A Dorset life for me
By Roger Guttridge. The illustration is by Becky Unwin
Published in February ’13
Confession, I’m told, is good for the soul, so my long-suffering higher self must have been well pleased following my recent visit to the Museum Inn in Farnham. It had waited forty-two of our earth years for this glorious moment.
‘I’ve come to make a confession,’ I declared as I sipped coffee and savoured the Maltesers that accompanied it. ‘I think I owe you 18 shillings.’
The waitress looked bemused. She was comfortably young enough to be my daughter (or even my granddaughter if I had started early), and far too young to remember pounds, shillings and pence.
‘It’s old money,’ I said. ‘Before your time. Let me explain. Back in 1970, I and a couple of mates came out here for a drink one Saturday evening. We stayed longer than planned and talked up an appetite. Unfortunately the kitchen had closed but the landlord took pity on these three hungry lads. He kindly reopened it and rustled up three luscious helpings of fish and chips. We enjoyed our meal and saw out the evening at the pub. It was not till we got back to Blandford that we realised we’d forgotten to pay for the food that had been so lovingly prepared. We felt genuine guilt and resolved to return the following weekend to settle our debt. But the next weekend came and went and we failed to venture forth to the wilds of Cranborne Chase. Ditto the following weekend. And so on. For forty-two years. And now, here I am, come to pay our debts at last.
Not sure I can afford four decades’ worth of compound interest, though.’
‘So how much is it worth now, this 18 shillings?’ asked the young lady I now know to be Kerrie Gardner.
‘Eighty pence,’ I said, and slammed 80p on the bar counter in the manner of a confident poker player raising the stakes. ‘We’ve seen a bit of inflation since 1970. Are you going to put it in the till?’
‘I’ll put it in the tip pot,’ said Kerrie.
I was delighted that the present-day staff would benefit from an equal share of my belated contribution to the Museum’s coffers. It must be worth at least 5p each, I figured.
‘What an honest person you are,’ Kerrie continued. ‘I’m very impressed.’
‘They call me Honest Rog,’ I lied. ‘It has a certain ring, don’t you think? Especially if you’re a used car salesman. Which I’m not, by the way.’
‘What are you, then?’ Kerrie asked.
‘Ah. Well. That leads me to a second confession. I’m a journalist and I’m writing a column for Dorset Life.’
‘Dorset Life? Oh, I LOVE that magazine. My parents get it every month. The photogaphs are amazing.’
Right answer. And I hadn’t even asked the question.
‘I’d love to contribute to Dorset Life, if they ever need anything,’ said Kerrie, clearly an opportunist after my own heart. ‘Drawings or photographs. I did English at university but I’ve been milling around since 2009. I’m also a keen amateur artist and photographer. My mother thinks I write well but she would as she’s my mother.’
‘Get some work together to show what you can do,’ I offered, swapping my used car salesman’s trilby for whatever the stereotypical career advisor wears. A baseball cap, perhaps? ‘Choose a magazine, study what they use, then send it to them or someone like me, who can give you an honest assessment and point you in the right direction. It’s not easy and it’s very competitive, but that’s no reason not to try. By the way, Kerrie, would you mind if I mentioned your name in Dorset Life?’
‘No, I’d love it.’
Regular readers will be glad to hear that our robin soap opera continues almost a year after the spring demise of our tame and cheeky Woodland Robin in the claws of a sparrowhawk.
After adjusting to the challenges of single parenthood, the widowed Mrs Woodland made good use of our plentiful supply of mealworms to raise her young.
Then, after disappearing for the moult, she reappeared as autumn approached, still her shy and timid self when strangers were about, but sufficiently secure with the hands that feed her to sit in a bush a few feet from the front door for up the twenty minutes at a stretch. She has even fallen asleep there once or twice. As winter approached, there was fresh drama. A young upstart from the adjoining territory muscled in on our easy pickings – a bird we believe to be one of Mr and Mrs Woodland Robin’s 2012 brood. He shares Mrs Woodland’s sleek bodyshape, the white feather that the late Mr Woodland sported on his left wing and the cheek and confidence of his supposed father.
But family counts for little in the robin world and the youngster’s boldness has edged Mrs Woodland out of her territory’s eastern fringe. An uneasy truce means both enjoy their fill of winter fodder. But what will happen when
• Editor’s note: 18s is 90p not 80p, Roger; also, according to Government figures, ‘Honest Rog’, 18 shillings in 1970 equates to £9.97½ in 2013 money (£9 19s 6d in LSD).