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Driving me crazy

I’m not really into cars, never have been and never will. I only know what a Mercedes SL or a Chrysler Crossfire look like because they managed to get down the farm track before it was tarmac’d! An amazing feat in itself. I loved watching the old Top Gear – only when the boys were larking around, the rest of the programme was of little interest. If I ever meet Mr Clarkson, I would like to ask him what “under steer” is or “over steer” and just what is a “tank slapper”?  

I haven’t bought a new car in 23 years. Larry Landrover was bought new and is still going strong, so why buy another? It’s because of this distinct lack of interest that many times I have no idea who has driven past me and waved. If it’s a pickup then it’s probably a Gamekeeper, if it’s a Landrover it could be one of a dozen people, so I just wave back. People do give me grief when they have waved from their new car and I didn’t wave back. It takes me a blooming age to finally remember who drives what and then they go and change it. So I when I sold my dad’s old car to my mate and livery Karen, I was surprised when she had a go at me for not recognising it when she drove past. Admittingly having driven the car for many years I should have recognised it, but I didn’t. So I now clock every blooming Freelander that goes past. And if I wave at the wrong person well never mind, at least now and then I will wave at someone who knows me. 

The other thing I am not really into is technology. I do my best as I don’t want to get left behind, but I’m not really that interested. So put technology and cars together and you have totally lost me. However,  I am pleased to announce that Larry Landrover has been brought up to date and is now bluetoothed! Yes bluetooth. It all started when I was thinking of purchasing an iPhone. I was sitting in the London Inn with my mate Sarah. She was giving me a presentation on what an iPhone can do and said “….and you can bluetooth your phone to your car”. Her face was a picture when she remembered what I drove and said “OH… your car” with a very disparaging look on her face. So it gave me great pleasure that the first person I called from Larry was Sarah. I just never told her that I had to stop driving in order for her to hear me over the distinct noise a Landrover makes. 

Rubbish? What rubbish?

I don’t think I have ever mentioned to you Dear Reader that I think North Devon District Council (NDDC) is a truly wonderful organisation. And what an efficient service and how full of common sense they all are sitting in their ‘ivory towers’ in Barnstaple. Because in their wisdom they decides to re organise their recycling and bin collections routes and in their even greater wisdom decided to use a company based in Liverpool to do so!
Now don’t get me wrong apparently this company has lots and lots and lots of lovely shiny technical, digital SatNavie type thingys that can plot routes at the other end of the country without the need of local knowledge. These machines know just how narrow some lanes are, that some are dead ends and where the county boundaries are. So of course no chaos will ensue.
Along side all the lovely new routes NDDC have up their “green credentials and issued everyone with new larger food waste bins. But sadly, they haven’t made the lorries large to accommodate the extra waste. Thus the lorries filled up quicker, they go back to unload and run out of time to finished the rounds. Mean while the new routes were introduced sending big lorries up little lanes and little lorries to the wrong place or places that don’t exsist. Only a Council can be soooooooooo stupid to do this. Hence since Easter we have had just 5 recycling collections instead of weekly. I have phoned their offices 14 times, filled in 11 online “missed collection notification forms” and emailed the Chief Executive Officer twice and asked for a reduction on my council tax,  all of which has fallen on deaf ears.
I have heard every excuse from drivers off sick, lorry broken down, lorry too full to finish the round and the best one is that I apparently live in Somerset not Devon. Several times whilst complaining I have been ask by a NDDC member of Staff “Well what do you want us to do”?.  “Well as I am complaining about lack of collection, how about COLLECTING IT”?.
I have always had problems with the Council re both the recycling and bin collections. When I first moved here there was a lovely shiny new black wheelie bin at the farm. I duely took it all the 3\4 mile up the farm track to the entrance and duly put my rubbish in it…cos thats what you do with wheelie bin. There the bin sat and sat and each week nothing happening apart from me putting more rubbish in. After a while I called the Council and was told that as I wasn’t on the wheelie bin collect so I shouldn’t be using it, in fact I shouldn’t have a wheelie bin at all. Due to health and safely the bin men were not allowed to open the bin and remove the black bags from inside it. So the next week I put out black bins bags – as instructed – but stupidly I put a small rock on them, it was a tad windy and I didn’t want them blowing away. Next day they were still there. Next week the same thing happened. So I called the council and was informed that due to health and safely the bin men were not allowed to lift the rocks to take the bags away. For several years I just didn’t bother with the rubbish – excuse the pun – I burnt as much as I could, I composted all food waste and I took my recycling to the tip and carefully placed it in the correct collection bins. Until I had, had enough and decided to moan and moan and moan and eventually they started to collect. However, all good things must come to an end and this year it did.
On the plus side, I noticed the council have been cutting back the road side verges in certains places. Obviously this is to give us motorists a clearer and safe view of the road – all very good health and safely. They have cut the grass back from around various corners, at road junctions, they have even cut the grass around sign posts. Again this does give us motorist lovely clear views of the sign so you know where to go. But the piece de las resistance is just down the lane from the farm. They have cut around the signpost at “Hollywell Cross”  its just a shame they haven’t replaced the signpost arms showing you which way is which!  God Bless NDDC…….


