Sunday: Misty at both ends and Gypsies in the middle

Comfy couch, livingroom, Staplehurst, Kent, Garden of England

A misty morning, a lazy breakfast, a walk to my friend’s family farm along country lanes and public footpaths.
Gypsies are moving their Gypsy Cob ponies back to stables for winter. The piebald markings are cheerful; the more white the better, we’re told. Two leggy foals parallel park against their mothers. The grey haired man with an empty black feed bucket invites us into the field to take photos. I ask where his interest in this old breed comes from. His response includes “heritage”, “generations”, “handed down”, “Gypsy and proud of it”. This last phrase is uttered rapidly as if he has had to say it often but the challenge implicit in the words isn’t reflected in his tone; the declaration seems oddly out of place, I suspect even to him, as we chat here together. However, the fact that he makes it speaks volumes.
A fighter pilot was shot down over a local field and is still remembered; the little cross is tucked in beside a hedge. Kent is between mainland Europe and London where defense was fierce and bombers jettisoned their payload before going down.


My friend’s mother lives in a converted Oast house which the family used originally to dry hops picked by hand, then later by machinery. This part of the world is known for its hop gardens and Oast houses. Renovations of old buildings must use only the original openings in walls for windows and doors, which is why so many ancient cottages are still dark. Oast houses had big doors to wheel vehicles in, to bring hops through, to help dry them in the kiln which is the round part with the pointy roof (the white bent tip is a cowl which moves with the wind to help draw the smoke away), and to haul the compressed hops out again. On top of that, good light was needed because monitoring the colour as hops dried was crucial. Oast houses converted to cottages are absolutely light and delightful.

Some relative of mine on some side of the family several generations ago, I think, worked, or lived in Tunbridge Wells, at a Hotel, maybe the main hotel, or coach house, I think it was big and had lots of windows and was famous, possibly, quite possibly as a chef, I think, who developed a special recipe for plum pudding, or fruitcake it could have been, maybe the Queen ate it, or a relative of hers, anyway, the name Tunbridge Wells is deeply ingrained in my family folklore so we went there.


Roast lamb for dinner. Sorry, sheep.