18 June 1999

income and for me to be available to work on the farm, too. At certain times of the year, such as lambing, Caroline and I can work in shifts and the shop fits round that," says Hugh, who seems to have no difficulty switching between the businesses. At present they are restricted to opening only at weekends, "but we are applying for permanent planning consent and longer opening hours," says Hugh, adding that his parents and the landlords have been supportive of the scheme.

With the barn converted, there was the stock to buy. But where to find it when you have no experience of furniture buying?

"We did think of having locally made furniture but no-one wanted to risk it until we had proved ourselves," says Caroline. "Now everyone wants their stuff here and every weekend someone new comes in and asks if we are interested in stocking their work."

Their saving grace was to visit a trade fair at the NEC, Birmingham. There they found stock they liked and put in their first orders.

"We never made any huge mistakes and have turned over a lot of stock since. We stick to our own taste in things, which is probably the wrong thing to do but seems to work for us," says Caroline.

"We tend to go for the same things instinctively and agree on most pieces we buy."

The couple hand-pick individual pieces from the wholesalers rather than placing a multiple order.

"That way we dont have to stock lots of the same thing – and it gets us off the farm. We go to trade fairs to keep up-to-date with whats selling and we are enjoying it," says Hugh.

&#42 Definite plus

"This year we should have a six-figure turnover and should make enough to pay all the bills.

"I think it is a definite plus to have the business here on a farm rather than in a shop. It is easy for people to park and we have room to display the furniture well.

"Because the building was already here and is now all done up, we wont lose out and it is handy having the Land Rover to use for deliveries."

But he admits they need to get more people through the doors and feels there is potential to create an extra job should planning permission come through for longer opening hours.

Until then seven-day working weeks will continue to be the norm. "We do dream of a lie-in and having mates round for lunch instead of working every Sunday," admits Hugh. But the pair look pretty happy on it.

Inquiries: (01285 750641)


This is Richard and Julias

story. Its a very personal

story. One, though, many

other people will experience.

Its a story about cancer.

And they want you to read it

because doing so could,

quite literally, save your life

IT was in January when Richard Payne first noticed a small lump on his right testicle. You may recall his name – he was our south-west barometer farmer in 1997.

He was in Canada with his wife, Julia, enjoying a break from their Somerset farm. The lump grew. Grew and became uncomfortable. Richard saw a doctor, then another one immediately on returning home. It could be anything, they said. Cancer was just one possibility. But it was confirmed and, within a week of flying home, his testicle had been removed.

"I felt very confident that that would be the beginning and the end of the story," says Richard. "I was young – only 35 – fit and active. I was also aware that if the diagnosis and treatment of testicular cancer is swift, it can usually be contained."

But that wasnt the end of it. More tests followed. More tests and the "agonising" wait for results. "I had no idea at that stage how far it had spread. It was the worst time of my life."

Richards worst fears were confirmed. He had a rare hybrid – and savagely aggressive – form of the disease that had already infected 30% of his lungs. "From the moment I heard that news I knew my destiny had been taken out of my own hands."

Now, on a gruelling course of chemotherapy – with seriously debilitating side-effects – hes lost two stone in weight and his hair has fallen out. His muscles have withered, his concentration is minimal and hes had severe secondary infections.

But the couple are thinking positively. They talk about when – not if – Richards cured. "You cant live every minute under a black cloud. If you dont think youll be cured, you might as well not turn up at the hospital. Were winning."

&#42 Time together

By "we" Richard means himself, his wife and William, their 19-month-old son. "Williams given him plenty of reasons to live," says Julia. She, meanwhile, has given up her job as an investment banker in London to spend more time at home. Married for six years, theyre spending more time together now than ever. "Weve put our hearts, souls and minds into fighting this as a family," says Julia.

Medically speaking, the prognosis is "intermediate". Which means, in laymens language, theres an 80% chance of full recovery. The likelihood of the cancer "re-offending" is 20%.

Such statistics, though, hide one crucially important fact – the importance of early diagnosis and treatment. Its something that can massively increase survival chances. Had Richard not acted as swiftly as he did – delayed, even, by a few days – his prognosis would have altered dramatically and the likelihood of making a decent recovery halved – or worse.

With this in mind, men should learn self-examination techniques, which are simple and quick. "And if you are concerned, for Gods sake, go and see you GP," he says.

"Some people are embarrassed about going to the doctor and getting their tackle out. But if youve got a problem, thats the least of your worries. You cant delay, its your Crown Jewels youre dealing with."

A reluctance to visit a doctor is something farmers can be particularly prone to, he says. "Theyre busy people, always with something to do. Time away from the farm may seem like time badly spent in the middle of lambing or combining. But thinking that way, where cancer is concerned, can kill you."

On a wider scale, more awareness and research is desperately needed. There is lots of talk about breast, lung and bowel cancers – three of the most common killers – but little in relation to male ones. As a result, myths abound. That prostrate cancer is something that only happens to old men. That, if you have a testicle removed, you speak in a high-pitched voice. "Mumbo-jumbo," says Richard.

More research is also needed into the causes, something about which little is known. "So that," says Julia, "Williams generation and his childrens generation dont suffer the same stigma and worry that ours does."

Meanwhile, harvest app-roaches at 600 acre Heathfield Manor Farm, Taunton, which Richard took over in 1990 after a spell in the army and a degree at Cirencester. When he can, he works. "If I dont feel ill, I dont lie around."

Of course, there are bad days. He tires easily and sometimes gets depressed. Frustrated, too. "When the weathers good and I cant crack on with spraying."

One things for certain, though: the couples priorities have changed. As Julia says: "This puts it all in perspective. Life is not a dress rehearsal. You realise how precious things are."

Richards chemotherapy is set to finish at the end of June, when there is possibility of further invasive surgery. After that, he faces tests every two months and, only if the cancer hasnt reappeared for five years, will he be signed off. Beyond that, who knows.

"Id love to have more children – if I can afford them," he says. Its another popular myth, incidentally, that you cant conceive with one testicle. "You only use one of them most of the time anyway."

No-one yet knows whether this story has a happy ending. Supported by family and friends from across the world, together with a superb medical team, they think theyve a fighting chance.

"We are not rich or famous or special, but this is our story and we dont want anyone else to have to go through it," says Julia.

Tim Relf

&#8226 Testicular cancer affects young men, mostly between age 24 and 35.

&#8226 Its incidence has doubled over the last 20 years.

&#8226 There are around 1400 new cases diagnosed every year in the UK.

&#8226 More than 90% of cases can be cured if caught early.

&#8226 More than four-fifths of men know little or nothing about it.

&#8226 Men know more about breast cancer than testicular cancer.

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