I’m on the ranch, living a dream come true.
I’m sitting at the bar of demi-shed-A, writing at my laptop which is powered by the solar panels. When I started building the shed many many moons ago, I had in mind a bespoke gentleman’s writing shed and now it’s come true.
The gazebo is in front, making it more pub-like, and the well-known local hill is perfectly framed in the distance with the native wild flowerbed bordering the lower edge. The mullein is stunning. The sound of the fair drifts up from the park.
Andy came and helped me finish the shed a couple of weeks ago in anticipation of Sagefest 2. It was never intended to be a full blown fest – just a low-key micro affair – another experiment in building the infrastructure to do something off-grid on a large scale.
Andy’s a landscape architect and he has a better aesthetic eye than me. It was him who thought of the shelf on the outside to put plants on and he suggested putting a proper little bar-stool-height bar in. He deliberately used the old weathered wood for a rustic feel. He said that it reminds him of the little bars that he’s seen in Croatia and Bosnia and someone said that it reminded them of a bar that they’ve seen on a Caribbean beach – that’s the idea – a tucked-away post European, European bar. Neat.
I wasn’t going to bother with a Sagefest, but a few people at work hinted that they wanted to come and have a shindig on the ranch after the shiteshow was over (unfortunately it’s not by a long chalk).
I explained that the logistics of parking, access and toilets would be prohibitive, but I thought it would be reasonable to invite the consultants as a ‘pilot’ to see how it went. At least they’d be able to see it and appreciate the logistics then perhaps we could invite everybody another time.
As a result of the fest preparations, gardening has been sadly neglected and I’m only just starting to catch up. I’ve just finished ruthlessly culling a lot of the weedier plants in the greenhouse and now it’s all beautifully tidy up there with chillies, tomatoes, cucumbers, gherkins and even melons looking promising. The Dutch barn style design is perfect for training the cucumbers across. What knob designed a greenhouse accessible only by a ladder?
I was repotting chillies earlier this morning when I spotted the most gorgeous green camouflaged moth hiding on one of the plants. Can anyone tell me what it is?
Every year is predictably the same. My buffoonic delusions start early in January when I buy far too many seeds in order to grow far too many plants, to grow far too much produce. The shy reclusive side of me can’t even give it away, let alone sell it. The pathetic gesture of my single token plant sale is long gone. I also forget every year how lush and overgrown it gets. At least I’ve got the topper now and I can mow the field, orchard and paths with the tractor.
I’m now at the stage where I can cook a meal almost entirely from what I’ve grown. I boil the new potatoes with a sieve on top to steam the veg then I make a sauce using tomatoes, onions, garlic and basil – yum – the ultimate plot-to-plate twattery. Speaking of which, the design for my ‘I know a twat with two tractors’ teeshirt is coming along nicely. Back in my engineering days, when political correctness was almost non-existent, one of my colleagues coined the phrase ‘nipples like Massey Ferguson wheel nuts’ which I confess has influenced the positioning of the large rear wheels in my design.
Wheels and Rock & Roll:
The demand for campers and caravans has sky-rocketed and I’m glad I kept my old microbus. It’s been Zen in The Art of VW maintenance full steam ahead. I’ve finished the carburettors; done the timing (road test style = running up and down the same hill and tweaking the distributor until it’s running the most powerfully); I’ve changed the oil and replaced all the HT leads and the coil, and now the van is running more sweetly than ever before. I’m going to take it off the road in winter and do the bodywork. Should I keep the green that I’ve started painting it with or should I go back to the ultra-rare original pastel blue which was a South African only colour?
The day of Sagefest arrives and Louise wakes me at seven. ‘Stop exuding stress’. I say.
I’m determined to enjoy myself and not stress. The preparing of the equipment is a process of meticulous gathering and mindfulness: equipment for a full band; PA system; decks; records; food; booze; big telly; tables and other bits and pieces. There’s too much stuff to fit in the car but it goes in the van no prob.
I’m apprehensive about the trip up there – a steep hill then down a rough track. The magic bus handles it beautifully. I plan to stop the night.
The night before, Bryn, Sam, Dawn, Gaz, Tyler and I had a quick run through and knocked together a few quick numbers. On the day, we were the opening act followed by Bulbeater and the mighty Strange, preceded by Hannah on the decks then followed by me spinning 7″ singles. It was most fortunate that Rachel brought her friend Tom, who lives just down the road. He’s a DJ and went home and brought a load of records and played great techno/disco stuff for the rest of the night.
During the preparations it became apparent that the England match would be on the same evening. What to do? Just finish early? In the end, I took the big telly up out of the front room and made an aerial extension fastened to a 4.8 metre length of tile batten. It worked a treat.