Well Dear Reader a large chapter of my life was finally closed last Tuesday with Mum’s funeral. Luckily I was taken there and back by a taxi firm called “Best Mate” who proved to be much much more reliable than South Molton Taxis. However, it seems we can’t have a Barlow funeral without some sort of incident.

I did notice – as we were all gathering outside the crem – that there was an elderly couple amongst us. To be perfectly honest I didn’t take much notice as I was desperately trying to hold it all together. Once inside, the service started with Chris Howe – the Civil Celebrant – saying “we are here to celebrate the life of Barbara”. A good start I thought as again I tried to hold it all together. However there was bit of a commotion at the back, raised voices of Old Dears saying something I couldn’t understand, followed by the distinct sound of people shuffling along and then of walking sticks clicking loudly on the floor – a familiar sound if one is used to looking after Old Dears. With yet more raised voices, me getting irritable, Chris continued with the service which then went without a hitch.
Once outside I asked what went on? Apparently everyone thought the Old Boy looked remarkably like my late Dad, thus thinking they were relatives and didn’t question them. It was only when Chris said my Mum’s name that the Old Boy turned to his wife – clearly they were both DEAF – and loudly said “he said Barbara, I am sure he said Barbara, I thought we were coming to Phillip’s funeral!”.  When Mum’s name was mentioned again, the Old Boy said again, and more LOUDLY, “he definitely said Barbara, we are at at the wrong funeral, it’s not Phillip’s funeral”. With that they had to get the rest of the row to get up, move out so they could shuffle along and leave with walking sticks clicking even more loudly on the floor.
Teresa did a superb job catering for the wake again. Mum was given a lovely send off and I want to thank everyone for attending a second funeral so close after the first. It meant the world to me to have your support and friendship on both occasions.
Also another HUGE thank you to everyone who has sent flowers, cards, phone calls, text messages, FB messages, stopped me in the street and the village shop, sent messages via Best Mate and Cousin and even the bottles of Gin I have received. Thank you thank you thank you in fact I can’t thank you enough.  xxxxxxxxx
And the photo for this short blog?  Mum’s four best friends……..

Until death us do part, well not for long……….


Well my Dear Reader, it’s been a very stressful few months which sadly culminated in the death of my beloved father four weeks ago. The last few days were peaceful for him as he died at home with a house full of family and dogs, in his own bed in clean jim-jams… what more could we or he ask for. My brother was down from Surrey, while my cousin Lauren drove Auntie down from the Lakes arriving for – what turned out to be – Dad’s final day. I will always remember the sight of Mum and Auntie sitting with Dad – who was not really with us by then – but somehow I think he hung on for Mark and Brenda to get here.

I had forgotten how much organisation is involved with death and funerals. I called J Westacott and Sons in South Molton, and between Michelle and Dawn they provided me with the most professional, caring and friendly service. My first involvement with the firm was when they came to take Dad away. What’s that saying about getting older and policemen looking younger? Well the funeral chappie looked about 12. Professional and caring but far too young to work in the funeral business.

