August is fine - it doesn’t have the vibe of expectation or the colour of the earlier months, but more of a feeling of consolidating and preparing. I think it must be seeing the first wagons heading up the dale with straw and hay that makes one think of colder weeks to come, and there is definitely now a "nip" in the early mornings.
But a freak storm has already brought havoc to some of us living in the dales, with stone garages being swept into neighbour’s gardens and some farmers losing a year’s fodder and seeing stock swept away in minutes. We were not in the thrust of the storm and it is hard to imagine the horror of it all. Everyone is offering support and muscle where they can to rebuild and clean.
In my rather cocooned existance, the worries are different to last year. I think back to the Heather and Honey classic car rally and the evening of music we organised for young musicians and the worry of putting together staff rotas and running the café and farm shop with the extra traffic of Bank Holiday. This year, I only have Bruce the puppy to worry about! How does a puppy take the same amount of time? I suppose I can now really enjoy doing the things I want to do and leave Berry’s in the capable hands of the Fairhurst's experts; can you believe they had a waiting list of 20 for their recent curry evening, so if you want to be part of the Swinifest band festival - book now!
OK, Bruce isn’t taking totally all my time, but he has developed a lovable smile and a body wiggle that is hard to ignore, and his long legs mean he is now eye level for most things going on in the kitchen. I can relate to the Labrador greediness and it makes training very easy. At the moment, Bruce is less of a carnivore and more of a fruit bat: he munches through hard pears on the lawn, the vegans would be proud of him.
The village has been quick to suggest I would now perhaps have time to bake the odd cake for the Church Patronal Festival. They must have forgotten my earlier efforts in years gone by - I was suddenly transported back to the school gates, trying to keep up with everyone else’s efforts for the sports day tea. Having produced some brownies that looked very much like biscuits (even though they were 'just add water' ones), I slipped into Berry's and repacked some flapjacks and almond slices, and everything turned out fine. Having had seven years out of the village swing, it is good to be back. However, I will not be burning effigies in the village, which is an age old custom going back centuries.
But I have enjoyed visiting Bishop Auckland recently with a new project to regenerate the area and excavate some wonderful roman spa baths. Why the simple system of central heating that used hollow bricks to carry hot steam around the buildings wasn’t popular I don't know, they were way ahead of their time. Mary Queen of Scots would have been much more comfortable for her stay at Bolton Castle in the 16th Century had the idea caught on.
From Queens to our Countess, she arrived and didn’t think a lot of her accommodation. We added a friend for company but that wasn’t popular either. She is now on her own and she will hopefully have some pedigree Berkshire piglets shortly to introduce some much needed new blood into the pig herd.
The chat this time of year is all about bulls. Like buses, there are never any when you need one and then every field seems to have one. So much so that our young South Devons had an uninvited visitor and it was a morning with the vet and injections to save the day.
But we had already bought our own bull and enter the much anticipated Lion King - the girls lined up, rather like a new prime minister entering No 10, and he puts his head down to eat grass! Clearly the grass is greener in the dales, but he has a roar to match his name and we are hopeful he isn’t all chat.
Lion king arrives
With my new freedom, I ticked off a bucket list dream to watch a rugby international at Twickenham. I had a wonderful day watching a "friendly" match between England and Wales. My neighbour sang the Welsh national anthem with tears pouring down his cheeks - I wondered what a Six Nations match would be like, if the passion was ear ringing for a friendly ?
I took a last minute decision to go to York Races to see the wonderful mare, Enable. I was rewarded with a fabulous spectacle, she is a truly special horse.
And the rumour of the fashion shoot did come off in the end. Sadly, Bruce didn’t catch the selector’s eye when they needed dogs, but Harrods enjoyed the Hall, the garden and the river for their fashion shoot and the props of old machinery and dogs were also easy to supply. The spaniels even got a morning of filming with their own make up artist.
Model in the hall
Spaniel in make-up
Hopefully that's the bull paid for.
It’s good to see all the trees and shrubs preparing for Autumn. The hazelnuts are forming and even the new Peach House at Berry’s has produced its first peaches.
But on a less positive note - while I have horse hair mattresses in my house and furniture with horse hair stuffing and anyone needing horse hair has only to ask, as happened last year, someone has yet again cut my Shetland pony’s tail off. I hope they were kicked and bitten in the process, as ponies or any stock should not be approached in the field.
Rolo with no tail