The tranquil, peaceful countryside of Hampshire.
I am lucky enough to live up a single-track lane in a relatively remote (for Hampshire!) location, my nearest neighbour being some three quarters of a mile away. In stark contrast to this, I have great friends who live three stories up in a flat within spitting distance of the Houses of Parliament. Indeed, Big Ben is a constant reminder during the night of your whereabouts!
My friends really enjoy exiting the city to go on long walks, pick fruit from the hedgerows and “re-connect” with the countryside – their words not mine! In fact, as they have both recently retired, they are now thinking of leaving the smoke and settling down to enjoy their new found freedom in a village somewhere in the sticks.
Last weekend, they came to stay, arriving late morning. The weather had improved greatly and so we sat out on our little terrace with a beer and started to catch up on our news.
Unfortunately, the air was heavy with the smell of I think, chicken shit (I’m quite good at identifying these rural smells!) which had recently been spread on a stubble field a short distance away. The gentle breeze brought great wafts of the pungent smell, which even for me, was not enhancing our chat.
Then the combine arrived. The field immediately adjacent to the house has spring barley in it, which has been ready to harvest for a few days now, so it certainly did not surprise me that today was the day! After the header was put onto the front of the combine, which involves lots of beeping (warning sound when reversing) and two or three tractors and trailers had clattered their way into the field ready to receive the grain, the big green beast started to harvest.
Within a couple of minutes, a fine mist of thinly shredded straw started to descend from the heavens onto the plates of cold meats, olives, salad and fresh bread we had prepared. We placed coasters on top of our drinks to stop the straw from floating on the surface of our beers. But we still persevered.
Then 3B arrived! This is the name we have given this year’s newly fledged buzzard chick – “Bloody Baby Buzzard”!
If you have never heard the call of a young buzzard that is hungry and wants feeding, then you are an extremely lucky person. It is one of the most persistent, monotonous, maddening calls, pitched at just the perfect level to cause maximum annoyance. 3B has recently taken to sitting on a dead branch in the big oak tree that towers over our little cottage and the arrival of the combine was obviously something to be shouted about!
The amalgamation of so much noise from the machinery, a truly disgusting stench, descending straw fragments and then the arrival of 3B, finally proved too much and we retreated back into the kitchen.
By the evening, all was quiet, save the pitter-patter of gentle rain on the patio – which continued for the rest of the weekend!
Following their weekend stay with the Thompsons, it will be interesting to see just how far out of London my friends do in fact move.