F, on the other hand, took to the whole thing with more alacrity than even I, with my well-developed imagination, had dared hope. Over the intervening years he has swallowed information about ancient coins and the trappings of the historic rich to such an extent that he is now aiming for a career in archeology.
The long and short of this is that he spends every waking second thinking about metal detecting and so recently M has been busy finding more permissions for him from local farmers so that he may detect on their land.
There is an old farming family who lives and farms not far from here and whom M has known since he was a boy, who recently agreed that F could detect on their land. Accordingly, M and F set off three weekends ago to meet the family and find out which fields they were talking about.
I didn't go with them.
A mistake, as it turns out.
Now, my M is a straight-forward man who takes everyone at face value. By his own admission he is not good at reading between the lines with people. So when he came home and told me warmly and sincerely all about the delightful way four generations of this family had been gathered in the farmhouse kitchen and how the sickbed of the old boy who is in his nineties and has just come out of hospital has been placed there, in the centre of the household, just as it would always have been done through the centuries whenever rural folk were ill, and how they had all wanted F to explain about metal detecting and how it all works, and how the sixty year old son of the old boy was a bit of character in that he had asked a lot of questions but didn't really wait for the answers and talked over F in a slightly slurred voice like he'd been drinking only he couldn't have been because it was ten o'clock in the morning and besides, all the family were there, I just thought oh, how sweet. The last of a dying breed. You don't get many farming families like that any more, folks who've been working the same small patch of land for a hundred years. That's living history, that is.
After a suitable period of time and as soon as they could stop the sixty-year-old son talking, M had left F at the farm where he had spent the afternoon detecting.
Fast forward to a fortnight later, and M and I are having supper with his folks who farmed in the same village as this family for fifty years and therefore know them well. We were explaining how F had spent Saturday afternoon detecting on this farm when my father in law suddenly says Oh, old what's-his-name, the son, of course you know he's mad as a box of frogs?
Ha ha ha ha, we laugh, exchanging nervous glances in the way you do when you're wondering whether you're shortly going to regret laughing at all.
Mad as a box of frogs, how? I venture, after a moment.
Oh, completely bonkers, says my father in law conversationally, waving his fork around in the air and dropping a piece of carrot on the table. He used to follow mum all round the garden when she was watering and never said a word. He'd just come out from behind a tree where he'd been hiding and stand right behind her. When she moved on to the next plant he'd follow, still silent. She didn't like it very much.
Oh yes, says my mother in law, smiling fondly at the recollection, it was a bit creepy. I stopped watering the garden in the end and left it to dad. They exchange a grin.
But, I say, feeling the beginnings of panic rising , he's not, you know, dangerously mad or anything, is he? I mean, he's just a bit....you know....eccentric? I add, hopefully.
Oh no, says my pa in law, breezily, between mouthfuls, he's bonkers right through alright. Completely cuckoo. Do you remember, he says, turning to his wife, the time he tried to kill his mother?
WHAAAAAAT? I turn to glare at M. There's no way he'd have left our boy alone in the middle of a field with a madman, right? I mean, even with his inability to notice certain things about people, surely he'd have noticed that?
I do, says my mother in law, taking a swig of her wine. She turns to me. He was on drugs, and one night he got very cross with his mother about something or other so he decided to do her in. He got in the tractor and he drove straight across the fields looking for her, because he wanted to run her over. He didn't bother with gates, just went right through several hedges. It made a bit of a mess. She was on her way back from Church, you see? It ruined the tractor, she finished.
By now I am feeling like I'm in the middle of some bizarre play.
But this was ages ago, right? I ask them.
Oh ages ago, agrees my mother in law.
Phew, I think, relaxing a bit.
But he's never been right in the head, says my pa in law. He's completely cuckoo. You must have noticed, when you met him? he turns to M.
OH MY GOD, I'm thinking. We left our son in the middle of a field in the middle of no-where on a farm owned by a man who once tried to kill his own mother!
Still on drugs, I reckon, adds my pa in law, grinning merrily.
BLOODY HELL! I say to M as we get in the car after supper. Did you have no incling at all?
No, says M. I just thought he was a bit eccentric.
Needless to say F will not be returning to the field or the farm and the moral of this story is dual-fold: 1) NEVER trust your husband's ability to assess the mental competence of an ageing farmer who shows every sign of being pissed at ten in the morning, and 2) don't assume life in the country is duller than life in the town. If anything, I suspect we have rather more characters here, it's just that everyone knows ours are mad and finds it funny.
I'll leave you with some pictures of the hounds. Pop is now fully recovered from her op (can you tell?) and is having great fun spending her spare time beating up Ted (which he secretly enjoys). He'll take so much and then he pins her to the ground and chews her ears, at which point she submits for a few seconds before getting up and hurtling about the garden like a lunatic.
But....where's Teddy gone.....? I can't find him anywhere.....
I'm under here. I've had enough......I need a breather......
Spoil sport. I'll just have to watch the Robin pulling worms out of the grass instead then.....
Glad I'm not a worm....
Have a peaceful evening all,