Exhiliration is not normally a word I’d use to describe three o’clock in the morning.
Yet, today, despite my befuddled brain being shocked awake by the alarm, that’s exactly how it felt. Having finished the University course, we feel we’ve come such a long way in such a short time – & what a fascinating, stimulating journey it has been.
We dragged ourselves out of bed & finished packing, then met up with our Swedish coursemate, Erik, in the hotel foyer as we were giving him a lift to the airport. We crammed ourselves & our luggage into the tiny car; Tony impressing us with his remarkable sense of direction as he successfully chauffeured us back to the airport – although much as before, finding the hire vehicle’s car park proved something of a challenge!
Check-in was confusing. None of the desks were marked with flight numbers or destinations; in fact there wasn’t even a gate number for our flight at that point. Then poor Tony, tired with the stress of the last few days, flew into a panic when our suitcase was labelled for Gatwick, pleading with the confused lady at the check-in desk that it should be going to Heathrow – until I pointed out to him that he wasn’t actually working today; & that it would be a bloomin’ long walk from Heathrow to Gatwick for him, when he went to pick up the car….!
Erik bought us a farewell coffee & breakfast croissant, before we all went our separate ways. We wish him the very best for his aspiration to open his own Gelateria in a few years’ time – he deserves every success, & will no doubt achieve it.
On board the aircraft we found that the tray table for my seat was broken & would not stay securely upright. As we’d selected seats beside an overwing exit (more leg room!) this was a significant Flight Safety hazard – as technically it was blocking the exit. Something had to be done: we alerted the cabin crew; an engineer was duly employed; & as we’d suspected, so was a substantial roll of ‘bodge’ tape to secure said tray.
As the table could no longer be used I was offered a change of seat; but I decided to stay put as the aircraft was already delayed. Tony grumbled about not being offered an upgrade & then muttered darkly that if the seat could not be fixed on landing, the number of passengers for the next leg should be reduced; as if there is a technical problem close to an exit the appropriate number of evacuees should not be permitted on board. I wonder how many sectors the aircraft had already flown, with the breakage undetected? It probably wouldn’t occur to the majority of passengers that such a seemingly trivial thing could cause a problem, in the event that their lives might be threatened.
Other than our small frissance it proved an uneventful flight with another spectacular view of the Alps; although with the increased cloud levels, not quite as wonderful as on our flight out to Bologna a few days ago.
Having remembered my camera this time (& after almost losing it in Bologna on the first day at ‘Skool’, I now grimly cling to it like a limpet) I fumbled excitedly with the mechanism; & managed to take a few blurred shots of the snowy mountain land-&-cloudscape. Alas, just as we were heading into the milk-&-sapphire sky which is standard fare at 37,000 feet, I discovered the camera’s aerial photography mode – & the one hasty shot I managed to snap, was far superior to the others I’d taken. Dammit.
Two hours of fitful sleep & a revolting cheese spread roll later, the wheels thumped to the tarmac; our grim descent through layer upon layer of increasingly gloomy cloud bumping us as decisively back to life on earth as the First Officer’s firm landing. It was a relief to leave the hustle & bustle of Arrivals, the endless queuing & pushing at the baggage carousels reminiscent of the first day of the January Sales; & to enfold ourselves in the pressed metal-&-leather sanctuary of our car.
The acerbic yellow of scraggy clumps of early daffodils nodded their heads in cheery welcome from the fume-spattered verges at the car park entrance. A few tired-looking pansies drooped as if weary of their colour, the grey of the sky pulling our spirits relentlessy lower compared with the crisp brightness of Bologna’s stark industrialisation.
Now we are here, we cannot wait to get home.
En route we diverted via Food Centre Wales at Horeb; a fantastic facility provided by the Welsh Assembly Government for aspiring food producers to trial their products & obtain short-term rental premises prior to setting up their own businesses. We were hoping to carry out imminent trials with the lovely new Asta-Eismann cheese vat which was recently installed there as our process rooms clearly won’t be ready for the arrival of our milk; however unfortunately there was nobody available with whom we could speak.
Passing through Newcastle Emlyn we called in to see Boo & to drop her off a bottle of mature Aceto Balsamico di Modena – as she too has been away, studying the art of gourmet cooking under a Michelin-starred chef (lucky girl). So what better gift for a ‘foodie’…?! We were given a jar of her delicious marmalade in return – hmmm, my mind starts conjuring up gelato flavours as soon as I’m offered something new….yet I’m sure she only meant it for our breakfast toast!
As we edged down into the valley we excitedly strained for the first glimpse of our magnificent new building. Oddly, we couldn’t make it out; perhaps, being constructed almost entirely of wood, it blended even more seamlessly into the landscape…? So we concluded that it must be the whey-like clouds obscuring the normally brighter daylight which prevented this first enticing view of our future.
But on rounding the bend at the bottom of the road, we found to our dismay that rather than a near-completed building in which we could immediately house our goats, all that was there, were the uprights: cemented into the ground & pointing skywards like a cluster of judgemental fingers. We clearly had a lot of catching up on the project – & the Ffarm – to do….
We were delighted to find the house in immaculate condition: Marie had really pulled out all the stops, cleaning from top to bottom & even scrubbing the kitchen floor & cleaning the ground floor windows. And Brian – a retired electrician – had kindly sorted out a perplexing ‘quirk’ regarding the landing light upstairs.
However we swiftly donned our farm clothing on learning that one of the ewes was lame, although we were assured this was only a slight problem. Alas, by the time we saw her she was far more profoundly so; therefore much as we don’t like turning over a pregnant ewe we felt we really must, as part of the cleat of her front hoof was hanging off, clearly causing her much pain & distress. We first dealt with the injured foot; then rebalanced the others to be on the ‘safe side’; but only time will tell whether we have successfully stemmed any more serious, deep-seated infection in time, or not.
Then I went to have a look at the cockerel, which Marie had mentioned was a bit ‘under the weather’ earlier in the week; although she had no idea what could be wrong. Perplexingly, we discovered he’d lost all the feathers on top of his head; although he now appeared to be in literally rude health, & was doing all the ‘things’ you’d expect a vigorous young cockerel to be doing!
We bid farewell to ‘Angels’ Marie & Brian, who had very thoughtfully left us a bottle of champagne to celebrate our graduation as Gelatieres Artigianales – as well as a gorgeous bouquet of flowers & several charming bunches of daffodils – a fine Welsh welcome indeed. There was also milk, bread & other foodstuffs so at least in the near future, we wouldn’t go hungry.
As dusk settled over the Ffarm we put the animals to bed – all, apparently delighted to see us; yelling at the tops of their voices with the goats demading multiple cuddles & Ninny almost bowling me off my feet with her effevescently enthusiastic welcome. Oh, how I’ve missed them all!
The ponies, too, galloped over in warm welcome; & even our little flock of sheep bustled at the fence on hearing our voices with the geese clarioning their excited welcome & the chickens clustering round for anticipated handfuls of extra corn.
Our one-eyed feline friend Silli, however, was rather more aloof; but she hates it when I go away, & is always angry on my return – until I’ve soothed her stand-offishness with plenty of tempting treats, after which I’m finally forgiven.
A simple but delicious supper, was called for: Tony fancied squid, which I fried lightly in seasoned flour for him & served with a subtly-dressed salad, a little saffron rice & a homemade garlic mayonnaise. However I will not be cooking it for him again, until at least May; nor would I have done so, if I’d known the squid’s spawning season is between December & May.
So happy to be home, yet also delighted to have been away together for such an exciting & fulfilling experience; we sank deep into sleep – yet were still flying high, in our euphoric dreams.