Back in the garden with The Observer, my concentration repeatedly lapses, as I find myself gazing in wonder at the tulips. “Have you ever seen plants look so happy?” asks K skittishly; grubby and blackened, he has spent the past hour or so polishing his black Alfa Spider with T-Cut, and generally smartening it up for sale. Having an open-top weekend run-around has been fun at times, but now we have the garden and the cottage is furnished, we find ourselves spending much less time in the car than before. The clearest argument for sale is the car’s mileage: just 4300 miles in three years. Besides, we could do with the extra space in the garage. The Alfa is now sitting outside on the lane, looking gleaming, immaculate, and box-fresh. K admits to experiencing a mild twinge of regret, but it is a mild twinge only.
K puts on the Omara Portuondo CD (we’re seeing her at the Royal Festival Hall on Friday), and fixes us lunch: ham, cheese and tomato sandwiches, with plenty of black pepper and some mayonnaise. He is unsure about the addition of the mayonnaise, and wonders whether it might have been a flavour too far; my reply is that it adds a pleasing degree of moisture and creaminess. Beer for him; a pineapple, mango & lime smoothie for me.
Slam has rung about the sofa & footstool which he is buying off us; we arrange for him to come over to Nottingham on Friday to pick it up. NewEngland rings next; there are dozens of vintage tractors parked outside the village pub, and we should come and take a look.
We stroll down to OldEngland and NewEngland’s place, and from there to the pub. All around the pub, around forty vintage tractors are parked up, while their owners have lunch inside. Starting out from Hartington this morning, they have been touring the local villages in convoy – Wetton, Ilam, Alstonefield – and will be returning to Hartington after lunch. The tractors look magnificent; K calls them “Thomas the Tank Engine” tractors, and they certainly do look as if they have emerged from the pages of a 1940s children’s story book. A good half of them are phone-box red, or of a reddish orange hue, with David Brown and Nuffield as easily the most popular manufacturers. As a former seller of Britains toy tractors myself (at Hamleys toy store on Regent Street, 24 years ago), I cast an interested eye over the details. Much smaller than today’s models, almost none have cabs attached; instead, the drivers straddle the central chassis, often placing their feet into metal stirrups.
As the convoy begins to set off, so the four of us, drinks in hand, scamper down to the village green for the best view of the procession. It is a spectacular sight, as the vehicles slowly snake past us, on towards the Spar shop, and out of the village on their way back up to the Buxton road. Who says nothing ever happens in villages?
We sit for a while longer on a low wall by the duck pond, finishing our drinks as we watch the ducks squabble, preen and mate. A passing rambler asks us the time; none of us are wearing watches and none are carrying mobiles, but OldEngland says that judging by the sun in the sky, it must be about twenty past three. The rambler looks mildly astonished, as we in turn feel like complete yokels, clearly having no need of such new-fangled instruments as time-pieces.
Down to the village shop, to return last night’s video (Lantana – serious, well-acted and worthy, but a bit lacking in action; K fell asleep, and I struggled to keep awake). We also pick up various ingredients for this evening’s rhubarb crumble. Sorting through a drawer yesterday, I had come across Elisabeth‘s hand-written recipe for “the best rhubarb crumble ever”, which she had inserted into our Xmas card. A couple of hours later, and without knowing anything about the recipe, OldEngland and NewEngland had then spontaneously offered us some of the rhubarb from the bottom of their garden; clearly, the time was right.
Returning to the cottage, we excitedly discover that another tulip had opened – the first of its particular batch. The long, slender, pointed bulb – originally a deep mauve on the outside – reveal unexpected bright reds and yellows within, sending us into another ecstatic swoon.
As K weeds, I apply wax polish to the statue, buffing it up and leaving it looking darker and shinier. As my duster reaches up the crack of her backside, K passes by with a cheeky holler: “Ooh, kind SIR!” The tits buff up nicely, too. Such uncommon intimacy with the female form, and in such a public place besides! Performing the same task six months earlier, K had felt decidedly self-conscious about this; I, on the other hand, feel positively brazen in my shamelessness.
A call from my Mother, who will be in Nottingham this week on a residential study course, staying in a hotel on the edge of the city. We arrange for her to come and stay tomorrow night, as it will be our only opportunity to meet.
As the Phoenix album (Alphabetical) and the new Prince album (Musicology) play, K makes the crumble as I tap into the laptop on the kitchen table, sneezing explosively every few minutes – the tree pollen is reported to be high today, and I have been steadily suffering as the day has progressed. Hay fever normally passes me by, so today’s levels must be exceptional. It is the only slight blight on what has otherwise been an idyllic day. Sometimes, I bloody love my life.