to stew for hours in the low oven and even being able to bring newborn lambs and pigs back to life on the warming plate? It is THE countryside status symbol and I LOVE it.
Waking next morning to the sound of tractors in the nearby fields, I looked out of the farmhouse windows and was rendered speechless. Unusual, as I sure my dear Reader, you can imagine. It struck me that the view alone would be enough to render one a hermit, never leaving the house except to forage for food. Dear old Barbara even has her very own Downton on the doorstep (we could hear the guns on our walk across the fields) and a heavenly orchard at the bottom of the garden. Turns out the orchard doesn’t really belong to the garden and Primrose was appalled as I gingerly vaulted the gate to ‘scrump’ apples, snagging my cashmere cardi on the barbed wire as I went over. ‘Scrumping’ is the countryside term for filching apples from someone else’s land. As I landed on the forbidden side of the fence, I had visions of myself sketched on a Wanted posted (looking rather delightful in tweed) and half expected a farmer to come over the brow of the hill with a shotgun yelling “Gerroff my land”….. I have always enjoyed indulging my rebellious side.
Apples well and truly scrumped, I even managed to bag some delicious rosehips whilst shredding my hands into the bargain. What one will do for a good foraged hoard!
Returning to the business of Margot learning all about the countryside…. You would be proud, dear Reader. I found myself imagining walks with my liver Spaniel wearing a tweed shooting jacket, pulling on the wellies in my Liberty tea dress to collect eggs from the dear Burfords and even preparing game pies in the Aga for the shoot lunch. I even caught Jerry eying up Tom’s muddy and robust Land Rover, having a country day dream all of his own.With a roaring fire in the snug, a wee snip of Barbara’s homemade Damson gin glistening ruby red in my hand and visions of myself smothered in the warmth of the Aga living in perfect domestic bliss, I felt that our move to the countryside couldn’t come quicker. This is what the countryside seems to be all about. They say that home is where the heart is. I would disagree: home is where the hearth is. What could be more perfect than toasting one’s bottom on the trusty Aga after a wet and windy walk?
Reluctantly driving back to London, Jerry and I mulled over our own quest for a slice of countryside heaven. I longed for Barbara’s Aga (do you think that they make one in green with white spots?) and Jerry coveted Tom’s mechanical green giant. Exiting the car, I muddied my Boden trench (reminding me of the contrast of our jaunt in the countryside and my mud-free existence in town)and Jerry summed up the countryside in one fell swoop: “Well I suppose one gets used to always being covered in mud and having a dirty car”. Indeed! Oh to be by the Aga now……