It was always going to be one of those days. It started with somebody hammering on the kitchen door. I put my coffee mug down and went to see who it was.
Young Geordie from Lower Daleside Farm stood there looking a bit embarrassed. “Tup’s broken out and got into t’village hall. But I fixed it.”
I put my Wellingtons on and walked down to the village hall to see what had been done. The tup glared at me sullenly from the quad trailer parked on the gravel by the hall door.
“See, I got him back out.”
I tried the door. It was still locked. “So how did you manage Geordie?”
“Oh, way he got in, round t’back.”
I accompanied the young man round the back of the hall, picking my way through a collection of old benches that had been thrown out by a previous generation and lingered on to remind us of the glory days when we’d had adequate seating.
“I fixed the hole he med.”
I looked at where Geordie was pointing. The tup had entered the village hall by the simple expedient of knocking a hole through the timber wall. Geordie had fixed it by putting an old corrugated iron sheet up against the hole and holding it in place by hammering a couple of old fence posts in.
“I did try nailing it to the main timbers but they’re so rotten I could push the nails in by hand.”
It was true. We’d long know that the back wall needed replacing. Perhaps patching it with pallet timber back in the Silver Jubilee year had been a bit short sighted.
I shrugged. “Well it’ll keep the draught out for now.”
We walked back to the quad and trailer. Geordie gestured towards the old benches. “Do you want them? I could come down with a tractor later and take them away, they’ll do for firewood.”
“Best end to them lad.”
“Tell you what; I’ll fix that leak on the roof while I’m here.”
The roof was corrugated iron and at least one of the sheets had rotted through.
“Be careful lad, I wouldn’t put any weight on the roof.”
“I’ll come down with the Loadall, I can work off that.”
“Be careful anyway.”
When I got back from town, I walked down to the village hall again. Geordie and his two younger brothers were there looking remarkably pleased with themselves.
“We fixed it Boss.”
“Good, did it take long?”
Geordie sighed. “When I saw the roof properly from the Loadall bucket, it was well knackered. Luckily we had some old black bitumen at home, so we painted the roof with that then threw an old silage sheet over it. Then we painted it again with bitumen. It’ll keep rain out grand. But me and our kid here have been here since before brew time doing it.”
I thanked them anyway. Because they’d also taken the benches away things did look a bit tidier.
I walked across the road to Wendy’s. She had obviously been watching because she opened the door before I knocked. Wendy is our Village Hall treasurer.
Before I said anything she said, “I saw what they did.”
“Well it might keep the rain out.”
She looked at me as if I were some sort of idiot. “Harry, it’s a fire risk!”
“The amount of rain we get?”
“It’s still a fire risk.”
“So what do we do about it then?”
She smiled triumphantly. “Don’t worry, I’ve already done it. I phoned the insurance company and increased the cover.”
“So what will we get if it burns down?”
Her smile faded. “Probably about five years. Seriously Harry, isn’t it time we got a new village hall?”
You might not have realised but it’s now ‘Village Halls Week.’ As somebody who, one way or another, has spent a lot of time in village halls in various places, I’m a believer in their importance. So I thought I’d celebrate them a bit. So the story will continue.
Now if you’re lucky enough to live in Cumbria there is ACTion with Communities in Cumbria, our Rural Community Council, on hand to help.
If you’re in the rest of England you want ACRE, Action with Communities in Rural England.
Alternatively if you just want a good book,
Available in paperback or as an ebook.
As a reviewer commented, “This is a selection of anecdotes about life as a farmer in Cumbria. The writer grew up on his farm, and generations of his family before him farmed the land. You develop a real feeling for the land you are hefted to and this comes across in these stories. We hear of the cattle, the sheep, his succession of working dogs, the weather and the neighbours, in an amusing and chatty style as the snippets of Jim Webster’s countryman’s wisdom fall gently. I love this collection.”