I hope I'm spared the dread epithet "anorak" ("No, you're not!" mutters Mrs Weasel), but I find myself taking an unhealthy interest in the tractors which rumble past Weasel Villas North with their bale-laden trailers. You can have a Ford tractor in any colour you like as long as it's blue. John Deeres are a refreshing green. Massey-Fergusons are an angry red. This time of year, they are still active late at night, gathering in the harvest by headlight. However, I'm not daft enough to want to drive one of the trundling beasts. Been there, done that. Maybe they've improved in the intervening 20 years, but the tractor which I negotiated round the leafy lanes of Warwickshire joggled me about something rotten. Endowed with a perplexing superfluity of gears, it was virtually impossible to drive in a straight line. Just keeping it going forward was tough enough.
Harvesting, too, is best observed from a distance. Though pleasant enough to loll on when the farmer wasn't looking, the bales (they were all rectangular in those ancient times) were hell to heft about. Wielding the baling fork required a knack which never came to me. But, after being rasped by the slashed ends of the hay and nipped by baling twine, there came a moment of bliss. Having built the bales into a mountainous monolith on the trailer, it was possible to enjoy a brief repose away from the farmer's prying eyes. With my equally work-shy colleagues, I lounged on this tickly bed with eyes closed, a few feet nearer the straw-coloured sun.
Lobster sales have doubled to pounds 2m in the last five years, according to the Sea Fish Industry Authority. It cannot be entirely coincidence that the Weasel family started taking its summer break on the North Sea coast about five years ago. Breakfasts aside, we have scarcely taken a meal in the whole of August that has not been contained a finny or pincered element. This has been a bit tough on Mrs W, who is an unreconstructed carnivore, but, as I repeatedly insist, it would be insane to come to this piscine paradise and not make the most of it.
Filey has no fewer than 10 fish-and-chip shops for its year-round population of 6,300 (admittedly, this figure leaps five-fold in summer). The battered fish is usually good, but occasionally, like a piece I had last week, it is one of the great dishes of the world. Fresh from the seething fat, the haddock was creamy perfection and the crunchy batter as light as tempura. We tucked in while rain streaked the car windscreen. Heaven.
Mostly, however, we've been giving the local crustaceans a hard time. Dressed crabs are pounds 2.60 per lb (the current Harrods price is pounds 10.50). They make the celebrated, but minuscule crabs of Cromer look like fare from a doll's house. We've been slightly less fortunate with lobsters. This well-armoured luxury currently retails at pounds 5.50 per lb (Harrods price pounds 12.20) but it's been a bit of a rarity because the French, damn their eyes, have been offering pounds 8 a lb. As a result, we've only been able to have lobster every other day. Bit spartan, don't you agree?
What happens to our crustacean treasures in France was revealed to me by a friend who has just returned from a holiday in Burgundy. Though abnormally attached to the folding stuff, he allowed himself a treat in a Michelin- starred restaurant. To his delight, lobster appeared on the menu for just 80 francs. Call it eight quid. After making his order, he was surprised when the waiter asked what size he wanted. Large, of course, he retorted. And large he got - a corking homard which overlapped his plate. When l'addition arrived, the amount prompted my friend to turn as crimson as his meal. He had been charged 720 francs for his main course. The waiter shrugged. Monsieur was surely aware that lobster was 80 francs per 100 grams?
After mopping up my tears when a mega-bottle of Tabasco was fractured in the post last week (those fumes certainly clear your head), I was intrigued to discover that a notice in a local post office addressed a even riskier consignment: "The Postmaster General desires to draw special attention to the need for adequate packing of parcels containing eggs." His tips to ensure safe transportation begin sensibly enough ("Use a wooden or rigid box"), but the postal panjandrum is possibly courting disaster with his final injunction: "Mark the parcel `EGGS'." In case you're tempted to despatch a dozen Goldenlay to your aunt in the Hebrides (eggs to Eigg, ha!), I should add that I saw the notice in the Ryedale Folk Museum, where a village post office from 1953 is among the exhibits.
Located in a picture-postcard village with the slightly unfortunate name of Hutton-Le-Hole, the museum is the acceptable face of the heritage biz. It consists of score or so local structures, ranging from an Elizabethan manor house to an Edwardian photographic studio, which have been fastidiously re-erected along a bucolic path. But enough schmaltzy scene-setting - what you'll really want to know about are Ker-Nak ("a unique potion for constipation and all bowel disorders"), Liver Rousers ("take one or two at bed-time"), Meloids Lung Pastilles and Kompo for Colds. These are among the antique specifics in the chemist's shop, next door to the post office. Despite its enticing name, Harvey's Eradicating Worm Powder proved to be for nags.
In the cabinet-maker's shop, visitors can make themselves a paper cap, as worn by carpenters in the last century. The instructions are a paragon of lucidity: "X and Y are folded to the centre. O is creased and unfolded. With the fingers behind M and N and the thumb into P and Q, the hat is lifted up." All clear? Good, let's move on to the undertaker's, which houses a magnificent Victorian hearse purchased by a nearby village. A caption notes: "At pounds 17, it was a bargain in 1839." Very Yorkshire. The undertaker's black top-hat and tail-coat hang behind his door, ready for use. But, unlike the museum's blacksmith, cooper and tinsmith, it is doubtful if visitors will be able to observe practical demonstrations of this particular trade.
The treasure trove of colourful artifacts will doubtless prompt acquisitive thoughts in certain well-heeled Yorkshire folk. How the bourgeoisie of Harrogate and Richmond must covet the ancient cartwheels, cheese-presses, butter-churns etc. It is easy to imagine that prominent tyke William Hague casting a speculative eye over the pig tumbrel. In light of his present difficulties, the opposition leader should have no trouble in selecting potential occupants.
Wildlife in the countryside is fine when it takes the picturesque form of a lolloping hare, a geo-stationary kestrel or a suave fox going about its slightly dubious affairs. What you don't want is wildlife inviting itself into your home. Not today, thank you. We have a chap called Attenborough who supplies all we need in that dept.
Ignoring the convention that its rightful place is on the TV screen, we had a visit from a representative of the local fauna the other night. Semi-comatose after supper, it took a while for Mrs W's announcement to sink in. "Yes, I know we've got a cat," I replied. "Two of 'em." "Not cat, cloth-ears. Bat! It must have come in through the window."
While I was spluttering, the denizen of the dark fluttered behind a radiator. This was just in the nick of time, since Captain Haddock, one of our felines, was about to pounce. Mrs W leapt into action and shooed away the moggies. Apparently unharmed, the bat descended from its hidey-hole and flopped on to the hearth-rug. With a wingspan of about five inches, it was a velvety dark chocolate in colour. Mrs W gathered up our stylish visitor in a drying- up cloth and carefully transported it to the garden.
When she opened up the towel, the creature appeared at first to have disappeared. With its leathery wings furled, it was no larger than a 50p piece. After taking grip on the cloth with its tiny claws, our nocturnal guest fluttered off into the night. And what, you might be wondering, was the Weasel doing during the preceding drama? In my fine, manly way, I was hiding behind the pages of The Independent. But what could I have done? It was a job for Batwoman.Reuse content