Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Supper #31 - Upton Noble, Somerset

We plough on down the A303 until an emergency toilet break forces us to pull into our old mucker Vicki's house in Chicklade to use the facilities. There we stay, lolling around on the lawn, dozing in the baking afternoon sun. We catch up then distribute the rest of the cake amongst them and get on the back road to Upton Noble - apparently one of the most beautiful routes in the area.

Terraced knolls, high hedgerows, Douglas firs all staggering down to luscious ravines and swooping hills - and with the sun cutting languidly through. Purty. We stop off at an egg stall where old ice cream containers hold individually wrapped homemade cakes: coffee cake, lemon cake, chocolate cake. Beyond the large farm gate lives Kate and her husband and their four kids of 1,2,3 and 4 years old. It's a smallholding with Jersey cows, chickens, dogs, a pig, cats, goats, a bull - all spread out over a field, a yard, a couple of statics and a caravan.

I was instantly hooked by this lot. They're proper. 'Free range' as Ferdie said, wild little kids messing around with any old piece of junk they can get their hands on. I understand them; I get it. Sometimes, with certain kids now, there's this slightly horrific sense of self-awareness, born out of an excess of attention and autonomy. That constant thing of being asked for their opinion on everything - as if they're the single most precious thing to ever arrive on Earth. Kate's lot are very refreshing; roaming little creatures with their imagination as the number one toy and self-importance nowhere in sight.

We gave them some ice creams then continued on to Upton Noble where a lane full of kids were hooting and hollering for us as we arrived. These I liked a lot too. Just sort of wide eyed and curious about life. Their folks were off to a party and we were left in charge. We hung round the van, chatting about this and that, then inside to watch a bit of football and have our supper.

THE SET UP: Andy and Vicki moved to Somerset from Woodstock five years ago. They like living in an area that's not too polished - which is what they say has happened to Oxfordshire. The house is a winding, thick stone-walled affair, heavy on Cath Kidston and organic food. Outside chickens mother ducklings and their dogs doze on the tiny road.

WHO CAME: Just me and Ferds - but the kids hung around to chat.

WHAT WE ATE: Spag bol made with lamb's mince and a wonderful peppery rocket salad from the garden washed down with a bottle of organic red wine.

DINNER TABLE TOPICS: The sleepover the two older girls had been to the night before and how badly one girl behaved, the family trip to Kerala in February, how mad their mums are on organics and composting and recycling...and bread baking. Then this great strapping man strode in, looking for his daughter. He went wild for the van and then started telling us all about his job as the only servant of the British government on the West Bank. We later discover that he's ex-S.A.S. and I decide that I want to live on such a fruity lane as this.

THE PUD: Ice cream from the van: Turkish Delight, Cookies & Cream, Raspberry sorbet and white chocolate & chilli. Plus a plate of brownie bites.

MY BED FOR THE NIGHT: Ferdie and I have a spat about who sleeps where. It's a bit of a nightmare when your brother tries to encroach upon your rightful bed. As we walk up to the local for a quick pint I list all the reasons why I should have the best bed and he finally concedes over a game of dominoes. With 'Bedgate' taken care of I slide into cool, crisp sheets and sleep long like a teenager.

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