The whole event was splendid. Tyler and Deano ran the barbecue. The top floor of the greenhouse was the chill area. Carel, Alex and Peter + family came from work, and I was thrilled that they did – it was a long way for them to come.
The borrowed generator held out all night. The icing on the cake was England winning 4-0. Just after the football, there was a splendid thunder storm and we all remained safe and dry under the lean-to. Tyler cheered characteristically for every flash of lightning and every crash of thunder.
It wasn’t just a little family do – it was a statement of independence and personal freedom. A bunch of friends for life across 2 generations. We were at it again last night for Sam’s birthday and it was equally pleasant having just a barbie, with a blue-tooth speaker for music. I patronisingly told Garth to embrace his Garthness, explaining that it’s perfectly OK to have a nickname formed from your actual name. Just like me innit. If I hypothetically had a festival, what would I call it?
Sam; Elias; Sarah; Rachel; Chris; Louise; Lesley; Esme; Dawn; Matt; Tyler; Bryn; Taff & Ann; Deano; Garth; Enty; Glasgow; Dewy; Hannah; Bish; Shadz; Roger to name a few. Not forgetting other friends: Fran and Jude; Zordon. Collective love coming at you. Thousands can gather together for footy, but my lovely friend can’t visit his poorly wife in hospital – fuck you once, twice and thrice you horrible govt for all your spectacular fuck-uppery – karma will get you.
My overwhelming feeling is of immense gratitude. The fact that we have loved ones who are poorly at the moment makes it all the more prescient. Covid is a cunt, but cancer is a bigger one. It took my mummy away when I was 24.
There’s potential for our farmlet pub, a bit like the old American Speak-easy. More discos; restaurant nights; film nights; gigs etc perhaps in the future.
When everyone has gone, I light the stove then watch telly and have a nightcap. I start nodding off – I have a choice of bedrooms – the van, or my little mezzanine gypsy-caravan-like gentleman’s chambers. I choose the latter and fall asleep immediately.
Down the rabbit hole:
… and you really couldn’t make it up. Wanker Handoncock is replaced by an even more vile billiard-ball-headed poltroon-of-the-century, who is a banker who knows less than f’all about health-care.
Behind the football smoke screen, the odious Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill is passed. Along with the equally disgusting forthcoming Nationality and Borders Bill 2021, we are quietly tipped into totalitarianism. Hardly anyone seems to notice or care, which is very scary.
Even more scary is the inevitable healthcare disaster heading our way this winter.
Polarisation increases and it gets harder and harder to find the truth. There are lots of infections happening in double-jabbed people and ICU admissions are soaring, so who knows what the winter will bring to an already overwhelmed NHS. I’m convinced that vaccine adverse events are hugely under-reported and the magnitude of the reported ones is deeply concerning.
I’m particularly perturbed by healthcare workers, who didn’t get C19 when highly exposed, getting it after being double-jabbed. Who knows what the longer term sequelae are going to be? I’m also very worried about what appears to be increases in post-vaccine auto-immune problems including acceleration of cancer progression. Correlation isn’t causation – I hope I’m wrong.
The issue is immunity, and how best to achieve it, both individually and within the entire population. There’s more evidence emerging supporting the value of infection-acquired and natural immunity as being the most robust, but that doesn’t sell the wares of the pharmaceutical companies.
As a doctor, I would strongly advise everyone to dance naked in the sun around a secret organic smallholding, sipping immune-boosting elderflower cordial and eating Quercetin rich foods. Failing that. Take vitamin D. It really is simple. A lot of the key players in our immune system require adequate vit D to work – how come the govt doesn’t make it mandatory? How come they aren’t promoting unequivocally effective ivermectin from the rooftops? Oxford University are actually doing a trial on it, and the word on the underground is that the design is already flawed and that they’re going to try and discredit it?
It’s about individuals choosing for themselves what’s best for their own immune system, based on true informed consent.
Masks are a relatively minor issue. Do they work? The Cambridge study published last week strongly suggests that only proper FFP3 masks make a difference to protecting front-line workers.
Alas, the worst thing that you can do for a child’s immune system is to stop them mingling and playing outdoors and getting dirty – that’s the big paradox of lockdowns. Ditto for adults. I fear that a collective weakened immune system will suffer badly when hit by this winter’s inevitable respiratory viral illness, whatever it may be. The NHS is already more overwhelmed than it’s ever been before and C19 remains very real and present, and possibly worse than ever before.
Meanwhile, there’s lots of blokey shouting coming up from the town below. Is there a football match on or something? Lets hope it doesn’t clash with Countryfile or The ‘Show.
Thanks for your kind words Emma – yes, I’m on Twitter – @hartleysplot
Lovely writing – feel your frustrations too. Just discovered you via Anna Brees. Will keep following you. Are you on Twitter?
Another brilliant read Sage. You’re right some of us have this government sussed since Thatcher got in power.