At Runton, a season has turned. The horizon, for so long an indistinct line between two fierce blocks of haze, now just looks big and sad. Frizbees no longer land in the petting zoo to be eaten by Angora goats, their glamping hurlers elsewhere for a gluten free winter of self-loathing. The restored barn is silent, alfresco deaf yoga (admittedly pretty quiet at the best of times) and Flat Earth Society lectures done with. The clattering of forest school children in Leicester City shirts is an echo in the gathering leaves; they are in the East Midlands for Tangfastic breakfasts till April. Sevastopol, the Runton peacock, who may or may not be the same peacock they remember from two years ago who, in turn, may or may not or may have been fatally savaged by my dog one irate September morning in 2016, is in his winter lodgings. The paths through the woods are quieter, silhouettes are sharper, sound carries heavier across damp autumn fields, and this morning ‘Anton’ complained that he could ‘feel winter in his tits’. Summer has gone, and the year is dozing off.
Dozing, but not yet asleep. For example, Joe recently celebrated ten years of marriage by getting into a fight at a wedding reception. Well, not a fight exactly, but some to-ing and fro-ing at the end of the evening when six of the two hundred guests produced a sound system and announced they were having a rave with it. Joe explained that we don’t have a licence for that and that no one, including the bridegroom, had mentioned anything that would’ve enabled us to sort something out. The chief would-be raver argued that the bridengroom had paid ‘thirty
grand for this’. Joe pointed out that he hadn’t paid him thirty grand, as he was working for free. It’s difficult to know how you can spend thirty grand in a series of fields held together by crumbling mid-Victorian buildings, especially considering that Joe, ‘Anton’ and I bought a bit of it three weeks ago – the stable block and yard where Becka’s Screaming Car is – for seven hundred quid*. For thirty grand the bridengroom could probably have bought all of East Anglia but spent it on, among other things, stilt walkers, jugglers on unicycles, jugglers not on unicycles, a fish and chip van, an ice cream vendor on a bike, and transforming the vacant forest school dormitory into a replica of the pub in Lord of the Rings. Joe was right, though. He was working for free, as the money went straight to the shape shifting Freemasons of the Board of Trustees. ‘Anton’ and I, in attendance as general helpers-out, were also working gratis, although we did liberate a lot of food and booze in a process I refer to as Pre-ganism. Whereas Freeganism involves procuring food that has been abandoned, my method involves procuring food before the owners notice it has gone: Pre-ganism.
On no less than three separate occasions people have made a concerted effort to actually kill Joe, so a bit of handbags with some Alisdairs was unlikely to find him out of his depth. Also, while physical violence is both exciting and effective, it has to be kept as an option of last resort because of civilisation, so ‘Anton’ and I decided against steaming in to the ravers and opted for a more conciliatory approach. I suggested that we ‘invent a way / through ideas and play’ in accordance with the theme tune to Bitz and Bob, still in my head after watching it fourteen hours earlier with Nid. At that moment, however, my judgement was clouded when I took a bite of wedding cake to discover that it was made of cheese instead of wedding cake. This made me angry and emotional, so I was up for whatever, really.
With Joe being firm but diplomatic with people who ‘Anton’ and I were keen to skittle about all over the place, Graham appeared. It is rare that his capacity as rustic Romany beastmaster overlaps with ‘Anton’ and I’s capacity as clueless Cockney hangers-on, but it was a big wedding and he was attracted by food he didn’t have to shoot. Sharing my dismay at the cheese wedding cake – ‘How’re you supposed to eat it? In a baked potato with fucking beans?’ – he suggested that we remove the engine from the chief protagonist’s Range Rover Sport overnight for a larf. You may recall that it was once common practice for Graham’s kids to forcibly sell re-treaded tyres to problematic glampers, so this is not as outlandish as it sounds. After working hard to de-wanker the place, this is no longer part of the judicial process, which is a shame because foul mouthed Romany pre-teens aggressively selling retreaded tyres to a terrified Josh is a sight to behold. Anyway. I asked Graham if he could replace the engine with one from a washing machine for a further giggle, and incredibly this is actually possible. In the event, of course, no one had the engine in their Range Rover Sport replaced with anything, despite my earnest desire to commiserate with the owner the next morning by pointing out that although a car with a washing machine engine might not be very powerful, you could still take it for a spin. The argument fizzled out, and everyone went to bed.
And with that, summer ended. I spent less time at Runton than I would like, what with temporarily moving considerably further away while the ceilings in my house are prevented from falling in, and have done little of note other than walk the dog and look after Nid, who can’t attend his usual nursery for the duration. Thoughts now turn to how those of us comprising the Runton Estate management team will survive the winter. I have my bicycle barbering, although cycling about rural East Anglia in freezing mist to cut pensioners’ hair at a fiver a pop is not all larfs and I am in any case thirty miles from my modest client base. Still, among the other things that happened in the latter half of summer were that Joe got certification to drive explosive materials in a van, and I got a shotgun licence. By again following the advice of Bitz and Bob and combining these with ideas and play, we should be able to come up with something.
*This is first part of the Grand Renovation Plan, whereby we buy chunks of the Estate, restore them, and sell them back to the Trustees at an agreed price instead of getting everything done with a Lottery grant.
Main: Forest School dormitories, converted to look like the pub in Lord of the Rings for the wedding in question.
Top inset: A little plastic man I found gamely hanging on to part of a hedge one day.
Inset middle: Swans.
Inset lower: A horse standing next to his little car. He drove in to have new shoes put on by a blacksmith for a job interview the following week.