The fifth week of continuous downpour. Mouldiest summer ever. The children stay abed until lunchtime. I yell upstairs, Who wants to go for a massive walk? Who wants to come to Tesco in Minehead? Who wants to go to the Exmoor pony centre? There are never any takers. Exmoor pony centre was the scene of one of our many recent unsuccessful family outings, rivalling the lack of success of our visit to the Big Sheep ‘all-weather attraction’ outside Bideford. At the Big Sheep, we drove for two hours to watch a sheepdog herd three ewes. So the children basically get up for lunch, when we all crouch in the dingly-dell kitchen with its view on to a ferny bank, eating pasties and hunks of Cheddar, watching the endless rain drench the green valley, puddling the unmetalled road the colour of builder’s tea, and turning the Exe into fast-running Cadbury’s Dairy Milk.
The silver lining is Kristian, our manny. He replied to my ad on the Gumtree website. After years of engaging posh Scottish girls or moody Croatian maidens to be an ‘extra pair of hands’ over the summer, I now refuse to hire any females or any males for that matter apart from Antipodean men. Kristian is a qualified engineer, PE teacher, and hugely laid back, energetic and obliging. My only concern is that he hasn’t had a day off yet. ‘I once spent a month on a prawn trawler, alone with two other guys. One was a recovering alcoholic and the other didn’t speak. And we never caught any prawns. So nah, I’m good,’ he reassured me, as he mended the chainsaw, having cleared three barns. ‘No wucking furries, mate.’
We had a day pass to Salcombe. It’s awfully pretty — with those golden sands and bobbing boats and green hills and rocky outcrops — and fun to see all he yachties.