On the Tuesday I went in to the funeral directors to start the arrangements. Now before I go any further I must point out that my Dad by profession was a Chartered Accountant in private practice. He was also a business man with electronics factories in Haywards Heath and Rye. He dabbled in property and at one stage had a TV rental business, with the TVs stored in our conservatory. He didn’t part with his money easily and often said “how much” rather than pardon. He was very vocal about far too much money wasted on weddings and funerals. So I went to the funeral directors armed with that knowledge.

First question asked was what flowers we would like. “Er, none thank you”. I would pick whatever I had in the garden on the day. Limousines to follow the hearse? “Er, no”. Will you follow the hearse? “Er, no we will meet you there”. Next I had to thumb through the coffin catalogue. Blimey what a choice and what prices. There was little I liked until I was shown – unbeknown to me – the ‘budget range’ and there a choice was easily made. It was another “no” to an order of service. I turned my nose up at the ornate ashes urns so Michelle didn’t even bother asking if I wanted some of the ashes made into jewellery. Dad would have been proud of me the total cost… £2999.

Next I booked the wheelchair taxi to take Mum and I to the crematorium. It was booked to wait there and bring us back – a simple request or so I thought. My good mate Teresa Maddox was happy to do the catering for the wake back at the farm. I originally thought there would only be about 8 of us, but numbers soon spiralled and Teresa did me proud, very proud.

The day of the funeral dawned and I had a house full of people. I made enough tea to sink a battle ship and seemed to be constantly providing food and washing up. Cousin and Best Mate took dogs out for a long walk which was a great source of relief – at least some living beings in the house would be happy. I got the house and Mother organised. The taxi arrived on time. As soon as we hit the Link Road Mum started being sick. There is nothing worse than people being sick at the best of times, but I was really struggling to cope with it. I was desperately trying to keep myself and her clean, I jammed the blanket – to keep her warm- under her chin to stop sick going everywhere. On arrival at the crematorium she stared to feel better once out in the open air. The taxi drove off – I stupidly thought to park – after all he did have my jacket and sick blanket on the front seat. After the service I pushed Mum back outside to find the taxi or to find a distinct lack of taxi. Dawn – the funeral director – walked round and round the car park out onto the road desperately looking for our taxi but there was no taxi to been seen.The ********** taxi driver had driven off.

I phoned South Molton taxis to see what was going on – I won’t use them again. The chap confirmed the taxi had been booked to wait and do the return journey. There was no apology, in fact his whole manner was one of couldn’t really care less. He said he would call the driver and call me back. When he called back his attitude was still the same. So Mum and I were stuck. Stuck at the bloody crematorium while our family and friends left to return to the farm. I phoned Teresa to tell her to start serving drinks as soon as people arrived. My friends Karen and Vanessa stayed with us while we waited in the ‘book of remembrance’ chapel which was cold. Now I could make some comment about us being cold and Dad not, but perhaps a joke too far. Still no sign of the taxi nor any calls from South Molton taxis office, absolutely NOTHING. Nothing to keep us posted on where the car was or a grovelling apology… bloody nothing. After half an hour of waiting Vanessa called them again. She was calmer than me but her sarcasm was brilliant. I can’t remember the whole conversation but the bit about “Well of course the widow has to come back from the crematorium the only person NOT leaving the crematorium is the deceased!”. We had to laugh, we were stuck at the bloody crem, and I was starting to think it’s a bloody long way to push Mum home, but push I might have to do.

The driver came back and he clearly needs to attend charm school. There was some sort of apology but he didn’t register the severity of the situation. It was the longest journey back from Barnstaple I have ever made in the 10 years I have lived here. Mum was sick again, blanket jammed back under her chin, I couldn’t be bothered to talk to the driver I would just be rude. His driving irritated me, he irritated me, the car stank of sick and I had a headache.

The wake was lovely, Teresa’s food and service was brilliant. Wine flowed so I think Dad would have approved.

