God, cow shit smells awful. It’s evening and I’m sat by the stove in the kitchen. Supper has been and gone, candles are lit and cast their glow on the windowsill. I have a mug of Earl Grey tea and Irishman has his PG Tips and after some bickering, the three dogs have finally sorted out who gets to lie where. Ahh, how lovely I think to myself, what a wonderfully cosy domestic scene, a picture of contentment as I settle back to watch the fire and ponder on this blog post. And then suddenly, the stench of cow shit hits me, and yes, if I’m not wrongly mistaken, a definite hint of Eau de Foxy too and I remember that I’d seen Wilma and Baggy playing in the cow field this afternoon. I’m going to take the laptop upstairs and get some fresh air.
So where was I? Ah, yes the Twenty Paws. On reflection, looking back those first few months were quite idyllic really. I say idyllic because at that stage none of the crap that followed had yet happened and though we were living in not very pleasant conditions, at least we had hope and optimism and, a large blue washing up bowl to bathe in. The tricky part was not having a toilet. Five months is a long time to be doing ones business, squatting behind a hydrangea bush. But, as is so often the case with me, at first it seemed like something of a novelty. I embraced my new outdoor toilet regime wholeheartedly in the naive belief that it would only be for a few weeks while the plumbing was being installed. Oh chance would be a fine thing! And whilst on this subject, let me tell you something else about Al Fresco pooping, it’s all fine and dandy on a bright summers morning when, if positioned correctly, the rays from the early morning sun warm your backside and the enchanting sound of birds merrily tweeting encouragement from the branches above entertains you, but oh how utterly, utterly miserable it becomes when a bitter easterly is whipping up your arse and the rain is hammering down. To compound this lavatorial nightmare, my left hip decided after a few weeks that it really didn’t like this new arrangement at all. I realised that in our western culture we don’t as a rule squat and since I’ve only attended one yoga class in my entire life, I’m not one of those nimble, agile, bendy wendy types. Getting in to ‘position’ became more and more painful until one day my hip could take no more and I nearly collapsed back on to .. well, I don’t need to spell it out, you know what I mean. I stumbled out from behind the hydrangeas sobbing, tears of laughter, pain and frustration.
I can’t remember whether I’ve mentioned this before but, prior to our arrival, The Red House hadn’t been lived in for over fifty years. That’s a very long time for a house to remain empty. The only occupants for five decades were a colony of bats and a mischief of mice. No doubt there were probably a few Rattus Norvegicus sculking around too, but they give me the willies so I’m going to blot them out of my mind. The domestic area of the house consisted of one large downstairs room and three rooms above. The rest of the building was made up of two barns, a hay loft, a cowbyre and a milking parlour. Somehow we had to fathom how to turn it all in to one big living, working space on a not very big budget. I adore challenges like this, I love resurrecting old buildings and breathing new life back in to them. I’ll put up with living in discomfort, cooking on a tiny camping stove, hand washing clothes after boiling up saucepan after saucepan of water and even pooping behind bushes with a dodgy hip but, what I won’t put up with and certainly wasn’t prepared for, was being ridden rough shod over by a band of crooked, lying, cheating builders. That’s when the summer of love ended and the winter of discontent started.