as predicted, the run of wonderfully crisp bright days we’ve been enjoying, has come to an end; we woke to the spattering of rain on the windows & a heavy pall of mist which sunk the farm into dank clouds of obfuscating gloom.
We were subsequently forced to spend much of the day indoors; as I frantically scribbled the inevitable last-minute Christmas cards (i.e. all of them!) & fine-tuned the menu for our meals over the Christmas period.
Poor Tony – like so many other anxious gift-buyers, I gather – was getting decidely edgy; as the presents he’d ordered over the Internet for me still hadn’t arrived (although as some of them had been for my fortieth birthday last week, he had already received ‘next day delivery’ dispatch notices; so it would appear that several gifts, worth several hundreds of pounds, have gone missing – from this household, alone…..).
His frustration was not at all improved when we received a call from a neighbour late in the afternoon to say that a parcel requiring our signature (guaranteed delivery before 1pm) had at around 3.15pm, been delivered to their house; as apparently our postman doesn’t like to be troubled to have to come all the way down our drive, regardless of whether we are at home or not; so we subsequently have to take the precious little spare time we have out of our day, to do what we understand is the postman’s job & pick up our mail from our unfairly-disturbed neighbours. Whilst at the moment this is a relatively minor, if irritating inconvenience our concern is that once the dairy business is fully up & running here on the Ffarm we will be expecting a far higher volume of post including deliveries of packaging etc; & we frankly cannot afford the time & expense (not to mention our neighbour being troubled) of having to frequently go out of our way to do the postal system’s duty of collecting items of mail. We do in fact fully sympathise & appreciate that Royal Mail staff are extremely stretched in their duties these days. However delivery times have become increasingly tardy (after 3pm now seems to be the norm; when we first arrived it was 10am); & we’ve had a fair few problems with valuable parcels either being damaged as they are left out in the rain or going missing altogether, this year; (three damaged, two of which were valuable; one ‘signed for’ just left at the top of the drive; & another three have gone missing). Admittedly we are our own worst enemy as we have not wished to get our local postal staff into trouble & so have not reported these matters. But, inevitably, we are running out of patience.
Ironically one issue which troubles me, is how to leave the postman a Christmas box, to show our appreciation of his efforts? We dare not just leave it at the top of the drive; & as delivery times have become so frustratingly erratic, I can hardly wait up there all day.
Our postman in the Cotswolds – ‘Spud’ – was a wonderful chap who would even go out of his way at 0530 in the morning to drop off a special delivery, worried it might be important & knowing how early I left for work. And if any of his customers were on holiday he’d reserve their post until they returned; but would still visit the house in question every day to check things were all in order. His van would invariably be overflowing with gifts at Christmas time; but they were in fact to him, from grateful customers! He retired in September; & we all wish him the very best & hope he gets to put his feet up at last.
After a brief diversion to collect the parcel we carried on to Pencader to collect our Christmas present to the hen flock – a fine Welsummer cockerel, whom we’ve dubbed Myrddin in honour of living here in Carmarthenshire (the name literally means, ‘Merlin’s Seat’ as this is where the great magician legendarily heralds from). He’s a replacement for poor old Hercules, who passed away yesterday as the girls have been bereft without him. Fortunately Tony espied an advert for a spare cockerel in the Dyfed Smallholders’ Association newsletter; & he was still available, free to a good home. So, armed with a little box of chocolates as an impromptu Christmas gift, we set off across country under thankfully more tranquil coral-coloured skies to collect our new cornflake-box boy. The Welsummer is a fairly light breed hailing from the village of Welsum in Holland, with Barnevelder, Rhode Island Red & Partridge Chochins, Wyandottes & Leghorns contributing to the bird’s genetic makeup. Extremely handsome, the cockerels are of the quintessential ‘Kellogs’ colouring with rich golden brown & beetle-green plumage; & the hens are renowned for laying large eggs of a rich, deep flowerpot-brown colour, although not brilliantly productive at around 180 eggs per annum. However, they are a good addition to any free-range flock; & we were delighted to be able to offer this chap a happy new home. Needless to say, he was extremely put out at having been cooped up for the afternoon; however, he seemed very pleased to be installed on the perch in the henhouse with his new harem, which we did as soon as we got him home just after darkness had fallen.
We passed a quiet evening although Tony, still like a cat on hot bricks regarding the conspicuous absence of the majority of my Christmas presents, mysteriously hurried out into Carmarthen – returning an hour or so later with the finest fish & chips we’ve had since arriving here, & a beautiful Christmas card for me. And so, on to that popular hymn: ‘Silent night; early night’……!