And on a final note. My big brother Mark came up with the idea of planting a copse of trees on the farm where we could scatter the ashes – overlooking Dad’s favourite view to North Molton church. Brother and sister walked down to the spot with dogs scampering around to contemplate his brilliant idea. My big brother said, with tears in his eyes, “…and we could bury the dogs here, Dad would like that. I could bury Meggie (his dog) here as well”. I turned to look at my brother, then his dog by his side and said “Bloody hell Marky she not dead yet, give her a chance”. Good job dogs don’t understand us…

PS Sadly we lost Mum last week, just 28 days after Dad. Eight years of courting followed by 62 years of marriage they are back together again.

Pain….what pain?

Well Dear Readers, it’s been a while since my last outing but things have been manic here. I have to say it’s been a very bleak and stressful time with the Old Dears – ODs – both having falls, viral infections, paramedics arriving, paramedics leaving, in and out of hospital, more paramedics, district nurses, support nurses, doctors… you name them they have been here. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel and it’s not the train coming, although I feel like I have been hit by one several times recently.

The hardest part has been finding care help. It’s mainly the mornings I could do with some more help with. Tessa has been coming in for a while now, but can’t do every morning. “Just phone an agency” I have heard said several times over the last few weeks. Well you try finding one that covers this area. Eleven so far called and not one has been interested. One who prides itself as “Caring for Exmoor”, told me as I did not live within the National Park boundary they weren’t interested. I know I live within the National Park, the bloody sign is just down the road. I have paid the Park’s planning department vast amounts of monies for various applications and enforcements, so I KNOW I live within a National Park. However, the light at the end of the tunnel has been with Karen, my livery and friend, and not the train that keeps hitting me. She has done care work before and announced she was thinking of going back to it. Well she has. She pays me money to keep her horse here, while ODs pay her to do the morning ‘get out of jail  bed’ shift. Bloody marvellous she is too. So between the equally marvellous Tessa and Karen I have 99% of mornings covered. I just cover the rest.
Now I have a problem… well lots of problems. In fact some people might just class me as one big problem. But the problem has been raising its ugly head more recently – I reckon partly to stress – and I am talking about my ankles. Yep, I seem to have the ability to ‘rick’ one’s ankles on a regular basis. I can do it in bare feet, low heels, high heels – not that I wear high ones much any more – walking boots, riding boots… you name it I can rick my ankle and hit the ground in spectacular style. I might end up looking like a beached whale as I try to get up, but the way down is done brilliantly. I have ruined so many pairs of trousers, jeans and jodhpurs over the years when I hit the ground and take out the knees. I can make any kid in the playground jealous of the scabs I have had on my knees. The trouble is it hurts. Something I rick my ankle, stumble, manage to keep upright and limp on. Other times I hit the ground and the pain is dreadful. So picture the scene, am on my own – both best mate and cousin away working – and the ODs have been a nightmare. I have cleaned up s**t, wiped bottoms, stripped beds more times than I care to mention. So I’m walking back across the yard when the ankle gives way and I go down. I take out both knees of my jeans, the elbow on my top and a chunk out of my hand. Even the dogs steer clear, knowing Mum is in trouble and losing it. I haven’t cried like that for years and I just couldn’t stop, the fear of not knowing what to do, the pain and frustration and the feeling of being so totally alone hit me and I blubbed and blubbed.
When things finally started to calm down and get sort of sorted, I managed to book a long overdue and much cancelled appointment with my wonderful Chiropractor Mr Steve Rule (South Street Chiropractic Clinic  01769 572912 – just a little plug).  Now Mr Rule is a wonderful man… well a wonderful chiropractician with a great sense of humour. I managed to stagger into reception, knees, back and shoulders killing me. All those old riding injuries coming back to haunt me. I’m in reception and make the big decision that it is best to stay stay upright leaning against the reception desk having a natter with Jeanette, rather than sitting on the nice comfy sofa. I was not sure I could get back off the nice comfy sofa even if I wanted to. In technical terms I had gone to South Molton Chiropractic Clinic – nothing better than a damn good plug –  to be pummelled, acupunctured and laser heat treated. However, it was more like I was punched, stabbed and burnt. I felt so bad at the end of it, I couldn’t get off the treatment couch. I managed to stagger back into reception and PAID, yes paid for the experience. Somehow I walked out and down the road back to Larry Landrover. Not only had that train hit me again, it ran over me, and then I had a bout in the ring with Mike Tyson. I sat in Larry and sat and sat as I just couldn’t drive. Mr Rule gave me strict instructions to get home and do nothing. Hum… well I had three horses to feed, who are in a far field, which meant hiking across two fields with three heavy buckets. To add insult to injury Mum got stuck on the toilet and Dad has the s**ts again. Both parents washed, changed, beds stripped, I finally got into bed at “God-knows-what-o’clock”.
Next morning I felt great, positively bloody marvellous I could have skipped the light fandango, run a marathon, performed the dance of the sugar plum fairy. Mr Rule had said it might be best to strap up my ankles for a few days to give the ligaments some support. He doesn’t like strapping up things(!) but in this case it would help. A crepe bandage was his suggestion. I search high and low and couldn’t find one anywhere in the house. However, and I am not sure about the colours, Vet wrap bandages have done the job superbly well…

