Like most obnoxious sons, I ignored the vast majority of the wisdom my father tried to pass on. But one piece of farming advice did stick in my mind: “Once a month, do something to baffle the neighbours.”
Which is why, if you’d driven past our tractor barn a few weeks ago, you’d have done a double take.
Through the half-open door, you’d have seen three video cameras, banks of lights, two dodgy chairs placed either side of a pallet on the front loader, set up as a table with Thermos, cups and cake.
See also: Read more of Charlie Flindt’s columns
We’d had a call from a friend of a friend, who is director of the Prince’s Countryside Fund. She was organising a promo video about the Fund, to be shown at a money-raising event later in the year.
She’d sorted the camera crew (from Oxford), the celebrity interviewer and fund ambassador (Alan Titchmarsh, from not many parishes hence) and Edward, the interviewee (a farming community stalwart from Cornwall, but who has relatives in north Hampshire).
She would be coming down from London for the day. “If only we could find a picturesque farm in Mid-Hants we could all converge on!” she said to my friend. “Have you tried the Flindts?” he replied.
Despite not being HRH’s biggest fans – he is an organic fanatic, after all – we were thrilled to help. The kind autumn meant we weren’t pressed for time, and so Hazel swept the barn to within an inch of its life, I washed off the tractors, found the cleanest pallet on the farm (and still gave it a damn good sterile scrub) and parked everything photogenically in the gleaming barn.
The day couldn’t have gone better. Everyone arrived on time, and after lashings of hot coffee and copious Hobnobs had formed a protective layer against the lazy north wind, work started, initially around the yards.
It was an honour to watch a real pro at work, as Mr Titchmarsh spoke effortlessly and faultlessly to camera, with Hazel’s sheep (stunned into a very unusual silence by the goings-on) in the background.
Once that was done, there was filming of Alan and Edward strolling round the pasture, pursued by the sheep, who were no longer star-struck and had rediscovered their inquisitiveness.
Then it was time for the interview proper, and the two of them settled down on the creaky rustic chairs (complete with baler twine holding them together) next to the by now surgically-clean pallet, poured more coffee from the Thermos, checked the cameras were ready, and off they went.
At this stage the light-heartedness and jollity of the day gave way to something more serious, as Edward told Mr Titchmarsh stories of what he deals with on a daily basis on his home patch: extreme loneliness, depression and financial hardship on small family farms that are the very backbone of rural communities – exactly the sort of farms that HRH’s fund is there to help.
By early afternoon it was all done and, ignoring my enormous hint about a long boozy lunch in the Flowerpots, everyone went their separate ways.
I was in a thoughtful mood as I cleared up; I’m always a blessings-counter and a “glass half full” man, but I felt just that little bit more lucky to be making a living from my little patch of Hampshire.
As I returned the pallet to its corner, I felt a tiny bit older and wiser. Yup, there’s no doubt that Dad did spout some farming nonsense, but that bit of advice was definitely worth following – and not just for the clean tractor barn.