First, it was only ever supposed to be a very short book. A “micro-book” as Mrs Doyle might well have called it, had Father Ted been invited to write it rather than me.
And, secondly, because I actually spent the first seven weeks of the three months available for the project thinking, “Oh God, why on earth did I sign that contract to write a book?” before putting in a single week of moderate activity which convinced me that I had more or less cracked it.
“It’s reached the stage,” I blithely announced to Mrs H, “of one of those child’s colouring books where the outline is all drawn. So the hard bit is done. Now I’ve just got to get my crayons out and do the colouring in.”
There was quite a lot of crayoning in the course of September. It was a bit like how I imagine a high level Liberal Democrat meeting to fill in the details of their next election manifesto, only with more chance of a successful outcome.
Then on Friday, which happily coincided with my publisher’s deadline, I pinged the thing off to my editor and prepared for a weekend of well-earned relaxation.
Only we made the mistake of involving The Boy in the decision-making process. And, despite my best efforts to sell him the delights of a sunny Saturday on a steam train, he insisted that what he wanted to do above all was to feed some animals.
Adding, when we were en route to a farm somewhere in the heart of England, that after that he wanted to go to a beach and build sandcastles.
We arrived at the farm in time for lunch, which was largely inedible. Quite an achievement on a working mixed farm, that.
The Boy said that he wanted a hot dog. Until it arrived, when he realised that it was the last thing he wanted. Mrs H read him the last of alternatives from the short menu.
“Is there anything else?” he asked, ever more plaintively.
He finally settled for a cheese sandwich. Processed white bread and Cheddar. He had to be bribed with the promise of an Oreo cookie if he got through a quarter of it.
|The Boy enjoying his lunch|
|The Baby had a slightly better time, but then we brought his lunch with us|
Then I was despatched back to the admission desk to buy a bag of animal food for what was, after all, the entire object of our visit. Only to be advised that feeding the animals had been banned on Elfin Safety grounds after the Great E.coli Scare a couple of years ago.
I naturally anticipated a meltdown on delivering this sad news, but somehow we got away with it through a process of distraction involving: (a) seeing a cow being milked
(b) making the acquaintance of a cart horse
(c) looking at some cute bunny rabbits
(d) playing in a sand pit
(e) watching some pigs racing and
(f) introducing The Boy to the concepts of:
(i) the space hopper and
(ii) the bouncy castle.
We got home exhausted and I bought fish and chips for tea, providing the cue for 36 hours in bed with a recurrence of the terrible stomach upset that had already ruined Monday and Wednesday of the preceding week.
It would be nice to be able to sue the owners of the farm on the grounds that it had been caused by contact with their animals, but in the circumstances I fear that it would be hard to make the charge stick.
Meanwhile The Boy went to bed “not happy”. Because he never got to feed his animals? No, because “there is a giant octopus in our garden.” At least that is one worry that will not be keeping me awake at night in the weeks ahead.