Spring is in the air……..


It’s that time of year when Spring is definitely in the air. Birds are singing and just about everything is shagging! The lake and ponds, even puddles, are full of toad or frog spawn – I can’t tell the difference. Colonel Sherman T Potter is bursting out of the hen house of a morning, while the girls run for cover. But there is trouble afoot and it’s found on the lake.

Every now and then the Canada Geese come in to stay. The routine is always the same, first one goose arrives and then the rest follow. Now I can’t complain too much as they do a fairly good job of eating the weed. But for every piece of weed they pull up they only eat half of it. This leaves the rest floating in the lake which ends up in the overflow drain, and if we are really lucky it blocks it. In order to unblock the drain one has to climb down into the deep ditch at the back of the lake field and attempt with long handled fork to pull out the blockage. If one is really really lucky and hasn’t noticed just how full the lake is, the pressure builds up and when released it is pretty forceful, and one has been known to be knocked off one’s feet and into the muddy ditch. But back to the Geese. The problem they cause is with one of our girl Geese. She likes the Canadians and likes them a lot. In fact she spends most of her time trying to get past Gary the Gander and down to the new boys in town. Poor old Gazza spends his days trying to keep her away, he is up and down the field, squawking his head off, flapping wings, chasing – well waddling around – in a desperate attempt to keep her away from them. It just doesn’t work, she is younger, fitter and faster than him, so slips away time and time again. Best mate has named her Charlotte the Harlot, while the other girl – Plain Jane – sticks loyally with Gary.

You have to give him credit for his effort, he won’t be beaten but he is shattered by the end of the day and staggers back into Goosingham Palace. Bless him.

A smelly situation…….

There are many joys of looking after one’s “Old Dears” and then there are times I could kill them – not literally of course. I have – now and then – closed the doors to the annex with more of a slam, as they do drive one mad. I would also like to point out I don’t call my parents ‘Old Dears’ in a derogatory way, but as a term of endearment. In fact Mum coined the phase years ago and it’s stuck.

My father has never been good on the domestic front. He was a Chartered Accountant and business man and that’s what he did very very well. He was a very keen gardener but only fruit and veg, leaving the girly flowers to Mum. So to find himself aged 92, the more physically able one of the two of them, means he does prepare some of their food. Now this is becoming a worry and I mean a worry. I now cook their evening meal, so at least they eat one good meal a day. But left to his own devices the Old Boy does some strange things. Take for instance, the other week when I walked in at lunchtime. Now being ‘Old Dears’ they like to eat early, so lunch is between 11 – 11.30. He had made Branston pickle sandwiches. Yep – just Branston pickle, no cheese, no salad, no butter just bread with Branston pickle in it. Mum is always telling me she doesn’t like spices or onions, so I didn’t like to inform her of the major contents of Branston pickle. For breakfast one morning he put into a bowl broken biscuits and milk, ignoring the range of cereals in the cupboard. He purchased a ham and cheese roll from a local shop which was heated up in the oven before consumption. While tinned custard, just tinned custard for lunch isn’t unheard of. If I bring them back fish and chips the Old Boy will heat up the plates in the oven so hot the fish and chips start sizzling when it’s put on the plate. However his pièce de résistance must be the Branston pickle sandwiches again but with a dollop of coleslaw on the top slice of bread. Tasty.

