Last Thursday, enroute to the Hilliard Miniature Exhibition in Wells, we made a deviation through ever-smaller roads, then rough lanes, to reach our rendezvous – a gigantic saw-blade propped up against a gnarled and rustic tree,where in a short while we were met by Zelia looking like a true maiden of the forest in her flowing white robes.
After a very bumpy ride in her four by four we arrived at our final destination – a small wooden cabin tucked away at the end of a short and steep winding walk through dense undergrowth. We entered through the front door.
There Fergus, who lives alone in his amazing little house – most of which he has built himself - welcomed us with open arms. Once inside this cosiest of dwellings he explained that the lunch he had planned for us would have to be modified as his gas tank had run out just that morning.
Nevertheless, always the improviser, Fergus had a plan two. He’d cook on his little wood stove.
But what to cook, as the planned meal could not be properly cooked on the stove? However, Zelia had, by pure chance, been walking in the woods that morning and came upon this large (and she assured us) edible fungus.
This unlikely looking lunch is called ‘Chicken of the forest’. Here it is, together with my friend’s cooked portion, which she assured me tasted really nice. (Being a chicken of a different variety myself, I opted for scrambled eggs on toast).
Fergus is a very clever and resourceful man as well as being one of the kindest persons I know. Everywhere you turn in his house you see examples of his expertise with driftwood. Here you can see a fish made of driftwood - notice the fins are made from the blades of fish knives,
And this fearsome looking creature reminds me of a scene from a Harry Potter film. or maybe a prehistoric monster.
After lunch Fergus entertained us with tunes on his Northen Pipes. An acomplished player of the Scottish Bagpipes, we were pleased to listen to the more soothing sound of the northern version.
We talked about how the weather affected life in such a remote dwelling, whereby Fergus told us about the time he was marooned for a fortnight during the heavy snowfalls earlier this year. Luckily he had stocked up with food the day before the snow started as he became totally isolated. In his garden there sits a large white bath, and on the night of the winter solstice he lit a wood fire under it and kept filling the bath with snow until it melted into a steaming and enticing haven. Then he took off his clothes and lay in it for nearly two hours - just gazing up to the full moon. It must have been quite magical. Here are a couple more views of the inside of Fergus’s house, many of the items I’m sure will soon be fashioned into works of art.
Zelia, although still young, has led an interesting life. At the age of twenty she had a hankering to live in the Himalayas. When she arrived there she set up camp in the foothills of the mountains, but soon found that water wouldn’t reach boiling point above a certain altitude. So she and a companion she met on her travels existed on half cooked food for a long time. That is until she asked the women in a village nearby how they managed it. Easy, they said ‘we use pressure cookers’. That solved Zelia’s problem.
Eventually, after a few hours with this lovely couple, we reluctantly said goodbye to Fergus and Zelia and retraced our steps and continued on our journey to Wells.