Serial Saturday: Willingworth Farm, Letter Two 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
Willingworth Farm: Letter Two
It was an utter joy to welcome Ian and Catherine (“Cath” to her friends!) across my threshold. As they absorbed the secluded, rural location, both of my guests were effervescent with the novelty of finding themselves off the beaten track. Urban and urbane they may have been, but they took to the Willingworth pace of life with complete aplomb. Polite, courteous and quiet, I could not have wished for a more agreeable couple to present themselves as my inaugural guests. Cath was particularly fascinated by the guided walking tours I offered around the surrounding country miles, and was all but spellbound as I waxed lyrical regarding the local produce from which the foundation of our meals were formed. On the first evening, she remained with me in the kitchen for over three hours, totally captivated as I exposed a scintillating spread of meats, vegetables, cheeses, chutneys, breads and wines. Poor old Ian was very much left to his own devices that night, I’m afraid! And I do not think it was merely my imagination when, as I insisted on preparing a full English breakfast the following morning, there seemed to be an undercurrent of green-eyed envy within the room.
Still, to Ian’s credit, this bitter feeling never rose to the surface and that meal was as pleasant as any I care to remember. They announced their desire to spend the day in Belminster, the nearest town. A little shopping, some sight-seeing, a wander through the lanes and a skim around the picturesque church. Well, away they duly went. I watched their car motor from the drive and along the road until it disappeared from view. For whatever reason, I then stayed in the same position until I saw it return. A speck, initially, in the distance. A glint of metal reflecting the setting sun. They were coming back, I thought. Coming back to the farm. Coming back to me.
Ian and Cath had already eaten, but I insisted upon preparing a spot of light supper. Throwing together some cold cuts and salad, I inferred from their silence that they wished me to join them. Wearied by the day’s exertion, they were in no mood to talk themselves and so I took a seat at the table, ready to earn my keep by playing host. Veering towards the convivial, I expounded a little on the history of Belminster – an anecdotal approach which served to focus a much appreciated lens on the sights they had earlier enjoyed. After a glass or two of wine, they gradually began to reciprocate and conversation naturally turned towards the personal. We chatted about their jobs and their home and, as we grew more comfortable in each other’s company, it seemed that my guests were finally ready to air the questions they had been longing to ask me.
Was I married? It was Cath who spoke. A sip of wine following the upward inflection of that final syllable; an ambiguous look in her eye. Well, I simply shook my head. Not any more, I told them. No, not any more.
The following day, they snuck out at the crack of dawn. As I hadn’t had the chance to even ask about their plans, I busied myself with the toil of maintaining a tidy home. The farm, after all, does not look after itself! The hours crawled by and I was clearing up from my solitary evening meal before they eventually returned. They crept through the front door like a pair of skulking teenagers as, readily performing my part of the prudish parent, I pounced into the hallway.
“And where have you two been?” I intoned with high humour. Ian and Cath pulled appropriately guilty faces before we all fell about laughing.
And so it was the final morning. I served up a hearty breakfast as Ian and Cath announced their intention to indulge a farewell stroll around the fields before leaving for home. It was such a glorious spring day that I could hardly blame them. Off they went, and I watched for a while from the kitchen window until they disappeared around the side of the barn and were lost from my line of sight. And so that was that – my first experience of opening up my doors. All in all, as I stood in the bedroom and considered their packed cases, I thought of how lucky I was to have started my venture with such wonderful people. How impossible it then seemed that I would ever again be blessed with a couple more deserving of my hospitality.