After a hard day,
experimenting with ice cream & associating with the animals (the kids decided to suffer an attack of smelly scours – aka diarrhoea, today – eugh), this evening we luxuriated in a genuine treat – dinner with Carl & Boo at their beautiful Maes Y Derw Country House (if you have any excuse to stay there – just do; you won’t regret it!). Fortunately they’d specifically arranged not to have any guests this evening; so we were able to enjoy an especially lengthy & convivial, private repast together. A typically tasty starter of homemade hummus dressed with zesty lemon juice & served with a variety of fresh crudites plus warm, plump pitta breads, was liberally washed down with a generous glass of Bombay Sapphire gin & tonic in the spacious kitchen-cum-breakfast area, before we headed into their grand dining room for a satisfyingly hearty autumnal main course: for Boo had slow-cooked meltingly delicious lamb shanks, sloshed in a port wine jus & served on a bed of celeriac & potato mash which was accompanied by a dish of spiced red cabbage. This was followed by an exquisite dessert of individual, snowy mountains of homemade meringue dressed liberally with whipped cream & a tumble of freshly-plucked, unctuous hedgerow berries – an absolutely wonderful marriage of tart & sweet tastes. Thus satisfyingly replete, we retired to the lounge for glasses of smoky-dark Irish coffee topped by islands of floating cream, along with an elegant crystal flute of Boo’s boozy sloe gin which is an intoxicating, ruby-red liqueur; this dry, subtle 2006 vintage is as good as it gets. Coupled with pleasant conversation & the inevitable ‘pulling up of sandbags’ as always happens when ex-military personnel get together, made for a memorable & wholly delightful evening brimming over with bonhomie. It made us forget our cares & concerns about FMD & BTV for a few hours; although as ever the stark reality hit us along with the blast of cold evening air when we had to dip our boots & spray the wheels & underside of the car on our return to reality & a chilly breeze at the top of the Ffarm drive a few short miles away.
It’s funny though; chatting to Carl (who is still in the RAF) makes us realise more than ever, that the grass really isn’t greener on the other side of the fence: give us the green, green grass of our home valley any day, rather than return to what we were doing before. The hours may be much longer & the work often far more physically & mentally demanding & stressful; but the more we talk to friends who are still ‘doing time’ in the military, the more glad & grateful we are, that we’ve taken the plunge & left that particular treadmill. We may have our fair share of frustrations; & the future is indeed worrying when a multiplicity of diseases are directly & really threatening our livelihood (& the next item on the agricultural agenda, will inevitably be concerns over avian influenza with the onset of the autumn migrations); but at least we can carve a modest but satisfying future for ourselves – no matter the challenges ahead, we wouldn’t stick our heads back through the fence – or indeed back above the military parapet – for all the tea in China. After all, you can be poor in purse but rich in what you value – & we truly cherish the green, green grass of home, more than ever, with each & every passing day….oh, how lucky, we are.