Mother on the other hand is not physically able at all, blind in one eye with little sight in the other. She gets very frustrated at times telling me she can’t see this and can’t see that, thus can’t do various things because she can’t see. She has a sweet tooth so it does always amuse me that she can open a packet of sweets and empty them into a jar. It also amuses me that she knows which jar is which in the cupboard, even if I move them around! It’s also amusing when you walk into their room wearing something new. Whether it’s shoes, a jumper or even earrings – boy does she notice.

There was a smell recently coming from the annex and I couldn’t work it out. I did try to sniff at them while talking to them without them noticing, not easy. The beds were clean, their bathrooms and downstairs loo were clean, they were clean. I checked for rotten food in the fridge – happens often – but all was ok in there. I started questioning their hygiene but not in a subtle way, I don’t do subtle. I nagged at Dad about all sorts of things in hope of resolving the smell problem. They couldn’t smell it but I could and then I found the culprit. They have two bedrooms on their side and two en suites. The one adjoining their bedroom Mum uses as she can’t walk far, Dad uses the other. Mum doesn’t use the shower, I have Tessa come in to bath Mum (apparently I didn’t do it properly, that was fine by me… who wants to wash your Mother’s arse anyway!) so the shower isn’t used and the drain was drying out and smelling.

I had blamed them for all sorts of things and in the end it wasn’t their fault…picklesandwich

The Cat is gone….long live the Cat


Well there is an old saying “You have live stock you have dead stock” – harsh but true. And sadly here at Tabor Hill we no longer have a cat. Felix the beast of Tabor Mountain has ceased to be. He is pining for the fjords. After 8 1/2 years since we bought him for 40 quid from North Devon Animal Ambulance charity we are no longer ‘pussy footing’ – excuse pun – around Felix. He DID rule this house. No longer is there the performance during the evening of opening doors, keep dogs clear so he could wander in from the ‘Old Dears’ side of house to cat flap on my side. Then wander back, then back round again. The flap ended up on my side as it was the least windy corner of the house and saved endless flap, flap, flapping on windy nights. There was also the time when he climbed through an open bedroom window, landing on a sleeping B&B guest, cos he couldn’t be bothered with the cat flap. Don’t worry, they still come back!

I will admit I never wanted a cat, I don’t like cats, I really don’t understand people’s obsession with cats and I have a problem with cats and our wildlife. But when you buy an extremely run down farm house set in the middle of 203 acres, with various sheds and outbuildings, you have a mouse problem. In fact such a mouse problem I could feel them run across me in bed at night! So a killer cat was required. The Charity did me proud when I phoned enquiring about rehoming.
“I need a killer” I told them.
“How many cats are you likely to have?” Di Lewis at NDAA asked.
“Oh God only one, I hate cats” I replied realising that’s probably not the best answer to give her. Never mind we went, viewed and bought Felix.

He was approximately eight years old, a silver/grey Bengal and a big bugger. A big noisy bugger, Bengals are very vocal. They are also prone to fight, hence the question as to how many cats I was likely to have. He was found wandering the streets of Barnstaple, picked up and as he was microchipped the Charity phoned the owners. They didn’t want him back. They confirmed his age and said they had paid £800 for him as a kitten. Bloody hell, I paid £800 for my horse including tack!!

Still he did his job and very well. He terrorised the dogs, adopted Mum and Dad’s side of the house, took over their spare bedroom and single bed. Well why have a cat bed when you can have a single bed. Ruined the duvet and took over the spare chair in their sitting room.

