Posted by: Debrah Martin | September 16, 2013

Three weeks of wheat…

No, not a new kind of diet, the three weeks I spent dodging the corn storm whilst the thatch was redone on my cottage. I threatened to blog about it and here it is – just a shade before I bid it and the cottage goodbye in search of pastures new in Oxfordshire. Stripped to the undies! Of course it helped that it was sunny this year – possibly the first ‘real’ summer we’ve had since the seventies- or does that really show my age? We rather take having a roof over our heads for granted, even when it’s dodgy. Seeing it stripped away layer by layer was rather worrying. The same feeling, in fact, as when I got the cottage re-rendered and the old render was stripped away to reveal only the mud of the cob beneath. I jokingly referred to my cottage as having no clothes on then – this time it was like balding prematurely. IMG_3413 IMG_3416 Here we go then-stripped almost naked and time to get it back on; corn-dolly style! Incredibly, thatched roofs are merely the wheat they stand up in, and a snazzy layer of netting to keep it all in place. Whoa there – perhaps I ought to stop the allusions to old age and plastering over the cracks – or in this case, holding it all in with corset, or I’ll start becoming neurotic! Amazingly, the thatch on the very bottom layer (it only gets stripped down to the undies) is the original – over two hundred years old, and still containing heather and clover from the fields it was gathered. That’s what I call living history – and a great new haircut! IMG_3420 For a while we lived in what resembled a farm yard, with bales of hale littering the patio and the odd stalk dropping from on high when we exited the conservatory. The local pigeons became our best friends, loitering with intent whilst waiting for the next bale to be loosened in case there were corn pickings likely. The bravest of them, who we named Bernard (I have no idea why) used to sit on the shed roof and wait for us to look away. Then he would sidle nonchalantly up to the conservatory door ready to gate crash, I suppose in case there were even juicier bales inside. IMG_3428It was by no means a quiet three weeks either. Our friendly thatcher’s treated us to their own tuneful renditions of the charts, and some excellent Hawaiian shirts and shorts. If you’ve never looked up a thatcher’s shorts, you’ve missed … nothing. And eventually it was done, patted, primped, trimmed and netted. What a beauty – and what a shame we’re not going to be living there soon (but not a shame we won’t have to pay for the next one!), although of course I’m excited about going to live in the county of dreaming spires. Which leads me onto an immortalisation of the new thatch – literary wise. Making no apologies for keeping to the simile of bodies, as I’ve undressed it when it was re-rendered, corseted it with netting and described it restyled, I have to imagine the envy it’s renewal might be viewed with by an old balding (oh, my favourite!) gent … THE BALD MAN’S ODE TO THE THATCH The hat upon the head, The hair upon the scalp, The thatch neatly seals the fraying ends Of the body of the house. Two hundred years or more, Defiantly withstanding receding Whenever it wears thin, It just has another reeding. IMG_3419 So unfair you say, To have less hair than hay, Why can’t science find a cure Like the thatcher does for the roof’s tonsure? If I was old and balding, And asked to choose a new incarnation I think I’d be a cottage thatch, So I could simply grow another ‘hat’. If that’s not put you off completely, come and find out some more about my more serious writing at: www.debrahmartin.co.uk

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