28 August 1998



IT was a toss-up whether to sit and write my diary or do the ironing. No contest.

I have a motto – never put off till tomorrow what you can put off till the day after! Theres very little housework that wont wait if you try hard enough. After all, if you dust today it will only need dusting again tomorrow, so why not just wait and clean up twice as much in one fell swoop?

Unfortunately the ironing isnt like that. If you sit and stare at it, it just sits and stares right back. I live in hope that eventually someone will get so desperate for clean clothes that theyll do their own, but so far no such luck.

Of course, Emma is a teen-ager and the role of a teen-

ager is to do absolutely

nothing, to go without rather than lift a finger and then to complain loudly that they are grossly put-upon and nobody cares that they have nothing clean and ironed to wear for tonights date.

Michael, on the other hand, is a male student. Always supposing that hed notice if his laundry wasnt returned, hed just carry on wearing the same clothes until theyd come on their own if you whistled. In an emergency he might be tempted to dig his shirt out of the pile and wear it in all its creased glory; if only as a manoeuvre designed to make me feel guilty.

Obviously Im a dreadful mother, not taking good care of my children at all, but I believe some of us were born to cook and clean and some of us were born to get out of as much of it as we possibly can. At least Fred does the washing up when Im at work, if he has time; though Im not sure if he realises where this thin end of the wedge could lead, and in the not too distant future. He has finally made the momentous decision to retire this year. Things are getting tougher every day and theres no one in the family interested in taking over the farm. So the time seems right to pull out and sell up.

Now everything is happening all at once. Twelve months ago retirement was just an idea for some time soon – maybe next year or the year after, or maybe not. Then, all of a sudden, the farm is on the market and the farm sale is organised. (Trust our luck, for Banbury market to close down just when we needed it.)

Were all agreed that we would like the farm to stay in one piece, so that means selling the house too and finding somewhere else to live; a big wrench for Fred who was born in the village and has lived here all his life. I think were swinging between excited anticipation of the adventure ahead, and blind panic.

House hunting is a novel experience for both of us as weve never moved before, but were learning. Estate agents obviously have special training when it comes to photography as, despite our "wonderful" summer, all the pictures weve seen so far show beautiful homes basking in warm sunshine, which from the assorted angles, must have been taken from half way up a tree or next doors roof. Not only can the camera lie, but were beginning to find out how often it does.

This is all a very big step, and Im not sure how Fred will cope with life without sheep, but one thing is certain – that pile of ironing is still sitting accusingly in the corner. Oh, well.

See more