But sadly at approx 16 he started to show his age, went completely blind, back legs starting to give way, he was getting stressed walking round and round in circles so I made the decision.

Vet Emily and Vet Nurse Colette from Torbridge Vets in South Molton were wonderful. They were professional, friendly, caring and he was put down at home. However, he had the final laugh. I have the builders in with digger, so I asked if they could dig a grave in the field in front of the house. No problems there. However, as Colette and I walked over to the grave we were in for a shock. Colette was carrying Felix wrapped in a towel and we both stopped and looked down. “How the hell am I supposed to get down there?” I said. The grave was vast you could tell it had been dug with a blooming great digger. All I can say is Colette went beyond the call of duty and climbed down. I handed her Felix, she placed him carefully in the grave and finally I had to help her climb out it was that deep!!
RIP Felix. xxxxxxxx

Mad dogs and English Pheasants



I have a long held belief that when a Springer Spaniel is in pup, built into her womb is a video clip on constant replay of a pheasant taking off in flight. Complete with a soundtrack of flapping wings and the distinctive cluck-cluck-clucking they make as they take off. Why do I think this? Well how else can a sweet little Springer puppy from a very very early stage in life just know what to do when they see or hear a pheasant. Just how else will a sweet little Springer puppy know to bolt after the bird, flushing it out, while controllably – yes I did type controllably – leaping around. After all Springers are not manic, just enthusiastic and damn good at their job.

The trouble is that this built-in Springer/pheasant instinct doesn’t just happen in the great outdoors. Picture the scene, me and my best mate were in the kitchen of Tabor Hill HQ having had supper, the jug of Pimms going down a treat and on in the background a Midsomer Murder. Much of the plot was based around a wood with a cottage by a pond. All very pretty and Midsomer-ish, but every blooming time anyone went near this wood a pheasant kicked off. It didn’t matter what time of day or night – the clucking started. And every blooming time I had four Springers leap in the air, run round the kitchen, bolt for the front door, dash across the garden, sending gravel flying and out into the yard. Once in the yard there were four Springers leaping around ears flying while desperately trying to spot the pheasant. It got so bad that you couldn’t watch the episode and when finally the jug of Pimms was finished I turned off the TV and best mate went home, while Springers were confused and knackered.

I will admit this isn’t the first case and I suppose it won’t be the last. I had trouble trying to watch Downton Abbey. It was during a brief period of the drama when there was a housemaid called Ethel. She wasn’t the brightest spark or the hardest worker and every time Carson the Butler yelled ‘ETHEL’ my poor dog leaped in the air, swung round to look at me with the manic…sorry intelligent…look of ‘WHAT, I wasn’t doing anything”. All I could do was laugh and all Ethel did was sulk.

And as for hounds…..oh blimey…don’t mention hounds to Ethel. Hounds have been in the farm yard and the farm yard is not owned by me, but by Ethel and Ethel HATES hounds cos they invade HER yard. So if there is a hunting scene on the TV there is a panic to grab the remote to turn off the sound before Effs hears them and all hell breaks loose.

Mr Crispy Duck Man


On the whole I have a great bunch of guests coming and going here at Tabor Hill Farm. However, you do get the odd one who is… hum… a little demanding?! There was the lady who asked to put something in the fridge. A fairly frequent request for a bottle of wine or lunch for the next day. But this guest took it to the extreme, removing the whole contents of my fridge and putting all her shopping, still in the bags – Waitrose of course Darling – into the fridge. There was the lady who only ate healthy foods, lectured me on various diet issues, obviously hinting at my size. She ate the complimentary homemade cake in the room and asked for more. She left the tomatoes, mushrooms and egg on her breakfast plate but asked for another slice of fried bread! There was the couple who sat for 25 minutes on the farm track waiting for the bull to move so they could drive past. This was a bull who wasn’t a bull but an English Longhorn cow. However, as much as I tried to explain that it was a cow and not a bull, that horns vary from breed to breed, they wouldn’t hear of it. Apparently only bulls have horns, cows don’t and as this creature had horns it had to be a bull. So the next day they asked if I would drive out first to make sure the bull, which was a cow, wasn’t blocking the track so they could drive out.

