Hole to fill

Trent is leaving. As I run around buying the last of the Christmas presents, Trent will be flying to the States to live the next while of his life in the land of the fat. It's a huge shame. He's been here for 15 months or so but it seems like longer - you know how time can be deceptive. He feels like part of the place already.



He won't be easy to replace. He's not always idle, he knows how to do a few things, and he provided the material for one of the more amusing posts on this nearly-6-year-old blog. He's also broken loads of tools and lost my first lovely bronze trowel, so it won't be SO sad.

Perhaps one of you young, attractive men and women would be willing to use your wiles to persuade him to stay in England? He's 26, reasonably tall, lean and fit. He has very short hair and one of those beards that says 'macho man'. More than one ravingly gay friend who's visited has enquired about his preferences and availability. He says he's heterosexual but he may be just trying to set a challenge for someone.



Assuming one of you doesn't persuade him, I may be after a replacement. I may not. I may end up doing it all myself again, but I might want someone. I'm not sure.

I'm not sure because I'm deeply unsociable most of the time (while very very sociable for a bit of the time). And I like doing it all myself. It makes it very hard for someone to be the sort of someone who it can work out with. Trent makes that very easy. He gets on with the run of the mill stuff as happily as the obviously fascinating stuff. He also seems to love it. He doesn't mind if I insult him, or tell him how things are really pronounced in the real world (ie Devon).



Trent works 2 days a week, sometimes 3. Occasionally 1. He does everything from endless strimming to planting lovely things to harvesting pepper and grapes to pruning whatever needs pruning.

There are some skills that would be preferable/essential, including some idea about looking after a vineyard. Actually that might be it skillwise.

There are some aptitudes and attitudes that would be preferable, including an ability to enjoy the less interesting tasks and appreciate their importance alongside the obviously vital jobs. Working happily on your own, for sure. It's hard to think of the rest because I and the place have got used to Trent being around, and until he goes I'm not sure I'll appreciate what I'll be missing.



If you are called Uma Thurman you are very likely to be interviewed, although if you have a novel name this will significantly increase your chances. A surname for a first name will suffice (eg Trent, Harrison, Davison), but if you have an altogether more ludicrous moniker I will look upon your application with great favour. Dr Hfuhruhurr, Mr. Hartoonian, Danger Fourpence, or Anne Uumellmahaye would be very likely to find success.

I am tempted to alter my plans for next year so that I can do them in whatever time I have rather than try to find another Trent to add a day or two to the Otter Farm week. I can't imagine walking out to feed the pigs after a day writing and being quite so impressed at the difference a day of what Trent's done has made to the place.

So, pass it on if you would: part time job for someone who knows a bit about managing a vineyard may or may not be available with an unsociable git who's been spoiled by the previous encumbent.

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Opening the windows

My second favourite popstar story* involves Alvin Stardust. I pray it's true.

Alvin was England's answer to Elvis, at least visually - he sounded somewhere between Buddy Holly and Marc Bolan. Always the man dressed in black leather. And with a fabulous pair of lamb chops - as I believe this demonstrates**. And like every English popstar worth their salt, he knew when to change his name....he even did it twice before settling on 'Alvin Stardust'.



After getting to Number 2 with My Coo-Ca-Choo in 1972, he clawed his way up the charts in those leather gloves of his with the follow up - Jealous Mind. Everyone was on tenterhooks...would he make it to the top?

At a record company party attended by the great and the good, a couple of over-excited executives ran up to Alvin and unable to contain themselves imparted the good news.
"Alvin, Alvin, you're number one, it's amazing".

Now, Alvin was England's answer to Elvis don't forget and wasn't about to over-enthuse.
"Ahuh" came his cool response, as he sipped on his brandy.

The conversation went on for a few minutes, largely one-sided as Alvin ahuh-ed his way along, before he excused himself to return to his hotel room to use the loo.

On getting to his room, he flung down his leather jacket, threw the windows open, hung his head out and yelled at the top of his voice, fists a-pumping.....
"Foooocccccckkkkkiiiiing get innnnnnnn you beauooooooooteeeeeyy!"
...before cold-water-washing his face and rejoining the party, going back to his ahuhs.



I know I should be much more like the Fonz*** about having this article in the Observer but if you can't show a little excitement about something like that you're either the very cool Alvin Stardust, Henry Winkler, or a very tedious arse. I am certainly not the first two, and only some of the time the latter.

And they've now asked me to sit in for Dan Pearson on his Observer magazine column when he goes on holiday at the end of the month.

I'm off to open the office window and give it some....




* Nothing touches the Mick Jagger-restaurant one I'm afraid
** I feel a blog coming on about the marvellous folk who starred in road safety adverts, but I'm not going to let that distract me know
*** Here, starring in a Weezer video, where the band are edited into an episode of Happy Days. The song's called 'Buddy Holly'. See what I did there *completes circle with the start of the blogpost*...I'm too good for this place.

And given it's the crossroads autumn, it's nectarine salsa at the top, and plum crumble down below.

Observer Magazine

The other day a very old friend was telling me about how he'd read that one of the signs of getting older was putting on your favourite shorts, staring into the mirror and seeing Baden Powell staring back.



Now I'd like to add to that, staring at a photo of yourself and seeing your dad staring back. Normally I see Stephen Merchant staring back*, but not this time.

It was shot on a bright day and I had to look skywards for the pic so it was a perfect recipe for the undeniable crowsfeet to be fully evident. But still. What next, shiny speedos and jumpers with patches at the elbow?

The picture was by Harry Borden. It's for the Observer Magazine, out this coming Sunday. I'd rather hoped they would use a particular picture by Jason Ingram - partly because I'm vain enough to want them to use what I think may be the least worst picture of me, and partly as I had a jammed week and photoshoots - even for just one shot - can take an age. And Jason is a mighty fine photographer.

Nope, it had to be Harry, they said - he only lives up the road and he is a great photographer.



Photographers can be a tedious bunch - often very egotistical, incapable of talking about anything else but themselves, and it's a reasonably accurate (although by no means infallible) law that the more average the snapper the more comprehensively they will exhibit those traits.

I checked out Harry's website and immediately started recognising images: I know that picture of Richard Harris, that's the image of Michael Hutchence (this one), what an amazing picture of Gilbert and George. He has over 100 images in the National Portrait Gallery. He can take a picture. Nice for me then, that he lives part of the time only half an hour away.**




So, if you want to know what my dad looked like (if he'd been paler, taller and slimmer), get the Observer on Sunday 5 September.



The top pic is of a purple hazel....the middle one's a Czar plum...the bottom one of Szechuan pepper plants.



* They must be using that pasty-faced-pencil-neck filter on their cameras

** After being here, he was off to Israel, to shoot Blair (only photographically story-hunters)

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