Serial Saturday: Willingworth Farm, Letter Seven by Mark Colbourne
- Serial Saturday: Willingworth Farm, Letter One by Mark Colbourne
- Serial Saturday: Willingworth Farm, Letter Two by Mark Colbourne
- Serial Saturday: Willingworth Farm, Letter Three by Mark Colbourne
- Serial Saturday: Willingworth Farm, Letter Four by Mark Colbourne
- Serial Saturday: Willingworth Farm, Letter Five by Mark Colbourne
- Serial Saturday: Willingworth Farm, Letter Six by Mark Colbourne
- Serial Saturday: Willingworth Farm, Letter Seven by Mark Colbourne
- Serial Saturday: Willingworth Farm, Letter Eight by Mark Colbourne
Willingworth Farm: Letter Seven
Marcus and Heather are “Eco-warriors”. Well, why on earth wouldn’t they be? Although, if I’m to be ever so slightly pernickety about the issue, this was a fact that they failed to disclose during our initial correspondence. Now, I’m not here to throw around direct accusations. I wouldn’t even dare to insinuate that any involved party had been disingenuous… But, well, you’d think there’d be certain things that people would feel obliged to mention, wouldn’t you?
So, totally unprepared for the sight which awaited me, I opened my front door to find a dreadlocked couple in ethnic apparel burdened by military-style canvas hold-alls. Even my now well-honed skills of hospitality momentarily failed me, stricken as I was by the fear that my lovely farm was about to be degraded by some manner of unspeakable freakshow. Eventually, I managed to gather my wherewithal and ushered them inside. It was only then that I noticed an incongruous but resolutely silver cloud. The car they had arrived in, now wonkily parked in the farm courtyard, was a top of the range Land Rover with a plate from only last year.
“That’s quite the vehicle you’ve got there,” I said with an admiring tone as they slumped in the hallway and dropped their bags on my tiled floor. Marcus gave a vague and dismissive comment about an unwanted gift from his father before apologetically promising that they only used the car for very occasional journeys. This confession quickly transgressed into a heated rant about the destructive pollution reaped by the motor industry, which Marcus and Heather presented in a well-rehearsed and passionate tandem. Their rhetoric, arguments, statistics and condemnations were reeled out for a full thirty minutes. It was only during a pause for breath that I managed to extend the offer of showing them to their room.
Now, I am neither a biased nor bigoted man. Come one, come all, is my motto. However, Marcus and Heather were irritating to the point of distraction. After settling in, it became apparent that the idea of making oneself at home was to be stretched to its most literal definition. Heather insisted on undertaking a full inventory of my kitchen whilst explaining at length the environmental failings of each and every product or ingredient. The living room was transformed into some sort of makeshift storage area for clothes weaved entirely from hemp or garishly emblazoned with tye-dye. The sound of African drumming washed around the corridors, playing at a surprising volume from their mobile “smart” phones. Despite my strict instructions not to light naked flames inside the house, I am convinced that I could smell the rancid pong of incense burning in their room.
Goodness me, it was a long weekend for all the wrong reasons. I was almost elated when they took their leave to wander the fields and commune with nature. These were opportunities I embraced to open the windows and air out the farmhouse. I couldn’t help but worry that if word of this got out I’d be besieged by enquiries from all manner of life’s dropouts and deadbeats. Whilst they may have been relaxing, for me it was a nail biting few days of anxiety and stress.
The final straw fell on Sunday. It was a gorgeous afternoon and the sun beat down with a strength to suggest that it would never dare to set. Heather was in what I refer to as the “back” garden – really just a square of lawn and a few slabs of patio at the rear of the kitchen. Once upon a time, Barbara and I had a table and chairs out there and would enjoy a glass of chilled wine in the early evening. Heather was busy performing some manner of yogic meditation (I’m afraid the precise name for the discipline eludes me). Anyhow, I had been watching her for some time through a slit in the blinds of the utility room window and quietly pondering whether this little venture of mine was actually worth all the trouble, when an absence suddenly dawned: where the hell was Marcus?
I dashed to the back door and raised this question from the step. The guilty expression that fell on Heather’s face revealed a very contrary answer to the one offered by her words. With no small sense of urgency, I returned straight through the house and out the front door, across the yard and into the barn. Well, with a great sense of relief, I found no living soul inside but, as my pulse began to settle, a strange odour tickled at my nostrils. Like a bloodhound, I pursued the scent back out through the door and around the rear side of the barn which is hidden from view. There, slumped amongst some old pallets like a degenerate hobo, was Marcus, puffing away on what a friend once described to me as a jazz cigarette.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” I roared. He practically jumped out of his skin and span round to face me. My composure was not all that it could have been and I proceeded to read that young man the riot act. How dare he come into my home and treat it like some kind of junkie doss-house, the over-privileged, work-shy, self-righteous git.
After the initial surprise of being caught red-handed, Marcus quickly calmed – even despite my apoplectic dressing down. He took a long, insouciant draw on his cigarette and blew the smoke high into the air. He had the manner of one who had never had to worry about anything. Marcus had lived a life of indulgence, of licence; for him there had never been the inconvenience of consequences. The look on his face boiled my blood. His proclamation that I should not “worry about it, man” incensed me beyond all reason. There was, I realised, only one course of action that remained.
“Marcus,” I asked. “Would you care to follow me for a moment? There’s something I’d rather like to show you in the barn.”