Then a couple of years ago I got a reservation from a gentleman wanting a single room for three nights. I explained that I didn’t have a single room, but he could have either the double or twin, he insisted on a single and then began to barter. I don’t barter, the price is the price – end of. He arranged to arrive by 9pm, all fine and dandy. But turned up at 11.30! I showed him to the room and before I could get down the stairs he followed me wanting a cup of tea. At that time of night one would hope the guest/s would use the tea and coffee making facilities in the room. No – he wanted me to make it and then sat in the kitchen talking and talking and talking. I was somewhat blunt by midnight and off he went to bed. Next morning, the complaints started. The shower was cold, the duvet too heavy, bed too soft and the bath towels too large. So while he ate, actually sucked – I’ll explain in a mo – his breakfast, I ran upstairs to check the shower. It was set on cold. When he left I split the duvet to reduce the weight, not much I could do about the bed and he would just have to put up with the size of the towel.

One thing I had noticed was his lack of teeth and this was more apparent when he ordered breakfast. Toast, bacon and sausages all had to be under cooked. He clearly couldn’t chew so would have to… well… suck! He didn’t like my sausages and suggested they came from the supermarket, they don’t, they come from my local butchers. He asked if I had added food colouring to the egg yoke as the colour of the yoke from my free range girls was too yellow. Finally he asked where he should go for his dinner. I alway suggest two pubs to visitors and everyone loves both and so do I. So I suggested either the London Inn in Molland or the Royal Oak in Withypool. He asked me to book him into the Royal Oak and off he went.

He arrived back about 8ish and my heart sank, that would mean I would have to natter to him further.
“I don’t know why you recommend the Royal Oak, they can’t cook you know”, he bellowed before plonking himself down in the kitchen.
“They can’t cook green beans you know” he yelled even louder.
The trouble is I knew this was utter rubbish. I know Sarah Thomas, landlady and chef is an excellent chef. I have never had a complaint made against the place or the food. I know the place is excellent, but I decided not to argue and let him rumble on and on and on. It turned out he didn’t like his lunch in the hotel in Exford either, their green beans were dreadful too. And as for the cream tea in a National Trust cafe well I won’t bore you with what was wrong with that.

Next morning, despite making sure the shower was on hot, it was cold again. The duvet too light, he requested I put the other section back. He still didn’t like the bed and wanted a 2nd hand towel and asked for the bath towel to be removed. Breakfast again under cooked and he still didn’t see why my eggs were so yellow. Finally he asked me where to go for dinner and off he went again.

This time I booked him into the other pub I always recommend. The London Inn in Molland. Again like the Royal Oak guests love the pub and the food and so do I. At 8pm the phone went. It was Stuart Mallen landlord and chef at the London Inn.
“Who the ********* is this bloke you have booked in? Who the ******** does he think he is? What a pain in the ******** ******** he is” Stuart yelled down the phone.
“Hello Darling” I replied “Yes I love you too. Is he being a pain?”
Yes he ****** ******** ****** is” came the reply.
Luckily I know Stuart every well, so I asked what happened. Well, my gentleman (I use that term loosely) B&Ber arrived before they were open and hammered on the door. Didn’t like any of the beers. Ordered a starter which he didn’t like and sent back to the kitchen. This was only after he had completely cleared the plate while complaining at the same time. His complaint… he couldn’t eat it, it was too difficult to eat with his lack of teeth. Then why choose pate and TOAST. But to add insult to injury he ordered Crispy Duck for his main. This is a man with few teeth, he struggles to eat, he didn’t ask for it to be undercooked, which would have kinda defeated the object of the dish and then complained that is was tooooooo CRISPY.

Next morning, shower was cold, still didn’t like the bed or duvet and decided he would have scrambled eggs for breakfast. He’s been back three more times and each time he’s been back to the London Inn and the Royal Oak for his dinner. Oh bless…

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