Back to normal
AS YOU read this, we will know the result of the EU referendum. Soon, the “battle buses” will be off to the depot to be repainted and returned to normal duties; the posters, banners, flyers, and leaflets will be in recycling bins all over the country; and, after all the name-calling, the “squalid”, “deceitful”, and “despicable traitors”, the “liars”, and the “scaremongers” will be attempting to work together again in Westminster. Even by the standards of politics, the animosity and disrespect displayed in the run-up to the referendum has been unedifying.
In fact, “unedifying” probably sums up both campaigns. Finding spin-free facts was like panning for gold in a Highland river: you know it’s there, but there’s precious little of it, and you have to sift through muck to find it. I can only hope that more grace and humility will be shown by the “winners” than has been apparent in either campaign.
THERE has been muck-raking of a different sort happening at the vicarage over the past few weeks: one of our garden walls has had to be demolished and rebuilt, as it was becoming dangerous — this is in addition to the churchyard wall, which has also had to be made safe after the winter rains.
As the workmen were digging out new foundations for our garden wall, they came across an elephant; it seems to be made of lead, and stands at about four inches — or it would, if it still had its back legs. It is hollow, and may have been a trinket box, as it looks as if there has been a lid of some sort on its back.
It reminded me of the tales that our now deceased elderly neighbour was fond of telling me. Apparently, many years ago, a circus used to spend the winter in a field near the village, and, one year, the elephant escaped, only to be found munching his way through a neighbouring turnip field, much to the alarm of the farmer.
When I mentioned this to members of our congregation, they regaled me with tales of a lion who had also escaped from the circus, and caused much fear and not a little panic, as can be imagined. Eventually, however, he was recaptured by a local man who apparently calmed it by spitting chewing tobacco in its eye; not the response I would have assumed such an action would evoke, but, I suppose, the lion was probably somewhat befuddled by such casual Yorkshire disdain.
Cross and basin
THE churchyard wall excavations produced a rather different and somewhat more puzzling artefact: a large rectangular stone with a shallow circular hollow and channel carved into it. The archaeologist present when it was unearthed was unsure what it might be, but hazarded a guess that it could be a medieval stoup. It is now in our small “heritage area” in church, resting alongside artefacts discovered during the restoration of the church which took place in the early 1900s.
Among these are fragments of what is thought to be a stone churchyard cross, bearing what experts tell us are good examples of tenth-century carving, showing a mixture of Anglo-Saxon and Viking influences — perhaps a reminder that European cultural cross-fertilisation is nothing new.
UNFORTUNATELY for my vegetable plants, cross-fertilisation of any variety is not an option; our new hens managed to find a way through the fence and made short work of my runner beans, peas, and purple sprouting broccoli plants. I suppose that, as No. 3 Son pointed out cheerfully, it could be argued that we are still eating the vegetables, albeit processed into egg form.
Thankfully, the tomatoes and lettuces are better protected; so at least we will have salad, if the slugs and snails can be kept at bay. No. 2 Son may prove useful as far as the snails are concerned; being at a coastal university, he has become adept at foraging for free food on the shoreline, and he and his housemates enjoy creating feasts of samphire, seaweed, and shellfish. Recently, they realise that they were overlooking a source of protein much closer to home: garden snails.
They have a rather overgrown garden, home to some gargantuan molluscs, which, with a few days of the right preparation, are apparently very tasty cooked up with some garlic and herbs. He may have discovered a way to cut our household food bill and get rid of a few pests.
OF COURSE, pests are not always a potentially tasty treat. No. 2 Son was visiting a friend in the Houses of Parliament last week, and was taken to the Commons bar. While they were enjoying a quiet drink, his friend suddenly stopped talking and pointed behind my son. Thinking he was about to see a famous politician, No. 2 Son turned and spotted a little mouse.
The mouse was obviously not of the wee, sleekit, cow’ran, tim’rous beastie variety; gazing at my son with calm curiosity, he gave a dismissive twitch of his whiskers and returned to the serious task of scavenging for crumbs. Let’s just hope that, when all the votes are in, and we have an answer, we don’t have cause to recall the penultimate verse of Burns’s poem “To a Mouse”:
The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men,
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!
Elizabeth Figg is married to the Vicar of Kildwick, near Keighley.