Lazing on a sunny afternoon?

We all have our own ideas of how to spend the perfect afternoon. Mine is a sunny spring day, lazing in the hammock, watching children playing hide-and-seek with the lambs while chickens scratch about on the lawn.

Due to the glorious early spring we have spent a lot of time outside. Garden projects have included refurbishment of the chicken shed and erecting a tree house.


The house is designed by Technical Engineer Callum, aged seven (with ideas from The Dangerous Book for Boys) and built by Construction Engineer Tom. The finished product could almost be guest accommodation!

On second thoughts, allowing guests to stay up a tree might be tricky to include in our fire risk assessment. Fire safety legislation brought-in in October 2006 stipulates that all commercial premises must have completed this assessment. Previously, only B&Bs sleeping more than six needed a fire certificate, but these have now been abandoned altogether, and we are now charged with reviewing our properties to consider necessary fire precautions.


To get the best advice, I play my usual trick, and ask a favour from a friend. As is often the case, you can rely on the old Seale-Haynian network. On this occasion I called my good friend affectionately named “Del Boy”, who has used his farm management diploma to join the Fire Brigade and is now an instructor at the Fire Training College in Moreton-in-Marsh. I took the opportunity to invite him over for a few beers and lasagne. It was an enjoyable and extremely useful evening, and I learned a lot about interconnecting smoke detectors, fire-resisting doors and protection equipment. 


We don’t want to alter the character of our house by putting in encased fire doors and fancy alarm systems, but simply thinking through escape routes and access points was a constructive exercise. One of the hazards identified is people who disregard the non-smoking policy. This really bugs me. I have been known to slip out into the garden when a smoking suspect has been staying, just to witness them lighting a cigarette for a sneaky puff out the window. At this point, I leap out from the bushes and ask them in a scary landlady tone “excuse me, but what are you doing?” It’s not the smoking that I object to so much, but to obviously ignore my nice neat wooden non-smoking signs is nothing short of rudeness.


Back to the hammock, and my idyllic scene has changed. The dogs have appeared and are chasing the lambs, which distresses the chickens, who squawk and in turn alarm the children, who complain that their game has been spoilt. After a good bellow at the dogs, and just before calm is once more restored, I am reminded that we may have guests in the first-floor bedrooms, who are in all likelihood watching with some amusement.

I think I’ll just slope off to the tree house to consider its fire escape policy.


Suzie Paton’s farm B&B columns