Good­bye, Dolly

Country Life Every Week - - My Week -

I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to ‘floor it’ in a 2CV, but not much hap­pens when you do. And not much of the floor was left any­way. How­ever, we got a bit of a lean on a cor­ner, with Bert bel­low­ing com­men­tary like Mur­ray Walker at Sil­ver­stone. Then, the car just bur­bled to a halt. ‘Did you put any fuel in?’ I asked. ‘A gal­lon,’ Bert said.

Just at that mo­ment, my wife drove along­side. The game was up. Not only was the sur­prise el­e­ment blown, but there was no way I could give one care­ful lady owner a car that she’d first en­coun­tered bro­ken down on the most dan­ger­ous bend in the lo­cal­ity. I’m still get­ting texts from Bert to say ‘she’s run­ning sweet as a nut now’.

I don’t know whether he would sell his granny, but I do know that he traded the cost of his brother’s funeral with the un­der­taker for a sec­ond-hand Volvo es­tate. Hav­ing slept in the back of a K reg model, I can see the logic for both par­ties, but, as CJ may also have said: ‘I didn’t get where I am to­day by tear­ing money into small pieces.’

It is the quixotic na­ture of our health-and-safety cul­ture that it tries to fore­stall ev­ery even­tu­al­ity. On our site, the ren­o­va­tion of a listed steading and clock tower at the farm, there are usually only four of us present—derry, Pete, Craig and me—but we all treat the sit­u­a­tion as if we’re build­ing The Shard. We sign in re­li­giously. We salute each other in hard hats. We beep when we re­verse. We erect of­fi­cious no­tices to each other.

We are so con­ver­sant with first aid that Craig can now per­form a tra­cheotomy. There was a dodgy mo­ment when the first-aid kit was found to con­tain a half-empty bot­tle of whisky and lit­tle else, but that turned out to be the re­serve kit and the real one was lo­cated.

The scaffolding is signed off ev­ery week and we reckon we would sur­vive any site in­spec­tion. How­ever, one even­tu­al­ity Her Majesty’s In­spec­tor of Health and Safety hasn’t con­sid­ered is ghosts. The tower, it ap­pears, is dan­ger­ously haunted. Derry, who has a touch of ‘the sight’ about him, has seen the shad­owy fig­ure of a woman on the stair. Peter has turned off the lights, un­plugged them and found them still to be lit. Derry and Peter were re­cently as­ton­ished by a loud bang­ing on the scaffolding as if some­one were jump­ing on it, although no other mor­tal was present.

The lo­cal build­ing con­ser­va­tion­ists are keen on us pre­serv­ing ev­ery orig­i­nal fea­ture, which pre­sum­ably in­cludes the ghosts. But where does this leave us with the safety wal­lahs? Should a man who is nine floors up on scaffolding be back­ing away from a phan­tom? We should be told.

‘The first-aid kit was found to con­tain a half-empty bot­tle of whisky and lit­tle else

Joe Gibbs lives at Bel­ladrum in the High­lands and is the founder of the Tar­tan Heart Fes­ti­val

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