Duck or Grouse

Created: Friday, 31 August 2012 Written by Simon Renfrew

As a small boy you’d always find Sundays precious. When else in your busy schedule would you have time to dam streams, build go-karts and generally do stuff. But with mind numbing regularity you’d be bundled into the car instead and taken to visit some maiden aunt’s bungalow, there to accidently break tacky china dogs and stuff your face with stale chocolate biscuits. Other than the overwhelming reek of perfume and half empty gin bottles, it’s likely that the only thing that stuck with you over the passage of years was the knitted loo roll cover and plaque over the bog, which - in the event that your aim wasn’t as good as you’d hoped - encouraged you to clean the seat afterwards. It was all in cutesy ‘if you sprinkle when you tinkle’ prose and right up there with those irritating signs in pubs you discovered later in life, usually warning of low beams and bugger all use if you were concentrating on holding four full pints at the time.

That said, something similar would be handy in a lot of older French farmhouses. Stuck in poverty and with the most basic of diets, nos amis were undernourished and, by and large, short. Destined to a back breaking life of toil in the fields and likely as not marrying a local girl, their kids would have been of the same stature. And a couple of hundred years on, like Gandalf entering Bilbo’s hallway, along come a bunch of overfed northern Europeans who whack their heads on every single doorway.

So, having learnt the hard way and a few brain cells lighter, a few rules. First – don’t try to have a conversation when moving from one room to the next. Your natural inclination will be to raise your head and focus on what’s being said, thereby being able to provide a sensible & considered reply.

Naturally, if you’re on the cusp of divorce or a teenager you can ignore part or all of this. Second – learn to use your wireless electrical thingys in one room or the other rather than wandering around with them. Stone floors and ipods dropped from 4 feet are a bad and ultimately expensive mix. Thirdly – learn to deal with your incipient arachnophobia. Old farmhouses each have a least 4 million spiders, so leaping in the air every time you see one will only result in repeated concussion (and their subsequent exploration of your undergarments while you’re flat out on the floor).

Finally, buy a hoe. A few hours grubbing up weeds in the vegetable patch will leave you bent double and hence able to trundle round your home in perfect discomfort. And as an extra benefit you’ll now be the perfect height to embrace your neighbours.

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